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René Henry Gracida

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René Henry Gracida
Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi
titular bishop of Masuccaba
ChurchCatholic Church
DioceseCorpus Christi
AppointedMay 19, 1983
InstalledJune 11, 1983
RetiredApril 1, 1997
PredecessorThomas Joseph Drury
SuccessorRoberto González Nieves
OrdinationMay 23, 1959
by Bishop Hugh L. Lamb
ConsecrationJanuary 25, 1972
by Cardinal John Francis Dearden
Personal details
Born (1923-06-09) June 9, 1923 (age 101)
Previous post(s)
EducationUniversity of Houston
St. Vincent Seminary
MottoAbyssus abyssum invocat
(Deep calls to deep)
Styles of
René Henry Gracida
Reference style
Spoken styleYour Excellency
Religious styleBishop
Ordination history of
René Henry Gracida
Diaconal ordination
Ordained byHugh L. Lamb
PlaceBlessed Sacrament Cathedral, Greensburg, Pennsylvania
Priestly ordination
Ordained byHugh L. Lamb
Date23 May 1959
PlaceBlessed Sacrament Cathedral, Greensburg
Episcopal consecration
Principal consecratorJohn Dearden
Co-consecratorsColeman Carroll, Paul Tanner
Date25 January 1972
PlaceCathedral of Saint Mary, Miami

René Henry Gracida (born June 9, 1923) is an American Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Corpus Christi from 1983 to 1997. He previously served as Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee (1975–1983) and as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Miami (1971–1975).

Early life[edit]

Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on June 9, 1923, Gracida was the second child of Enrique J. Gracida Carrizosa, a Mexican architect and engineer, and Mathilde Derbes, a fifth-generation French-American. His great uncle was a vicar general of a diocese in Mexico. As a teenager, René Gracida was fascinated with the Jesuit martyrs portrayed in the novel The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper.[1]

During World War II, Gracida flew 32 missions in the US Army Air Corps first as a tail-gunner, then as a flight engineer, in the 303rd Air Expeditionary Group.[2][1] After the war, he entered the University of Houston, where he earned a Bachelor of Architecture degree. After graduation, Gracida worked as an architect for several years.[1]

In 1951, Gracida entered the Order of St. Benedict and went into Saint Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. This move upset his father, who disliked Catholic clergy. Required to choose a religious name, Gracida selected René Goupil, a French Jesuit lay missionary.[1] Gracida took his simple vows in 1953 and his solemn vows in 1956. He was ordained a deacon in 1958.[3] During this period, Gracida attended St. Vincent College and Saint Vincent Seminary in Latrobe. At Saint Vincent Seminary, he earned a Masters of Divinity degree.[1]


Gracida was ordained into the priesthood for the Order of St. Benedict on May 23, 1959 by Bishop Hugh L. Lamb. In 1961, after a dispute over plans for a new residence for the Order, the archabbot told Gracida that he was no longer welcome in the order. That same year, Gracida was incardinated, or transferred, from the Benedictine Order to the Archdiocese of Miami.[3][1]

Auxiliary Bishop of Miami[edit]

On December 6, 1971, Gracida was appointed by Pope Paul VI as auxiliary bishop of Miami and titular bishop of Masuccaba. Gracida was consecrated on January 25, 1972 by Cardinal John Dearden, with Archbishop Coleman Carroll and Bishop Paul Tanner serving as co-consecrators.[4] During this period, Gracida got a pilot's license and rented small planes to serve parishes in the archdiocese.[1]

Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee[edit]

Pope Paul VI appointed Gracida as the first bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee on October 1, 1975; he was installed on November 6, 1975.[5][3] In 1978, he was granted a Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) from St. Leo College in St. Leo, Florida.[1]

Bishop of Corpus Christi[edit]

On May 19, 1983 Pope John Paul II appointed Gracida as the bishop of Corpus Christi. He was installed on July 11, 1983.

