Rhode Island man sues pope over loud church bells

Newly elected Pope Francis I, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, leads a a mass with cardinals at the Sistine Chapel. Credit: Reuters
Newly elected Pope Francis I, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, leads a a mass with cardinals at the Sistine Chapel.
Credit: Reuters

A Rhode Island man filed a federal lawsuit that names Pope Francis as a defendant because the senior citizen claims that too loud bells that toll from neighboring churches have disrupted his life, forced him inside and helped lead to his divorce. 

John Devaney, who calls himself a senior citizen in his civil complaint, filed his initial hand-written complaint in July. He filed an amended complaint last month that seeks relief including having the churches reduce the volume of their bells and the church pay monetary damages for the disruption to his life.

In his complaint, Devaney claims that the church directly across the street from his Narragansett home sounds its bells so often that there are 700 bell claps a week, not including weddings and funerals. The bells at that church were not used when he and his family first moved into the home in 1995.

Devaney said the bells interrupt his “sleep, his dreams, his thought and reading, study, bathing, watching television, speaking over the telephone, listening to music and radio, relaxing and working about his house.”

“The bell noise has forced plaintiff inside, no longer able to enjoy his front porch or front, side or rear yards, cautious always, of the bell and when it will be operated,” Devaney wrote in his complaint, adding that the bell noise makes him emotionally “upset.”

His bedroom and bathroom face the church, so he tried moving his bedroom to another part of the home, but the bell noise can still be heard. Additionally, the other side of his home faces a second church just up the street. He said the bell sounds from that church were electronically amplified after he moved into the home.

Devaney said he is divorced and blamed the sound of the bells for his family breakdown.

“[T]hese bell sounds did indeed help precipitate unhappiness about his house, interfering with his relationships with his children and then wife, leading at times to frustration and bad moods which at times led to arguments and complaints thereby emotionally distancing plaintiff from his children and them from him, and helping to precipitate an irretrievable breakdown in his marriage of 23 years,” Devaney wrote in the complaint.

Devaney said he has brought his complaints to employees and authorities of the churches, but has had no relief.

Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.


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