El Paso priest transferred because of his public remarks leading up to a mayoral recall vote

On the site of KVIA in El Paso, Texas, we find this.  My emphases:

El Paso Bishop Halts Priest’s Anti-Gay, Political Discourse

EL PASO, Texas — The Rev. Michael Rodriguez was transferred to a new parish because his stance on morality and the upcoming recall election “raised serious issues regarding whether his participation could be attributed to the Diocese of El Paso” and his parish, El Paso Catholic Bishop Armando X. Ochoa said.

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I urge you to go to that site, now, and read that whole piece.

From this KVIA report, it seems that Fr. Rodriguez went to city council meetings and spoke his mind from his perspective.  I assume that Fr. Rodriguez is an American Citizen with 1st Amendment rights, and is a tax payer since he is a diocesan priest, and a resident in that city.  On the surface of it, he has a right as a citizen to speak his mind when it comes to how his taxes are used in that community.

From this report, it sounds as if Fr. Rodriguez confined himself in his remarks and in what he wrote to what the Church teaches.  I assume that, had he made a specific statement about a political figure or specifically how to vote, that statement would have been included in the report as evidence that he crossed a clear line into politics.

From this report, it sounds as if Fr. Rodriguez words were printed in the paper because in the context of an ad paid for by a private individuals with no connection of employment by the Diocese of El Paso or another Catholic entity.  Those people have 1st Amendment Rights and the paper accepted the ad and the money that came with it.

From this report, it sounds as if a Washington DC based group called Americans United for Separation of Church and State accused a local evangelical pastor “of using his church to advance the recall” of the local mayor because of the proposal to give benefits to homsexual “couples” in the same way married couples receive them.  In this report we read:

“(Father) Rodriguez has recently challenged certain city officials to participate with him in a partisan debate on issues related to an upcoming election,” said Ochoa. “This type of intervention in the political in the political process by religious organizations such as the Diocese of El Paso and San Juan Bautista Church is not permitted under Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code.

I am not use what “partisan” means here.  It is often used to connote a strong and public political stance.   However, I suppose it could also be used to connote a strong public doctrinal stance.  Again, I did not read in the KVIA reportage that Fr. Rodriguez made partisan political statements in public.  He certainly made partisan doctrinal statements. Had he made specifically political statements, you would think that his statements would be prominently reported as evidence of having crossed a line.

I suppose that Fr. Rodriquez was perceived to be “campaigning” (my word) in a political sense for one of the sides in the upcoming recall election.

Context: a local religious group’s tax exempt status was being threatened by a Washington DC based group, …

UPDATE 23 Sept 15:37:

On a related story, HERE, the Bp. of Bathurst in Canada (not in Australia) has suspended a priest, Fr. Donat Gionet, 85, because of his preaching about the evil influence on the Church coming Catholics engaged in homosexual acts and abortions procured by Catholics.  According to the news report, the decision was “welcomed by Joseph Lanteigne, the openly gay mayor of Saint-Léolin.”

Fr. Gionet wrote to the local newspaper to explain what he was preaching about:

“I said: ‘Today, it is we Catholics who are destroying our Catholic Church. We need only look at the number of abortions among Catholics, look at the homosexuals, and ourselves.’ (That’s when I pointed at my chest – through that action I wanted to say, we the priests) and I continued saying: We are destroying our Church ourselves. And that’s when I said that those were the words expressed by Pope John Paul II. At that point, in the St-Léolin church only, I added: ‘We can add to that the practice of watching gay parades, we are encouraging this evil’ … What would you think of someone who seeing what was happening on (Sept.) 11, 2001, the crumbling of the towers, had begun clapping? We must not encourage evil, whatever form it takes.”

There are some interesting parallels with the situation in El Paso.  They don’t line up perfectly, but there are echoes.

This is a situation which I predict will be repeated more and more often.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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