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Man Sues Pope, Asserting the Church Bells Ringing Drove Him Crazy and Ended his Marriage

By November 29, 2013December 29th, 2013Emotional Distress, Personal Injury


churchbellsoneJohn Devaney filed a lawsuit in federal court against Pope Francis, the Catholic Diocese of Providence, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, and Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.

Devaney alleges the bells of a Narragansett church that ring over 700 times a week ended his marriage.  Specifically, he claims that the constant ringing interrupted his dreams, his thoughts, and his relationship with his partner.

He has requested the judge issue an injunction restricting the number of times the bells may ring each week and award monetary compensation.


The Church has responded by claiming its conduct is reasonable and accepted by the community.  The Catholic Diocese of Providence issued the following statement:


“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 parish community is saddened that a sole individual would continue personal, inappropriate attacks harassing visitors, worshippers, and staff of St. Thomas More Parish.”


Devaney appears to have taken up a flawed legal strategy: 1) he is suing the Sovereign of Vatican City as a Defendant; 2) he is claiming church bells are responsible for the demise of his marriage (a bit of a stretch), and 3) the likelihood of finding a jury in Rhode Island that will be sympathetic to his claims is not going to be easy, if not impossible, with 44% of the state claiming to be Catholic.


Devaney might have been better served if he had challenged the church by citing a local noise ordinance.  However, churches often qualify for exemptions from these ordinances.  If Devaney sued his neighbor for blasting Prince’s “Purple Rain” 700 times a week, he would certainly have a cause of action if he had cited the local noise ordinance.


As you might have guessed, Devaney is representing himself pro se.   Good luck, my friend.

Arthur Hardy-Doubleday

Author Arthur Hardy-Doubleday

Arthur Hardy-Doubleday practices law in Cambridge and Martha's Vineyard Massachusetts. He works in the areas of Real Estate, Personal Injury, and Consumer Protection Law. When not practicing law, Arthur enjoys sailing, hanging out with friends on the beach, and waking his dog "Ridiculous."

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