Friday, September 23, 2016

A Different Approach To Anglican Outreach

Neither the Pastoral Provision nor Anglicanorum coetibus has matched expectations, at least in terms of attracting significant groups of Anglican laity to Catholicism. (If the Pastoral Provision had been successful, there would have been no need for Anglicanorum coetibus.) On reflection, I think a big reason for this has been the idea that disaffected Anglicans would come in as quasi-parish groups, or indeed as full parishes.

I've never felt that it was a particular error for Cardinals Manning and Mahony to reject the St Mary of the Angels application to come in as Anglican Use in the mid 1980s. Every indication is that it would have been a headache and indeed a continuing source of bad press -- why borrow trouble? Nevertheless, St Mary's parishioners and clergy did in fact become Catholic during that period. Why lay so much stress on coming in as a parish?

In fact, the experience not just of St Mary's but of other groups has been that the process of parish discernment is unnecessarily divisive and often wastefully expensive. In addition to seriously damaging St Mary's parish, it's done some measure of harm to the Los Feliz community.

Nevertheless, there are common areas of belief and practice between Anglicanism and Catholicism that shouldn't be ignored. But RCIA, since it's mostly aimed at unbaptized catechumens coming from widely varying backgrounds, isn't the best route for Anglicans seeking to come into the Church. Beyond that, even the pastor at our former diocesan parish acknowledged that RCIA is too dumbed-down for many people.

I'm not sure how cost-effective a specialized approach to Anglicans would be in any diocese, but it does seem to me that if you apply the broad definition of Anglican used in the complementary norms (including those married to Anglicans broadly defined, or members of a family in which there was one such member), the numbers affected could be significant.

So how about a streamlined but enriched RCIA program? This might go along with a campaign of education that stressed that Catholic parishes vary in liturgical observance, and perhaps a bishop could extend a particular invitation to Anglicans to visit a variety of diocesan parishes to see if they might find certain ones appealing. Then announce the enhanced RCIA in particular parishes -- if there were just one or two catechists who might be best suited to this, fine -- offer the class at different times in different places.

I think a big miscalculation in Anglican outreach has been to gloss over the fact that it's always a personal decision to become Catholic. So far, the personal decision is unnecessarily tied up with parish factionalism, while the best alternative, RCIA, isn't well-suited to educated people who are already fairly well catechized.

A different approach might be worth some thought.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Other Vulnerable OCSP Groups

My regular correspondent points out,
There are easily another ten OCSP groups which would appear to have no ability to replace and/or support a priest when the current (elderly) parochial administrator retires again. Local diocesan clergy may step in in a few instances but I doubt that this is a recipe for long-term survival. The home page of the Our Lady of Hope, Kansas City website, with the Holy Week service times still posted, is my Exhibit A for the case that a priest who has significant diocesan responsibilities will have little time or energy to devote to the small group of OCSP members he is responsible for. And Fr Sly is OCSP, after all. What will be the time commitment of someone with no prior Ordinariate connection? Better to direct the members of these groups to diocesan parishes with greater opportunities for fellowship, involvement, and growth in the faith, IMHO.
It seems to me that the story arc of the OCSP has been that it was founded by an in-group of former Episcopal priests, themselves approaching secular retirement age, who saw Anglican unity with Rome as not much more than a prestigious career capstone. Many of these have proved unsatisfactory even for the minimal duties to which they were assigned, and by Catholic standards, their retirements have been premature, if justifiable. But having failed at the purpose for which it was founded, what else is it supposed to accomplish?

A visitor very kindly sent me a set of lectures delivered in 1944 by an Oxford Anglo-Papalist. They are very worthwhile as scriptural exegesis as well as historical analysis of the papacy, but they run into the Anglo-Papalist dilemma: assuming Anglican unity with Rome is a good thing, how is it to be brought about? Do the Anglican bishops suddenly resign and defer to the Catholic ones? If not, how else do we proceed? This would be a special problem for England, where the Church of England is established, and there are legal issues.

But in the US, there are parallel problems. TEC is not legally privileged, but Episcopalians still think they're special, and the assumption seems to have been that they need a special liturgy with thees and thous. Apparently they also need to bond with each other in special prestigious parishes, or at least that's how the assumption went.

But our diocesan parish relies on many Anglican hymns in its missal book. Just this past Sunday, we sang the Joachim Neander Lobe den Herren, which should probably be designated "honorary Anglican" for the enthusiasm which which it has been translated in Anglican hymnals. Throughout my Episcopal period, every version I sang had all the thees, thous, and thys, as well as the eths. The Catholic translation did away with every one of them. It was a bit of a shock, but I suddenly realized it works, and it calls attention to the words.

I'm wondering if Bp Lopes should be thinking along the lines of sending all the OCSP laity to diocesan parishes.

