The following letter was read at all Masses in Garland County Sept. 29-30.
Dear parishioners of the parishes of Hot Springs and Hot Springs Village:
Please pay very close attention to the contents of this letter as it is critically important to the life of the Church in the Hot Springs/Hot Springs Village area.
As Catholics we believe in a two-fold font of divine revelation: Scripture and the teachings of the Church. From Scripture and tradition, the Church draws all the truths of our faith. They are divinely inspired and complement one another to present to us the fullness of God's revelation. Nothing may be added or taken away from those truths, and we believe nothing that is contradictory to them. They are the foundation of all that we believe as Catholics, express in the Creed, and celebrate within the sacraments. To oppose them is to place one's self outside of full communion with the Catholic Church.
The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI has issued a declaration stating that followers of the movement known locally as the Army of Mary who knowingly and deliberately adhere to its teaching are schismatic and in heresy and are excommunicated automatically. This excommunication includes six of the nuns who operate Good Shepherd Convent and St. Michael School on Malvern Avenue in Hot Springs.
The two nuns of Vietnamese descent who are presently affiliated with that convent are not members of the heretical organization and are not included in the excommunication. There are a few members of the laity who are members of the Army of Mary, and they incur the same penalty if they knowingly and deliberately continue as members of that movement.
The Army of Mary has its foundation in Canada and follows the teaching of a lady by the name of Marie-Paul Giguere. They believe her to be a mystic who is in frequent contact with God. Marie-Paul has written a 15-volume work titled "The Way of Love," which forms the basis of many of the beliefs of the Army of Mary. Heresy and schism were incurred by, among many other teachings, their belief in a quinternity (rather than the Trinity), including not only Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but also the Immaculate and Marie-Paul herself; and that Marie-Paul is the reincarnation of the Blessed Mother. They add to and contradict Divine Revelation as it is found within the Scripture and tradition of the Church, and recently one of their priests attempted to ordain priests and deacons for their movement against the orders of the Holy See.
The Church took this current action only after having tried unsuccessfully to work with the Army of Mary over many years.
Those who incur the excommunication may no longer receive the sacraments of the Church. Due to the heresy and schism involved, no priests are allowed by the Catholic Church to administer any of the sacraments at Good Shepherd/St. Michael; the Catholic faithful should no longer attend any religious services there, including perpetual adoration; and Good Shepherd/St. Michael no longer function as Catholic institutions.
Financial and other material aid given to Good Shepherd/St. Michael would also be used to promote heresy. I ask the local churches under the direction of Father Erik Pohlmeier to make arrangements for an alternative location for perpetual adoration.
This is a sad and painful time for the Catholic Church in Arkansas and in a special manner for those of you who live in Hot Springs and have known and respected the sisters at Good Shepherd. I am personally saddened as I have known the sisters literally all my life; my father was their physician; I served as their chaplain during 2005, and celebrated Mass there during most of the summer immediately following my ordination 47 years ago.
The nuns there are good women who have dedicated their lives to Christ. Most of the six are now advanced in age. They have lived in poverty and prayer and service. Good Shepherd Convent has served this community well for almost a century. Somewhere along the line, their devotions digressed from the teachings of the Catholic Church. Sincere efforts have been made to bring them back to full communion with the Church, but they remain adamant in following the teachings of Marie-Paul rather than those of Jesus Christ as taught by the Catholic Church.
I ask that you pray for them and for any others who are excommunicated that they might return to the full communion with the Church. Those under excommunication may recant and return to the Church through a profession of faith before the administrator of the diocese and reception of the sacrament of penance from a priest or bishop competent to give absolution
"Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it, and I will be with you always until the end of the world." Our Holy Father, the successor of Peter, has spoken through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. As painful as it may be, we also must now protect the integrity of the faith.
Msgr. J. Gaston Hebert
Administrator, Diocese of Little Rock
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