Friday, July 22, 2016

Bp Lopes's Future

My regular correspondent notes,
As we have discussed previously, Bp Lopes is 40 and I'm sure he doesn't plan to stick around too long in a diocese with fewer members than the average Catholic parish. So his career path depends on whipping the OCSP into some kind of credible shape, and in short order. Given the men he has inherited from the previous regime he cannot hope that anything is going to "take off;" he is lucky that he has seven congregations that are self-sustaining.

But he can introduce structures that produce a stable, if very limited, operation. This probably means building relationships with the dioceses in which the OCSP quasi-parishes and groups-in-formation are located, ie those groups which cannot support a full-time priest. With diocesan jobs and housing, the OCSP can attract younger clergy, including those who may have been ordained under the Pastoral Provision in the first instance, to replace the motley collection of retirees from a wide assortment of jurisdictions with which he now has to deal. Part of this process will require establishing guidelines for compensation and benefits.

He will also need to bring groups into more conspicuous conformity with regard to canon law, both liturgically and administratively. He seems to have got rid of the deadwood in the Chancery, so he is in a better position to identify further areas where head office needs to ride herd. As I have said a number of times, I do not think the part-time Ordinariate, part-time diocesan priest model has much potential to produce self-supporting parishes over time, but in the short term it should ensure survival.

Comments I hear elsewhere suggest that, on one hand, the original Steenson clique was Anglican but compromised by decades of happily advancing by coexisting with women clergy -- and in 2005, Steenson effectively supported Gene Robinson's consecration in his essay "The New Donatists" (apparently now scrubbed from the web). On the other hand, Bp Lopes now has no Anglican background at all. This suggests that the OCSP has lost any indefinite focus it may earlier have had, which leads other commentators to see a limited life expectancy as well.

Another visitor makes a worthwhile point in the context of yesterday's post on Methoidsts in the Ordinariate:

[T]here is nothing whatsoever that prevents an ordinariate from receiving a minister with a congregation from any Protestant body and ordaining the former minister as that congregation's pastor.

There is indeed a distinction between Methodists and other Protestants with respect to the ordinariates, but it has nothing to do with the possible reception and subsequent ordination of clergy who come from a Methodist body, either with or without congregations. Rather, the fact that Methodism is an offshoot of Anglican Christianity, and thus deemed to be part of the Anglican tradition, means that former Methodists who were received into the full communion of the Catholic Church within the jurisdiction of a diocese may subsequently enroll in the ordinariate in the same manner as former Anglicans, even though they do not receive the sacraments of initiation within the jurisdiction of the ordinariate.

This faculty extends to former Methodist ministers, who may seek ordination for the service of the ordinariate after enrolling therein or, if already ordained as Catholic deacons or presbyters, may seek excardination from their current dioceses and incardination into the ordinariate to become part of the ordinariate's clergy. By contrast, former Baptists or former Presbyterians received into full communion of the Catholic Church in a diocesan parish normally cannot enroll in an ordinariate unless they belong to ordinariate families.

So I'm not entirely sure what the big deal is. To be a "member" of an Ordinariate strikes me as something essentially meaningless, even more ambiguous than parish registration, a little like my late mother's unfulfilled lifelong aspiration to become a Daughter of the American Revolution, which as far as I can see would not have reduced her time in Purgatory even if she'd fulfilled it.

The more I look at the Ordinariates, the more questions I have about purpose and focus.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Methodists In The Ordinariate?

A visitor pointed me to this article at The American Conservative on the United Methodist Church electing a lesbian bishop. Apparently one of his correspondents raised a question:
Since Methodists now have the right to become members of the Ordinariate, I wonder if there would be any UMC congregations that would have an interest in joining it. My guess is that there would not likely be any, but joining it could be something that some of them may want to discern.
I think this is a purely theoretical question, for several reasons. I strongly suspect that Methodists were added to the list for clergy-centered reasons, to make favored outlier candidates like Fr Baaten or Fr Treco eligible for ordination without an associated group. If such candidates have the right connections, they'll make it in over mainstream Anglicans without them.

But the process of discernment for a group or parish is also frequently divisive. Methodists don't have a Methodo-Catholic tradition, and anti-Catholic feelings are probably more likely to exist among factions in a Methodist parish. I would imagine that a Methodist parish that was sufficiently upset about the national move would go looking for an alternative similar to breakaway conservative Lutheran or Presbyterian denominations.

According to the USCCB, something like 60,000 baptized Christians are received from other denominations in the US each year. A non-trivial number of these are probably Methodists, and probably far more than would ever come in via Anglicanorum coetibus. And let's face it, the decision to become Catholic is always an individual one.

