EVANSVILLE, Ind. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Church Militant is not to be listened to and is "certainly not of God," said the vicar general of the diocese of Evansville, Indiana — a pastor whose parish has become increasingly liberal since the installation of Bp. Joseph Siegel in December 2017.
Church Militant spoke with Catholics in the diocese, on condition of anonymity, about the controversy.
Fr. Bernie Etienne, the vicar general of the Evansville diocese and pastor at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, gave a Sunday homily covering themes characteristic of the pastoral staff at his parish but in a more progressive manner than usual.
Father Etienne, whose brother Paul Etienne was appointed archbishop of Seattle by Pope Francis in 2019, touched on ambiguous liberal themes such as "welcoming" and "inclusion" before launching into a tirade against "ultra-conservatism."
The pastor spoke of the schism occurring in the United Methodist Church (UMC) over homosexuality and same-sex "marriage."
According to Etienne, the split is being caused exclusively and entirely by the "ultra-conservative faction" present in the UMC, the faction affirming the sinful nature of homosexual acts and opposing same-sex "marriage."
Etienne implied a parallel between the conservative faction in the UMC and Church Militant, inasmuch as he thinks both are working for division.
He insisted the congregation not listen to Church Militant, which he said is "certainly not of God."
His parish, Holy Rosary, includes some openly homosexual couples. Etienne baptized a child being raised by a lesbian couple who attend his parish.
Section 1255 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
For the grace of baptism to unfold, the parents' help is important. So too is the role of the godfather and godmother, who must be firm believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized — child or adult on the road of Christian life. Their task is a truly ecclesial function (officium). The whole ecclesial community bears some responsibility for the development and safeguarding of the grace given at baptism.
Further explaining this instruction, the Compendium to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (p. 461) explains:
Assurances must be given that the gift thus granted can grow by an authentic education in the faith and Christian life, in order to fulfill the true meaning of the sacrament. ... But if these assurances are not really serious there can be grounds for delaying the sacrament; and if they are certainly non-existent the sacrament should even be refused.
Church Militant reached out to Etienne multiple times for comment and an elaboration on how the apostolate is "not of God," but received no response as of press time.
One Evansville Catholic said Etienne is approachable and seemingly conservative on most social topics, making the increased rhetoric of Sunday's homily more jarring than usual.
The source further explained that Sunday's homily, as well as Holy Rosary's ill-considered inclusion of people living lives that contradict Catholic Church teaching, creates confusion.
Much of that confusion fosters an environment in which parochial teachers must guard their language and find indirect ways to teach Catholicism at a Catholic school, while parents trying to raise their children Catholic have to unteach their children some of what the parish is teaching by word and deed.