In The Line of Fire: Fr. John Rizzo, Ex-SSPX
by Michael J. Mazza
Fidelity Magazine, May 1995 Issue
(Note: We have condensed what follows from the original article written by Michael J. Mazza. We have left the story of Fr. Rizzo essentially intact, but we have removed Mr. Mazza's commentary on the SSPX being in schism because Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated four bishops on June 30, 1988. While we agree that the SSPX is indeed in schism, it is our conclusion that they are in schism not because of the consecration of bishops, but because of other acts, such as the granting of marriage annulments and the imposing of censures on laypeople. In order to concentrate here on the question of cult-like behaviour in the SSPX, we have decided to treat the whole question of schism elsewhere.)
Fr. John Rizzo woke up early the morning of Monday, February 8, 1993. It was 40 degrees below zero in Crookston, Minnesota, and he could hear the howling winds outside as he vested for the 5:30 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of Sorrows chapel. He had spent the previous night in the basement of the church, but really hadn't slept all that much. The moment of his carefully-planned escape from the Society of St. Pius X was almost upon him; yet his excitement was tempered by an overwhelming anxiety over his immediate future. He had in his pocket exactly $37 and a borrowed credit card, and a long drive ahead of him.
He knew Fr. Harber would be expecting him back at the Society's rectory in Browerville, Minnesota no later than noon, a good three hour drive away. He only hoped Harber wouldn't discover he had emptied his room of all his belongings two nights before, packing them into his Subaru at 2 a.m. so as not to alert anyone of his plans. After Mass, he hopped into his frozen car, thanked God as it turned over on the first try, and sped out of town and south onto interstate 29. Twelve hours and only a couple of rest stops later, he arrived at his brother's house in Bellvue, Kansas. Though exhausted mentally and physically, he was glad to be free and at last out from under the sway of the Society. Or so he thought.
Some days later, he found himself at a Colorado retreat house run by another former priest of the Society. On the night of February 13, he remembers, a phone call came for him. A little surprised, he took the receiver from the seminarian who had answered the phone. The voice at the other end of the line belonged to a man, who said in a deep voice: "If you come anywhere near us, you're one dead priest," and hung up.
THE ACOLYTE WITH AN ATTITUDE
John and his twin brother Joseph Rizzo were born on December 7, 1960 in Weymouth, Massachusetts, the fourth and fifth children (respectively) of Tony and Millie Rizzo. Both attended the parish grade school, St Francis Xavier, until the sixth grade. They were in the same classroom until the second grade, when at last the "nuns in the long habits," the Sisters of Divine Providence, separated them so they could tell them apart. When the Junior high closed due to lack of enrollment in the late 1960s, their parents sent them to the local public school. John and Joe were confirmed in the 9th grade, and voluntarily continued their religious education by attending CCD classes for the next three years until they graduated from Weymouth South High School in 1979.
John had been disturbed by some of the transformations in parish life during his high school years, particularly, he says, "Communion in the hand." So much so, in fact, that when serving as an altar boy he would hold the paten under the chin of all communicants regardless of how they were in fact, receiving.
This practice drew the ire of his pastor, who publicly reprimanded John for his stubbornness. Rizzo's growing alienation with the form of Catholicism he experienced in his parish was to put him in touch with the faction most disaffected by the changes that occurred within the Church in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.
In search of a traditional seminary, John first turned to a family friend, a Boston area priest who had been suspended by the archdiocese for refusing to take an assignment in which he would be expected to offer the Mass in the vernacular. The priest urged the young Rizzo, now 18, to write to Fr. Frederic Nelson in Powers Lake, North Dakota, who in turn recommended he contact a man by the name of Fr. Dan Dolan in Oyster Bay Cove on Long Island, NY. Dolan was a priest of the Society of St. Pius X, an organization begun by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in France in 1970 to "preserve tradition" in the Church in the years following Vatican II.
Shortly before Christmas in 1978, John and his brother Joseph boarded the Amtrak and visited Dolan in Oyster Bay. John remembers feeling uncomfortable with the impromptu atmosphere surrounding the superficial interview process and the aloof attitude of Dolan himself. The two brothers were promptly put to work after they arrived, and remember spending the rest of their four or five days there stuffing envelopes for the Christmas Appeal and moving furniture. Nevertheless, both were happy to be welcomed into the Society's six-year seminary program, which was at that time moving from Armada, Michigan to Ridgefield, Connecticut.
