Tuesday, July 25, 2017

But Is It A Consistent Product?

My egular correspondent comments,
Fr Simington, a recent graduate of Nashotah House, was required to do two years of further residential seminary training before being ordained deacon, and then another year before being ordained priest, while assisting the chaplain at St John XXIII School. When we compare this preparation period to that of, say, Fr Erdman it is quite lengthy. Why? I think it was because he had not been previously ordained and had very limited parish experience. As you have pointed out, getting an appointment in TEC is quite difficult. There is vast oversupply. So we can assume that a man who found a position relatively recently must have something going for him, and must have some pastoral and administrative skills. I agree that a solid intellectual and spiritual formation is vital for a priest. But the situation of an Ordinariate priest, isolated in many ways and heading a start-up operation, is not typical. Further gifts are required, and successful pastoral experience should not be underestimated.
I don't believe, though, that an OCSP priest who came from a normal carer path, TEC seminary through transitional deacon through associate or rector, in TEC is the usual case. Several were swept into early retirement when Bp Lopes came in, probably with very good reason. Others were passed over, with less reason.

We frequently find, instead, men with inchoate moves at the fringes, especially in the later waves of recruitment. And these men, whom I would estimate are at best curate material, are sent out with essentially no supervision or mentoring. The evidence I have from my own e-mails is that Fr Bartus, who by his own admission could not get ordained in TEC or the ACNA, had been inhibited by one ACA bishop and was on a collision course with another, is in frequent communication with some of the weaker men. In the absence of constructive supervision, this is to be expected.

Monday, July 24, 2017

More On Formation

My other friend comments,
The comments from your “correspondent” about Catholic seminaries being part of consortia of Christian seminaries in a geographical area in which candidates at any member seminary can take courses at any member seminary for full credit is also commonplace. Here in the Archdiocese of Boston, for example, St. John’s Seminary (our normal archdiocesan seminary), the Department of Theology of Boston College (Jesuit), and the Weston School of Theology (a Jesuit pontifical institute now known as the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry) joined the School of Theology of Boston University (United Methodist), the Episcopal Theological School, and Harvard Divinity School (originally Congregational Church, merged into the United Church of Christ, but now unaffiliated) as founding members of the Boston Theological Institute (BTI) in 1967.

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (unaffiliated Evangelical Protestant), Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary, and Hebrew College Rabbinical School have subsequently joined this consortium. According to the archdiocesan seminary’s course catalog, “[s]tudents from member schools enjoy cross-registration in more than seven hundred courses, and access to more than two million books in their respective libraries.” What’s especially interesting about this is that Boston College School of Theology and Ministry grants the pontifical degrees of Doctor of Sacred Theology (STD) and Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL), the recipients of which are deemed by the Vatican to be accredited as Catholic theologians.

This may be the case in some dioceses, though I don't believe it's the case in Chicago or Los Angeles, unless someone can correct me. But this basically puts more responsibility on vocations directors, who must presumably make sure seminarians are choosing courses that stress Aquinas and not Karl Barth or Joshua Heschel. If I get lucky, I may get a chance to chat with a diocesan vocations director in coming months, and this will be among the questions I hope to put to him.

This still says that rigorous curricula are potentially available to seminarians if they're correctly guided. But then we have the problem that the OCSP vocations director, a former Anglican, may himself not be well-equipped either to evaluate candidates' formation or recommend remedial courses. Given the general mediocre caliber of OCSP intake due to the limited opportunities available, I doubt if any vocations director will rise above the mean or identify a better candidate or encourage anyone better to apply.

But my regular correspondent also chimes in:

I don't think the exams are particularly rigorous. Fr [redacted], a man without an accredited MDiv, skipped even the webinars from Houston and just wrote the exams. I am sure he is an intelligent man but clearly these exams did not require intensive preparation. We are not talking about the law boards here.

I do not see any evidence that anyone has begun formal preparation while continuing to function as an Anglican clergyman. I believe that the process you describe, of submitting a dossier which includes a letter resigning one's previous orders, has been adhered to in all cases. Fr Erdman resigned from TEC in January 2016 after a six month struggle with the parish Vestry and was received as a Catholic in June 2016. I think he turned to the Catholic option after exhausting his options at Calvary Church. The idea that he was simultaneously exploring a back-up plan is offensive, frankly, as is the suggestion that the CDF would collude.

