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The Sermon That Cost A Priest His Job

On Sunday, August 26, the day after the Vigano testimony was published, a young Catholic priest named Juan Carlos Gavancho preached a bold homily in the Santa Barbara, California, parish [1]where he was assistant pastor. He preached about scandal, and standing up for the faith. You can hear the entire homily here, on his Facebook page.  [2] It’s 20 minutes long, but the most intense part starts shortly after the 10-minute mark. I have transcribed it below.

Here is a link to the same homily in Spanish.  [3]

The reaction to this sermon was swift. Within two days, Father Gavancho was told by his pastor to get his things and vacate the rectory.  His name was taken off the parish website.

Before

After

Padre Gavancho is now living in a hotel, and doesn’t know what is going to happen to him next. He was serving in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, but his home base is the Archdiocese of Chicago. If he can’t find another clergy assignment, he tells me that he will likely be compelled to return to Peru.

This young Catholic priest risked his future by speaking the truth about what’s happening in the Church. Listen to his homily, or at least read the transcript below. Pray for him. I’ll keep you updated about his status.

From Father Gavancho’s August 26 homily, starting at the 10:47 mark. This is what courage sounds like:

The evil has found in the Church a hold. And it is natural for people to believe that there is nothing else to do in the Catholic Church. Maybe many are thinking of leaving the Church. After the terrible experience of 2002, with the abuses, many people left the Church. Now, another opportunity, many people are going to leave. I hope they don’t do, I tell them that they need to stay, that this is the Church of Christ. But if they do, believe me, I understand. Because it is very bad what we have allowed to take place in the Catholic Church in the world. Because this is not only America. In the world! Everywhere! Chile. Ireland. Australia. Everywhere.

If you are Catholic, and you love the Catholic Church, you cannot just say, “Well, let’s pray, let’s offer a couple of rosaries, and we’ll see what happens.” You cannot do that. You have to pray, but pray for truth. You need to pray so God can act. He has begun to act. Who may think that yesterday, that a former Vatican ambassador from the Holy See to the United States was going to write 10, 11 pages letter saying this — asking for the resignation of a pope?! Who may think that? If you had told me that yesterday morning, I wouldn’t have believed you. But that’s what happened.

change_me

So, what are we doing now? Where are we going from here? First of all, we must understand one thing. This Church, the Catholic Church, is the Church of Christ. It is the Bride of Christ. St. Paul is right when he said in the letter to the Ephesians, “He has cleansed the Church with His Cross, with His blood.” She is beautiful. We have betrayed her. This is not an abusive church. This is a holy church that has fallen into the hands of abusive, evil men, who are trying to destroy the Church from within, since they couldn’t do it from the outside throughout the centuries.

But you must be aware that Christ is in charge of the church. He is in charge. Sometimes on days like this, we may not see him. We may not feel him. And we may cry out like we did at the beginning of the mass, “Please, Lord, help us! Have mercy on us!” But he’s in charge, and he will bring justice. He’s already begun to do that. These things I have told you are just the beginning. Just the beginning. Many bad things are going to happen, and we need to be glad, because nothing is better than the truth. To know what is happening, even though it may be ugly, it may be painful, to know it is very good. So, Christ is in charge.

Second, pray. Do sacrifices. Pray the rosary. Come closer to the Lord. Ask the Lord to be part of his flock. Because you will see many wearing cassocks like this, or chasubles like this, many preaching from the pulpits. They are traitors. So you need to have something that in the Catholic Church is called discernment: the capacity to know where is God and where is not. Regardless of it seems like God is here or it seems like God is there. No, no — now you need real discernment, because the Devil has clothed his children with shepherd’s clothing, to make it more difficult to recognize him.

You need to pray for discernment, to pray for the Church, to pray for you, for your children. To pray for your priests, especially for so many bishops who are good, still, and priests who are good, faithful. Who have suffered greatly all these decades, and all these years, being moved from one parish to another because they were preaching the truth, and the pastor or the bishop didn’t like that, so they moved to another place, and another place, living a life of great suffering — they are there. And it’s not fun. It is difficult. You cry a lot, because you feel lonely. Forgotten. Despised. Only because you wanted to be faithful to Christ, but your speech, and your homilies didn’t fit with the ideas of these people who wanted to destroy the Church, and who wanted you to say nice things to the people. Don’t make waves. Just go along with everything. Don’t make people nervous. Just, you know, speak about general things, so people are not aware of what’s going on.

So my dear brothers and sisters, then we must act, which is part of a process of conversion. You must act. Bishop Fulton Sheen, one of the greatest bishops that America has ever had … said that: “Do not look for change in bishops and priests.” Do not. He was talking to you. The change in the Church … will come through you laity. When you don’t give up, and tell your pastor and your priest and your bishop: “Tell us the truth! Stop being just nice, and smiling to us, and preach the Gospel to us! We want to live a holy life, not the life that the world lives. Tell us the truth, and we will help you to sustain the Church with our money and other things. But you, you need to do your mission, you need to do your job, which is helping us to get to heaven. To be saved. To give us the Sacrament, to love Jesus, and not just to be politically correct. That’s not the Gospel.

But that’s the temptation that you laity have fallen into. … Speak out! Do you want the Gospel? Do you want Christ? Do you want heaven? Do you want the truth? Or do you just want what we find everywhere in the world, which is what we really want to hear, what is pleasing to our ears. Demand change in the Church. It’s not going to be enough, just adding a couple of policies to this taking care of the children. It’s not going to be enough just to see three, four, or five cardinals resigning, and ten bishops resigning — it’s not going to be enough. We need to see real change. We need to go back to be faithful to Christ, to Our Lord Christ, not the world. We are here to change the world, not the world to change us. We are the light of the world; we are not equal with the world. We have Christ. We have the truth. The world is helpless. The prince of the world is the Evil One, and we are hear to fight against him.

Now, what I’m saying might sound very hard for you, and I have to say I’m sorry, but I had to say it. Because I’m sick and tired of seeing my mother the Church being insulted and portrayed as an institution of criminals. Because it’s not. It’s my mother, it’s your mother! The one who gave you eternal life through baptism, who gave you the courage through confirmation, who gives you the Eucharist every Sunday you come. She’s our mother, and we need to help her in these dreadful times. So my dear brothers and sisters again, I have to say this because I am priest of Christ. Many people don’t say that, and I was afraid to say something like that. There are more things I want to say, but I don’t say it because I want to be here next week.

