CLEVELAND - The pastor of a Cleveland congregation holding worship services inside a warehouse is speaking out following a decree of excommunication by Cleveland Bishop Richard Lennon.
The Rev. Robert J. Marrone was leading worship services with the Community of St. Peter in the 7100 block of Euclid Avenue since 2010 when the historic St. Peter Catholic Church at 17th & Superior was closed by the diocese in April 2010.
Father Marrone issued a statement late Wednesday that effectively defies a church issued excommunication decree.
"I will continue to serve the Community of St. Peter as long as they call me to do so and and as long as I am able to fulfill the responsibilities of the work entrusted to me," said Father Marrone.
Father Marrone said he must "follow his conscience" relating to his involvement with his new congregation.
"The recent action of the Diocese of Cleveland reflects the continuous pattern which has marked the process of clustering, consolidation, closing, suppressions and reopening of parishes," said Marrone.
He called it a "privilege" to be called to serve with his new church and said he was "grateful to be a part of the Community of St. Peter and members who have "shown courage and commitment through this long and difficult journey".
Parishioners contacted by NewsChannel5 said they were "disappointed" and "saddened" by the decision but expect worship services will continue.
In a statement issued by Bishop Lennon , Father Marrone, four days after the final Mass at St. Peter, "requested a one-year leave of absence from active priestly ministry that was granted under the condition that he would be prohibited from public celebration of the sacraments."
According to Bishop Lennon, "Father Marrone acknowledged his understanding of and acceptance of these conditions."
Bishop Lennon said he met with Father Marrone in July 2010 "after becoming aware that the Community of St. Peter was making plans to hold Mass in a rented Space in Cleveland."
Then, in January 2011, Father Marrone was given a formal document containing a "canonical warning that he needed to resign from leadership of the Community of St. Peter," according to Bishop Lennon.
A few months later, in the Spring of 2012, when it was announced that St. Peter Parish was reopening, Bishop Lennon said he "attempted without success to engage Father Marrone in conversation in hopes that a reconciliation" could be brought about.
A spokesperson for the Community of St. Peter insists Bishop Lennon "did not reach out" and there were "no meaningful efforts to seek out and unify."
In the decree of excommunication , Bishop Lennon found Father Marrone to "have withdrawn submission to the pastors of the Church and from communion with members of the Church subject to them."
Upon ordination to the priesthood, Catholic priests take a vow of obedience to the Bishop.
According to the decree, the declaration of excommunication "is not intended by the Church to be a punishment" but instead a "medicinal remedy" as a last resort to encourage reconciliation and "repair of the damage" inflicted by a serious offense.
Father Marrone is barred from celebrating the sacraments and those celebrating Mass at the Community of St. Peter do not fulfill the Sunday obligation.
Excommunication, according to the church, is a temporary status and "not designed to ban" from the church, according to the diocese.