Catholic priest dismissed for ignoring COVID directives

A Catholic bishop has dismissed a priest from his parish for not following his directives.

In a letter informing parishioners about Father Peter Williams’s dismissal, Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington US said the matter concerned “his serious disobedience and disrespect shown to the office of the bishop,”.

The “disobedience and disrespect” refers to Williams’s refusal to wear mask and be tested regularly for COVID-19, as per his unvaccinated status.

Coyne noted in his letter that Williams has freely promised to respect and obey the bishop and his successors when he was ordained.

A “great deal of misinformation has been spread” and has caused division within the parish and has impacted Williams’ ability to minister to “all parishioners,” he continued.

Mask wearing and COVID-19 testing ae required of all clerics of the diocese who chose not to get vaccinated.

In a video in January, Williams made a public announcement that he had been refusing Coyne’s orders to wear masks and to be tested.

He said originally he intended to keep his correspondences with Coyne to himself for the sake of maintaining normalcy in his parish.

But he said Coyne’s response changed that. He was told he he had 14 days to comply, or Coyne would suspend him.

Then, he said, his own family joined the diocese in trying to prove that he is physically and mentally unhealthy.

He said it “broke his heart” when his family got involved and the pressure became too much of a burden.

It was then he made a video for his parishioners asking them to write a letter to Coyne on his behalf stating how they thought he was doing as a pastor and how they would evaluate his mental health.

Coyne acknowledges receipt of the letters, He also notes that during the past two years he has received the same number of letters from people who have left Williams’s parish because he “was not vaccinated and refused to wear a mask and did not encourage people to wear masks in the church either.”

Coyne says the situation is “very sad” for the parish, the diocese, and himself.

He says he has invited Williams to stay with him “so that he and I can pray, dialogue and worship together to hopefully change the bad opinion he has of me as his bishop and to strengthen the bond of fraternity that should exist between a bishop and his priest.”

Coyne says he hopes Williams will accept the offer because “he’s one of my brother priests and I don’t want to lose a priest. I need every priest we have.”



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