After his bishop had threatened him with “penalties under Church law,” a renowned Illinois pastor left his parish to protect his flock from the quickly rising disagreement, turmoil, and uncertainty.
Despite initially asserting that staying at the parish would comply with church law, Father James Parker made a statement on June 18 clarifying why he believed it was in the “best interest of the members of Holy Cross Parish and its employees,” for him to depart.
“As a result of these events, I was compelled to depart the Parish campus to protect my flock from the rapidly escalating discord, strife and confusion,” Parker said at the end of his letter.
On May 24, Parker was informed that he would not be reassigned and could no longer live in a diocese parsonage as of June 16. Parker said in his letter that Bishop Malloy had warned him with “penalties under Church law” if he kept claiming to be the priest at Holy Cross and failed to quit the rectory.
Parker was dismissed without being reassigned to another parish since the priest declined to consider “concerns that had arisen regarding his service as pastor,” the Diocese of Rockford under Bishop Malloy’s leadership stated.
Parker said that Malloy was annoyed by a series of “offenses” over time, along with Parker’s invitation of Bishop Athanasius Schneider to talk at his church as well as his “ad orientem” Masses [the Priest faces the same direction as the Assembly when he is at the altar. When addressing God, such as during the orations and Eucharistic Prayer, he faces the same direction as the people, that is, toward God].
Bishop Malloy also complained to Parker on Feb. 28 that he did not “follow all of the COVID regulations.” Parker believes it refers to allowing people to receive Holy Communion on the tongue and allowing people to arrive in the church hall. In contrast, only ten people were permitted to be inside the church itself. Even though the procedure complied with CDC safety requirements, Parker claimed Malloy compelled him to stop it at the time.
An email from Malloy, which was sent to Parker and forwarded to all priests in the Rockford Diocese, accused Parker of preventing Father Jared Twenty (the newly assigned pastor of Holy Cross) from celebrating Mass in the parish. This accusation was denied by Parker and other witnesses.
Since Malloy “did not stipulate in his letter of appointment” that his “term would be six years,” Parker maintained in a June 15 letter to his parishioners that he was “juridically and therefore morally obligated” to continue as the priest of Holy Cross parish until the stipulations of the Church’s law have been formally noticed and decided otherwise. He also referenced Canon 522 of the Code of Canon Law, which states that a priest must be stable and assigned indefinitely.
The Diocese of Rockford, however, claimed that “the law of the Diocese of Rockford provides for a six-year term of office for pastors,” and that “this was the law in force when Father Parker was appointed pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Batavia and remained in force today.”
On behalf of Parker and all of the dismissed pastors in the Diocese of Rockford, lay advocates began a “1,000 Letters to Rome” movement before Aug. 1, “asking for intervention in the problems Bishop Malloy has brought upon” this diocese.