On February 24-26, 2023, the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress (REC) will meet in person for the first time since the implementation of Covid restrictions in 2020. The REC has long been popularized as the largest gathering of Catholics in the country. Organizers claim past events have been attended by upwards of 40,000 participants.
However, for years the event has been as infamous as it is well-attended due to the presence of dissident speakers and shockingly progressive liturgical events and prayer services. Indeed, past speakers include Fr. James Martin, Dr. Arthur Fitzmaurice, Fr. Bryan Massingale, Fr. Chris Ponnet, and many other unorthodox presenters.1
Thanks be to God, none of these will be lecturing at this year’s congress. However, it will contain enough problematic speakers to ensure that confusion and error will reign once again, leaving many attendees bewildered concerning the time-honored truths and practices of the Faith. The tragedy this represents should not be underestimated considering the devastated condition of the Church in America.
Even a brief survey of the material state of Catholicism in the US today reveals empty pews, bankrupt dioceses, priest shortages, aging religious orders and parishes being consolidated or closed at a record pace. Of course, these material considerations are much less important than the spiritual and doctrinal crisis that is evident from astounding statistics on the loss of faith in the True Presence, contracepting “Catholics,” empty confessionals and rampant doubt concerning the basic tenants of the Faith.
In face of this, one sector of the Church is flourishing and growing, despite increasing persecution.
Traditional Catholicism on the Rise
Traditional Catholicism has been on the rise for some time, but especially since the Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, of Pope Benedict XVI that liberated the Latin Mass. A recent survey showed a 71% increase in Latin Mass attendance between January 2019 and June 2021.2 While most seminaries struggle to find vocations, traditional seminaries must turn away candidates every year. Traditional monasteries and convents are growing too,3 while modern ones are closing at an alarming rate. For example, there has been a 75% decline in women’s religious vocations since 1965. Additionally, the USCCB fears that 300 of the remaining 420 convents will close in the following decades.4
This shift rightwards is evident in Novus Ordo parishes as well, witnessed by an increase in respect for the Holy Eucharist, seen by an ever-increasing number of faithful who receive communion on the tongue and even on their knees (despite the absence of a communion rail) and women wearing chapel veils—something popping up all over the country which was practically unseen ten years ago.
These factors indicate the direction in which the breath of the Holy Ghost wishes to move His Church. Progressive Catholics tirelessly cite the importance of what they dub the “inspiration of the Spirit” and insist on the importance of following the “voice of God’s people.” Yet, they remain deaf to the cries of these traditional voices. Madly, they insist on pushing the same modernist agenda they have promoted for decades, hoping that it will somehow yield different results if they just keep at it long enough.
A perusal of the schedule for this year’s REC demonstrates exactly this. As in years past, liturgical abuses will abound, and scandalously dissident speakers will present false doctrines. This is particularly alarming since the congress is an official event of the nation’s largest archdiocese.
Prayer and Liturgical Abuse
The Church teaches that the Mass is the unbloody renewal of the Redemption of mankind, which was accomplished by the Crucifixion. As such, it brings the Passion and death of Our Lord present in such a way that it is as if the faithful were standing at the foot of His Sacred Cross. This reality must be front and center whenever music and ceremonial are chosen to accompany the liturgy.
That is why it has long been considered inappropriate to show excessive joy and merriment during Mass. Even Christmas Mass must be accompanied by the realization the Christ Child has come ultimately to fulfill His mission, not so much in His Mother’s warm arms, but on the cold arms of the Cross. It must delicately balance the realities of redemptive joy and purgative sorrow. This is exemplified by the carol What Child is This, which proudly proclaims: “Joy, Joy for Christ is born,” shortly after lamenting: “Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, the Cross be borne for me, for you.”
However, the REC program describes Saturday evening’s “Black Culture” liturgy in the following way: “This ‘spirit-full’ Eucharist, representative of the African diaspora in the Americas, promises to enrich the worship…with drums, highly rhythmic music, poetic preaching, and dance, come join in the grace of our prayer and thanksgiving.”5 Such dance and rhythmic music are fundamentally incongruous with the Catholic notion of the Mass.
