Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Cult of David Higbee

David Higbee is the founder and leader of St. Irenaeus Ministries, a "Christ-centered faith community" in Rochester, NY. While it is a 501(c)(3) non-profit not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, the St. Irenaeus Ministries claims a Catholic identity. St. Titus Fellowship, one of the particular ministries of the group, has been a meeting place for young adults, primarily in their 20s, for several years. St. Titus Fellowship's pro-life activities are truly admirable.

I've been going to the Friday night discussion groups for more than two years, when I've been in Rochester, though I've been in Steubenville for the majority of the time. In all, I've been to the St. Titus Fellowship approximately 30 times.

I began to see problems with the group almost from the start. While most of the visitors and regulars were assuredly decent and good-hearted individuals, I began to notice the strange dynamics of the group's leader, David Higbee, and his inner circle.

Higbee is a charismatic personality. Passionate, confident in his convictions, and well-read. Higbee converted to the Catholic religion nearly 20 years ago. In 1998 he was even featured on EWTN's The Journey Home where he told his conversion story.

But as I say, something was very strange. At the beginning of every St. Titus meeting, we would sit in a circle and were handed sheets of paper filled with various scriptural verses, lots of commentary, and some questions for discussion. I always wondered, "Who is writing this commentary?" and "Why is the group automatically assuming that it's right?" I mean, what if some of the points happened to be wrong? But Higbee was guiding us. He was leading the discussion. So what could go wrong? Right?

The meetings consisted largely of Higbee pontificating on some subject while the yes-men beside him rang the note, "Yes, that's quite right." There were some genuinely insightful exegetical points made during the meetings. At the same time, Higbee and his yes-men were far too enamored with their own opinions and interpretations. I got used to Higbee's indignant responses to any questioning of the material with which we were provided. I tried to take these outbursts with a grain of salt. Still, I couldn't help but realize that, in a room of anywhere from 10 to 25 impressionable young adults, this was a man who loved his position of influence a little too much.

Meanwhile the doctrinal mistakes of the St. Titus Fellowship were piling up. At one meeting a member of the inner circle insisted, despite my protests, that God did not love Mary more than others. Of course this truth should be sufficiently obvious to traditional Catholics. Pope Pius IX in his Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus, wherein he defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, wrote, "Above all creatures did God so love her that truly in her was the Father well pleased with singular delight. Therefore, far above all the angels and all the saints so wondrously did God endow her with the abundance of all heavenly gifts poured from the treasury of his divinity." And we find ample examples of this point throughout the Church's Tradition.

On the eve of the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, one of the subjects taken up in the discussion was excessive devotion to Mary. Citing long passages from an Eastern Orthodox theologian, they asked if we had ever witnessed examples of excessive Marian devotion or if we ourselves had ever been guilty of it. They didn't, however, ask whether we had witnessed examples of deficient devotion. Concerning this there seemed to be little interest. Then members of the group went on about how some Catholics revere Mary too much and how this takes away devotion from Christ. One said that some students at Franciscan University (my alma mater) were particularly guilty of this. Another said that doctrines such as Mary as "Mediatrix" and "Co-Redemptrix" could be very confusing to people. Naturally I took up the Marian cause, referencing Doctors of the Church St. Bernard, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Alphonsus Liguori (as well as the great Marian saint Louis de Montfort). One replied, "They aren't always right." And Higbee's right hand man replied, giggling, "Thomas Aquinas didn't even believe in the Immaculate Conception!"

In an online discussion on this subject with one of the members of St. Titus / St. Irenaeus Ministries, this member wrote to me, "I just think there's a big problem when you (I see you do this alot) use Church teachings/Dogmas, etc. over just basic truths from the scriptures. Scripture is obviously number one, and Church teaching is man made, so if it contradicts the Gospel, well, it has to go."

On another occasion, Higbee's right hand man maintained that Catholic seminarians shouldn't have to learn philosophy, that Scripture suffices.

Another time, Higbee himself said that once while saying the Rosary, he was inspired to read a copy of the Philokalia, an Eastern Orthodox work.

Um, wait, this is a Catholic group?

The scope of these problems of Mr. Higbee Incorporated exceeds the time I'd prefer to spend describing them. I've attempted to dialogue with Higbee's right hand man concerning some of these problems that I've had with St. Irenaeus Ministries, but it didn't get very far. I continued to keep attending the meetings because I wanted to continue clarifying the issues when they popped up in the group. I knew that I was in a good position to do that.

