Controversial El Paso priest transferred to Presidio
September 29th, 2011 under Home Story Highlight
EL PASO, PRESIDIO – A priest who became involved in an effort to recall the El Paso mayor and two City Council members has been reassigned to Santa Teresa de Jesus Catholic Church in Presidio.
According to a report in the El Paso Times by journalist Aaron Bracamontes, the Rev. Michael Rodriguez of San Juan Bautista Catholic Church had challenged Mayor John Cook and council members Susie Byrd and Steve Ortega to debates and had been in the spotlight because of his anti-homosexual advertisements.
The mayor and council members are under fire for voting to restore health benefits to gay and unmarried partners of El Paso employees after voters nixed the benefits in an earlier ballot initiative. A pastor of the Word of Life Church, Tom Brown, led the recall petition.
Rodriguez became involved in the recall by posting four ads in the Times that referred to Scripture and called the gay lifestyle a sin.
In a recent news release, El Paso Bishop Armando X. Ochoa said Rodriguez’s reassignment was related to the recall attempt.
“The Catholic Church teaches values and morality rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Ochoa said in the release. “The voice of those who teach within the church should be protected and remain strong in public civil life and discourse. However, the Catholic Church, and those who hold responsibility within the church, cannot be involved in partisan efforts aimed at supporting or opposing candidates for political office and efforts to recall them.”
According to the Times article, Rodriguez was the administrator of San Juan Bautista Parish and not its pastor.
Rodriguez responded to the reassignment in his own press release. “Obedience to my bishop is essential to the priesthood,” Rodriguez said. “My bishop has transferred me to another assignment, and I intend to be obedient. The priesthood is my greatest joy. In the present circumstances, I intend to try even harder to be a good, holy priest.”
Rodriguez arrived in Presidio last Saturday and spoke this week of the changes he plans for Sta. Teresa. Readings and sermons will be both in Spanish and in English according to the Mass being celebrated. He’ll slowly introduce Mass in Latin.
“What I’m planning is to offer a traditional Latin Mass,” he said. “The Mass itself will be different, aside from the Latin language. It will be according to ancient rite, that of the 1962 missal.”
Most Masses are celebrated according to the 1970 missal. When asked why he chose the older rites, he said: “I’m trying to regain Catholic faith.”
Catholicism has shifted over time, he pointed out.
“We’ve lost a great deal of Catholic faith,” Rodriguez said. “Marriage is looked upon differently. Many young people and children don’t know how to pray. Many don’t know about Judgment Day. A lot of elements have been lost, and that’s what I’m going to concentrate on.”
The priest aims to strengthen worship by following older rites.
“I’ll regain worship and the ancient rite,” he said. “Dress modestly – all of these are examples that we have to regain in our Catholic faith in order to move on.”
Those views extend to women’s roles as lectors and altar servers.
“We’re going to try to gradually give a better understanding to everyone of their proper role in Mass. Most importantly, not what you are doing on the outside, but rather truly understanding that we are in the presence of God at the sacrifice of the cross at Calvary. The different elements of the old rites are going to help us achieve that. In time people will realize that the proper place of the laity during Mass is not in the sanctuary, but rather in the pews.”
There is a reason for that, Rodriguez said.
“It’s a specific function of the priest to offer sacrifice and to proclaim the truth,” the priest observed. “The role of the faithful is to take the truth out into the world.”
Rodriguez didn’t think this belief would cause women to leave Sta. Teresa.
“I will be working with Father Hinojosa, (the parish priest) and he will be in charge. Things won’t change overnight. I will try to win over the minds and hearts of some of the faithful, trying to recover the Catholic faith.”
Fr. Michael Rodriguez does not know how long he is to remain in Presidio.
“There are certain legitimate reasons for my transfer from Sam Juan Bautista in El Paso to Santa Teresa in Presidio. More than that I can’t comment.”
(With information from Aaron Bracamontes of the El Paso Times and Rosario Salgado Halpern of the Presidio International and The Big Bend Sentinel)
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