The Sin of Scandal at the Houston Co-Cathedral

The Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart is a cathedral and parish in the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Texas. The pastor of the parish is Fr. Lawrence Jozwiak; parish contact information is here. This Roman Catholic archdiocese is led by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, D.D., S.T.L., Archbishop of Galveston-Houston.

This past Tuesday, May 28th, at 7 pm, the diocese permitted the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church to hold a “Service of Commissioning & Ordination” at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, with “Bishop Janice R. Huie preaching”. Here is the official description of the event from the UMC.

According to Catholic teaching, women cannot be ordained as priests or bishops. Also, the United Methodist Church and other Protestant Churches do not have a valid Sacrament of Holy Orders, even for men. So “Bishop Janice R. Huie” is neither a bishop, nor ordained, nor does she have the ability to ordain anyone else.

The diocese and parish erred gravely by permitting this ceremony of attempted ordination at a Roman Catholic cathedral.

The sin of scandal is described in this way in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. the person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.

2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep’s clothing.

2286 Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion.

Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to “social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible.” This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger, or manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values.

2287 Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged. “Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!”

The leaders of the diocese committed the grave sin of scandal, when they permitted a Protestant woman, who claims to be an ordained Bishop and who claims to be able to ordain others, to lead a ceremony of simulated ordination. Especially given the current controversy in the Catholic Church over women’s ordination — with some Catholics claiming that the Church can and should ordain women priests and bishops — permitting a false ordination ceremony led by a woman “bishop” in a Roman Catholic cathedral was scandalous. The event presents the real possibility of leading some Catholics into grave sin, by causing them to think that perhaps the Church will ordain women bishops and priests.

The event also caused scandal because it was a Protestant religious ceremony. Permitting Protestants to hold services in a Catholic cathedral may lead Catholics into the sin of considering all the Christian faiths to be equal.

Moreover, falsely claiming to be a bishop, to be ordained, and to be able to ordain others is each a grave sin. By permitting this ceremony, the leaders of the diocese committed an act of material cooperation. Sometimes material cooperation is a sin, and other times it is justifiable. In this case, moral weight in the circumstances must be given to the scandalous fact that the cathedral was used for a false ordination ceremony by a woman claiming to be a bishop. In addition, the diocese was under no duress to permit the use of the cathedral, and the ceremony could have been held in some other location. The rest of the activities of this annual conference were held elsewhere. So there was no proportionately grave reason to permit the cathedral to be used. Therefore this act of material cooperation was a sin. And given the grave moral weight of the issue of who can ordain, and who can be ordained, the sin is objectively grave.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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24 Responses to The Sin of Scandal at the Houston Co-Cathedral

  1. Ron Conte says:

    A member of a young adult group at the Co-Cathedral spoke with Cardinal DiNardo on the phone. Here is the youth’s description of the conversation:

    I mentioned the fact that the Methodists are pro-gay “marriage” and pro-abortion. He didn’t seem to care. He considered the action to be “ecumenical hospitality” to promote “goodwill” with the Protestants. I told him that he has created scandal. He didn’t care. Said “sorry you’re scandalized”. But I responded “it’s not just me… it’s many young adults.” I suggested he give a public explanation for his actions. He said “well they are your friends, so you tell them.” I said, “I definitely will, but I think it would be more appropriate for you to do it yourself, publicly, so that I don’t misrepresent anything you told me.” He said he’d consider my advice.

  2. I’m open to the idea of a general chastisement.

  3. I remember reading about a certain DiNardo in old issues of the Wanderer. Based on the interaction with the youth above, it reminds me a lot of the way this past DiNardo treated the Latin Mass community back in the day. He’s got the same pattern of latent hostility mixed in with mock concern.

  4. Figueroa says:

    Here is the reply that I got from the Divine Worship Office of the USCCB:


    Dear Mr. Figueroa,

    Thank you for your email. Not knowing the situation, I can’t comment on specifics (and would be very hesitant to say, as you implied below, that the reason this happened was for money), but there are guiding principles that the Church has provided. The Directory on Ecumenical Application from the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity has a relevant paragraph in no. 137:

    137. Catholic churches are consecrated or blessed buildings which have an important theological and liturgical significance for the Catholic community. They are therefore generally reserved for Catholic worship. However, if priests, ministers or communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church do not have a place or the liturgical objects necessary for celebrating worthily their religious ceremonies, the diocesan Bishop may allow them the use of a church or a Catholic building and also lend them what may be necessary for their services. Under similar circumstances, permission may be given to them for interment or for the celebration of services at Catholic cemeteries.

    If the Bishop gave permission for this ceremony to take place, then it would be lawful according to the Church norms, and one can presume that there were sufficiently compelling reasons for him to allow it. That doesn’t mean you or others have to like it, it just means there are circumstances and situations that could warrant it.

    Peace and All Good,
    Fr. Dan

    Fr. Dan Merz
    Associate Director
    Secretariat of Divine Worship
    United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
    3211 4th St. NE
    Washington, DC 20017
    voice: (202) 541-3060
    fax: (202) 541-3088


    I cannot believe that they simply do not care. I am really aggravated by this situation.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Just because an action is permissible, at the Bishop’s discretion, under Canon Law, does not imply that the action is moral.

  5. milksteak says:


  6. Clare says:

    To all who love Christ,

    Today is the feast of the Sacred Heart Jesus. On EWTN they requested we pray rosary for priests. Let us become proactive with prayer and what better than through our powerful weapon, rosary (Blessed Mother).

    Couple it with prayerful actions that call attention to what has happened. Write , make phone calls, all with love though.

    Peace of Christ be with you.

  7. lpc879 says:

    A small group…4…have called Bishop Sheltz…and the Cardinal was fully behind it and nobody questioned it. The same 4 have mailed DiNardo, Apostolic Nuncio to the USA, and a few Catholic Media Outlets.

    Because only 4 of us called in the entire Diocese of Houston the Bishop feels they have no reason to explain and that there is no scandal…

  8. Figueroa says:

    This is very sad, I am one of the few who complained and wrote letters.

  9. Sheryl Witkowski says:

    I just called the chancery… to no avail. Catholics speak with your dollars. Remember this when you get letter after letter regarding the DSF.

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