Wednesday, November 22, 2017

So Where Is Anglicanorum Coetibus Headed? -- II

I ended yesterday saying that the Irvine Newman group, like many of the other OCSP groups-in-formation, is a Potemkin village. Let's just start by asking why, if it has the 200 families/600 members that a stalwart recently claimed, the group isn't working purposefully to move out of its converted garage with a capacity of 65. The OCSP Guide to Parish Development specifies that a full parish must have a location that is "Secured (ownership or long-term agreement)". My regular correspondent has often suggested that the chapel area in the Busch facility, in addition to being inconveniently arranged for parish use, is subject to the corporate whim on how the space will be used. Mr Busch himself, age 62, is mortal, and whenever he departs the scene -- or possibly before that time -- corporate priorities can change, and the space can be given to other use, irrespective of its small size for a group claiming Irvine's numbers.

In fact, so far, instead of any announcement of a building campaign, we have a constant trickle of small projects, some of which were outlined last year at Mr Murphy's blog:

Newman Academy is a co-ed Catholic parochial day school planned to serve Orange County. We will start with a K-3 and 60 students and add grades as we grow. The academics are based on the seven liberal arts and the spirituality is firmly within the Catholic faith. Faculty and staff will annually promise fidelity to the Magisterium, daily Morning Prayer and Mass according the Ordinariate’s liturgy will be offered, the academic standards will be high, and character formation will be higher. And yet Newman will not form isolated students but well-prepared and well-rounded students who will make a change in society due to the formation they themselves have received.
Not. This project has apparently been canceled for lack of interest.
Kings Cross is a Catholic, monthly Bible study central to the campuses of Orange County. We exist to introduce college students to Jesus Christ and His Church and call them to walk with Him for a lifetime. KX meets every third Monday from September through May in the Queen of Life Chapel in Irvine.
This is apparently not happening as of this year.
Theology on Tap Orange County meets at Valiant Brewing in Orange and is an outreach of Blessed John Henry Newman parish in Irvine.
I don't know whether the Tappa Keg house is still meeting there, but it's apparently no longer promoted as an outreach of BJHN. How much of an outreach was just to the beer mug is an issue in any case.

Again, what we see is grandstanding over short-lived projects, as opposed to any sort of substantial effort to build a parish in a stable, more appropriate location. But I don't mean this as a specific criticism of the BJHN group -- it's a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. The problem is that there's a small number, maybe half a dozen parishes, that can sustain a priest and a family. Whatever the actual financial picture at BJHN -- of 200 families, how many pledge? -- Fr Bartus has a day job teaching school. That's not going to change in Irvine. Nor is it going to change at any of the other groups-in-formation, and we know that if only because when their current priests move or retire, the groups simply shut down or, with extraordinary effort, go dormant for a period of years. This says in turn that these groups exist as entry-level career opportunities for their priests, and not to minister to the faithful in any stable way.

The priests at the groups-in-formation are in a holding pattern, waiting for openings at the half dozen or so parishes that are worth serving. Thus you have grandstanding efforts like those most prominently at BJHN, but the ephemeral nature of these efforts should be self-explanatory -- and that we see no effort at more stable future planning should also indicate Fr Bartus's own estimate of the group's actual resources and potential.

Bp Lopes is an intelligent man. I assume he recognizes this. Beyond that, I would guess that Mr Busch recognizes this as well. As my regular correspondent points out, although Bp Lopes spoke at the Napa Institute in 2016, he apparently wasn't invited back this year.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

So Where Is Anglicanorum Coetibus Headed? -- I

I've had some thoughtful e-mails from two correspondents over the past few days that are leading me to ponder how the Anglican ecumenism project is likely to develop. It's worth pointing out that 2017, in addition to being the 500th anniversary of the 95 Theses (which were never nailed to the church door), is also the 40th anniversary of the Affirmation of St Louis (which is now essentially forgotten). But this year also marks 40 years of St Mary of the Angels attempting, and so far failing, to become a Roman Catholic parish. The initial failure in the 1980s is generally acknowledged to have been an impetus for the 1993 meeting of TEC Bp Pope and Fr Steenson with Cardinal Ratzinger that led to Anglicanorum coetibus, which, whatever problem it was trying to solve, did not solve the problem of how St Mary of the Angels could come in.