So the picture that seems to be emerging is that in fact numerous candidates have been ordained without a two-year period of formation, and that the exams are perfunctory. This simply goes to the question I've been raising that if seminary course work alone isn't an assurance that Catholic priests get the formation we clearly see in many cases, then something else about formation must be responsible -- and this must be even more completely absent from Protestant clergy who want to wear a collar but don't really understand the faith, especially if they're mainly trying to jump-start failed careers.

Sunday, July 23, 2017


Bp Lopes in Vienna called the process of ordination for the OCSP "forrmulaic". Observers are still trying to figure out how. My regular correspondent says,
I am trying to sift through recent candidates/ordinands to determine who was selected by Lopes/Perkins and who was a leftover from Steenson/Hough 3. Of this year's three, only Fr Erdman is in the former category. He was fast-tracked, presumably because he had local publicity as a conscientious objector to same-sex marriage who had lost his job in TEC, and because he had successfully put together at least a small group of converts. Messrs McCrimmon and Wills, having been ordained as transitional deacons this summer, will presumably be on the list for priestly ordination next June 29, but that is all we can say for sure. The Bros, Mr Bayles, Mr Mayer---none of these have made it to deacon yet.

Having said that, I agree that they all seem to be damaged goods in some respect, and one has to wonder, or perhaps it is obvious, why a clergyman without a congregation would go the OCSP route rather than the Pastoral Provision, especially since in any event he will be spending most of his time at a diocesan parish, school, or other stipendiary post. I think that Houston is trying to find people who will be either leading a group or available to take over an existing group. From that perspective it appears less interested in phoney publicity than those who decided to ordain Laurence Gipson, Ken Wolfe, or Jon Chalmers.

But the closest Houston can come in most cases is to find a way to put together a minimum-size Potemkin group and then find a candidate who is willing to relocate, like Mr Mayer, or indeed the Pasadena group, which Fr Bartus is assembling but which will eventually go to a new candidate. I question whether this really meets the intent of coetus as expressed in both Summorum Pontificum and Anglicanorum coetibus. Both usages strike me as envisioning a more or less spontaneous, bottom-up or outside-in petition, rather than a collection deliberately assembled by the prelature to justify putting a body into a preferment.

My other friend replies,

Having read your post today, it appears that you missed the second quote from Bishop Lopes’s presentation in my previous post. The bishop said that, in the case of clergy coming with congregations, the Vatican allows Catholic ordination to take place part way through the program of formation. It’s less clear whether ordination typically happens four months, or six months, or some other period of time into the program of formation, but the fact remains that the candidate still completes the rest of the two-year program after ordination.

It also appears that some of the candidates have begun the Catholic program of formation while they were still active clergy in their former denominations, several months before reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church. It’s pretty clear that this happened with the original clergy of all three ordinariates.

But even when he disagrees, my friend expresses uncertainty about what the actual policy is. My regular correspondent suggests Fr Erdman's case was fast-tracked, but we don't know exactly how. Certainly the procedure expressed by Bp Lopes involves the CDF imposing exams on the candidate before finally approving his ordination, and I assume that if the formation process is rigorous, one would need to complete most of it before passing such an exam. Is the exam waived in some cases? I betcha it is.

Also, I followed the progress of some candidates in the 2012 intake, and at least at that time, they were required to resign their Anglican orders before submitting their dossiers. My memory says they had to include the resignation letters with the dossiers. If the process has since been modified, as my friend suggests it may have been, then this simply adds to the growing list of exceptions to expressed CDF and OCSP policy. This is not "formulaic", and it seems to me that Bp Lopes was disingenuous in Vienna.

What I think is happening is that the coetus envisioned in Anglicanorum coetibus has been quite rare, and of those fewer than a dozen occurrences, roughly half had already been assembled under the Pastoral Provision. Only a handful of parishes ever made the transition as integral coetus from an Anglican denomination directly to the OCSP, and no new ones have entered after the first small wave.

