An Orthodox priest from Ohio was suspended by his diocese and faces “possible defrocking” after he traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
The Rev. Mark Hodges, a "supply priest" who travels around to different parishes when needed, was “suspended from all priestly functions” effective Jan. 12, according to a one-sentence notice from the Orthodox Church in America’s Diocese of the Midwest website.
Hodges told The Lima News on Wednesday that the suspension could be extended after three months or he could be removed from the priesthood. He said the punishment was handed down by Archbishop Paul Gassios, who accused Hodges of being “guilty by association.”
“And I disagree, you know, I think it’s an unjust suspension,” Hodges said.
Gassios, who leads the Diocese of the Midwest that includes 21 parishes in Ohio, confirmed the suspension to the outlet and said he would not comment on the details.
Hodges told the Dayton Daily News that he had traveled to the nation’s capital for the “Stop the Steal” rally organized by supporters of former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE outside of the White House.
Trump spoke to the crowd prior to the riot and encouraged them to march to the Capitol to urge lawmakers not to certify President Biden’s Electoral College victory. Following Trump's remarks, the mob approached the Capitol, toppled barricades, overwhelmed Capitol Police and caused mayhem throughout the building.
Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died during the siege.
The priest said he did not go inside the Capitol building, noting that he does not condone the violence that took place.
In a letter to “concerned loved ones” shared with The Lima News, Hodges called the rally “joyful, positive and orderly.”
He said that he noticed a group of young men claiming to have been attacked by police as he got closer to the Capitol.
“When I finally realized these guys were intending to violently antagonize the police, I went up to the police (in riot gear), shushed one of the yellers and thanked the police for protecting the people of Washington D.C. and for showing restraint and I apologized for the handful of screaming young men not showing restraint or self-control. Then I began to leave,” Hodges stated.
Trump, who left office Wednesday with Biden’s inauguration, was impeached earlier this month on a single impeachment article, which accuses Trump of inciting violence against the federal government.
Hodges insisted that the former president did not incite violence and that the crowd was being “misrepresented" by the media.
“The rally was advertised as an entirely peaceful protest for election transparency. To me (and nearly everyone I talked to at the rally), it’s not about Trump vs. Biden, or Left vs Right, but is about free and fair elections. I honestly believe we have lost our democratic republic,” Hodges stated.