Church law at issue
Navarro told CNA on May 18 that he will not comply with Johnston's orders.
The Oblates of St. Augustine community he leads is based in Weston, Missouri, a small town about a 40-minute drive north of Kansas City. It’s unclear how many men are in the group. Speaking to CNA, Navarro would only say that since founding the Oblates in 2020, “I’ve never been alone.”
The Oblates’ website describes the group as a “community of Traditional Roman Catholic men, faithful to the Traditional Roman Rite, the Holy Rule of St. Augustine, and the traditional formulations of the Catholic religion.” The group says it is devoted to the Traditional Latin Mass and breviary.
Navarro said the group is currently living on property leased to them by Mike Parrott, the host of a YouTube channel called Restoring the Faith Media. The group’s chapel in a converted garage already is under construction on the property, and nearing completion. Navarro told CNA the group has raised more than $161,000 for the monastery project. A separate funding drive accepts donations for the group members' living expenses.
Navarro’s “Br. Martin” Twitter account often tweets comments concerning an ongoing dispute between Parrott and the Church Militant media outlet which began over Parrott’s fundraising efforts on behalf of Father James Jackson, a priest of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter who is facing federal child pornography charges in Rhode Island.
In his letter, Johnston cited several canons, as well as Pope Francis’ 2020 motu proprio Authenticum charismatis, to support his authority over the group’s activities in his diocese.
Johnston warned that “failure to observe these provisions … could result in further disciplinary actions. Accordingly, this letter itself stands as due canonical warning of the same.”
Navarro, for his part, says Johnston is misinterpreting church law, and using it “to intimidate us from praying.”
Asked to respond to Navarro’s intention to defy Johnston, Ashlie Hand, communications director for the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, issued a statement to CNA Thursday night.
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“Bishop Johnston has communicated appropriate guidance and next steps with Mr. Navarro regarding his request to establish the Oblates of St. Augustine in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph," Hand said. "Bishop Johnston intends any further communication to be private."