Priest suspended for improvising prayers of the Mass

The suspension of an American priest because he improvised the prayers of the Mass has prompted protests from as far away as Australia and the United Kingdom.

Father Bill Rowe, 73, has been removed from St Mary Catholic parish in Mount Carmel, Illinois, where he had been pastor for 18 years.

Bishop Edward Braxton of Belleville diocese also suspended his priestly faculties, so he is not permitted to celebrate public Masses or preside at weddings, funerals or baptisms.

Sixteen fellow priests signed a statement calling Father Rowe “a beloved and effective pastor” and calling the bishop’s demand that he step down “irrationally disproportionate to the supposed crime”.

A public protest took place outside the bishop’s office and an online petition has gathered around 1600 signatories, many from overseas. Some added comments such as “The new English translation of the Mass is so awkward and very un-prayerful” and “I am sure Jesus improvised”.

In a public statement, Bishop Braxton said Father Rowe had told him “forthrightly on several occasions, he simply could not and would not pray the prayers of the Mass as they are translated in the new Roman Missal”.

Bishop Braxton also said he had “repeatedly and over several years asked him to pray the Mass as it is presented in the Sacramentary and, currently, in the new Missal”.

Father Rowe said he is appealing to Rome, but termed this a long shot. In the meantime, the priest suspended for improvising prayers of the Mass has been welcomed by the pastor of St Joseph parish in Olney, as a volunteer who will play guitar in the parish school and do Bible study for teens.

St Mary’s parishioners farewelled Father Rowe with an “ice cream and dessert celebration” on July 8, and the suspended priest was also named the surprise parade marshal for the annual Fourth of July Parade in Mount Carmel.


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