So St Mary's Hollywood is an important player, if only in a negative sense. But let's start out by looking at an OCSP community that in many ways parallels St Mary of the Angels, the Blessed John Henry Newman group currently meeting in a converted garage in Irvine, CA. The group was started in 2011 by Andrew Bartus as a secondary project when he was still curate of St Mary of the Angels. (He was terminated from that position in April 2012 following discovery of plans by the dissidents and the ACA to seize the parish and place him as rector.) His Newman group first met at the Blessed Sacrament TEC parish in Placentia, CA, and subsequently moved to two different Catholic parishes before finding a longer-term home in the Busch Group's unused garage in its Irvine business complex.

The Busch Group is headed by Timothy Busch, a major Catholic philanthropist who has funded the Diocese of Orange's acquisition of the Christ Cathedral property, the Napa Institute, the Catholic University business school, and Catholic schools in the Orange County area. It would appear that support of the Newman group is not high on this list, for whatever reason. This brings us to the question my regular correspondent asks, why, with so many potential advantages, the Newman group hasn't advanced to the status of a full OCSP parish.

My regular correspondent seems to have asked this question most recently after reading a November 4 comment by Newman stalwart Greg K Herr on the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society blog:

With an enthusiastic, cobbled together group of Anglicans and Catholics, we somehow formed, sang Evensong, took catechesis (Evangelium), and, on July 3, 2012 were received as a Catholic community with 17 people. Today, we are about 200 families.
Mr Herr elsewhere identifies himself as a member of "the Board of Directors for Orange County’s newest Catholic parish, an Anglican Ordinariate church, which he helped to co-found five years ago." However, the Newman group is not a parish and does not, at least canonically, have a board of directors. So it's worth looking more carefully at anything Mr Herr tells us. To start with, a rule of thumb correspondents have given me from time to time is that a "family" in terms of parish size translates to three people, so if we follow Mr Herr's version, there would be 600 people registered with the Newman group and meeting in the former garage. (I will appreciate any firmer clarification on what a Catholic "family" translates to in individuals.)

The OCSP, unlike many dioceses, does not publish official membership or registration statistics. But I asked my regular correspondent if any comparable numbers could be found to measure where the Newman group stands with reference to established OCSP parishes. The reply came piecemeal:

About a year ago Fr Bergman reported the membership of STM, Scranton as "215 souls"
OLW, Houston publishes previous week's attendance in the Sunday bulletin, as here. Sunday mass November 5: 745
Two years ago Bp Lopes came to Incarnation, Orlando to administer Confirmation and First Communion They expected "a large group of 120+ people" to attend the pot-luck following, so this gives you a sense, at least.
St Luke, Washington became a parish with an ASA of about 125 while sharing a building with a diocesan parish.
Another visitor gave this estimate for the size of Our Lady of the Atonement, although according to Fr Lewis, the initial OCSP membership drive resulted in only 300 families:
The nave of the OLA church building has a capacity of not much more than 500, though there could be another 100 in the cry rooms and choir loft. The 9 and 11 am Mass would seem to have the best attendance, though Latin Mass might be close. If a pew is full, it's usually due to 2 or 3 children with parents. A number of pews have only 2 or 3, so my guess is about 2/3 full or 350 or so at Mass. The 4 Sunday Masses therefore likely have 1,200 or so attending on a somewhat normal Sunday, which is likely between 350 to 400 families.
So if Mr Herr's figure of 200 families is correct, this would certainly place the group among the half-dozen or so largest OCSP parishes, not just communities. But my regular correspondent asks,
So why are they worshipping in a chapel which holds 65?
Although there's a Saturday vigil mass and two Sunday masses there, it's hard to say how well they're attended. And according to my regular correspondent,
All four [California] groups were invited to the Sunday mass celebrated by Bp Lopes last month, followed by a pot-luck lunch, and they seemed to fit into the Queen of Life chapel.
I think a preliminary conclusion, which I'll investigate further tomorrow, would be that the BJHN Irvine group is a Potemkin village little different from the other groups-in-formation. I suspect too that Mr Busch, if he were assessing the situation comparably to the master in this past Sunday's gospel, would have awarded talents to the group comparable to its abilities, and the talent he's given them in comparison to other projects may reflect this.

But why should Potemkin villages be so characteristic of the OCSP?