As a result, the OCSP has had to shift its model completely, so that the current paradigm seems to be the one we see with Mr Mayer: a minimum-size new group, quite possibly not Anglican at all, gets together but for whatever reason can't continue. In order to justify proceeding with the candidate's formation, the OCSP must find him employment in a friendly diocese, no matter how distant, relocate him, and then hope it can cobble together another new little chapel group, Anglican or not, in that distant location for him to tend.

This is not the Christopher Phillips paradigm, whereby the Anglican arrives, builds on existing interest in the community, and fairly quickly establishes de novo a parish that becomes a major player in the diocese, which the diocese fights to retain.

Whatever his strengths or weaknesses, no current OCSP priest has matched what Fr Philips accomplished. I can only conclude that the OCSP and the CDF are so anxious to find another Phillips -- indeed, they're now sending him around to show other parishes how it's done -- that they'll bend every rule in hopes one will turn up. Sorry, you can't make a Bartus into a Phillips, for good or ill, no matter how hard you try. But the Phillips model, while potentially successful, isn't even the Anglicanorum coetibus paradigm, whereby an existing Anglican parish comes into the Church.

Trying to discover another Christopher Phillips is in fact an acknowledgement that Plan A didn't work, now we need a Plan B! Maybe they can have a special collection to buy lottery tickets. That sounds about as effective a strategy.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

So, Why The Charade?

I'm caught between two points of view here regarding what it takes to be ordained with a Protestant MDiv. My reguar correspondent says,
In my diocese, and I know this is the case in many other places, the diocesan seminary and two seminaries run by religious orders are part of a larger consortium of seminaries which prepare candidates for the Anglican, Presbyterian, and United Church ministries , as well as those of a number of smaller denominations which never had accredited seminaries of their own. All the courses are open to anyone registered in any seminary which is part of the School of Theology, and any candidate for an M.Div can satisfy the requirement for, say, a course in New Testament or Pastoral Practice by taking it from any of the professors, regardless of denomination.

The Catholic diocesan seminary functions primarily as a residence although courses are also offered there (open to any student in the School of Theology). Degrees are still issued by the constituent seminaries and they can stipulate certain required courses for their students, but the great gulf fixed between an M.Div from a Catholic seminary and one from a Protestant seminary does not really exist, at least not in Canada.

But this brings me to the question of why, if the course material for Catholic ordination is so similar to Protestant, we have to have the charade of a two-year (or more) period of additional formation. My correspondent replied that maybe it's to study canon law. Really? Two years of canon law?

My other friend takes a different position:

Your post today does not square at all with what Bishop Lopes said about formation of ordinariate clergy in his lecture in Vienna last March. The following paragraph appears at the top of Page 7 of the bishop’s text (emphasis in original; boldface mine).
The cases of individual former Anglican clergy seeking ordination as Catholic priests are rather formulaic. The former cleric and his sponsoring Catholic bishop prepare a dossier for review by the Congregation in order to ensure that no canonical impediments to ordination are present. Having made that determination, the Congregation issues a nihil obstat for the man to be accepted as a candidate for Sacred Orders and begin his period of formation for Catholic priesthood. The governing legislation of the Pastoral Provision established this period as two years for former Anglicans given the similarities between Anglican and Catholic formation. Other former Protestant ministers must observe a minimum three-year period of formation.

Once the candidate successfully completes an assessment examination, the case is once again submitted to the Congregation which, after a careful review of all the documentation, presents the case directly to the Pope for a dispensation from the obligations of clerical celibacy. This dispensation is communicated back to the bishop and ordinations to the diaconate and priesthood may proceed.

But as I've been saying all week, the OCSP, and now presumably the CDF, seems to make exceptions all the time. Mr Bengry, who only became Catholic late last year, will be ordained in mid-2018, well under two years. As far as I can tell, Mr McCrimmon of the new Orlando group will be ordained next month, also well under a two-year period, unless someone can clarify the situation. Bp Lopes refers to criteria established under the Pastoral Provision, but in accepting candidates from the CEC, the OCSP does not follow even those provisions.

