I have just read a story sent out on July 3 by CWN regarding the suspension of Rev. Theodore Rothrock from public ministry by the Diocese of Lafayette in Indiana, where he was pastor at Saint Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church in Carmel. The offense that brought about his suspension was an item he wrote in the parish bulletin about Black Lives Matter. The leaders of the organization, he claimed, have a leftist social agenda that ignores the people who support them. Some of the protesters and rioters, he observed, are “maggots” and “parasites” whose behavior should not be tolerated.
Such statements as those are now “unacceptable” in many Catholic parishes and elsewhere in the Church. Bishop Patrick Doherty, CWN reported, “expressed pastoral concern for the affected communities,” or rather elements of it. Which elements they were, he did not stipulate, but it is possible to hazard a guess with fair certainty. “Various possibilities for [Father Rothrock’s] public continuation in priestly ministry are being considered, but he will no longer be assigned as Pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel [sic].”
Father Rothrock, predictably but disappointingly, made the appropriate ritual retreat, now de rigeur. “It was not my intention to offend anyone,” he wrote—apparently forgetting the now largely forgotten text that “the truth shall set you free”—“and I am sorry that my words have caused any hurt to anyone.” Charitably overlooking this point, the executive director of the Christian Democratic Caucus has announced an outdoor prayer gathering in support of Father Rothrock. I should say they’d better be careful, or they’ll be sanctioned by Bishop Doherty, too.
Catholic priests represent a wide spectrum of political opinion, and they have many and various political allegiances. The Church does not instruct them regarding whom they should give their votes to, though clearly a man of the cloth who puts his mark beside the name of a candidate who supports the right to abortion or some other immoral cause is in peril of hellfire and in dire need of the confessional and a severe penance.
But why should a Catholic priest even consider voting for such a candidate, assuming some of them actually do? And why should a Catholic bishop discipline a priest who condemns a violently left-wing revolutionary organization that wants to destroy the nuclear family, among many other established, moral, and holy things? The reason would have to be that he is a liberal, and that liberalism is as much a religion (nowadays virtually an established one) as the Church of Rome. As such it is a rival of the Church and a rebel against her.
Further, liberalism is sinful in itself—sinful in its philosophical assumptions, its moral and political doctrines, and its anti-clerical history, as Felix Sard y Salvany, a Spanish priest in the late 19th century, demonstrated in El Liberalismo es pecato (Liberalism Is a Sin). Thus, a priest who is a liberal is a heretic as well, and a priest who sets his loyalty to the religion of liberalism above his loyalty to the Catholic faith is a traitor. As we have been learning in recent decades, there are many such priests around the world and in the United States. It is high time the Vatican identified them all, and dealt with them as they deserve.