The following is written by Christian Patin, founder of and head writer for www.Cathlogic.com
The 2018 Religious Education Congress is finally over, and not a moment too soon. This year, just as every other year in recent memory, the conference was armed to the teeth with dissident, problematic, outspoken, unruly leaders of the Church. From the notoriously gay-affirmative Fr. James Martin to the tragically misguided Fr. Bryan Massingale—and don’t forget the most reverend Archbishop Gomez of the Los Angeles diocese without whom the event would not even be possible—the well-attended, highly funded and publicized conference was ready to teach. After all, it is the Religious Education Congress.
While the available workshops covered an impossible number of topics, themes, languages, and purposes, I was interested in the glaringly obvious: I wanted to attend workshops with “transgender,” or “gay,” or “LGBT” in the title. Moreover, this year’s theme was aptly titled “Rise Up!”, which is practically oozing with implication. It wasn’t so much the title I was interested in, but the speakers. When thumbing through the book of available workshops, I recognized some names:
Aurthur Fitzmaurice, a well-known self-professed gay man and advocate for changing the language of the Catechism.
Fr. Bryan Massingale, a civil rights and social justice advocate who is know for his work within the black lives matter movement and for LGBT (especially T) rights and acceptance within the Church.
Fr. James Martin, who is most recognized for his strong, dissident defense of LGBT rights, acceptance, tolerance, and their complete assimilation into the Church—lifestyle, marriage, and all.
Bishop Robert Barron, who believes in the problematic Balthasarian prospect of an empty hell and an abundance of others.
I wish that the only problem with this conference was with the speakers—I could write for days on that alone. But there also exists the glaring problem of its benefactors. Perhaps the most disconcerting fact is that I have no clue who else is funding the event, but it should sufficiently unsettle you to know that Catholic Relief Services, a “charity” organization with an uncharitably dark side, is a major contributor to the REC. In addition to having one of the more exposed booths at the event—and having pride of place in the merchandise hall—CRS’ logo is on virtually every Congress-provided piece of merch, including the tote bag carried by anyone who bought a ticket.
The booths alone carry a price-tag of between $990 – $1,250. Since CRS had three booths, that’s between $2,970 and $3,750 given to this heresy-fest. And by contributing the tote-bags, which the REC then wouldn’t have to purchase, that’s yet another financial saving to the REC on CRS’s dime.
The heart of the conference center was nothing spectacular either. Aside from the few good exhibitors who were still allowed to attend—as long as they paid the steep booth fee—I saw nothing but dirty money and the fruits of liberal privilege in the exhibition hall. Not to my surprise, Ignatius Press, EWTN, Catholic Answers, and Augustine Institute—all relatively conservative Catholic groups, were located out of the way and in low-traffic areas. This, in stark contrast to the prime positions being given to CRS—obviously, as well as:
- the Marianists, who are staunch social justice defenders;
- Loyola Press, a Jesuit publishing-house;
- the Catholic Ministry with Lesbian and Gay Persons booth, of the Los Angeles Archdiocese;
- Paulist Press, who publishes Fr. Martin’s “Building a Bridge”;
- Word on Fire
… just to name a few. In essence, nearly every liberal or powerful Catholic bigwig you can image has the best seats in the house, in high-traffic areas, near every major exit or right down the center lane. But I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.
I managed to stomach the registration process, the exhibition hall that was teeming with dissenters and defenders of moral relativism, and I waded through the countless waves of nuns in street clothes and priests in anything but clerics—save for a few in collars and some other brave souls in full garb. What remained were the workshops that so many people were so anxious to attend. While some of the workshops focused on actual catechesis, which is supposedly the point of congress to begin with, many of them set their sights on something else: social change.
In one workshop, titled, “Transgender in Our Schools: One Bread, One Body,” speakers Fr. Bryan Massingale and Arthur Fitzmaurice – both staunch supporters and advocates of the LGBT movement – discuss the dire need for “dialogue,” “understanding,” and “acceptance” of homosexual and trans-persons. With the more specific goal of convincing the audience that they too should be pushing for change in the Church, they welcome to the panel of speakers a “trans-man”, called Shen Heckel, and a woman, Peggy Ehling, who is the mother of another “trans-man”.
The crafty bunch sought to appeal to every type of Catholic out there: from the parent and child to the clergyman and scholar. Pulling from emotional stories of hatred and intolerance and padding their appeals with the notions of love and mercy, the talk all but condones the very serious problem of sexual sin in the Church and in the culture. Far from warning against the serious dangers of unchecked gender ideologies, Fr. Massingale denies the validity of such a concern, calling the term “gender ideology” a “secular term” which “has no coherent meaning.” Rather than defend the Church’s well-established teachings on same-sex attraction and sexual sin, he insists that the Church is “afraid of what they don’t understand.”
Perhaps the most scandalous part of this hour-and-a-half talk was the fact that Fr. Massingale was given license to disparage not only the Church, but the whole of Christian Tradition. While the other speakers were participating in the talk, they came nowhere near the perfect arrogance of Massingale, a prince of the Church, who more than suggested that the Church knows nothing—or very little—of sexual sin.
Massingale went on to lead another workshop titled “Sin: From Breaking Rules to Violating Justice.” The full scale of what poisonous nonsense he expounds cannot be put into a few paragraphs. Far be it for me to try and unpack his balderdash on sin; most of it was more about social justice (as the name implies) than about sin. When he did mention sin, it was only in the context of context. What I mean is this: Massingale spent more time talking about how to interpret what sin is than he did about what constitutes sin, or how to avoid it. For example, he breaks down the “childhood understanding” of sin as it relates to an “adult understanding” of sin—because there’s a difference: rules are for children. That’s the basic message.
Aside from completely dismantling centuries of pedagogy about sin, he also manages to impugn the Baltimore Catechism and the Council of Trent on their understandings of sin, going so far as to say, “Sin is a development of the Council of Trent.” It was an early suspicion of mine that he would deny the traditional understanding of sin. I had no idea he would deny the very idea of sin. It would come to light that sin, in Massingale’s world, is merely a breech of contract with God, and that morality had nothing to do with it until the sixteenth century.
There were, of course, other workshops provided by the conference. In addition to some useful content given by groups like Courage, (this organization helps Catholics who struggle with same-sex attraction pursue their vocations in light of Church teaching) and some good talks given by speakers like Fr. Mike Schmitz. There were also number of decent vendors and plenty of wide-awake Catholics who were just as disappointed as I was at the out-and-proud attitude of some dissidents who were invited to speak.
The Religious Education Congress is nothing short of a disaster. With insolent, gay-affirmative priests crying for change, and liberal Ph.D.’s with a soapbox and a bone to pick, it’s no wonder why so many poor and miserable souls are confused about the Church and what she actually teaches. In RE-Congress-land, sin is nothing more than an unavoidable condition of man. To them, sex is an end in itself, gender is fluid and enigmatic, racism and intolerance are the only real mortal sins, love means “mind your own business,” God is only merciful, the Catechism is evil, Trent was an innovation, and the Church has no idea what she’s doing. Welcome to insanity.
Christian Patin is the founder of and head writer for Cathlogic.com, an online lay apostolate dedicated to uncovering and understanding the Catholic faith as it has been traditionally taught over its 2,000-year history. He lives in southern California with his (pregnant) wife of two years, Emily, and their 1-year-old daughter.