Faithful NC Priest Resigns After Two Years of Strife


Parishioner: “It is my belief that Father Riehl was run off by some snooty Liberals who didn’t care for his traditional approach to the Mass”

by Anita Carey • ChurchMilitant • June 7, 2017

WAYNESVILLE, N.C. – After two years of serving the parishioners of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Waynesville, North Carolina, the pastor is claiming he is “worn out” and is stepping down.

Since his appointment in 2015, Fr. Christopher Riehl has been attempting to instill a sense of authentic Catholic identity in his parish in the remote western region of North Carolina. Instantly met with resistance from parishioners who refused to accept his pastoral care, Fr. Riehl has been in a two-year battle over the parish. In a personal message to his parish on Facebook posted June 4, he wrote, “I have found that I am worn out or burned out and for my own well being need to take a sabbatical.”

Deleted Facebook thread from former parishioner

Father Riehl continues, “There was no incident or event, just a feeling that I need some time away from full parish ministry. I have absolutely no questions or doubts about my vocation to the priesthood of Christ.”

For the parishioners that have remained, most are saddened by Fr. Riehl’s resignation and wish him well. Anne Trachtenburg posts, “God bless you, Fr. Riehl. Thank you for the spirituality you brought to our parish and the Mass.”

Thomas Raffo posted on the parish Facebook page, “This is sad and quite disturbing. It is my belief that Father Riehl was run off by some snooty Liberals who didn’t care for his traditional approach to the Mass.”

Isabel Gonzalez Valuja, one of the former parishioners, disagreed with Raffo over the claim that she and her husband were liberal, posting, “We are not LIBERALS, we are ‘conservative republicans’ [sic].”

Church Militant spoke with David Hains, director of communications for the diocese of Charlotte. He confirmed that the most recent numbers, including Mass count and religious education for Fr. Riehl’s parish, were “up significantly.” Hains did admit there was a lot of turmoil in the parish and that it was of a “personal nature” he was not at liberty to discuss. He explained there is a rapid growth in the diocese from an influx of Hispanics and that reports of “a split” were false. He claimed the priests of the diocese are faithful to the Magisterium and most of them are more traditionally minded.

Church Militant reported on the situation in December 2015, obtaining an exclusive interview with Mark Zaffrann, a parishioner and supporter of Fr. Riehl. He stated that the National un-Catholic Reporter (NCR), a heterodox publication, inaccurately portrayed the disagreement.

“What really happened, I believe, is that a small group of people convinced others to just reject him and convinced them — or tried to convince them — that if we just band together we can get a new guy,” he remarked. Zaffrann recalled this occurred “because obviously they chose not to like him from the day he walked in the door.”

Father Riehl attempted to restore Gregorian chant and implement a more reverent Mass, angering a small group of parishioners who claimed the priest was refusing to “respect” Vatican II. This small group circulated a petition against Riehl, gaining 140 signatures to present to Bp. Peter Jugis of the Charlotte diocese. The bishop, however, supported Fr. Riehl and refused to remove him.

Two years later, a small band of former parishioners calling themselves the “church in exile” began to meet regularly. They continue to be vocal opponents of all attempts at restoration of a real sense of Catholicism in the parish. In January, the NCR profiled the group, documenting their continued defiance of the priest and ignorance of true Catholic teaching. The NCR sympathized with the group and applauded their efforts at “fighting back” against the “restorationists,” painting traditional priests in a negative light.

“They have what some perceive as a fetish for elaborate liturgical vestments and other externals, such as the routine wearing of cassocks and birettas,” the article claims.

The article lists their complaints:

Their de facto pastor told the mostly cradle Catholics they had been doing everything all wrong. The liturgy — overwhelmed with popular contemporary hymns and such standbys as “Amazing Grace” — was not deemed Catholic enough. Veteran catechists were told they weren’t teaching traditional Catholicism. A blind parishioner, holding her guide dog with one hand and seeking Communion with the other, was told she lacked proper reverence. The host was stuck into her mouth.