Monday, November 20, 2017

Trial Setting Conference Continued To January 4

The trial for the damage suit brought by the vestry against the ACA, the ACA Diocese of the West, and some individuals was postponed last month due to the wait for the appeals court's decision on the Bush group's appeal of Judge Strobel's 2015 decision. The session before Judge Murphy today was changed from the trial itself to a new trial setting conference.

However, with the appellate decision still pending, Judge Murphy continued the conference again, now to January 4, 2018. Of note, Mrs Bush, "Bishop" Rhys Williams, and Mr and Mrs Creel from All Saints Fountain Valley were in court this morning. Williams represented the DOW and noted for the judge that they were "interviewing" attorneys but had not yet retained one. Nobody represented the Kangs and Frederick Rivers, the individual defendants.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Some Thoughts On 1993 And 2006

The 1993 meeting between TEC Bishop Pope and Ratzinger, and the 2006 meeting between TEC Bishop Iker and Law, revisited yesterday, are prompting me to reflect on the essntial miscalculations behind Anglicanorum coetibus. In the accounts we have of the 2006 meeting, it is much clearer that some influential people in the TEC Diocese of Fort Worth had it in mind to take the entire diocese over to Rome -- but there would be major unmet criteria involved.

As of 2006, there was no structure under which the diocese could be admitted or governed as a Catholic body, nor a formal pathway for petition. Cardinal Law told the Fort Worth group to "make a proposal", but he allowed things to remain there for two years. Meanwhile, the draft of Anglicanorum coetibus from 1993-4 remained in Benedict's desk, and there's no evidence that Law, who must certainly have known about it, mentioned it to the Fort Worth group.

On the TEC side, entering the Catholic Church would have required a vote of the diocesan convention -- this is what in fact did happen with the decision to go into the ACNA. Beyond that, the diocesan standing committee would have to have been on board with the idea of bringing it up. The entry on "standing committee" in the TEC Episcopal Dictionary of the Church concludes ominously,

It also receives the bishop's resignation.
Bishops can also be suspended or deposed under TEC disciplinary procedures. It's hard to think that the overtures from the TEC side in 1993 and 2006 were anything other than blowin' smoke, inchoate at the very best -- had the presiding bishop or the standing committee heard of their import, there seems little question that either Pope or Iker would have been removed forthwith. It's worth comparing the extreme care with which Jeffrey Steenson engineered a simple resignation in 2007 to the recklessness of the 1993 and 2006 meetings.

Iker in particular took six priests with him to Rome in 2006, any of whom could have unintentionally blurted the substance of the meeting to the wrong parties. He then allowed these priests to spend two years in a freelance effort concocting a half-baked "proposal", which Law also seems to have allowed them to do without providing any background on the draft of Anglicanorum coetibus that might have given them some guidance.

By 2008, reality seems to have caught up with Iker to the extent that he saw that even the rumor of a proposal to the diocesan convention that they would petition to become Catholic would result in his removal, and he backed off the actions of the priests he'd allowed for two years to live in never-never land. But this naturally also speaks to the quality of those priests.

The more I think about this, the more I shake my head at the amateurishness on both sides in developing what became Anglicanorum coetibus. Further to this, my regular correspondent notes of Wayne Hankey, one of the figures in the 1993 meeting,

Anything involving Wayne Hankey must be highly suspect. He is a brilliant and charismatic man but also unscrupulous and manipulative. As I perhaps previously mentioned, he lost his previous academic post and his ACC license over a relationship with a male student. One could argue homophobic over-reaction but that would not take into account his provocative recklessness which I think came from a bad place. A long time ago now but I suspect he has never lost the conviction that the rules do not apply to him by virtue of his superior gifts. Clarence Pope and others in the original negotiations who looked to him as an ally are undermined in my estimation by their confidence in him.
Bp Lopes seriously understated the situation in his September interview when he said,
Initially, there was perhaps a presumption – warranted or not – that there would be a continuous stream of whole parishes entering into the Ordinariate. This is actually very difficult for a number of reasons. There are complicated questions of property and ownership, and many people are very attached to their parish churches. There are other issues of pastoral life when only a percentage (even when it’s a large percentage) of a parish decides to seek full communion with the Catholic Church.

