Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Comment On Canon 1742

My regular visitor points out,
The fact that Abp Garcia-Siller has not made frequent, or any, use of this canon previously proves nothing about the merits of this case. Catholic clergy are moved regularly for pastoral reasons; this formal process represents a last resort when the man in question cannot be otherwise motivated. This is not the typical frame of mind of a Catholic priest, who has been dependent for a lifetime on his bishop's goodwill. You often comment on the difference between Catholic formation and that of other clergy, and we see here an example of the results. Fr Phillips is still the man who upped stakes and left Rhode Island for Texas. Still the man who did an abrupt about-face when he discovered that Msgr Steenson had plans for the parish which did not include him. He is forcing Abp G-S to use a canonical process which I would imagine is very seldom undertaken in the Church. As you point out, canon 1742 is not the one used when a priest has lost collection money at the racetrack, performed a same-sex wedding, or had an affair with the parish secretary. It is vague and I imagine that "ineffectiveness" is hard to prove. If this has been dragging on since last summer it is because Abp G-S has tried every other informal means to twist Fr Phillips' arm, to no avail.
An issue I've noted before is that in many dioceses, Catholic pastors rotate on six- or 12-year cycles. Fr Phillips has stayed at OLA since its founding. For him to feel entitled to stay there until his retirement, or for the parish to expect it (and expect to get a successor he nominates, if this is the case) doesn't seem reasonable.

The idea that incumbents in any job must rotate out is a basic feature in the US military. It is common in corporations, at least in lower and middle levels. Financial institutions require that employees take vacations for two consecutive weeks each year on the assumption that frauds can't be maintained for that length of time. The idea that someone is entitled to stay in a position indefinitely is not good practice in general.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Minor OLA Updates

My regular correspondent has pointed me to this document covering the canonical removal of an "ineffective" pastor who is not guilty of misconduct. He notes that the initial 15-day period of reflection assigned to Fr Phillips has expired, which brings Canon 1742§1 into effect, which gives the bishop the ability to request that the pastor resign within a further 15 days.
Regards the removal of a priests [sic], “It is certainly appropriate that the bishop warn the pastor of problematic behavior or his deficiencies prior to invoking the canonical process. Moreover, the bishop will take care to provide remedial assistance to the priest if such assistance will likely enable the priest to overcome the deficiencies which point to a cause for removal” (eds. Calvo and Klinger, Clergy Procedural Handbook (Canon Law Society of America, Washington, D.C.), 1992, p. 124). Remedial assistance could include, but is not limited to, educational and formation programs, the appointment of a parochial administrator, or both. The appointment of a parochial administrator should be a temporary measure with the administrator being given limited authority in areas where the pastor is ineffective (eg: administration of school or parish patrimony). This arrangement must end when one of two possibilities occur: (1) the pastor improves, or (2) the pastor is legitimately removed because he does not improve over a reasonable period of time.
The second step is to establish that a grave cause exists after remedial efforts have failed. This is done through a preliminary investigation referred to in Canon 1742§1. Though not explicitly stated, this inquiry should take a form similar to the inquiry required in Canon 1717. Certainly, if the bishop has delegated someone to complete this inquiry, that person has the powers of an auditor. When completed, a document summarizing the investigation, the proof attained, and recommendations made should be drawn up and notarized (Canon 483§1) to authenticate that this first step in the formal process has taken place. This document should carefully note the grave reasons for which the pastor could be removed.

If the removal process continues, the bishop is to discuss the situation with two pastors selected by him from a group established by the presbyteral council for this purpose (Canon 1742§1). A summary of that discussion should also be preserved and notarized for the acts of the case. It should be noted that the choice of pastors for this step should be carefully made. Use of those who have a bias against the pastor for personal reasons should not be used lest the pastor’s good name and reputation be wrongly injured and the objectivity of the process compromised.