[Applause]

But I need to say this, and I ask the Lord’s pardon, because I’m a coward too. Sometimes I don’t say what I should say, because sometimes I’m more concerned about my position. Pray for me too so I may be a saint. But suffering is hard, it’s tough, you don’t want to suffer. Pray, my fellow Catholics, in these dreadful times. Demand from your leaders the truth — only then everything will be fine. With Jesus! Not with cardinals, not with popes. These are human beings. Some are wonderful, some are bad. Only with Christ. Only by doing his will. Only by staying next to him faithfully, everything will be fine. And I tell you this: everything will be fine. The Church of Christ cannot be destroyed through anybody, not for the Devil. They will not destroy the Church, but they will take some members of the Church away — yes, that he can do. And we pray that none of us will be one of them. So my dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord help us in these dreadful times to have courage. I have my hope in God, and in you, the laity. You will save the Church.

UPDATE: I’ve heard from a couple of people that this homily wasn’t what got this priest booted from the parish. I’m going to change the headline of this blog entry, and rewrite the top, pending verification. It is nevertheless an excellent homily.

UPDATE.2: I’ve just heard from a friend I trust who has direct personal knowledge of the situation. He suggested that I change the headline back, saying that Father Gavancho was definitely kicked out because of this homily. I also got Father Gavancho’s phone number, and called him tonight. Here is Gavancho’s version of what happened:

The pastor of his parish, Our Lady of Sorrows in Santa Barbara, asked him to meet privately at 6pm on Tuesday, two days after delivering the homily. The pastor told him that he had to get out of the rectory that evening. The parish will pay to store your things for one week, Gavancho said he was told, but after that, you’re on your own. Gavancho spent that night in a hotel, with as many of his belonging as he could stuff into his car stored there. Gavancho had been resident in the parish for only six weeks.

The next day he reported to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles vicar for clergy office. He was told that his right to say mass in Los Angeles was being removed. Gavancho asked why. The official meeting with him was surprised that he didn’t know, and presented a piece of paper with ten complaints by the pastor of his parish against him.

The above homily was on the list. The other complaints are, in Gavancho’s view, either things that happened, but were twisted by the pastor to make them sound bad, or did not happen at all. The priest gave me a couple of examples. I won’t get into the details here, because they are extraordinarily petty.

Gavancho said at no point was he allowed to defend himself. The decision to oust him was made without his input. This is the second time he has been asked to leave a California diocese. He came to Los Angeles from Santa Rosa, where he had gone after friction in the Archdiocese of Chicago, his home diocese.

“I have to recognize that yes, trouble has followed me, not because I’m a troublemaker, but because the situation in the Church is so difficult that priests like me don’t fit in well,” Gavancho told me.

I asked him to explain. He said that he is orthodox in his Catholicism, and outspoken.

“I’m not a priest who always preaches about hell, abortion, or homosexuality,” he said. “I preach on whatever the Gospel reading was that day. If it talks about the poor, I preach on the poor. I defended immigrants in a homily not long ago. Sometimes they try to portray me as someone who is mean, but that’s not true.”

Gavancho said at his Santa Barbara assignment, he tried to be on his best behavior. “I didn’t wear my cassock precisely because I knew [the pastor] wouldn’t like it,” he said. “I didn’t go to other places and say the Latin mass because I knew he would get mad.”

But here he is, with nowhere to go. In our conversation, Gavancho expressed concern that people would think that he reached out to me. (He didn’t; I called him.) He seemed hesitant about talking to me, but said after delivering that homily, he didn’t want to be a hypocrite.

“The time in the Church has come for people to speak out,” he said. “I can’t tell people not to say anything now because I don’t want to get in trouble.”

Gavancho told me that he’s praying now that some other bishop will take him. Failing that, he’s hoping to find a place to stay for the next six weeks, and a place to store his books and personal belongings, or the funds to pay for a hotel, until he can get back home to Peru to see his mother. He has planned to fly back on October 15. He thought it would be a normal visit back home, but now the flight back may be a one-way trip.

“I had to speak the truth,” he said, about his homily. “But the consequences have been terrible.”

I have changed the headline back to the original form.

UPDATE.3: So many of you are writing to offer help to Father Gavancho that I can’t possibly respond personally. I’m forwarding all of your e-mails to him.

I did hear this morning from a former parishioner of Gavancho’s in northern California. He writes:

Father Juan Carlos had been in the Santa Rosa Diocese for 2-3 years, and prior to his most recent assignment up in Lake County had been the pastor of my parish, St. Thomas Aquinas in Napa. When we learned that he was being assigned to St. Thomas, many of us were very happy, as he had reputation for being solidly orthodox and celebrating the liturgy in a reverent manner. While both of these things were true, he only lasted a year as pastor at our parish, and while some might claim it was because of preaching homilies like this, I can tell you that he was removed despite preaching homilies like this. The real problem was that he had poor administrative skills, taking a parish that was struggling, but making ends meet, and within a single year putting it deep into the red, so much so that some of us wondered if the Diocese would just end up closing the parish if things continued as they were. Not only did he make poor financial decisions, but he drove away many long-time parishioners (and ours is the most “conservative” of the three parishes in town).

Additionally, while sometimes complaints that someone isn’t “pastoral” enough can be code for being too faithful, in this case, it’s simply the truth. He was difficult to get along with, for both members of the Anglo and Latino communities at our parish, both of which dwindled in the year he was here. I don’t know what happened up in Lake County, but he only made it a year up there before we got notice that he was returning to Chicago. It’s worth noting that our Bishop, Robert Vasa, also has a reputation as being one of the more “conservative” Bishops out there, and has really turned our Diocese around in this regard. He’s supportive of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, brought in a dynamic group of faithful, traditional sisters, and has rehabilitated several of the most faithful priests who had basically been in exile under previous Bishops. Whatever happened in Santa Rosa, the issue wasn’t Father Gavancho’s theology.

I wouldn’t be surprised at all to hear that whoever the pastor at this parish is acted extremely abruptly, and seemingly in a rash manner, but based on personal experience, I’d be shocked if he was removed because of this single homily, because this is how most of his homilies go, if sometimes to a lesser extent.

