BEND, Ore. - More than six months after his removal as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Bend, a move that sparked controversy in the congregation and an unsuccessful appeal to the Vatican, Father James Radloff announced Tuesday he is resigning from the Roman Catholic Church and will start a new parish in Bend, affiliated with the Evangelical Catholic Diocese of the Northwest.
Radloff told NewsChannel 21 that he is excited to start a new chapter in his career and rid himself of what he calls "an abusive relationship" with the Roman Catholic Church.
The new church Radloff will lead is to be called Holy Communion Church. Radloff said it will offer similar teachings of the traditional Catholic Church, but will differ in its acceptance of all people and the structure by which it's governed.
"The Evangelical Catholic church is basically upside down from the governance from the Roman Catholic Church in that the lay people have a voice, have an opinion, and it's very much a church that is run by the people," Radloff said.
Some other major differences between the Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelical Catholic Church are stances on social issues: The evangelical denomination allows same-sex marriage and birth control. Becoming an ordained clergy is also open to all.
The new Holy Communion Church plans a "special evening of information and celebration" on Saturday, June 7th at The Riverhouse Convention Center, and an inaugural opening mass and reception at 9 a.m. the next day at the same location.
Well have more on these developments Wednesday on NewsChannel 21.
Here's the full statement issued by the Evangelical Catholic Diocese Tuesday morning:
"After a prolonged period of personal and spiritual discernment, Father James Radloff, in accordance with the Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church, has submitted his resignation from the order of the presbyterate of the Roman Catholic Church and his resignation as a member of the Roman Catholic Church to Bishop Liam Cary of the Diocese of Baker effective April 22, 2014.
"On May 16th, 2014, Father Radloff will make his Profession of Faith with the Evangelical Catholic Church and will petition the Evangelical Catholic Diocese of the Northwest to begin the process of Clerical Incardination.
"Father Radloff stresses, "Though I leave the Diocese of Baker as a priest in good standing, my decision to take this step may not be interpreted by Bishop Cary or his Chancery as a nolo contendere response to the meaningless direct, indirect, inferred or implied charges leveled against me. My response to all the issues Bishop Carey has inferred against me remains an unconditional not guilty."
"Father Radloff, who was ordered by Bishop Cary to return to his family home in Orland Park Illinois on October 1st, 2013, plans to return to Bend Oregon in June after he has been granted transitional faculties to function as a priest of the Evangelical Catholic Diocese of the Northwest. Upon his return Father Radloff will begin responding to requests by the laity to establish a new mission parish of the ECC in Central Oregon.
"Bishop James Alan Wilkowski, Bishop for the Evangelical Catholic Diocese of the Northwest, is "pleased to welcome Father Radloff into our catholic community of faith and l look forward to sharing with him the directions we both shall be called upon by the Holy Spirit in providing sacramental and pastoral care to the People of God within the State of Oregon."
"Father Radloff is looking forward to a quiet and prayerful period of healing and transition," the statement concluded.
Radloff was installed as St. Francis' pastor in December 2011, about three months before Cary was ordained Baker's bishop.
Earlier this year, the Vatican declined to intervene in the matter and said Cary was justified in removing Radloff as pastor last Oct. 1. Cary has refused to publicly disclose the reason for Radloff's removal, but wrote that the priest, who led the church for 21 months, remained a priest in good standing and had done nothing illegal.
Cary's move led some church members to resign from the parish council, stewardship group and finance council. On New Year's Eve, about 100 parishioners who support Radloff and opposed his removal gathered outside the old St. Francis church in downtown Bend, saying they believed he was treated unjustly.
The National Catholic Reporter, which has been closely following the events in Bend reported Tuesday that Radloff had broken his silence with some scathing remarks about how he felt he'd been treated by the Diocese of Baker and Bishop Cary in particular.
Radloff told NCR he has sent a demand through his civil attorney to Bishop Cary to "turn over a complete copy of my personnel records, and everything he used to make his decision."
Radloff told the publication he was "terribly disappointed with the entire process."
"My word was never taken seriously or even considered as being valid in this whole process," he wrote in an email. "I was treated as if I was guilty until found guilty by a kangaroo court. The Congregation for Clergy never did a proper investigation. All that was seen is the old boys' club protecting each other. My lawyer friends were shocked by the ineptitude of the whole process. They saw that due diligence was never done. Mediation was never allowed, even though it is the preferred method as set forth in the Code of Canon Law."
The priest added, "It seems to me the bishop decided to make an example of me to show his clergy and the people his power. So he then went searching for reasons to get me removed to damage my standing as a priest to raise his own standing as a bishop."
Meanwhile, the Evangelical Catholic Diocese of the Northwest has announced plans to establish the Holy Communion Evangelical Catholic Church in Bend; more details are at http://www.evangelicalcatholicchurch.org/hcc.htm.
Among the major differences with the Roman Catholic Church is that the Evangelical Catholic Church allows women deacons, priests and bishops, as well as married priests. Details can be found at: http://www.evangelicalcatholicchurch.org/hcc.htm
The Chicago-based Evangelical Catholic Church, established in 1997, has about 1,500 members, and among other elements also grants "marital dissolution" and accepts same-sex marriages.
The National Catholic Reporter reported earlier that tension arose last April and May over a parish petition drive asking the bishop not to transfer a popular Spanish-speaking associate. Cary blamed Radloff for the petition and publicly criticized the pastor in a letter to the parish.
Cary asked Radloff to resign on August 1, but he refused, the publication said. Subsequent requests for mediation, dialogue and reconciliation were rebuffed by Cary, according to Radloff and his canonical adviser, Father Thomas Faucher of Boise.
Cary also withdrew his announced assignment of Radloff without title to Merrill, a town of about 900 near the California border, after a public statement from Radloff was released Oct. 30 by Faucher.
The bishop accused Radloff and Faucher of confidentiality breaches and criticized Radloff for postings on his Facebook page. Faucher strongly objected to Cary's charges.
Radloff has been staying with his mother in Chicago since shortly after his removal as pastor.
In a letter distributed Tuesday to NewsChannel 21 and others, Radloff said:
"Holy Communion Evangelical Catholic Church is a home where ALL are welcome. It has been created to heal wounds and warm the hearts of ALL people, like a field hospital after a battle. Holy Communion Church will not be a Church stuck in a perpetual Lent with no Easter. It will be an engaged Church that will offer people new life with a purpose by creating a place that will identify and encourage each person's unique God-given talents and strengths."