These issues might have been resolved more favorably had the whole enterprise been less half-baked and not so absurdly understaffed, at least not with capable people. It seems to me that Bp Lopes is actually speaking from an understanding of why at least one whole TEC diocese, not just some individual wealthy parishes, couldn't make it in. Instead, what we clearly have now is a dozen ex-Episcopalians here, a dozen there, coming in for their little services in basement chapels. I think the CDF must somewhere recognize this is not worth anyone's time.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

More Thoughts On Coetus

I more or less sat up in the middle of the night with a new idea of what was in Cardinal Ratzinger's mind when he supervised the drafting of Anglicanorum coetibus in the decade or so before he became pope. Let's go back to the inception of the idea, at a 1993 meeting he had with TEC Bishop of Fort Worth Clarence Pope and Jeffrey Steenson, then a priest of that diocese. I've discussed this meeting at various times, especially here. A later post here gives more details on what may or may not have been discussed:
Episcopal Bishop of Fort Worth Clarence Pope was the lead participant from the Anglican side at the October 1993 meeting with Cardinal Ratzinger. While there are formal minutes of this meeting in existence, apparently matters were discussed that did not make it into the minutes, and exactly what other items may have been discussed or promised by Ratzinger, and what Bishop Pope's response may have been, is not fully clear.

What we know is that a year after the meeting and on his retirement as an Episcopal bishop in 1994, Pope converted to Catholicism with the expectation of then being ordained as an Anglican Use Catholic priest. A liberal Episcopal blog gives one interpretation of these and subsequent events:

He had denied he was leaving The Episcopal Church right up until the day he left. When he made the announcement, he said he planned to seek ordination as a Roman priest. He told us he had known for the previous two years that he would go to Rome. This led some here to question whether or not he’d earned his quite substantial salary as bishop by fraud for those two years.
There is no question that the substance of the October 1993 meeting was kept highly confidential, and one part of the written record indicates that Pope requested communications from the Vatican be sent to his home, not his office. Wayne Hankey, a participant in that meeting who drafted the semi-official minutes, in his 1997 letter to the editor of The Tablet strongly implied that Cardinal Ratzinger had made some type of promise to Pope, which he was subsequently unable to keep.

Whatever the basis, Pope became extremely bitter and returned to The Episcopal Church in 1995.

With several years' reflection on this account, I'm more and more convinced that Big Things were mooted there that were not in the minutes but remained on various agendas even when St John Paul was hesitant to endorse them. We know that Pope was bitter about the eventual outcome. We also know he was anxious to keep the whole matter highly confidential. Nobody in that meeting was wearing a feckless rainbow stole and singing kumbaya, or it would have been public.

Fast forward to 2006 and the peculiar game of footsie Cardinal Law played with Clarence Pope's successor as TEC Bishop of Fort Worth, Jack Iker. I cover it here.

  • April 2006: Six priests of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, along with Bishop Iker, meet in Rome with Cardinal Law to discuss causes of Catholic-leaning Episcopal dissatisfaction. Law requests that the group make some type of proposal. The sketchy account of this meeting does not mention any specific discussion of the 1993 proposal, except that Law is quoted as saying,"What was not possible twenty years ago may be possible today."
  • * * *
  • June 16, 2008: Four priests of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth meet with Roman Catholic Bishop of Fort Worth Kevin Vann, with the knowledge and approval of Bishop Iker, to present a proposal for Catholic unity, which they say is the result of two years of discernment, presumably the outcome of Cardinal Law's 2006 request.
    The document states that the overwhelming majority of Episcopal clergy in the Fort Worth diocese favor pursuing an “active plan” to bring the diocese into full communion with the Catholic Church.
  • August 12, 2008: Bishop Iker backs off the meeting, saying "in their written and verbal reports, [the four] have spoken only on their own behalf and out of their own concerns and perspective. They have not claimed to act or speak, nor have they been authorized to do so, either on behalf of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth or on my own behalf as their Bishop." He adds that the meeting with Vann will not affect the business of the upcoming diocesan convention.
These events took place in the context of the upcoming 2009 formation of the ACNA, in which several TEC bishops, including Iker, took significant parts of their dioceses into the ACNA. It's hard for me to avoid thinking now, as the question of what constitutes a coetus comes up, that Ratzinger, with Law at his ear, had been encouraged to think that one or more TEC dioceses would petition to become Catholic as a body. It seems credible that both Bp Pope and Bp Iker may have had something like this in mind, although Iker seems to have had second thoughts fairly quickly.

i would say that Iker recognized clearly what Law and Ratzinger didn't, that Anglicanism had a substantial low church faction that would never accept even a whole diocese going to Rome. I'm currently leaning toward a view that Ratzinger, later as Benedict, was governed by wishful thinking in this area. But not only were the numbers of US Anglicans who went into the OCSP a disappointment, still greater was the fact that no diocese had anything remotely like that intention. Certainly the timing of Anglicanorum coetibus, promulgated in 2009, suggests it was hoped that the option would be attractive to full dioceses dissatisfied with TEC.