“If the bishop then judges that removal must take place, he paternally is to persuade the pastor to resign within fifteen days, after having explain, for validity, the cause and arguments for the removal” (Canon 1742§1). This fourth step is of great importance as regards both pastoral solicitude and due process. “He paternally is to persuade” implies that a meeting between the bishop and the priest take place at this stage of the process. Because of the vague and broad manner Canon 1741 uses to suggest causes for removal, Canon 1742§1 requires the bishop to explain to the pastor both the immediate cause and an argument for the process. A letter quoting from Canon 1741 and suggesting the pastor resign under threat of removal does not constitute an effort of pastoral persuasion explaining cause and argument. Interestingly, the validity of the process depends on this step. The meeting should be carefully documented with an accurate representation of the dialogue put in writing and witnessed by a notary. This becomes part of the acts of the case.

The appointment of Msgr Kurzaj as administrator provides a reference point to what stages of the process are currently taking place, but comments suggest it has been underway since summer 2016. Interestingly, a commenter at the Texas Public Radio site says, "[T]here is no pattern of this kind of disciplinary action by the Archbishop during his tenure here in San Antonio, or in Chicago. Unless someone has evidence to the contrary, whatever actionable cause precipitated this decision cannot be without merit."

Beyond that, Archbishop Garcia-Siller is scheduled to be at the parish this evening (February 21) for Confirmations and First Communions. The Confirmations presumably would then make those people ineligible for membership in the Ordinariate.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Playing The Armchair Detective

I make no secret that I'm a big fan of true crime books and TV shows. It's not a coincidence that many detectives are Catholic (one of the best is the Catholic Joseph Kenda of Homicide Hunter). But whether or not detectives are Catholic, they are inevitably driven by the philosophical principle of sufficient reason. Dead bodies don't just turn up. Sometimes they don't turn up for the obvious reason.

There have been notorious arbitrary moves and feuds in the Church, like the conflict between Cardinal Spellman and Ven Fulton Sheen. On the other hand, the personalities of Spellman and Sheen, along with supportive anecdotes like the milk dispute that went to Pius XII and was resolved in Sheen's favor, can credibly explain it. But as an armchair detective trying to apply the principle of sufficient reason to the Our Lady of the Atonement situation, I've got to conclude that something's missing from the conventional version -- which says that Abp Garcia-Siller is resisting the move of OLA to the OCSP for petty reasons, at best the money involved.

Let's look at one lead that emerged last week, the seminarian who transferred from the Archdiocese seminary to the OCSP seminary. This is just a lead at this point, but I'm not yet willing to drop it. (The seminarian himself is almost certainly an innocent party, and to keep him from being drawn into this unnecessarily, I'm not going to give his name. Let's call him Mr S, for seminarian.)

Mr S is is a cradle Catholic who completed the sacraments of initiation and then found a vocation and attended seminary in the Archdiocese of San Antonio. He attended mass at OLA occasionally when in seminary. At some point he apparently took a leave from seminary before ordination. (My understanding is that this is not an unusual part of the priestly formation process.)

He then went and held a teaching position position at the OLA school. Then, after about two years, he decided to return to seminary, but under Bp Lopes and at the Ordinariate seminary in Houston. A visitor suggests this would need a dispensation from Rome, since Mr S had completed the sacraments of initiation well before he ever attended mass at OLA. Clearly there are issues that haven't come fully to light -- something drew Mr S to the Book of Divine Worship, for instance.

But I've got to wonder how and under what circumstances this issue went to Bp Lopes. How was Fr Phillips involved in the discussions, which he must have been? And what else might have been discussed in Rome in this whole context? And maybe Abp Garcia-Siller learned of all this through a channel, or in a context, he didn't expect? If I learned one important lesson in my working career, it's that bosses don't like surprises.

Comments on various sites suggest that problems for Fr Phillips arose during the summer of 2016. My regular correspondent points out that Mr S's departure for the Ordinariate seminary in Houston was announced in a May 2016 OLA bulletin. Unless one holds a somewhat Humean view of causality, it seems reasonable to suspect some connection here.