Monday, September 19, 2016

More Context

My regular correspondent has added some context to the question of OCSP groups that lose their priests:
Fr Reid left Ottawa to return to Victoria, BC and take over the Fellowship of BlJHN there, as the Ottawa parish had two other clergy, and Fr Reid is originally from Victoria. Fr Ortiz-Guzman was able to hold off his retirement until a replacement at St Augustine, Carlsbad was found in now-Fr Baaten. Fr Catania will be taking over from Fr Scheiblhofer at St Barnabas, Omaha, while assisting at a diocesan parish.

Fr Venuti has had to give up the leadership of St Gregory, Mobile for health reasons, but a diocesan priest offers mass for them once or twice a month (conflicting info depending on where you look).

On the other hand, I would add St Gilbert, Boerne to your list of groups which have folded owing to the departure of their priest. Fr Cannaday, the original leader, has now fully retired and his replacement, Fr Wagner, has taken over a diocesan parish in another community. The group was supposed to relocate to the latter's vicinity but I find no evidence that this has happened.

I think this suggests that Houston can sometimes scramble when replacements are available, but it still looks like more often than not, if a priest is unable to continue, the group will fold. The best bet is to have an available celibate who can easily relocate, but not enough of these are in the pipeline to meet likely contingencies.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Is This Thing Sustainable At All?

By my possibly imperfect count, four OCSP groups have gone inactive at minimum after losing their priests: St Edmund Kitchener, St Alban Rochester, St John Fisher Virginia, and now St Gregory the Great Stoneham. The reasons in each case are slightly different, but the bottom line is that the OCSP is unable to replace a priest who retires, loses his visa, has to move for family issues, or can't get diocesan support. Surely additional circumstances will arise that bring the same result.

Add to that the implication in both comments I had yesterday on St Gregory the Great that congregations are aging along with their priests, which means they will inevitably lose mobility and be less able even to commute to a parish not especially distant. But beyond that, as the parishioners age, actuarial reality will catch up, but I don't see those who pass on being replaced.

Nor is this problem new: the loss of Fr Tea at the Anglican Use parish St Mary Las Vegas had exactly the same result. Within five years of its founding, the OCSP has lost roughly 10% of its parishes and groups and is clearly unable to sustain many of the others if any adverse situation comes up. I think a reasonable projection would be that within a fairly short time, it will revert to the roughly half-dozen prosperous parishes that came in as that sort of special case.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Cheer Up, Things Could Be Worse -- Except, Er. . .

I've had two comments on the challenge St Gregory The Great Stoneham faces with Fr Liias's retirement. From my regular correspondent,
Apropos of Fr Wolfe's age, if Fr Liias (his seminary classmate) was the minimum canonical age for Episcopalian ordination in 1974 (24) he will be 66 this year. The congregation of St Gregory the Great, Stoneham has been encouraged to begin attending St Athanasius, whose PP pastor was ordained in TEC in 1970, making him at least 70. Of course aging is not a consistent phenomenon, but until 2009 70 was the mandatory retirement age for clergy in the Archdiocese of Boston (now it is 75; whether this reflects better health care or a priest shortage I can only speculate). So St Athanasius, Brookline will be facing its own leadership issue soon enough.
However, a regular visitor points out,
With respect to your blog post yesterday regarding the imminent retirement of Fr. Jurgen Llias and the fact that the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter does not have an immediate replacement available, it would be highly impracticable for the members of the Church of St. Gregory the Great, currently worshipping at St. Patrick's Church in Stoneham, Massachusetts, a suburb to the north of Boston, to worship with the members of the St. Athanasius Community, which worships at St. Lawrence Church in Chestnut Hill, a neighborhood at the junction of the municipalities of Boston, Brookline, and Newton.

These communities are only about ten or fifteen miles apart as the crow flies, but the saying in local parlance is that "you can't get they-ah from hee-ah." The only major road into the Chestnut Hill area is Massachusetts Route 9, which is a secondary divided highway (limited access in some segments but a few signals in others) going due west and city streets to the east, so access to St. Lawrence Church is reasonably convenient only for those who live in the western neighborhoods of the city, in the nearby inner suburbs, and in the suburbs to the west.

From the suburbs to the north or to the south, one may either take the inner beltway around Boston, originally built as Route 128 and now designated as I-95 and the southernmost segment of I-93, around the city to Route 9 and then head eastward on Route 9 -- a route that is anything but direct -- or muddle through a labyrinth of congested city streets and winding secondary roads.

The highway route from St. Patrick's Church to St. Lawrence Church is over twenty-five (25) miles -- and St. Gregory the Great Church has already moved fifteen miles southward from its original location in Beverly, Massachusetts, to its present location, so the additional commute simply would not be viable for many of that congregation's parishioners.

