By DEXTER DUGGAN
The San Diego Catholic Diocese declined to comment to The Wanderer about a major speaker scheduled for its diocesan priests’ annual convocation who, some local Catholics say, is well-known for his opposition to basic Church teaching, including on homosexuality.
“We respectfully decline the invitation to comment for this article,” diocesan chancellor Rodrigo Valdivia promptly emailed on September 2 when this newspaper asked about Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, OP, former master general of the Dominican order, and the Catholics’ request that the speaking invitation to him be withdrawn.
An August 18 letter from five San Diego-area Catholics linked to a number of references about Radcliffe’s views and record. The Catholics sent the letter to a local priest believed to have invited Radcliffe to speak, and copied their letter to three San Diego diocesan officials.
The Catholics wrote: “Fr. Radcliffe openly dissents on the Church’s teaching on homosexuality and Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried. Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, OP, frequently celebrated Mass for the gay dissent group the Soho Masses Pastoral Council. During the reign of Pope Benedict XVI, Fr. Timothy Radcliffe was stopped from speaking at the General Assembly of the Catholic development agencies.
“Fr. Radcliffe is well known for his liberal positions on morality, including his public opposition to the Church’s teaching on homosexuality,” they added.
One of the letter’s writers, Allyson Smith, commented during a September 1 telephone interview with The Wanderer that it’s inappropriate for such a speaker to be giving guidance to an official gathering of priests on sensitive moral issues they address in their ministry.
“Anybody who knows anything about Fr. Radcliffe knows this guy is bad news, and certainly should not be invited” to present to priests at their convocation, she said.
The convocation is regarded as so important, she said, that priests are called away from their regular parish duties to attend.
Smith said that when she was at the Los Angeles Religious Education Conference in 2006, she heard Radcliffe advise the audience “to make yourself open to watching Brokeback Mountain and reading gay novels.”
Brokeback Mountain was a movie released in 2005 that promoted homosexuality.
“I was appalled when I heard him,” Smith told The Wanderer, adding that a person must wonder why “someone with Fr. Radcliffe’s reputation of dissent would be asked to address our convocation of priests.”
The controversy has been reported and updated at the online newspaper California Catholic Daily (cal-catholic.com), whose publisher, Jim Holman, told The Wanderer on September 1:
“This is part of a chain of scandals going back to the ’80s promoted by the diocese. No wonder there are so few vocations from San Diego. Many Catholics, including myself, hoped that things were improving, but the Radcliffe case gives the lie to that.”
The five Catholics’ letter was posted August 30 at California Catholic Daily under the headline, “The Radcliffe scandal — whose idea was this?”
The letter says the invitation to Radcliffe was extended by Fr. Michael Murphy, the pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Coronado.
Coronado is a beautiful, wealthy residential community across San Diego Bay from downtown San Diego.
In addition to appearing at the convocation, Radcliffe also is to speak at Murphy’s church and the Catholic-affiliated University of San Diego (USD).
Sacred Heart’s August 31 parish bulletin included an item saying Radcliffe will speak in the church from 10 to 11:30 a.m. September 20 on “Being the Body of Christ.”
The San Diego Diocese’s calendar says the convocation is September 22-26 at a location “to be determined.”
The USD website said Radcliffe will speak September 29 at 7 p.m. on, “How Does God Dwell in Our Love of Each Other?”
Over the last three years, USD also has staged an annual “drag show” celebrating homosexuality that The Wanderer has reported. Each year the show occurs on the week before or the week of Holy Week. The San Diego Diocese has declined to comment on or prohibit the drag show, too.
The five Catholics’ recent letter to Murphy and diocesan officials also said:
“This is not just an issue of really bad theology or poor speaker selection. In the larger agenda of the culture war for America, your decision to host Radcliffe will not be viewed as a nuance of theological debate, but as a deliberate flouting of Church teaching on one of the most serious moral issues of our day, homosexuality — a moral issue and mortal sin that steals our religious liberty and condemns souls to hell if they are not instructed to repent of it.
“When so-called same-sex marriage legislation affects our religious liberty,” they wrote, “San Diego Catholics will again feel outrage as they remember what Msgr. [Steven] Callahan told them after the diocese was sued for complicity in sexual abuse: that he personally would screen diocesan priests for immaturity and disordered sexual attractions. How is that going to play when the wolf enters through the front door of the Church?…
“The Catholic Church has two approved ministries to those affected by homosexuality, Courage and Encourage,” they wrote. “We should promote those ministries instead of inviting a ‘gay-friendly’ dissenter to speak to our priests and laity. Fr. Paul Check heads these ministries. Why not invite him instead of Fr. Radcliffe?”
The Glory Of The Cross
Smith told The Wanderer there are well-respected, orthodox organizations in the San Diego area that could supply a speaker instead.
If Radcliffe goes ahead with his talk at Sacred Heart, Smith said, opponents plan to pray a rosary of reparation on the sidewalk outside the church.
One priest who doesn’t plan to attend the convocation, she said, is a powerful, orthodox speaker in the diocese, Fr. Richard Perozich. His congregation applauded his June homily about his refusal to attend.
California Catholic Daily posted a story about Perozich’s refusal on July 9 under the headline, “Guess who might get in trouble? Guess who doesn’t really care.”
The story quoted his homily, in part: “All the things I do, I don’t do for my own glorification, I do for an example for you, so that you learn how to stand up for yourself, preach the name of Jesus Christ and live it, regardless of the consequences. There are going to be difficulties in life. You’ll never get to the glory of Heaven, until you get to the glory of the cross.”
Smith told The Wanderer, “The laity absolutely love Fr. Perozich….The whole parish applauded him.”
Perozich was reassigned from the Escondido church where he made those comments to Immaculate Conception Church in historic Old Town San Diego. Immaculate Conception’s history says the first Sacrifice of the Mass in California was offered on that land by the Spanish in 1602.