An Interview with Daphne Dabney

On Sat. Dec. 19, 2020, outside of the chancery for the Archdiocese of San Antonio, the main office for the Catholic Church in San Antonio, a prayer rally was held in favor of a prominent priest who has been persecuted by the hierarchy, Father Clay Hunt. Fr. Clay was a priest in Del Rio and significantly grew the church in that area. More recently he served in prison ministry, before ultimately having all of his faculties removed. Here is a recent video of his sister describing the rally.

Below is an interview with Fr. Clay’s sister, Daphne, which took place on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020.

Q: What is Fr. Clay being accused of? 

A: I can’t speak on the details, but what I can say is that there are no sexual charges, there are no abuse charges, there are no major charges of substance in anything like that. And those are the things that get priests removed. When you think of a priest getting stripped of his faculties, what’s the first thing you think of? The main ones that you think of, those do not apply in this case. Any little thing that might have happened, they have brought that to light to make it seem like a huge thing, which is where we are now. There is nothing of substance of any major magnitude that they have against Fr. Clay.

Q: What do you think is the reason that they don’t like Fr. Clay?

A: Fr. Clay is faithful to the core to the teachings of the Catholic Church. His inability to be swayed and to be controlled and to have any other agenda put upon him but the agenda of leading people toward Christ, the inability of leadership in the diocese to do that, that is where the rub is. They’re given specific topics to not preach on, and those are the exact topics that need to be talked about. They are the things of the soul, especially in our times, when things are getting crazier by the minute, as far as morality goes. And, he’s the kind of priest that makes people squirm in their seat, because he tells it how it is. He’s not interested in being politically correct. He’s interested in leading people to Christ, which is the ultimate responsibility of a priest. Unfortunately, the leadership of the diocese seems to have other interests in mind, and more worldly views. It’s no secret that Fr. Clay tells it how it is. There are two resources that anybody needs to look at it to know the truth, and that’s the Bible, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Anything against that, he’s not gonna be silenced.

Q: As Fr. Clay’s sister, do you have any stories of his virtue when he was growing up?

A: Well one thing is, this guy doesn’t stop. He never stops. In fact, to the point that his family has been like, ‘OK, you have to sleep. You cannot keep burning the candle at both ends.’ He would completely deteriorate his own health before letting someone be without him. He would be at the hospital at all hours of the day and night. He would go to people’s houses. Of course this is before all this stuff happened, because now he’s literally shackled. But yeah we will tell him, look you have to take care of yourself, but he will just go and go and go. That’s always been very impressive to me. He puts himself last, after everybody else. On a more personal note, I was fortunate, as the sister 17 years younger him, to have been at home when he was discerning the priesthood and when he was in school. There was a period of time when I was in my most formative years, probably in junior high, when he was home for awhile, and he prayed with me every day. You know, when you’re a kid, that might not be the main thing you would want to do, but he would just be so encouraging and I knew that I didn’t have an option. It would be every night, we would lay on the couch together, and we would pray the divine mercy chaplet, every night. And he would say for the sake of his sorrowful PASSION! very loudly because I would fall asleep, and I would jump up awake again and say ‘have mercy on us and on the whole world.’ That’s a very endearing time to me, a time that I know my faith was being formed very solidly and solely because of him. You know, he’s wonderful with children, bringing the youth to the faith. It’s incredible watching him with young people and how influential he is with them. It’s very cool.

Q: Why are you having the rally tomorrow? What’s the desired effect?

A: So, for the rally tomorrow, really at this point, Fr. Clay’s faculties are completely removed. He can’t do anything as a priest, besides his own personal Mass that he says for himself every day. Being the kind of person that he is, that he puts everybody before himself, this is especially excruciating. Not because of any other reason than that he wants to serve. He wants to do what he was called to do, his mission that he was put on this earth for. I don’t think the leadership in the diocese realizes how serious we are about Father Clay. He is in danger of being completely removed from the priesthood, which in a way he is already, but is still technically a priest. But it is to the point that they want him completely out of the priesthood. So he could be completely removed. It is our time for us, as the laity, to come forward and say, ‘this is not ok. Enough is enough. This is a good priest, and he only wants to do good by people.’ It’s time for the voices of the people of the Archdiocese of San Antonio to be heard, and for them to see the impact that he has had and the amount of lives he has changed. Pope Benedict XVI said, ‘The laity is co-responsible for the Church’s being and acting.’ We have a responsibility to the church. We are co-responsible, with the leadership, the priests, the clergy, and the laity. It is time for us to step up, because the acting part right now, how the leadership is acting, is contrary to the mission of the church.

Q: Are you optimistic for Fr. Clay?

