Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Yet More On Our Lady Of The Atonement And The Archdiocese

A visitor remarks,
With respect to your post today, I’m not persuaded that relations between the Archbishop of San Antonio and the Parish of Our Lady of the Atonement are as “strained” as your post today implies. In the letter from Fr. Lewis to the parents of children enrolled in the parochial school, Fr. Lewis describes his meeting with Archbishop Garcia-Siller and Auxiliary Bishop Boulette in terms that clearly suggest a lack of animosity.
I would say that an archbishop and his auxiliary are nothing if not accomplished institutional actors. They would see no purpose in being other than very warm with Fr Lewis, while making their position on the age of confirmation for members of their flock eminently clear. Fr Lewis, in his job less than a year and no doubt eager to please, is not their problem. On the other hand, I've heard from various sources that there's been a history of bad relations between the chancery, Dcn Orr, and Fr Phillips that dates from well before the current archbishop's arrival.

It probably helps that Dcn Orr, having moved away and now banished from the property, is no longer an issue. But from what we've learned here, that Fr Phillips should own the rectory adjoining the parish property was an issue with Msgr Steenson and is almost certainly a factor in his continued involvement with the parish. Eventually this is a matter that Bp Lopes will probably need to resolve -- it seems as though Msgr Steenson recognized it would have been a problem for him as well.

The next question is whether it's Fr Phillips who's sending the press packages to Church Militant. My regular correspondent says,

When the bishop of Saint Petersburg, FL objected to an Ordinariate community-in-formation in his diocese, it was gone in a flash, and the would-be leader silenced. Holy Martyrs, Temecula seems to be on hold, presumably as a result of objections by the Diocese of San Bernardino, and there is radio silence on that subject as well. I cannot imagine that Bp Lopes is encouraging this pissing match between OLA and Abp G-S, and if he knew for a fact that Fr Phillips was behind the attacks on CM I'm sure he would put a stop to them.

He has nothing to gain and a lot to lose, long-term. Fr Lewis' approach, as I mentioned, is conciliatory and non-confrontational. I'm sure that was what was in the memo from Houston. Problem is that there appears to be no actual evidence to support our suspicions about the source of the hostile rhetoric, and my sense of Fr Phillips is that unless he were apprehended with a smoking gun he would deny everything. Bad scene for Bp Lopes.

Particularly in a US criminal court of law, naturally there's no evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. But on one hand, we aren't in criminal court, and nobody's up on criminal charges. We're talking about policy issues and administrative remedies. On the other, the Church Militant story says several times that the info is coming from "an insider", and the story keeps referring to OLA as Anglican Use, which it hasn't been for nearly a year. It looks as if someone is living in the past but has access to an extensive library of parish photos, which are being forwarded as part of the press packages that keep going to Mr Voris. A visitor says,
I don't think it is necessarily Fr. Phillips leaking to CM directly. It could be a parishioner with a misguided allegiance just as well. For some context, the sermons from Fr. Moore and Pastor Lewis since the new year have been interwoven with themes of forgiveness to the Archdiocese, as well as calls for a cessation of the murmuring by some parishioners who are apparently not happy with the changes in the parish.
Another visitor points out,
Isn’t it ironic the very people who wanted to be not just unique but also separate (meaning they wanted NOTHING to do with Archdiocese and in effect, picked up their toys and left) are now bent out of shape because they are demanding the Archbishop give them special consideration and he won’t. Here’s a novel idea, what if the Archbishop of San Antonio is not acting out of malice but actually fulfilling Fr. Phillips ultimate wish, he is simply leaving them alone.

The Archbishop owes the people who were his flock who have now joined the Ordinariate nothing, they are Bishop Lopes’ flock now. The people at OLA who still are his flock have access to Confirmation and Holy Communion through their home parishes just like every other Catholic who does not attend a Catholic school so where is their injury? (Yes, receiving First Communion/Confirmation with your classmates is very exciting but lots of children who do not attend Catholic schools do this in their own parishes ALL the time.)

What if Archbishop Gustavo is not actively looking for ways to thwart the Atonement crowd but simply saying ,”Meh, it is not worth the time, treasure and talent of the diocese to keep engaging with OLA. They wanted to do it on their own, I will let them.” In reality, Archbishop Gustavo having to play patty-cake and make nice with the openly hostile folks from OLA (who are not his responsibility) takes his and Archdiocesan staff’s time away from the people and myriad other issues that are his responsibility. I’m certain he has a lot of more important things on his plate to worry about than making life easier for the militant churchy folks.

