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Father Michael Rodriguez gives interview expanding on his current situation February 4, 2016

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, catachesis, episcopate, Father Rodriguez, General Catholic, Holy suffering, Latin Mass, manhood, martyrdom, persecution, scandals, Tradition, true leadership, Virtue.

This blog has long had a great love for Fr. Michael Rodriguez.  I was very gratified when reader skeinster sent me a link to this interview Father gave to Louie Verrecchio.  Father gives some updates on his situation viz a viz El Paso Bishop Mark Seitz in this interview.  Since it’s out there in the wide open internet, I guess I can cover it, and comment on it.

Below, the entire excerpt involving the impasse between Fr. Rodriguez and Bishop Seitz (emphasis in original, I add comments). I need to make very clear all commentary below is mine alone and is not based on any input from Fr. Rodriguez whatsoever:

Fr. Rodriguez: At present, January 2016, I am a priest in good standing of the Diocese of El Paso, TX, with no pastoral assignment.

My Bishop, Most Rev. Mark J. Seitz, had appointed me as the Administrator of Sacred Heart Mission in Shafter, Texas (a small mission in one of the most remote parts of the diocese), effective July 11, 2014, for a term of three years. However, as a sine qua non condition of the assignment, he insisted that I offer the Novus Ordo Missæ. At the time, I had already been offering the Traditional Latin Mass exclusively for almost three years!

On July 24, 2014, my Bishop issued a Personal Precept which included the order, “I enjoin you to celebrate the Mass and Sacraments according to the Novus Ordo in the Mission of Shafter. The Mass and the Sacraments must be celebrated in the vernacular of the people (English or Spanish) and not Ad Orientem.” [I know of no possible justification in the Canon Law or rubrics by which a priest could be forced to offer Mass facing the people.  Versus populum has NEVER been codified as a default or required position for the priest in any authoritative Church document above national council level.  And the decisions of national councils are NOT authoritative.]

Throughout my nineteen years as a priest, I have always done my best to practice the virtue of obedience, but now I was put in an impossible situation. St. John of the Cross teaches, “Obedience is a penance of the intellect and therefore a more acceptable sacrifice than all corporal penances. Hence God loves your tiniest act of obedience more than all other homages you might think of offering Him.” What was I to do? Never before had the opening words of the prayer from the Divine Office struck a deeper chord in my soul, “Deus in adiutórium meum inténde. Dómine, ad adiuvándum me festína.” “O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me.” The decision I had to make was my most difficult one yet as a priest. Holy Mary, Virgin Mother of God, intercede for me, a poor sinner.

I wrote many letters to my Bishop. The following is a sample of this correspondence; it is an excerpt from a letter which I wrote to him on September 8, 2014, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

I am 100% committed to my priestly promise of obedience. You are my bishop, and thus, I have promised obedience to you. It is my firm and sincere intention to be obedient to you. Unfortunately for me (and my conscience), your July 24, 2014, Precept contains an order which is “problematic,” to say the least.

[This is really very important……] The order you are giving contradicts Pope St. Pius V’s Apostolic Constitution Quo Primum, Canon IX (a dogmatic canon) of Session XXII of the Holy Council of Trent, Pope Pius VI’s ConstitutionAuctorem Fidei (see the 33rd of 85 propositions which are condemned, Denzinger 1533), Pope Pius XII’s Encyclical LetterMediator Dei 59, and the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium 36 and 54. Moreover, your order appears to be irreconcilable with the Decree of the Council of Nicea II regarding ecclesiastical tradition (Denzinger 308), and Canon XIII (a dogmatic canon) of Session VII of the Holy Council of Trent.

In addition, the order contained in your Precept appears to (a) deny the Catholic priest’s legitimate right to offer the Extraordinary Formof the Roman Rite (presumably, exclusively) as expressed in Summorum Pontificum Art. 1, and (b) dismiss Summorum PontificumArt. 1, “the Roman Missal promulgated by St. Pius V . . . must be given due honor for its venerable and ancient usage.” Finally, from the pastoral perspective, your order appears to disregard the expressed needs and good of the faithful of Presidio/Shafter, who are specifically requesting parish life based on the Traditional Latin Mass. 

