The Rev. Michael Rodriguez was transferred to a new parish because his stance on morality and the upcoming recall election "raised serious issues regarding whether his participation could be attributed to the Diocese of El Paso" and his parish, El Paso Catholic Bishop Armando X. Ochoa said.
Since 2010, Rodriguez had publicly condemned homosexuality during city council meetings and wrote several guest columns in the El Paso Times as a response to the city's decision to extend health insurance benefits to all its employees, regardless of marital status or sexual orientation, which he called, "gravely harmful to the common good of our city."
Wednesday, he announced he had been reassigned away from San Juan Bautista Church, where he served.
"I was ordained to the Catholic priesthood to offer sacrifice and teach the only truth which brings salvation and happiness," Rodriguez said in a statement that was emailed to ABC-7. "The priesthood is my greatest joy. In the present circumstances, I intend to try even harder to be a good, holy priest. Obedience to my bishop is essential to the priesthood."
Rodriguez's most recent columns were featured in several quarter-page ads in the newspaper. According to the El Paso Times, a couple from Plano, Texas, paid for the advertisements.
In a news release from the Roman Catholic Diocese of El Paso, Bishop Armando X. Ochoa said Rodriguez was re-assigned to a new parish in West Texas in response to the pastoral needs of the diocese and its faithful. The statement made it clear that Rodriguez was the administrator of San Juan Bautista Parish, not its pastor.
"(Father) Rodriguez has recently challenged certain city officials to participate with him in a partisan debate on issues related to an upcoming election," said Ochoa. "This type of intervention in the political in the political process by religious organizations such as the Diocese of El Paso and San Juan Bautista Church is not permitted under Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code."
Word of Life Church, headed by one of the leaders in the recall efforts, Pastor Tom Brown, has been reported to the IRS for suspicion of campaigning to recall El Paso Mayor John Cook and City Representatives Susie Byrd and Steve Ortega. Non-profits are prohibited from making donations or contributing to political campaigns. The Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State accused Brown of using his church to advance the recall movement. Brown denies any wrongdoing.
In his statement Wednesday, Bishop Ochoa said the diocese had received "credible information and documents" showing Father Rodriguez had failed to comply with diocesan policies.
In his columns, Rodriguez has said that all Catholics are "obligated to undo the wrong" and fight homosexuality.
One column was titled "Every Catholic Must Oppose Certain Things." In it, he wrote that, "Any Catholic who supports homosexual acts is, by definition, committing a mortal sin and placing himself/herself outside of communion with the Roman Catholic Church."
Rodriguez ended the column by calling homosexuality, "An unequivocal intrinsic moral evil," and "frighteningly, if the majority chooses to deny the objective moral order, then we will all suffer the pestiferous consequences."