San Antonio archbishop bans retreat center for ‘false teachings’ against Pope Francis — By: Catholic News Agency

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, of San Antonio. / Credit: Veronicamarkland, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Mar 18, 2024 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller has restricted a local priest and a ministry known as the Mission of Divine Mercy (MDM) for disobedience and for spreading “false teachings,” presented as prophecies, against Pope Francis. 

The apostolate and priest who was sanctioned, meanwhile, are defying the archbishop’s disciplinary measures and have held at least one unsanctioned Mass. 

Garcia-Siller’s disciplinary action follows MDM’s publication of several messages on its website in which the group claimed “God the Father” told one of its members that the pope is a “usurper” and an “enemy of the Church.” 

In response, García-Siller said in a March 15 statement that the group’s “status as a Catholic apostolate of the Archdiocese of San Antonio has been suppressed and revoked by official decree.”

According to the archbishop’s statement, MDM’s founder, Father John Mary Foster, refused to remove the messages from the group’s website despite repeated admonitions, thus breaking his vow of obedience and necessitating that he be barred from publicly practicing his priestly faculties.

Despite the archbishop’s ban, a representative for MDM told CNA that the apostolate plans to continue operating and that Foster celebrated Mass on Sunday.

What did the ‘prophetic messages’ say?

Based in New Braunfels, a town in the Texas Hill Country, MDM has operated as an approved Catholic retreat house and ministry devoted to promoting prayer and contemplating God’s will since 2010. According to García-Siller, the ministry has enjoyed good relations with the archdiocese until now.

Then in February, MDM began posting a series of supposed “prophetic messages” conveyed by “God the Father” to a member of the ministry, identified as “Sister Amapola.”

MDM claimed in one of its website statements that God had a message for priests in which he said: “You have not only let the smoke of Satan infiltrate into My Sanctuary; but you have allowed a whole army of demons to take your places. And you have allowed the usurper to sit on the chair of My Peter — he who is carrying out the Great Treason that will leave My Church desolate.” 

Several other similar messages were posted to the apostolate’s website claiming that the Church was filled with “demons” and “imposters.” 

Foster endorsed the messages, saying in a video that the Church is facing an “extreme crisis,” which he said justifies his disobedience to the archbishop. He pointed to the controversial Vatican document Fiducia Supplicans, which approved blessings for same-sex couples, as an example of “confusion and harm” being sown by Francis.

“From this statement and others of a similar nature that we’ve received, the terrible conclusion seems clear: Bergoglio [Pope Francis] is exercising illegitimate authority and acting as the enemy of Christ and his Church,” Foster said. “Given this extreme crisis, we are obeying God in publishing these messages, even without our archbishop’s permission.”

Archbishop bans MDM

García-Siller issued three official decrees on March 15, barring MDM as an apostolate, removing Foster as the group’s leader, and barring Foster from exercising priestly faculties.

“Whereas the activities of the Reverend FOSTER and the Mission of Divine Mercy have led to confusion and division and have caused grave scandal to the faithful … I WITHDRAW my approval of the ‘Mission of Divine Mercy’ as a Catholic apostolate,” one decree reads.

In so doing, the archbishop restricted the Christian faithful from associating with MDM and ordered that the apostolate not “use the name Catholic or call themselves a Catholic association.”

The archbishop further prohibited Foster from publicly exercising his priestly ministry on MDM grounds and ordered him to enter a “time of spiritual retreat” for six months. The decree said that if Foster violated the prohibition, he could face a total ban on publicly exercising his priestly ministry in the archdiocese.

The archdiocese declined to comment further on the matter, directing CNA to the archbishop’s decrees and statement.

According to the decrees, Foster and MDM have 10 days to appeal the archbishop’s decision.

MDM continues to defy archbishop

Emily Jebbia, a representative for MDM, told CNA that despite the archbishop’s ban, Foster celebrated Mass at the New Braunfels retreat center on Sunday. According to Jebbia, the Mass was attended by about 450 people, which she said is more than double the amount at a normal Sunday service. 

Jordan McMorrough, a representative for the archdiocese, confirmed with CNA that the Mass was in violation of the bishop’s decree. 

Jebbia said that though MDM has yet to confer with canon lawyers since the archbishop’s decree, apostolate staff plan to continue their ministry.

Jebbia said that MDM has previously had a “cordial” relationship with García-Siller and that they take the archbishop’s statement seriously. Nevertheless, she said that “given that we think this is an unprecedented situation in the Church, we have to act in an unprecedented way in obedience to what we believe God has asked us to do.”

Asked if MDM hopes to reconcile with the archbishop, Jebbia said “yes,” but she qualified her response by saying: “We hope that the [arch]bishop will be open to what is happening here at the mission.”

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