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.