Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Sisters At The OLA School

Some additional information has turned up on sisters leaving the OLA school "in the dead of night". It appears that these were the School Sisters of St Francis -- Panhandle Franciscans; the Poor Clares of San Antonio apparently were not involved with the school. An archived OLA newsletter (under "School News" halfway down) gives some background in connection with her successor, Mrs Dignan:
Mrs. Dignan assumed the position in January 1996, when the school and the children desperately needed a temporary principal to fill the void when Sr. Clare, OSF, vacated her post at 11:00 p.m. on the night of January 15th. Mrs. Dignan fell into her new position with a sincere dedication and determination to make the school great. She completed her academic requirements at St. Mary's University in record time with high honors and fulfilled the "new" principal standards imposed upon "new" schools by the Catholic Schools Office, which at the time only applied to us.
An informant says the departure of the Panhandle Sisters caused a controversy that resulted in families leaving the parish, but it isn't clear whether the 1996 controversies over the school were the cause of Abp Flores's attempt to remove Fr Phillips or whether this was a separate episode.

Many thanks to visitors for raising questions and resolving puzzles here. Again, if anyone has more information on these or other circumstances, it will be greatly appreciated.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Holes In The Narrative

As I've suggested before, the conventional narrative about Our Lady of the Atonement is that the parish and its priest want to join the OCSP. Abp Garcia-Siller is opposing this move via application of Canon 1742 to the priest, apparently out of pique and because he is insufficiently Anglo-Saxon. The parish is united in its wish, and the priest is a victim.

The secular events of 2016 have led to increasing skepticism about the conventional narratives that people want us to believe. Over the past several weeks, I've heard and seen a lot to discredit the conventional narrative about Our Lady of the Atonement. Here are some highlights:

  • The comments at the Texas Public Radio site suggest that the parish is no more unified than any other, and disunity seems to focus on members who are also members of the Opus Dei prelature. According to Wikipedia, "Opus Dei has been described as the most controversial force within the Catholic Church." Without giving a definite opinion on it, I would say that qualities have been ascribed to it that suggest cliquishness, secretiveness, and elitism, which do not lead to parish harmony.
  • The archbishop appointed Fr Wagner, an OCSP priest, as pastor of Notre Dame Kerrville in 2016, suggesting he has no bias against the OCSP.
  • Although the parish is portrayed as united in grieving for the late Archbishop Patrick Flores, who led the archdiocese from 1979 to 2004, Mr Wilson said in the Save Atonement public meting that Abp Flores attempted to remove Fr Phillips as pastor of OLA, but this was thrwarted by Cardinal Law in his role as delegate for the Pastoral Provision. This attempt, on top of Msgr Steenson's abortive attempt in 2012, would make Abp Garcia-Siller's invocation of Canon 1742 a third attempt to remove Fr Phillips. The practical effect of Canon 1742 is to begin a formal investigation, which in light of this history does seem warranted.
  • There are other puzzling events in the parish's history, including major controversies over the school. At one point, I'm told, an order of sisters connected with the school departed "in the dead of night". According to Mr Wilson at the public meeting, this led to Abp Flores's attempt to remove Fr Phillips. (My regular correspondnet notes that the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in San Antonio seem to remain on good terms with Fr Phillips. They are not a teaching order, and they were not affiliated with the school. Fr Phillips appears to have lent them a house when they first arrived in San Antonio but they are now living elsewhere and hoping to open a retreat house as you can see on their website.) At another point, there was a battle royal over the headmaster.
  • Although media accounts of the controversy portray the parish as united in its wish to retain Fr Phillips, there is no good way to divine the intent of the rank and file. OLA is not a "continuing" group and does not vote its wishes. The parish council, which was cited in the decision to reverse the 2012 move to the OCSP, is not an elective body, unlike an Anglican vestry. At OLA, every vacancy has been filled by appointment for the past 15 years.
As I've kept saying, there's a great deal we don't know. Any additional clarification on any of these matters will be most welcome.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Canon 1742, Stability, And Anglicans

My remarks yesterday about whether Fr Phillips would accept rotation from parish to parish, as is now common in the US:
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.
provoked a great deal of comment. One visitor noted,
How could he "rotate" in the Archdiocese of San Antonio as a married priest? The archdiocese never has accepted "married priests" (last I heard) to serve in any pastoral position in the archdiocese, save for at OLA. [See the update below.] Fr. Phillips could therefore never serve (by "rotation") as pastor of any other parish in the archdiocese. (If the SA Archdiocese has any other married priests, of which I am ignorant, they probably [on the analogy of what happens in other dioceses] serve in "specialized ministries" such as hospital or prison ministry, with perhaps a loose attachment to a particular parish church, where they may get to say the odd weekday Mass, or concelebrate at a Sunday one.)
This brings up a cascading series of puzzling questions. Clearly a married Pastoral Provision priest -- or indeed, an OCSP priest -- can serve a diocesan parish in some dioceses. We saw this with Fr Seraiah in Iowa and now see it with Fr Sly in Kansas City. Fr Dean was a married Pastoral Provision priest with a parish in the Diocese of Nashville before moving to St Mary the Virgin.

