The termination and reassignment of Father Juan Carlos Gavancho of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, after he delivered a scorching homily critical of “traitors” wearing priestly garb and the “politically correct” leadership of the Catholic Church, has galvanized conservative Catholics and left many Santa Barbarans scratching their heads. Gavancho was relieved of his duties only six weeks after being assigned to Our Lady of Sorrows, and his homily came only one day after a former Vatican official released an eight-page letter accusing Pope Francis of turning a blind eye to the sexual predations of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
In his homily, Gavancho charged that the church “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 outside throughout the centuries.” He warned against “traitors” who wear cassocks. “Now you need real discernment,” he stated, “because the Devil has clothed his children with shepherd’s clothing to make it more difficult to recognize him.”
Two days later, Gavancho was notified by his superior Pastor Cesar Magallón that his services were terminated at Our Lady of Sorrows and that he would be reassigned to the Chicago Archdiocese from which he originated. (Magallón did not return a call for comment.) The Los Angeles Archdiocese issued a statement denying Gavancho was terminated because of the homily and insisted it was because of “interpersonal relationship issues” he had with multiple parishioners and other clergy.
According to Gavancho’s supporters, the priest was punished because of his outspoken theological orthodoxy at a time when Pope Francis has been steering a more liberal and inclusive course, especially with regard to gay rights. Some conservative critics of Pope Francis have complained of the undue influence exerted by what they term “the lavender mafia” within the church.
How Gavancho’s firing fits into all this has touched off a vigorous debate even within the blogosphere of conservative Catholics. In some reports, Gavancho is presented as a courageous truth teller who paid the price. In others, he is accused of being rude, unpleasant, and needlessly alienating. In a blog posting reportedly written by Gavancho, the former Santa Barbara priest said he was given less than a day to pack his bags and no chance to defend himself. Of the 10 grievances he said he was given, nine were minor, exaggerated, or not true. The 10th, he stated, was the homily.