Although his small stature and gentle voice don’t betray it, Rev. Michael Rodriguez’s strong words and fidelity to Catholic Church teaching against homosexuality have caused quite a stir.
The local media began paying attention when Rodriguez, a parish priest at El Paso’s San Juan Bautista Catholic Church, issued several columns against the homosexualist agenda earlier this year in response to the city council’s decision to grant benefits to domestic partners of city employees.
In a column issued earlier this month entitled “Every Catholic Must Oppose Certain Things,” Rodriguez laid out the simple proposition that “Every single Catholic, out of fidelity to charity and truth, has the absolute duty to oppose (1) the murder of unborn babies, and (2) any and all government attempts to legalize homosexual unions.”
“I urge all of the Catholic faithful to treat homosexuals with love, understanding, and respect,” wrote the priest, who called homosexuality an “unequivocally intrinsic moral evil” alongside abortion. “At the same time, never forget that genuine love demands that we seek, above all, the salvation of souls. Homosexual acts lead to the damnation of souls.”
In response to the controversy caused by Rodriguez’s columns, Darren Hunt of ABC KVIA 7 interviewed the priest alongside Pifas Silva, an open homosexual and former Catholic who is member of several local homosexualist groups.
Silva argued, with respect to city policy on homosexuality, that “you really want to keep religion separated.” “I really don’t believe it’s a religious issue, I believe it’s a moral issue and a civil rights issue,” he said. Silva also took issue with what he perceived as Rodriguez’s lack of “forgiveness” and other Church-promoted values.
The priest, in turn, emphasized that the Church’s teaching on homosexuality is based on Jesus Christ’s love for each individual: thus while the Church promotes the human dignity of homosexual persons, he said, the issue of “tolerance” can sidetrack from the real issue.
“The question always has to come back to what is the truth,” he said. “Jesus Christ came to this world to bring us to Heaven. He teaches the truth with love. He loves all of us, all of us are sinners.
“Unfortunately, homosexual activists continue to avoid the real issues under the cover of these words … equal rights, dignity … The Church acknowledges all that, but there’s still the real issue that, what is right and what is wrong? What are God’s commandments? We like to talk a lot about rights: what is our duty to our fellow men, what is our duty to God, what do we have to do to be saved?”
The priest pointed to the Gospel story of the rich young man who approached Jesus as guidance for what questions should be asked. “It’s a beautiful question … he doesn’t ask Jesus about what are my rights … he asks the key question that all Catholics must ask themselves: he says, ‘Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?'” said Rodriguez.
When one audience member questioned whether Rodriguez spoke officially for the diocese, the priest said it was not a matter of “just one person’s opinion or another.” “I’m definitely not just presenting my own opinion, I’m doing my best to transmit faithfully what the Church teaches,” he said.
The priest encouraged the audience member to look up the Vatican’s own statements on homosexuality. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as documents from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, are unanimous in calling homosexual acts intrinsically disordered and incompatible with the union of man and woman that constitutes the fruitful union of marriage.
“She [the Church] has to really love her children who are struggling with a homosexual orientation, she has to help those children to salvation, to be faithful to the truth with the love and tenderness as a mother,” explained the priest. “Ultimately it’s a question for a need for a profound healing. That’s the question of any sin.”