FWIW.

UPDATE.4: This statement appears on the website of Our Lady of Sorrows in Santa Barbara:

Dear Our Lady Of Sorrows Parish Community:

Father Juan Carlos Gavancho, a priest originally from the Archdiocese of Chicago who had been serving at Our Lady of Sorrows parish in Santa Barbara since early July, was asked to leave that assignment on August 29 and will no longer be serving in our parish or in the Archdiocese. Contrary to rumors and reports, Father Gavancho was asked to leave not due to the content of his homily on Sunday August 26, but rather because of issues with his interpersonal relationships with parish staff and parishioners. The Archdiocese is providing financial assistance during his transition back to the Archdiocese of Chicago, his home diocese.

That’s the official story. Did the pastor really have this — calling Gavancho into a meeting on a Tuesday night, and telling him to get his things and leave the rectory that night — all planned before Gavancho gave that homily? I find that hard to believe. I mean, I grant that there might have been other reasons to give Gavancho the heave-ho, but it is impossible to believe that this homily had nothing at all to do with it.

Furthermore, if Gavancho is telling the truth, he was not given the opportunity to explain or defend himself before his fate was decided. That is not just. If he is spinning the story, then I hope the Archdiocese of LA will give us a more complete and accurate version.

Bottom line: in fairness, we have to consider that Father Gavancho bears some fault for what happened to him. It is highly unusual for a priest to bounce out of three dioceses in such a short time. Prudence tells us to be careful not to draw firm conclusions without more information. That said, the excellence of his homily stands apart from whatever he did or failed to do in that parish, and I don’t see how it can be seriously disputed that the homily itself was the catalyst for his ejection from the parish.

UPDATE.5: 

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UPDATE.6:

I just spoke to Father Gavancho, who wants to respond to what the Our Lady of Sorrows parish website says. He denies unequivocally that he had any problems with the parish staff at Our Lady of Sorrows. He says he got along with everyone. He also says that when the Archdiocese of Los Angeles states that it is helping him financially manage this transition, what they mean is they’re paying his hotel bill. He has no insurance, no salary, no severance pay.

I am forwarding all of your letters for Father Gavancho to him. He said that he only has his cell phone now, so it’s hard for him to respond to all of them. He wants TAC readers to know that he is grateful “from the bottom of my heart” for prayers and offers of help. He is going to try to respond to all of you via e-mail when he gets the opportunity.

UPDATE.7: I just heard from a credible, informed source in one of Father Gavancho’s former dioceses that he — Gavancho — backing up what the former Gavancho parishioner said above: that Gavancho does give solid homilies, but that he was bad with money, and difficult to get along with — even alienating priests and laymen who supported his theological convictions.

It is entirely possible that Gavancho was tossed from Our Lady of Sorrows over this homily, AND that he has personal issues that make him a difficult priest to work with. Whatever the truth is about Father Gavancho’s personal style, the sermon he gave, and that I quote, is powerful, and is the reason I made this post in the first place. If you are inclined to donate money to help Father Gavancho — and I know many of you are, because you’re writing me — understand that I neither encourage nor discourage that, because it’s not my role to do so. I am updating this story with credible information as it comes in. I am passing along all emails that come in to me for Father Gavancho to him.

UPDATE.8: Just now I received two e-mails. One was from a solid priest, someone I know to be very orthodox, reporting that Father Gavancho has a hard time getting along with people, even those who want to help him.

I also received this from Father Gavancho, who asks me to post this on his behalf. I’m doing so to give him a chance to respond to the people who have written to support him. I don’t intend to get involved further in this controversy, so until and unless something else major happens in the story, this is going to be the final update. Whatever the reason or reasons for Father Gavancho’s dismissal, it is impossible for me to believe that his homily had nothing to do with it. And it remains a fantastic homily, in my view.

Here’s what he says tonight:

Dear brothers and sister in Christ Jesus

If someone would have told me a week ago that I will be in this situation I would have not believed it. But now that I am in the middle of this confusion and after what happened I think is important for me to speak out and to give my version of the events, and by doing so trying to answer some important questions.

First of all, I want to thank every one who has expressd their support and offer their help. I am overwelmed by this. From the botton of my heart, thank you. Without your prayers and expressions of suppiort I will be lost.

I want to say, I never planned for this. I have lost many thigns that I wanted to keep in this turmoil. I do not have anything to do with this news getting out there in social media. I just let people do what they wanted to do. I neither encorage them, nor discourange them to do it. In my homily I asked the laity to act, it will be hypocrital of me to say now: “Yeah but not now, because I am afraid of what can happned to me”.

On Tuesday August 28, Father Cesar Magallon, Pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows in Santa Barbara, texted me saying that he wanted to meet with me at 6:00 p.m. In the meeting there was a deacon as a witness. Father Cesar read from a piece of paper more or less the folling: “Father, this meeting is for you. Tomorrow in your meeting with the vicar for priests, they will let you know the reasons for this. Beginning now you are not to have any ministry in Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, please give me now the keys of the parish, the car, and the house, and everything that belongs to the Parish. You have now to go to your room pack a suitcase and take clothing for a week, you have a hour. We will hire a Moving Company, they will pack the rest of your things and they will be delivered to you to an adress that you can priovide us. This is all.” I did not ask any question because he told me in the beggining that he will not say the reasons. So I went up to my room and tried to staff my car with as many things as I could. I also took some impoprtant things from my office. Father Cesar was all the time watching me, probably making sure I leave. I left the Rectory totally ignorant of the reason and shocked for what just happened.

The following day, I went to the Archidiocese and met with the Vicar for Clergy, they informed me the following: “Father we are sorry, but things did not work out, so we already talk to the vicar for priests in Chicago, you need to go back, here is the letter that says that you have ended you ministry here in Los Angeles and therefore your faculties here are being withdraw.” I asked: “May I know why?” he said: “Cesar did not tell you? nobody called you?” I said: ‘No’. So he went into his office and came back with sheet of paper with some points, maybe three pages or so, and begin to enumerate several points. I will not waist time to mention them because they all were about so little things, some were true but exagerated, some were totally false. The last item written by Father Cesar in the list was the homily, about which the Vicard read: “I was in the rectory listening through the speakers in my room and he said the all priests are demons and that we should not look for the bishops for change, etc” Then he said: “Well father sorry but it did not work out” I said “just one question: do you think throwing me out of the rectory without any chance to collect my personal things was the best way to do this?” He said: “I would have done it diferently but what can we do? it is done.” I left.

