Cleveland diocese mourns excommunicated priest

Bishop Richard G Lennon of Cleveland CNA US Catholic News 3 7 13 Bishop Richard G. Lennon of Cleveland

Bishop Richard G. Lennon of Cleveland announced the excommunication of Father Robert Marrone on March 4, calling people to pray for the priest, who had refused two years of reconciliation attempts.

"We are saddened by this development" Robert Tayek, the diocese's public relations director, told CNA March 7.

"The priests, religious, and lay faithful of the Diocese of Cleveland are exhorted to pray for the reconciliation of Father Marrone with the Catholic Church," wrote Bishop Lennon March 4.

"With concern for the welfare of the faithful of the Diocese of Cleveland and in order to avoid confusion, error, and scandal I...have judged it necessary to take the most serious step of declaring the incurred latae sententiae excommunication of Reverend Robert J. Marrone," he said.

Fr. Marrone went into schism and excommunicated himself over a matter of a parish closing.

In March 2009, the Cleveland diocese underwent a downsizing that closed some 50 parishes, including St. Peter's, of which Fr. Marrone was the pastor. After the closing was announced, some members of the parish formed an independent non-profit called the Community of St. Peter.

In April 2010, Fr. Marrone took a year-long leave of absence from ministry, with the understanding that he could not publicly celebrate the sacraments during that time. Despite this, he knowingly and repeatedly did so as "pastor-administrator" of the Community of St. Peter, Bishop Lennon wrote.

During that leave of absence, Bishop Lennon repeatedly tried to reconcile Fr. Marrone and the Community of St. Peter with the diocese, to no avail. Bishop Lennon sought unsuccessfully to engage Fr. Marrone in discussion to persuade him to reconciliation in January 2011, and several times throughout 2012.

Four months ago, Fr. Marrone received a formal canonical warning and received an advocate from another diocese to represent him. However, he refused to even respond to his advocate.

Bishop Lennon said that it is "with sadness" that he had to recognize that Fr. Marrone had broken from communion with the Church and gone into schism, after more than two years of trying to reconcile him with the Church.

The bishop noted that his decision was made "after due process in law," with "prayerful reflection on the peace and welfare of the Church," and "with due regard to my responsibilities as the Bishop of Cleveland."

The decree began with several references to the documents of Vatican II, which stress the God-given gift of unity within the Church.

The diocese noted that excommunication is a "medicinal penalty."

"It is my prayer that the declaration of excommunication may impress upon Father Marrone the serious nature of the offense he has committed, and thus with haste he may seek to reconcile with the Catholic Church which in all places and in all times seeks to extend the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ to all people," wrote Bishop Lennon.

Since Fr. Marrone is excommunicated, he may not licitly receive or celebrate any of the sacraments. The diocese said that attending Mass "at the Community of St. Peter or any other schismatic parish" does not fulfill one's Sunday obligation.

Bishop Lennon concluded, saying that "it remains my fervent hope that Catholics everywhere can once again be united by prayer and charity."

"I pray that we may come together with God's help and strive to strengthen our diocesan Catholic community of Cleveland," he said.

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