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.

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.

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.


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.