It is clear that the reason that Father Cesar had to through me out in this way was not only the homily. It was also, I believe, the awareness he had from the beginning of the kind of priest I am, very different from him. He wanted me out and only was waiting for a bigger excuse, which was the homily. All the reasons in that paper are just excuses, the real reason, was the homily and what it represented. Indeed, on Sunday 26th, I delieved the homily, Monday he met with the Vicar for Clergy, I do not know if by phone or in person, then I received a phone call that very day about meeting with the vicar for priest, and then the next day, Tuesday, I was kicked out like a criminal. The way this was done, independetly of if he has reasons or not to do it, is just unnaceptable. No human being, priest or no priest, should be treated like that in the Church of Christ. But this only shows the hatred some liberal people have toward ortodoxy. It does not matter if one is obidient and nice, you have to believe what they believe and you have to hate what they hate. Some priests are good and ortodox but they have the gift of knowing how to be politically correct. I can be nice, tolerant, pleasant and polite, but I must confess, I am incapable of being politically correct.

I want to be very clear. I NEVER EVER had any kind of problem or argument or difficulty with any of the staff members. I treated them always with respect and love. They are good people as far as I know, they also, all of them, treated me with respect and charity, they are my witnesses, and I hope when they are asked, they choose to be faithful to the truth, even by risking their jobs. To them I am so greatful and I want them to know that I appreciate what they did for me in different ways, while I was there with them.

I also want to be clear about the following: I obeyed Father Cesar in everything he instructed me to do. He prefered to communicate with me through texts and emails. I asnwered them always and when he told me that I was not doing something right, I alwsys apologized and tell him that I will correct it inmediatelly. Some were things I desagree with. I wanted to wear cassock, and be available for confession during Mass, etc. I wanted to do that, but I did not do it because I obeyed him, always with respect and without arguing. Did I made mistakes? Sure I did, small ones but always apologized for them and try to do better. I asked him a couple of times: “How are we doing Cesar?” He told me “you are doing well, you are implementing my indications and that is good.” I said: “Please feel free to let me know what else can I change.” I have texts and emails that corroborates that. About the issues in that list that Father Cesar wrote, many of them I learned them right there for the first time.

About those people who very quikly called or wrote in the American Conservative Blog about my past assigments I have to say this. I did not come from heaven although I want to go there. I am a human being I have a history and I live in this world and in this Church and in this especific time. Yes, I have had my failures, I have learned from them. Sometimes I do not smile enough, sometimes I am tired or I may have not responded as nice as I should have to some people. Yes, that can be possible, because I am a human being, we all have people in our past who can say bad things about us. If I have offernded anyone some how in my past asigments, I apologize. But people need to understand that in a life of a priest in the context of the Church today it is impossible to please everyone. I found people who are liberal minded and just by knowing that I stand by the teachings of the Church, they hated me. With other who do believe in the teachings of the Church I may have had my differences in other issues and I probably could have done better with them. That does not make me a bad priest. What I can say is that I was never unpropose mean or unmerciful with anyone. I have many people in those same parishes that did appreciate me and love me and even today we are still united by a deep friednship. A priest is a teacher, some people like you, some do not, that is called life. I could be better? yes, I am not saint, but I want to be. My dissmissal from Our Lady of Sorrows does not have anything to do with relationships problems, but it has everything to do with my homily and my being a faithful catholic priest.

I do not have any intention to attack the Church. I will prefer to die before doing such a thing. As I said in my homily, “the Church is my Mother”, I love her and I would die for her. I thank the Archidiocese of los Angeles, Bishop Barron especially who was my Rector and my teacher, and an excelent one in Mudelein Seminary. However I do feel that the way things were handled were not right. I thank the Archidioces for offering me, after the people protested, to pay for two weeks hotel, I am in a motel that is enough for me. They did not have to do that because this is not my Archidiocese, but they did it and I am greatful. Having said that, we cannot treat people like I was treated in Our Lady of Sorrows and respond with burocracy and cold political and legal staments like nothing happened. It is easier to change the focus and just say: “It is not his sermon, he is just a troublemaker.” It was the homily and they know it. We are the Church of Christ we believe you are bishops and priests of God Almighty, be for us just that, sheperds, fathers, not diplomats or politicians. Be Christ for us.

The situation in the Church is a critical one. I stand by my words in my sermon: “A great change is needed” My brothers faithful priests acrosss the US and througout the whole world know very well of the suffering and pain that we undergo in the Church today, how we are silenced, sensured, set aside, persecuted because we want to preach the truth, of wear casick, or embrace tradition, they know. Some of them choose to remain quite, precisely because they do not want to go through what I am going now. I do not blame them I myslef do not want to be in the place where I am right now. This suffering is not absent, not even if a priest who is working under a bishop with resputation of being conservative; many times some of them are pressured by the situation and are forced by some people to play politics and to be willing to sacrifice one or two solid and good priests for the sake of being percieve as more moderate bishops. But I firmly believe, as God is my witness, especially in this particular case in Our Lady of Sorrows, that I did nothing to deserve bein treated like that. But I believe, God has allowed this to happen for two reasons. To purify my heart and make it like his, and on the other hand, to be a witness to his love in the Church in this specific context, like the one we are going through.

I beg all of you, pray for me as I am going through this calvary. Your prayers are suistaining me, I can feel them. Now I need discernment and wisdon to know where God wants me go. Wherever it is, pray that I may have the courage to: “Carry my cross and follow him” (Mt 16,24). May God bless his Church and may allow us to remain in her bosson, the only place where salvation can be found.

UPDATE.9: I said I would add nothing else, but an extraordinary letter came in from a former parishioner of Father Gavancho’s in northern California. I won’t post it here, because it makes extraordinary charges, and I don’t want to get sucked further into this. Let me say that the reader powerfully challenges the Gavancho narrative, saying that he and his family tried to help Father Gavancho after he alienated many people at his parish. They loved his orthodoxy, but said in the end that they felt as burned by his behavior and inability to run a parish in a transparent and straightforward manner as everybody else. The reader said Father Gavancho makes it easy to feel sorry for him, but it is an act — that he is not persecuted, but creates his own drama, and his own problems.

