Sunday, August 28, 2016

Archetypes Of Wishful Thinking

Damian Thomson is a journalist. Journalism has to sell by making a quick impression that doesn't discomfit the target market, which is a long way of saying journalists by their nature rely on comfortable stereotypes. His Catholic Herald piece, as I reflect on it, has called attention to itself with a man-bites-dog take on Anglicanorum coetibus -- it says the OOLW is "in peril" -- but in fact it quickly reverts to comfortable assertions. To be sure, it's an improvement on the usual cutsey-pie treatment of Fr _____ and his six kids, but his prescriptions are nothing special. He did his job and got his clicks, but he really hasn't helped anything.

Let's think about the sort of unhelpful stereotypes we see in mainstream media -- one comes to mind because I was sorry to see it emerge in a TV program I normally like -- the Heroic Single Mom. The HSM explains, sometimes tearfully, that she does everything for her kids, works two jobs, drives as a long distance trucker, whatever, to make ends meet and give the kids a life. This keeps the audience from focusing on whatever circumstances caused her to be raising three kids without a dad, nor how when boyfriend Steve comes around, he's lusting after the older son. All good reason for Fr Ripperger to advise parents to lose the TV as long as there are kids in the house.

It seems to me that when you pull the fluff away, Thompson is engaging in similar dishonesty. He leads by saying the OOLW is in peril, but he quickly segues to the sitcom slapstick private Frazer and "We're doomed!" In other words, he doesn't really mean it. And other than the one realistic assessment -- the idea of group conversions is a fantasy -- his prescriptions are bromides. In fact, I would call them archetypes of wishful thinking, and I think there are two of them.

The first is the Heroic Young Parish-Plantitng Priest. There are a couple of OCSP priests playing to this stereotype, the dedicated Anglican version of Bing Crosby in Going My Way, but with the accessories of wife and many kids to go with the straw hat. He is building a parish where diocesan fuddy-duddies have tried and failed, and it's going from strength to strength. But like the stereotype of the HSM, the HYPPP is atypical at minimum and deflects attention from legitimate questions: are these new people part of the target group? How many are actually coming to mass and confession? Are they sustaining the church with real donations? How realistic are the blue-sky proposals?

The HYPPP also deflects attention from the reality that, as a commenter pointed out on Fr Hunwicke's post, most ordinariate priests are retirees, and in the OCSP they've wangled their way into established parishes or sinecures. They're long past planting parishes -- their careers were always oriented toward prestigious established parishes (i.e., the Steenson model) in any case. But beyond that, their formation was anything but Catholic. Thery went to prestige Anglican seminaries where they learned to tolerate diversity and that the seven deadly sins are neither here nor there. They're in favor of birettas, copes, platens, and subdeacons, but little else.

The second is the myth of the sudden donor who will make everything all right. This is the bright note on which Thompson ends his piece. The problem is that what we see in places like Scranton is something more like a Ponzi scheme, grandiose proposals demanding money far in excess of what's available, leading to unpaid bills and emergency campaigns. We can say this comes from faith, but in Catholic moral theology as I understand it, temperance must normally balance such aspirations with prudence.

Thompson pretty much confirms my developing view that Anglicanorum coetibus contains fatal contradictions based on a misunderstanding of Anglicanism.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Fr Hunwicke Comments On The Catholic Herald Piece

Fr Hunwicke posts what I think is a pretty weak answer to Thompson at Liturgical Notes. His point appears to be that the OOLW is indeed short on laity, and it is indeed short on money, but joie de vivre makes up for it. Well, I'm thousands of miles away, maybe he has a point.

But the comments on his post are telling. For instance,

The main issue is the very disappointing response (an understatement) from Anglican Catholic-minded laity. Pope Benedict thought he was offering the best of all possible worlds: solid doctrine, (assuredly) valid orders, excellent inculturated liturgy and above all Englishness (never Fr. -- or indeed Bishop -- Fintan O'Shaughnessy's strong point).

