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Lawsuit: Rhode Island Church's Daily Ritual Takes Dozen-Year Toll on Plaintiff, Helped End His Marriage


"day in, day out, day in, day out”

John Devaney in front of St. Thomas More Catholic Church (Credit: Providence Journal)

A Rhode Island man has filed a federal lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Providence, claiming the parish across the street from him performs an annoying daily ritual that led to the end of his marriage.

So just what's taken a toll on John Devaney?

John Devaney in front of St. Thomas More Catholic Church (Credit: Providence Journal)

It's the bells of St. Thomas More Catholic Church...clanging, ringing, gonging, and more or less disrupting Devaney's life 700 times a week to the tune of more than 36,000 amplified, electronic rings annually over the last dozen or so years, his suit alleges, according to The Providence Journal.

The bells from the church in Narragansett, about 40 minutes south of Providence, represent a permanent trespass, interrupting Devaney’s dreams, his thoughts, his family relationships (i.e., his divorce), the suit claims. At times, Devaney wears earplugs, the Journal reports.

Devaney, who's acting as his own lawyer, is asking the court to order the town to enforce its noise ordinances and the church to reduce the number and volume of chimes. Devaney seeks unspecified monetary damages for the disruption of his life “these past number of years, day in, day out, day in, day out” caused by the chimes, the Journal reports.

The lawsuit also names Pope Francis, state Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, and Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States, as defendants.

Devaney, 64, says the church bell did not operate when he and his now ex-wife bought their house — the former parish rectory — 18 years ago; then about six years later the bell was upgraded to operate electronically.

Through the Catholic Diocese of Providence, the church says the brief bell ringing is reasonable and well within its rights.

“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 church said in a statement to the Journal. “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.”

The diocese would not elaborate on the nature of the parish’s complaints against Devaney, the Journal reports; he has not faced criminal charges, according to the police.

In the town's eyes, Devaney’s numerous complaints go mute as places of religious worship are exempt from noise ordinances by municipal code.

“We don’t believe we can regulate that noise,” interim Town Manager Richard I. Kerbel said.

Here's a report from the Providence Journal:




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