The Providence Journal reported on John Devaney, a Narragansett Rhode island citizen who is suing the church across the street because the church bell has been ringing too loudly and too often. Devaney claims the bell has aggravated him beyond the point of distraction, as the bell has literally cost him his peace of mind and his marriage.
It should be noted that despite all the hyperbole in the ProJo's comments and the intrusion of right wing Catholic radio jock John DePetro into the issue, all Devaney is asking for is less bells and less volumes. When Devaney moved into the house eighteen years ago, the bells of the church were out of service. Then, twelve years ago the bell were "upgraded to operate electronically" and "its sounds amplified."
Th ProJo goes on to point out that when a similar case arose between the Hotel Providence and Grace Episcopal Church in downtown Providence, a compromise was reached. After meeting, the two sides agreed to reduce the bells to every half hour, rather than every fifteen minutes.
Devaney is acting as his own lawyer in the case and names "Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, Diocese of Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States, and Pope Francis as defendants."
One interesting aspect of this case is that, according to town officials, places of worship are exempt from noise ordinances, and Town manager Richard I Kerbel is quoted as saying, "We don’t believe we can regulate that noise." I wonder if calling church bells "noise" counts as a venal or cardinal sin.
The idea that the city can't regulate certain secular aspects of the church because of separation of church and state is absorb. Every church has to conform itself to fire codes, for the safety of those inside. If no noise ordinances could possibly be enforced, what's to stop a church from ringing highly amplified bells twenty-four hours a day forever?
The Catholic Diocese has released a statement in response to the suit, alleging that Devaney has in some, as yet unspecified way, made "personal, inappropriate attacks harassing visitors, worshippers and staff." They maintain that they are well within their rights to ring the bells, and will pray "for peace and understanding and that all our neighbors know of our charity and concern.” Which should be of great consolation to Devaney.
Channel 6 features Devaney, who doesn't seem all that unreasonable on video, as saying, "It takes a long time to get up the nerve to complain about a church. No one wants to complain about a church, you know." This should be apparent in the way some reporters, including Alexandra Cowley, lead the story off by distancing herself from Devaney's position, saying, "I can't speak for everyone but when I hear church bells I get a rush of happy memories."