As I wrote to you in my July 1, 2014, letter, as a priest of the Diocese of El Paso, I am committed to do my very best to spiritually nourish, teach, and serve the souls placed under my care. However, I cannot do this apart from what has always been the lex orandi, lex credendiof Holy Mother Church. Thus, with respect to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the celebration of the Sacraments, it is not a matter of “preference” or my “unwillingness” to obey; rather, there are all-important ecclesial, theological, liturgical, spiritual, ascetical, and pastoral reasons which compel me, in conscience, to offer the Traditional Latin Mass exclusively.

[Unfortunately, Pope Benedict XVI never addressed this situation, of a former NO priest exclusively offering the TLM, directly in Summorum Pontificum and Universae Ecclesiae.  As such, many bishops continue to pretend that the TLM was abrogated in 1970 by Paul VI and requires special permission, or conditions, to be offered.  This is plainly against the spirit of Benedict XVI’s documents, and against his clear statement that the TLM was not, nor ever could be, abrogated.  As a valid Rite, the priest should have the option, based on his pastoral reality, to offer the TLM exclusively, even if not a member of an Ecclesia Dei community. But because that point was never specifically addressed, it is viewed as a matter of opinion, at this time, since virtually the entire hierarchy has chosen to jettison the entirety of the pre-conciliar Magisterium as a practical reality in the day to day operation of the Church. Thus, Father’s very well supported arguments from pre-conciliar sources are simply rejected out of hand.]

In the end, I had to follow what Holy Mother Church has always taught. Out of fidelity to God and to the Church’s immemorial lex orandi, lex credendi, and for the good of the souls entrusted to my care, I could not, in conscience, follow the specific liturgical directive given by my Bishop. [I have very strong sympathy for the conclusion Father has reached.  He feels in conscience he cannot offer the Novus Ordo any more.  Some may feel that he is failing in obedience.  That’s not my take, but I understand it.  I see in this action by Bishop Seitz, especially with regard to the demand not to offer Mass Ad Orientem, as unjust and an abuse of power.  The situation regarding the TLM is perhaps arguable (though I strongly side with Father on this), but insisting that a priest MUST face the people at Mass is totally unjustifiable, to my knowledge.]

Effective November 10, 2014, my Bishop revoked my appointment as Administrator of Sacred Heart Mission. I was unable to hold back my tears during the final Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which I offered in Shafter, TX, on Sunday, November 9, 2014. With a sorrowful heart and plenteous tears, I prayed the words of blessed Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, as it hath pleased the Lord so it is done. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)

I begged my Bishop for a minimum one-year sabbatical, in order to have ample time to pray, study, reflect, go on an extended retreat, and discern God’s will for my future. He refused, and instead gave me only six months, and restricted the use of my priestly faculties. Eventually, he extended my sabbatical to August 31, 2015.

At the beginning of October 2015, my Bishop initiated a canonical process to determine whether or not I have committed a Delict against Ecclesiastical Authority (i.e. disobedience). Currently, I await whatever decision he may make. If necessary, I am prepared to appeal to Rome. I am under no illusion that Rome will intervene to do what is right and just, but at least by appealing, I will know, in conscience, that I went to heroic lengths in the practice of obedience by following the juridical process instituted by the Church for recourse against the abuse of power.

At present, I continue to discern God’s will for the future of my priesthood. What is Thy will, O Lord? What wilt Thou have me to do? (Acts 9:6) In spite of some very difficult trials over the past four years, I am in awe of God’s goodness, mercy, and mysterious ways.

———-End Quote———-

Father then goes on to address how he’s like this situation resolved.  The answers are obvious, but Father is very realistic about where he stands.

Please pray for him.  He’s a very good priest who found himself in a nigh impossible situation.  It is such a tragedy that this has occurred.  I don’t want to pontificate too much on his situation, he just really needs prayers at this point.  The future will take care of itself.



1. richardmalcolm1564 - February 4, 2016

Though it’s not easy to do, I do wonder if excardination into an Ecclesia Dei society wouldn’t be the best option for him at this point.

He should not have to do this; he may not want to do this. And the ED societies do not lightly take on such priests. But if it is possible, it may be the least bad option open to him if he wants to continue his priestly ministry in a pastoral setting while exclusively offering the sacraments according to the 1962 books.

DM - February 4, 2016

Agreed. Is there a reason Father hasn’t applied to join one of the Ecclesia Dei orders by now? They would be lucky to have him, and with things getting nowhere with this bishop it may be the only good option.