I report, you decide. Whatever the truth about him, he still gave a hell of a good homily.

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231 Comments To "The Sermon That Cost A Priest His Job"

#1 Comment By Lurker #59 On September 5, 2018 @ 8:13 am

It seems that there are two points that are at play here that need further addressing.

1. That Fr. Gavancho was bad with money.
2. That Fr. Gavancho is prickly and difficult in personality.

If we grant that both are true, neither are good reasons for removing Fr. Gavancho from his assigned parish and tossing him out. Rather, they indicate poor administrative skills on the parts of those who approved and instigated all of this.

Most people are not good with money and end up getting themselves and their households into debt. If a priest is not good with money, then who on earth assigns that priest the duties of controlling finances? On this account, removal from the parish is unjust and unwarranted.

In reading Fr. Gavancho’s letter above it is very clear that he has “rough edges” and doesn’t fit the pattern of the “don’t rock the boat” priests that fill our parishes. However, the “don’t rock the boat” mentality is why we are where we are. Further, you deal with “rough edges” through mentorship not by tossing a priest out.

I don’t think that people are trying to make Fr. Gavancho into a saint. Rather, he is just a priest after God’s own heart. He may be prickly (in a sense his letter rubs me the wrong way) and he may be bad with money, but I would so greatly rejoice to have a priest like him, implied warts and all.

As a closing note: this puts the lie to the whole prattle of “accompaniment”. The only accompaniment that is going on is that being done by those who are helping a priest to get back on his feet.

#2 Comment By VE On September 5, 2018 @ 8:53 am

I really don’t get what you’re doing with this story. It seems like all you’ve done is gossip.

You say, “I report, you decide.” But you don’t actually report, just whisper gossip basically a bunch of “Well so and so told me something really bad, but I don’t feel comfortable sharing, but trust me it’s really bad!”

You said Gavancho shared with you the 10 reasons the diocese let him go, but you don’t want to say what they are, but we should trust you, they’re extraordinarily petty! Well if you really want to “report and let us decide” then report the reasons and let us decide if they’re petty or not.

In update #9 you say you received a letter that “powerfully challenged” the current narrative, but you’re tired of being sucked into this so we should just trust you that it’s “extraordinary” and really challenges Gavancho’s account. Again, if you insist we are the ones that need to decide for ourselves, then you need to provide this evidence you have that’s so powerful! I bet you are “don’t want to be sucked into this,” but this is all your own making! So buck up, stop the gossipy innuendos, and report whatever evidence you have, or admit you don’t have a clue what’s going on and probably shouldn’t have accused the diocese of targeting an orthodox priest without knowing the whole story.

[NFR: Gavancho didn’t share with me the “ten reasons” — just some of them. What I said at the beginning remains true: Gavancho gave a strong homily, and found himself booted out of the parish after it. It emerged subsequently that Gavancho has a history of trouble at his past parishes. I reported that as soon as I found out about it. I received a claim this morning from a former parishioner of his in northern California, a man who identifies himself as a former supporter of Gavancho’s alleging that Gavancho was divisive, prickly, and a terrible administrator who alienated even those who admired his statements of orthodoxy. I’m reporting this all as I find it out. You do what you want to do with the information. — RD]

#3 Comment By David D’Alless On September 5, 2018 @ 10:06 am

Regarding Update 9: As you’ve pointed out in the past, Rod, some priests who are orthodox and faithful are obnoxious in other ways. A parish not far from mine had one as its pastor. He seemed to love preaching fire & brimstone about the sin of masturbation, for example. Once in a while would have been fine — we totally get it, Father — but he seemed fixated on the subject, returning to it often. And there were a lot of families with children in that parish. This wasn’t the only marker of this priest’s tone deafness, just one of the most glaring, and his brand of liturgical fidelity/social conservatism split the parish. Many members stayed and, of these, more than a few declared him the finest and bravest priest in the diocese. Others quietly left.

Just another bit of anecdotal evidence pointing out the reality that high fidelity to the faith is no assurance of interpersonal adeptness, much less of humble spirit or pastoral skill.

#4 Comment By P On September 5, 2018 @ 10:49 am

It’s probably been said already, but it’s possible to be an orthodox believer and a jerk at the same time.

#5 Comment By Claudia On September 5, 2018 @ 11:00 am

I attend two parishes in Santa Barbara, one of which is the referenced parish, Our Lady of Sorrows. When I was there for the Bread of Life sermon, it was a spiritual retreat. Father JC incorporated three weeks of gospels on St. John to share the richness of the Eucharist. Sadly, I had never heard anything preached so movingly and well. My weak heart was so grateful. Generally, living here, I do not mind if the minds of my seven children wander during the homily. It is not essential for them to focus on so much of what is said in the homilies here. The homilies are generally weak, with some exceptions at Sorrows (and we did migrate over to another parish in town).

Afterword in the Martin Brewer Center, I was able to meet Fr Juan Carlos and introduce him to my teenagers. My teenagers were noticeably attracted to his spiritual preaching. It was different from so many of the homilies they have heard in the last four years.

All I can say from personal experience is that Fr Juan Carlos treated me, a simple mom with lots of children, like a human being. I found it very refreshing that he asked me questions and actually looked at me while he listened and waited for answers. It was so striking I wrote about it to a friend casually… “I met a new priest today who treated me like a human being.” I do not disbelieve what people are writing about his character traits. I simply say that my brief experience was not like that.

My serious concern, as a person who goes to local parishes here, is the terrible and unjust way this priest was treated. If my husband treated me like this in our marriage, people would counsel us to “get it together,” act Christian, and work things out.

Six weeks is too short a time to know how someone will do in a new parish. It is an embarrassment to the laity to have a priest thrown out of the rectory in the evening hours with no place to go. We should not treat our enemies like this.

#6 Comment By Mary C Sherman On September 5, 2018 @ 11:32 am

Tell Father Gavancho that if he would like to be a missionary, we can use an orthodox priest. We are an orthodox Catholic Church needing priests. Have him contact fraternitenotredame.org. WE are located in Chicago, IL and McHenry Co. IL.