Enough Anglican clergy came across to the UK Ordinariate to man an entire English Catholic diocese. But if attachment to church buildings is such a deal-breaker for lay Anglicans, aren't some English Catholic bishops right to be privately sceptical about the Ordinariate and its chances?

However, as regards Anglican clergy who prefer to remain Anglican until they qualify for a pension, then expect to be welcomed with open arms when they profess a fully Catholic faith after they reach age 65, I think a skeptical attitude on the part of Catholic bishops is at least understandable. These bishops would regard such clergy in a different light than Anglican laity, and might question their convictions and devotion to the Church.

I realize, of course, that the situation is complicated, both personally and historically, and I don't doubt that some Catholic bishops discourage such Anglican clergy out of unworthy motives. A generous attitude is surely best. Still, some of them may well be acquainted with Anglican clergy who made the leap before age 65 at considerable personal sacrifice.

It seems to me that the points in both comments hit home in North America as well: the OCSP is top-heavy with clergy and prebends, and notwithstanding the Lopes housecleaning, it continues to be dominated by TEC pensioners, some apparently well off. But more to the point, it appears that both ordinariates are clergy-centered and apparently focus on overspecialized cliques -- except, in the OCSP, for a second wave of marginal candidates from marginally Anglican denominations who apparently knew the right people in the first wave.

Per Fr Hunwicke, lots of joie de vivre when they all get together. The Father is apparently incapable of irony.

Friday, August 26, 2016

No Happy Face At The Catholic Herald

My regular correspondent sent me a link to an article at the Catholic Herald that begins, "Britain's Ordinariate is in peril." This is a refreshing change from the usual happy-face (and increasingly unrealistic) coverage of Anglicanorum coetibus we see in nearly all the Catholic or mainstream media or in places like Ordinariate Expats.

Damian Thompson, the author, says he had previously been an enthusiastic supporter, but he concedes, ". . . I’m now convinced that the Ordinariate in its present form will wither away." He is talking about the specific form the Ordinariate has taken in the UK, and to be fair, he seems to think that some measures could be taken to save it, although I'm not sure if his proposals would be remotely effective.

He also says, without citing anything to support it, that the US-Canadian Ordinariate is "now flourishing under its own 41-year-old bishop, Steven Lopes." I would say that the most optimistic reading of what's happening over here is that the OCSP has failed to thrive, though the problems in North America aren't the same as those in the UK.

I do fully agree, though, with one of his prescriptions, "the fantasy of group conversions needs to be ditched."

First, there has never been an appetite among lay members of the C of E for coming over en masse. You can disguise a new body as much as you like, but if it reports to the Pope then it is “Roman Catholic” and that’s not something most Anglicans want to be.

Second, those Anglo-Catholic clergy most likely to convert tend to be the sort who spent their careers in the C of E playing at being “Roman”, using our Missal where they could get away with it.

This applies to the US as well, though there is also a substantial faction of US Anglo-Catholic clergy who play at being Roman but are openly gay. Another observation may apply more specifically to the UK: "Also, Ordinariate priests and laity who never liked their unique Missal, Divine Worship, should slip quietly into the Catholic mainstream."

In the UK, Anglo-Catholics had been using the Ordinary Form since Vatican II and were unfamiliar with the made-up uniate liturgy dating from 1905, which is ugly no matter what English you speak. In the US, it may be more familiar to those who favor the 1928 BCP. However, his prescription that those in the UK who don't like the BDW should just become diocesan Catholics would probably cause a majority of the 1000 or so members of the OOLW to leave.

I do disagree with Thompson here:

The third obstacle for the Ordinariate was the worst: the aforementioned wily obstructiveness of the Bishops of England and Wales. A single statistic speaks volumes. Pope Benedict urged them to be generous. How many disused or near-empty churches did the bishops give the Ordinariate? None.

“The bishops pretend they’re being generous, but in reality we’re under siege,” says one Ordinariate priest. “We can’t support ourselves, so we have to take diocesan jobs in parishes, schools or prisons that might be 45 miles away from the nearest Ordinariate Mass centre.”

