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Editor's Note: In advance of publishing Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn's article (below), LifeSiteNews reached out a few days ago to the office of Most Reverend John C. Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe, asking for clarification about his archdiocese's planned hosting of the Association of U. S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) annual assembly, a group that is considered by many to be a gathering of Church dissidents. 

In particular, LifeSiteNews asked if Archbishop Wester sanctions the views of speaker Fr. Richard Rohr, who, over the course of his priesthood has sought to normalize same-sex marriage; has denied natural law, insisting that binary genders (male and female) are an imposition of dualistic minds rather than the nature of reality; and has publicly minimized the Church's teaching on contraception and abortion.

As of noon Monday, Archbishop Wester's office has offered no response.

June 18, 2018 (Lepanto Institute) – The 2018 Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) annual assembly is being held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 25-28. This places the assembly in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, where Archbishop John Wester presides. As we reported previously, the AUSCP is a dissident organization pushing for ordained women deaconesses running priestless parishes among other abuses, so this couldn't be an official diocesan sponsored event, right?


In June of 2016, Arcbhishop Wester agreed to provide “assistance and support” to the AUSCP as its new Episcopal Moderator and is currently listed as such on AUSCP's leadership page.  In January of this year, Abp. Wester hosted the AUSCP's leadership team, committing to “welcome participants and preside at the assembly Mass” at their upcoming assembly.  In other words, he is giving the AUSCP access to the flock Christ has entrusted to his protection and support, allowing the AUSCP to spread their errors both nationally and perhaps even to a parish near you.

AUSCP's Vision for Priestly “Formation”

The upcoming 2018 AUSCP Assembly has priestly formation as one of its primary themes and topics.

First, some background. In 2016, the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy called for each conference of bishops to update their programs of priestly formation. The AUSCP placed steering this process in the US as one of its top three priorities at the 2017 AUSCP Assembly in Atlanta. In January of this year, the AUSCP released a white paper outlining their concerns and recommendations on priestly formation to the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.

A full analysis of the AUSCP's vision of priestly formation will be addressed in a future article, but here are some highlights from the AUSCP's recommendations to the USCCB:

  • AUSCP ClaimsToo many recently ordained priests are not showing “faithfulness to Vatican II” and are trying to undo the hard work of Vatican II-inspired priests. Priestly formation needs to root this tendency out. (Section I B.)
    • Our TranslationNew priests should follow the “spirit” of Vatican II, and do nothing to curb previous modernist interpretations.
  • AUSCP Claims: Priests should not view themselves as “Alter Christus.” “The repeated emphasis on such notions undergirds a sense of distance, separation, elitism, clericalism, insensitivity and superiority, all of which have been critiqued by Pope Francis.” (Section II B.)
    • NoteThis is an attack on both the nature of the priesthood and the hierarchical structure of the Church. Priests act in the person of Christ (In Persona Christi) when bringing us the sacraments, and as Alter Christus (“another Christ”) by virtue of his ordination. Pope Benedict XVI stated, “As an alter Christus, the priest is profoundly united to the Word of the Father who, in becoming incarnate took the form of a servant, he became a servant (Phil 2: 5-11).”
  • AUSCP Claims: Current priestly formation “reflects a classical and fixed worldview rather than an historical and dynamic one.” (Section III B.)
    • TranslationPriests should be Modernists.
    • Note: Having a “historical and dynamic worldview” is a hallmark of the dialectical thinking of the heresy of Modernism.
  • AUSCP Claims: “Serious consideration needs to be given to having women to serve as professors of theological disciplines and as spiritual directors for candidates. The assumption that only priests should serve as spiritual directors of candidates … needs to be reconsidered and revised.” (Section V, C4)
    • NoteThe Sacrament of Reconciliation is an integral part of spiritual direction. This will not be possible under this arrangement.

Fr. Bob Bonnot, chair of the AUSCP leadership team, demonstrated the disdain AUSCP holds toward tradition-minded priests while writing a review of Katherine Schuth, OSF's book Seminary Formation.  Fr. Bonnot wrote the review for the dissident organization FutureChurch (which favors open use of contraception, same-sex civil unions, remarriage for divorced Catholics, and women's ordination), saying:

Numerous factors have contributed to the current situation in which many recently ordained priests, most born after 1965 who never experienced the pre-Vatican II Church, come out with a determination to minister in a pre-Vatican II way. Some emerge complete with cassock, biretta, fiddleback vestments, capes, preference for Latin and the novus ordo (Tridentine) liturgy, and, most importantly, a clerical mindset. In my recent meetings with priests across the country I heard laments about this reality everywhere.

His glowing review denigrates young tradition-minded priests and praises Sr. Schuth's conclusions that the future direction priestly formation should take is to alter this traditional trajectory.

Sr. Schuth will be giving the first keynote address on Monday, June 25th at the AUSCP Assembly.

