On February 24-26, 2023, the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress (REC) will have met 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.
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….
Father Casey 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.”
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.”
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 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.”
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.”
Doctor Thomas 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
Dr. Groome favors Liberation Theology, naming Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez as a significant influence on his Ecclesiology.
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, 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.
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.” 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.”
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.”
Father 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.” 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.”
Father 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, and even posted an interview between him and Fr. Dwyer promoting Fr. Martin’s homosexual-affirming book, Building a Bridge.
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.”
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….”
Other problematic speakers: Anne Kertz Kernion, who is a yoga instructor and makes greeting card collections with quotes from dissidents Fr. James Martin and Sr. Joan Chitister, Terry Hershey, who is a Protestant minister, 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.”
This year’s Religious Ed Conference 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 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.
Full story on website of Tradition, Family, and Property.
The L.A. RECongress should be disbanded. Here are some detestable things I observed from the videos, which are available here:
1. Gay pride flag draped on the ambo at the Friday night “Celtic Liturgy”
2. Liturgical dancers at every Mass; all of them were old, by the way, and cringey to watch as they bumbled around
3. Inappropriate secular-styled music at every Mass, especially Saturday night’s “Black Culture Liturgy”
4. The music selections were designed to be solo performances, not sung prayer
5. Boring workshops that conveyed hardly any meaningful content, but had lots of jokes, songs, and storytelling
The Youth Day on Thursday had its own problems. You can view the morning session with the speaker and the afternoon session with the Mass here:
1. The featured speaker made the sign of the cross with her LEFT hand, twice, at the beginning of her talk and mostly told stories
2. At the Mass, kids applauded and cheered after almost every song, like it was a concert. They even applauded after the responsorial psalm and the Gospel acclamation
3. Kids were talking in the communion lines
4. Towards the end of communion, the video shows a kid receiving the host from Archbishop Gomez but he drops it and then keeps walking. An old man tells Gomez about it, then they bring in a crew to clean it up while Gomez watches
5. During the post-communion performance song, kids turned on their phone flashlights and waved them around the arena, like they are at a concert. Then Archbishop Gomez turned on his phone’s flashlight and waved it around too
The kids are obviously unchurched and uncatechized about the Mass and about communion. What’s going on in parish catechesis?
Everything I stated is verifiable on videos on YouTube in the main links above. I didn’t post precise links to each separate thing because I don’t think the website editor wants all those in a comment post. Screenshots or video clips are easy to find based on my descriptions.
The Archdiocese should be embarrassed to have put on another cringey, heterodox weekend conference.
True Catholics will stay away from the L.A. RECongress and keep their kids away too.
I appreciate you taking the time to research and write your comment.
Archbishop Gomez is a priest of the Opus Dei Prelature. I’m surprised year after year how he not only condones the RE but seemingly actively participates in it.
So much scandal from our bishops!!
How does this fake terrible excuse for a conference call itself “educational?” Sound more mind like mind numbing worn out propaganda. Time these old losers give it up and pray for the mercy of Our Lord.
The LA Archdiocese is complicit in leading the flock astray with this intentionally non-Catholic event. This Roger Mahony leftover should have been binned by Gomez a long time ago.
If your pastor encourages attendance at this annual abomination, he is part of the problem too.
Groome has a doctoral degree from Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University. He is a laicized priest. Couldn’t LA find a professor who went to a Catholic graduate school or a faithful priest? Who selects these speakers? Any discernment? Is the archbishop aware of this?
And, Dr. Zagano is wrong when she states, “Women perform and have performed diaconal ministry throughout the history of the Church.” The early Church had deaconesses. But, they were not deacons (ordained to the sacrament of Holy Orders). What a confusing mess of speakers.
Why not consider Dr. Brant Pitre, Fr. John Riccardo, Dr. Mary Healy, Deacon Dominic Cerrato, Sister Miriam Heidland or a number of other excellent Catholic teachers and ministers?
Gee! What a shame.
I missed it this year.
Especially the liturgical dancers.
Hopefully, none of these fell and broke a hip.
I loved the Congress. The liturgical dancers were wonderful, the speakers fantastic. This is a must attendance for anyone involved in ministry. A great way to worhsip and learn with fellow Catholics. I have gone for the last 32 years (Missed in 1994, and 2006 to have a baby) and in 2021 I saw it virtually.
