Ousted Oregon priest files labor complaint against Baker diocese

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by Dan Morris-Young

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A former priest of Baker, Ore., diocese has filed a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, charging that "unlawful retaliatory conduct" by Bishop Liam Cary and the diocese damaged his health and reputation.

In the Sept. 30 filing, James A. Radloff, former pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Bend, Ore., charges that a "campaign" was launched against him after he filed a report asking that Cary refrain from hearing children's confessions at St. Francis pending investigation of an incident involving a male teen.

"Prior to Easter 2013, a teen-aged boy attended confession at the St. Francis Church on what is called reconciliation night," the complaint states. "There were numerous priests available ... The boy entered a private confessional with Bishop Cary, who kept the boy in confession for approximately one hour. When the boy emerged, he appeared shaken, upset and distraught. Although he did not immediately share all of what was discussed between him and Bishop Cary, the boy reported that Bishop Cary insisted upon meeting with the boy again in private at another time. When the parents of the boy learned of this incident, they reported it to me."

While the statement does not name the boy or his family, they were aware the incident would be described in the pleading "and were OK with it," said Bill Buchanan, Radloff's attorney.

"The diocese has no comment," a diocesan employee told NCR on Thursday.

The complaint states that Radloff "immediately reported the incident to my supervisor, Bishop Cary, and asked the Bishop to refrain from taking any more confessions from children until such time as the incident could be investigated."

"Bishop Cary came to my home and told me that he would not allow any investigation of the matters reported and that I did not have the authority to call for any investigation ... Bishop Cary further informed me that by even reporting the matter I had 'crossed a line, ' " Radloff states in the complaint.

"In retaliation for my making of the Report," the document continues, Cary and others "commenced a campaign" to hurt Radloff's reputation and employability.

The submission sets forth 29 allegations of mistreatment. They include removing a St. Francis associate priest in order to isolate Radloff "as the sole priest with an enormous workload" and providing parishioners "false and misleading information designed to harm my reputation concerning the basis for my demotion and eventual removal, creating the misconception that I was a 'pedophile priest.' "

One allegation asserts that when a "prospective employer contacted Bishop Cary's office for a reference," the person "was told that 'when Bishop Cary gets through with Father Radloff he won't be allowed to perform Ash Wednesday mass at a mini-mart.' "

In addition to Cary, the diocese and St. Francis Parish, the complaint names The Legacy of Faith Catholic Community Foundation of Oregon as a respondent. The foundation is a nonprofit corporation that encourages and coordinates charitable gifts for the Baker diocese.

Radloff alleges in the filing that "the Parish, the Diocese, and the Foundation have intermingled their assets, revenue, and expenses" and "failed to adequately maintain separate identities." He accuses them of failing "to abide by separate corporate formalities including, but not limited to, the keeping of corporate records and adherence to corporate formalities."

Charlie Burr, a spokesman for the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, told the Bend daily newspaper, The Bulletin, that the agency has a year to complete its investigation, but the process usually takes four to six months.

Burr confirmed that information with NCR and said "the diocese will be given an opportunity to respond as part of the process."

The complaint makes clear that it was filed largely to force the diocese to provide Radloff with a copy of his personnel records, which he had requested formally through his attorney in recent months. Those requests were ignored, which violates state law, according to the Sept. 30 filing.

In the document, Radloff asks again for the personnel files as well as "reasonable attorney fees and costs herein."

The filing is the latest in a more-than-yearlong standoff between Cary and Radloff that became public in October 2013 when Cary canonically removed Radloff as pastor of St. Francis in Bend and Radloff filed an appeal of that termination with the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy.

In a Jan. 31 ruling, the Congregation for Clergy denied the appeal.

The Vatican allowed Cary to keep confidential the reasons for removing Cary as pastor. Radloff had petitioned to have the reasons made public. At the time of Radloff's forced removal, Cary praised the cleric's work and said he remained a priest in good standing; however, Radloff was barred from public ministry.

In April, Radloff announced he was leaving the Roman Catholic church to seek incardination in the Evangelical Catholic church. Since then, an ECC congregation has been established in Bend: Holy Communion Evangelical Catholic Church, where Radloff is pastor. The congregation holds two Sunday services at a Bend senior citizen center.

Founded in 1997, the ECC claims much theology and devotionals in common with the Latin-rite church, but it ordains married or single male and female deacons, priests and bishops; accepts gay marriage; fosters receipt of Communion by the divorced and remarried; and allows birth control.

Prior to the establishment of the Bend ECC parish, it reported about 1,500 members worldwide in five dioceses, four in the United States and one in Ireland.

[Dan Morris-Young is an NCR West Coast correspondent. His email address is dmyoung@ncronline.org.]



A version of this story appeared in the Nov 7-20, 2014 print issue under the headline: Ousted priest files labor complaint.

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