But finally, defections from liberal denominations once they make supposedly "last straw" moves have always been overestimated -- recall Clarence Pope's 1993 estimate to Cardinal Ratzinger that 250,000 US Episcopalians would come into a personal prelature. Instead, such numbers have never been sufficient even to make the national denominations take other than legal notice.

I don't think Houston will ever hear a peep from any disgruntled Methodists -- and this should be cause for reassessment of what the Ordinariates were meant to do.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

"The Trial Of An Archbishop"

Fr Kelley recently lent me a copy of a pamphlet with this title, published by the St Mary of the Angels Press in 1995. It contains the transcript of the abortive September 16, 1991 trial proceedings against then-ACC Archbishop Louis Falk. The back cover is shown at left; as you can see, it contains the image of a kangaroo. Kangaroo proceedings, of course, have not been unheard of in the ACC, the ACA, or the TAC.

The proceedings themselves ended the same day they started on an inconclusive basis, with one of the bishops on the panel that served as a jury having to leave due to a death in the family, which resulted in the loss of a quorum. According to Douglas Bess's account of the circumstances surrounding the trial in Divided We Stand, which I summarized here, the ACC bishops subsequently negotiated a settlement that allowed Falk to leave the ACC with his diocese, and the bishops that left the ACC with him formed the ACA.

The transcript is not clear on the charges that were actually brought against Falk. A Dr Robert Strippy provided a preface to the transcript in which he says the charges were that "he participated in the call for a conference on Continuing Anglican unity, and he received the Holy Communion at a synod of the American Episcopal Church". Since the trial was interrupted and never resumed, this is in fact all the record reflects. What the prosecutors intended to develop based on this is not clear.

Douglas Bess, who apparently had extensive input from ACC sources, said Falk's actual offenses were developing the TAC as a superdenominational body, thus undermining the ACC bishops, and ordaining priests of highly questionable morals, including one who was alleged to be a bigamist. Falk, of course, continues to be a highly controversial figure among the "continuing" movement, and I've had conversations with ACC sources (some of whom may also have talked to Bess) that indicate how much bitterness remains toward him.

My own views on Falk have moderated. In particular, I no longer believe he actually called or e-mailed Anthony Morello to convey a message to David Virtue that he had never offered episcopal guidance to the St Mary of the Angels parish during 2011-12 -- I now believe this was a falsehood concocted by Morello. However, although Falk provided assistance to the parish via phone discussions with police and depositions in the legal proceedings, these were behind the scenes, and my view is that Falk might have been of greater help in public remarks.

But the biggest question that emerges from the transcript is the involvement of ACC Bp James Mote as president of the court. Mote is probably the single most puzzling figure in the "continuing" movement. He was a prime mover in bringing about the 1977 Congress of St Louis and founding the ACC, but Louis Falk, who did not attend the Congress, contacted Mote the following year and, according to a source, offered him his services at that time. According to an ACC source, both Mote and Falk were alumni of Nashotah House, and Mote took this as a recommendation. (Nashotah House alums think well of themselves and each other.) Over the next few years, Falk steadily rose in Mote's estimation and fairly quickly eclipsed Mote in ACC leadership, especially after his 1981 consecration by Mote as ACC Bishop of the Missouri Valley.

Mote's presence a decade later as the president of the court is one of his few subsequent appearances in the record, and he disappears again after the trial was suspended. When I got in touch with Douglas Bess, the issue of what happened with Mote was one of the first questions I raised, and Bess said he had no additional information.

The only additional point of information I get is a prefatory memo from Falk in the trial pamphlet, which notes that the trial took place in a typical hotel meeting room, with typical hotel long tables, on which typical glasses and pitchers of ice water were provided for the participants -- except that Mote had a pitcher of iced tea. My surmise, and possibly the reason Falk noted this, is that it may not have been iced tea but rather "iced tea". Beyond that, who can say?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Another Note On Gathered Communities

My regular correspondent sends this further information:
Fr Harris, of the Fredericton community of Our Lady of the Sign, has been offering a Divine Worship mass at irregular intervals for several months in Halifax (about a four hour drive from Fredericton). There is no website, but contact information is given on the OCSP website, and there is also a notice on the local archdiocesan website.

I do not think that getting a core group of inquirers together is rocket science, nor does it require episcopal effort. If it has not been undertaken by other priests incardinated in the OCSP who are without groups it is because their diocesan, chaplaincy, or teaching responsibilities keep them fully occupied. As I have mentioned, even those who have a regular Divine Worship mass in addition to local parish duties seem to be maintaining the status quo, but not growing their Ordinariate community.

