Anti-gay ads are priest’s view alone, El Paso diocese says
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A recent series of advertisements attacking homosexuality has dragged the Catholic Diocese of El Paso into a citywide political recall debate.
The advertisements, titled “The truth about homosexuality,” were written by the Rev. Michael Rodriguez of San Juan Bautista Catholic Church and published in four parts in four consecutive editions of the El Paso Times. The ads started running on Saturday and ended Tuesday. The advertisements were also on elpasotimes.com.
While Rodriguez maintains the ads represent the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, officials of the Diocese of El Paso said they do not.
“These paid advertisements are the personal views and opinions of Father Michael Rodriguez,” said the Rev. Anthony C. Celino, the vicar general and moderator of the curia for the diocese.
Celino said the Catholic Church is not taking and cannot take a side in the recall effort.
Rodriguez said he wrote the pieces but did not pay for the advertisements or submit the writings to the Times.
A couple from Plano, Texas, paid for the advertisements, he said.
The church’s head priest, Monsignor Francis Smith, and the diocese said the fliers were not approved by or affiliated with the church.
“The diocese does not endorse or oppose candidates, political parties, or take actions that can be construed as endorsement or opposition,” Celino said. “Recall fliers claiming to be ‘Catholic’ were not authorized by the Diocese of El Paso.”
Smith said the people who distributed the fliers sneaked into the church’s parking lot during that Sunday’s two largest Masses.
“I always tell my people that if they stick it under your windshield, I did not authorize that,” Smith said. “If it is something worthwhile, then why be sneaky about it.”
The message on the fliers is not what Smith preaches at his church, he said.
“We have been asked several times to take their stance, and we will not,” Smith said. “I do not agree with that lifestyle (homosexuality), but I will help anyone who needs it.”
The fliers also list names and numbers of individuals who filed the intent to recall Cook, Byrd and Ortega.
Father Michael Rodriguez, pastor of St. Juan Bautista Church in central El Paso, addresses members of city council and Mayor John Cook in June. (Times file photo)