At the end of June, the Lepanto Institute sent someone to scope out the heretical Association of US Catholic Priests’ (AUSCP) Annual Assembly in Baltimore, MD, take pictures, listen in on the talks, and obtain whatever literature they could get their hands on. The biggest discovery was the fact that for the first time an office of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) was present at the AUSCP’s Annual Assembly.
Now, this is hardly surprising since the AUSCP has the support of prelates like Cardinal Cupich, Cardinal Gregory, Archbishop Wester, Archbishop Hartmeyer, Archbishop Carlson, Bishop McElroy, Bishop Stowe, and others. Abp. Wester actually serves as the AUSCP’s “episcopal moderator” (basically, a liaison to the USCCB) and Bp. Stowe is an actual AUSCP member.
Parishes without Priests
But the office we found tabling at the AUSCP’s Assembly was the USCCB’s Office of Certification for Ecclesial Ministry, the significance of which will become apparent in a moment. The AUSCP has proposed a plan for “priestless parishes,” where individual parishes would be run by lay “pastoral leaders,” both men and women, who would handle all the regular parish duties, except for the Sacraments. These pastoral leaders, the AUSCP says, “must lead worship where appropriate, and likewise break open the Word.” Our full report on this can be read here.
Leading worship and “break[ing] open the Word” are broad terms, but what it appears to mean is that without a priest around, these lay pastoral leaders would officiate some kind of Eucharistic service (like on Good Friday, where it is a Communion service without Mass), and preach on the Gospel (currently restricted ONLY to priests).
The AUSCP then says that these pastoral leaders, “in a larger framework, would show how the priesthood of the future might discern proven individuals.”
The AUSCP has already indicated that these pastoral leaders would include women, so what they mean by “proven individuals” and “priesthood of the future” is quite clear. But they don’t just come right out and say it, and the reason for that is rather plain; if they admit they are paving the way for women’s ordination to the priesthood, they would clearly not be “priests in good standing.” So, to further the agenda, they have to walk it right up to the line without overtly crossing it. It reminds me of the passage from the Alta Vendita to those infiltrating the Church:
You will contrive for yourselves, at little cost, a reputation as good Catholics and pure patriots. This reputation will put access to our doctrines into the midst of the young clergy, as well as deeply into the monasteries.
“Women Preachers” and Other Projects
Consider, here, a few other things the AUSCP is working toward. The AUSCP is also deeply involved in the promotion of women’s ordination to the diaconate. They are partners with an organization called “Discerning Deacons,” which was also present at the AUSCP’s Assembly this year. They also work closely with FutureChurch and Voice of the Faithful on the issue of women’s ordination to the diaconate. Concomitant with that, the AUSCP is very active with a program of FutureChurch called “Catholic Women Preach,” whose flyers were also present at the Assembly.
By promoting the idea that women should be allowed to preach at Mass, and that women should be “ordained” to the diaconate, the AUSCP thinks itself “safe” from the charge of heresy or even dissent from authentic Church teaching since these appear to be matters of discipline that can be changed, rather than dogmas that cannot change. And logically, if a woman could be allowed to preach at Mass or be “ordained” as a deacon, and then established as “pastoral leaders” in a priestless parish, then she would have all the appearances of priestesses without actually being one. And from there, she could then be considered one of those “proven individuals” who might be considered for the “priesthood of the future.”
But there are other things beyond this that the AUSCP is working toward that tie in as well. For instance, the AUSCP just sent a “Gospel of Non-Violence” to the Vatican, seeking approval for use to replace parts of the Mass. We’ll be writing an article on this soon but suffice it to say that re-working the Mass itself is another one of their projects.
The AUSCP is also involved with the push to normalize homosexuality in the Church, making homosexuals and transgenders acceptable to parishioners. Additionally, the AUSCP is hoping that homosexual priests can be normalized as well. And while they don’t outright call for the acceptance of homosexual acts, they are once again walking that ideological tightrope, paving the way to the conclusion without overtly addressing it.
The AUSCP’s other agendas include syncretistic ideologies (pushing the idea that all religions are good and acceptable in and of themselves), and hard-left political agendas like open borders, white guilt, and socialistic environmentalism.
But the thing that makes sense of these scattered agendas is the recent discovery of a connection to the USCCB. On the surface, what we see is that the USCCB office that tabled at the AUSCP event would be the one responsible for certifying “pastoral leaders,” should a time come when priestless parishes becomes an adopted idea. And don’t think it won’t happen, it’s already being tried by Bp. Caggiano (current chairman of Catholic Relief Services) in Bridgeport, CT. However, when we step back and see the larger picture, what comes into view is that each of these seemingly disparate agendas become shards of a mosaic, and the connection to the USCCB is the key to seeing it.
