|Tu Es Sacerdos in Aeternum
|Father Enrique Tomas Rueda, RIP
|GUEST COLUMNIST, Ohio
Fr. Enrique Tomas Rueda was a native of Havana, Cuba. In fact, he’d spent some time in a Cuban jail following the Bay of Pigs invasion before coming to the U.S. as a seminarian. He graduated from Catholic University in Washington as a chemical engineer and then completed his theological training at Fordham University and Dunwoodie Seminary before being ordained by Terence Cardinal Cooke on June 1st, 1968.
Always eager to learn, he soon picked up Masters Degrees in Business Administration, Political Science and Philosophy, which, along with the languages he would later master, would serve him well during the difficult years that lay ahead. In the twelve years I that knew him, Father acquired a mastery of German and Portuguese—the latter with the intent of earning a doctorate in Brazil. He had promised to send me a translation of his thesis as the ever-modest Rueda often claimed that the inspiration for it had come from material I'd mailed him over the years.
Following ordination, he served as a Catholic chaplain at NYU and to migrant farm workers in Upstate New York (Orange County), as well as a parish priest in the South Bronx. While incardinated in the Diocese of Rochester, he directed a drug counseling and education center and was given pastoral responsibility for the Hispanic Community there during what he would call “the happiest days of his life.”
Father Rueda was the organizer and first director of the Catholic Center at the Free Congress Foundation in Washington, D.C., where he worked as a senior contributing scholar. He authored several books including The Marxist Character of Liberation Theology, Roman Catholicism and American Capitalism: Friends or Foes, and The Morality of Political Action. But it was after publishing The Homosexual Network: Private Lives & Public Policy in 1982 when he garnered the most notoriety as well as acclaim. In the words of the late Fr. Charles Fiore, O.P., the book “thoroughly researches the widening homosexual power grab in society, in the process tells us everything we didn’t want to hear, but really ought to know about.”
In 1997, he'd actually discouraged me from reading the book as it contained “old news.” In other words, most everything he'd written and predicted in The Homosexual Network had played out by 1997. While not concerned exclusively with the machinations of the Lavender Mafia within the Church, the clergy sex scandals of the late 1990’s would reveal how prescient he'd been but would not help him regain the prestige he'd lost following his suspension as a priest-- the direct result of his having authored the book in the first place.
His suspension placed him on a virtual blacklist in every diocese in the country and made it so that he was not even permitted to offer funeral Mass for his deceased father. With bills to pay and a mouth to feed, Fr. Rueda had to find employment on the outside. He was eventually hired on as an engineer at the Rochester-based Kodak company. In 1987, he moved to Miami with his elderly mother when Kodak asked him to head up their personnel department for Central and South America. Father Rueda managed his finances shrewdly to such an extent that he never had to worry about money. Any Mass stipends he received were passed on to more needy members of the clergy, although he was prompt in offering the Masses himself. I’m sure he would joke today that it was just a business decision that gave you two Masses for the price of one.
Not content with being an inactive priest, he found refuge at St. Jude’s Melkite Church in Miami. In Rochester, he had worked at St. Nicholas the Wonder Worker Melkite Church and rumor had it that he was bi-ritual (although I've not been able to confirm this). While not allowed to preach or hear confessions, Fr. Rueda was permitted to concelebrate the Eastern Liturgy, often times with his mother sitting in the first pew. Not an ideal situation, to be sure, but it was during this period of rehabilitation that he began writing a column for The Wanderer, through which many Catholics became familiar with his work.
However, as time went on he began to associate more and more with the nascent Traditionalist movement. He traveled to SSPX Masses in Fort Myers, gradually becoming more traditional in his outlook. Eventually, his writing was no longer sought after by The Wanderer or other conservative Catholic publishers. At the independent chapel of the Shrine of St. Philomena in Miami he offered his services and the occasional TLM until his retirement from Kodak in 2001 when he was made a member of the board of directors. Trying to observe protocol, he notified the archdiocese of his intention to enter public ministry, but they were very dismissive and would only refer to him as “Mister” in any correspondence.
As was his nature, Fr. Rueda never protested the way he was persecuted. Around this time, I sent him a short manuscript on the life of Bishop Bonaventure Broderick. For those who don’t know the story of the Bishop Broderick, it is briefly this: Due to a language barrier or just bad timing, he was thought by some in the Curia to be demanding a position back in the U.S. after his term in Cuba as coadjutor of Havana had expired in 1905. In fact, he was merely enquiring as to where to he was to be sent since he’d found himself without an assignment in the days following Cuban independence from the US.
