Friday, March 27, 2015

So What If I Wanted To Hear Andrew Bartus Celebrate Mass?

I'd be utterly delighted if someone, reading this blog, said, "Wow, this guy Bruce sure has a bee in his bonnet about some Ordinariate priest named Bartus. Hey, I don't live all that far away -- why don't I pop over to that Newman mission and hear what's happenin'?"

Easier said than done. I googled "'bl john henry newman' church california", and the first hit I got was The Parish of Bl John Henry Newman, an extremely well-done site, but, I fear, a Latin Mass parish in Melbourne, Australia. I skipped the Wikipedia entry for Newman himself and then found a Facebook page for John Henry Newman Catholic Church in Fullerton, CA. Well, there's a map, but nothing else -- hey, when does this guy Bartus show up and do his thing? A link, only partly visible on the Facebook page, takes me to another web page with a pretty picture of a thurible being swung.

When I click on Welcome, which I have to do if I want to see more than a thurible, I get another page with more pretty pictures and nothing else. The Holy Spirit, I discover, must eventually inspire me to click on one or another pretty picture to get more information -- the one I eventually find on mass, after several experiments that remind me of Minesweeper, gives times, but no location. Again, the Holy Spirit must move me to click again on Location at the top of the Mass page. There's also a garbled sentence on the Mass page: "Any Catholic in good standing is welcome to receive communion with us; those who are not are invited to attend and come forward to receive a priestly blessing." Er, those who are not what?

St Augustine had an easier time when the child sang "Take up and read". This is a made member of the Episcopal Diocese of Ft Worth clique. Handsome is as handsome does.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Pastoral Issue -- III

Because my visitor raised the issue of possible "bad blood" between the former curate at St Mary of the Angels, Andrew Bartus, now a priest in the US Ordinariate and pastor of the Bl John Henry Newman mission in Fullerton, CA, and the St Mary's parish, I think it's time to discuss any potential problems in greater detail.

I do this simply because nobody knows if the problems from 2010-2012, when he was curate and we got to know him, are now just water under the bridge (in which case it is proper to forgive and forget), or if the parish will need to deal with him again, in which case everyone needs to be aware of potential issues that would affect his resumed ministry. As my visitor pointed out, at minimum, he could be involved in any mutual programs between two neighboring Ordinariate parishes.

I know little beyond the broad outlines of pastoral ethics. When Bartus was at St Mary's, of course, he was an ACA priest, and he is now a Catholic priest. Different standards almost certainly apply between the denominations. However, I found this fairly general discussion of pastoral ethics online

We are committed to mutually building up the body of Christ, recognizing and affirming the different gifts in the assembly. In the occurrence of criticism or complaints brought by a member of the body, we are committed to discussion leading to restoration between members of the body.

We are committed to diligently preserving unity in the body of Christ. We will not knowingly participate in the division of any local church. If such division occurs, we will not personally participate in the start of another church in the same locale.

On the whole, the discussions I've seen stress that it is inappropriate for a pastor to socialize excessively with particular cliques in a parish or to join one or another faction.

Mrs Bush and the Kangs are the individuals listed by Mr Lancaster as his clients in the Rector, Wardens, and Vestry cases. I think it's reasonable to infer that they are, or were during 2010-12, key members of one particular parish faction. However, it was general knowledge -- and my wife and I saw one instance of this ourselves, to our surprise -- that Bartus socialized extensively outside parish activities with Mrs Bush and the Kangs. I've heard at second hand that Bartus and Mr Kang frequently played poker together at one or another residence. This conduct was observed by other members of the parish during 2010-12 and recognized at the time to be unethical.

In addition, when he left the parish in April 2012, Bartus took several members, whom he had cultivated while curate at St Mary's, with him to join his Newman group in Orange County. This was also unethical, by this and other common standards of pastoral ethics. I simply don't know if there has been continued contact between Bartus, Mrs Bush, or other members of the dissident faction at St Mary's, but if I were Houston, this is an issue I would wish to assure myself was not a potential problem.

Leaving anything else aside, Bartus's conduct with parishioners and cliques in the parish was unethical, such that the elected vestry is fully justified in not wishing to have any type of renewed contact -- even participation in joint activities as Ordinariate parishes should be cause for concern to any succeeding parish council.

However, the best inference that can be drawn from known circumstances is that Bartus was, at minimum, aware of the scheme to deliberately withhold parish tax payments to the IRS, resulting in the eventual near-seizure of the property. This was averted only by the premature arrival of a final notice. It appears that the principals behind the scheme had enlisted Bartus as their candidate for Rector in the wake of the seizure, if it had taken place. My wife and I have some direct evidence of this, as Bartus made an appointment to visit us at our home, presumably to explain his new position, just after the date the IRS would have seized the parish. He simply didn't show up when that didn't happen. Here's another passage from the ethics outline cited above:

We will conduct ourselves in an honest and professional manner, always reflecting the highest biblical integrity in keeping with our call in the areas mentioned in this code. We will endeavor to do right by all people.