To use a sports analogy, Archbishop Gustavo has no skin in that game.

I would say again what I said yesterday, that the OCSP's own policy statements require parishes "to act in communion in their relationship with the bishop, diocesan administration, and parishes of the territorial Catholic diocese," as well as to reject "prior forms of institutionalized animus". Every indication we have is that Fr Lewis is faithfully and conscientiously implementing these policies. On the other hand, the reports I have here, as well as reasonable surmise, suggest there is continued animus between at least some elements of the OLA parish, possibly including retired clergy, and the archdiocese.

The unavoidable fact is that, by sending anti-Gustavo material to Church Militant, the dissident elements of OLA are alienating much of the institutional Church in the US and creating a bad look for Bp Lopes. Remember that the Bishop of Scranton, who'd previously hosted the St Thomas More parish there when it was Anglican Use, clearly had no reason to oppose such things but did in fact ban Mr Voris from using any diocesan facility in 2011.

I see this only as an interested observer, but I think it's incumbent on Bp Lopes to assert better control over this matter than he so far has.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Other Views On Our Lady Of The Atonement vs The Archdiocese

A visitor notes,
I think your belief that OLA is trying to boost OCSP numbers by trying to include its schoolchildren (who are children of parents belonging to other parishes) in the rite of confirmation is not credible. I think this is simply something that was not thought through in the desire to leave the San Antonio archdiocese.

Initially Father Phillips offered the rite of confirmation in a separate mass for parishioners and school children who had already received their first communion. When the church sanctuary was expanded, he changed this and began to offer first communion and confirmation at the same time. Indeed, older adults who never had made their confirmation were included in this quite large celebration at the church, with various bishops of the archdiocese: Flanagan, Zurek, Cantu, Gomez, and of course, Garcia-Siller. Your research into the rite of confirmation within the United States Catholic church demonstrates the "problem" of the sacrament of confirmation--in laymen's terms we don't know quite how to do it or when to do it, as evidenced by the fact that SA archdiocese bishops willingly presided in the past.

It is very odd of you to fault parents of 2nd graders the desire of their children to participate in with other 2nd grade classmates. as if they are somehow lazy to not get sacramental preparation help at their own parish. These parents mostly come from parishes that do not have their own Catholic schools. They are greatly invested in the religious education of their kids, and it has been tradition in all Catholic schools always to have the class receive the sacrament together.

I read your blog and am (mostly) convinced of your general argument that the OCSP will not thrive, and is in fact, destined to fade away. However, you should acknowledge that the archdiocese's relations right now with OLA are very strained, with sometimes the archdiocese being the "villain." I think the archdiocese not allowing schoolchildren to make their First Communion there at OLA is mean-spirited.

My regular correspondent points out,
If Abp G-S in fact previously confirmed seven year olds at the Academy he has taken age off the table as a valid objection, it would seem to me. As I mentioned, age seven is the preferred choice of many traditionalists, and is still "on the books" despite the change in practice in most American dioceses. Having children confirmed before they receive first communion is consistent with traditional Anglican practice, although this usually takes place at age twelve or thirteen in the Anglican church. Most Catholic parents would not be prepared to have their child defer first communion to that age. I assume that your correspondent is correct in stating that regardless of who performed the confirmation, a seven year-old could/would not independently become a member of the Ordinariate. So Abp G-S's refusal does seem churlish, at least in the face of it.

Possibly relevant to this discussion, there have been several reported instances, before the OCSP had an Ordinary in bishop's orders, where a local diocesan came to an OCSP parish to confirm its young candidates. In other cases candidates from an OCSP parish took part in a diocesan confirmation service Since the OCSP has only been around for five years, many or most of these young people were probably also baptised in diocesan parishes. There did not seem to be any suggestion that they were putting their OCSP membership eligibility in danger by being confirmed by the local diocesan.

It isn't my intent to adjudicate precisely which side is more or less at fault. It does seem to me that all correspondents here agree that relations with the Archdiocese of San Antonio are not good, and I certainly agree with the OLA member who takes the view that by running to Church Militant, Fr Phillips is contributing to the problem. This is something Bp Lopes is fully capable of addressing. If he is not -- and so far, it appears he is not -- then Abp Garcia-Siller may possibly be excused for thinking Fr Phillips has Bp Lopes's tacit support.