The actual case, it seems to me, is that the OCSP is increasingly desperate to present a picture of growth and thus will ordain some very marginal candidates, well under the periods of formation Bp Lopes gives. As a practical matter, because it can offer so few financial incentives, it's taking men whose Protestant careers have stalled, often for good reason, and pretty much hosing them into any circumstance that might remotely fit. Indeed, it seems to be forced more recently into offering these men financial support, when this had originally not been the policy.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Protestant MDivs

Regarding yesterday's remark about Protestant MDivs, my regular correspondent replies,
I think that the formation period for former clergy with M.Divs is now at least two years, involving distance learning and some week-long residential sessions, although apparently one can be ordained before completing the program, as in the case of Fr Erdman. A long way from being a full-time seminarian living in community, but also a long way from the dozen or so webinars which constituted preparation for the first intake of OCSP clergy And unlike the protocol under Msgr Steenson, a group or the realistic possibility of a placement with an existing group seems to be required.
But let's keep this in the context of yesterday's post: "policies" as the word applies to life in general aren't the same thing in the OCSP. Under current policies in the wider Church, Bros Bengry and Beahen wouldn't be admitted to a diocesan seminary. Period. But they seem to be the subject of several exceptions in the OCSP.

Let's go a little beyond this, though. Earlier this year, a visitor suggested that since the courses required for an MDiv in a Catholic seminary and a Protestant seminary are pretty much the same, what's the diff? It was slow to dawn on me, but I think there's a big diff now that I reflect on it.

  • Are you telling me that the course in Christian history is the same insofar as it discusses Luther and Calvin?
  • Are you telling me that a Protestant gets the same introduction to Aquinas?
  • How do Protestants dodge the extensive passages in the New Testament that form, in the Catholic view, the nature of the sacraments, the institution of the sacraments, and their number?
  • How about major issues in moral theology like the distinction between mortal and venial sin?
And keep in mind that although Nashotah House may pay lip service to some of these (though little beyond that), the OCSP has made no distinction between Anglican and Reformed or other Protestant seminaries. So just because I had courses in Church History, New Testament, or Dogmatic and Moral Theology in a Lutheran or Reformed seminary, it doesn't mean I've got the basics.

I don't see how even two years of distance learning will fix this, especially considering that some men in the recent intake aren't especially bright. There's a reason their careers stalled as Protestants. The only good part of this is how small the groups are that Houston uses to justify bringing these misfits in.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Policies!

My friend who frequently challenges me to reassess my thinking replied to yesterday's post:
As regards the situation in Florida, Msgr. Steenson initially required all candidates for ordination for the service of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter to have independent means to subsist and to support their families after ordination without drawing a salary from the ordinariate. Of course, for those for whom this was an obstacle, the answer was a “not right now” rather than a “never,” leaving the door open to an expected change in the situation. If Mr. McCrimmon was on active duty as a Navy chaplain, as implied in the article, his Navy salary and subsequent pension clearly would provide sufficient support but there’s a sticky issue in the transition. All military and naval chaplains MUST have ecclesial endorsement for that role from their denomination. A chaplain coming into the ordinariate normally would lose his ecclesial endorsement from his former denomination upon reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church, if not before, but would not be eligible for ecclesial endorsement as a Catholic chaplain until his Catholic ordination to the order of presbyter, creating a gap during which he normally would lose eligibility to serve as a chaplain in the armed forces. I’m aware that the “powers that be” managed to circumvent this in a few cases, but those cases probably involve a candidate’s former denomination cooperatively delaying its withdrawal of ecclesial endorsement until the end of the transition period or some other sleight of hand that might not be available more broadly. In Mr. McCrimmon’s case, the most practicable way forward probably was to remain in his former denomination until he completed enough service to retire from the Navy with an adequate pension, thus solving the problem.
My regular correspondent replied,
I think there are about half a dozen other OCSP clergy in active service as military chaplains. They seemed to be able to make a seamless transition from being, say, a CEC chaplain to being a Catholic chaplain, but . . . in some cases it might have made more sense to complete one's tenure and then retire. Here is a note from Louis Campese on the subject, in regard to Jason McCrimmon and here is Jason McCrimmon being received into ACNA a year later. That transition seems to have been seamless enough. In any event, he is a Catholic layman now and thus no longer a chaplain. But perhaps he is not interested in taking over a group in another location and wants to stay in Orlando. Hence he needs a local group.
But none of this answers the question of why the OCSP woud think it a good idea to start up a new group 25 miles from an existing parish. McDonald's doesn't set up franchises that way. But now we have a different model in effect in the Tampa Bay area:
Dear Friends,

Thank you for coming out to our evensong and potluck service on June 4, 2017. The attendance and support was greater than I expected and I believe that seeds were planted, that there might be an Ordinariate parish established in the Tampa Bay area at some point in the future.

