For the first time in its history, the diocese of Quebec has conducted an ecclesiastical court to try a retired priest for “contemptuous and disrespectful conduct towards the bishop.”
David Blair, chancellor of the diocese, said Rev. Keith Perry-Gore was charged because of remarks he made comparing the bishop, Bruce Stavert, to Adolf Hitler, in a letter Mr. Perry-Gore wrote to the bishop last September.
The priest, Mr. Blair said, “sent the letter out on the Internet” and to several journalists.
The dispute between bishop and priest stemmed from the bishop’s refusal to allow the priest, who is retired, to officiate at a specific Sunday service in the diocese.
Mr. Blair wrote that the distribution of Mr. Perry-Gore’s statement “constitutes contemptuous and disrespectful conduct towards the bishop of the diocese of Quebec.”
Mr. Perry-Gore did not respond to the letter, or to a summons calling him to appear at the court. He could not be reached for comment; a diocesan spokesperson said he was out of the country.
“He wrote and said he pleaded not guilty,” Mr. Blair said. “We wrote and said he had to be there. However, he didn’t appear.”
Bishop Stavert said in an interview that he objected to Mr. Perry-Gore’s statements because they were not only personally hurtful, but also that “people were offended because it attacks the position of the bishop and the episcopate.”
Mr. Perry-Gore had the option of choosing five so-called triers (from a list of 10 chosen at the diocesan synod) to hear his case. He declined and the bishop chose the panel.
The trial went ahead on Nov. 26. The triers were expected to make a decision by the start of the new year. If they find Mr. Perry-Gore guilty, the triers will recommend a sentence to the bishop, who makes the final determination on sentencing, which may include a public or private admonition, suspension or deprivation, where the priest severs all connection with his parish and all benefits of office cease.