I have had the honor to teach religious education for over 30 years and this has been a great source of rejuvenation.
Jessica, are you aware that the Church has documents with norms for how to celebrate liturgy and for what music should be sung? The Congress Masses don’t follow those norms. They are more than bad examples of how to celebrate Mass: they are ruinous examples because they present the wrong way as a model.
Congress is not a “must-see” event. There is great risk of misinformation from attending because the speakers are not reliably faithful to Catholic teaching.
I, too, have been involved in parish ministry and have attended a fair share of Congresses. It was mostly fine in the 80s and 90s. Started going downhill in the 2000s, and now it’s become something abhorrent.
Have you noticed the decline in young people and men attending the weekend? It’s mostly over age 60 and about 75% women. The average Congress attendee is a 63 year-old woman.
The Congress is not the future of the church. Obviously.
The San Francisco one already had the dissident group “Dignity” way back in early 1970. Some groups were good and others taught the exact opposite. This has been going on in California for ages, right after the contraceptive pill came out.
Bless your heart.
I stopped attending when they started allowing Fr. Martin
speak at these conferences. They had a lot of controversial speakers that went against our Catholic faith. I see that things have not changed and it’s getting worse.
If the REC is to be truly Catholic, it needs more supervision. Dissident and unorthodox opinions have their place. But not at REC. Blessings.
Please write to Archbishop Gomez, Sr. Rosalia, Paulette Smith, and Jenny Jackson in the Office of Religious Education. There is a grassroots campaign to tell each of them how disgusting the Rel. Ed. Congress was this year and has been for many years. There are powerful forces in publisher marketing/sales, LGBT, musician egos that make it the way it is. But those forces can be overcome.
Eternal rest grant unto Kenneth Fisher, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.
Amen. Ken Fisher sounded the alarm for years about the wRECk. I pray his efforts were not in vain. May his good soul rest in peace.
Well, I have seen Scripture given a thumbs down and I have seen the Catechism given a thumbs down but a prayer for the repose of someone’s soul given a thumbs down is a new one for me.
Lighten up, people. I’m sure the Southern Baptist Convention has rastafarian and Wiccan speakers; the Democrat National Convention has NRA, prolife and Tea Party speakers and the American Cancer Society invites execs from Philip Morris International. This is a time of DIE. (That’s diversity, inclusion and equity, for those of you from Rio Linda.) It is the LA Religious Education Conference. Nothing Catholic about that. It’s not like it’s CCD or Sunday school. I didn’t see any Muslim speakers, but, there’s always next year. And, they expect to draw a larger crowd, including more men, with Rihanna leading the liturgical dance (in honor of the misunderstood Salome, daughter of Herodias).
We don’t call it the wRECk for nothing!
Let me provide one example of how dumb the workshops were. Sarah Hart gave a workshop on Friday. She’s one of the more popular OCP composers, at least among the over-50, female, liberal crowd who tend to dominate parish music programs these days. Her workshop was supposed to be about how young adults are leaving the church and how to bring them back.
Well, Sarah sang quite a few of her copyrighted songs and told some “Chicken Soup for the Soul” stories about being a mom. She displayed some statistics about young people leaving the church. She never got around to explaining how to bring people back to church or back to Mass.
Then — get this — she admitted that both of her adult daughters have left the church.
All she said was that God is with those who leave the church, and we should trust that God is still in their lives. That’s it. That was the long and short of her advice.
She didn’t say we should invite them back to Mass. She didn’t suggest how to improve parish programs or Mass to attract young people more. She just said that they’re gone but that’s okay because they have a different way of living the faith.
Ahem… that’s borderline heresy because it’s religious indifference and relativism.
So, OCP’s number one composer, whose music is sung at Masses all over the country, can’t even keep her own children Catholic.
Maybe her lame music being sung at Mass is part of the reason why young people are no longer attending Mass. I believe it is a very big part of the reason.
The Anaheim Congress is an emotional, feel-good, shallow, liberal, entertainment-driven luv-fest. It’s not about teaching Catholicism.
Did you go see Father Reese?
This list looks worse than it has been in a long time.
If you live in LA, suggest they get speakers that are less controversial and can be trusted to speak the Faith accurately.
Please spare us from old baby boomer dissenters.