Central Florida priest bites woman after denying her communion, police say

ST CLOUD, Fla. — Communion at a Central Florida church took an unexpected turn – an argument that ended with a priest biting a church member, according to police.

It all went down on Sunday at the St. Thomas Aquinas Church in St Cloud.


Police have recommended that the priest, Father Fidel, be charged with battery.

The incident happened during mass when parishioners were receiving communion.

The unidentified woman told St Cloud police that the scuffle started when she tried to receive communion and was denied.

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“He wouldn’t give me the cookie. i don’t know if it was the way i was dressed, or if it is what i like,” the woman can be heard saying on the police worn body cam video.

A witness told police that the woman was singled out because of her sexuality and attire.

“He tried to forcefully shove it in her mouth, she backed up,” the witness told police. “She said no don’t do that and she tried to get it and that is when he went crazy.”

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The priest told police a different story telling officers that the woman first came to the 10 o’clock mass but didn’t’ seem to know the process of receiving communion, so he denied her the bread wafer.

Fidel told officers that the woman came back to another service and tried again, but this time he said the confrontation happened when she tried to grab the wafer from his hand.

He admitted to biting the woman and told police that he was protecting the wafer because it is considered the body of Christ.

“I am not judging you; I am asking you; did you confess after mass? If you did not confess, I cannot give you communion.,” Fidel told officers. “I bit her, I am not denying that. I am defending myself and the sacrament.”

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The priest also told officers that he didn’t know the woman or what her sexual orientation is, and he doesn’t, care about that.

“I don’t judge nobody,” Fidel added.

9 Investigates’ Shannon Butler spoke to Father Fidel who did not want to answer any questions and hung up the phone.

9 Investigates also reached out the to Catholic Diocese of Orlando for a comment Wednesday.

The Diocese provided Channel 9 with the following statement Thursday:

“On Sunday, May 19, at the 10 a.m. Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in St. Cloud, a woman came through Father Fidel Rodriguez’s Holy Communion line and appeared unaware of the proper procedure. After a brief exchange with the woman, it was determined that she was neither prepared nor disposed to participate in Communion. Father Rodriguez gave the woman a blessing and advised her to receive the Sacrament of Penance (Confession) before coming back to receive Holy Communion (Eucharist).

The same woman arrived at 12 p.m. Mass on Sunday and stood in Father Rodriguez’s Communion line. Father Rodriguez asked if she had been to the Sacrament of Penance (Confession), to which she stated it was not his business. At that time, Father Rodriguez offered the woman Holy Communion on the tongue. At that point, the woman forcefully placed her hand in the vessel and grabbed some sacred Communion hosts, crushing them. Having only one hand free, Father Rodriguez struggled to restrain the woman as she refused to let go of the hosts. When the woman pushed him and reacting to a perceived act of aggression, Father Rodriguez bit her hand so she would let go of the hosts she grabbed. The woman was immediately asked to leave.

It should be noted Father Rodriguez had no prior knowledge of the woman’s background. Further, while the Diocese of Orlando does not condone physical altercations such as this, in good faith, Father Rodriguez was simply attempting to prevent an act of desecration of the Holy Communion, which, as a priest, Father Rodriguez is bound by duty to protect.

The full video and the police report show the woman initiated physical contact and acted inappropriately. The priest was trying to protect the Holy Communion from this sacrilegious act.

In the Catholic Tradition, the Eucharist is considered “the source and summit” of worship and faith. The act of participation in Holy Communion therefore calls for a proper understanding, reverence, and devotion. It is not something a person can arbitrarily demand and is certainly not a mere “cookie” as the complainant called it.

The Diocese of Orlando believes all people of all faiths should be respected and that their religious ceremonies or services should never be disrupted.”

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Shannon Butler

Shannon Butler,

Shannon joined the Eyewitness News team in 2013.

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