Though his brother Joe left after a year ("I was there for the wrong reasons"), John Rizzo stayed. He was receiving sound formation in Catholic spirituality, philosophy, and theology: training which he now credits with helping him discern years later the reasons for leaving the Society.
Fr. Rizzo was ordained a priest on May 19, 1985 in Ridgefield. He spent the first two years of his priesthood in England, teaching catechism classes and offering the Tridentine Mass across the country. In 1987 he was made pastor of a Society parish in Post Falls, Idaho.
A short time after this, Fr. Rizzo made a visit to his brother's house in Kansas. While he was there, he met Fr. Ramon Angles, the new rector of the parish and school at St. Mary's. In August of 1989, Rizzo met with Angles in his private apartment on campus. After settling down in their chairs with their drinks, they began a rather ordinary conversation. John describes:
"All of a sudden, without any provocation whatsoever, he got up and went over to his bookshelf. He pulled out this huge book with the title The Life of Adolf Hitler and a big picture of Hitler on the cover giving his salute. He put it on the bridge of his nose, the same way the sub-deacon holds up the Book of the Gospels at a solemn High Mass. He walked around the coffee table in his apartment, making the noise of a thurible (ching, ching, ching, ching). After he sat down, he says: 'Well, Rizzo, what do you think of that? Isn't this great?' He was laughing quite devilishly. He then asked, 'What else do you want to talk about?'"
Rizzo, who was more than a little alarmed by the proceedings, concluded that the opportunity for meaningful discussion was just about over and politely excused himself. But the occasion for another stimulating conversation with Fr. Angles would soon present itself. In January of 1990, Fr. Rizzo received a disturbing phone call from an extremely distraught mother in his parish. She said one of her sons had just received what he perceived to be a love letter from one of his teachers at St. Mary's, where he was enrolled as a student. As she related the story over the phone to Rizzo, the priest grew more furious, especially since the teacher and author of the letter was a man. Rizzo promptly called Fr. Angles at St. Mary's and demanded action. Rizzo recalls Angles' promising that the teacher would be removed at the end of the school year.
Rizzo objected, saying he felt the man should be removed immediately. Rizzo claims Angles responded by telling him, in effect, to mind his own business. When it became clear to Rizzo that Angles was more interested in guarding his turf than the moral lives of his students, he telephoned Fr. Peter Scott, the District Superior for the Society in Kansas City, Missouri. Scott reportedly responded: "What can I do? I'm afraid of Fr. Angles."
THE HATE FAX
When word got back to Fr. Angles that Rizzo had gone over his head and spoken with Fr. Scott about the problem, he was livid, and, according to Rizzo, composed an angry letter in ecclesiastical Latin and faxed it to the lumber company across the street from Fr. Rizzo's rectory in Idaho. Rizzo remembers the lumber company secretary knocking on his door, bearing what he thought was a top secret document in light of the fact that its contents were in Latin. When he began reading it, he recalls, he broke out laughing. "See how those Christians love one another," he joked later.
Fr. John Rizzo soon became the lightning rod for disaffected parents all over the country. He had become a rather well-known figure in his years with the Society, having traveled widely on Mass circuits and in the summers by offering youth camps in New Hampshire and Kansas. After the love letter incident, when parents would ask him about sending their young people to St. Mary's, he would ask: "Is your child a boy or a girl?" If they chose the first response, Rizzo said that he could not in conscience recommend they send him to St. Mary's. Confused parents would also call him, saying their children were wanting to leave and were complaining that the school wasn't all that it was cracked up to be. Fr. Rizzo claims even students began to contact him and ask him for help. He says boarders at St. Mary's began to sneak out in the middle of the night and place collect calls from pay phones off campus to the rectory up in Idaho pleading, "Father, can you do something?"
News of all this discontent, of course, eventually found its way to others within the Society, who did not look kindly on Rizzo's actions. In August of 1992, he found himself "re-assigned" and on a one-way flight to England.
"HELL ON EARTH"
During Fr. John Rizzo's period of exile in England in August of 1992 following his conflict with St. Mary's rector Fr. Angles, his seminary training began to come back to him. He started to reflect on the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas he had received there and to re-read papal documents.