I would note that the OCSP Guide to Parish Development has a category VITALITY: RELATIONSHIP WITH LOCAL DIOCESE. It is expected that an OCSP parish has a "Supportive" relaitonship with the diocese. A further comment adds,

Notes: A clear indication of an Ordinariate’s community to act in communion is their relationship with the bishop, diocesan administration, and parishes of the territorial Catholic diocese. Ordinariate clergy and communities are urged to participate in common endeavors, including especially penance services and social engagement projects.
A second category, VITALITY: DOCILITY TO ORDINARY & PEACE WITH ONE ANOTHER carries the note,
Notes: As St. Paul calls us to reconciliation, our communities must be authentic examples of the joy of communion with the Catholic Church and the Christian imperative to be at peace with one another as a witness to the Gospel. Rejecting prior forms of institutionalized animus and embracing Catholic communion is an ongoing mark of spiritual and community health and vitality
If I were up for an annual job performance appraisal, this is the sort of thing that would be on my appraisal form, and probably my boss's as well. We can certainly cite examples of inconsistency at the archdiocesan level, but the repeated press releases from a faction at OLA to Church Militant are poisoning the atmosphere, and someone in the OCSP ought to be receiving an "improvement needed", if not an "unsatisfactory" if a job-style appraisal were being conducted on those in OCSP responsible for interaction with the archdiocese -- whose ever precise fault is involved.

I recognize that Fr Lewis appears to be doing his best, although he probably doesn't have prior experience with this sort of thing. But he would be entitled to ask Bp Lopes for support in the matter of bringing Fr Phillips (or whoever is sending the press packages to Church Militant) to heel. It is probably Fr Lewis's responsibility to identify those involved and report to Bp Lopes, for that matter.

But from my experience in corporations, this is not a problem that can be resolved at the parish level, and I would say that inevitably, if there is in fact a problem higher in the organization, it will be resolved with a higher-level departure. That will not involve Abp Garcia-Siller. He is the big dog in this fight. I'm not sure if Bp Lopes understands this.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Reactions To Yesterday's Post

I've had a great deal of reaction to the news in yesterday's post. First, my wife asked, in reference to my view (and the view of at least one visitor) that Fr Phillips is behind the Church Militant "archbishop punishes children" story, "What purpose could Fr Phillips serve by leaking to Church Militant?" I think he's out for revenge against Abp Garcia-Siller, pure and simple. The archbishop ended his career, however one might interpret the face-saving "Pastor Emeritus" role he now has. Not many people other than Mr Voris take him seriously now, after all, and I'm still mooting whether I should tell Mr Voris about Dcn Orr, whether Voris listens or not.

This does raise an overall policy question. A visitor pointed out that, while Abp Garcia-Siller was still the OLA ordinary, he did in fact confirm children at the parish and school at age seven. Clearly there's been a change in the archbishop's policy regarding the parish. This says relations between the archdiocese and the OCSP are not as good as they might be. As the same visitor noted earlier, Fr Phillips's series of leaks to Church Militant -- and let's not forget that those leaks apparently include photos; they're practically press releases -- are not helping matters. Bp Lopes needs to address this, not least because of the impression it almost certainly gives Bp Lopes's colleagues, that allowing an OCSP community in their territories opens the door to this sort of disruption for them as well.