One day I decided to do a Google search on David Higbee. What I found shocked me. Rochester's local newspaper the Democrat & Chronicle had done a story on David Higbee back in April of 2002 (the 26th, I believe).

The headline read, "Catholic layman fired in abuse case." The story begins, "The dismissal of the religious education director at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Irondequoit stunned parishioners and colleagues of the former Protestant minister. David Higbee, 54, was fired Thursday after Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester officials discovered evidence that he had abused a boy years ago." See This was before Higbee was a Catholic, when he was a pastor in Chicago. More info concerning the case was on under David Higbee at!search/profile/person?personId=82540856&targetid=profile but this has recently been deleted.

I also found that Higbee had changed his name. His former name was David Kemmerer. I mentioned the name change in an email to Higbee's right hand man, having seen an old article written by him when his name was still Kemmerer (the article can be viewed at He told me, "I should explain the reason for David's name change. David was born David Higbee (the surname of his birth father) but raised David Kemmerer (the surname of his stepfather). Some time in the late eighties, his stepfather passed away. Two years later (David waited for a time out of respect), he changed his name back to Higbee."

Interestingly, EWTN's The Journey Home does not list the 2/27/98 show with David Higbee and his conversion story on its website ( As you can see, it has been skipped in the listing.

Higbee's right hand man took issue with some of the "provocative things" I've said on my Facebook page concerning the Marian controversy and has written me a letter that if I do not stop saying them I will no longer be welcome in the group, for "there is no place here for a provocateur." Well, after this blog post, needless to say, I am no longer welcome in the cult of David Higbee.

**Note: I posted this because people associated with Higbee have the right to know. I spent years in this group ignorant of the facts. When I first started going I asked Higbee why St. Irenaeus Ministries was not listed on the diocesan website. His answer was essentially that he was orthodox and the diocese would never support him. He never told me that he had been fired from the diocese. This was a betrayal of trust. I hope that people can have the information by which to make their decisions.


  1. Jamie,
    While I agree that David can have a hard edge at times that could ruffle a man as yourself's feathers I do not agree with your attacks. David offers reflection and certainly attempts to help mold the people in his company to empower them to know their faith in a deeper way. There are many people teaching Christianity in the world but there are few that are truly committed to build the Church as this man obviously is. While sin diminishes our connection to God he offers us forgiveness that I believe David has truly sought. This does not take away the effects of sin and the ability of others to fling it back into our faces at any point in our lives.
    As you deem it necessary to expose a man's past sins due to people having a so-called 'right to know', I look forward to you listing your own on your page and show yourself to be a man of your word by upholding our rights.
    May God protect us all from Satan and may he send His Ark of the New Covenant to watch over and protect us with ever flowing grace. I wish you peace in your life that seems to be fleeting while you attempt to destroy the peace of others.

    1. People--and their children!--definitely have a--by no means "so-called" but do-or-die--right to know. Else their "PEACE" (a word so rampantly misused in our age!) were a hollow, narrow, shallow, shriveled-up forgery.

  2. Jamie,
    Character assasination via web blogs? Really? You have an advanced degree in Philosophy and this is how you're using your talents? I've known David since he arrived in Rochester from Chicago and I can attest to his good character. I am the father of seven and he is the godfather of one of my daughters. If you would like to sit down over a beer and discuss this like a civilized man, I'd be happy to oblige. I'm sorry that you feel "betrayed" when someone doesn't open up and bare their soul to you, but to troll this garbage around the web makes you seem like a common politician, not a budding philosopher. Judge him (if indeed you are qualified to judge anyone) on the fruits of his labor since leaving Chicago. Christ died on the cross to redeem your sins too, Jamie. We're all in this together.
    Craig Rideout, Pittsford NY
    (I'm on Facebook, look me up)

  3. Craig,

    I take it that you're also the author of the previous post.

    The man commits sexual misconduct with a minor teen boy, chooses to be involved in young adult ministry as a profession, and lives with men in their twenties, in his home. Yes, clearly I'm the bad guy here.

