LIMA — Father Mark Hodges was one of the thousands of people at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 when a riot broke out.
He was there to support then-president Donald Trump.
Hodges, who had served as a priest at St. Stephen the First Martyr Orthodox Church in Lima for 20 years, has been suspended as of Jan. 12, for three months and faces “possible defrocking” for his involvement in the Stop the Steal rally in Washington. Five people died as the result of the insurrection after some members of the crowd entered the Capitol building while Congress was considering the counting of the Electoral College votes.
“The reason (for the suspension) was that I went (to the rally) on the sixth and Archbishop Paul (Gassios), whom I love dearly, and respect said in his suspension letter (to me) that I was ‘guilty by association.’ And I disagree, you know, I think it’s an unjust suspension,” Hodges said.
An emailed statement from Archbishop Paul Gassios from the Diocese of the Midwest Orthodox Church in America confirmed the suspension:
“Other than confirming that Father Mark was suspended by me as a priest in the Diocese of the Midwest, I will not comment on the details of the suspension as that is between myself and Father Mark to address.”
Hodges hasn’t served in Lima for the past three years and instead is what they call a “supply priest” and goes wherever he is needed.
Hodges shared his letter to “concerned loved ones” with The Lima News.
“The Stop the Steal rally was joyful, positive and orderly — it was great meeting wonderful people, lots of families, little kids playing catch with a ball, etc. It was good, huge. Easily as big as any March for Life I’d been to, and I’ve been to most since the ‘80s, so I believed the whispered estimates of half-to-three-quarters of a million,” Hodges stated.
During the march from the White House to the Capitol, he wound up near the back of the crowd.
“I was walking the march with a co-worker at The Ruth Institute named Mary (Summerhays). When we finally got to the Capitol parking lot, we noticed about four young men in the back of a pickup truck and one had been sprayed with some irritant in his eyes. I questioned him what he did. All I could get him to say was ‘They’re attacking us.’ At this point, we had no idea of the violence inside the Capitol,” Hodges stated.
As Hodges got closer to the Capitol he saw more clearly what was going on.
“I heard the young men cursing and taunting the police. 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.
Police used teargas on the crowd.
“The spray immediately became a white cloud in the air and we were only about 20-25 feet from it and I told Mary we should go. We left and went to Union Station,” Hodges stated.
Hodges watched news coverage of the incident Wednesday night and was “very angry” at that coverage.
“Trump incited no violence. The crowd and the event is being misrepresented by the MSM. 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.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.