In other words, the bishops haven't given the OOLW more free stuff. But in the US, bishops have largely been generous -- in Scranton and Philadelphia, disused and near-empty churches have been given to Ordinariate parishes on favorable terms, but whether these parishes can survive is nevertheless an open question. Otherwise, Thompson thinks that if money magically appeared, everything would brighten:
In July, Fr Tomlinson took his family on a camping trip to France, wondering how he was going to find £9,000 to complete the beautification of the sanctuary.

“I got back to find a message from a disabled man who was fed up with the boring worship in his own parish and had decided to give us 10,000 quid,” Fr Tomlinson says. “Now tell me that’s not God at work.”

I don't deny that naive people with $10-15,000 to throw away exist, although we must also allow that people who accumulate that kind of money have often done it through the exercise of prudence -- and this suggests they want to make effective use of the money they consecrate for God's purpose. The appeals we see for funds, at least in the US, don't so far come with an impression the money will be prudently spent.

My wife and I give to our diocesan parish and other reputable Catholic appeals, but we will never send money to Fr Bergman, who seems not much more than a con artist who is damaging the OCSP's reputation. Indeed, given the failure so far of the OCSP to thrive, I've got to think the angels who donated the seed money for the Houston facilities made a bad choice.

I don't see evidence that the new OCSP leadership understands much of the problem to which Thompson partly refers.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

What Problem Is Anglicanorum Coetibus Trying To Solve?

The answer here is clear: in 1993, Clarence Pope told Cardinal Ratzinger that 250,000 disaffected Episcopalians (of a denomination numbering a million) were poised to become Catholic, if only Mother Church would give them a bishop. The actual number as of 2016 in the US and Canada is probably fewer than 2500, although significantly, Houston seems to keep this figure a secret.

The first attempt at outreach to disaffected Episcopalians came in the context of the 1977 Congress of St Louis. Cardinal Law was directly involved in the breakaway movement, to the degree that those planning the 1978 Anglican Catholic Church consecrations of "continuing" bishops were advised against it if they wished unity with Rome. Whatever the outcome, Douglas Bess, the one serious chronicler of the "continuing" movement, made the point that the actual numbers of "continuers" were never enough to make TEC take notice.

The problem, as it has been presented to policymakers in Rome, has clearly been misstated and misrepresented. What are the actual problems facing the Church? Msgr Charles Pope suggests,

There is a growing consternation among some Catholics that the Church, at least in her leadership, is living in the past. It seems there is no awareness that we are at war and that Catholics need to be summoned to sobriety, increasing separation from the wider culture, courageous witness and increasing martyrdom.

It is long past dark in our culture, but in most parishes and dioceses it is business as usual and there is anything but the sober alarm that is really necessary in times like these.

The problem for Houston -- or at least, the problem that I see most closely to hand -- is apparently this:

Let me see. The Santiago Retreat Center currently has at least two chapels (a Marywood Chapel and a Rosary Chapel, as far as I can tell from its web sites). Additional chapels are planned. The two existing chapels serve 2-300 people per weekend, generally a lot fewer than go to mass at a typical diocesan parish. However, Fr Bartus, with Houston's approval, is seeking donors of $100,000 per year for what seems to me an ill-conceived project to renovate a cheap temporary building to make the interior look more like a medieval English country church, or something like that (actually, a mid-19th century fantasy of a medieval English country church).

This renovation will apparently serve two tiny groups: one, in Carlsbad, numbering perhaps 20; the other, in Irvine, numbering optimistically 100. The only situation I can imagine that parallels an effort like this would be a folly funded by an eccentric member of the lesser nobility (or an underperforming scion of a robber baron), a local curiosity in a rural neighborhood. It's hard not to think that this reflects at best an astonishing sense of entitlement among the priests and parishioners, as well as what seems to be an utterly misguided understanding of the issues facing Christians.