Gracida and the diocese were sued in 1988 by a couple who claimed that John J. Feminelli, a diocese priest, had engaged in private "wrestling matches" with their teenage son. The couple claimed that diocese officials slandered the boy, prompting him to recant his testimony in a court case. In 2019, Feminelli was listed with other priests in the diocese with credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors.[6]

In January 1989, Gracida called for a boycott of all Pepsi-Cola products because of one of their commercial series. The commercials used the "Like a Prayer" music video by the singer Madonna that Gracida and other religious leaders considered sacrilegious. Pepsi eventually withdrew the ads and canceled its contract with Madonna.[7]

In June 1990, Gracida excommunicated two parishioners in the diocese who were providing legal abortion services for women, citing canon law. They were Rachel Vargas, a women's health clinic director, and Dr. Eduardo Aquino, an obstetrician. In an interview, Aquino noted that he had recently won a $800,000 legal settlement against the anti-abortion group South Texas for Life, whose protestors had been picketing his house. Vargas ran her clinic for eight years and did not receive any notices from Gracida until she was interviewed on local television.[8][7]

Retirement and later life[edit]

Pope John Paul II accepted Gracida's resignation on April 1, 1997.[3] On September 25, 2017, Gracida posted on his blog and publicly signed a "Filial Correction" of Pope Francis, being the first bishop to sign the document.[2]

On June 13, 2018, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a resolution condemning the immigration policies of the Trump Administration. Bishop Edward Weisenburger of the Diocese of Tucson suggested canonical penalties, which could include excommunication, for federal officials who separate children from families of undocumented immigrants.[9] In a 2018 interview, Gracida rejected the idea of excommunicating these officials, saying, “It's scandalous for the bishop to say that! They did not write the law but are enforcing it [...] it's absurd and it's idiotic.”[10]

Following Gracida's tenure as bishop of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, that diocese released a list of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse, much of which occurred while Gracida was bishop there.[11]

Gracida turned 100 on June 9, 2023.[12]


  • 2016 – An Ordinary's Not So Ordinary Life[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Graves, Jim (January 11, 2016). "Airman, Monk, Priest, Bishop: An interview with Bp. Rene Henry Gracida". The Catholic World Report. Retrieved February 14, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Charles Collins (September 26, 2017). "Retired Texas bishop signs "filial correction" of Pope Francis". Crux. Retrieved February 14, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d "Bishop René Henry Gracida [Catholic-Hierarchy]". www.catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved 2022-01-20.
  4. ^ "Colorful rites mark ordination of Bp. Gracida" (PDF). XIII (47). January 28, 1972: 3A–8A. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ Jim Graves (August 26, 2015). "A Bishop's Job Is Hardly Ordinary". National Catholic Register. Retrieved February 14, 2019.
  6. ^ Rodriguez, Alexandria. "What we know about the priests accused of sexual abuse of minors in Corpus Christi". Caller-Times. Retrieved 2022-01-20.
  7. ^ a b Belkin, Lisa; Times, Special To the New York (1990-07-07). "In Texas City, Newcomer Brings Abortion Turmoil". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-01-20.
  8. ^ Ari L. Goldman (June 30, 1990). "Bishop Excommunicates 2 In Texas for Abortion Stance". The New York Times.
  9. ^ Jenkins, Jack (2018-06-13). "Catholic bishops rebuke Trump's asylum changes, suggest 'canonical penalties'". Religion News Service. Retrieved 2022-01-20.
  10. ^ Hudson, Deal (June 20, 2018). "Bishop Gracida Calls Excommunication Over Immigration Policy "Scandalous"". The Christian Review. Retrieved February 14, 2019.
  11. ^ "Diocese of Corpus Christi releases names of priests 'credibly accused' of sexual abuse".
  12. ^ "Second oldest bishop emeritus in the world turns 100". Aleteia — Catholic Spirituality, Lifestyle, World News, and Culture. 2023-06-09. Retrieved 2023-06-09.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi
Succeeded by
Preceded by Bishop of Corpus Christi
Succeeded by
Preceded by
First Bishop
Bishop of Pensacola–Tallahassee
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Auxiliary Bishop of Miami
Succeeded by