Saturday, January 14, 2012

Religious Freedom and the Ochoa Lawsuit

I finally was able to access the court documents filed by Bishop Ochoa against Fr. Rodriguez; they are linked to this El Paso Times article.  

My first thought as I began reading was, “Why is Bishop Ochoa bringing this to a civil court, and parading this in front of the secular media?” The main thrust of the accusations is that Fr. Rodriguez acted to obtain funds for church projects and kept money in “secret” accounts in order to avoid having to seek the bishop’s permission for projects he knew would not be approved. This is a Church matter – the issue of a priest’s accountability to the bishop in these fiscal matters. 

We are already seeing secular society insisting on a role in Church governance and administration – a role that is clearly unjustified and not at all in the interests of the Church. Presenting a Church concern to the secular courts invites trouble. The El Paso Times article notes:

The unusual step by Catholic Bishop Armando X. Ochoa of suing one of his priests exposed a small part of the inner workings of the church in El Paso and it offered a glimpse into the politics inside the diocese, experts said Friday.

By recovering $200,000 and shuttling the Rev. Michael E. Rodriguez off to Presidio, Ochoa might have tried to conceal that one of his priests allegedly misused parish money.

Or Ochoa might be publicly trying to rein in a renegade priest by suing Rodriguez over $27,000 Ochoa says hasn't been accounted for, an expert said.

Do we really want the “inner workings” on display? It’s a family matter. My husband and I don’t write letters to the editor of the local newspaper when one of us makes a purchase not “authorized” by the other!

And, predictably, presenting the information to the secular media leads to the inevitable mention of the sexual abuse scandal…however far removed Bishop Ochoa’s lawsuit may be from that issue! The article states:

But by not disclosing Rodriguez's alleged mishandling of parish money when they sent him to Presidio, church officials have given a depressing reminder of a far darker chapter in the history of the diocese, said Leon J. Podles, author of the book "Sacrilege: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church."

Podles devotes the first chapter of his book to what he calls a ring of pedophile priests in the El Paso Diocese in the 1950s and 1960s -- and to Bishop Sydney Matthew Metzger, "who pre sided over one of the earliest known abuse cover-ups in the United States." When Metzger was told of priest abuse, he made excuses and kept the priests in their posts, the book says.

What Rodriguez is accused of is not nearly as grave, but the diocese acted similarly in his case, Podles said on Friday.

If we want to maintain the religious liberty that we have in this country – threatened as it is by current political movements – then it seems to me that we must keep Church affairs in the Church.

If your brother sins (against you), go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that 'every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17)

See also: Effects of the Lawsuit Against Fr. Rodriguez

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

1 comment:

  1. This matter is a case of a bad bishop suing a good priest in a civil court because the good priest refused to allow the bad bishop to control the good priest's cash.

    Now go back and read the above sentence, taking out the "good" and "bad" adjectives.

    The first version conveys the truth.

    The second version conveys the facts.

    This is why the bad bishop decided to bring the matter to a civil court.

    In a civil court, the truth is irrelevant.

    Only the facts are relevant.

    For similar reasons, civil courts typically find that same sex pseudo-marriage is a right.

    Civil courts cannot distinguish truth.

    They can only establish facts.

    May God richly bless, protect, console, and uphold the wonderful Catholic priest Fr. Rodriguez, who did what any pastor would do, who loved his flock.

    The bishop?

    I have not a word to say about him, except that there exists one Judge who cares not a whit as bout facts.

    Only truth.


Please be courteous and concise.