Priest Under Fire
of Father Michael Rodriguez
Michael J. Matt
Editor, The Remnant
Michael J. Matt (MJM):
First off, Father, I'd like to thank you for the stand
you've taken in recent months in defense of the Church's
moral teaching, especially with respect to so-called
'gay marriage'. Catholics all across the country have
been following your case, and we're delighted to have a
chance today to ask you a few questions. Before we get
into the "controversy", however, I wonder if you'd mind
telling us a little something about your personal
Father Rodriguez (FR): Not at all. I was born in
El Paso, Texas, on August 23, 1970, the middle child of
five. Many years later my parents adopted a sixth child,
my youngest sister. As I grew up in the early '70s, I
was completely unaware of the disastrous post-Vatican II
revolution that was sweeping throughout our beloved
Catholic Church. Thanks be to God, I was raised by
parents who were staunch Catholics with their childhood
roots in the pre-Vatican II Catholicism of México. An
example of the depth of these roots is that my maternal
grandmother (born in 1906, in Aguascalientes, México)
never accepted the Novus Ordo. She left this passing
world in August 2002, always true to the Ancient Rite.
Requiescat in pace. Even though my parents had
accepted and adapted to Novus Ordo Catholicism during
their post-collegiate years, they nevertheless raised us
similar to how they had been raised: fidelity to Mass
(albeit the Novus Ordo) and Confession, praying the Holy
Rosary at home in the evenings, praying novenas and the
Stations of the Cross, etc. As I reflect back on my
childhood, it was a time of great grace and blessings.
Even though my parents failed to hold fast to all the
venerable traditions of our Faith and the Ancient Rite,
they still did an excellent job of instilling the Faith
in us. Interestingly enough, we four older children
(born between '67 and '74) are now ardent supporters of
the Traditional Latin Mass, even more so than our
And are there one or two persons
in your life that mentored you and helped you to remain
open to God’s call?
FR: My parents, Ruben and Beatrice, were the ones
who were most instrumental in my eventual discernment of
a vocation to God's holy priesthood. Through my father,
God blessed me with discipline, fortitude, perseverance,
and a love for study. Through my mother, God graced me
with the convictions of faith, awe for the Catholic
priesthood, a tender devotion to our Blessed Mother, and
a love of religion.
At what point in your life did you
know you had a vocation?
FR: I was raised in El Paso, TX, but spent four
years (1981-1984) living with my family in Augsburg,
Germany. We returned to El Paso, and I began high
school. Following my junior year, I spent the summer
(1987) at M.I.T. University in Cambridge, MA. I was
participating in a special program for gifted minority
students from around the nation. The program was geared
to recruiting us to study engineering and science at
M.I.T. as undergraduates. Well, our good God had
different plans for me! I left El Paso that summer
thinking I'd study electrical engineering (like my
father) upon graduating from high school, only to return
from Boston six weeks later, announcing that I wanted to
enter the seminary! My mother was overjoyed.
MJM: Clearly, someone was looking out for you. Do
you have a favorite saint, by the way?
FR: My favorite saints are: St. Michael the
Archangel, St. John the Baptist (largely due to my 9 1/2
years at this El Paso parish), St. Paul the Apostle, St.
Ignatius Loyola, St. Alphonsus Liguori, and, to no
surprise, the holy Curé of Ars. I have a special
devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary under three
of her specific titles: Immaculate Conception (I
was ordained to the priesthood on Dec. 8, 1996),
Mater Dolorosa, and Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe.
And, liturgically—where would you
place yourself? I know you offer the traditional
Latin Mass, but is it accurate to describe you as an
FR: Liturgically, I'm 100% behind the Traditional
Latin Mass, which is without question the true Mass of
the Roman Catholic Church. Theology, liturgy, Catholic
spirituality and asceticism, and history itself all
point to the obvious superiority of the Classical Roman
Rite. Unfortunately, all of my seminary formation was in
the Novus Ordo, and I only "discovered" the Latin Mass
about six years ago, so I still have a lot to learn in
terms of "real Catholicism," i.e. "traditional
What was it initially that led you
to begin offering the old Mass?