We are committed to keeping ourselves above reproach in all areas of life. We are committed to moral soundness, honesty, and uprightness.

My understanding, reinforced by an e-mail just this morning, is that Ordinariate officers were warned of Bartus's unethical conduct prior to his ordination as a Catholic priest. Instead, his reception and ordination were fast-tracked, ironically with former members of the St Mary's parish, whom he had poached for his Newman group, in attendance.

I pray for all those involved.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Pastoral Issue -- II

Over the past few days I've had an e-mail exchange with a fellow who seems, in a friendly way, to be trying to steer me off the course I intend in the next several posts, perhaps because he's perceptive enough to see my direction. I think his points are worth addressing, so I'm going to paraphrase them here and then give my best answers.
  1. You seem concerned that people like Mrs Bush and other dissidents might want to return to the parish if the elected vestry prevails in the legal action. But if that happens, it might well join the Ordinariate. Why would people who opposed the parish joining in 2012 want to join a Catholic parish now?

    It's worth keeping in mind that, based on past experience, we're not dealing with people whose agendas are transparent, or who can be expected to behave reasonably. St Mary's has been described in past years as more an exclusive social club than a church. Some of the dissidents are long-time members, or wannabes, whose perception of themselves is not necessarily based on denomination -- and I very much doubt that Mrs Bush or any of her associates is any more capable of naming the seven sacraments without a crib sheet than their current pastor, Mr Williams. Most of the core dissidents did in fact attend the catechism sessions in 2011, although I doubt if it took. Nevertheless, this suggests that many would theoretically be eligible to become Catholic with the parish, and they may have wished to retain that option. Based on my exposure to them, they are fully capable of exploiting the sacraments of initiation for their own purposes, should this be necessary. Their interests are not denominational, and specifics of the Roman religion would not affect them much either way.

  2. You've mentioned things like burglary, assault, vehicle sabotage, and mail tampering. These are serious crimes. If you think they're so important, why haven't they been reported?

    First, it seems that however it may have happened, the Los Angeles Police Department is at some level aware of and interested in the case. There are numerous posts, like this one in the Armchair Detective section of the Freedom for St Mary blog (with which I have no involvement) that strongly suggest that LAPD is at least watching developments and may increase its attention if clearer evidence emerges. But not every reported crime results in a trial or conviction. Serious as some of the things that seem to have taken place may be -- deliberate non-payment of withholding, for instance, and removal of IRS notices from incoming mail -- there probably is not now, and may never be, enough evidence to cause an investigation. Various actions can nevertheless be taken for misconduct short of criminal trials, of course, and I believe Houston should want to assure itself that no current Ordinariate clergy was involved in, or had knowledge of, these actions when they occurred. I will return to this.

  3. There appears to be some issue of "bad blood" between the elected vestry and Fr Bartus, now at the Bl Newman mission in Orange County, CA. Shouldn't something be done to resolve this? I doubt if, in any case, the Ordinariate would name Fr Bartus as pastor of St Mary's -- but there might be joint events between the two, so you ought to patch things up.

    I've heard conflicting versions of Bartus's intentions and the Ordinariate's plans. A former Episcopal priest who had remained close to Bartus as of a year ago relayed to me that, in Bartus's view, there was no place for St Mary's in the Ordinariate, and that any further group admissions in the Los Angeles area would be under Bartus's purview. Apparently this view is not shared by Archbishop Gomez or Msgr Stetson, but the lack of full clarity is disturbing, as my impression is that, from his reported statement, Bartus feels entitled to speak for the Ordinary. This is a matter on which I believe Houston should act to be sure no misunderstanding can take place. It also suggests that the problem of "bad blood" is by no means one-sided. I will discuss this more fully.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Pastoral Issue -- I

I had an e-mail a couple of days ago that began to clarify for me what the pastoral issues probably are if the St Mary's legal issues are resolved. I believe that the vestry and its attorneys need to be planning how to resume control of the property if the parish prevails in the trial scheduled to start in a few weeks -- there probably has been some planning, but as only a friendly outsider, I'm not aware of internal deliberations. However, assuming the vestry still intends to take the parish into the Ordinariate, at some point Houston needs to be brought into alignment with what is done, and what would need to continue. Given Houston's history of dropping the ball, I have reservations about how this might be handled.

As I've noted here now and then, the pastoral problems that arose in the parish during 2011-12 went well beyond ordinary cliquishness and factionalism. Ordinary stuff would include verbal snubs, snarkiness, gossip, whispering campaigns, and the like. What went on at St Mary's credibly involved threats, physical assault, vehicular sabotage, burglary, telephone hacking, and mail tampering. I believe that if anyone allowed the people responsible for this sort of thing to return to the parish, the problems would quickly resume, but in addition, it would be a threat to the personal safety of vestry members, clergy, and some parishioners. My wife and I are careful to keep our cars in the garage and our doors locked, frankly. Morello, before he went to his judgment, pointedly e-mailed me that he had my address in parish records.

