Was this priest sacked because of his homily?

Was this priest sacked because of his homily? September 4, 2018

From YouTube/The American Conservative

This story is rapidly making the rounds on social media.

Rod Dreher had the story yesterday:

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 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.  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. 

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.

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.

Among other things, the homily included this:

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.

Dreher was able to contact Father Gavancho and hear his side of the story:

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.

You can read the full account at the link. 

The parish, meanwhile, has posted this statement on the situation:

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.

Stories like this are often complicated, and undoubtedly there are many layers. Whatever else may have been going on—the “friction” in Chicago is a red flag—I imagine the homily didn’t help matters.

But I’ll add this footnote. When a priest friend from another California diocese sent this story to me, I questioned whether there were other issues that might have led to the priest’s dismissal. He wrote back: “He was supposed to come here at one point, but we opted against it. Very strong personality. Oil and water!!”

UPDATE: Rod Dreher just posted this, from a former parishioner of the priest:

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.


Browse Our Archives