#7 Comment By Joe Gregory On September 5, 2018 @ 12:41 pm

Please tell Fr Gavancho that we have need of him in Arlington, Virginia. Or my aunt says in the Tyler diocese in TX with Bishop Strickland. Feel free to pass my information on to Father!

#8 Comment By Claudia On September 5, 2018 @ 2:03 pm

I have thought about what I posted, and I realize I may not have expressed the local problem clearly. May I add this?

As a part-time parishioner at this parish in Santa Barbara, most of our joy in having this priest was that “he fed a people who were starving spiritually,” a friend of mine aptly put. A number of parishioners, I think, are not personally attached to priests at this parish; rather, Fr. Juan Carlos “represented” the kind of orthodox and honest preaching so many of us need at this time. That is the feeling of the laity I know here in Santa Barbara. We would like easier going access to our sacraments in their fullness.
Claudia

#9 Comment By CatherineNY On September 5, 2018 @ 5:07 pm

@Rod, I’ve written Update #10 for you: “I hereby apologize to Father Cesar Magallon, Pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows, whom I have allowed to be outrageously slandered on my blog by publishing the rant of his former associate, who is clearly a diva who has been thrown out of three different dioceses.” Father Magallon has been a priest for five years, and this blog has singlehandedly turned him into a figure of hate from complete strangers who profess to be devout Christians, and know nothing of him except what is said about him by someone who is very obviously a malicious and unreliable witness. It will be interesting to see what happens next to mini-Vigano as he embarks on his next adventure in alienating bishops, priests and parishioners wherever he goes. I’m sure we’ll know, because, despite his claims that he did nothing, nothing! to spread this story on social media, the slightest glance at his Facebook page proves otherwise. And what is at the top of that page right now? You guessed it — a link to the “Fund Me” that “Voice of the Innocent” has set up for him. Back in the old days, we were taught critical thinking skills and the weighing of sources and evidence in our parochial schools. Now those skills seem to be entirely absent for the public Catholic debate on social media. The nuns and priests who taught me must be rolling in their graves.

#10 Comment By Jennifer Roback Morse On September 5, 2018 @ 5:32 pm

Re: It’s probably been said already, but it’s possible to be an orthodox believer and a jerk at the same time.
I agree. No matter. The important lesson from this story is that the laity are watching. We don’t have all the information. We might make incorrect judgments sometimes. But we are keeping an eye on the clergy. They will behave differently if they know we are watching. That is the point of my article.
[7]

#11 Comment By leslie On September 5, 2018 @ 6:06 pm

A few points:
1. If Gavancho was canned because of his prickliness and poor handling of money, what supervisor in his right mind would do so right after a homily admitting what is obvious to anyone paying attention — that the church has been infiltrated by cooperating rings of pederasts and active homosexuals.

2. Even if his firing had been planned for reasons completely unrelated to his homily, a sane supervisor would have delayed the firing so that it didn’t look like what it looked like: retaliation for getting too close to the truth. (As if churches and Truth shouldn’t be on a first-name basis.). That person (Father Magallon) should no more be entrusted with management decisions than Gavancho should be in charge of money, if indeed that accusation of the latter is true.

3. If time was of the essence in removing Father Gavancho, where was the sense of urgency when the church was instead covering up and transferring abusive priests from one parish to another? The slo-mo & distraction strategy (Look! Over there! An Environmental Crisis) of the Vatican to the abuse revelations reinforces Gavancho’s homily. Gavancho was calling the parishioners to not look the other way, to demand a clean-up — a message not in sync with the Vatican’s, and guess which message suffers by the comparison?

4. It is possible that Gavancho is lousy administratively and personally, but good at homilies. Priests, like all people, have different gifts and deficits — why not, through mentoring and training, work on improving the shortcomings? And if that doesn’t “take” – then at least a parish is getting decent homilies . . .

#12 Comment By Juanita On September 6, 2018 @ 12:45 am

Having read the majority of these email so far:
1st: Associate priest are not protected by the church. But if they have a higher ranking or have connections, then the church protects them.
2nd: Bottom dollar is MONEY keeps the church going. If Father was a poor financial manager, perhaps it was because his parish didn’t donate sufficient monies. (Would it not make sense to test this on the Catholic church itself. For all the Mission campaigns that we all donate thousands of dollars, if they didn’t meet their goals, who would they blame then?
3rd: Ruin a “non-compliant” priest’s reputation by saying he doesn’t get along with the staff. (Its about
Documentation so they can label him and cast him out!)
4th: Some parishioners are manipulators. If they don’t get their way and they will find reasons and ways to get rid of priest.
5th: The church is like every corporation or business:
Image and Money. Amen. Pray for us.

#13 Comment By Kensington On September 6, 2018 @ 1:18 am

Fr. Juan Carlos served at my parish in Chicago, St. Thomas More.

I did not have any kind of “personal” relationship with him, but I never heard an unkind word about him or any complaints while he was there, and I was very sorry to see him go when he left.

In fact, I pray now that maybe he’ll get to come back. St. Thomas More still needs priests like him.

#14 Comment By Michelle On September 6, 2018 @ 2:32 pm

Isn’t a priest primarily supposed to shepherd his flock? If Fr. Gavancho, through his homilies,is able to touch people’s hearts ,renew their faith and help them into the right path,isn’t he doing a good job as a shepherd?Are being good with money and having interpersonal skills, more important?Reminds me of the Martha and Mary story.What comes across here is its ok if you have homilies that don’t really help your flock as long as you can help keep the church afloat. If Fr Gavancho is bad with money, couldn’t someone else handle it?why stop the good that he is able to accomplish through his homilies because of this?