I would guess that Bp Lopes must recognize that his assignment is to do whatever he can to retrieve what must be perceived in the Vatican as a disaster. He's a junior guy, and if he screws up, it won't be a big blow to the CDF.

UPDATE: After posting this, it also occurred to me that St John Paul's unenthusiastic response to Ratzinger, when he first proposed the idea in 1993, may have been connected to the idea that this would mean bringing in one or more full TEC dioceses, or substantial parts of them. I can't imagine that John Paul would have thought an idea that meant bringing in a dozen ex-Episcopalians at a time into basement chapels would be worth anyone's time. The other could well have been construed as poaching big time, though -- some basement chapel evening prayers, not so much.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Depends On What A Coetus Is

A visitor sent an e-mail that raises several worthwhile points. I'll start in the middle:
As for the CDF fundamentally misunderstanding Anglicans, I think too many people seem to misunderstand Anglicanorum Coetibus. The very first sentence of AC states,
In recent times the Holy Spirit has moved groups of Anglicans to petition repeatedly and insistently to be received into full Catholic communion individually as well as corporately. [emphasis the sender's]
This tells me that the target for AC is not an individual here or there, who happens to be Anglican, looking to become Catholic (which would surely be better served by the RCIA or personal priest process) but rather multiple people converting simultaneously. The “individually” and “corporately” says to me that these groups of Anglicans can convert as individual groups (meaning with or without their clergy) or as an entire corporate parish group (meaning with their presbyter and/or clergy and presumably their property).
This brings up something that had been on my mind, the meaning of the Latin coetus. This definition gives these possible meanings:
assembly coition coitus company congregation connection connexion crowd gathering group join meeting
In an ecclesiastical context, I would tend to pick "assembly", "congregation", "gathering", or "meeting", where "meeting" might also be seen as a type of Protestant parish. This would also carry the implication that these specifically Protestant groups are organized in some established, pre-existing way that might lead to the use of these words in a certain defined sense. But since we're talking about Anglicans in particular, I would be expecting a meaning rather closely echoing canonical parishes or missions.

This has been by far the exception in the history of the OCSP, something Bp Lopes dodges in his September interview:

We continue to experience good growth, for which we give thanks to God. Initially, there was perhaps a presumption – warranted or not – that there would be a continuous stream of whole parishes entering into the Ordinariate. This is actually very difficult for a number of reasons. There are complicated questions of property and ownership, and many people are very attached to their parish churches. There are other issues of pastoral life when only a percentage (even when it’s a large percentage) of a parish decides to seek full communion with the Catholic Church. Parish groups continue to enter – we have had 2 since I became bishop – but this is less common. More common is for our existing parishes to found a mission community starting with a group of Ordinariate parishioners that have to drive a long distance for Sunday Mass, a mission which begins to grow and develop on its own. We have started four of those in the last two years. Additionally, we sometimes receive a request from current or former Anglicans to begin a community in a certain area. When we are able to send a priest or deacon to assess the situation and begin ministering to their needs, a group grows up very quickly. Many former Anglicans who have become Catholic over the years welcome the opportunity to reconnect with the heritage, liturgy, culture, and “style” of parish life they knew before becoming Catholic.
So I think my visitor is correct in saying that what's actually happening in the OCSP has moved quite far afield from what had been the original intent of Anglicanorum coetibus, especially in light of Bp Lopes's own remarks. On the other hand, when I first started working as an editor, my boss told me a story of a student who got a bad grade on a paper because the professor noted he'd misused a word. The student looked it up and found that, in fact, his use of the word was covered by definition 2 in the dictionary. He took the dictionary to the prof, showing him definition 2. The prof's response was to take out his pen and cross out definition 2. By then, I'd dealt with plenty of profs like that.