FR: About six years ago, several members of the
faithful began asking me if I would be interested in
offering the Traditional Latin Mass. At the time, there
was serious concern on the part "El Paso's remnant" of
traditional Catholics that the Jesuit priest who was
offering the Latin Mass twice a month (under the 1988
Ecclesia Dei "Indult") was going to be transferred.
Thus, they were looking for another priest who would be
willing to offer the Latin Mass. At first, I declined,
not so much because I wasn't interested, but due to the
immense workload which I was already carrying.
As the weeks passed, I began to study the prayers and
theology of the Traditional Latin Mass. The more I
studied, the more my awe and amazement grew. I was
"discovering" not only the true Catholic theology of the
Mass, but also the true Catholic theology of the
priesthood, and so much more! Throughout my first nine
years of priesthood, I had struggled to make sense of
the very serious problems which exist in the Church. At
this point, it was obvious that an extreme crisis
pervaded the Church and her hierarchy, but why? I
just couldn't quite understand how all of this
"diabolical disorientation" had come to pass . . . until
the brilliant light of the true Catholic Mass ("Emitte
lucem tuam et veritatem tuam . . .") began to
penetrate my priestly soul. This "discovery" of the
Traditional Latin Mass has been, by far, the greatest
gift of God to my poor priesthood.
So this gives us an idea of how Pope Benedict's motu
proprio Summorum Pontificum can and does impact priests
who might otherwise never have had the opportunity to
discover this great treasure. Given how it impacted you,
how do you believe Summorum Pontificum will impact the Church long term?
FR: Unfortunately, both Summorum Pontificum
and Universæ Ecclesiæ have plenty of weaknesses.
Nevertheless, these documents do represent an initial
step in what will probably still be a long and arduous
"Calvary," i.e. the quest of traditional Catholics to
restore the Cross, the Mass, the kingship of Jesus
Christ, and true Catholic doctrine, outside of which
there is no salvation. In Article 1 of Summorum
Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI writes that "due honor
must be given to the Roman Missal promulgated by St.
Pius V for its venerable and ancient usage." This
directive of our Holy Father is currently being
disobeyed almost universally. In the accompanying letter
to the world's bishops (July 7, 2007), Pope Benedict XVI
writes, "What earlier generations held as sacred,
remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be
all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered
harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches
which have developed in the Church's faith and prayer,
and to give them their proper place." These remarkable
words of our Holy Father are also being disrespected and
disobeyed almost universally, especially by many
bishops. Finally, Universæ Ecclesiæ, No. 8,
states very clearly that the Ancient Rite is a "precious
treasure to be preserved" and is to be "offered to all
the faithful." Where in the entire world of
Catholicism is this directive actually being obeyed?
The same number from Universæ Ecclesiæ emphasizes
that the use of the 1962 Roman Liturgy "is a faculty
generously granted for the good of the faithful and
therefore is to be interpreted in a sense favourable to
the faithful who are its principal addressees." This is
an astounding statement. This statement from Rome means
that the use of the 1962 Missal doesn't depend on a
particular bishop's liturgical views, preferences, or
theology. It's not about the bishops! On the
contrary, it's about the faithful! Where in the
entire world of Catholicism is this directive actually
Are you now able to offer the old
FR: Since I began my new assignment (Sept. 24,
2011) out in the rural, isolated missions of the El Paso
Diocese, I've offered the Traditional Latin Mass
exclusively. I consider this to be a marvelous and
unexpected blessing from Providence in the midst of a
very difficult trial. I hope to continue offering the
Traditional Latin Mass exclusively. If it were strictly
up to me, I would never celebrate the Novus Ordo Missæ
again. However, the sad reality of having to "obey" in
the Novus Ordo Church that has largely lost the Faith,
and the need to reach out patiently to Novus Ordo
faithful who have been so misled, means that I will
probably be "forced" to celebrate the Novus Ordo
occasionally. In these instances, however, it will be
the Novus Ordo ad orientem, with the Roman Canon,
the use of Latin, and Holy Communion distributed
according to traditional norms.
Up until last year, I believe,
things were pretty quiet in your priestly life.
What happened to change all that?
