A Catholic priest unjustly removed from public ministry by his bishop nearly 10 years ago is speaking out on behalf of clergy who feel betrayed and abused by church leaders.
Fr. John Lovell of the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois, told Alpha News in an exclusive interview Tuesday that he believes there’s a “bishop problem” in the United States, and that priests who tell the truth are being targeted by them.
“Many bishops across the country, if not most, look at their priests as a problem, as a potential lawsuit,” he said. “They don’t look at their priests as sons.”
“We see bishops wanting to look tough on protecting God’s children while protecting the lavender mafia.”
Lovell is a co-founder of the newly established, lay-led Coalition for Canceled Priests.
The group, which has the endorsement of former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, provides moral and material support to priests persecuted by their bishops.
Lovell spoke at the Coalition’s inaugural fundraising banquet in Lombard, Illinois, last week, as did Fr. James Altman and attorney Liz Yore.
Lovell revealed to Alpha News that he first ran into problems with his own bishop, the late Thomas Doran, in 2009 after reporting allegations of sexual misconduct by a teacher in the diocese.
Lovell was immediately reassigned from his parish and sent for a psychological evaluation. Later, he was told to enroll at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.
“I just simply followed procedure that anyone would within any diocese,” he said. “I clearly stumbled across something that was not liked by the upper echelons of the diocese.”
Lovell has since acquired a canon lawyer to fight a decree issued by Doran’s successor, Rockford Bishop David Malloy, in 2012 that removed him from public ministry altogether. The case is currently being heard by the Congregation for Clergy and the Apostolic Signatura.
Lovell estimates that there’s approximately a dozen cases similar to his across the United States.
“What they’re really doing is they’re getting rid of priests that they have a problem with preaching the truth, who were standing up for what is right,” he said. “This is not a priest problem. It’s a bishop problem.”
Lovell called on his fellow clergy to take a stand, to preach the truth about crisis in the church, and to seek help if they’re attacked by their bishops.
“There are priests that are sycophants. They’re ‘yes men.’ They want to climb the ladder … in order to advance … [to] get that better parish … and get that plum assignment. That’s the sad thing.”
“Do not stay silent,” he added. “Silence just allows the aggressor to write the narrative. It’s allowing the bully to basically explain what’s happening.”