And going the other way, many of the members of the St. Athanasius Community undoubtedly depend upon public transportation -- which does not provide convenient access to St. Patrick's Church, so a merger at St. Patrick's Church also would not be viable.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Retirement Of Fr Ken Wolfe

My regular correspondent brought me this piece of news. Fr Wolfe was one of numerous former Episcopal priests ordained in the OCSP without groups but apparently with connections.

Fr Wolfe was one of my least-favorite figures in the OCSP. I contacted him in his capacity as Director of Child and Youth Protection, wanting to bring to his attention that wine was regularly served after Sunday morning mass at the Newman group. I saw this myself when I visited the group at its Placentia location in late 2011. The group at the time met for fellowship after evensong in a children's classroom at the Blessed Sacrament parish. Even then I thought it was incongruous to see bottles of wine on a table amid the children-size furniture and crayon drawings on the wall.

Following repeated reports that wine was regularly served in an after-mass "coffee hour" environment where toddlers and children are present, I thought Fr Wolfe should at least investigate the potential problem. Initially, I thought he showed appropriate interest. However, apparently after consultations with Fr Hough III, he revised his opinion and essentially demanded the confirmation of three male eyewitnesses.

My regular correspondent provided this summary of his very brief career in the OCSP:

On his ordination to the priesthood In January 2015 Fr Wolfe was named as the Chancellor of the OCSP. Then in June 2015 he became Director of Child and Youth Protection, with a glowing write-up of his qualifications for this job appearing in the Ordinariate Observer. This is the issue in which Fr Benedict Soule's (illicit) appointment as Judicial Vicar was announced and he was described as consulting with Margaret Chalmers, the "first Chancellor," with no suggestion that there had been a second.

You discussed this on your blog on May 20 this year. Now Fr Wolfe has retired from his new position after fourteen months. During this time embarrassing misinformation about the Ordinariate's non-compliance with the implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People appeared in a USCCB audit.

Did Fr Wolfe fumble the ball? Was his term of office unexpectedly brief? The official announcement of his retirement was complimentary, however, unlike the cursory statements about the retirements of Msgr Gipson amd Fr Hough III. He was apparently a seminary classmate of Fr Liias, who is retiring next month. Fr Liias was ordained in TEC in 1974, I believe.

Although he did not have pastoral responsibilities in the OCSP and began his work as Director of Child and Youth Protection in June 2015, the OCSP was one of only two dioceses and four eparchies that did not participate in the USCCB's 2015 audit of compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

The USCCB is happy to report that the OCSP will participate in the 2016 audit. Fr Wolfe, meanwhile, has retired.

UPDATE: The USCCB issued a correction to the 2015 audit report, saying "the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter was mistakenly named as an eparchy and as non-compliant." However, the OCSP after the designation of Bp Lopes is a diocese. The question of what the audit report said about the bodies that did not participate, though, is less clear. The report as linked said "due to a lack of information, [the bodies] cannot be found compliant or noncompliant by the auditors", not that the OCSP was noncompliant. In corporatespeak, though, it's still a black eye, and I'm not sure if the correction changes anything. (I'm told the OCSP complained about the report.)

Since Fr Wolfe was only appointed Director of Child and Youth Protection in June 2015, when the audit was almost over, it's hard to say what he might have done to change things -- it's possible he was quickly named to the position to avoid repercussions once the issue arose. And he had apparently been superseded as Chancellor by then, so they had to give him something.

Bottom line: he's retired, and the USCCB is happy. Not necessarily connected.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Another OCSP Group Loses Its Priest

My regular correspondent reports,
The problem of replacing retiring clergy becomes more acute. The parochial administrator of St Gregory the Great, Stoneham is retiring next month and Bp Lopes met with the congregation last Sunday to inform them that no replacement would be forthcoming for the foreseeable future. There is, of course, an Anglican Use congregation in the Greater Boston area with which this community can worship, so the situation is not completely bleak.

But in any event the bishop would seem to have few alternatives. It will take years to have a pool of celibate priests who can be deployed around the country. An affluent parish like St Mary the Virgin, Arlington can attract a Pastoral Provision priest by offering a salary, rectory, and benefits, but this is a distant dream for most groups.

Perhaps there are still married, Episcopalian/ Anglican clergy without groups waiting to be ordained for the OCSP and prepared to take on responsibility for a leaderless group while supporting themselves with diocesan work, chaplaincy, or teaching, but we haven't heard much about them recently. We certainly heard about Glenn Baaten for years before he was finally ordained. The fast track for those with connections may have slowed down, making the Pastoral Provision a more attractive option for the target group.

I think those on the fast track wanted things on their terms -- serving parishes they wanted, in locations that were convenient. I've got to say that in my working career I was no stranger to commutes between LA and Texas, Chicago, or even Connecticut. I don't see this attitude among Nashotah House alumni, even if the OCSP could pay the air fare. This is another factor that Anglicanorum coetibus didn't consider -- Episcopal clergy are not set up to emulate the likes of St Paul.