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Protesters praying the rosary at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress (LA REC), March 2019. Lisa Bourne / LifeSiteNews
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Catholic laity protest ‘sin’, ‘confusion’ at L.A. archdiocese’ religious ed conference

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LOS ANGELES, California, March 26, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – A group of faithful Catholics demonstrated against the undermining of Church teaching on sexuality at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress (LA REC) on Saturday, praying the rosary and invoking the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima. 

The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) organized the protest adjacent to the Anaheim Convention Center, where the LA REC was held from March 21-24.

"Father Martin, stop building bridges to sin!" stated one large sign at the protest. "L.A. Religious Education Conference: Spreading confusion where clarity is needed!" stated another. 

The LA REC event should “serve to clarify Church teaching, customs and practices in our age of misinformation, insecurity and doubt,” said Michael Whitcraft, Southern Californian representative for TFP.

“One would expect such clarification at an education congress, especially since the event is organized by the Los Angeles Archdiocese which was forced in 2013 to settle a sex-abuse lawsuit for $660 million,” he said. “To date, this is the largest such payout in Church history.”

“In spite of this need for clarification and reinforcement of traditional doctrine, the REC has long been known for promoting the opposite,” Whitcraft continued. “Sadly, this year’s congress promises to repeat the trend.”

Repeat speakers on the 2019 REC roster who have previously presented problematic ideas include pro-homosexual Jesuit priest James Martin, editor-at large for America magazine and Vatican Communications consultant; Father Chris Ponnet, Director of the archdiocese’s Office of Catholic HIV/AIDS Ministry and the archbishop’s Spiritual Director for Catholic Ministry with Lesbian and Gay Persons (CMLGP); Dr. Arthur Fitzmaurice, former longtime chair CMLGP chair; and Fr. Bryan Massingale, a Fordham University Theology professor and priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. 

Each has made dissenting statements in the area of Church teaching on human sexuality, and/or Church authority.

Additionally controversial this year was the scheduled appearance of retired L.A. Cardinal Roger Mahony, despite his controversial history of cover-up with sex abuse cases and his having been pulled from public duties in his archdiocese several years ago by his successor, Archbishop José Gómez.

While the REC is presented by the L.A. archdiocese, it takes place in nearby Anaheim, which is located in the Diocese of Orange.

Mahony presented Saturday on immigration.

LifeSiteNews delivered two petitions to the archdiocese’s office in Los Angeles Friday morning, opposing Mahony’s appearance. LifeSite’s petition contained more than 5,800 names; an accompanying petition from the Ruth Institute, had more than 4,300.

TFP members and supporters held the group’s banner at the demonstration Saturday, along with other signs and banners on the sidewalk outside the convention center where they were visible to streams of Catholics entering the REC and Anaheim traffic as well.

A statue of Our Lady of Fatima and a bouquet of flowers were placed on a table for the prayer rally, joined with a relic from Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. 

One of the messages given to the children from Our Lady at Fatima was that the final battle between good and evil in the world would take place over marriage and the family.

The main banner for the demonstration read, “Fr. Martin and other speakers at the conference reject Catholic teaching on the family.”

Two other signs read, “Father Martin Stop Building Bridges to Sin,” and “L.A. Religious Education Congress – Spreading Confusion Where Clarity is Needed!”

Anaheim police and convention facility officials worked positively and well with TFP on its demonstration, which drew roughly three-dozen participants, most who’d planned to come and some who joined in upon seeing the statue of Our Lady and hearing the rosary prayed. 

Whitcraft was happy with the turnout in light of the fact it was conducted the same day as TFP’s national St. Joseph Crusade for Traditional Marriage. 

Camille Bynum came to take part in the prayer rally from Trabuco Canyon, CA.

It was her first TFP event and she told LifeSiteNews that she was “definitely” glad she came.

“It’s hard to comprehend that this is being perpetuated to our Catholic faith,” she said.

"How is this allowed?" Bynum asked.

“We have to stand up for the teaching of the Catholic Church,” Bynum told LifeSiteNews. “I don’t think the teachings of the Catholic Church are up for debate, and they can’t be changed.”

“We need to stand up for our Catholic faith,” she stressed. “And not be afraid to stand true to the teachings.”

Victor and Merly Gorospe came to the TFP rosary demonstration at the LA REC from Mission Viejo, CA. 

Merly Gorospe told LifeSiteNews she was thankful to God for religious freedom and the right to prayerfully protest at the REC event.

They came because they believe in the sanctity of marriage, she said, and because the family is the basic unit of society, and must be defended. Marriage and the family are being broken apart in the world, they feel, and lay Catholics must take action.

“We are hopeful in the triumph of the Immaculate heart of Mary,” Merly Gorospe said.

Victor Gorospe was direct in identifying the role Church leaders have played in the issue.

“The bishops are not doing anything,” he stated. “The laity has to do something. The laity has to show up.”

“There’s just a lot of confusion,” he told LifeSiteNews, “not a lot of clarity.”

The LA REC has some good programming, Victor Gorospe said, but it also has a lot of wrong teaching.

“I don’t know why it’s allowed,” he said. “It has to stop.”

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