Tantumblogo - February 4, 2016

Without saying too much, his options are very limited. Ecclesia Dei orders are very interested in maintaining good relations with bishops. That is how they expand. Being crossways with his bishop makes Father R virtually an untouchable for ED. His options are very limited, and not for want of trying.

richardmalcolm1564 - February 4, 2016

Yes, I was afraid of that. The priests I know who have excardinated out of dioceses into the FSSP did so without any history of difficult relationships with the chancery – indeed, the bishops were quite agreeable to the move. This matters not only for gaining the agreement of the bishop, but also, as you say, because the FSSP does not want to risk its relations with the bishop(s) by taking on such a priest.

Such considerations would perhaps not be operative with an Ecclesia Dei monastic religious order. But it is far from clear whether Fr. R. would even consider such an option. That is a considerably different way of living out your priesthood.

Otherwise, his fate may be that of other diocesan priests who have been in this same situation in recent years. He either ends up with no pastoral assignment ever again, or he ends up on the path of Fr. Zigrang, who left the Archdiocese of Houston to join the SSPX.

richardmalcolm1564 - February 4, 2016

“Ecclesia Dei orders are very interested in maintaining good relations with bishops. ”

An excellent point.

“His options are very limited, and not for want of trying.”

I was afraid that this might be the case. Every priest I know who has excardinated into the FSSP has done so in the context of good relations with his bishop.

Perhaps he could excardinate into another diocese more open to what he wants to do, but that seems very unlikely, too.

Unless he is willing to try a traditional monastic order, he may end up with no pastoral assignment ever again, unless he is willing and able to follow Fr. Zigrang’s path into the SSPX.

2. James Kevin Richardson - February 4, 2016

I am a sufferer of the diocese of El Paso. I entered the Church here, and have struggled to remain in the Church here. I have an association over the years with Father Rodriguez and have generally been in sympathy with him during the early goings on at San Juan Batista in El Paso. I rejoiced to see him defend the Faith with regard to marriage and spousal benefits and have always respected him. But frankly, his insistence that his conscience won’t let him say the Novus Ordo Mass is worse than disobedient, it is a de facto claim that the Novus Ordo is inherently defective. To claim this is to claim the Church has erred with regard to Her most critical obligation; the worship of God. That is not disobedience to a bishop, that is Luther’s theses. Rebellion, pure and simple.
I agree that Bishop Seitz, whom I am learning to detest as a political hack, was very heavy handed here, most certainly unjust. He did cross the line into “provoking” his spiritual son. He also seems perfectly willing to deprive the faithful out here in the diocesan shadows of a priest he could find a way to work with. (More layers of FrancisMercy piled up on those who believe.) But given my view of the whole thing to date, I now say “A pox on both your houses!”

Tantumblogo - February 4, 2016

It’s a huge can of worms. Is the promulgation of a Missal dogmatic? Does it have to be accepted? There are many arguments on both sides. Can seemingly clear statements of preceding popes be ignored/overruled?

And there is a practical dimension, as well, he can feel the NO is practically, as it must be offered, something he cannot do, while holding that it could be OK if implemented as it should have been, or was “really” intended, if that makes sense. I really don’t know all the ins and outs of Father’s reasoning, while admitting my bias towards his general POV.

James Kevin Richardson - February 5, 2016

With respect, if the pope, with the bishops, does not have the authority to provide direction for the sacrifice of the Mass, then who does? I have no sympathy with those who insist that only the V II break has validity and all that came before was benighted and empty ceremony. I have no more sympathy with those who insist that the bishops and the vicar have no licit sway over the liturgy. If the TLM was the rule in the Latin Rite, it was so because the Popes and the bishops said it was so. Given that, I see no valid argument against the authority that established the NO. I hate the abuses probably as much as you do because I have to swallow them every day. I hate rebellion against Mother Church even more. O truly appreciate Father Rodriguez for his love of God. I suspect that he has become a bit enamored with the clerical etherealism of all the arguments about the Mass. Fromy perch, bishop and priest are more interested in winning than in serving.

Shafterian - February 9, 2016

There are those of us who agree with you and who are of the opinion that indeed Pope St. Pius V provided all the direction necessary until the Second Coming in his Papal Bull Quo Primum Tempore.

Arguments to the contrary exist and can be readily dealt with. In short, to apply your reasoning here, if a papal document worded in the form of Quo Primum is not binding authority, then what is?