I recently learned that in order for me to continue my discernment of a vocation to priesthood within the Ordinariate, I will need to relocate. At the same time, my present employment is scheduled to end this calendar year. It thus becomes essential that I redirect my energies, and so I will not be continuing to develop a local Ordinariate community. We will not offer evening prayer on July 16 or August 13.

I deeply appreciate your encouragement over recent weeks. Please keep my family and me in your prayers, and join me in praying for the success of the evangelizing mission of the Ordinariate across North America, and for a continued appreciation of the unity in diversity that the Ordinariate offers our Church.

Yours in Jesus and Mary,

Philip Mayer

It's hard to determine Mr Mayer's precise situation, except to note that he says his current employment ends during the current year, and he will be relocating to continue his discernment. Does this mean he will be supported by the OCSP in some manner while he does this (e.g., attending seminary)? And Mr Mayer is to move at Houston's behest, while Mr McCrimmon is to stay put. Maybe it depends on who's going to bat for you.

And of course, Messrs Bengry and Beahen, a year from ordination, are receiving stipends and residence in Calgary with no other means of support. Whatever policies Msgr Steenson may have instituted five years ago would appear now to be moot, although they were apparently observed only in the breach from the start. As the former chancellor told me in 2012, "We're making it up as we go along." That would appear still to be the case.

UPDATE: My regular correspondent comments,

Since Mr Mayer has an M.Div, and a family, he is probably not going to be attending seminary full-time but rather participating in the distance learning program for former clergy. Presumably Bp Lopes or his designate has found a diocese which is more amenable to having Mr Mayer gather a group; perhaps they have a job as well. I note that Fr Erdman is now the Facilities Manager at the Flaget Retreat Center, a facility of the Archdiocese of Louisville.
I will say that a Protestant MDiv is not enough and a huge reason I would not go to an OCSP priest for confession.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

More On The Orlando Chapel Group

My regular correspondent has found additional backstory on the chapel group in Orlando whose circumstances are so provisional that Bp Lopes must celebrate ad orientem on a windowsill.
I think I have solved the mystery of why the pastor of Incarnation, Orlando began celebrating a Sunday evening mass in the chapel of Nemours Hospital. Jason McCrimmon, a former curate in Incarnation's ACA days who did not go forward for ordination in the first wave five years ago is being ordained to the diaconate on August 14. Presumably, like Our Lady of Grace, Pasadena, St John Fisher, Orlando is a make-work project spearheaded by a sympathetic pastor to create a congregation for his protégé. Although I bet not one single new Catholic has been added to the rolls.
More information came in a later e-mail:
As we see about midway through this story by the ever-thorough Sr Thurley, at the time most of Incarnation's congregation was received into the Church Jason McCrimmon elected to "remain Anglican and live out his priestly ministry as a chaplain in the US Navy." I noticed his name, however, on the list of Parish Council members on the Incarnation website sometime in the past year. I suppose speculating about whether the chaplaincy gig ended would be too cynical.

I gather there is a significant shortfall in Catholic military chaplains. About a quarter of US military personnel are Catholic, served by only 8% of the chaplaincy staff.

Of course, the chaplains fall under a different prelature, which does Bp Lopes no good.

It looks like we're dealing again here with a clergy-focused opportunistic model, wherein Houston stretches every prudence to create billets for favored candidates whose careers are stalled elsewhere. It's worth noting that in the wake of the clergy sex abuse scandals of recent decades, the Church recognized that it was important to cull marginal seminarians and ease doubtful priests out of pastoral roles. By the way, had Mr McCrimmon already been reviewed and passed over five years ago?

Apparently the OCSP goes out of its way to recruit and find posts that will expose Catholics to some marginal candidates and doubtful priests. Er, do I need to list the names of the ones we've already come to know? One more time, I would never go to an OCSP priest for confession, and luckily, it would be easier for me to find an SSPX chapel if I needed to fulfill my mass obligation in some remote place.