BELLEVILLE — The Rev. Bill Rowe said Wednesday he will not go quietly into forced retirement, even if his only avenue of appeal is to Cardinal Raymond Burke in Rome, who has already told Belleville Bishop Edward Braxton to get rid of the Mount Carmel priest.
"There have been so many people who have supported me and said that what was happening was right, I feel that maybe I have to just let Bishop Braxton complete the course to remove me and say I fought the best fight I could."
Rowe, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Mt. Carmel, drew national attention through his practice of ad libbing parts of the liturgy that are said during the Roman Catholic Mass.
The liturgy was recently revamped to reflect earlier Latin versions, a move by the Vatican that has received criticism from some Catholics. It is supposed to be followed word for word.
Braxton could not be reached. He has a policy of not commenting to local media.
However, during a meeting with Braxton on Tuesday at the Chancery in Belleville, Rowe said he was told that if he didn't go, he would be removed. Straying from the strict wording of the liturgy was only one of the accusations. In an email, Rowe said Braxton also brought up two marriages that Rowe said he officiated over as civil unions, even though the divorced people involved had not received formal annulments from the church.
"The parties got divorced and were going to marry others and they asked me if I would at least do a civil marriage," Rowe said.
"They knew I couldn't do the regular thing, so in both cases the gesture to keep them within the fold of the church was better than forcing them to go somewhere else."
Braxton, according to Rowe, said that the only appeal he has now is to a tribunal in Rome headed by former St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke. Burke made headlines for standing firm against rogue parishioners at St. Stanislous Church in St. Louis.
However, Rowe said that Braxton told him that Burke has already advised that he be removed. Rowe is expected to leave his parish in July.
Rowe is widely supported despite his ad libbing during Mass. Recently, more than 75 perople made the nearly two hour drive from Mt. Carmel and nearby areas to march outside St. Peter Cathedral in Belleville to support Rowe.