Also being from the Diocese of El Paso and knowing both principals involved, I would have to hold an opinion contrary to your own regarding Father Rodriguez’ love affair with simply the argument or that his interest is in simply winning. To say such a thing indicates something less than a real acquaintance with Father Rodriguez.

richardmalcolm1564 - February 4, 2016

I don’t attend the N.O. myself. I think it’s an inferior rite. But that said: I do not think it is uncanonical or, more to the point, unreasonable for a bishop to expect that a priest like Fr. R., a regular diocesan priest, celebrate Novus Ordo Masses in his parish as part of the regular schedule.

What is not reasonable is the insistence that ALL of the Masses be N.O., or that the N.O. be celebrated exclusively versus populorum. See the Congregation for Divine Worship’s 2000 letter on this: Prot. No 2036/00/L. Ad orientem worship cannot be excluded by GIRM 299. A bishop might get his way through moral pressure, but that does not make it right.

3. c matt - February 4, 2016

I enjoin you to celebrate the Mass and Sacraments according to the Novus Ordo in the Mission of Shafter. The Mass and the Sacraments must be celebrated in the vernacular of the people (English or Spanish) and not Ad Orientem.

No doubt, Father Rodriguez is a much holier man than I. I would have complied with the instruction and offered one 6:00 AM NO Mass facing sideways in Spanish. If the above are his exact words, then he did not say EVERY Mass, he did not say how often or when. He did not (and cannot) prohibit the offering of other Masses in other ways. Taken literally, he enjoined the good Father to offer at least one Mass in the NO vernacular and not ad orientum. I’d take him at his word, or to paraphrase Barbarossa – it is the Squishop who failed to specify how often or when.

Tantumblogo - February 4, 2016

I don’t think that was the entirety. I don’t know the exact wording, but my understanding was the that TLM was to be a minority Rite, offered occasionally at best.

richardmalcolm1564 - February 4, 2016

Well, I think you risk Lèse majesté with a passive aggressive response like that (tempting though it is); the result might be a more detailed directive or something worse. The priest is at the mercy of his bishop in considerable ways. As Fr. Zed likes to say, “They can always hurt you more.”

If it were me, I’d go ahead and celebrate one versus populum Mass in the early slot – 8am or whatever – and do the next two as TLM’s. All the while looking into the feasibility of appealing the ad orientem requirement (at least as applied to the Canon of the Mass) to Rome.

Weekdays are trickier. The bishop might want that as an N.O.. And a priest normally can only celebrate one Mass per day outside of Sundays and HDO’s.

But if Fr. Rodriguez wants to celebrate the TLM exclusively – and I certainly sympathize strongly – he must face the prospect that he’s in a battle he will not win. Which is why I’d look into the Ecclesia Dei society option.

4. Maggie - February 4, 2016

I know another priest in the same situation. Once he started offering the TLM, it became more difficult for him to ‘celebrate’ the N.O. and have women in indecent dress be EMHCs, all sorts of people having access to the tabernacle and not even following the few directions with taking communion to the homebound, the thrusting out of dirty hands and gum chewing mouths just really got to him. He came to a place where he only wanted the TLM and presently is a priest without a parish.

5. Margaret Costello - February 4, 2016

God bless this holy and courageous priest. And I think of all the openly “gay” priests who are actively destroying souls and the Church yet have their own parishes and are free to do whatever they want.

The NO is a deficient rite. Valid, yes. But “less than” and also dangerous to souls. Fr. Michael is doing what every good father should do: sacrifice to give the very best to his children.

God bless~

6. Woody - February 4, 2016

This is bound to occur more and more. Yes, the NO is valid and licit. However, its promulgation was based on deception. It is no secret nor speculation how the NO Mass came to be; the books are now many which describe how it came to pass. There is an element now present in the Church which despises the so called TLM. Only satan and his minions could have such animosity towards the TLM. As for Fr. Rodriquez, he must do what Pope Francis has advised. He must follow his conscience. And Bishop Seitz must do what Pope Francis has advised. Do not judge. Have mercy. Let Fr. Rodriquez do what his conscience tells him to do. The Holy Spirit will guide Fr. Rodriquez.

7. tg - February 4, 2016

I will keep Father Rodriguez in my prayers. I sympathize but I can’t help but think of Padre Pio. He was always obedient. I think maybe he should have celebrated some NO Masses but use Eucharistic Prayer I every time and make the Mass as reverend as possible – just he give Holy Communion – no ministers – even if it took forever. I guess since he doesn’t want to do the NO Mass at all the FSSP wouldn’t take him. Tantum, is there any way he can go to another diocese under a bishop that allows the TLM? Are priests stuck in the diocese they were ordained in forever?