Two other visitors make a different point. One says,

It seems that if Fr. Lewis was informed of Abp. Garcia-Siller’s stance in October, the children and their parents could have had their expectations set accordingly, avoiding the need for a letter which unnecessarily bares a sense of contention between the dioceses. Second, I’ve never heard of confirmation as early as seven. But I believe waiting for high school is too late. Twelve should be the age and I thought that was what the OCSP was aiming for.
My tentative view continues to be that what the OCSP was aiming for at the school was giving the kids the final rites of initiation early to beat out the archdiocese and thus count the kids and their families as OCSP members, purely for the purpose of reporting a better number to the CDF. But a different visitor in passing suggests this may not be in accordance with canon law:
I had heard about the controversy at OLA regarding the sacraments of initiation and remembered this was known to Fr. Phillips & Company when the excardination and incardination of the parish took place. This is not necessarily the result of Archdiocesan capriciousness the people of OLA want to pretend. I read the letter on your blog from Fr. Lewis and it conspicuously states that the issue discussed with Archbishop Gustavo was for Confirmation (not Holy Communion), however at OLA and the Atonement Academy, the tradition is to administer First Communion and Confirmation concurrently in the same Mass when the children are in the second or third grade. The Archdiocese sees High School age as more appropriate for Confirmation and that is the rule in the diocese. First Communion and Confirmation are different animals in the eyes of the Church. They are different but are tied inexorably with the sacrament of Baptism as Rites of Initiation into the Catholic Church. The Church where you begin your Rites of Initiation are where you must normally complete them unless you formally transfer into another Rite. So in this case, people who are baptized in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church should receive the rest of their initiation sacraments in the Latin Rite unless they formally request transfer into another Rite (i.e. the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter).
My best understanding is that Anglicanorum coetibus does not create a new rite, and the ordinariates are still in the Latin rite, though someone may be able to correct or clarify this. But in that case, the parental consent mentioned below may not be needed. The visitor continues,
The children in question have all been baptized in the Latin Church and as minors are not eligible to transfer into the Ordinariate unless their parents also formally transfer into the Ordinariate and declare their children be transferred. That is canon law and the Archbishop cannot make an exception about their membership status in any Rite. (here is the link, read the whole page, the pertinent parts are in the beginning and towards the end). What is happening is a situation where lots of people seem to want to have their cake and eat it too. The parents of the Latin Rite kids want the ease of the school providing the sacraments but they don’t want to join the Ordinariate or leave their home parishes. The clergy of the Ordinariate want the Archbishop to make exceptions for their flock that he does not even make for his own sheep, all the while painting the Archbishop as the new-age antichrist (OK, maybe that’s a little too strong but some might actually agree…) This whole thing is a sad little mess. It makes me want to shake my head while exclaiming, “Really?”

It should be incumbent on the parents sending their children to the Atonement Academy to understand these differences when they enroll their kids. It should be incumbent on the faculty and clergy at OLA to be honest about these impediments BEFORE they cash those enrollment checks. Really.

As you can see, this really chaps my hide.

I do get the impression that the OCSP and the Atonement Academy aren't making some of these issues clear, and they apparently feel it's to their benefit not to clarify them. Regarding the wider issue of age of confirmation, a visitor points out,
The Orthodox view holds that confirmation, also called “chrismation,” is an integral part of baptism, so a priest who baptizes a child confirms the child at the same time, and I believe that some of the sui juris ritual churches also adhere to this practice. I’m not aware of advocates of that practice within the Roman Catholic Church, but canon law does require a priest who ministers to a child in extremis who has not reached the age of reason to confirm that child.

Many sacramental theologians advocate that the sacraments of initiation should occur in the proper order — baptism, confirmation, and first communion — for those baptized as infants as well as for those baptized through the RCIA. Generally, this means that those baptized as infants receive confirmation and first communion at the same mass, usually at the age of seven.

Many pastoral theologians, on the other hand, advocate that confirmation should be a time when those baptized as infants embrace Christian faith as their own and take on full responsibility to live as adult Christians, reflecting Protestant practice rooted in a radically different theology of the act. There unquestionably is a need for those baptized as infants to make this commitment of faith, but the question is whether it should be tied to confirmation.

The relevant provision of the Codex Juris Canonici (Code of Canon Law) is Canon 891, which gives the conference of bishops the authority to make the decision for each country.

Can. 891 The sacrament of confirmation is to be conferred on the faithful at about the age of discretion unless the conference of bishops has determined another age, or there is danger of death, or in the judgment of the minister a grave cause suggests otherwise.

The bishops of the United States have been divided between the second and third of these viewpoints for decades, and have yet to reach the 2/3 majority required to set a specific age. Thus, years ago, the former National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) compromised on a decree stating that confirmation of those baptized as infants should occur at an age of seven and sixteen years, to be further determined by the diocesan bishop — thus delegating to each bishop the right to regulate the age of confirmation in his own diocese. The Vatican has not been pleased with this and has been pressuring the present United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), but the most recent effort reached the same impasse, again resolved with a decree with different wording but similar effect that the Vatican ratified ad experimentum, undoubtedly out of frustration, for five years. Since the ordinary of an ordinariate is canonically equivalent to a diocesan bishop, he has the same authority to make that determination for his ordinariate.