But as I've said all along, with the canon lawyer at the Register, I'm convinced we just don't know the whole story. The bits and pieces that are coming out just go to reinforce this.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Bonum Ex Integra Causa

malum ex quocumque defectu. This is in memory of Mr Matthew Patrick Foley, one of my middle school English teachers, who must certainly have been Catholic, who drilled me thoroughly in English grammar, but seems to have taught me quite a bit of Latin as well, since this aphorism comes from his English class, not Mrs Wirsz's Latin. Mrs Wirsz may have been Catholic too.

It is explained here:

Literally this means "good (thing) from an integral cause, bad (thing) from any defect whatever" which isn't terribly helpful. A more Ronald Knox-friendly translation into good English (used in the article Good in the Catholic Encyclopaedia) would be "An action is good when good in every respect; it is wrong when wrong in any respect."
From a personal standpoint, the process of becoming Catholic seems to involve, among many other things, going back into my childhood and bringing up things that I could well have gotten in a Catholic education. For some reason, Mr Foley has been in my mind lately. Bonum ex integra causa came up as I reflected on the whole Anglican ecumenism project, which predates Benedict XVI and indeed seems to have been in Bernard Law's mind before John Paul. (And John Paul was less enthusiastic than Benedict, I think rightly.)

I keep coming back to Law's irresponsibility in encouraging Fr Barker to lead the St Mary of the Angels parish out of TEC, which so far has led to four decades of contentiousness and litigation. We might say that the St Mary parish was the first unsuccessful Anglican Use parish. Much is made of Our Lady of the Atonement as the "first" (we might say "first successful") Anglican Use parish -- but all of a sudden, we're back to contentiousness and a clear scandal.

I seriously question the moral good in this project, however good the intentions may have seemed over the years. Think only of the careerism, opportunism, and general ego-tripping that it's enabled, but recognize that most parishes either have died out already or are in danger of doing so.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The OLA Controversy Reaches The Register -- But Who's Ahead?

A visitor sent me a link to a new story on the OLA controversy at the National Catholic Register. It treads pretty carefully and basically comes to the same conclusion I have:
Professor Martens cautioned against forming premature opinions of the case. “If you don’t know what’s really going on in a case, it’s very difficult to comment on it,” he said. “You’re talking about a people, about the parish, and also about the history, and you don’t know what has been going on. There might be that one piece of information we don’t have.”

The Vatican will ultimately determine the jurisdiction of the parish. Until the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith makes its decision, all parties involved continue to pray for the good of Our Lady of the Atonement.  

But another visitor sent me a link to a post on Fr Phillips's blog (still called Atonement Online despite the order that he dissociate himself from the parish) that might give a hint about how things are proceeding:
It is this purpose – the building up of unity – which is outlined at the very beginning of Pope Benedict’s Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum coetibus.  But even from the first days of its implementation this stated purpose has often been glossed over in the search for the particulars of the Personal Ordinariates.   So much time and energy has been spent on questions of who can belong, of the details of the liturgy, of who can be ordained - indeed, any number of other things – that the more important purpose of building up the unity of the Church sometimes is pushed to a lower place.
The whole tone of the post is oddly mopey -- somehow the Church is ignoring the need to be one. But isn't OLA already Catholic? Aren't the Eastern Rite jurisdictions, for instance, just as Catholic? How is OLA somehow not Catholic enough? I might see this as an argument for St Ipsydipsy Podunk, an ACA parish applying to join the OCSP and somehow encountering an obstacle, but this really doesn't work for OLA, which is already one with Rome.

Which suggests to me that Fr Phillips's case is not going well. My visitor says, "It reminds me of President Nixon's farewell utterings. I suggest an intervention, but then I guess there already is one, of sorts."

Chewed Up By The Machine?

A visitor comments,
One summer during my college career, I worked at Wickes’ Lumber in Sarasota, Florida. Our motley crew made trusses — the triangular fabrications of two-by-fours that hold up the roofs on single-family dwellings. We nailed on the galvanized steel squares that held the joints together on the trusses, and then we fed the trusses into the great rollers that mashed them down onto the soft American pine. Oh, how those rollers made a frightening machine! Just to think of getting one's arm caught in them was the subject of nightmares.