Margaret Costello - February 5, 2016

Per Mundabor about Padre Pio: “He famously said he hoped to die before being put in front of the choice whether to celebrate the Novus Ordo or disobey (he was later exempted, like many other old priests).”

Padre Pio could smell a rat in the N.O. God bless Fr. Michael Rodriguez:+)

8. Daze Inde - February 4, 2016

Sounds like Bishop Sietz has abused his “authority,” and violated the motu propio of Pope Benedict. Discussing similar issues I once used for guidance an excerpt from Pope Benedict’s Theology on the Liturgy, at Fongombault some years ago. I tried to download it again and shockingly it is no longer accessible on the internet. It must be made accessible, and freely disseminated.

9. Agellius - February 5, 2016

It’s not clear to me from what I read: Is he being ordered to celebrate the NO exclusively, or just not to celebrate the TLM exclusively?

10. Baseballmom - February 5, 2016

This is certainly a tough call. Prayers for Fr. R that he has a solid, holy Spiritual Director who can guide him through these very rough waters.

11. FelixXVIII - February 5, 2016

I agree with Tantum, the ad orientem directive is abusive. Ad orientem is the de facto, assumed position of the priest in the standard Latin missal of Paul VI. Versus populum worship is one of the greatest fraud of liturgical innovators in the 20th century. It is based on a now largely discredited scholarship relying on the anecdotal evidence of old Roman basilicas turned into Catholic churches.

As for Padre Pio’s obedience, I don’t think he was presented with a directive forcing him to celebrate versus populum and in vernacular a very much stripped down Mass with an altered Canon. Therefore, it is difficult to compare Padre Pio’s obedience with Father Rodriguez’s.

My small layman take on this situation echoes what someone has already mentioned. Offering a Latin Novus Ordo at 6:00 AM would have been a reasonable option (if it is good enough of an effort for EFers, it’s good enough for NOers). Maybe a Mass with the 1965 rubrics could have been an acceptable compromise too.

12. A.M.Mclaughlin - February 5, 2016

I began praying for him when I heard of his sabbatical. After my rosary for tradional priests and in particular,Father Guariniso in Moscow and Fr.Rodrigues. May God haste to help them.

13. A thought regarding Fr. Rodriguez….. | A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics - February 9, 2016

[…] a possible Dallas connection regarding the demand he apparently faces to not only offer the Novus Ordo, but, lacking any justification in the rubrics of the Mass or […]

14. Martina - February 9, 2016

My gosh…how quickly we laymen are to judge the obedience of those ordained… Let us never forget that we do not receive the graces that priests do. I too feel very strongly that God does not want me or my family to attend the Novus Ordo at all. Should I too disobey Him? I urge all of you to go read the bull Quo Primum by St Pius V. People should study their faith more. Do a line by line study of the NO versus the TLM. Study how the Novus Ordo has mitigated the theology of the priesthood and Christ’s Sacrifice on Calvary. And I would like to remind us all this is NEVER ONLY about the Mass…rather it is about the doctrine, morals, devotions, and ascetic life (penance, penance, penance) which are part of the traditional practice of Catholic life. These things have all been mitigated since Vatican II. And Fr. Rodriguez is striving to restore and recover Catholic faith and practice.
We need to read the lives of the saint during Lent and then ask ourselves, “Are we striving to emulate their practice of the Faith? Are priests and bishops even exhorting us to imitate their penances, disciplines, and unflinching insistence that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church?” At times, when I read the saints, I almost think there are two different religions. And then I conclude Father Rodriguez knows what he is about and who am I to judge?

15. Tantumblogo - February 9, 2016

The way your comment is placed it makes it appear that you are responding to the post. But I know that cannot be the case, since I expressed great sympathy for Fr. Rodriguez’ situation and the course he has taken. It might help in future to respond in name to the individual(s) you feel merit rebuttal. Thanks for the comment.

16. Martina - February 9, 2016

I apologize. I was commenting to any who were saying Fr. Rodriguez was disobedient. I thought he defended his position well on why he isn’t offering the Novus Ordo. I think we all need a better historical perspective on what a break the Novus Ordo was and how the Church has to suffer in imitation of her Head, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Tantumblogo - February 9, 2016

No problem! Just being clear!

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