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Ousted Bend priest finds new calling


A new denomination of Catholicism is coming to Bend, and the leader is the very priest ousted by the the Diocese of Baker, the governing body that oversees the St. Francis of Assisi Church.

And after a seven-month hiatus from ministering, Father James Radloff is eager to get back on the pulpit.

“Now I’m moving forward in a church that is very open, very transparent,” Radloff said Tuesday.

The move comes after Radloff was removed from leading St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church by Diocese of Baker Bishop Liam Cary. Reasons for the dismissal haven’t been made public, but Cary says Radloff didn’t do anything illegal and remained a priest in good standing.

After an unsuccessful appeal to the Vatican, Radloff has changed his tune when it comes to the Roman Catholic Church.

“I’m ending this abusive relationship,” Radloff said. “No more little power-hungry clerics running around.”

He’s also changing the denomination of his religion.

“In the Evangelical Catholic Church, there’s checks and balances,” he said. “Bishops and priests are held accountable — the people have a say.”

Radloff is opening a branch of the Evangelical Catholic Diocese of the Northwest. The church, Holy Communion, will hold its inaugural mass this June.

“It will be the exact same mass as the Roman Catholic Church, it uses the exact same prayers,” Radloff said.

Evangelical Catholic Church of the Northwest Bishop James Wilkowski said Wednesday he will be flying down from Chicago for the church’s first mass and reception.

“Those who wish to embrace Catholicism for the first time will be impressed by the welcoming nature of our community, because we do not take people for granted,” Wilkowski said.

Supporters of Radloff said the new church is the news they’ve been praying for.

“I just told him, ‘Count me in — I’m there,'” Bend resident Victoria Come’ said. “I’d follow him anywhere. I was prepared to move.”

Followers said they’re also prepared to embrace views frowned upon by the traditional Catholic Church — in the Evangelical Catholic Church, gay marriages are recognized, birth control is allowed and anyone can become a member of the clergy.

“My internal struggles that I’ve always had with the church — all of a sudden. it’s groovy,” Bend resident Cricket Daniel said. “I think we’re going to see a lot of people return to the church, because they’ve always had issues and struggles with the black and white. I like the fact that this church is open to everybody.”

Radloff said he admits the changes are foreign territory, but he’s excited to move forward.

“God gave us brains, and we can use those brains in planning the size of our families,” Radloff said. “No longer will people be forced to live in the culture of deceit. Most Roman Catholics are practicing birth control. Here, people won’t have to lie.”

Radloff said if he had the option now to return to his former position with the Roman Catholic Church, he wouldn’t.

“Now I can freely minister to all,” Radloff said.

Holy Communion Church will hold an informational celebration on June 7th at the Riverhouse Convention Center at 7 p.m.

The inaugural opening Mass will be held at the same location on June 8th at 9 a.m.

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