Witnessing what little we know of the abrupt treatment that the pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement has recently received at the hands of the hyphenated archbishop of San Antonio has brought this memory to my mind. It appears that the great and terrible Roman Catholic machine has reached out and fed Fr. Phillips and Our Lady into the massive rollers of the Church to crush it and make it conform to a shape palatable to the vaunted Latin leadership.

On one hand, I've certainly seen people with no religious affiliation chewed up by corporate mergers and takeovers, or indeed by secular politics -- Rome is not unique here. On the other hand, the whole Anglican ecumenism project has been remarkably contentious and even dangerous for many parishes and individuals. (Note how carefully Cardinal Law's representatives guided Msgr Steenson through the process of leaving TEC. Not everyone was treated this well.)

One impression I've begun to gain from following the Anglican ecumenism project for nearly five years now is how reckless Cardinal Law, Fr Barker, and the St Mary of the Angels parish were in undertaking the business of leaving TEC without any clear, assured, or enforceable path into the Catholic Church. This was not a "pioneering" effort -- it was a reckless one that could well have been foreseen and perhaps was by insightful individuals at the time.

The process has also been dominated by opportunists and careerists. The other side of the coin is that Catholic saints have suffered within the Church. I keep reminding myself that much of what we know about St Patrick comes from a document he submitted in his own defense during some ecclesiastical proceeding against him.

My own conclusion continues to be that becoming Catholic is a personal decision in any case. Trying to create an institutional path for Protestants to become Catholic risks syncretism -- if the OLA example is instructive, it is certainly an illustration of how congregationalism can find its way into a Catholic diocese.

Friday, February 17, 2017

More OLA Comments

Regarding Fr Dean's remark, "I do know of the desire of Fr. Phillips and of the parish to be a part of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter," a visitor comments,
Interesting that all of these outsiders that know Fr. Phillips know of the parish desire to be part of the Ordinariate when it seems it hasn't been openly discussed in the parish since Father withdrew his application years ago. Back then, there was a certain amount of enthusiasm at "Becoming One" with the thousands from the ACA that were anticipated to join, which of course didn't happen.
I'm getting more concerned, the more I think about it, that the OLA situation is bringing to the fore "continuing" tendencies that don't seem desirable. So far, for instance, we don't have demands from Catholic parishes for flying bishops who will be more friendly to ad orientem or whatever. But here we have a parish that is roiling over which bishop will supervise its BDW liturgy, nothing else in dispute.

This visitor has two theories on what may be driving the archbishop's apparent concerns:

The [OLA] school is still in the midst of a large building expansion project, which likely has a fair amount of debt remaining that perhaps is guaranteed by the Archdiocese. Since the expansion project began, a Great Hearts Charter School opened in the area which attracted both some faculty (better pay) and students (no tuition) from the School. Within the past couple of years the Rolling Hills Academny couldn't meet payments on their debt and the Archdiocese bailed them out. If the property is to go in to the Ordinariate, I'm not sure what would happen if they can't meet the debt due to another decrease in enrollment.
And from the start, I've wondered if something happened to surprise Abp Garcia-Siller, since otherwise he appears to have been friendly to the parish. The visitor suggests this:
As far as vocations go, the most recent one seemed to have spent five years at the Archdiocese's seminary prior to leaving it and taking a job with Atonement, which apparently then qualified him to join the Ordinariate. As far as I can tell, the Archbishop may have been notified of his placement only after the fact which might have been the first hint of Father's new application for the Ordinariate.
This is presented here for what it's worth -- but potential loan guarantees and the substantial investment of the archdiocese in educating a new priest, with the expectation that he'd then work for the archdiocese, not Houston -- would be serious issues, and if there were surprises involved, this could be more serious indeed.

I've said from the start that I'm far distant from San Antonio and know little more than what's been made public. But I'm sure we don't know everything here.