I assume bishops and popes have the same discretion, so we'll probably have to look to developments as they take place as a better refutation of how things have been done. The visitor, probably aware of this, continues,

The next two sentences of AC read,
The Apostolic See has responded favourably to such petitions. Indeed, the successor of Peter, mandated by the Lord Jesus to guarantee the unity of the episcopate and to preside over and safeguard the universal communion of all the Churches, could not fail to make available the means necessary to bring this holy desire to realization.
The Apostolic See (meaning the Pope) is responding to group requests by Anglicans to join the Catholic Church, not the Pope looking for ways to poach protestants, thus AC was created and promulgated to accommodate this. AC continues on, blah, blah, blah, then when you get down to the fifth paragraph of AC it says,
In the light of these ecclesiological principles, this Apostolic Constitution provides the general normative structure for regulating the institution and life of Personal Ordinariates for those Anglican faithful who desire to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church in a corporate manner. [emphasis the sender's]
I see nothing in AC that says the purpose is to accommodate individuals, or to organically grow a group of individuals who may or may not have been Anglican in order to populate an Ordinariate. Since each of the Ordinariates are essentially self-funded, I have to think it matters more to the Apostolic See and the CDF that the option for groups of Anglicans is available rather than extreme growth in numbers of former Anglicans; however, if over the next x number of years( x number to be supplied by the CDF), no actual groups of Anglicans join, I don’t imagine the Ordinariates will survive much beyond the lifetimes of the present clergy. Of course, the CDF might just leave the structure in place to accommodate future groups from other disciplines. Who knows? Who is the Ordinariate/AC hurting? Nobody really. I believe that as Anglican converts through AC grow into their new communion with Rome, the Anglican patrimony will become more like window dressing as opposed to the actual “meat and potatoes” of their faith. My opinion only.
This is completely consistent with my regular correspondent's view, that the OCSP could well die out with its current clergy or simply result in an alternate canonical structure for what would be ordinary Catholics. But if ether is the case, we will have multiplied entities for no good reason -- except to further the careers of a small interest group of former Protestant clergy, of course.

My visitor started the e-mail with these comments:

Maybe it’s just me but it seems there is some confusion about the responsibility of parties to each other here. The laity are not responsible for holding their bishops accountable, that is the job of their brother bishops and the Pope who are all ultimately accountable to the Holy Spirit. The laity are responsible for following the magisterium, not individual bishops because bishops can be, and frequently are, wrong. If your local bishop is out of step with the magisterium, you still obey the magisterium. If the issue is NOT a magisterium issue, of course you obey your bishop.
Paragraph 88 of the Catechism defines the Magisterium as
The Church's Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, that is, when it proposes, in a form obliging the Christian people to an irrevocable adherence of faith, truths contained in divine Revelation or also when it proposes, in a definitive way, truths having a necessary connection with these.
Well, OK, all Catholics, not just laity, have this responsibility. But as used in my visitor's e-mail, and also from another visitor I quoted yesterday, it seems to me that it's tautological in this context -- all Catholics are obligated to be Catholics. But what should Catholic laity do in certain specific situations in which priests or bishops appear to be in error -- which my visitor acknowledges can happen? "Follow the magisterium" in that case is unhelpful, and brother bishops or the Holy Father may not be inclined to step in.

I would point to numerous recent cases, specifically one in which the pastor of a New York parish embezzled parish funds to pay a gay prostitute boyfriend. Parish laity attempted to resolve the problem through ordinary channels, but the effort was blocked by corruption in the archdiocese. The issue eventually reached the press and law enforcement before it could be resolved, with the priest sent to Rome to undergo laicization. I would say that, even if laity do not have a canonically defined responsibility to hold bishops accountable, there are certainly situations in which a natural-law obligation must clearly apply. This would be a basis, whether or not there is any other, on which laymen like Michael Voris operate.

My basic purpose in this blog has been to understand what happened in a situation I've been living through, the epic bungling of the St Mary of the Angels attempts to enter the Catholic Church as a parish. Bishops are entitled to pay attention to what I say here, or not, at their discretion. But the more I discover, the more what I find interests me.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Rainbow Stoles?

