the archdiocese supports the speakers
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati will not be sponsoring the annual Cincinnati Men’s Conference this year due to the “significant background” of its keynote speakers, including a Fox News commentator and an actor who promoted a QAnon conspiracy.
The archdiocese sent a letter to its priests last month explaining the decision as an effort to prevent the local church from becoming entangled in contentious national political issues when the conference meets at the Fifth Third Arena on April 2.
One of the conference’s keynote speakers, Raymond Arroyo, is a Fox News contributor, supporter of former President Donald Trump, and a fixture on the Eternal Word Television Network, where he appears on a segment called “Papal Posse “, who is frequently critical of Pope Francis.
Actor Jim Caviezel is a keynote speaker at the Cincinnati Men’s Conference
The other speaker, Jim Caviezel, is best known for his portrayal of Jesus Christ in the film “The Passion of the Christ.” But more recently, he has made headlines for his embrace of far-right politics and a baseless QAnon plot to harvest a chemical compound from the blood of tortured children.
Although the archdiocese’s letter to the priests did not mention Arroyo and Caviezel by name, it made it clear that the “key speakers” at the event were the cause for concern.
“The keynote speakers carry important baggage that we could not ignore,” wrote Mike Schafer, archdiocesan communications director and author of the letter. “Hence our decision to disassociate the Archdiocese from this year’s event.”
Schafer said Monday that the archdiocese, which has sponsored previous men’s conferences, is likely to do so again in the future. But he said that decision would depend on the speakers.
“The concern is to keep the teaching and faith of the Catholic Church separate from American politics,” Schafer said. “Using the church platform for political gain is not what we want to be.”
Cincinnati men’s conference organizers defend speaker choice
Organizers of the Men’s Conference, including Cincinnati native Joe Condit, responded Monday with a statement defending its speakers and complaining that the event had been “crippled” by the archdiocese’s decision to withdraw its sponsorship.
Condit said Monday he had 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 the two agreed. He said the theme of this year’s conference is, “Evil wins 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. Asked about Caviezel’s comments last year regarding QAnon, Condit declined to comment except to say “a lot of this stuff has been misrepresented.”
“What I will say is, as far as the truth of the Catholic faith is concerned, these two guys are dead,” Condit said. “These two guys, Raymond Arroyo and Jim Caviezel, need a lot more spotlight.”
Both men often talk about their Catholic faith, which Condit said will be the focus of their speeches to conference attendees, but they have also ventured into more controversial waters.
Arroyo questioned the Pope’s stance on several issues, from whether President Biden should be allowed to receive Communion to the Pope’s support for COVID-19 restrictions and vaccines.
Caviezel has attended conservative conferences, such as the “For God & Country: Patriot Double Down” convention last year in Las Vegas, where he shared the stage with QAnon adherents, who believe, among other things, that the 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 an unsubstantiated claim promoted by QAnon supporters regarding the drawing of blood from children. Known as “adrenochromia”, the plot claims that the blood of terrified children is collected in order to extract a valuable chemical compound.
Caviezel opened up about adrenochromia while discussing his role in a film portraying a self-proclaimed anti-human trafficking activist.
“When you’re scared, you produce adrenaline. If you’re an athlete, you come into the fourth quarter, you have adrenaline coming out of you,” Caviezel said. “If a child knows he is going to die, his body will secrete this adrenaline.”
He described it as “the worst horror I have ever seen” and said “there will be no mercy” for people who do such things.
Like Condit, Schafer would not discuss the speakers’ politics or beliefs in detail. In his letter to the priests, Schafer said only that these positions prompted the archdiocese to withdraw its sponsorship.
But despite these concerns, Schafer said, Bishop Dennis Schnurr is not discouraging men from attending the conference or priests from attending. Condit said he was grateful for past support from the archdiocese and was glad the archbishop was not telling Catholics to stay away.
“The Archdiocese has been a wonderful partner,” he said.