Six weeks into his stay in England, he telephoned both Fr. Peter Scott, District Superior for the United States, and Fr. Franz Schmidberger, the Superior General for the Society all over the world, saying that he was having problems in conscience remaining in the Society. Rizzo said both Scott and Schmidberger denied his request for a leave of absence and refused to allow him to return to the States. He persisted, however, and when he discovered the Society had canceled his credit card, making him a virtual economic hostage in a foreign country, he borrowed his brother's card number and bought his own ticket home.
His journey out of the Society not yet complete, either in his own mind or in actuality, he went to Kansas City to live with Fr. Peter Scott for two months of, as he would later describe, "hell on earth." He saw all that was wrong with the SSPX in a new way. The manipulative, deceitful, and arrogant tendencies he felt he saw within the sect became increasingly more repulsive to him. Meanwhile, Fr. Scott was telling the SSPX faithful in the pews that Rizzo had a rare kidney disease and was slowly dying.
Rizzo asserts that he was forbidden to see his twin brother, who lived a mere 90 minutes away from where he was staying in Kansas City, but one time while on the route of a Mass circuit went to see him anyway. A complete report of this visit was made to Fr. Scott by some SSPX informants in St. Mary's, including the evidently crucial information that Rizzo had purchased grapes and apple juice while at a grocery store before heading out of town. Scott was waiting with his indignant reprimand of Rizzo when the priest returned from his circuit, along with the information concerning the subversive sundries. Fortunately for Rizzo however, he had consumed the evidence of his crime before arriving home.
The Society's obsession with Rizzo's "treason" evidently drove them into even stranger types of conduct. One afternoon Joe Rizzo went over to St. Mary's for confession. As he knelt behind the screen and intoned the words "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned," Fr. Angles' voice came from the other side: "Are you here for your sins, or the sins of your brother?" On several occasions, Joe Rizzo remembers Fr. Peter Scott, the former medical student turned SSPX priest, tell him he was concerned about John, and that he felt his twin brother was "mentally incapacitated," "unstable," and was going to see to it that the Society's physician put John on Prozac, an anti-depressant drug. John was eventually given samples of Prozac and was ordered to take them, but had instead hidden them in the glove compartment of his brother's truck. When Fr. Scott discovered the pills there one day, John began flushing them down the toilet.
THE GREAT ESCAPE
Using the excuse that he wanted to get out of the city, Fr. Rizzo asked to be given an assignment in a small town in order to get out of the Kansas City headquarters. He arrived at the Society's northern Minnesota outpost, a rectory in a rural area just outside of Browerville, Minnesota (population 693) on December 15, 1992. There he was placed under the supervision of a young priest by the name of Fr. Michael Harber, who had been ordained just seven months previous. Rizzo claims he was allowed no private phone calls whatsoever; all incoming calls had to be screened. When going out for errands or to offer Mass, he says he was instructed to make no unauthorized stops or phone calls and to return home by a specific time. During the week, he remembers being expected to be a second shadow for Fr. Harber, riding with him in the car twice daily as Harber drove to the neighboring convent just a few miles away in downtown Browerville.
Finally deciding that enough was enough, Fr. Rizzo packed his belongings into his car late at night on Saturday, February 6, 1993. He got to bed at 2 a.m. and woke up three hours later in order to drive to St. Cloud and offer two Sunday morning Masses there. Before he left the rectory, he positioned a table behind his bedroom door in order to deter Fr. Harber from opening it up and seeing his room empty before he had a chance to make his getaway. After the Masses in St. Cloud had been concluded, he drove three and a half hours north to Crookston for a Sunday evening Mass.
The privilege of spending the night in the basement of the Crookston chapel had only recently been granted him. Fr. Harber had previously insisted that Rizzo return to Browerville from Crookston that same night, but the thought of having one man drive over eight hours by himself in one day on the lonely country roads of northern Minnesota after saying three Masses was too much for even the Society to allow. Fr. Scott gave in, and that gave Fr. Rizzo the break for which he had been looking.
He woke up early Monday morning, still nervous about how he was going to survive outside the Society and wondering if he were doing the right thing. He asked God for some kind of sign. After the 5:30 a.m. Mass, an elderly woman approached him, pressed $230 in small bills into his hand, and asked him to offer Masses for her deceased husband. She was the last person with whom he spoke as a priest of the Society of St. Pius X.