A visitor wrote me last week regarding the post in which I suggested that "ecumenism" meant rainbow stoles and so forth:
[Y]our remarks about the official Catholic position with respect to ecumenism are completely off the mark. The Catholic doctrinal underpinning of ecumenism is No. 15 of the dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium on the Church, promulgated by the Second Vatican Council. The boldfacing of critical points and removal of internal citations mine.
“15. The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter. For there are many who honor Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour. They are consecrated by baptism, in which they are united with Christ. They also recognize and accept other sacraments within their own Churches or ecclesiastical communities. Many of them rejoice in the episcopate, celebrate the Holy Eucharist and cultivate devotion toward the Virgin Mother of God. They also share with us in prayer and other spiritual benefits. Likewise we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the Holy Spirit, for to them too He gives His gifts and graces whereby He is operative among them with His sanctifying power. Some indeed He has strengthened to the extent of the shedding of their blood. In all of Christ's disciples the Spirit arouses the desire to be peacefully united, in the manner determined by Christ, as one flock under one shepherd, and He prompts them to pursue this end. Mother Church never ceases to pray, hope and work that this may come about. She exhorts her children to purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ may shine more brightly over the face of the earth.”
The entire decree Unitatis redintegratio on ecumenism promulgated by the same council on the same date unpacks this paragraph and provides direction for the way forward. You would do well to read this document in its entirety. In a nutshell, this document is the complete antithesis of “people wearing rainbow stoles and so forth singing kumbaya.” Rather, the Catholic Church holds that there must be true unity based on common in faith, manifest by universal acceptance of the whole of Christian doctrine as taught by the Catholic Church, before we can restore full communion with a separated body.
I'm commenting here only as a new Catholic who's been drawn to look more closely at the Church following a particular failure in implementing Anglicanorum coetibus, which Bp Lopes has defined at least since 2014 as "ecumenism in the front row". Clearly I've never seen Bp Lopes wearing a rainbow stole or singing kumbaya. On the other hand, I've been posting to a specialized audience here for five years now that this particular ecumenical effort has been deeply flawed -- and it seems to me that by forcing many of the much-vaunted first wave of prestigious ordinands, including the first ordinary, into retirement during this time, Bp Lopes and the CDF have acknowledged this.

Later in his e-mail, the visitor says,

I’m not sure where the statement that “the Anglican Communion occupies a special place” among the separated ecclesial communities of the West in No. 13 of Unitatis redintegratio stands today. The fact that several provinces of the Anglican Communion, including The Episcopal Church (TEC) here in the States and the Anglican Church in Canada to our north, have abandoned doctrinal orthodoxy is clearly troubling: they may well be in a state of apostasy now. On the other hand, that abandonment clearly does not extend to the provinces of the Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON), including the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). Nevertheless, it’s the province of the magisterium of the Catholic Church — not you or me — to sort out those issues and their implications for ecumenism.
I have a serious concern that those involved with developing Anglicanorum coetibus fundamentally misunderstood Anglicanism. Unlike the Church, Anglican bodies have traditionally been hesitant -- indeed, unable -- to enforce any sort of orthodoxy among laity or clergy. This probably dates to the original Tudor agenda, which essentially said that as long as English Christians acknowledged the supremacy of the State over the Church, by following the minimal legal requirements for this, they might privately believe what they chose. It's hard to distinguish what the ACNA believes from TEC, since they use the same BCP, and both ordain women. (Even Rome has gay bishops, after all.)

But in addition, Diarmaid MacCulloch has made the important point that Anglicanism, unlike most Protestant denominations, retained bishops and cathedral chapters and used them as instruments of State political patronage. Anthony Trollope based much of his fiction on his insights into the particularly secular political nature of Anglican parish and diocesan life. In the OCSP, we're seeing echoes of Anglican careerism even in the way groups-in-formation are established merely as vehicles to justify ordaining favored candidates, but as soon as the candidates move to a better opportunity, their original groups fold. Fr Vidal is simply the latest example. The cynicism here is hard to miss, though the CDF may be doing so.

I think the simplest version of my position is that for Anglicans and any others, the usual path for non-Catholics to enter the Church, RCIA or other preparation by priests, is far more widely available and, since it involves a more regular integration into Catholic diocesan and parish life, likely to produce more complete formation in any kind of long run. I don't see how I'm trying to say anything against the magisterium here. On the other hand, it is in fact the responsibility of laity to hold bishops accountable.