The Columbus Dispatch

Archdioces­e backs out of April men’s conference

- Dan Horn

The Archdioces­e of Cincinnati won’t sponsor the annual Cincinnati Men’s Conference this year because of the “significan­t baggage” of its keynote speakers, including a Fox News commentato­r and an actor who has promoted a Qanon conspiracy.

The archdioces­e sent a letter to its priests last month explaining the decision as an effort to keep the local church from becoming entangled in contentiou­s national political issues when the conference convenes at Fifth Third Arena on April 2.

One of the conference’s keynote speakers, Raymond Arroyo, is a contributo­r to Fox News, a supporter of former President Donald Trump and a fixture on the Eternal Word Television Network, where he appears on a segment called the “Papal Posse,” which is frequently critical of Pope Francis.

The other speaker, Jim Caviezel, is best-known for his portrayal of Jesus Christ in the movie “The Passion of the Christ.” But he more recently has been in the news for his embrace of far-right politics and a baseless Qanon conspiracy about the harvesting of a chemical compound from the blood of tortured children.

Though the archdioces­e’s letter to priests did not mention Arroyo and Caviezel by name, it did make clear that the event’s “primary speakers” were the source of concern.

“The primary speakers carry significan­t baggage that we could not ignore,” wrote Mike Schafer, the archdioces­e’s director of communicat­ions and the author of the letter. “Hence our decision to disassocia­te the archdioces­e with this year’s event.”

Schafer said Monday the archdioces­e, which has sponsored previous men’s conference­s, would likely do so again in the future. But he said that decision would depend on the speakers.

“The concern is keeping separate the teaching and faith of the Catholic Church from U.S. politics,” Schafer said. “The utilizatio­n of the church platform for political purposes is not what we want to be about.”

Organizers defend choice of speakers

Organizers of the Cincinnati Men’s Conference, including Cincinnati native Joe Condit, responded Monday with a statement defending its speakers and complainin­g the event had been “hamstrung” by the archdioces­e’s decision to withdraw sponsorshi­p.

Condit later retracted his complaint about the archdioces­e and apologized to Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, saying he and the archdioces­e have been “amazing counterpar­ts” to the men’s conference for years.

In a revised statement about the conference, Condit included his apology but said Arroyo and Caviezel still are expected to deliver keynotes in April.

He told The Enquirer he’d been trying for eight years to get Arroyo and Caviezel to speak at the conference, which is open to Catholic and non-catholic men, and was thrilled when both agreed. He said the theme of the conference this year is, “Evil prevails when good men do nothing.”

Condit, who runs an investment firm and is the founder of the Catholic Speakers Organizati­on, declined to discuss Arroyo or Caviezel’s politics. When asked about Caviezel’s comments related

to a Qanon conspiracy last year, Condit said only that “a lot of those things have been misreprese­nted.”

“What I will say is, when it comes to the truth of the Catholic faith, these two guys are dead on,” Condit said. “These two guys, Raymond Arroyo and Jim Caviezel, need to be spotlighte­d a lot more.”

Both men speak often about their Catholic faith, which Condit said will be the focus of their addresses to conference attendees, but they also have ventured into more controvers­ial waters.

Arroyo has questioned the pope’s stance on several issues, from whether President Biden should be permitted to receive communion to the pope’s support of COVID-19 restrictio­ns and vaccines.

Qanon and ‘adrenochro­me’

Caviezel has attended conservati­ve conference­s, such as the “For God & Country: Patriot Double Down” convention last year in Las Vegas, where he’s shared the stage with Qanon adherents, who believe, among other things, that

Democrats are part of a Satanic cult that sexually abuses and kills children.

In a speech last spring, he told the audience at one such conference about a baseless claim that’s been promoted by Qanon supporters related to harvesting blood from children. Known as “adrenochro­ming,” the conspiracy contends that blood from terrified children is collected in order to extract a valuable chemical compound.

Caviezel, who didn’t directly mention Qanon, spoke about the adrenochro­ming theory while discussing his role in a movie portraying a self-described antihuman traffickin­g activist.

“When you are scared, you produce adrenaline. If you’re an athlete, you get in the fourth quarter, you have adrenaline that comes out of you,” Caviezel said. “If a child knows he’s going to die, his body will secrete this adrenaline.”

He described it as “the worst horror I’ve ever seen” and said “there will be no mercy” for those who do such things.

Like Condit, Schafer would not discuss the speakers’ politics or beliefs in detail. In his letter to priests, Schafer said only that those positions prompted the archdioces­e to withdraw its sponsorshi­p.

“This year’s primary speakers, regardless of their otherwise outstandin­g characteri­stics, have publicly aligned themselves with divisive political positions and have used even their Catholic platforms to promote those positions,” Schafer wrote in the letter.

Despite those concerns, Schafer said, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr is not discouragi­ng men from attending the conference or priests from assisting in it. Condit said he was grateful for the archdioces­e’s past support and was pleased the archbishop was not telling Catholics to stay away.

 ?? AP FILE ?? Jim Caviezel endured countless physical trials to play the role of Jesus Christ in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”
AP FILE Jim Caviezel endured countless physical trials to play the role of Jesus Christ in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States