#15 Comment By M On September 6, 2018 @ 10:29 pm

What was not written in this article was that Fr. Juan Carlos Gavancho had apparently been in the parish for only 6 weeks according to the article below:

[8]

As the writer of the linked article points out:

“It would take a true monster to so alienate people in six weeks of summer parish work as to merit dismissal.“

Was 6 weeks really enough to conclude that Fr Gavancho was a hard person to work with?Even If he had problems in other churches in the past, could he not have learned from them?To me,the duration of his tenure at Our Lady Of Sorrows Church, if true, hammers the point even more that it is because of his homily that he was dismissed.If his errors indeed were grave,perhaps more transparency could have been done as to why his dismissal was so abrupt

#16 Comment By Michelle On September 6, 2018 @ 10:40 pm

What was not written in this article is that Fr Gavancho apparently had only been in the parish for 6 weeks as stated in this article:

[8]

Was 6 weeks enough to conclude that Fr. Gavancho was hard to work with?as the writer in the linked article points out:

“It would take a true monster to so alienate people in six weeks of summer parish work as to merit dismissal.“

As for the problems that he had in other parishes in the past, is it possible that he learned from them and tried to improve himself?is it fair to judge his present circumstance based on his past mistakes especially considering he apparently only been in the parish for 6 weeks?Based on his short tenure at the church, if true, then it seems more likely that he got booted off because of his homily.If he committed such grave crimes in 6 weeks of tenure, then perhaps the church should provide more information.

#17 Comment By Tasio On September 6, 2018 @ 11:48 pm

As Rod has certainly made this a national story among Catholics, it’s disappointing that Bishop Barron’s only response to the public has been to cite the parish’s official statement.

Does he really expect us to greet that narrative with anything less that extreme suspicion? Is he, like many of his ilk, really so oblivious to the effects that this crisis have had on the flock?

Is anybody actual look at why so many have felt inspired by Gavancho and his story? I realize there is probably a lot more to this guy than he lets on, but the laity need real leadership now in this time of crisis, and we’re trying to use that discernment that Fr. Gavancho talked about to find good clergymen. Right now, he seems to fit the bill.

If some with direct knowledge of the parties involved in this case don’t like strangers rumor-mongering, or prematurely taking Gavancho’s side, then step up the game! The laity demand real action now—action of the kind Christ displayed when he chased the moneylenders from the temple. If no one is going to assume such a role, then don’t be surprised if people who feel failed by the the clergy gravitate toward priests like Gavancho!

#18 Comment By Patrick On September 7, 2018 @ 1:31 am

There must be more to this story. Father JC is a great orator. I am a former parishoner from his last assignment in Lake County at Queen of Peace Church in Clearlake. When he left, it was under a cloud of suspicion. At mass on 7/7 and 7/8 Father had issued a public apology at all masses in Lucerne and Clearlake for taking illicit collections and had to return the money. At the same masses, he also announced he was leaving the Parish and Diocese as of July 1. Something is not adding-up here with this story.

#19 Comment By Todd Flowerday On September 7, 2018 @ 12:44 pm

Looks to me like some of y’all are being groomed. Especially our blog host. This is classic grooming behavior: playing to a sympathetic audience, saying what people want to hear. Who wouldn’t like a homily that preaches other people’s sins (lust, laxity, and other liberalisms) and avoids one’s own (like gossip).

#20 Comment By CatherineNY On September 8, 2018 @ 9:45 am

@Patrick writes: “There must be more to this story. Father JC is a great orator. I am a former parishoner from his last assignment in Lake County at Queen of Peace Church in Clearlake. When he left, it was under a cloud of suspicion. At mass on 7/7 and 7/8 Father had issued a public apology at all masses in Lucerne and Clearlake for taking illicit collections and had to return the money. At the same masses, he also announced he was leaving the Parish and Diocese as of July 1. Something is not adding-up here with this story.” If this is the real story of Gavancho’s journey through three dioceses, the people who have my most sympathy are those who donated to the Go Fund Me campaign for Father Gavancho ($6283.00 donated so far, mainly in small donations, but one person donated $3000.00: [9]). And, of course, for Father Cesar Magallón, the pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows. A search for his name produces this blog story as the fifth result. To paraphrase the late Ray Donovan, let me ask Rod and others who piled on here and on other websites, where does Father Magallón go to get his reputation back?

#21 Comment By CatherineNY On September 8, 2018 @ 3:16 pm

I’m re-posting this, because it seems to have vanished. @Patrick writes: “There must be more to this story. Father JC is a great orator. I am a former parishoner from his last assignment in Lake County at Queen of Peace Church in Clearlake. When he left, it was under a cloud of suspicion. At mass on 7/7 and 7/8 Father had issued a public apology at all masses in Lucerne and Clearlake for taking illicit collections and had to return the money. At the same masses, he also announced he was leaving the Parish and Diocese as of July 1. Something is not adding-up here with this story.” So, if this is the real story behind Gavancho’s rocky journey through three dioceses, my sympathy goes to the people who have now contributed $6,383 to the “Go Fund Me” campaign that was started for him as a result of this blog post: [9]. Most donations were in small amounts, but one person gave $3000! And even more sympathy goes to Father Cesar Magallón, the young pastor whose name has been besmirched by Gavancho. To paraphrase the late Ray Donovan, I will ask Rod and others who made a national story out of this, where does Father Magallón go to get his reputation back? A good start would be to take down this post, which is now the fifth item that comes up in a Google search for his name.

#22 Comment By Truth Be Known On September 9, 2018 @ 11:30 am

Conservative priests are persecuted everywhere in the church. They have to hide if they want to keep their jobs. They have much to lose if they speak out. The parishioner is the most powerful person in the church because we have nothing to lose. Be not afraid. Speak out for them!

#23 Comment By Truth Be Known On September 9, 2018 @ 11:46 am

As a parishioner in Santa Barbara and someone who has frequently attended Our Lady of Sorrows, I can attest that many people, lay as well as religious, have been fired from the church or persecuted due to their conservative Catholic values. There is a prejudice against conservatives in this town and this pastoral region and it needs to end.

#24 Comment By Justice On September 9, 2018 @ 11:47 am

Fr. Cesar Magallon should be investigated.

