21 June 2017 – By DEXTER DUGGAN
A veteran clergyman described by an admirer as “the most courageous priest in our San Diego Diocese” warned at his pre-retirement party that although the priority of Christianity is saving souls, he was hearing more from prelates concerned about earthly matters than religious ones.
Fr. Richard Perozich, sometimes involved in news events reported in The Wanderer, gave a farewell talk in early June to about 30 members of Ecclesia Militans of San Diego, conservative lay Catholics for whom he served as spiritual adviser.
Perozich’s final assignment as pastor, ending at the close of June, is at Immaculate Conception Church in San Diego’s historic Old Town, near where St. Junipero Serra offered his first Mass in California in 1769. Perozich plans to move to the Hawaiian island of Maui, living, he said, “more as a hermit monk.”
According to his text provided by a listener to The Wanderer, Perozich told the Ecclesia Militans gathering, at the La Jolla home of one of its members:
“I hear new opinions substituting for truth. I hear studied ambiguities, carefully crafted statements which allow for multiple interpretations. I hear calls to change language of truth to a language that will not offend sinners. I hear sophistries, good-sounding arguments with just enough truth, but which are misleading.
“When those who are supposed to care for me are not doing so, in my opinion, I must retreat from them into the longstanding Tradition of the Church. I have to be vigilant about my own holiness in the Holy Spirit so as not to be drawn into their spirit of this age and be corrupted by it,” he said.
He criticized both the long-serving retired San Diego bishop, Robert Brom, and current Bishop Robert McElroy.
The Wanderer asked Kevin Eckery, the diocese’s vice chancellor for Communications and Public Affairs, if he or McElroy was aware of the critical comments or had a reaction to them.
Eckery promptly replied on June 9: “No reaction, Dexter. Wasn’t there.”
In its September 11, 2014, hardcopy issue, The Wanderer reported that prominent dissenter Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, OP, former master general of the Dominican order and a foe of traditional Church teaching on homosexuality, would be a major speaker at the San Diego Diocese’s annual convocation for its priests later that month.
However, Perozich declined to attend that convocation. The California Catholic Daily website posted a story that July about Perozich’s refusal headlined, “Guess who might get in trouble? Guess who doesn’t really care.”
Local conservative Catholics said a speaking invitation to Radcliffe was extended by Fr. Michael Murphy, the pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Coronado, a beautiful, wealthy residential community across San Diego Bay from downtown San Diego.
After Bishop Brom retired in 2013, he was succeeded by coadjutor Cirilo Flores, who didn’t even complete a year as bishop before dying of cancer in early September 2014. McElroy, previously an auxiliary bishop in San Francisco, was named by Pope Francis to succeed Flores and was installed in April 2015.
The December 15, 2016, hardcopy issue of The Wanderer reported that McElroy rebuked Perozich after the priest emphasized the non-negotiable moral issues in the November election for his parish voters. McElroy subsequently issued a statement saying there were other issues as well, including poverty and economic justice, the environment and immigration.
Perozich told his farewell gathering in La Jolla in early June:
“It can be a little more daunting when one is a priest and whose spiritual father and brothers seem to me to be moving away from clarity of truth to ambiguity, from the spiritual to the worldly, from holiness into sin. Recent sophistry: bishop wanting solar panels in every parish, gays and lesbians welcomed in every parish, their children in our Catholic schools.”
Allyson Smith, one of the Ecclesia Militans members present for the talk, told The Wanderer:
“Father spoke how we can no longer depend on major political, educational, and economic institutions, including the Church, to protect and enable us to practice our Catholic faith, and so therefore we must find a ‘Benedict Option’ that entails rebuilding our own societal structures and ‘intentional communities that more fully embody our Christian faith.’
“He detailed some of the problems with the Church at large, and within our local Diocese of San Diego, such as the trend toward acceptance of sexual immorality and opinions now being substituted for truth, that have led him to seek his own version of the Benedict Option in retirement, living as a hermit monk community of one,” Smith said, adding:
“Above all, he exhorted us to be holy, as Christ is holy; to continue daily Scripture reading, prayer, and reception of the sacraments.”
Currently in the diocese, Perozich told his listeners: “Priests who were ignored before because of their lifestyles are now on boards and giving talks and photographed with the bishop; others are promoted in the diocese. It has reached a level too great for me to tolerate, so I choose the Benedict Option for myself.”
He said some people believe the Benedict Option equates with disengaging and withdrawing. But, Perozich said, it’s “all about being active and engaging the problems of society. It recognizes, however, that solutions will begin locally, in the relationships that we can influence. Rebuilding will begin there. Do we really think that our political, educational, and economic institutions will provide a secure future for the practice of our Christian faith?”
Complaints Perozich listed against the San Diego Diocese included, “Vapid days of recollection and retreats for us priests” and “Public promotion of sodomy and adultery with Holy Communion.”
“My skills are pastoring, anointing, Confession, Mass, preaching, teaching,” he continued. “I can balance a budget, rebuild a failing parish, speak Spanish and be faithful to the Tradition of the Church. I cannot be faithful to the sophistries promoted by prelates. . . . “Other than be faithful myself, I am unable to influence my fellow clergy except for about ten priests here,” he said. “Most just go along, and if they are faithful, they are silent about it. I cannot be that way. . . . I have an intentional community of one, living apart more as a hermit monk.
“I support the Church financially, but not any diocese and certainly no parish who has drag-queen ministers, openly homosexual employees, giving Communion to adulterers, supporting community-organizing groups for $15 minimum wage, open immigration, inviting Muslim refugees but not our brother Christian ones who are being killed in the Middle East. I have other ways of giving money to the church and to faithful ministries,” he said.
“I cannot leave the Church even if its leaders deviate. It still is protected by the Holy Spirit from total destruction, but can still be damaged. Now, I do need to care for my own spiritual health and will do so intentionally in a way I find fulfilling,” Perozich said.