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Fr Fidel Rodriguez, right, and concelebrating priests at the 10am Pentecost Mass at St Thomas Aquinas Church, St Cloud, Florida (OSV News/ St.Thomas Aquinas Church via YouTube)

A Florida priest has admitted to biting a woman who attempted to receive Holy Communion in what he, and eyewitnesses, said was an aggressive, desecrating manner. Source: OSV News.

Fr Fidel Rodriguez, parish priest at St Thomas Aquinas Parish in St Cloud, Florida, was questioned by police following an altercation during Pentecost Sunday Mass on May 19.

In body camera footage of that questioning obtained by OSV News from the St Cloud Police Department, Fr Rodriguez, 66, explained to officers in detail how he had bitten the woman on the hand after she had seized the hosts in the ciborium he held and seemed poised to cast them on the floor, despite his repeated requests to let them go and leave the church.

He said the woman was angry that he had denied her Communion at a 10 am Mass that morning, as she did not appear to understand the guidelines for proper reception of the sacrament. 

The priest had instead given her a blessing with the recommendation to first go to confession before returning for Communion.

She then presented herself for Communion at the parish’s 12 pm Mass, and after refusing to answer Fr Rodriguez’s query if she had been to confession in the interim, the woman became irate and grasped the hosts, sparking the confrontation.

Body cam footage also shows the woman, whose name and face were redacted in both the video and the police report, at the police station telling investigators that Fr Rodriguez had initiated the outburst.

The woman was accompanied by another woman named in the police report as Olivia Santibanez. Both affirmed to police they were “a couple”.

Ms Santibanez, who said she had received Communion from the priest immediately before the woman, told police the dispute had been “over a cookie. … We went to get the fricking bread”.

The bitten woman also referred to the host as “a cookie”.

The St Cloud Police Department, confirmed to OSV News by telephone that Fr Rodriguez was not arrested but that the the case has been referred to the state attorney’s office “to have an impartial third party review it to make sure that it is done in a concise and proper way”.


Florida priest admits biting woman as last-resort defense to save the Eucharist (By Gina Christian, OSV News)