EL PASO, September 22, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Just after news broke that a priest in Canada had been suspended from active ministry for speaking out against abortion and homosexual behavior, news has also broken that a Texas priest who stirred controversy last month by publishing essays that condemned the homosexual lifestyle is being removed from his parish, ABC-7 reports. However, unlike the situation in Canada, where the priest was removed from active ministry altogether, the Texas priest is being transferred to another parish.
Rev. Michael Rodriguez published four opinion pieces in the El Paso Times last month explaining the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, and exhorting Catholics to oppose efforts to legalize same-sex unions.
The Times has revealed that the essays, which were run as paid advertisements, were funded by a couple from Plano, Texas.
The advertisements were run in the midst of controversy over a local recall petition aimed at removing three El Paso officials for promoting gay rights legislation.
Critics have zeroed in on a few passages in Rodriquez’s essays that refer to the recall effort to claim that the priest was over-stepping the bounds of Church-State separation.
After publicly distancing itself from the ads, the diocese is now announcing that Rodriquez is being removed from his current assignment because of them.
Rodriquez had served as administrator of San Juan Bautista Church in El Paso, and will be moved to a new parish in West Texas.
According to ABC-7, El Paso Bishop Armando Ochoa said that Rodriquez was being transferred because his statements “raised serious issues regarding whether his participation could be attributed to the Diocese of El Paso”
“(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.”
The news service also reported that Pastor Tom Brown of Word of Life Church, one of the leaders of the recall effort, had been reported to the IRS. He is being accused by Americans United for Separation of Church and State of using his church to advance a political movement.
In an email statement, Rodriquez wrote that he “was ordained to the Catholic priesthood to offer sacrifice and teach the only truth which brings salvation and happiness.”
“The priesthood is my greatest joy. In the present circumstances, I intend to try even harder to be a good, holy priest. Obedience to my bishop is essential to the priesthood,” he added.
As LifeSiteNews reported this week, the Catholic Diocese of Bathurst, New Brunswick has removed an elderly priest from active ministry after he caused a storm of controversy by denouncing homosexuality, cohabitation, and abortion in an August homily.
85-year-old Fr. Donat Gionet had retired to his home town of Caraquet in June to serve palliative care patients, and now laments that in his declining years he is being forced to celebrate Mass “in secret.”
Fr. Wesley Wade, the diocese’s vicar general, told Radio-Canada that Fr. Gionet’s comments were consistent with Church teaching, but lacked the proper “pastoral” sensitivity.
“It was mainly the pastoral approach that was lacking,” Fr. Wade said. “A lack of respect, perhaps, for the people identified, for the groups of people as well, which caused a division in the community. It was a difficult decision.”