Perhaps, these excesses should be expected, considering that Roger Holland is one of the music coordinators for the liturgy. He blasphemously slandered Our Lady on social media, quoting theologian John Kinney. The offensive Facebook post stated: “Mary was biologically a virgin but not theologically, as she allowed men to define her. She’s a recovering virgin (theologically). When she said yes to God she regained her theological virginity. Kinney.” Quoting the same theologian, he also opined against the divinely instituted hierarchical structure of the Church on the same page.6
Kim Harris, who will arrange music for this Mass as well, supports homosexuality and transsexuality,7 and posted to social media a blasphemous image portraying criminal George Floyd as Our Lord suffering during the Passion.8
Prayer gatherings at the conference also raise concern. On Friday evening, organizers will hold an ecumenical Taize Prayer Service. Other prayers will be led by the “Ministers of Movement,” who are asked “to lead the assembly in gesture and prayer. This may include sign-language, ritual gestures, or liturgical movement.”9 One can only hope that these “ministers,” gestures and movements will be merely out of place and not sensuous.
In addition to problematic prayer and liturgical events, the REC will also host an array of unorthodox speakers. In no particular order, these include:
Father Casey Cole
Fr. Cole is a Franciscan friar who will be addressing the REC during youth day. While appearing orthodox and traditional (he even wears a traditional habit), his views on the origin of the Gospels conflict with Catholic teaching. He doubts not just the authorship of the Gospels, but even that they are eye-witness accounts of Our Lord’s life. In a YouTube video, he stated: “Most Christians in the early days after the Resurrection believed that Jesus was returning shortly. There would have been no reason to write anything down or establish structures because the world was about to end as they knew it. Rather, the Gospels were written down much later by people who never witnessed Jesus themselves.”
During the same video, he asserts the importance of his claim, saying: “Why does it matter [who wrote the Gospels]? Well, because it fundamentally affects the way we interpret scripture and approach the authority of the Church.” He is entirely correct in this assertion, proving how dangerous his false claims are.
Further on, he describes the Gospels as if they were mere propaganda pieces for the early Church, saying: “When we read the Gospels properly, we realize that we are not reading the literal eye-witness accounts of people who were there. We are reading reflections of faith communities, years after the fact, trying to convince others of the Good News. We must remind ourselves over and over that these are not works of history like we would find in textbooks today, but highly symbolic, artfully crafted works of theology and literature.”10
This not only calls into question the veracity of the Gospel stories, but challenges the traditional view of the authorship of the Gospels. This contradicts the findings of the Biblical Pontifical Commission established by St. Pius X to combat the scriptural innovations of the modernists. This cannot be taken lightly because St. Pius X considered it a grave sin to speak or write in opposition to the findings of that commission.11
Doctor Phyllis Zagano
Dr. Phyllis Zagano will also be speaking this year. She has long promoted women’s ordination to the diaconate, falsely affirming, “Women perform and have performed diaconal ministry throughout the history of the Church.”12
Apparently unaware that one’s sex is intrinsically united to his humanity, she stated: “God did not become fully male to the exclusion of becoming fully female. God become ‘man’ means God become ‘human.’”13 This idea fits frighteningly well into the arguments in favor of transgenderism heard frequently today.
Brother Mickey McGrath
Artist and author, Br. Mickey McGrath will be giving a talk titled “Black Madonnas of Color and the Healing Power of Beauty.” The talk description includes this troubling sentence: “No matter the color or ethnic origin, all the Madonnas remind us of the healing power of beauty and our experiences of the Feminine Divine.”14
Writing in America Magazine, Br. McGrath endorsed the idea that the earth is a “sacred mother” and demonstrated a shockingly relativistic mindset claiming that he is on pilgrimage “in search of my own truth.”
Also, he painted a picture named Black Lives Matter Madonna, sacrilegiously drawing a link between the terrorist group that burned down American cities in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the Most Holy Virgin.15
Doctor Thomas Groome
Influential leftist professor Thomas Groome will be presenting a talk about Catholic Education. Dr. Groome is a well-known promoter of ending priestly celibacy and the ordination of women to the priesthood. He took advantage of the clerical abuse crisis to pen a 2002 Boston Globe article16 promoting both.