The membership of the [UK Ordinariate] has stagnated at around 1500 for the last two years. I feel this is because the model of having a priest whose primary responsibility is a diocesan parish, with an Ordinariate group on the side, is not conducive to developing an attractive destination for those thinking of entering the Catholic church. If this becomes the primary model in the OCSP (and financially it seems inevitable) I do not foresee a different outcome than that experienced by the OOLW.

My other visitor pointed out,
I presume that you did not see the recent article about Fr. Timothy Perkins, the new vicar general for the Archdiocese, that first appeared in North Texas Catholic and was republished on the Ordinariate Expats web site.

The article quotes Fr. Perkins as saying that he is now working with half a dozen congregations that are "discern[ing] their path into the church," one of which he had recently visited in Kentucky where there is no ordinariate presence right now.

On this, we'll have to see what develops -- but there's no easy way as yet that anyone in the vicinity of these discerning groups can get in touch with them and potentially swell their numbers. Why not?

Monday, July 18, 2016

More On Diocesan Referrals

On the comments by yesterday's visitor, my regular correspondent writes,
Abp Collins may well have contacted local pastors; since he was tasked with supervising the Ordinariate set-up in Canada he, unlike any normal diocesan bishop, had a vested interest in recruiting those who were already Catholic to consider moving to another jurisdiction. But the "core group" was actually assembled by a clergyman still active in the ACC and consisted of a group of friends of his wife who had all gone to the same Anglican parish before becoming Catholics, plus some "seekers" considering becoming Catholic, including a few "continuing" Anglicans.

During the formation period now-Fr Hodgins blogged regularly about the Ordinariate as "Peregrinus," as he continues to do. A priest already incardinated in an Ordinariate could of course undertake a much more open recruitment campaign. The administrator of the Vancouver group placed an announcement on the local diocesan website, where it can still be seen.

As one of the largest dioceses in the [Anglosphere]Toronto must be home to literally thousands of former Anglicans, now Catholics; however, ASA at the OCSP mission, St Thomas More, is about 25 or 30. Given dynamic leadership I am sure an Ordinariate parish can grow many times this size, as OLA, San Antonio has done, but I do not think that there is any inherent demand for what is on offer. As you say, what problem is it trying to solve?

My correspondent later pointed out,
To clarify, only two members of the exploratory group who were not Catholics actually went on to become members of St Thomas More, Toronto. The rest (about 10) had previously joined the Church. And Our Lady of Walsingham, Vancouver was not a gathered group in the first instance, but about a dozen members from three area parishes of the ACCC, although the priest did subsequently place the notice which I drew to your attention.
Catholics who've never had an Anglican connection have other options if they want a more reverent liturgy. For starters, not all parishes are flip-flops and halter-tops, guitars and tambourines, and Catholics have the option of going to the mass they prefer. Extraordinary Form masses are more prevalent than Ordinariate groups.

As a former Episcopalian, I see little to miss when I find a reverent Ordinary Form mass in which the clergy preaches the faith. Indeed, a parish that fills its pews and generates celibate vocations is something you almost never see in Anglicanism these days.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

And What Good Are Ordinariate Groups?

A visitor writes,
I'm not surprised that there are relatively few gathered groups in the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. It's very difficult to gather such a group without somebody who knows enough people -- perhaps a dozen or so -- who can form a core for such a group and begin to pull in others. A diocesan bishop who supports the ordinariate project can muster the resources to identify and form such a core group, as Archbishop (now Cardinal) Thomas Collins of Toronto did, by pressing his pastors to identify parishioners who have come into the Catholic Church and current inquirers from the Anglican tradition, and it's unfortunate that relatively few diocesan bishops have taken this initiative. Unfortunately, few of the rest of us have the resources to do that because prospective members tend to be scattered across many parishes, and thus unknown to one another -- something that a diocesan bishop is in a unique position to instigate.
My visitor certainly implies that this depends on the bishop. But we see that the Bishops of Orange and San Diego are both supportive of Ordinariate groups, since both attended Fr Baaten's recent ordination with Bp Lopes. Yet neither the Irvine nor the Oceanside group appears to be distinguishing itself. For individuals seeking out a BDW liturgy to contact a bishop would under any circumstances be an infrequent event, it seems to me, and even the bishop might need to go to the OCSP web site to find a possible referral.