    1. Nope,
      I don't know who wrote the post before mine. Could care less, frankly. This is already far more time than it deserves.
      Insinuation is the only tool you have? You are obsessed with the past. You have no capacity for forgiveness? I am not perfect, and I will stand before my God to answer for my life, with the good the bad and the ugly laid out before me, same as you, Jamie. None of our past words or deeds can be erased, but do you live in bitterness for the past or embrace the Love of Christ in the future? What do you have to show for your efforts? Anger, bitterness? Regret? Let go of these, Jamie, they will be your death. David's life since his conversion is a different life than before. Look around at the fruits of his labors and the work of the Holy Spirit through them. I do not care to understand the nature of your bitterness, I will pray for you to move on from it. I want only to defend my friend, David, and my daughter's Godfather.
      You have obviously never sinned in your short life or had regrets for your actions. Our Lord has compassion, and you will need to find some too, Jamie.

      On the bright side, there is hope, even for the perfect among us. You are still young.


    2. Dear Craig,
      David was my godfather when I was a child. There were 6 children in my family. I would watch over your daughter carefully and also watch your sons. The research shows that pedophiles don't get cured. It's not a matter of sin and redemption, it's a matter of sexual compulsion and enjoyment of power. Do you want to take a chance with your own children? I hope not for their sakes'. Sexual abuse is one of the most damaging traumas a child can try to heal from. I will take you up on your offer for a beer any day. Let me know and I'll contact you via Facebook. Thank you Jamie, for your blog post. I hope more people in Rochester will read it.

  4. Whatever dude. You've said your peace.

  5. Ah yes, you've displayed that magic sense of compassion and brilliant wit yet again.
    I have indeed said my peace and will leave you and both of your regular readers alone now.

  6. Dear Craig,
    David was my godfather when I was a child. There were 6 children in my family. I would watch over your daughter carefully and also watch your sons. The research shows that pedophiles don't get cured. It's not a matter of sin and redemption, it's a matter of sexual compulsion and enjoyment of power. Do you want to take a chance with your own children? I hope not for their sakes'. Sexual abuse is one of the most damaging traumas a child can try to heal from. I will take you up on your offer for a beer any day. Let me know and I'll contact you via Facebook. Thank you Jamie, for your blog post. I hope more people in Rochester will read it.

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  8. Years ago I was in the Legion of Christ (which, to David Higbee's credit, he warned against). Having psychospiritually dusted myself off, it was my painful duty to sort of troll (which I did via Facebook and in a manner FAR less refined, methodical or ethical than Jamie is doing!), the reason being that only such dogging can break the spell of those under the charming mind-control of the ever-suave pedophile.

    See, most of us Catholics are unfamiliar with the very real if very strange workings of sex magic (codified by Western Occultist-monastic types medieval to contemporary, including one Aleister Crowley), but the pedophile acquires a "sacramental," "godlike" (or we may prefer demonic) energy (which vastly more than the sexual pleasure is a spiritual addiction) and (even unwittingly) thenceforth is prone to use this to deftly influence the less spiritually savvy/protected.

    If anyone gives a flying pheasant, if anyone sees beyond money and expedience, if anyone's spirituality is more than a string of platitudes engineered to make the facts go away, why, the relevant facts are declassified, readily available, and can point us to prudent action. (See link below.)

    Let's be clear. There is no cause to blame David beyond what can be proved; such is if nothing else spiritually harmful to us. And yet I don't see that Jamie has committed that error. (Benefit of the doubt, after all, swings both ways!) We have to realize, too, that (as I outline in the following website) there has lately been a rash of enablings not just at the diocesan "level" but very disturbing "experiments" in religious life throughout Southern Europe and concentrated around the Eternal City itself. For the last sixty years and more, many thousands of devout and generous Catholic youth have been taken in, methodically betrayed and silenced, many more than we happily suspect. We in the West have been programmed to be afraid to connect the dots. Mark my emphatic words: OUR REFUSAL TO CONNECT THE DOTS IS KILLING US.

    All this to say, Jamie, at the very least you are right to raise a red flag wherever there is undisclosed pedophilia. Forward, always forward, with the truth.

  9. I'm a Titan myself.

    David is very infrequently involved in discussion these days; it is generally assumed that the writer of the commentary is the "leader" of the week.

    I use Titus as an escape from the constant barrage of negativity from the secular world; a chance to make friends and discuss.

    As for searching other sources--the Orthodox actually are very close to the Catholic church in many ways and often have good things for Catholics to think about.

    And regarding the opinions of the members of the group? We're human. Considering things "confusing" are opportunities for discussion.