Speaking of AUSCP Keynote Speakers…

Also keynoting at the AUSCP Assembly the following evening is Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM. Fr. Rohr is the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) and serves on the CAC board as well as their executive committee. He is also the academic dean of CAC's Living School.

Fr. Rohr self described himself in a 2012 interview with “progressive” radio host, Doug Pagitt, as having been able to “somewhat live in that position on the edge of the inside [of the Catholic Church]” and that “the Franciscans have always backed me up…and the Church can't take on the whole [order].” The evidence shows that Fr. Rohr is diving off the cliff rather than “somewhat on the edge.”  In 2015, Fr. Rohr received and distributed “communion” at an Episcopalian service, in direct violation of Pope John Paul II's encyclical, Ecclesia De Eucharistia, #30, which states:

The Catholic faithful, therefore, while respecting the religious convictions of these separated brethren, must refrain from receiving the communion distributed in their celebrations, so as not to condone an ambiguity about the nature of the Eucharist and, consequently, to fail in their duty to bear clear witness to the truth.

Fr. Rohr on homosexuality

  • Fr. Rohr more recently stated in his daily meditation from Nov. 9, 2017, “Binary genders (male and female) are more an imposition of our dualistic minds than the nature of reality.” He went on to say, “When Christians label LGBTQIA individuals as “other,” sinful, or “disordered,” we hurt these precious people and the larger community, and we actually limit ourselves. Fear of difference creates a very constricted, exclusive, and small religion and life, the very opposite of what God invites us into.”

Fr. Rohr on contraception and abortion 

  • In the 2012 interview given on the Doug Pagitt Radio show, Fr. Rohr responded to question about the bishop's response to the contraceptive mandate that it was a “politicized bogus issue” since “98% of Catholic women at different times in their lives have used contraception” and for the bishops “to now try to take some kind of moral high ground…is disingenuous..and has made an awful lot of us lose respect for their leaderhip.”

  • Fr. Rohr noted in his daily reflection from September 17, 2017, that the Church tends to be “preoccupied” with things “Jesus never talked about” such as abortion, contraception and homosexuality instead of nonviolence and loving our enemies. 

Fr. Rohr's Center for Action and Contemplation supports New Age practices and teaching 


  • The CAC hosted a workshop inspired by Starhawk, a self-proclaimed witch and neo-pagan practitioner of goddess-worship.  Below is Rohr's Center for Action and Contemplation flyer which advertises the class at the CAC.  Considering that Starhawk is a “witch,” note the emphasis on the use of the word “magic” in the flyer:
  • The CAC newsletter, The Mendicant, published a testimonial in 2014 with the following statement: “I came to the Living School simply because Richard Rohr had been the first, in my experience, to pray to 'Mother God' in a Mass.”

Fr. Rohr conducts retreats with spontaneous nudity and “healing touch”

  • According to researcher Stephanie Block, Fr. Rohr told The New Ways Ministry Conference in 1997 that his all male retreats (with both homosexual and heterosexual participants) often end with men spontaneously going nude and performing a healing ceremony “laying hands” on each other.
  • Fr. Rohr crudely states, “We often have campfires, and I know some of you have been at these where it happens, so you know what I'm talking about. Always, always, there's some guys – I mean, is it in their hard wiring? – they'll strip and have to leap over that fire, burning their balls…I don't know what it is. They're the 'real' men, who can leap over the fire, naked.
  • Fr Rohr explains: “And then beginning with the elders I lead them through an extended meditation … I invite them to lie down in what is, for the male, the most vulnerable position – on his back. Then the other men surround them and cradle their bodies and especially touch and lay hands on and pray over those places where the man holds wounds…” He continues, “[It] sounds like a rather simple, innocuous ritual – well, it blows them out of the water. It usually goes on the whole night. They don't want to stop. The man becomes their Father that they never had; their Father that they could never touch; their Grandfather who died when they were a boy; their Brother that they wanted to be friends with.
  • Fr. Rohr discussed the wounds mentioned in the point above with these words: “… [E]very initiation rite involves some ritual wounding, scarring. Two-thirds of the world, independently of one another, came up with some scarring of the penis, in the place where a man is most symbolically himself, most empowered, most potent, erect and ejaculated, there's all of his energy – it's there you must bleed…”

That Fr. Rohr is “somewhat” on the edge is an understatement, and we find it abhorrent that the AUSCP is giving this priest a podium as well as access to their members in a retreat.

But the real question is for Archbishop Wester: Your Excellency, how can a bishop of the Catholic Church possibly justify giving the appearance of legitimacy to an organization like the AUSCP?  It not only calls for the deformation of priestly formation, but is honoring Fr. Richard Rohr, who is a clear enemy of the Church!  With all due respect, you are allowing wolves in shepherds' clothing to devour the flock of Christ!

Published with permission from the Lepanto Institute.