As if Pope Francis didn’t already have enough on his plate, a Rhode Island man now wants him to see the inside of a federal courtroom. Recently, 64-year old John Devaney filed suit against Pope Francis along with the Catholic Diocese of Providence, Archbishop Carlo Laria Vigano, and Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, alleging that the bells of a Narragansett church ended his marriage. Devaney claims the bells rang 700 times per week for the past 12 years, causing interruptions in his dreams, his thoughts, and his family relationships. Devaney seeks an injunction limiting the number of times the bells can ring as well as unspecified monetary damages. We are certain Pope Francis’ legal counsel is taking this one seriously.
Before we become too critical of Devaney, this isn’t a case of moving next door to a landfill and then complaining about the smell. Devaney actually moved to the neighborhood six years prior to the bells becoming operational. Nonetheless, the suit seems a bit absurd, especially considering it names the Sovereign of Vatican City as a defendant. While any sound can be annoying over time, claiming that church bells ended a marriage is a bit of a stretch. Good luck picking a jury who won’t side with the Catholic Church in this scenario.
Unsurprisingly, the church has denied any liability, claiming that the ringing of church bells is reasonable. Moreover, the church claims that Devaney, himself, may have some unclean hands. Through the Catholic Diocese of Providence, the church issued the following statement:
So many in the community have enjoyed hearing the bell for more than 10 years for but minutes a day. The parish believes the brief ringing of the bell is reasonable and well within its rights. The parish community is saddened that a sole individual would continue personal, inappropriate attacks harassing visitors, worshippers and staff of St. Thomas More Parish. As a community of faith, we will pray for peace and understanding and that all our neighbors know of our charity and concern.
Apparently, Devaney really, really hated those bells. Even though we can appreciate his frustration, Devaney, who brought the suit pro se, has an uphill battle in front of him. Suing the Pope and the Catholic Diocese over some annoying church bells is a slight overkill to voice those frustrations. He probably would be better suited challenging the local noise ordinances which exempt places of worship. Had his suit been aimed at a next door neighbor blaring Metallica 700 times per week over a loud speaker, then this suit would have never made the headlines. Unfortunately for Devaney, this is the church. And its bells. And its leader. We here at Abnormal Use wish him well.