US priest removed from parish for improvising prayers, now barred from all priestly duties

The American priest who was removed from his parish for improvising some prayers during the celebration of Mass has also been suspended from all other priestly duties - a severe punishment usually only meted out to priests accused of grave crimes such as child abuse.

Fr Bill Rowe, 72, who has been parish priest at St Mary Catholic Church in Mount Carmel, Illinois for 18 years, has been suspended from his parish from today. From today he is also not allowed to celebrate public Masses or preside at weddings, funerals or baptisms. The only exception, Fr Rowe told Deacon Greg Kadra, would involve a dying person. He is still allowed to hear a dying person's confession, and baptize or anoint him or her.

Last month, St Mary’s parishioners learned that Diocesan Bishop Edward Braxton was officially removing Fr Rowe, their pastor of 18 years. The Dean of the North Central Deanery, Fr Jim Buerster resigned his position in protest at the decision and several fellow priests wrote letters of support. More than 1,500 people signed a petition appealing for the decision to be reversed. See: Many also took part in a a demonstration outside the Bishop's offices.

In a separate letter the Bishop has now informed Fr Rowe that he can no longer carry out his priestly duties anywhere.  

Fr Rowe was scheduled to witness a wedding this Saturday, and four more weddings over the summer, but he won’t be able to preside. He also will not be able to preside over a funeral tomorrow for an elderly St Mary’s parishioner.

Fr Rowe said: “That’s very hard for the family. I’ll be there, but I can’t participate.”

A US-based liturgy specialist and chaplain told ICN: "Many Catholic priests now are over 65. If the church starts going around checking up on the way they are saying Mass, they may find many of them are not always sticking to the exact wording of the Mass - especially since the new translation was introduced.  This sounds like a very Pharasaicial way of dealing with the issue. It is also unpleasant to think that the bishop listened to a small number of parishioners who had been secretly recording Fr Rowe. This sends an awful message to our already overstretched clergy."

The diocese has not responded to our enquiries. 

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