The self-professed “exile” group have compiled their grievances into a binder and have sent copies to Pope Francis, Bp. Jugis, Cdl. Blase Cupich of Chicago, Papal Nuncio Abp. Christophe Pierre. They have said their attempts to meet with Bp. Jugis have been “rebuffed” and requests have gone “unheeded.” The bishop responded to the NCR in January, claiming, “All have been listened to.”

Hains did alert Church Militant that Fr. Riehl was on loan from the diocese of Nashville and did not have any information as to where he would be taking his sabbatical or what his next assignment would be.

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  1. Posted by Laramie Hirsch on Wednesday, June 7, 2017

    Catholic Priest Retreats, Gives Way to Modernist Advancement

    A few other ideas I had for the title of this post were:

    ~How To Lose A Cultural War
    ~What Happens When Pretending There Is No War
    ~Luciferian Modernist Advancement Continue, Catholics Lose Again

    Out ya go, Fr. Riehl!

    I spoke in April about how a Father Christopher Riehl had accepted the duty of performing Catholic missionary work in North Carolina, bringing true Catholicism to the confused people of his parish under the benevolent leadership of Bishop Peter Jugis. But guess what? The Baby Boomers win again!

    The Charlotte Observer has recently reported that Fr. Riehl of St. John the Evangelist parish complains of being “worn out or burned out,” and that he’s taking a sabbatical.

    How brave.

    A group calling itself Appalachian Catholics in the Smoky Mountain Region said in a statement earlier this year that Riehl and some other conservative priests assigned by Jugis to small parishes in the mountains “seem to be more intent on taking the church back to pre-Vatican ll days rather than minister to the people. They seem to be steeped in doctrine and theology, but are unwilling to participate in ecumenical activities, and are lacking in compassion, love and mercy. They are doing the job of the theologian, but not the job of the pastor. This is directly opposed to what Pope Francis and Vatican II are teaching us.”

    Well yaaay for the Appalachian Catholics in the Smoky Mountains! What a victory they can now celebrate! The triumphalist has been expunged, and the precious, silver-haired faithful can continue worshipping Christ in the manner they see fit, without any real demands made of them.

    Of course, Riehl is claiming that his leaving isn’t prompted by anything other than his need to take some time away from parish ministry. However, the Diocese of Charlotte has stated that they don’t think Fr. Riehl will be assigned anywhere in that diocese again.

    You will have FrancisChurch.

    Of course, this Baby Boomer victory is to the detriment of younger Catholics who crave for some kind of a link to the Church’s past. The Baby Boomers are doing whatever they can to ensure that all past associations to the Church of Christendom is wiped clean, sterilized, unrecognizable, and similar in most ways to Protestant worship.

    I find it peculiar how, even here in Tulsa, the Baby Boomers breathed a sigh of relief to see that Bishop Slattery–who was a friend to Traditional Catholicism–finally retired from the diocese. To this day, I still hear from the elderly Boomers that they’re glad he’s gone, and that they hope the “modern reforms” will become in vogue once more.

    Catholicism will continue to lose, so long as priests and laity continue to retreat in a war they do not even realize is being waged against them. The current environment in Trad Land is one in which different people make compromises, betray one another, animosities grow, and various people pensively keep their heads down in “defense mode” while various ridiculous things sprout up here and there. So as long as this remains the pervading environment, we will continue to see defeat after defeat, routs, abdications, embarrassments, ostracization, overthrown strongholds, and effeminate weakness.

    In order to make the gains necessary to actually win in this cultural war, priests and laity must accept that they will have to sacrifice their comfort and reputations. They will have to suffer financially. They will have to accept ridicule in the media. They will have to accept the pressure of hundreds if not thousands of dissenting, hateful voices screaming at them.

    If Catholics cannot take this kind of abuse, then we lose.

  2. The big problem for any diocesan priest is the mind-split of being bi-ritual, the Mass of Ages vs the kooky party Mass. You can dress up the N.O., go ad orientem, but you’ll be stuck giving Communion in the hand. Can he assuage his conscience that he’s following orders? It works for some, but must eventually wear on him. All the petty invective from the “offended” parishioners just proves how imperative it is to do the right thing, and not compromise. Maybe Fr. Riehl should have stuck it out, but maybe he simply had to quit the N.O.

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