This status quo obviously creates some issues when children who have domicile in one diocese go to a Catholic school or to catechetical classes at a parish in another diocese that has a lower age for confirmation than the diocese in which they reside. In such cases, their own pastor normally must give consent for their confirmation in another place — but such consent is rarely withheld if the pastor overseeing their formation states in writing that they have completed the required formation satisfactorily. I’m also aware of instances in which the abbots of a Benedictine abbeys that run boarding schools confirmed all of the students in the school — and this is legitimate because the canonical authority of the major superior of a religious order extends to “all who remain day and night in the houses of the order” (including resident students, retreatants, and sometimes lay staff) even if they are not members of the order.

The issues posed by children from diocesan parishes receiving religious instruction in an ordinariate congregation or school is no different from that posed by the above situations. Normally, the children’s proper pastors would give permission for their confirmations and the confirmations would then be deemed to occur within the jurisdiction of their diocese rather than within the jurisdiction of the ordinariate, even though celebrated within the ordinariate’s parish church and administered by the ordinary — and the diocesan bishop and his pastors would have no fear of losing parishioners to the ordinariate. Canons 111 and 112 suggest that a child who is fourteen years or older could freely choose to be confirmed in the jurisdiction of the ordinariate, and then join it, but a seven-year-old would not meet that qualification.

Now, do you want to know the real royal pastoral headache? In my archdiocese, like many others, our archbishop has decided to confirm those baptized in the Catholic Church as infants when they are in tenth grade. However…

  1. The Catholic sacramental rites explicitly require that baptism of children of catechetical age occur via the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, adapted to their age. There’s provision to celebrate the sacraments of initiation at a time other than the Easter Vigil in this situation, but there is no provision to baptize children of catechetical age without confirming them and admitting them to communion at the same service.
  2. The Rite of Reception of Baptized Christians into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church requires confirmation of children of catechetical age and admission to communion at the time of reception unless the candidate is already validly confirmed — and there is no provision whatsoever to receive baptized children who have not yet reached catechetical age into the full communion of the Catholic Church.
A couple decades ago, a friend who was (and still is) the “Administrator” of a small parish discovered that one of the girls in the parish’s “first communion” class had not been baptized. He indicated that he was planning to baptize her, so I pointed out to him that there was no provision to do so apart from the RCIA. His look of disbelief was priceless, but he also knew me well enough to decide that he better check with the chancery — where he got exactly the same answer. When I saw him a week later, he had the RCIA [book] out and was shaking his head saying that, in his view, she was not ready for confirmation.

But, when she completed the RCIA, how do you explain to the other parents why she is confirmed at the age of, say, eight or nine and their children have to wait to the age of sixteen for confirmation? Or, for that matter, how do you explain to the same parents why a peer who was baptized in another denomination is confirmed upon reception into full communion at the age of eight or nine, but their children have to wait until the age of sixteen for confirmation?

Among other things, this explains why, in our parish, there are adolescent kids in the current RCIA class!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Abp Garcia-Siller Punishes Children!

I'm told that on February 13, a letter from Fr Lewis went out to Our Lady of the Atonement school parents (Click on the image for a larger version) explaining a problem with the OLA parish's intent to administer the final Sacraments of Initiation to students at Atonement Academy.

While the exact issue isn't clearly spelled out in the letter, it appears that Bp Lopes and the OLA parish had intended to administer First Communion and Confirmation to Academy students at the age of reason, about seven. Not stated at all in the letter is that, although these students had presumably been baptized in Catholic parishes and raised in more or less observant Catholic families, to administer the final sacraments of initiation would make them (and for that matter their families) members of the OCSP.

Interestingly, according to the letter, this seems to have been a contingency Abp Garcia-Siller had anticipated in a meeting with Fr Lewis last October. It seems to me that Abp Garcia-Siller perceived the potential problem here quite well. The school parents involved, for reasons neither Fr Lewis nor Bp Lopes should second-guess, send their children to Atonement Academy but prefer to attend mass and receive the sacraments at their home diocesan parish.

As a member of a diocesan parish, I see that in our case, both First Communion and Confirmation, at whatever age, are celebrated as family and community events. At minimum, to have these sacraments take place in the context of the school, rather than the parish and the family, usurps their usual purpose, and I can't avoid a sense that Abp Garcia-Siller is shepherding his faithful well in this case.

He points to his diocesan policy of withholding confirmation until teenage years. I've got to agree with this, too. Prof Feser in one of his Five Proofs points to the existence of absolutes, such as the laws of physics, geometry, and harmony; the behavior of numbers; and the existence of logic and reason, as proofs for natural religion. Children begin to be exposed to these in middle school, which I think is a much better time to catechize them.

