Nevermind: priest who lost job over Mass language retracts resignation

The saga in Belleville continues:

The Rev. William Rowe may not always go by the book during Mass, but he is digging deep into the letter of church law in an effort to regain his post as parish priest.

For decades, Rowe has deviated from the language of the Roman Catholic Mass, a highly prescribed liturgical rite, parts of which are as old as Christianity itself.

He’s done so, he said, when the words written in the book of prayers in front of him don’t connect precisely with the Gospel message he’s conveying to his flock.

The 72-year-old priest felt so strongly about his ad-libs that last October he offered to resign as pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Mount Carmel, Ill. Belleville Bishop Edward Braxton eventually accepted Rowe’s offer Jan. 30.

But in a letter to Braxton on Friday, Rowe retracted his offer to resign.

Rowe dug deep into canon — or church — law to assert that Braxton’s acceptance came too late.

Canon 538 says that to be valid, a pastor’s resignation has to be formally accepted by his bishop. And canon 189 says any resignation “which requires acceptance lacks all force if it is not accepted within three months.” By that standard, the priest’s resignation would have lost validity on Jan. 12.

Rowe’s original offer to resign came on Oct. 12, two months ahead of the introduction of a new, Vatican-mandated English-language translation of the Roman Missal, the book of prayers, chants and responses used during Mass.

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