#25 Comment By A On September 10, 2018 @ 10:06 am

There is a post in the comment section of this blog(link below) with some details regarding the Clearlake incident involving Fr Gavancho and that he had apparently asked on behalf of a destitute family:

[10]

Perhaps the writer should get Fr Magallon’s side of the story if he is willing to share it

This is the statement from the archdiocese of LA rgdg Fr. Gavancho

[11]

#26 Comment By Yolanda Montanez On September 10, 2018 @ 5:00 pm

When Fr. Juan Carlos Gavancho was at our parish here in Napa I never saw anything wrong when he spoke in his homilies. He always did his job in saying the truth without changing words around to make them sweet to keep everyone happy. That’s what he’s there for to tell us the truth, not make things sweet so we can continue sinning thinking whatever we do we’ll go to heaven. No, we need to know that there exists a purgatory and hell so we can be more aware of our actions. I heard the homily from August 26th, and he only let the community know about the reality of what’s going on in the church. I worked with him on projects in church, and just like any other priest he has his own personality. I never had a problem with him, he was always very helpful and giving lots of his time and energy to do his best for the church. He was very active and hardworking, and maybe that’s what some people don’t like. However, that’s his personality in being active and hardworking. Others just like to do the basic, but he like to go beyond his work. That is actually good in my opinion. I see it very wrong for him to be treated the way he has been, and to have been removed for his homily if he wasn’t saying a lie. You can see in Fr. Juan Carlos what happened to Jesus, he is being prosecuted for saying the truth. The world does not want to hear the truth, the world only wants to hear sweet words, and hear they are doing good even if not.

#27 Comment By Ranger01 On September 11, 2018 @ 10:59 am

Mercy is only for the Catholic Left. If you are not of the Catholic Left the dioceses will eat you alive.
Would it have been so very hard for one of his pastors or one of his bishops to give him an old fashion ass-chewin’ and a warning and (oh,yes) fraternal correction and advice to address his faults?
But, no, we just kick him out on the street with two hours notice. If this priest really is that bad…send him for help and then if he rejects it…be done with him.

#28 Comment By G. Murray On September 14, 2018 @ 11:45 pm

The bottom line seems to be that if a priest is a sexual abuser he will be moved to another parish. If a priest is outspoken, the bishop will use any reason to get rid of him.

I’m not surprised Father Gavancho is a bit of a “hot head”. Who else would have had the courage to give such a sermon? He may have problems, but that sermon was truthful and came from the heart. The TRUTH is Jesus Christ and He will set us free.

Finally, I am surprised at my own ignorance of how the secular clergy works. I had no idea a priest could just be fired and ejected from a parish without some plan as to his future. If it’s really this easy, what excuse is there for keeping predatory priests? Only, now do I have an idea of the kind of fear a bishop can weld to keep his priests in line. No wonder everyone knew about Cardinal McCarrick but was afraid to speak. Cleaning the Church is going to be a lot more difficult than I thought. And shame on Bishop Barron for being such a moral coward.

#29 Comment By Kimberly On September 15, 2018 @ 7:46 pm

I’ve only read the last page of comments as of this posting. Some thoughtful questions were raised, even if they came from judgement. To be honest, I’m uneasy that the OLS pastor’s name was given, just because this isn’t a court testimony, but a public discourse. I think the testimony and concerns of parishioners at OLS and his other parishes should be heeded, but not individually.

As Juanita commented on September 6: “3rd: Ruin a “non-compliant” priest’s reputation by saying he doesn’t get along with the staff. (Its about
Documentation so they can label him and cast him out!)
4th: Some parishioners are manipulators. If they don’t get their way and they will find reasons and ways to get rid of priest.”

I have seen the 4th, and it resulted in decades of the parish I’m now in having priests who walked on eggshells to avoid pissing off the wrong people who had too much power. It only takes a few to wreak havoc on the whole parish. And traditional Catholics are not exempt from this. They, too, engage in battles over the direction of the parish and in matters of finance. In some instances, I’ve seen the powerful parishioners drive others away, and then blame the priest for the shrinking congregation. And of course the priest is just hanging on by a thread anyway.

So the testimonies from the former parishioners who wrote about past difficulties might have their own axes to grind — we can’t know without hearing the testimony of all, including those parishioners who left. There are testimonies in this last page of comments from people who appreciated being treated like a human being (Claudia) and who appreciated Father’s hard work and energy (Yolanda). Kensington in Chicago never heard rumors of discord, but even the most back-pew-Sunday-only Catholic gets wind of tensions between the pastor and parishioners.

I think leslie has some of the most pertinent points regarding the rush to dispose of Father Gavancho compared to the delays of disposing of abusive priests and bishops, and also regarding the point about mentoring and formation in the areas where he is said to have deficits, and to enhance the gifts that he has.

So far, putting these pieces together, I’m not ready to accept at face value the reports against Father Gavancho’s character or administrative abilities.

Finally, I think people are looking to Bishop Barron to wield an authority that he doesn’t possess. He is an Auxiliary Bishop, whose diocese no longer exists, and so he is serving at the pleasure of the Bishop of a different diocese (either Santa Barbara or Los Angeles). His ordination as bishop stands for life, but he may be disposed of as easily as Father Gavancho was. He has no authority to give permissions to priests in the diocese where he serves as Auxiliary. It’s also very unlikely that he is privy to the inside workings of the bishop at whose pleasure he serves. It’s not as if the bishop holds meetings with his auxiliaries to make decisions or seek advice. The role of Auxiliary Bishop is basically to preside over confirmation every May-June, and to perform other ceremonial duties that require a bishop. The bishop tells Bishop Barron where to go, and he goes. So expecting him to wield the influence of his popular name to get Father Gavancho reinstated is a misguided idea.

#30 Comment By Jim Azanza On September 18, 2018 @ 8:24 pm

This is typical of criminal Bishops we have running the church today. We know another priest who was kicked out onto the street by the Bishop of Orange, CA, years ago because he was too “traditional”. Can you believe that? He has since been conditionally ordained in the old rite and says ONLY the true Mass of Pope Pius V. You do not kick a priest out that quick and that severely. Is that “charity”. Of course not. But hatred is truly reserved for those priests who are Traditionally mimded and that should send a chill up ALL of our backs.

#31 Comment By Bill Hunt On December 19, 2018 @ 12:55 am

Their “Bishop” Robert Barron has time to make YouTube videos every day and post on Twitter but doesn’t have time to oinsel, mentor and develop a young Priest with some”rough edges”? After only six weeks? What is the Bishop’s job then? Apparently he thinks is chasing celebrity rather than tending to his flock. Priests like Juan Carlos should be doing the preaching, Barron should be making it possible for them to succeed. How is it they can’t fire a pervert priest or bishop, bus were able to unceremoniously dismiss him, for petty issues not even crimes, much less the horrendous crime of child abuse they’ve been covering up for decades? This is a shame and a sham.