    By the way, I do quite a bit of outside research on these matters and am friends with quite a few of the seminarians. Irenaeus is inspiring vocations... which is a heck of a lot more than the rest of the diocese could say.

    I hope this answers some of your concerns.


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    2. Your wording here is interesting:
      - "[I]t is generally ASSUMED that the writer of the commentary is the 'leader' of the week."
      - "I use Titus as an ESCAPE from the constant barrage of negativity from the secular world..."
      - "Irenaeus is inspiring VOCATIONS...which is a heck of a lot more than the rest of the diocese could say."

      Sorry to be the one to tell you this, but you only strengthen Jamie's post title. ASSUME, ESCAPE, VOCATION, manipulation. Fallacious reasoning if only to get the weekly fix. (Speaking of the secular world, what Higbean [and no doubt his leftist counterparts'] "doctrine" discussions do is exactly what right- and left-wing "news" television does, stages an impassioned act of concern for issues affecting viewers so as to wrest their unreasoning loyalty. [Maniacal hand-wringing unnecessary.])

      In closing, your comment only highlights the more my reason in mentioning the Legion of Christ. I've heard this song before. ;-)

    3. *shrug* Point still stands, David's not really involved in Titus much any more. And it's an interesting discussion with nice people, so I think I'll keep going.

      Thanks for the link, by the way! It was really interesting to read--a good thing for me help keep an eye out.


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    5. Oh, shrugging and sticking to your guns (water pistols?) is fine. Believe me, I'm not peddling fear porn or contrarianism, just taking serious matters seriously. We all have room to grow savvier and deeper, not just with others but with ourselves! (On the latter topic I must recommend Dee Pennock's very patristic book Path to Sanity.) And if you found that article helpful, click around and share any facts on any topic you feel you and your friend may be lacking. As you may have already guessed, I LIKE COMPLETENESS IN DISCUSSING THINGS. But in a hypothetical where Titus is to you as much a help as an escape and if you (and those you invite) are not having your critical thinking skills charmed/scared out of you...more's the glory!

      I'll come right to the point: love and venerate all, trust or fear none.

    6. Ooh, patristics! Sold, I love the Fathers. It is definitely a help, especially when we start talking about things like family and life. Since there's a decent-sized range of ages (as well as of vocational callings!) just the people are fascinating. But maybe that's the wannabe sociologist in me speaking.

      Agreed wholeheartedly. And discuss Greek as much as possible. =D

    7. Glad you're interested in the Holy Fathers.

      As a primer on the matter of vocations, I'd point out that, patristically speaking, there is one spiritual Way to which all are called, and this Way admits of a more or less varied array of expressions. There is one vocation, one law, to wit to love. When love is absent or is subordinate to control, then diversity amounts to a distracting ruse, an "escape" if you will. Where there is no freedom, obedience is based on fear and not the friendship Jesus proposes in his Last Supper Discourse. That is how "vocations" came to be the parody outlined on the page you read: heterodoxy pure and simple.

    8. That makes sense. I suppose I could've chosen my words better, then... not sure how to say it concisely, but there are many in different walks of life. Young women discerning sisterhood, young men discerning (and pursuing!) priesthood, young married couples, young couples discerning marriage... and so on. Catholic "diversity" at its finest.

      Thank you for the words of advice! I will keep it all in mind. I might add that Fr. Erdle is often heavily involved in Titus (he often weighs in from a priestly perspective) and hears Confession after discussion every week. I'm not trying to justify anything bad here, simply to point out good things--because often in Rochester, we like to focus on the bad. (I know this sounds somewhat ditzy but I've been dealing with lots of negativity about the diocese lately and firmly believe we ought to fully appreciate the goodness we have.)