At root of Abp Garcia-Siller's objection, though, is (in my opinion) a sense that Bp Lopes is poaching active cradle Catholics still in formation, using the excuse of giving the final sacraments of initiation, which (sneaky move!) just happens to make them and their families members of the OCSP -- although it seems to me that Pope Francis's extension of eligibility in this area was intended to reach cradle Catholics who'd fallen away from the Church for some significant period, not seven-year-olds who don't know what's going on (nor, of course, their families).

For the children and their families, of course, that, with a couple of bucks, will get them a bus ride. They stay registered at their home parishes. But for Bp Lopes, he can claim some dozens of new OCSP members, witting or not, each year, claiming growth that otherwise doesn't exist. I don't like this, and I don't blame Abp Garcia-Siller for being concerned about the "perception".

A visitor noted that the letter from Fr Lewis went out on Februaery 13, but by February 15, Church Militant had picked up the story: SAN ANTONIO PRELATE PUNISHING PARISH SCHOOLCHILDREN! Garcia-Siller denying students Confirmation at Anglican Use parish! Neither statement is correct: the schoolchildren in this case are specifically not members of the OLA parish, and the parish is no longer Anglican Use. The Anglican Use part suggests Fr Phillips is probably connected with the leak to Church Militant. The rest of the story is predictable.

Part of me wants to e-mail Mr Voris, with whom I'm often sympathetic, outlining the specifics of Dcn Orr's history with the parish, including the reports by parents to Fr Phillips of Orr's violations of guidelines, including kissing adolescent boys on the mouth, which Fr Phillips discounted and apparently never discouraged, culminating in the archdiocese's report of a credible allegation of abuse and the eventual banning of Dcn Orr from the OLA property -- but only after Fr Phillips's removal as pastor. I would hope Mr Voris could allow such circumstances to override his wish to prove a general point.

But as a visitor put it to me, it's hard to think anyone at OLA carrying the tale to Church Militant will help Bp Lopes's relationship with the Archdiocese of San Antonio, and considering how much time he spends at OLA, he must feel this is one of his few bright spots. It seems to me that Bp Lopes does have additional disciplinary options with Fr Phillips, retired or not, which he would be well-advised to pursue. But the appearance of poaching active diocesan Catholics still in formation is also a very bad look for him, which can't help his reputation with other colleagues in the USCCB.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Money And Lack Of Seriousness

After yesterday's post, I continued to think about what the 2018 Bishop's Appeal budget has to say about the OCSP's long-term problems. It seems to me that, in addition to money, it has the additional problem that the pool of community leaders, doctors, lawyers, accountants, and managers, in addition to the independently well-off, that make up Episcopal parishes, vestries, and key donors never came over with the smaller-than-expected contingent who went into the OCSP.

This had almost immediate practical results in the failed ParishSOFT implementation, which would have relied on lay volunteers in each community who had some experience in implementing business software, as well as individuals at the chancery level who could offer planning and policy guidance. So far, my understanding is that Houston is still having difficulties on one hand figuring out how much the individual communities get in income, and on the other collecting its tithe on these amounts.

Leaving everything else aside, if the laity can't carry its weight in time, talent, and treasure, the enterprise is not going to survive. If the people who are attracted to Anglicanorum coetibus are limited to the perennially dissatisfied, or misfits who didn't work out at a succession of Anglican parishes (or who indeed came to Anglicanism only after multiple turns on the denominational carousel), there will never be the pool of capable laity the prelature will need.

My regular correspondent points out,

As we discovered, the Davises' funding of Msgr Steenson's academic appointment at St Thomas University and the construction of the Chancery, as well as financial contributions to OLW, were of major importance in getting the OCSP off the ground. Are they still being as generous? If not, the OCSP is probably feeling the pinch. It is crucial that they ensure that Houston is not being stiffed in regard to the cathedraticum, but even if the uttermost farthing is forthcoming we are looking at a total congregational membership equivalent to a large diocesan parish, but with many more expenses.

Most of their clergy require an additional source of income beyond any stipend the group can offer, and as the older clergy, with their TEC, military, and other pensions retire and have to be replaced by younger men who need (week)day jobs this will be a bigger headache. I think the Ordinariate will be much more selective in who it ordains going forward, if only for this reason.