Is there no better purpose for which these fundraising appeals can be used? However, my regular correspondent has suggested that the proposals and appeals regarding the Walsingham renovation and related projects are "smoke and mirrors", largely a self-promoting enterprise by one of the priests involved. In my view, it reflects poorly on OCSP leadership that this sort of thing is permitted.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

I've Got To Say I'm Stumped

at the sheer incongruity, if nothing else, of the planned renovation of a Walsingham chapel at the Santiago Retreat Center.

Let's just start with the biggest issue: the retreat center is in a mountainous chapparal ecozone, which is ordered to burn every 20 to 50 years (the vegetation would not survive if it did not periodically burn). The California wildfires that make the news every year are simply the natural effect of this condition. Last week's Blue Cut fire, which took place in neighboring mountains visible from the Santiago center, burned hundreds of structures. Barring some combination of luck and heroic effort, this is what happens to structures that are built in this ecozone.

The structures at the Santiago center appear to be built with this in mind -- in other words, they're cheap and temporary, and this is what you see anywhere in areas like this.

Notice too, though, that the trees surrounding the building in the photo touch the building. It doesn't look as though the site has been planned or maintained with the potential for fire in prudent view.

But why undertake a clearly expensive interior renovation of buildings like these when there's a good chance the wood paneling and so forth won't last through the next fire? If I were a donor approached for a project like this, it's the first question I'd have in mind.

But leaving the question of fire aside, why are we doing this? The total assets of the center are listed as $128,644, which simply matches what we see in photos. Yet a proposal appears to want to spend considerably more than this simply to renovate the interior of one very cheap temporary building on the site.

The goal is to comfortably seat people whilst [note the preciousness here] having the ability to hold a solemn high mass, for the Annual Pilgrimages, and to orient the chapel in a neo-gothic interior that blends with a Spanish mission exterior, as a nod to the Spanish Franciscans who named Santiago Canyon on July 25, 1769, during the Portola Expedition. The exterior grounds around the chapel will contain a prayer garden surrounding the building itself, in the design of the Rosary so that pilgrims may pray whilst enjoying the beautiful surroundings of natural Southern California.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars in a multiphase renovation, to be used on special occasions or annual pilgrimages -- by a group that doesn't have its own facility at its normal location? I can imagine some lesser members of the Huntington, Crocker, or Stanford families endowing such a thing in the late 19th century, with the resource being passed down for occasional use now, but why are we doing this in 2016? Elsewhere I see mentions of a daily mass, but the Santiago property is not normally open to the public -- you have to call to make a reservation. Might there be a better use for someone's time here?

If Fr Baaten wants to e-mail me and set up a time for me to visit so he can make a case for what's going on here, I'll be delighted to bring my camera and take a detailed look. Short of that, I've got to call into question the judgment of anyone who is indulging this misbegotten proposal. (However, while it's apparently OK for Fr Baaten to call Patrick Madrid, it definitely isn't OK for anyone in the OCSP to e-mail me. Bp Lopes, you could potentially get me more on your side with a little more PR savvy.)

But I'm willing to listen.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


My regular correspondent has pointed out that two OCSP or OCSP-related organizations are resorting to crowdfunding to attract donations. For instance, the Santiago Retreat Center, whose strange proposal for a pedantically detailed Anglo-Catholic chapel in the hardscrabble chapparal I mentioned last week, is out to raise $50,000. (It is not clear how the projects proposed in the appeal relate, or don't relate, to the OCSP proposal, nor how OCSP Fr Baaten's position as facilities director there relates to this proposal.)