Significantly, he did this after the publication of the 1994 Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis forbidding women priests and the 1995 document Responsum ad Dubium, published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. The latter stated: “The Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women” and that this is “to be held definitively.”17
Ellie Hidalgo and Karen Luna
Ellie Hidalgo and Karen Luna will be presenting a lecture titled: “Unleashing the Gifts of Women for a Synodal Church.” Ellie Hidalgo is a proponent of women’s ordination to the diaconate. She has spoken for the dissident group We Are Church Ireland,19 whose primary aims include the ordination of women priests, greater inclusion of homosexuals in the Church, the abolishing of clerical celibacy, and the democratization of the Church.20
An article she wrote about communist terrorist Che Guevara is also troubling. After discussing the difference between peaceful revolutionary struggles and violent ones, she posited: “We want to stand for faith, peace, and justice. We want to oppose racism, discrimination, and oppression. We’d like for the struggle to be peaceful, but we’ll pack a gun just in case.”21 Karen Luna will be presenting with her. Her leftist bent is evident from the fact that she claims studying under feminist theologian Dr. Cecilia Gonzalez-Andrieu and Liberation Theologian, Dr. Alan Figueroa Deck was an “eye-opening” experience that “felt like home.”22
Doctor Antonio Alonso
Dr. Antonio Alonso will deliver a talk titled: “Eucharist: The Place of Encounter with Christ.” He associates with the dissident priest, Fr. James Martin, praising his misguided outreach to homosexuals in the Church.23 His support for homosexuality is evident in his social media posts as well. A February 27, 2019 post on his Facebook page reads: “Gay, lesbian and trans people are some of the most faithful Christians I know. I weep for the ways in which our institutional bodies fail you so frequently and so profoundly. I see you. You are loved.”24
This is not merely misplaced compassion. Dr. Alonso believes that theological education must include input from other religions and homosexuals. In answer to the question of how to make such learning successful in the future, he stated: “Anything like an adequate understanding will require knowledge from multiple perspectives. The pluralism essential to our discernment requires diversities of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, faith, region, discipline, and vocation.”25
Father Edward Foley
Fr. Edward Foley will be presenting a talk titled: “Eucharistic Devotion After Vatican II.” This is alarming because his views on the Sacraments are scandalous. In an essay he penned discussing the “liquidity” he feels should be introduced into sacramental life, he complained that the Seven Sacraments are somehow insufficient for the modern age.
He wrote: “While there has been some theoretical movement in the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church regarding a more elastic understanding of sacramentality, our official sacramental repertoire remains quite stilted. Such stolidity is symbolic of my Church’s official teachings (or lack thereof) about marriage, sexual orientation and gender identification.”26 Explaining further this perceived lack in sacramental life, he described a class he taught in which students were asked to create a religious ritual around a “life-cycle event.”
Describing these students’ submissions, he wrote: “In these summative performances, ritual invention, transfer and liquidity abounds. We have experienced, for example, a Confucian wedding between two women, a Buddhist post-abortion healing ritual, the dissolving of a congregation, a (re) naming ceremony for a transgendered person and a death with dignity ritual.”27
In his mind, this shows “a perceived gap in the ritual repertoire of key segments of Christian traditions.” To solve this problem: “Christians in general, and Roman Catholics in particular, need to liquidize our sacramentality in practice and teaching to demonstrate an acute understanding that God’s spirit cannot be boxed in a tabernacle or shelved until some duly deputed minister summons that Spirit through an officially sanctioned ritual.”28
Father David Dwyer
Fr. David Dwyer will give a presentation on: “Mass Class: The Top 5 Most-asked Questions About the Eucharist.” Fr. Dwyer is the executive director of the website Busted Halo, which publishes a variety of problematic articles, including one in which the author describes getting arrested for civil disobedience when she refused to follow police instructions at a demonstration in favor of DACA. The article is a self-praising endorsement of her crime.29
The site also publishes articles and interviews by dissident priest, Fr. James Martin,30 and even posted an interview between him and Fr. Dwyer promoting Fr. Martin’s homosexual-affirming book, Building a Bridge.31
In a similar line, the web page promoted the video Owning Our Faith, a short documentary that features homosexual and transgender “Catholics” celebrating their homosexuality and criticizing Church teaching. One interviewee claimed that the Church is discriminatory against those with homosexual inclinations because it teaches them to practice celibacy. “What the Church is saying,” he claims, “is that [if you are homosexual] you cannot live fully.” In another scene, a transgender person describes her “transition” as being “immensely spiritual.”32
Father Gregory Boyle
Fr. Gregory Boyle is well known for his work reforming gang members in Los Angeles. However, his views on homosexuality and women’s ordination go directly against the teachings of Holy Mother Church. In a 2010 video interview, Fr. Boyle was asked about California’s Proposition 8. His response included these words:
“I think it’s always important to kind of say, ‘how does God see sexual orientation.’ Does God feel like that same-sex marriage could happen? I don’t think anybody who has a connection to God and God’s understanding and depth of compassion who’s gonna say no.”
