Friday, January 13, 2012

Effects of the Lawsuit Against Fr. Rodriguez

There’s no need to bash a bishop or speculate on personal motivations when pondering the effects of Bishop Ochoa’s legal action against Fr. Michael Rodriguez (and his brother David).
So without dismissing of dissing bishops, let’s look at the case.
Bishop Ochoa is bringing a civil (using the term loosely, of course) suit against Fr. Rodriguez and David Rodriguez. I am presuming that this is not often done; the Church has her own court, her own set of proceedings, with which to conduct investigations of alleged misconduct. Fr. Rodriguez, in his response to the bishop’s press release, mentions a canon lawyer who has been in touch with the Diocesan officials. Surely, then, this situation could be resolved within the Church. One can only hope that Church law is more civil than civil law (debatable, I know), and I think most of us would agree it is better to resolve Church matters within Church parameters, rather than airing our dirty laundry and letting the secular world take pot shots at us. Which they will do. Are doing.
So, one effect of this lawsuit is to make the Church look pretty darn bad in the public eye.
What about the effect within the parish of San Juan Bautista? Michael Voris has given some excellent coverage to the situation there; at least on video it appears that there is a sizable group of the faithful who a) would like to have better, more orthodox catechesis happening in their parish and diocese; and b) would like to have access to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass on a regular basis. And in fact, it appears that they had both of those things before Fr. Rodriguez was transferred last September to the remote parish of Santa Teresa de Jesus in Presidio, Texas. The people of the El Paso parish have been quite vocal about their desire to keep their priest and to reform the heretical-sounding catechesis that was going on in the Tepeyac Center. It is clear that they still want Fr. Rodriguez to return to their parish.
I think that Fr. Rodriguez’s supporters in El Paso are probably pretty loyal to him, and since he says he’s innocent, they will believe him until he is proven guilty. On the other hand, one must also surmise that there are other parishioners who were/are not quite so supportive of Fr. R’s ways. The lawsuit obviously casts aspersions on Fr. Rodriguez’s good name, and on his good will toward the parish of San Juan Bautista. Some parishioners will be happy to assume that Fr. Rodriguez is guilty.
So, another effect of the lawsuit will probably be to cause division within the parish. I have no idea whether there was significant division before Fr. Rodriguez was removed, but I am pretty sure that there will be in the wake of this lawsuit, because that is human nature.
The people of El Paso who have been praying, writing letters, and otherwise “lobbying” for the return of Fr. Rodriguez as well as reforms in the catechetical program of the diocese are currently praying for a new bishop who will lead the diocese toward greater holiness and less heresy. Once Bishop Ochoa was named the new bishop of Fresno (on December 1, 2011), he ceased to be the Bishop of El Paso and (apparently) became the Administrator of the Diocese. His actions should thereby be restricted to, well, administering. I don’t know whether bringing a civil lawsuit against a priest of the diocese falls into that category or not. I do believe that the action he has taken will create problems for a new bishop which weren’t there before.
Back to the question of Fr. Rodriguez’s potential return to El Paso: It’s clear that Bishop Ochoa did not want Fr. Rodriguez in El Paso, and the reasons had to do with Fr. R’s involvement in local politics – which was largely as a voice speaking the truth about Catholic teaching on homosexuality. But a new bishop coming in might not see it the same way as Bishop Ochoa, and might be willing to reinstate Fr. Rodriguez at San Juan Bautista.
So, a third effect of the action of involving Fr. Rodriguez in a civil lawsuit is that it quite likely will serve as a further deterrent to his return to El Paso, even when a new bishop is named and installed. Fr. Rodriguez is accused of mishandling funds – quite large sums of money, it seems – and the effect on the El Paso parishioners will surely be divisive, as noted above. So a new bishop would probably think long and hard about the wisdom of transferring Fr. Rodriguez back to his previous parish.
The above effects will probably be felt whether Fr. Rodriguez is determined to be innocent or guilty. If he’s innocent, the effects are all the more scandalous. If he’s guilty, we may still ask whether or not a civil lawsuit was the appropriate means of dealing with this, or whether Church procedures would have sufficed.
Personally, I think the civil lawsuit serves only to cause scandal and division.
All in all, it’s a sad situation. Time for prayer (always).

I’ve also written about Fr. Rodriguez on this blog here and here.

See also "Religious Freedom and the Ochoa Lawsuit"


  1. No need to diss this Bp--he's doing a pretty good job of self destruction in terms of credibility without any help from others

  2. There isn't any division in the parish over Fr. Rodriguez. San Juan Bautista was a shuttered parish in the worst part of El Paso prior to Fr. Rodriguez being assigned there, which was in and of itself a "punishment." The area was filled with Catholics who were dead in the Faith. Fr. Rodriguez changed all that, and he was greatly loved. There are always one or two sour apples, I suppose, but all reports I have had is that both the traditional people who flocked there, and the neighborhood hispanics who attended, all loved him. As an aside, I live in Dallas but know several figures in this story, including the Rodriguez family. Not close friends, but we've met.

    This lawsuit is a personal matter instigated by Bishop Ochoa. El Paso has had precious few ordinations in his tenure there. Fr. Rodriguez was, for some time, Ochoa's young 'star.' But as Fr. Rodriguez embraced orthodoxy, his relationship with the bishop grew strained, and eventually broke over the rampant, RAMPANT problem/crisis/disaster of ACTIVELY homosexual priests in that Diocese.

    I've never heard of a bishop filing a civil suit against a bishop. At issue is a stone grotto for our Blessed Mother built by parishioners using parish funds and containing a statue of Mary. Most dioceses require approval before any expenditure over a set amount, sometimes as low as $1000. The issue is whether this permission was obtained. Bishop Ochoa says no, and may have a case, but there was no angst or argument at the parish over whether the money could have been spent. Another part of the story is that because of the general hostility that Ochoa developed towards Fr. Rodriguez, Ochoa never made Fr. Rodriguez pastor, but only "parish administrator." Thus, Fr. had less leeway in doing these kinds of improvements, which the, I'll say it, modernist Ochoa would not have approved of. But the parishioners really wanted the grotto, so Fr. Rodriguez had it built. In monetary terms it wasn't much, 4 figures. Alot of parishes spend ten times as much in a day.

    The Diocese of El Paso is in a disastrous state. Heterodoxy, modernism, clerical incontinence, homosexuality, etc., all run amok. The 'LA virus' has infected another diocese. The only real losers in this situation are the faithful of El Paso.

  3. Thanks for that info about the parish in El Paso. Nice to have the views of someone who's been there.

  4. Veneremur cernui:

    Thanks so much. The real outlines of this scandal are gradually becoming clear, as the actual parishioners- the faithful Catholics *who actually donated the money in the first place*, come forward.

    I want to encourage you to tell everyone in El Paso who has personal firsthand knowledge of this affair- and what is really going on here becomes more clear by the hour- to continue to post on blogs like this one, so that the matter can be better understood.

    The lavender mafia has perhaps bitten off a great deal more than it can chew here.

    My prayers for you and Fr. Rpdriguez.


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