A group of hermits who have lived in a presbytery in England since 2011 have been given only three months to find a new home.
The Black Hermits, who consist of two Brothers and a Sister and are based in the Diocese of Northampton, were asked to leave following controversy over the leafleting activities of one of their members, Brother Damon Kelly.
Brother Kelly, who has been arrested 10 times, had a bucket of water thrown over him and been pushed over in the street, has travelled the country giving out leaflets condemning homosexuality and abortion.
Despite his arrests he has refused to stop putting leaflets through people’s letterboxes.
He told ChurchMilitant.com: “At first I agreed to do no more leafleting. But I’ve wrestled with it, I’ve sought spiritual counsel. And I’ve decided I have to obey God’s law and not the state’s law.”
Brother Kelly has now been charged with harassment over two pamphlets he handed out to a particular couple. His court hearing is scheduled for May 18 and if convicted he could be jailed. Other police investigations have been dropped, the leaflets deemed not to incite hatred.
Bishop Peter Doyle of Northampton, who invited the hermits to live at the presbytery four years ago, said they had “brought the diocese into disrepute”, according to Fr Stephen Joseph de Kerdrel, the group’s founder.
Fr de Kerdrel said: “[The bishop] invited us into the diocese which was very kind of him. It’s all very sad because it started off so well … The last thing we want to do is make the bishop’s life difficult.”
In an appeal on the Black Hermits’ website Sister Colette writes: “We are having to move from our present diocese (Northampton), but we do not have anywhere to go. Does anyone know of anywhere suitable for three hermits and our cats in the British Isles or Ireland?
“All ideas welcome – we have lived in everything from a Church of Scotland manse, farm cottages, presbytery, holiday huts, wayside ex-cafe, to mobile homes and caravans.”
Fr de Kerdrel, a former Capuchin novice-master, founded the group in 1999 to respond to young men seeking “a more primitive form of [religious] life”. The two Brothers were later joined by Sister Colette, a former A&E consultant surgeon. They have made personal vows to their bishop.
Bishop Doyle could not be reached for comment.