In the same interview, he commented on the possibility of women’s ordination, saying: “…the Vatican just said that the ordination of women is a grave sin. Have you ever met anybody who would agree with that?… It’s shameful to kind of say stuff like that because it’s not honest…The Church should say I’m frightened that women will be ordained, that’s honest to say that. But, don’t say it’s grave sin because that is nonsense.”33
Other problematic speakers include: Anne Kertz Kernion, who is a yoga instructor and makes greeting card collections with quotes from dissidents Fr. James Martin and Sr. Joan Chitister,34 Terry Hershey, who is a Protestant minister,35 and Dr. Timone Davis, who adheres to Black Feminist Theology, as evidenced in a blog post where she states, “The Black woman, seeking to be set free, knows that freedom, true freedom, comes from the Divine within her being. With the Divine within, the Black woman is set free. In setting herself free, the Black Woman sets everyone free.”36
Return to Tradition
It is unthinkable that after decades of failure and devastation wreaked against Holy Mother Church, progressive dissidents continue to drone out the same stale tones. They have had sixty years to change the Church, and the results have been disastrous.
Meanwhile, Traditional Catholicism is like an expanding gas being forcefully contained. It continues to spray out through any crack it can find. However, if it were set at liberty with full church support, its expansion would shock the world and renew the face of the earth.
It is time to face the fact that progressivism is a dead horse. Instead of continuing to beat it, it is time to give Tradition a try once again.
A Call to Action
This year’s REC represents a scandal that must be resisted. It is an offense to God and a danger to souls redeemed by His infinitely precious Blood. That is why the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) urges you to raise your voice in protest. You can do so by respectfully contacting Archbishop Jose Gomez by telephone at 213-637-7215. Please be firm yet polite.
Photo Credit: © Santi Rodríguez – stock.adobe.com
1. See Michael Whitcraft, “Beware of False Prophets: Unorthodoxy Reigns at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress,” The American TFP, February 7, 2020, https://www.tfp.org/beware-of-false-prophets-unorthodoxy-reigns-at-the-los-angeles-religious-education-congress/.
2. For information on the growth of the Latin Mass, see: Jeffrey Cimmino, Washington Examiner, November 2, 2019, https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/traditional-catholic-parishes-grow-even-as-us-catholicism-declines., Salena Zito, “A New Generation of Catholics Discovers Latin Mass 60 Years after Vatican II,” New York Post, December 24, 2022, https://nypost.com/2022/12/24/a-new-generation-of-catholics-is-discovering-latin-mass/. and Crisis Magazine, “The Growth of the Latin Mass: A Survey,” Crisis Magazine, July 23, 2021, https://www.crisismagazine.com/opinion/the-growth-of-the-latin-mass-a-survey.
3. See: Peter Kwasniewski, “Traditional Liturgy Attracts Vocations, Nourishes Contemplative Life, and Sustains the Priesthood,” New Liturgical Movement, May 28, 2018, accessed February 17, 2023, https://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2018/05/traditional-liturgy-attracts-vocations.html#.Y-_9ti2B2bE.
4. “As Number of U.S. Women Religious Decline, They Look to Future,” Catholic Philly, n.d., https://catholicphilly.com/2018/10/news/national-news/as-number-of-u-s-women-religious-decline-they-look-to-future/.
5. “RECongress Program,” RECongress, 2023, accessed February 17, 2023, https://recongress.org/documents/2023/1/RGB%202023%20Final%20Draft%20122022.pdf, p. 20.
6. Roger Holland, Facebook, July 11, 2015, https://www.facebook.com/roger.holland.921/?show_switched_toast=0&show_invite_to_follow=0&show_switched_tooltip=0&show_podcast_settings=0&show_community_review_changes=0&show_community_rollback=0&show_follower_visibility_disclosure=0.
7. Kim Harris, Facebook, June 2, 2021, https://www.facebook.com/kim.harris.73744801
8. Kim Harris, Facebook, May 28, 2020, https://www.facebook.com/kim.harris.73744801
9. Ibid., p. 11.
10. As reproduced by: Dan Burke, “Can I Trust Fr. Casey Cole? Is His Critique of “The Chosen” Valid?,” SpiritualDirection.com, October 2, 2021, https://spiritualdirection.com/2021/10/02/can-i-trust-fr-casey-cole-is-his-critique-of-the-chosen-valid, emphasis ours.
11. Heinrich Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, 1957, pp. 542-554. Describing the assent that should be given to the Biblical Pontifical Commission, the saint pontiff stated: “Therefore, we see that it must be declared and ordered as We do now declare and expressly order, that all are bound by the duty of conscience to submit to the decisions of the Biblical Pontifical Commission, both those which have thus far been published and those which are hereafter proclaimed…and that all who impugn such decisions as these by word or in writing cannot avoid the charge of disobedience, or on this account be free of grave sin; and this besides the scandal by which they offend, and the other matters for which they can be responsible before God, especially because of other pronouncements in these matters made rashly and erroneously.”
