PORTLAND, Ore. (ChurchMilitant.com) - "Progressive" Catholics in Portland, Oregon, disrupted Mass to protest their pastor for his efforts to steer the parish in a less progressive direction.
One of the oldest churches in Portland, St. Francis has been known to be a "progressive" parish where parishioners marched in the Portland Pride Parade, hung a banner reading "Immigrants & Refugees Welcome" in front of the church, pushed to increase the roles of women in the church and exercised a preferential option for the poor.
The progressive parishioners disrupted Mass in protest when they felt their pastor, Fr. George Kuforiji, had gone too far in his ongoing attempts to restore some traditional elements to the parish.
Kuforiji removed the "Immigrants & Refugees Welcome" sign and put several photographs along with some vestments aside for the dump.
The photographs are reported to be of the homeless community that decorated the parish walls, while the vestments, which can be seen in a picture courtesy of parishioner Albert Alter, include a rainbow-themed alb used by previous priests.
"I don't know anyone that would come to a parish and go to the vestment closet and take all the vestments, still on hangers, and throw them into a trailer without somebody of authority having instructed them to do so," Alter said. "Trying to destroy the parish is really what I'm thinking is happening."
A video of the protest on YouTube had more than 1,200 views with one like and 51 dislikes Monday.
The disruptive protest began with parishioners marching up the main aisle ― some holding picket signs ― as Fr. Kuforiji was standing behind the altar offering Mass.
Melinda Pittman, a parishioner of 30 years and one of the disrupters, stood in the back of the church holding a sign over her head while saying: "We are following the voice of Jesus, of love. Jesus of inclusion. Jesus of resisting the authorities because when we resist the law, we are in the Spirit of God."
A voice from behind the camera agrees with Pittman with an emphatic "Amen!"
Pittman is then seen standing at the pulpit where she continues with her airing of grievances against Kuforiji and Abp. Alexander Sample of the archdiocese of Portland.
"I have asked Father for dialogue; I said that for the last year," she says. "We have been wanting real dialogue. I said that we are being abused."
More emphatic agreement can be heard from the crowd as one woman yells, "Yes!"
"We are being abused in the Catholic Church by this priest and by this archbishop," continues Pittman.
A man in the back of the church wearing sunglasses yells, "Boo," breaking through Pittman's speech. He points to Fr. Kuforiji, who is also standing in the back of the church, and says, "This is a holy priest" as protesters drown him out with loud dissent.
Rebecca Boell, another long-time parishioner, is then seen yelling at Fr. Kuforiji in the back of the church.
"How can you be a priest?" she asks. "I've been here over 15 years. You've been here a year."
Kuforiji asks Boell, "Do you have reverence for God?" Boell aggressively shakes the papers she has in her hands at Kuforiji and says something inaudible as she begins to walk away.
The protest concluded with parishioners holding hands while singing "We Shall Overcome."
Church Militant reached out to Fr. Kuforiji and the archdiocese of Portland for comment but received no response as of press time.