CEBU, Philippines (ChurchMilitant.com) - Father Timothy Radcliffe, O.P., who once called gay sexuality "eucharistic," will kick off the 51st annual Eucharistic Congress as its first speaker. Held in the Philippines this year, the Congress will also include New York's Cdl. Timothy Dolan, Bp. Robert Barron and Cdl. Oswald Gracias, another gay-friendly Churchman.
Father Radcliffe has caused controversy for publicly praising same-sex civil unions, once saying they can be "expressive of Christ's self-gift." In the 2013 Pilling Report titled "Working Group on Human Sexuality," published by the Church of England, he offered the following on gay sexuality:
We cannot begin with the question of whether it is permitted or forbidden! We must ask what it means, and how far it is Eucharistic. Certainly it can be generous, vulnerable, tender, mutual and non-violent. So in many ways, I would think that it can be expressive of Christ's self-gift.
A former Master General of the international Dominican Order of Preachers, Fr. Radcliffe is a well-known proponent of progressive ideology. He often celebrated Mass for the U.K. dissident group Soho Masses Pastoral Council (now renamed the LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council), whose gay Masses in London went on for six years before being shut down by Cdl. Vincent Nichols. The Pastoral Council has hosted gay activist speakers, including two openly homosexual priests (one of them "married" to his male partner) at a conference in 2013.
Controversy arose when Radcliffe was chosen to be keynote speaker at the 2013 Divine Mercy Conference in Dublin. A number of groups called to rescind the invitation, and Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) in Ireland found it sufficiently scandalous to refuse to cover the event. Instead, EWTN Radio devoted an episode featuring commentary from a priest from the Courage apostolate (a faithful Catholic organization that ministers to those struggling with same-sex attraction) to discuss Radcliffe's heterodox leanings.
In 2012, in the liberal U.K. paper The Tablet, he praised same-sex civil unions: "This is not to denigrate committed love of people of the same sex. This too should be cherished and supported, which is why church leaders are slowly coming to support same-sex civil unions. The God of love can be present in every true love."
In 2006, Radcliffe delivered a keynote speech in Los Angeles titled "The Church as Sign of Hope and Freedom," and challenged Catholics to "stand with" homosexuals.
We must accompany them as they discern what this means, letting our images be stretched open. This means watching "Brokeback Mountain," reading gay novels, living with our gay friends and listening with them as they listen to the Lord. ... We are not a sign of God's freedom until we can dare to belong to each other across every theological boundary.
And in a 2005 Tablet article, Radcliffe strongly advocated for the possibility of homosexual priests, in contradiction to Church practice forbidding those with deep-seated homosexual tendencies entry into the priesthood:
I have no doubt that God does call homosexuals to the priesthood, and they are among the most dedicated and impressive priests I have met. ... And we may presume that God will continue to call both homosexuals and heterosexuals to the priesthood because the Church needs the gifts of both.
Radcliffe has also spoken in favor of female ordination as well as relaxing restrictions on Holy Communion to the divorced and civilly remarried. In an article for the Jesuit magazine America, he wrote of a "new way of being church," expressing the hope that "a way will be found to welcome divorced and remarried people back to communion. And, most important, that women will be given real authority and voice in the Church." He went on to advocate female ordination to the diaconate, questioning the Pope's judgment on banning women from the ministerial priesthood.
The first Eucharistic Congress took place in Lille, France in 1881, and began as a local event meant to increase devotion to the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. As the event grew, it spread to other cities and countries. The 51st Eucharistic Congress will take place this year in Cebu, Philippines, and describes its aim as manifesting "an underlying vision of 'Eucharistic Ecclesiology' which is oriented toward COMMUNION and ONENESS in the community that is the Church and which naturally seeks to reach out to all, especially those who are at the fringes of society ... ."
Father Radcliffe is scheduled to open the first plenary session January 20, with a talk titled "The Christian Virtue of Hope."