Some people find that ringing church bells punctuates their day reassuringly. Not John Devaney, 64, the Rhode Island man who says he is affronted by the relentless ringing bells coming from nearby St. Thomas More Catholic Parish church from Monday through Saturday.
They chime for a full minute each time, Devaney complains, one loud gong relentlessly following another and disturbing his peace.
Devaney told the Providence Journal this week that the bells have so disrupted his life they even helped to bring about the demise of his marriage, according to a lawsuit he filed in U.S. District Court.
Devaney is now reportedly asking the court to order the picturesque church to substantially reduce the number of bell gongs so he can 'peacefully enjoy' his property.
Devaney has long complained about the bells which did not operate when he and his ex-wife bought the 1885 clapboard house across the street from it 18 years ago, the lawsuit says.
But six years ago a new church administrator arrived and the bell was upgraded to operate electronically. Along with more daily ringings, the sounds significantly amplified, the suit says.
The bells reportedly chimes at noon and 6 P.M. each day, 4:45 P.M. on Saturdays, and 7:45 A.M. on Sundays, they also toll for weddings and funerals.
They toll so often that Devaney said he decided to count them, tallying over 700 'claps' and 'gongs' each week, which amounts to more than 36,000 throughout the year he said. The loud gongs, the suit claims, represent a permanent and obnoxious trespass interrupting Devaney’s reveries, his dreams, his thoughts, his feelings and his family relationships. At times, he is simply forced to wear earplugs he says.
But the bells ring out so often that they impair his functioning, leading to arguments, bad moods and emotional distance, the suit claims.
Narragansett town authorities say that places of religious worship are exempt from noise ordinances by town code, so their hands are tied. 'We don’t believe we can regulate that noise,' interim Town Manager Richard I. Kerbel told the Providence Journal.
Meanwhile the church offered a statement through the Catholic Diocese of Providence explaining that the bell was restored years ago through the generosity of a parishioner.
'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 statement reads. ‘The parish community is saddened that a sole individual would continue personal, inappropriate attacks harassing visitors, worshippers and staff of St. Thomas More Parish. As a community of faith, we will pray for peace and understanding and that all our neighbors know of our charity and concern.'
The diocese did not comment on the nature of the parish’s complaints against Devaney. He has not faced criminal charges, according to the police.
Devaney’s lawsuit names Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, Diocese of Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States, and Pope Francis as defendants.
He also reportedly takes aim at St. Peters by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, which chimes around the corner from his home. He names Linda O’Neill, its administrator, as a defendant as well.
Devaney, who is acting as his own lawyer, argues that state law denies protections afforded him under the First and Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and denies him the 'peaceful enjoyment of his property.'
He reportedly asked the court to order the town to enforce its noise ordinances, and the church to reduce the number and volume of chimes.
He is also reportedly seeking unspecified monetary damages for the profound disruption of his life 'these past number of years, day in, day out, day in, day out' caused by the bells.