The biting priest: A follow-up

I’m angrier than a Catholic priest who’s ready to say Mass, but no one showed up.  That’s because a woman called the St. Cloud Florida Police Department about a priest who, by his diocese’s own admission, bit a parishioner after she tried to forcibly take Communion, despite the fact that Fr. Fidel Rodriguez denied her because she hadn’t gone to Confession.  She was clearly in the wrong, yet Fr. Rodriquez is the one who’s being persecuted.

This article is a follow-up to one that I wrote yesterday regarding the, shall we say, unique situation.  I was going to post an update at the end of the article, but so much information in response to my Freedom of Information Act requests that a new article is warranted.  By the way, I come bearing bodycam footage, so feel free to read the whole article.

First, a statement from the Diocese of Orlando came in:

The parish responded this morning with a referral to the diocese’s statement on the matter.  It’s a lengthy one, but here we go:

“On Sunday, May 19, at the 10 a.m. Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in St. Cloud, a woman came through Father Fidel Rodriguez’s Holy Communion line and appeared unaware of the proper procedure. After a brief exchange with the woman, it was determined that she was neither prepared nor disposed to participate in Communion. Father Rodriguez gave the woman a blessing and advised her to receive the Sacrament of Penance (Confession) before coming back to receive Holy Communion (Eucharist).

The same woman arrived at 12 p.m. Mass on Sunday and stood in Father Rodriguez’s Communion line. Father Rodriguez asked if she had been to the Sacrament of Penance (Confession), to which she stated it was not his business. At that time, Father Rodriguez offered the woman Holy Communion on the tongue.

At that point, the woman forcefully placed her hand in the vessel and grabbed some sacred Communion hosts, crushing them. Having only one hand free, Father Rodriguez struggled to restrain the woman as she refused to let go of the hosts.

When the woman pushed him and reacting to a perceived act of aggression, Father Rodriguez bit her hand so she would let go of the hosts she grabbed. The woman was immediately asked to leave.

It should be noted Father Rodriguez had no prior knowledge of the woman’s background. Further, while the Diocese of Orlando does not condone physical altercations such as this, in good faith, Father Rodriguez was simply attempting to prevent an act of desecration of the Holy Communion, which, as a priest, Father Rodriguez is bound by duty to protect.  

The full video and the police report show the woman initiated physical contact and acted inappropriately. The priest was trying to protect the Holy Communion from this sacrilegious act.

In the Catholic Tradition, the Eucharist is considered “the source and summit” of worship and faith. The act of participation in Holy Communion therefore calls for a proper understanding, reverence, and devotion. It is not something a person can arbitrarily demand and is certainly not a mere “cookie” as the complainant called it.

The Diocese of Orlando believes all people of all faiths should be respected and that their religious ceremonies or services should never be disrupted.  

NOTE: There will be no comment on the campus of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in St. Cloud. We kindly ask all members of the media to remain off property.”

The request for media to not step onto Church property is telling.  It’s telling me that some media outlets don’t know how to respectfully treat a church’s property.

I agree fully with the statement.  Fr. Rodriquez had a right and a duty to protect the host and the wafers as they are literally the body of Christ.  Was biting her the best decision?  For the most part, and in most cases, no.  But this was a different situation altogether.  He had no other choice.

Hopefully, there are criminal charges pending against his accuser and hopefully, the charges against him will be immediately dropped.

The incident report, which is public record, states that the incident happened on May 19th, and states that there was an arrest, but in response to my request for a clarification, the PIO stated that the standardized form has default spaces for arrest information.  He confirmed that, as of today, no arrest has been made.

The arresting officer, per the incident report, was Joseph Nas.

In Nas’ report, he reported the allegations of a woman who painted herself as a victim.  Rodriquez denied her Communion because she hadn’t completed the steps necessary (Reconciliation, i.e. Confession) to receive Communion.

The person who filed the report stated that she had, in fact, completed all the steps.  At this point, or so she says, Rodriquez became angry and “shoved the cookie in her mouth.”  First things first: there was no “cookie.”  It was and always is a wafer.  Big difference.  Hell, if they served cookies at Mass, they might as well serve milk too.  Clearly, Nas is not Catholic.

Fr. Rodriquez advised that the supposed victim “got upset and attacked him.”  The Father then advised that, by he was defending the host per the Catholic Church’s teachings.  The host, or the wafers, are considered to be literally the body of Christ, so he had a duty to protect it, which he was clearly trrying to do.

The Father admitted to biting her on her arm.  This, according to the report, after she “shoved” him and tried to grab the tray.  Witnesses backed up Fr. Rodriquez’ account of the incident and they advised that there was video footage of the situation.

In the report, Rodriquez faces potential charges for Battery- Simple touch or strike.

Nas stated that the matter has been turned over to the State Attorney’s Office for review and potential action.

I did get another interesting thing.  A link to bodycam footage was included in the PIO’s email.  And boy, howdy, did they send footage!  I appreciate their transparency.

In this footage, we see an unidentified woman showing police what she says shows the incident itself.  The video does start off with no audio, but I am including it anyway.  The woman, who is unidentified, but seems to be affiliated with the parish, moves her phone towards the police officer and you indeed can see the footage.  At about two minutes in, you can see clearer footage as one of the officers holds the phone towards his bodycam.  Good thinking!

In this second video, the accuser and an unidentified woman are seen speaking to a police officer, with the woman flat out accusing Fr. Rodriguez of biting her.  The accuser got straight to the point: “we want to press charges.”  One of the woman called the wafter a “cookie,” or “bread.”

Here is bodycam footage that shows Fr. Rodriquez filling out paperwork and talking to police officers.  It may seem mundane, but I wanted to show his side of the story.

Again, neither terms are correct.  It’s a wafer.  A true Catholic would know that.  The footage goes on to show the woman filling out paperwork.  Pretty standard stuff.  The officer’s amazement is obvious.  I mean, a priest biting someone doesn’t happen all that often, if ever.   But in this case, it should be obvious to all Catholics that he merely did what he had to do.

In a fourth video, the accuser receives medical attention.  Drama queen!  I received more footage, but I’ve decided that they aren’t relevant to this article.

All of these videos are on my YouTube channel.

Right now, that’s about all there is to this story.  The matter is being investigated, but as of right now, Fr. Rodriquez has not been arrested and is presumed innocent.  I fully support the Father, and it’s my opinion that the accuser had what was coming to her.  Forcibly touching a priest and then trying to take Communion by force?  Of course he had to defend himself and the host!

Also, it seems to me that Fr. Rodriquez has grounds to press charges on her, but because the Church’s teachings on forgiveness, he probably is prohibited from doing so.  She’s so lucky, because it’s my opinion that she assaulted him and thusly, he was provoked and had every right to defend himself and the host.

We’ll see how this story turns out, but for now, this is case of a priest doing the right thing.