John arrived at the house of his twin brother late Monday night. The very next day he telephoned Fr. Scott to inform him he had formally left the Society. In saying good-bye, Rizzo said: "God bless you, Father." Scott's reply is burned into the memory of Fr. Rizzo: "I will not bless you, because I know God will not bless your work." After a few more days with his brother and his family, he went to spend some time at a retreat center in Colorado.
It was while he was on retreat that he says he received his first death threat. In a March 1993 interview with reporter Joe Taschler of the Topeka Capital-Journal, Rizzo claimed that a phone call came for him the night of February 13, and that the caller warned: "If you come anywhere near us, you're one dead priest," and hung up. Feeling a mixture of fear, pity, and frustration that the caller wasn't a bit more specific (just where is "near us?" he wondered), Rizzo continued his journey up north to Montana, where he had hoped to join the Helena diocese. Because the diocese was waiting for a new bishop to be appointed there, and because his own situation was becoming increasingly urgent, and because a groundswell of people back in Kansas were pleading for him to come back and offer them an alternative to the SSPX, he returned to Kansas in March of 1993.
THE SSPX GETS NASTY
The last Saturday of that month, March 27, 1993, found Fr. Rizzo hearing confessions in the community room of a local bank in St. Marys, which some of the faithful had rented in order to provide a place for Fr. Rizzo to celebrate the sacraments. A little after 7 p.m., two law enforcement agents entered the room and asked those assembled the whereabouts of Fr. Rizzo. The priest had heard the commotion, so after his penitent had left, he emerged from the makeshift confessional. John remembers that the sheriff did not waste any time in issuing his warning: "I highly recommend that you leave town immediately. There's a posse of men coming from over there (he motioned to the St. Mary's campus) and I believe they have more fire power than we do."
Needless to say, the penitents made a collective act of perfect contrition as they sprinted out the exits of the bank, as did Fr. Rizzo himself. Believing tempers had cooled by the next morning, though, Fr. Rizzo came back into town and proceeded to go over to the bank's community room to offer Mass. Someone had squirted Super glue into the locks, however, making it impossible to enter the building, according to police at the scene. One of the associate priests from St. Mary's was observed in a van parked across the street with some other SSPX loyalists, laughing and pointing. According to the local sheriff, two members of St. Mary's initially confessed to the crime, but recanted when they found out how serious the penalty was for vandalizing the doors of a bank. The real perpetrators have not yet been found.
Fr. Rizzo says he began to wear, on the advice of the legal authorizes, a bullet-proof vest. Throughout the summer of 1993, Rizzo and his neighbors would be regularly awakened by the sound of exploding firecrackers in the driveway of the house he was renting. He says he received dozens of obscene phone calls, and one night even caught two men in the act of what the phone company later wagered was an attempt to place a tap on his phone. On the evening of October 24, 1993, his house was peppered with bullets from a 22 caliber gun, at least two of which entered the bedroom area and one of which pierced a pillow on one of the beds. Fortunately for him, he was out of town celebrating Mass the night of the incident. Authorities later came to the judgment that the violence was gang related and only coincidentally related to the dispute between Rizzo and the SSPX. The local sheriff, however, says he continued to patrol the facility in which Rizzo was saying Mass for some time after these incidents.
The Society's fixation with Rizzo apparently also pushed them into the arena of ecclesial espionage. A couple of Society priests in Kansas City had secured the services of a Missouri woman named Vicky Story, whose first contact with the Society had come over the television two years earlier. "Channel surfing" early one Saturday morning, she came across Fr. Clarence Kelly's show "What Catholics Believe" on BET (Black Entertainment Television).
Vicky kept watching. Kelly, for all his faults and quirks, seemed to have presented Catholic doctrine in a way that made a deeper impression on Vicky than the "hug a tree, kiss a whale" theology she says she had received in the Catholic parishes she had drifted in and out of since converting to Catholicism from Protestantism at the age of 18. Through the toll free number on the show, Vicky got in touch with the local SSPX chapel (Note: this is actually a very large church) in Kansas City. Early in the summer of 1992, she and her husband went to visit Fr. James Doran at St. Vincent's. Two years later, in the summer of 1994, Vicky found herself attending Fr. Rizzo's Masses at the behest of some Society priests to see how correctly Rizzo was following the rubrics of the Mass. Fr. Scott wanted to know where he stood when reading the Gospel, whether or not he performed the correct number of bows, what kind of vestments and shoes he wore, etc. "You know," Vicky quipped later, "the real important stuff."
