Cleveland Bishop Richard Lennon has issued a decree formally excommunicating Fr. Robert Marrone, the pastor who followed his parishioners from St. Peter Church to the independent worship community that formed in the wake of their parish's closing.
"It is with sadness I recognize that the Reverend Robert J. Marrone, a
priest of the Diocese of Cleveland, has broken communion with the
Catholic Church," Lennon's decree, issued Monday, reads. "He is found to
have withdrawn submission to the pastors of the Church and from
communion with the members of the Church subject to them.
"I hereby declare that by doing so freely and with knowledge, the Reverend Robert J. Marrone has incurred ipso facto the automatic penalty (latae sententiae) of excommunication as stated in canon 1364, [paragraph 1] of the Code of Canon Law," he said.
The decree accuses the priest of schism and forbids him from
participation in celebrations of the sacraments or in public worship.
Marrone can neither receive sacraments nor hold a position in any
ecclesiastical office. Canon law allows him 10 days from his
excommunication's publishing to appeal the decree -- in this case, until
Marrone addressed his status in a brief statement to members of the
Community of St. Peter, stating the action "reflects the continuous
pattern [in the diocese] which has marked the process of clustering,
consolidation, closing, suppressions and reopening of parishes. I must,
as I have stated repeatedly in the past, follow my conscience in this
Marrone expressed his gratitude to the community while reaffirming his commitment as their pastor-administrator.
"I will continue to serve the Community of Saint Peter as long as
they call me to do so and as long as I am able to fulfill the
responsibilities of the work entrusted to me," he said.
The community scheduled a meeting for registered members only March 11 to discuss their pastor's current status and future.
At posting time, Marrone had not responded to NCR's request for comment.
In a statement accompanying his official decree, Lennon said, "The
desired effect of excommunication is not to ban someone from the Church
permanently. Rather it is a temporary status meant to be medicinal and
to encourage the person to reconcile with the Church."
He added that though excommunicated, Marrone remains a member of the
church but has harmed his relationship with it and God through his
actions, specifically holding a leadership position with the breakaway
St. Peter community.
In March 2009, Lennon announced the closing of St. Peter Parish as
part of a wave of closures across the diocese. In all, he shuttered
50-plus parishes and churches, primarily in response to decreasing
membership and increasing costs.
Several parishioner groups appealed their cases to the Vatican's
Congregation for the Clergy, and in March 2012, it ruled in favor of 11
parishes, saying Lennon improperly shuttered them and ordering their
Among those was St. Peter, which, given its unique circumstances,
presented a more difficult process than the others. Unwilling to disband
as a community upon learning of their church's closure, a large
contingent of St. Peter parishioners chose instead to incorporate
themselves in October 2009 as a group outside the diocese's authority.
A year later in August, they gathered for the first time at their new
worship site, a renovated warehouse on Euclid Street. Marrone
celebrated the Mass despite his prohibition to publicly celebrate
sacraments under the terms of his requested one-year leave from priestly
Lennon in his statement said he met with Marrone a month before that
celebration but said the priest refused to talk. Further attempts to
meet also proved futile.
In January 2011, Lennon took a first step toward action against
Marrone, giving him a formal canonical warning that he must resign from
leadership with the Community of St. Peter. Marrone declined.
In May, Lennon issued a "Declaration of Loss of Canonical Office,"
which removed Marrone as pastor of St. Peter Parish and requested he
reconcile with the diocese by leaving the Community of St. Peter or face
suspension from ministry.
"I will not comply with your decree to leave the community of Saint
Peter because I must, before all else, follow what my conscience
dictates," Marrone responded in a letter to Lennon.
A month after St. Peter Parish officially reopened, Lennon in October
began the administrative penal process outlined by canon law, with a
formal canonical warning sent to Marrone in late October.
Addressing the diocese, Lennon urged parishioners to pray for Marrone
and pray that the incident could bring the diocese together.
"I pray that this action may be perceived by the faithful as an
initiative to bring unity and peace to the Body of Christ," he said.