But whether such priests can rotate brings up trickier questions. I know very little about rectories, but I assume they resemble dormitories and are not set up to accommodate families and children. Having celibate and married priests with families together in such a situation would be awkward indeed. This brings to mind the observation that for some types of women, children are not so much wards as facts on the ground that can be used to manipulate men -- for a married Catholic priest, his family represents just such a fact on the ground.

The visitor above also noted,

I think almost all "Pastoral Provision" (and, maybe, OCSP) priests have served their congregations or parishes indefinitely/long-term until retirement age or illness makes them unable to continue linger (e.g., Fr. Hawkins in Arlington, Frs. Moore and Ramsey in Houston, Fr. Ledkau in Columbia, Fr. Bradford in Boston, etc.; Frs. Moore and Ramsey alternated with one another for nerly three decades in Houston as pastor of OLW, but when one or the other was not pastor of OLW, he served in a "specialized ministry" position - at least Fr. Moore did; Fr. Ramsey [a bachelor/celibate IIRC] served for some decade as a pastor of a "regular" Latin Catholic parish in Houston); I think all US Catholic dioceses would not allow a married priest to serve as pastor/parochial vicar of a "regular" diocesan parish.
There do seem to be exceptions, but they clearly must be circumscribed. Another visitor noted,
With respect to your last comment in the subject post, I invite your attention to Canon 522 of the Codex Juris Canonici: “A pastor must possess stability and therefore is to be appointed for an indefinite period of time. The diocesan bishop can appoint him only for a specific period if the conference of bishops has permitted this by a decree.” Here in the States, the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a decree authorizing the appointment of pastors for a term of six (6) years. However, it is likely that the appointment of Fr. Christopher Phillips as pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement occurred before the promulgation of that decree, and thus has an “indefinite” term.

Historically, the concerns that you raise about fiscal management were not an issue because the majority of Catholic clergy would not become pastors until they were about fifty years old (remember that most parishes had 4-6 priests except in rural areas) and partly because pastors were typically “promoted” to larger parishes or to significant assignments in the chancery. The “Anglican Use” congregations erected under the so-called “pastoral provision” were aberrations in this regard — I believe that all of the surviving congregations were still under the pastoral care of their founding pastor when the Vatican erected the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

My understanding of the rotation period is that it is normally for six years, but the bishop can also move a priest at any other time. This probably reduces the need to invoke Canon 1742, which is pretty much the reason I made the initial remark. In a corporation, small personality issues or whatever can also result in transfers that reduce the need for more elaborate remedies.

My regular correspondent noted,

This article makes your point, that regular rotation of clergy is analogous to the situation in the military: "Pastors are now like lower-echelon military officers who are moved every few years 'to keep them sharp.' " (in the section entitled "The new Code of Canon Law and the US Bishops." The writer is not very happy about this development, however.

[Two other articles] also make the case that "term limits" are inconsistent with the traditional understanding of the pastoral role, and that while the change in the US was a response to the necessity to close and amalgamate parishes, it has had unintended consequences.

Whatever the circumstances here, it does seem to me that the position of married clergy now represents "facts on the ground", and they apply as well to the OCSP. One can say that placing all the married ex-Anglicans in a separate diocese is a good argument for Anglicanorum coetibus, but (1) there will still be married Pastoral Provision priests in dioceses, (2) OCSP priests now serve diocesan parishes, and (3) probably most important, there are so few OCSP parishes that can support a pastor with family that rotation is not practical anyhow.

Thus Bp Lopes may find a need to invoke Canon 1742 when Bp Skirius would simply move the guy. But let's go back to the argument Fr Phillips made a week or so ago: the point of Anglicanorum coetibus is to make us all one. Except that married Catholic priests represent facts on the ground that are stubborn and require many exceptions -- probably more than we've briefly noted here. So the point of Anglicanorum coetibus is to make us all one, except for all the exceptions, which make the Anglicans a special case living in a granny flat.

A situation that the wrong kind of Anglican is free to exploit.

UPDATE: The Archdiocese of San Anotonio almost a year ago placed Fr David Wagner, a married OCSP priest, in the Notre Dame Kerrville parish, describing him as "on loan" from the OCSP. Thanks to a visitor for the info.

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.