DUBLIN – Here’s the thing right now about the Dublin neighborhood where a Vatican-sponsored “World Meeting of Families” is set to open Wednesday morning: Just walking down the streets is an education in the staggering diversity of Catholicism.
Keep your eyes and ears open, and you’ll catch a little bit of everything. Proof of the point came midday Tuesday as my Crux colleagues Inés San Martín, Chris White and I were returning from lunch when we caught sight of a striking-looking priest by the name of Father Isaac Relyea sitting with a group of people at a local pub.
Born and raised in Queens in New York, Relyea now lives in Alabama and moves in traditionalist Catholic circles, including people attached to the old Latin Mass. He’s in Dublin this week because he believes the World Meeting of Families isn’t offering the “full truth” of the Catholic faith and, thereby, putting people’s souls at risk.
His magnificent beard alone was reason enough to stop for a chat, but it turned out Relyea also had a fair bit to say.
He and his friends are staging a procession around the meeting site every day at 11:00 a.m., praying the rosary and distributing leaflets both critiquing the teaching of Pope Francis in his 2016 document on the family, Amoris Laetitia, and also spreading the word about the revelations of Our Lady of Fatima.
(As an aside, they said they tried to get a booth in the World Meeting exhibit hall and were quoted a price, but were eventually told space was no longer available – with some in the group chalking that up to logistical problems, and others to conscious exclusion.)
On Amoris, Relyea certainly doesn’t pull any punches.
“It’s clearly a heretical document, with its footnotes and all,” he told Crux. “It promotes sacrilegious Communion, and no pope in history has ever before promoted sacrilegious Communion.”
The group around Relyea coalesced through a network inspired by the Fatima Center, founded by the late Father Nicholas Gruner and generally drawing people convinced that the Vatican either hasn’t told the full truth about Mary’s 1917 revelations, or acted in accord with them, or both.
Relyea was openly skeptical about the World Meeting, saying he understands why his small band would be seen as “controversial.”
“We’re controversial because we’re Catholic,” he said, “in the full sense of the word. When you do that, you’re going to be persecuted, especially in a society that’s more and more paganized.”
The threat of rubbing people the wrong way, however, clearly isn’t stopping the 58-year-old priest clad in a flowing blue robe.
“In times of heresy you have to take a stand and speak the truth, in season and out,” he said, adding this pointed injunction: “As Catholics we’re called to be witness of the true gospel, not the one people make up.”
Relyea emphasized that the standard the World Meeting and Francis should be striving to meet is presenting “100 percent” of the truth, because, he said, that’s what Christ wants – not “85 percent, event 99 percent.”
“The Devil doesn’t care if you’re a flaming liberal doing what you want and denying every article of the faith,” he said. “That’s fine, and he’ll take it, but if you deny just one article of the faith he’s got you.”
While being vague on the details, Relyea said he’d been away from the faith for 17 years doing some fairly shady things (apparently, they involved motorcycles and the mob), only to return through what he says was the devotion of his mother to Our Lady of Fatima.
“Since the Second Vatican Council, they’ve said we don’t want that stuff,” Relyea said, referring to what devotees believe was an instruction by Mary to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
“But in the end the pope will do it and Russia will convert,” Relyea said, exuding the sort of confidence that’s led him and legions of other dreamers and activists to converge on Dublin this week.