12. “RECongress Program,” RECongress, 2019, p. 47, last accessed January 31, 2020, //www.recongress.org/2020/pdf/2020RGB.pdf.
13. As quoted in: Fr. Dwight Longenecker, “The Gnostic Feminism of Phyllis Zagano,” Crisis Magazine, October 26, 2022, https://www.crisismagazine.com/opinion/the-gnostic-feminism-of-phyllis-zagano.
14. “RECongress Program,” p. 30, emphasis ours.
15. “We Need Images of the Black Madonna Now More than Ever,” America Magazine, February 22, 2018, https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2017/11/10/we-need-images-black-madonna-now-more-ever.
16. “Boston Globe / Spotlight / Abuse in the Catholic Church,” n.d., https://archive.boston.com/globe/spotlight/abuse/print/051902_focus.htm.
17. “Responsum Ad Propositum Dubium Concerning the Teaching Contained in ‘Ordinatio Sacerdotalis,’” Vatican.Va, n.d., https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19951028_dubium-ordinatio-sac_en.html.
18. Groome, Thomas, “Truth Betrayed: Calumny Against Thomas Groome by Eamonn Keane,” Yumpu.Com, n.d., https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/read/5542729/truth-betrayed-calumny-against-thomas-groome-by-eamonn-keane.
19. We Are Church Ireland, Facebook, October 22, 2022, https://ne-np.facebook.com/WACIreland/posts/ellie-hidalgo-preaches/5774227705931189/.
20. “Home,” n.d., https://wearechurchireland.ie/#Aims.
21. Ellie Hidalgo, “Che in L.A.,” Busted Halo, June 16, 2008, https://bustedhalo.com/features/che-in-la.
22. Maria-Pia Negro Chin, “Walking Together,” Maryknoll Magazine, June 2, 2022, https://www.maryknollmagazine.org/2022/06/karen-luna-walking-together/.
23. Tony Alonso, Facebook, May 28, 2018, https://www.facebook.com/antonioalonso.
24. Ibid., February 27, 2019.
25. “Theological Education between the Times: Reflections on the Telos of Theological Education | Religious Studies News,” Religious Studies News, April 28, 2017, accessed February 18, 2023, https://rsn.aarweb.org/spotlight-on/theo-ed/between-the-times/theological-education-between-times-reflections-telos-theological-education.
26.“The Ooze of God’s Spirit: Liquid Sacramentality for a Liquid Age,” International Academy of Practical Theology, n.d., accessed February 18, 2023, https://iapt-cs.org/ojs/index.php/iaptcs/article/view/66/40.
29. Tinamarie Stolz, Busted Halo, “I Was Arrested for a Cause I Believe In: 4 Reasons Why Social Action Matters,” August 27, 2018, last accessed January 31, 2020, //bustedhalo.com/ministry-resources/i-was-arrested-for-a-cause-i-believe-in-4-reasons-why-social-action-matters.
30. Busted Halo, Fr. Martin Archive Page, last accessed January 31, 2020, //bustedhalo.com/tag/fr-james-martin.
31. Fr. David Dwyer, “Father James Martin on Building a Bridge with the LGBT Communit,” April 28, 2017, last accessed January 31, 2020, //bustedhalo.com/podcasts/father-james-martin-building-bridge-lgbt-community.
32. Busted Halo, “OwningOurFaith—A New Documentary Featuring LGBT Catholics,” March 24, 2015, last accessed January 31, 2020, //bustedhalo.com/life-culture/owningourfaith-a-new-documentary-featuring-lgbt-catholics.
33. John-Henry Westen, LifeSiteNews, “Catholic Charities USA invites pro-gay ‘marriage’ priest to keynote annual gathering,” June 4, 2013, last accessed January 31, 2020, //www.lifesitenews.com/news/catholic-charities-usa-invites-pro-gay-marriage-priest-to-keynote-annual-ga
34. “About Us,” Cards by Anne, n.d., https://cardsbyanne.com/pages/about.
35. Terry Hershey, “Linkedin,” accessed February 18, 2023, https://www.linkedin.com/in/terryhershey?original_referer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F.
36. Timone Davis, “Repentance for Freedom” Moving Towards Peace (blog), 12 December, 2013, http://movingtowardspeace.blogspot.com/2013/.