By Scott Hammers

The Bulletin

Bishop Liam Cary of the Diocese of Baker has invited Father James Radloff to return to the Catholic church, less than a week after the priest announced plans to establish a competing church in Bend.

Radloff had served nearly two years as the pastor of Bend’s St. Francis of Assisi parish when Cary stripped him of his post last fall for unspecified reasons and proposed sending him to a church in Merrill near Klamath Falls. Both Cary and the diocese have been silent about the nature of the dispute. Radloff appealed his removal to the Vatican, which ruled in favor of the diocese in February.

Last week, Radloff announced he was leaving the Roman Catholic Church to serve as pastor of the Holy Communion Evangelical Catholic Church, a small sect that adheres to most traditional Catholic doctrine but takes a more liberal approach on a number of social issues. The new church is scheduled to make its debut with an inaugural Mass in early June at the Riverhouse Hotel & Convention Center in Bend.

In a letter posted to the diocese website on Friday, Cary said he had written to Radloff to ask him to come back.

“Out of concern for the confusion and sorrow this news has brought to Roman Catholics, I have written Father Radloff to encourage him to reconsider his decision in light of the detrimental effects it will have on him personally and on the Catholic faithful he has served so long,” Cary wrote.

“The doors of the Church are open to his return. I am hopeful that he will choose to walk through them into reconciliation and peace.”

Radloff said Saturday a friend alerted him to the letter posted on the website late Friday, and he’s unsure what to make of Cary’s offer.

“I have no idea what they’re offering; I’m confused by the whole thing; I’m just so confused,” he said. “I haven’t heard anything; that letter he refers to, I checked my box today, and I still don’t have a letter from the bishop.”

Cary’s letter does not make it clear whether he’s prepared to restore Radloff to a leadership position with St. Francis. A call to the diocese offices Saturday was not returned.

In an email sent to friends and supporters Saturday, Radloff compared his situation to a woman that left an abusive relationship, who learns through others that her former partner wants her back.

Radloff said his decision to jump to the Evangelical Catholic Church was the result of his inability to persuade Cary to allow him to return to the priesthood. He said he’s been barred from serving as a priest on Cary’s orders since his removal, a position other bishops around the world are bound to respect.

Lacking Cary’s OK, Rad­loff said he was unable to assist his fellow priests during Christmas in the Chicago parish where he spent much of the past six months, or during Easter week at a Boise parish that had requested his help.

Radloff said he eventually concluded Cary was not going to change his mind.

“I think I’ve been incredibly patient. I’d just foreseen it wouldn’t go anywhere,” he said.

Radloff said he’s sticking with his decision to establish his new church for now, but would still like to hear from Cary.

“I would still like reconciliation, but at this point, it may be between brothers, not necessarily me coming back to the Roman Catholic Church,” he said.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387,