The hierarchy in Rome and Stateside ignored him and he went into obscurity until Cardinal Spellman found him in Millbrook, NY, where he had been running a gas station for 40 years and writing a weekly column for the local newspaper (Millbrook Roundtable). No one knew he was a bishop; he was merely the beloved Dr. Broderick. Living a life of anonymity, he had kept his vows, said the Office and never protested until he was restored as Spellman’s auxiliary and a hospital chaplain. Fr. Rueda dodged any attempts on my part to make the obvious comparison.
How many people, I wonder, who received mailings from the Coalition Ecclesia Dei, knew that this man, whose name appears on the letterhead, was a suspended priest? During his retirement, as an “independent” priest offering Mass according to the 1962 Missal for an “independent chapel”, he went to Brazil to pursue a doctoral degree. I can’t confirm if he ever completed his doctorate.
In late 2007, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was soon on his way to Lourdes as he had great devotion to Our Lady. He told me that he had had a good life but was open to miracles, and, for a while, it seemed that one could have been working on him. Upon his return he told me that the extent of the cancer was only one third what it had been before the trip and that now he was responding very well to treatment.
The Holy Father’s Summorum Pontificum left him feeling vindicated and he expressed a desire to defend His Holiness as he came under attack for the rewriting of The Good Friday prayer and for the lifting of the excommunications on the four SSPX bishops. At my request, he signed his name to The Remnant’s International Declaration in Support of Pope Benedict XVI and told me he wanted to get back in touch with the people at Fidelity Press, because he had much that he wanted to write, perhaps another book. Unfortunately, the reprieve from the spread of cancer was short lived.
On May 17, 2009 he offered his last Mass. He was saddened that the loss of feeling in his hands prevented him from offering Mass. It even made phone conversations difficult as he was constantly dropping the phone while speaking.
Father seldom spoke about his biological family but I knew it included atheists, non-Catholics, Jews, and even Muslims. On one occasion, he told me that his grandfather had been a freemason and went to Mexico to offer his services to the revolution there, or at least to find a more inviting community.
Fr. Rueda’s last weeks were spent at Hospice by the Sea in Boca Raton, Florida. His family with whom he differed so profoundly on spiritual matters at least saw that his physical needs were well attended to.
On December 7th, 2009, amidst resistance from family members who tried to prevent the meeting, Fr. Rueda received Fr. Timothy Hopkins (a traditionalist priest associated with the Society of St. Pius X). Fr. Hopkins told me that Fr. Rueda was barely lucid but that he received the Last Rites of the Church. And that was the last time that the two saw each other for he would die within a week. He estimates, but cannot confirm, that it was December 14th.
Like myself, Fr. Hopkins called Fr. Rueda’s cell phone and heard a bi-lingual message about “Enrique embarking on a journey into a new world. Thank you for being his friend.” He must have died but where was the obituary? What happened to Fr. Rueda should serve as a warning to many of us who have family members hostile to the Faith and that during this battle here on Earth, the devil will try to work on us to the very end.
The death notice was not made public, and, according to Florida law, this will not become public information until 50 years after his death. In vain, Fr. Hopkins tried to find out as much as he could about the friend who’d offered so much to the community at The Shrine of St. Philomena, but he couldn’t even get a copy of the death certificate; nothing official. Instead, an atheist member of Fr. Rueda’s family told him that “Enrique’s last wishes had been honored: there would be no ‘memorial service’, and his body was burned with the ashes dumped into the Gulfstream current off the east coast of Florida. “
Those of us who knew Fr. Rueda find this incredible and refuse to believe it. Nevertheless, it reminds us that defenders of the Faith are often persecuted the moment of their last breaths and even in death. In some ways, Father Rueda's was a death befitting a saint and martyr. Joan of Arc and Maximilian Kolbe met similar ends. Fr. Rueda was persecuted because of his fidelity to what he loved unconditionally—Our Lord and His Church. At least now, Fr. Rueda is safe from those who would try to harm him here on earth. Please pray for the repose of his soul and perhaps have a traditional Mass offered for this traditional priest who died in the service of the traditional Faith.
Eternal Rest Grant Unto Him, O Lord, and May Perpetual Light Shine Upon Him. May He Rest in Peace