Crowdfunding is defined (for instance) on this Wikipedia page. It is most commonly used for entertainment media projects, although philanthropic ventures also sometimes use it. Strictly speaking, it also uses crowdfunding platforms like gofundme or the clickandplege site used by the Santiago center. Random begging over the web, or Facebook, which is what BJHN and STM appear to be doing, seems to be a little farther from the definition. However, it seems to me that some of the disadvantages of this method still apply, taken in part from the Wikipedia entry:

[F]failure to meet campaign goals or to generate interest results in a public failure. Reaching financial goals and successfully gathering substantial public support but being unable to deliver on a project for some reason can severely negatively impact one's reputation.
Clearly, some of the appeals and proposals we've seen in Scranton have potentially had this effect. Also,
  • Donor exhaustion – there is a risk that if the same network of supporters is reached out to multiple times, that network will eventually cease to supply necessary support.
  • Public fear of abuse – concern among supporters that without a regulatory framework, the likelihood of a scam or an abuse of funds is high. The concern may become a barrier to public engagement.
. . . . By using crowdfunding, creators also forgo potential support and value that a single angel investor or venture capitalist might offer.
One question I have is why there sems to be no support from a prominent Orange County donor to Catholic projects, Tim Busch. BJHN cannot have escaped Busch's notice, since the group meets in the chapel at his offices and has even used his wine cellar. But apparently for fundraising, BJHN is on its own. Is there some reason why Mr Busch is less hospitable to proposals from BJHN?

I think Houston needs to take a much closer look at fundraising practices in Scranton and Irvine.

Monday, August 22, 2016

More Thoughts On The Interests Of The Parties

I'm a little puzzled that the ACA continues to be a party to the legal actions regarding the St Mary's parish. In November 2012, looking at what the ACA may have wanted in this whole matter, I counted 68 parishes and missions in the four US dioceses. As of this morning, I went back and counted 26 in the DONE, 8 in DEUS, 8 in DOW, and 12 in DMV for a total of 54.

In both 2012 and today, I gave the ACA the benefit of the doubt and counted everything each diocese listed on its website. This means that some number of the 68 in 2012 were inactive or paper parishes; it looks like there are similar questions about the current 54. For instance, although the Diocese of the West currently lists eight, three of these (the one in Montana and one each in Arizona and California) are probably inactive. In fact, two of the other California parishes are moribund without rectors.

My speculation in the November 2012 post was that in undertaking the May 2012 cruise to the Greek islands with Bp Grundorf to negotiate merger with the APA, Brian Marsh anticipated a multimillion-dollar infusion to the ACA from the recently seized St Mary's property. Since then, the ACA's prospects in this attempt have receded at best to stalemate. Prospects for merger with the APA have faded apace, and I don't believe this is a coincidence.

One thing that's stuck with me was Mr Lancaster's cringe in the courtroom Friday when Judge Murphy mentioned the word "receiver". The implications of the St Mary's vestry declaring bankruptcy are complex -- or indeed, a mortgage holder forcing appointment of a receiver -- and I'm nowhere near understanding them at this point. However, I think the bottom line for Mrs Bush and the ACA would be even more loss of control and less ability to delay proceedings.

A bankruptcy trustee would presumably have greater power to pursue the assets Mrs Bush removed from the parish bank accounts early this year. This would be a big problem for her. A good question would also be whether the money went from the non-profit parish accounts to accounts belonging to an organization that may not have formally been a non-profit. This could interest the IRS, and any irregularities could potentially threaten the ACA's tax exempt status.

Another issue could involve a receiver appointed to deal with any foreclosure action connected with the apparently fraudulent mortgage Mrs Bush took out on the property in 2014. A close look at this matter from an independent third party could cause other problems for Mrs Bush and the ACA.

In either case, this would probably allow a trustee or receiver to rent the commercial property. It would probably allow the Kelleys to continue to live on the property, and it would probably allow the vestry to continue to hold services. The rental income would be collected for the benefit of the creditors, and this would probably result in loss of effective ability by Bush and the ACA to delay proceedings via litigation.

it appears to me that Mrs Bush and the ACA would have more to lose than the vestry in any move like this. In addition, a lingering question has always been whether Mrs Bush's interests and those of the ACA are the same, especially in light of any potential irregularities over Mrs Bush's draining the bank accounts or obtaining the 2014 mortgage.

I've got to assume the attorneys for both sides are well aware of the issues involved.