Saturday, September 24, 2011

Father Michael Rodriguez and Father Frank Pavone

The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger.
 – Matthew 23:2-4
Another holy priest has been prevented from doing the work of God by his bishop. In this case it is Bishop Ochoa who has removed Father Michael Rodriguez from his work at the parish of San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist) in San Antonio and re-assigned him to a parish in west Texas. Essentially sending him into exile for his outspoken defense of marriage.

What are we to make of this? Has the Catholic Church in America lost sight of its mission?

Perhaps we need to turn to the Orthodox Church to remind ourselves of our past heritage. Certainly orthodoxy does not seem to be welcomed by the Catholic bishops. Is the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in America attempting to separate itself from the Holy See? Will the Roman Catholic Church in the future be a mixture of orthodox Catholics, orthodox Protestants and the Orthodox Church?

Our Holy Father is presently in Germany. His message is clear. The following quote is from the speech of Pope Benedict XVI to Orthodox Churches in Germany:
In the present climate, in which many would like, as it were, to “liberate” public life from God, the Christian Churches in Germany – including Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians – are walking side by side along the path of peaceful witness for understanding and solidarity among peoples, on the basis of their faith in the one God and Father of all.  At the same time they continue to place the miracle of God’s incarnation at the centre of their proclamation. Realizing that on this mystery all human dignity depends, they speak up jointly for the protection of human life from conception to natural death.  Faith in God, the Creator of life, and unconditional adherence to the dignity of every human being strengthen faithful Christians to oppose vigorously every manipulative and selective intervention in the area of human life.  Knowing too the value of marriage and the family, we as Christians attach great importance to defending the integrity and the uniqueness of marriage between one man and one woman from any kind of misinterpretation.  Here the common engagement of Christians, including Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians, makes a valuable contribution to building up a society equipped for the future, in which the human person is given the respect which is his due.
One shudders to think if a Catholic priest were to make such a public pronouncement in the United States, what the reaction of his bishop might be. One wonders if the American bishops are among those who wish to "'liberate' public life from God".

Let's parse the Pope's statement and see what he believes to be the most essential elements of the Christian faith in these tumultuous times in which we live.
  • "the protection of human life from conception to natural death" - The very first thing he brings up is the pro-Life message. Isn't this the core message of Priests for Life? Isn't this exactly what Father Pavone has committed his life to?
  • "oppose vigorously every manipulative and selective intervention in the area of human life" - Again we hear the Holy Father emphasizing the pro-Life message. Could he possibly be more clear about how high a priority this should be for all of our priests and bishops?
  • "defending the integrity and the uniqueness of marriage between one man and one woman from any kind of misinterpretation" - Here we see how strongly the Pope connects the pro-Life message with the struggle to defend marriage. They are essentially one and the same. And wasn't this what got Father Rodriguez in trouble with his bishop? How can any priest possibly defend marriage from the attacks of the homosexual community without also pointing out the sinful nature of homosexual relationships? And how can the Church effectively defend marriage without getting more directly involved in the political process?
Father Frank Pavone and Father Michael Rodriguez are two priests that took the message of the Gospel to heart and acted on it. They both believe in freedom of religion; not just "freedom of worship". They spoke out in the public square; not just from the pulpit. And for this they have both been chastised by their bishops.

The mission of the Church is to save souls. We know that "the wages of sin is death". If the Church can get our society to recognize that abortion and "homosexual marriage" are sins then many souls will find their rewards in heaven. But in order to be heard over the din of secular society we must be "the voice of one crying in the wilderness".

St. John the Baptist was certainly not being "pastoral" in his pronouncements when he called the Pharisees and Sadducees a "brood of vipers". He did not confine his ministry to his home diocese. He went out to where the Lord was calling him and where he was needed. It's time for the Catholic Church to get back to Theology 101 and heed the words of St. John the Baptist:
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
 – Matthew 3:2
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St. John the Baptist, pray for us.

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Father Michael Rodriguez on "The Real Truth about Homosexuality"

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