"THEY HATE THE CHURCH"
Rizzo claims he is still periodically receiving abusive phone calls, as well as others in the middle of the night from young men who claim to be "struggling with the virtue of purity" and who want to come over and "visit." Rizzo is concerned he is being set up for a pedophilia charge. Furthermore one of the associate priests at St. Mary's, Fr. Edward MacDonald, has written to Rizzo and demanded the return of $2,400 in donations MacDonald had made to Rizzo for help with his college expenses. Fr. Peter Scott has also written a letter which was made public by the Society stating that Fr. Rizzo is a vagus (meaning wandering, unsettled) priest, having broken "his vow of obedience," and is violating canon law. Scott's charges are interesting in the light of his own situation as a priest in a schismatic sect, but he is evidently unfamiliar with the old adage about residents of glass domiciles and the propulsion of certain kinds of mineral deposits.
Scott's letter is particularly difficult for Rizzo to swallow. "They use terminology to deceive the faithful," he complains. "They said I broke vows. The Society of St. Pius X doesn't have vows. There is what is called an 'engagement' ceremony that is taken every December 8 to renew one's engagement in the Society, but even Archbishop Lefebvre once said the engagement promises did not bind under pain of sin." Furthermore, he adds, two weeks before he left the Society he drove the four hours to Winona from Browerville to meet with Fr. Schmidberger, who was visiting the SSPX seminary there, and asked him permission to take a temporary leave of absence, which Schmidberger denied. Rizzo then told him that in conscience he could no longer work for the Society. "You're a damn liar," Fr. Schmidberger reportedly concluded. "You're a no good priest and a damn liar."
This view of Fr. Rizzo's priestly character is evidently not shared by Archbishop Kelleher of the archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas. Kelleher gave permission to Fr. Rizzo to work in the archdiocese in the fall of 1993. Months later, in February of 1994, Rizzo became a member of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, and on Easter Sunday that April, Archbishop Kelleher granted him full faculties to minister in his archdiocese. Fr. Rizzo now travels across Kansas, offering the Indult Mass hearing confessions, and teaching catechism, and is acting as a conduit of reconciliation for those who want to return to the Church. Over 200 people have followed him back into the Church so far. He also runs a K-12 school in Maple Hill, Kansas. One of his students at Our Lady of Compassion school recently told him: "I like the way you talk about the Church rather than the way they do at the Academy (at St. Mary's). I can tell you love the Church and they don't. Father, they hate the Church."
EXTRA ECCLESIAM NOT MUCH CARITAS
Since schism is, among other things, a mortal sin against the virtue of charity, one would expect that a schismatic group would be torn apart by a profound lack of this particular charism. The lack of a central authority deprives a body of its living source of unity; the absence of concern for objective truth in such a situation breeds totalitarianism. In such an atmosphere, more schisms are bound to occur, as the continual fragmenting of the Society clearly shows. Beyond this, however, the state of being extra ecclesiam through schism also means a loss of grace, which eventuates in more and more disturbing violations of the virtue of charity.
The list of people claiming to have been harassed after they have left the SSPX has been growing longer in recent months. One has to conclude that either the above analysis is playing itself out or that the supposed victims are either imagining things or misrepresenting themselves. Regardless, it is beyond dispute that many people who have left the Society (e.g., Rizzo and his supporters) have often been condemned by name from SSPX pulpits. In addition, Vicky Story says she received dozens of crank phone calls after she stopped spying on Fr. Rizzo, including one that she understood to be a thinly veiled threat on her life. Susan Convery, another former Society member and now a vocal critic of St Mary's, might very well have been killed in December of 1992 had she not been slowing down for a stop sign in downtown St. Mary's when one of her front wheel tires began to fall off. Mechanics at the scene informed her they thought the lug nuts had been intentionally loosened.
Susan's daughter also became the object of abuse. On the evening of July 5, 1993, at the Whistlestop convenience store in St Mary's, a teacher at St Mary's Academy grabbed the buttocks of the 17-year old Convery girl in front of her 13-year old companion and the cashier of the store.
The man admitted to the contact on the stand during the course of the trial that September, though he claimed he didn't do it in a "rude" manner. The court evidently disagreed, as he was found guilty of simple battery. His conviction, however, was subsequently overturned on appeal because of a "technical defect" some months later and the State of Kansas chose not to pursue the matter any further.