Of course, as we have seen, often an abler man discovers that his diocesan assignment offers better prospects and a more satisfying ministry than the OCSP, and he seeks excardination, leaving the Ordinariate with the marginal players. And of course down the line the Ordinariate will be responsible for them in their retirement.

If the clergy themselves are mediocrities who've reached the OCSP only after multiple turns on the denominational carousel, I'm not sure how anyone can expect them to attract or inspire the sort of laity who can keep the enterprise going. But also, if the laity don't support the community to the extent that they can't offer their priest a reasonable opportunity, it will be precisely the better-qualified man who can move on.

Monday, February 12, 2018

OCSP 2018 Bishop's Appeal

A visitor sent me a picture of the recently-released brochure for the 2018 OCSP Bishop's Appeal, in hopes that I might be able to pass it on for more informed opinion. I've cropped it to focus on the amounts and percentages -- many visitors probably have received a copy in the mail. You can get a larger version by clicking on the image.

The visitor's view is, "The budget allocations strike me as a quite administration-heavy, and the category definitions are pretty interesting, too." I passed this on to my regular correspondent, who said,
In a typical diocese seminarians get student loans to cover their tuition, etc which their diocese assume if/when they are ordained. Presumably this is the OCSP practice. Not sure how it funds the on-line instruction and semi-annual residential seminars for former clergy or its candidates for the permanent diaconate. "Parish Development" clearly the ongoing attempt to get a handle on membership files and other record-keeping tasks like Safe Environment, which are all a mess. "Communication Outreach" has also been a weak link from Day One. Hard to believe anyone has put five cents into it up till now.
My first reaction is that $253,125 isn't much, no matter what. How much of an impact any expenditure of this size can have on the OCSP's problem areas is going to be hard to discern. A bigger question is that $30,075 is going for the bishop's travel expenses, and I'm assuming that overnight accommodations will be in Church facilities. Normally, a diocesan bishop doesn't need to fly hundreds or thousands of miles to make episcopal visits, and this is just the most visible indication that maintaining cohesiveness in such a scattered prelature will be difficult. Regarding other areas, my regular correspondent added,
"Evangelization" a bit of a stretch for the Ordinary's travel expenses, and I would put production of an annual Pastoral Letter down as an office expense. Going back to "Communication," as you have probably noticed I am constantly puzzled as to why the OOLW can produce a monthly magazine, on-line and in print, and maintain a comprehensive and up-to-date, if not particularly exciting, website, while the OCSP fails to report anything, including ordinations, unless someone outside the Chancery takes the initiative to submit a news item, manages one "infomercial" magazine a year, and cannot maintain even an up-to-date list of parishes on its website, let alone accurate service times and contact details.
And again, given the relatively small amounts allocated to these areas, regardless of intent, I'm not sure how much of an impact any measures can really have, if the current direction and level of effort has been so unavailing.

Regarding the allocation for clergy and vocations, I'm struck yet again by what continues to be a two-tier approach. An upper tier of parishes and more successful groups is apparently eligible to receive seminarians once they complete their formation. A much larger lower tier gets the Protestant retreads, whose quality has been steadily diminishing over the life of the OCSP.

I think this is important, because the lectionaries for the TEC 1979 BCP and the Roman Catholic missal are the same. I went through ten three-year cycles in 30 years as an Episcopalian, and since 2013, I've been through more than one cycle as a Catholic. I've got to say that the homilies I hear on significant readings -- let's say the raising of Lazarus, the woman at the well, if you forgive the sins of any -- are night and day between TEC and Catholic. They go to what Bp Barron calls the physics of salvation, and as far as I can see, whether this is at Nashotah House or Yale, the interpretations Anglican seminarians learn are at best pale imitations of what we hear from priests infused from the start with Augustine and Aquinas. Let's not even mention the substantial number of OCSP priests who went to Reformed seminaries.

We hear, or surmise, that some diocesan bishops are pushing back over allowing OCSP groups-in-formation in their territories. Given in particular the poor formation of the lower-tier priests and their quickie ordinations, I've got to say I have a lot of sympathy with these bishops, and I don't see that Bp Lopes's apparent direction for the OCSP will do much to solve this problem, or for that matter, any other. The overall spending levels don't strike me as enough to make any real changes.

