More than 100 members of St. Mary’s Catholic Church have signed a petition asking for the immediate removal of the senior parish priest, the Rev. Victor Blazovich, and submitted it to Bishop Blase Cupich of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane.
A six-page petition outlining the complaints against Blazovich has been circulated among church members via email. Some complaints are relatively minor while others reach to the very core of Catholic beliefs, including allegations that he ordered Communion to be withheld from people who aren’t Catholics in “good standing.”
Blazovich was unwilling to discuss the specific complaints contained in the petition, saying he didn’t want to “betray the process of trying to work it out internally.”
But he said a group representing the unhappy church members has met with the parish council and he has also met with the council separately. A moderator brought in by the Bishop, with no connection to the parish, has been selected and will work to address the concerns of members, Blazovich said.
“I want to make sure everyone has a chance to be heard,” he said. “I want to work for unity.”
Two church members declined to comment, saying it was a private issue that needed to be worked out internally. Bishop Cupich also declined to comment.
St. Mary’s is the second-largest parish in the Spokane Diocese and the largest in Spokane County, with about 7,000 members. Blazovich has been the church’s senior pastor since July 2010.
The petition includes serious allegations, including that Blazovich told eucharistic ministers who give communion that “they are to discern/recognize whether or not a person is a Catholic in ‘good standing’ before distributing the Eucharist.”
According to the petition, some church members no longer want to serve as eucharistic ministers “because they do not wish to falsely condemn or withhold the sacrament from those in need.”
The church used to routinely offer foot washing for everyone who wanted to participate during Holy Thursday services. That practice has been discontinued. “It is widely known that the pastor made statements to the parish staff explaining his belief that as a sign of ordination of the Apostles, women should not be included in the rite,” the petition states.
Other allegations include that Blazovich betrays the confidentiality of church members he has counseled by using their first names in his weekly homilies during Mass; that he doesn’t spend enough time visiting the church’s school or attending church events; and that he has proposed hiring noncredentialed teachers at the parish school.
More minor concerns are that Blazovich appointed his own group of 12 advisers, rather than letting church members select a parish council as has been done traditionally, and that he has proposed buying a new pipe organ and other items without input from the finance council.
The lengthy petition ends with a critique of the way Blazovich works with others.
“It has been extremely difficult to maintain mature discussions regarding conflicting ideas while the pastor avows that all dissent is the work of Satan,” the petition reads. “To have one’s questions and concerns consistently met with derision and statements that explicitly link disagreement with Satan is exhausting and frustrating.”