We’ve been exposing the grave problems with the AUSCP since 2015 and yet a cadre of bishops (who hold abominable ideologies in common) continue to maintain a relationship with and provide cover for this group of deviant priests. And even though the AUSCP’s agenda continues to chip away at the Catholic faith in the United States in more and more obvious ways, the bishops maintain their relationships and continue on as if there isn’t a problem.
I’ve said before that the AUSCP is the shock troops of the “New Church,” and it’s now more obvious than ever. Remember what Pope Francis said to a group in Paraguay in 2013? He said:
Make a mess, but then also help to tidy it up. A mess which gives us a free heart, a mess which gives us solidarity, a mess which gives us hope.
The role of the AUSCP is to make a mess, and then clean up and reorder things afterward. Once again, it is the whole “order out of chaos” approach to change. What the AUSCP does is collaborate with certain cardinals and bishops, proposing bizarre changes in the Church to those prelates who encourage the same. Why would the AUSCP be proposing something to cardinals and bishops that said cardinals and bishops already support? The answer is a little more simple and a lot more devious than it may seem.
The Synodality Connection
In February, we reported the fact that the AUSCP is actively involved in the Synod on Synodality. If the cardinals and bishops, like Cupich, Wester, McElroy, etc, are the ones setting the agenda, then the AUSCP is acting as the local agitator encouraging an apparent groundswell at synod events and listening sessions, giving the appearance that the “sensus fidelium” desires the changes they, themselves have proposed (which of course twists this doctrine to promote “democratic” change).
But to what end? What is it they are trying to achieve? As many ask, since they don’t actually believe what the Church teaches, why don’t they just leave and found their own church, or join one of the established Protestant churches?
At the end of the day, what they desire is to destroy the Catholic Church herself, and we know this because they have said as much.
In 2018, we gathered materials from one of their annual assemblies, and one of the pamphlets we obtained was a leaflet by the AUSCP on Vatican II.
The inside of the AUSCP document explains that its mission is to enact “constructive efforts” to build up a new church in place of the old one, establishing a new foundation with new pillars. Here’s what the AUSCP says:
Theologian Hermann Pottmeyer views our Vatican II era as ‘an unfinished building site’ similar to the building of a new St. Peter’s Basilica during the 1500s.
Construction began with the laying of a foundation and erection of pillars and walls around the old basilica of Constantine. That prepared the way for roof and dome to complete the new outer structure. That took decades. Meanwhile, the old church stayed in place, conditioning the progress of the new. Once the external structure was complete, the old basilica was removed.
Similarly, Pottmeyer sees Vatican II as designing a new church to develop around the existing one. The Council’s 16 documents laid a new foundation. The four constitutions on Liturgy, Church, Revelation and Church in the Modern World are the new pillars.
Consolidating and finishing a renewed church, inside and out, continues. Like St. Peter’s and the works of previous Councils, it is a work of centuries.
Much remains to be done. We are all part of the renewal team. This divine project – building up the People of God for our era – is the challenge of our time. AUSCP’s mission is to help us all respond to that challenge by working together as one.
This AUSCP handout closes by stating that it was created to build up this “new church.” It says:
We ALL need to be involved. We ALL need to work together with our leadership to accomplish the Spirit’s mission of building up the Church of our time [emphasis added], the People of God.
AUSCP WAS CREATED TO HELP US DO THAT. [Emphasis original.]
Be part of this great work of our lives – building a holy and truly Catholic church for our age. [Emphasis added.]
It should come as no surprise that one of the songs heard coming from the AUSCP conference hall is titled “Sing a New Church,” the refrain of which is:
Let us bring the gifts that differ
and, in splendid, varied ways,
sing a new Church into being,
one in faith and love and praise.
The bottom line is this: the AUSCP is attempting to tear down Holy Mother Church, replacing her with an ape. They want a church where priests and laity are co-equals (see their document on clericalism), where women can lead what looks like the Mass (and possibly become priestesses), where the Sacrament of penance is a community event (see their document on the use of the “third rite” of penance) – and they are operating with the assistance of highly influential prelates.
This is why we work so hard to expose this organization for what it is and what they do! Imagine what would have happened if, in 1976, the Call to Action Conference had been fully exposed to the laity in advance of the conference and its agendas! We might have been able to halt the explosion of clown Masses, butterfly vestments, Buddhist-inspired innovations, and all manner of liturgical abuses. And as horrific as Call to Action was, what the AUSCP is trying to create is far worse.
We’ve collected a ton of material and are working diligently on more reports about the AUSCP’s latest assembly. Please pray for us and pray for Holy Mother Church.
Michael Hichborn is the president of the Lepanto Institute. Formerly, Michael spent nearly eight years as American Life League’s Director of the Defend the Faith project. He has researched and produced countless articles and reports on the funding of abortion, birth control, homosexuality and Marxism by Catholic Relief Services and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).
Michael holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Christendom College in Political Science and Economics and a Master’s degree in Education from American Intercontinental University.
Michael lives in Virginia with his wife, Alyssa, and their seven children.