In contrast, my wife and I have been increasing our financial support of our diocesan parish and related charities year by year. The reason for this is twofold: the effective preaching by parish clergy about the need for sacrificial giving, and the visible good use to which the parish and the archdiocese put our money. If any OCSP members find the 2018 bishop's appeal budget troubling from this perspective -- I would guess that if a visitor sent me a copy hoping to get outside input, this may be the case -- I would suggest they investigate possible alternatives if strong diocesan parishes are available nearby.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Abp Hepworth And The Titanic

Mr Chadwick has replied to yesterday's post, and it appears that he has moderated his positions on Abp Hepworth to some degree, so I'm disinclined to argue with him. His opinion on the St Mary of the Angels parish, while realistic, doesn't seem entirely consistent.
The “correspondent” speaks of his uneasiness about being under Hepworth’s oversight on account of his no longer being the primate of an institutional ecclesial body. St Mary’s is not my problem. Even lovely ships like the Titanic had to be abandoned when they were sinking. A building, however beautiful, is not worth that amount of litigation.
My correspondent had this comment on Chadwick's view:
I concur in seeing no long-term benefit from being associated with Hepworth, someone regarded, and not just by the "RC bureaucracy", as a "toxic apostate priest." . . . What does maintaining a connection with him say about St Mary's view of its way forward?
I think the comparison with the Titanic is apt. From Fr Kelley's informal comments, I believe he is in a process of discernment, but exactly where this will lead him, we don't know. But that someone would use the example of the Titanic also has serious implications. The souls aboard the Titanic were in a desperate situation. While lives aren't threatened at Hillhurst and Finley, people are at least having to make serious decisions about their way forward, and for some, becoming Catholic may be an extended and difficult journey.

But let's keep in mind that a laicized Catholic priest is still a priest and may hear the confessions of those in danger of death, e.g., on the Titanic. Abp Hepworth has apparently not been formally laicized, and St Mary's parishioners are not in literal danger of death, but we're still in a spiritually desperate situation. Certainly several people, including my wife and me, underwent spiritual crises after the events of 2012 and saw the need to cut their losses and become Catholic outside the very dodgy OCSP process of acceptance. That would be a sign of the spiritual desperation still occurring there.

Let's consider too that a number of former Catholic priests have become Anglican bishops -- the move isn't unidirectional. This includes ACA Bishop of the Eastern US John Vaughan. It's not unusual for former Catholic priests to become TEC priests, including Alberto CutiƩ, "Father Oprah". None of these has presumably been properly laicized, since a laicized Catholic priest is not entitled to wear clericals or call himself a priest in any denomination, to avoid misleading the faithful. But in the case of Abp Hepworth, we're in for a penny, in for a pound.

St Mary of the Angels is currently an Anglican parish. It is probably even more correct to call it an Anglican Papalist parish, since it has aspirations, however unrealistic, of one day resolving litigation in its favor and going into the OCSP. We may exercise our own judgment on eventual outcomes, but given its current circumstances, it has a bishop, who as far as I can see is no more and no less legitimate in Roman Catholic eyes than any other "continuing Anglican" bishop. Let's keep in mind that Louis Falk was deposed as a TEC priest for apparently good reasons -- nobody's without sin here.

If, as at least some observers seem to concur, the St Mary of the Angels parish doesn't have much of a long term, I'm not sure why my correspondent questions the "long term benefit from being associated with Hepworth". My view as consistently expressed here is an Aristotelian argument from circumstance, which as R M Weaver puts it, is the most desperate argument. If the sea is on three sides, and we can’t swim for it, but the enemy is bottling us up on the fourth, we have no choice but to fight our way out. St Mary’s is a sinking Titanic, I generally agree. Even a laicized Catholic priest can hear confessions from those in danger of death. Given the much more flexible circumstances that apply among Anglicans, I'm not sure what the problems are in seeing Abp Hepworth functioning as a bishop.

Let's say, for instance, that everyone at St Mary's wakes up tomorrow and decides the best step is to close things out and turn the keys over to the ACA. How long would that take? Months? Years? Who knows? Wouldn't this small group of people be entitled to the best leadership and spiritual counsel they could find under the circumstances? Recognize that they would have a number of options -- renew an application to the OCSP as a different entity, go individually into the Church via RCIA at other parishes, return to TEC, find another "continuing" parish, or none of the above.

Wouldn't it be best for them to have someone who can give them spiritual comfort and assistance with discernment? How many others would be willing to apply for that job?