SANTA ANA, Calif. (ChurchMilitant.com) - When a dissident priest speaks at a diocesan event, Church Militant (CM) supporters are outside praying the Rosary, holding Catholic signage and passing out pamphlets.
At least, that is what happened on Saturday at Mater Dei High School in Orange County, California. The Catholic diocese of Orange had its Diocesan Ministries Celebration, and the event's keynote speaker was Fr. Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest who dissents from Church teaching.
Faithful Catholics protesting Fr. Boyle's speech distributed flyers to attendees as they arrived early in the morning then hosted a Rosary rally across the street from 10:45 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
One Resistance member boldly tried entering the Diocesan Ministries Celebration but on two separate occasions security staff recognized him as one of the protesters and barred him from entering.
The man in question recalled his first encounter with security:
I hadn't gone 50 feet from the corner where my fellows were gathered, when a security guard ... told me that I was "not allowed" past the entrance gate. Although pleasant, she was stern and demanding. Other pedestrians walked [past] me into the venue. I asked her why I couldn't enter, and pointing to my fellows distributing flyers, she said it was because I was "with them."
After continued discussion with the security official, our protester gave up and returned to distributing leaflets. After about 15 minutes, he tried to enter again:
I walked around the large campus to another gate. It was marked "VIP" but many cars and people were passing through it. I blended in with the people, but when I began to pass the guard-shack at that gate, a security guard approached me, pointed me out and said in a loud, threatening tone, "You there in the blue shirt with the camera! You're not allowed inside."
After CM reported last month that the celebrity priest was scheduled to speak, Resistance members wrote to the diocese of Orange, which is governed by Bp. Kevin Vann and organized a petition to get Fr. Boyle disinvited.
Despite objections, the diocese of Orange insisted on keeping Fr. Boyle as the keynote speaker. This move drew praise on Twitter from Fr. James Martin, another Jesuit celebrity priest often at odds with faithful Catholics.
On Saturday, a few Resistance members arrived early in the morning. As participants of the Diocesan Ministries Celebration poured into the high school's parking lot, they stood at a corner outside the lot and handed out flyers to the line of traffic.
One Resistance member said, "I'd say we shared the flyers with at least 30–40 percent of the cars, each of which typically had 2–3 participants inside."
He also told us, "By the time of the Rosary rally, we had over 30 people join us to pray."
Some of the protesters identified themselves by wearing orange shirts. The man who was barred from entering the conference said that he had changed out of his orange t-shirt before trying to gain entrance.
Resistance members shared with us photographs of the event, including some protest signs affixed to traffic poles in the high school's vicinity.
The signage pointed out that Fr. Boyle has called Church teachings "dishonest," "nonsense" and "shameful."
Father Boyle's opposition to Catholic doctrine is evidenced in a 2013 video by LifeSiteNews, taken from a 2008 interview. In the video, he claims that God's Will is contrary to Church teaching, which he snidely calls "the party line" on a host of issues, including same-sex "marriage" and the all-male priesthood.
Since then, the Jesuit celebrity priest apparently has not recanted his heterodox statements. According to an anonymous source, Fr. Boyle said during a 2015 presentation to college students that "the Catholic life" is far removed from "living the Gospel." In his 2010 book Tattoos on the Heart, Fr. Boyle alternates between calling God a "he" and calling Him a "she.'
Father Boyle's dissent has not prevented him from gaining traction in many Catholic institutions. Earlier this year, Fr. Boyle received the Laetare Medal from Notre Dame University.
In anticipation of Saturday's Rosary rally, one Resistance member told us, "The laity, particularly the young, have had enough of heterodox Church leaders."
In an email Monday morning, a Resistance member told us, "One attendee did say as he walked by that he 'saw the YouTube video' [Fr. Boyle's interview] and that we were 'taking what he said out of context.'"
Our source also noted, "Ironically, there was a very small group (2–3) of Jehovah's Witnesses just around the corner from the Rosary rally. It looked like they were usually in that location and area but were surprised when we all showed up."
The driver of a golf cart for the diocesan event, shuttling attendees from overflow parking, "stopped twice for photos." But our source doubts whether the driver realized they were protesters, pondering, "We were friendly, so he might have thought we were just excited local Catholics?"
Overall, Resistance members are surprised by how receptive attendees were to their fliers and are glad that the encounters with security staff ended peacefully and did not escalate into further conflict.