FR: The local, and even national, "controversy"
that has engulfed me is due to the fact that I have been
vocal in promoting what the Roman Catholic Church
teaches in regard to the whole issue of homosexuality.
It's a disgrace, but the City Council of El Paso has
been adamant in trying to legitimize same-sex unions.
This goes completely contrary to Catholic Church
teaching. I've made it clear to the Catholics of El Paso
(and beyond) that every single Catholic has a moral
obligation before God Himself to oppose any government
attempt to legalize homosexual unions. A Catholic who
fails to oppose this homosexual agenda, is committing a
grave sin by omission. Furthermore, if a Catholic
doesn't assent to the infallible moral teaching of the
Church that homosexual acts are mortally sinful, then
such a Catholic is placing himself / herself outside of
communion with the Church. These are the Catholics who
are actually excommunicating themselves, not the Society
of St. Pius X!
I can understand why the civil
authorities and media might find this
“controversial”; but why would your ecclesial superiors
find it so?
FR: The dismal response of both civil and
ecclesiastical authorities to the authentic teachings of
the Catholic Church in regard to homosexuality
demonstrates how extreme the current crisis of
faith actually is. It really can't get much worse.
There's hardly any faith left to lose! Even a pagan,
bereft of the light of faith, can arrive at the
conclusion that homosexual acts are intrinsically evil.
Reason, natural law, and consideration of the male and
female anatomy more than suffice to confirm this moral
And yet you must go where the
bishop tells you to go. Is this difficult for you?
FR: In my particular circumstances, obedience to
my bishop has been incredibly difficult. Nevertheless,
obedience is essential to the priesthood, and I intend
to be obedient. One consoling aspect of "sacrificial,"
"death-to-self" obedience, is that the Holy Ghost will
always come to one's assistance. I'm reminded that my
poor sufferings are nothing compared to those of
Mater Dolorosa and our Divine Redeemer. If I'm
counted as one even slightly worthy to suffer for
the Faith and the Traditional Latin Mass, I will
consider myself profoundly blessed. God is so good.
As you are already living through
a form of persecution, I assume you foresee
more to come not only for you personally but for all
Catholics who stand in defense of Church teaching. But
what about the future? Any hope?
FR: Yes, I do foresee plenty of persecution still
to come for all those who remain steadfast in the Faith
and in their adherence to the Ancient Rite. However, the
promise of our Savior cannot but fill our souls with
hope, "Blessed are they that suffer persecution for
justice's sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute
you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly,
for My sake. Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is
very great in heaven." (Mt 5:10-12)
How can lay Catholics best survive
this crisis of faith?
FR: In order to overcome this crisis of faith, we
must (1) do everything in our power to recover
the Catholic Faith: the Ancient Rite, traditional
Catholic teaching in doctrine and morals, the theology
and philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, traditional
Catholic piety and devotions, and a traditional Catholic
“code of living” or “rhythm of life.” (2) On a
daily basis we must strive to pray, study, fast, do
penance, and practice charity with the aforementioned
goal in mind. Finally, I strongly urge all faithful
Catholics to (3) pray the Holy Rosary daily and
heed our Blessed Mother's Message at Fatima.
One of the hallmarks of the Traditional Latin Mass is
its exquisite and concentrated focus on eternity.
If we are to survive and overcome this terrible
crisis of faith in the post-Vatican II Catholic
Church, we have to keep our intellect and will focused
on eternity. We cannot lose hope when, from a
worldly perspective, all seems lost. Jesus Christ
promises “the kingdom of heaven” to those who
endure persecution, and “a great reward in heaven”
to those who suffer for His sake. (Mt 5:10-12) The final
goal is heaven! Like St. Paul, we must press
ahead towards the ultimate “prize” (Phil 3:14) and
never cease to “seek the things that are above, where
Christ is sitting at the right hand of God.” (Col 3:1)
Like so many others, Father, I
find myself deeply moved by your powerful witness not only to the
Faith itself but also to the Catholic priesthood, which,
as you know so well, is under diabolical attack. Thank
you for this example of what it means to be a Catholic in an era
of persecution. May all of us have the
courage to follow your lead through the rough seas still ahead.