    9. With your latter sentiment I am very much in agreement; indeed this has been my point of departure in much of my life since returning to my native town from the desert of Arizona. I even somewhat have come to conclude that "positive thinking," which I once ridiculed (along with "self-esteem" which I still summarily condemn), can at times be a way to get me going. Focus your energy on what is positive, absolutely, but always be at the ready to exchange the good for the better. There is a coldness in Rochester, but orthodoxy is not its cause. The heterodoxy in Rochester is essentially esoteric, Occultist, Masonic in type. Western New York's Burned-Over District has been a hub of secret societies (Masonry, Mafia etc.), and not much has changed since the early Nineteenth Century on that front. Most heterodoxy is Occultist, though obviously most historians you are liable to hear apparently can't be bothered to so much as mention this common cause (as well as everything done in secret even if copiously documented for fear of an increasingly banal mainstream labeling them as conspiracists). In the absence of serious historology we are taught such laughably cozy, one-sided propositions as that the New Age (i.e. Novus Ordo [Seclorum]) is fragmented and fuzzy, but let me assure you that in the dark inner circles it is quite focused and mechanical in essence. Masonry always works in the darkness (literally), and that is why children of the light never see its schemes coming to the light of day. (Of course it soon self-destructs as is evil's nature.)

      And if beauty is truth, then ugliness must be deceit. Some churches look as if Jim Henson and Tim Burton had had a baby together. They are an affront to faith, morals and the spiritually ascending nature of ancient orthodox catholic Christianity. The octagonal baptismal fonts especially have always given me the creeps. Everything has been done to make evil feel at home and good feel like a fish out of water in our churches.

      Then again, I have witnessed the oddness of those who rail against the diocesan establishment. I have rubbed shoulders with both types: the Macalusos and the Learys. Both wield one power or another against what we can't help agreeing is of infernal dominions in this diocese, yet even their methods do not bear the good fruit of universal edification, indicating that there may be a misplaced spirit involved.

      I'll say more about my journey upon request.

      What can I advise? For myself, no matter the desperation, I will not fling myself toward anything but Christ alone. I would not trust a man who has lived his whole life in isolation any more than a lifelong profligate. I cannot afford to indulge such delusion. I do not allow Fox News or CNN to tug at my heartstrings (and use their NLP) so they can have an in to skew my perception of the facts presented, and neither can I afford to extend this courtesy to a Chicagoland refugee, inwardly converted and outwardly orthodox though he be. The spirit is willing, but...I'll take the conversion, the transformation, the orthodoxy, the sanity, the common sense, yet even these tell me to neither shoot the messenger nor idolize him. If Fr. Corapi was defectible (?), David Higbee is ten times more so.

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    11. But I can appreciate your point about "David's fruits." What was it Jesus said to John the Baptist's messenger? "The blind see, the lame walk..." It looks too much like springtime in a city that's been in nuclear winter for as long as you and I have probably been on this earth. We're ready to believe again. Yet please believe that the Legion of Christ saw this same dynamic! I'm saying this: believe, but set your heart on things above. Always higher gifts, as St. Paul says to the Corinthians. Keep it ascending. This is where positive thinking leaves off and only theologically infused Faith can keep our hearts rising, ever upward. The true Faith has more than enough to get us out of the doldrums or malaise in which we find ourselves in this diocese, a true spiritual oppression. Not even a Fr. John Corapi or a David Higbee can, and the reason may have something to do with how high-powered these men tend to be to whom we look as almost saviors. This is a bad and faithless habit many of us hereabouts have. What we need is more smallness. There is an American spirit where everyone is king and no one does the work. This has enabled slavery, tyranny and the use (and abuse) of illegal immigrants: make no mistake about it, the reason these go so long unaddressed is because we are so used to a life that requires others to be treated sub-humanly. Abortion may be the most drastic and grotesque example, but as I say it is only part and parcel of an evil attitude, habit and spirit, that we have not yet brought our Faith to bear on in a meaningful way that engages and defeats it. This in both the political and corporate sectors alike and equally. Until we address the enemy within us we will continue to see more and more mutual contempt which has as its handy outlet an artificial right-left paradigm the élite set up to divide and conquer the common man. If we were willing to be common, small, local, we could rise as a society and become truly independent of the evil elements that play off of our passions to play us against each other like pawns and keep their throne of illegal dominance from which they reign over the impending darkness.

      All this to say, what Sacred Scripture has to say about the universal corruptibility of men is only too kind, yet of man's potential glory once fired by the Holy Spirit you also cannot possibly say enough good things. Don't quench.

    12. Another word. "Beware the leaven of the Sadducees and Pharisees." In other words, don't regard the Religious Right Establishment or its insecure hangers-on as "wise." If you seriously set out to find wisdom, you will start with those the world considers foolish, not career lecturers. Start with that painfully shy guy with the crooked glasses and the trench coat who shows up at the churches. If on the other hand you're there for dating, keep going to Titus. Okay, now I'm really done posting.