THE ST MARY'S WAVE
Joe Rizzo, John's twin brother, has also been on the receiving end of caritas (esteem, affection, dearness), a la St. Mary's. For many years, though, Joe was a strong supporter of St Mary's, even writing author Tom Case a scathing letter after an article critical of the SSPX appeared in the October 1992 issue of Fidelity. He now regrets his comments, claiming that he had been "brainwashed" by the people at St. Mary's. Joe also says that he and his family now regularly receive the "St. Mary's wave" from Society supporters when driving through town, a curious form of greeting that employs only the tallest of the five fingers.
One particularly memorable episode in this ongoing saga of hostility occurred on Wednesday afternoon, March 31, 1993, a few days after the lock gluing incident. Joe was invited to appear before a panel consisting of Fr Angles and three other SSPX clerics in the St. Mary's cafeteria. According to Joe's account, Angles was visibly upset: "When are you going to get balls, Rizzo?" he said, pounding his walking staff on the floor. Joe said he asked: "Why don't you sit down with my brother and talk this thing out?" Angles responded: "Before I sit down and with your brother, I will swing first" (motioning with his fist). "I will swing first!" "Rizzo," he continued, "there's an old Arab saying: 'You sit by the door and the body of your enemy will be carried by.'" One of the maintenance men on campus who reportedly owns an AK-47 assault rifle, then asked: "Do you need me?" Angles responded: "Put away the gun. . . I don't need it now. I don't need it yet." Then, turning to Joe, he said "You want bloodshed, Rizzo? I'll give you bloodshed." Joe left the "interview" feeling more than a little threatened, and after contacting police, filed a complaint on the following Sunday, April 4. The local sheriff said he and a special investigator from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation questioned Angles the next day but the matter went no further. About that same time, Joe said he discovered the lugnuts on his family's car had been loosened as well.
Besides breeding more schisms and fostering various forms of violence, the lack of grace and charity resulting from schismatic behavior also demands, so it seems, a fair amount of logical gymnastics from its proponents as well. As one example, let us take the election of Bishop Bernard Fellay as the Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X in the summer of 1994. Many members of the Society were shocked at the action, since Archbishop Lefebvre had promised that such a thing would never occur. Lefebvre claimed he did not want to give the impression he was creating a parallel church by bestowing on the head of the Society powers of jurisdiction, as such a move could be construed as setting up a rival to the pope.
Our authority for this comes from no less a source than Fr. Peter Scott, District Superior of the SSPX, in his letter to the editor of Fidelity magazine in December, 1992. According to Scott, "Archbishop Lefebvre made it perfectly clear that the Superior General was not to be one of the bishops, so as not to give the impression that the bishops that he consecrated had any jurisdiction." Fr. Carl Pulvermacher, writing in the Society's own magazine, the Angelus, concurs. In the September 1988 issue, the question arises why Fr. Schmidberger, the reigning Superior General, was not made a bishop by Archbishop Lefebvre in June of 1988 along with the other four. He writes: "Because, as Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X, he has a form of jurisdiction."
Fr. Scott was to later claim to Vicky Story that Archbishop Lefebvre had changed his mind about making a bishop Superior General, and gave his permission for this action on his deathbed. Vicky noted, however, that Scott's letter to the editor in Fidelity appeared in December 1992, over a year and a half after Archbishop Lefebvre died, and made "perfectly clear" the Archbishop's intention to not have the Superior General be a bishop, an event which occurred less than two years later. Readers are left to their own devices to figure out this apparent contradiction.
The downward trajectory the Society of St. Pius X has followed in recent years should serve as a lesson. Schism eventuates in violence - spiritual and physical. Those within the Society who, like Fr. John Rizzo, had the courage to employ their God-given intellects and recognize this fact were silenced.
Fr. Rizzo stands on the steps of St. Joseph's parish in Topeka, his rose-colored vestments flapping about him as the stiff wind rolls off the Kansas prairie. It is Laetare Sunday, and Rizzo is vigorously pumping the hands of the faithful as they slowly file out into the sunshine. "Good to see you, take care, God bless you" he sings out in his heavy Bostonian accent. The atmosphere is light, even joyous; children run up and down the steps and play tag amidst legs belonging to parents who are busy sharing the week's news and the day's weather forecast. A white statue of St. Joseph, the protector of the Church, silently watches the proceedings. Behind him, the doors of the church stand wide open. Inside, there is hope.