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COVID cases are dwindling across the United States and have moved off the front pages at long last. Nonetheless, in Vermont, a bishop is ignoring the numbers and canning a priest who refuses to follow his COVID directives. Church Militant's Kim Tisor has the story.
Bishop Christopher Coyne: "I believe you. I want to hear you. I'm not going to just dismiss you."
That was a message from Burlington bishop Christopher Coyne to clerical sex abuse victims in 2018.
Today, he has a different message for a priest refusing to follow COVID-related mandates. The bishop announced Tuesday he was dismissing Fr. Peter Williams as pastor of Holy Family Parish in Springfield for his "disobedience and disrespect."
Williams, who endorses freedom and personal rights, refused Bp. Coyne's directives, issued in September, for unvaccinated priests to wear a mask when celebrating the sacraments and to frequently test for COVID.
Fr. Peter Williams: "Are any of the demands being made because of COVID immoral? The answer is yes, and they fall into two categories: demands that violate natural law and demands that violate the dictates of conscience."
Williams made this video in response to questions he received about the Church's teachings on authority and obedience, especially in light of COVID decrees.
Viewers expressed overwhelming support of the priest — one commenting he was "heartbroken at the tyrannical path the bishop has taken."
Bishop Coyne claims he has invited Fr. Williams to join him at his residence for prayer and dialogue. It's unclear how much prayer and dialogue occurred before Fr. Williams' dismissal. But prayer is needed, as the number of priests in Vermont is dwindling, just like the COVID cases.
Father Williams told Church Militant this afternoon he has a canon lawyer and will fight this all the way to Rome and for as long as is necessary. He also shared that Bp. Coyne initially gave him just three days to vacate the rectory but has since relented and is now giving Fr. Williams 10 days.