But as my naive co-worker used to ask in meetings, what problem are we trying to solve? Let's look at the elephant in the room as far as increasing numbers of mainstream Catholics are beginning to see it: global elites are promoting a materialistic "scientism", more recently augmented by an alliance with Mohammedanism (Ven Fulton Sheen called it "Mahometanism", which I like even better and will probably use from now on). The secular Kulturkampf is now increasingly enforced by violent religious attacks against Jews and Christians, which the elites minimize and disavow while nevertheless blithely setting up the conditions for continued attacks.

What does it accomplish for a bishop now and then to refer a few people interested in a clumsy made-up liturgy to a few other like-minded people? The groups we see are not just struggling, they're clergy-centered and inward-focused. The "granny flat for the Anglicans", which it seems to me is what the Ordinariates in truth are at this point, strikes me as an adventitious development that is draining resources from what it seems to me is the real struggle. Bishops must be strengthened and encouraged, not distracted.

I wonder what other use could be made of Bp Lopes's talents and energy.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Why So Few Gathered Groups?

My regular correspondent notes,
About a dozen or so active OCSP priests have no Ordinariate assignment. When Fr Sellers was in this situation, as chaplain at St John XXIII school in Katy, TX, he nonetheless continued to work at starting up a new community. I gather from the most recent issue of the Ordinariate Observer that St Margaret's, Katy has an ASA of 24, which is quite respectable by OCSP standards. Granted as school chaplain Fr Sellers was in a position to gather for Sunday worship those who might have seen and appreciated his preaching and liturgy at the school, but he had already begun the process several months before this appointment, when it was reported by the usual sources that he was contacting his former TEC parishioners and others in the Houston area and holding meetings for inquirers at OLW. Why is this not more common?

As far as I know, only St Margaret's, St Thomas More, Toronto; BlJHN, Irvine; St George, Republic; the two groups in MN; and perhaps the elusive St Gilbert's, Ingram are "gathered" groups rather than groups whose founding members previously worshipped together in another denomination. Since, as we have discussed on a number of occasions, the number of congregational groups currently preparing to depart from TEC, the ACC, or "continuing" bodies is probably very small indeed, why is more effort not being made to bring individuals together? It seems odd that this was undertaken in Greater Houston, which is well-served by the Ordinariate cathedral, while communities like Birmingham, AL and NYC have nothing despite the local presence of an OCSP-incardinated priest.

I can think of several explanations. One is that it is unethical for a cleric to "poach" members from a former parish to join his new one, although this did not stand in the way of Fr Bartus, at least (though I'm not sure how many of the people he took from Hollywood stayed over any long term).

Another is the observation I repeatedly see that Anglicanism is a congregational denomination, and Episcopalians, whatever the actions of the national body, continue to be satisfied with their local parishes. Add to that the fact that a non-trivial number of Episcopalians are former Catholics who left the Church due to differences with its teachings, especially those surrounding marriage and the family. They could well see obstacles in returning if they have remarried, or are satisfied with TEC's positions on same-sex attraction.

A third is that there is absolutely no evangelization taking place in any of the Ordinariates, especially nothing at all comparable to that from Bp Barron, Prof Kreeft, Prof Hahn, and many others. Anyone whom these people reach is going to check out a diocesan parish, if only because the number of Ordinariate parishes, especially those with convenient mass times, is statistically insignificant.

Beyond that, Ordinariates have no intellectual existence. Let's get real about this. The closest any of the Ordinariates have to a spokesman is Fr Hunwicke, and the most polite thing I can say is that he is not G.K.Chesterton. The Ordinariate blogs have disappeared. This is probably in part a result of Jeffrey Steenson's apparent wish to suppress strong figures who might cause him to share the limelight, but I see no visible move by Bp Lopes to redress this problem. (Hint: Fr Kelley taught Christian history at the distinguished Hillsdale College. Bp Lopes, you ought to find a way to make use of him.)

But if Anglicanism brought us John Donne, John Dryden, Jonathan Swift, G.K.Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh, Dorothy Sayers, T.S.Eliot, and C.S.Lewis, (and among them and those like them, notable Catholic converts), there is no evidence that anything like them has come into the Ordinariates. As a former Episcopalian who came into the Church via RCIA, I was immediately attracted by the intellectual rigor of the tradition that stems from Aquinas. You can see it in the programs available on Youtube by Bp Sheen, Fr Ripperger, and many others. Whatever intent of bringing Anglican spirituality into the Church may have lain behind Anglicanorum coetibus, it has, to date, like the barren fig tree borne no fruit. Why cumbereth it the ground?