A: I’m very optimistic. Absolutely. I know, I know, we know, as faithful Catholics, as Christians, that the Lord has a plan. We know that. I believe that, Fr. Clay believes that, our family is very at peace knowing this, and also knowing the amount of love and support that he has. I truly pray that there is conversion of heart, and that the Lord softens hearts in the diocese who are responsible for these decisions, and that there is a reconciliation. That’s the ultimate goal in all of this, to have a reconciliation. I hope that we can co-exist and be in peace and on the same mission with each other. I have so much faith that he will have his faculties back. He has way too much good left to do on this earth as a priest.

Q: How specifically do you think a solution will be reached for Fr. Clay?

A: I believe that it has to come from the laity. From our prayers for the softening and reconciliation, but also in our voices. It has to. If we stay silent, this will get pushed under the rug, just like it has for many other good clergy in the diocese before Fr. Clay. I think they picked on the wrong priest, to be honest. I think the influence and love that Fr. Clay has with the people of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, I don’t think they considered that when starting all of this.

Q: What ministry do you think Fr. Clay would do well in if he could get his faculties back?

A: I know he would be so happy to serve anywhere. Just put him anywhere and he would be so happy and grateful for it. He was a missionary priest for many years, so he served in all different capacities as a priest, and he just loves to serve God’s people wherever he is. Personally, like I said earlier, he has a very unique perspective when it comes to the youth, especially the years when you typically make bad decisions. He was a wild child, and then he had a major conversion to come to the priesthood, and that shocked anybody who knew him. It was like, ‘what? Clay Hunt is becoming a priest?’ Because of those experiences and because he knows that life, he would be an amazing priest to have working with youth in any capacity. I think he would be incredible at college ministry, I think he’d be incredible at putting on retreats for the youth and just bringing people in. Because people love Fr. Clay for a reason. He’s real. He will not hide things from his past. He’s open about it and he shares so that he can spare others from making decisions that may be harmful. That is so needed with the youth, these days, especially now. Now, more than ever, we need somebody speaking major truths to the youth, whether that’s junior high, high school, college, whatever. Those years are so formative for the rest of your life. I think he would be incredible and the kids would love him. He would be really fulfilled by doing that work. When I was in college, my priest was not very good at all. He was like 90 years old and very wishy washy. I prayed, ‘man, we need someone powerful in here to share the gospel in a powerful way.’ So yeah, I think he would do amazing in that capacity.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: Well, just like I said, this problem is a lot bigger than just Fr. Clay. It’s something that even if people don’t know Fr. Clay, everyone should unite behind. The silence and oppression of the clergy is real. If we are going to uphold the integrity of the Church and be that co-responsibility in our acting and our being as a Church, we have to unite behind this. For all of them, not just for him.

Before the rally and Fr. Clay had his faculties removed, the Catholic Student Group at Trinity University requested to have Father Clay as a priest in three separate letters to the Archbishop of San Antonio. That request was denied.

Assumption Seminary Attacked and Vandalized

Trespassers smashed doors and the image of Jesus Christ on the cross in an attack on Assumption Seminary in San Antonio, TX

Between 10 and 11pm on Thursday, Sep. 24, 2020, Assumption Seminary in San Antonio was attacked and vandalized. Although no one was injured in the attack, trespassers managed to crack the entrance doors to Lopez Hall, which is serving as the Discernment House for the San Antonio Archdiocese. This is a dormitory where men can live while discerning whether they are called to enter the seminary and the priesthood. Gilbert Valadez, one of the men living in the Discernment House, said that “I had just finished getting groceries and food and arrived at the seminary. Had I not made the stop to buy food, I am certain I would’ve run into the intruders.”

The doors to Lopez Hall, taken by Alexander Jacobs

In addition to merely smashing some doors and breaking some windows, the vandals smashed the feet of Jesus on the Crucifix outside of the main chapel in the seminary. They also put a black jersey over Jesus’ head. Alexander Jacobs, a Trinity University student (Class of 2020), who currently lives in Lopez Hall in Assumption Seminary said that “there has been a significant increase in the desecration of Catholic Churches and statues. Statues of Mary have had their heads chopped off, statues of Jesus have been destroyed, and the Lord Himself present in the Most Holy Eucharist has been desecrated. The next thing is for them to attack the clergy themselves.”

Feet of Jesus on the Crucifix at the main chapel, taken by Isaiah Ringen

In the last several months, several churches have been attacked and vandalized. Statues of Jesus Christ have been destroyed or beheaded, the Eucharist has been stolen or desecrated, and statues of the Virgin Mary have been beheaded and crushed as well. Jacobs also said that “The attack [last night] is the first of its kind that I’ve seen, where someone goes and directly attacks a seminary dorm at night when people are sleeping. While this is an outrage, it’s also very sad, because for the people who are doing this, they are unknowingly damning themselves to hell for all eternity. I pray for their conversion so they don’t have to face God in this miserable state.” 

Cover image taken by Isaiah Ringen