The Ordinariate needs to be aware of this, and the vestry needs to do whatever it can in trial motions to be sure the dissidents who pose the greatest potential problem are kept from the parish premises. This group numbers about six or eight people. The individuals whom William Lancaster has named as his clients, Marilyn Bush, Diane Kang, and Keith Kang, are a start. (Mrs Bush, an octogenarian, is not a physical threat, although she has assumed a leadership role among the group that is.) Exactly what the current relationship is between Bush and the Kangs is a puzzle: it's my understanding that the Kangs broke with Mrs Bush in early 2013 and stomped out of an invitation-only "parish meeting". Subsequent to that, an individual who may be Mr Kang is reported to have contacted Los Angeles police asking for some type of witness protection, as he was afraid that the death of Anthony Morello was part of a plot to eliminate witnesses.

I simply don't know if the breach between the Kangs and Mrs Bush has been patched up. However, the behavior of the individual who went to the police asking for witness protection reflects what I believe is erratic conduct consistent with my experience of Mr Kang, and I would not make any optimistic assumptions. If the Ordinariate is willing to accept St Mary of the Angels as a parish, it needs to be realistically aware of potential issues. To make some naïve gesture of welcoming members of the core group of dissidents back in the name of "reconciliation" would be reckless and dangerous. Houston needs to discuss this potential problem with the vestry, and I think it needs to do it now.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Parishes Which Once Expressed A Wish To Join The US Ordinariate But Haven't

Getting back to the earlier question of what's up with the Ordinariate, my correspondent pointed me to this lengthy list from 2013 at Catholic Left. The group is very diverse, ranging from Our Lady of the Atonement San Antonio through St Mary's Hollywood to some very small groups that probably didn't last long enough to be considered. As a result, the list doesn't say anything specific, good or bad, about the US Ordinariate, except it's another indication of how expectations in 2011 are not reflected in the realities of 2015. According to my correspondent, only St Anselm of Canterbury, Corpus Christi TX, has since joined the Ordinariate from that group.

I do think there was some low-hanging fruit there that Houston should have been able to pick up. I know of one small mission that's comparable in size to groups that have been admitted, but my understanding is that Houston somehow never followed through, and it left those concerned rather unhappy -- but of course, that's one side of the story.

Another e-mail I got recently, though, suggests there may be other groups more actively in the pipeline but that, like St Mary of the Angels, are in a legal holding pattern. (However, as I've noted here, I'm not sure if Houston and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles are on the same page as to what any next steps might be, since the St Mary's situation seems to be edging toward resolution.) If this is the case for other parishes, I'd be most interested to hear about it.

UPDATE: My correspondent informs me that the group in Dennison, TX entered a few weeks ago, under the name St Michael and All Angels. It's good to hear that there's continued progress.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

"Angelicansim"

Back when this blog was pretty new, someone pointed out to me that the St Mary's dissidents had invited visitors to worship at their "Angelican [sic] church services". The whole idea of a separate denomination called "Angelicanism" has stuck with me, to the point that now and then I mutter to my wife, "When I grow up, I want to be an Angelican bishop," by which I mean a pompous and ignorant autarch without a shred of integrity.

It was the Angelicans, of course, who signed the Portsmouth Letter in a body, except for a couple who'd wandered in and didn't know what was really going on. The mistake was compounded when Pope Benedict inadvertently misspelled Anglicanorum coetibus, when if he'd spelled it correctly to refer to the little groups of Angelicans, everything would have worked out as it should.

I think my insight into the nature of Angelicans goes farther. Angelicans want to hitchhike on the prestige of seeming Catholic, they wear Roman clericals, and they're certainly insistent on being addressed as "Father" (vid Smuts and Chadwick), but when you scratch the surface, they're in fact violently anti-Catholic.

This was an issue that I worried was never adequately addressed when I was going through catechism at St Mary of the Angels. Among the parish stalwarts at the time was a highly influential political consultant and operator who was one of the people largely responsible for turning California into a blue state, using issues like abortion and same-sex marriage to get his clients elected. Another was a creative writing teacher who wasted much time in parish meetings insisting that the language in resolutions be gender-neutral -- I assume she seethed every time she heard "our Father" instead of "our Parent".

Yet these people and others insisted they are as Catholic as anyone. I keep thinking "Angelican" is a much better term. This has got me wondering more seriously if the Holy Spirit was in fact operating via the 2007 Portsmouth conference, because it brought out the issue of who was sincerely claiming to be Catholic and who was not. Clearly a faction -- probably a sizeable majority -- of those at Portsmouth were expecting that the Holy Father would, if he responded at all, simply issue some sort of blanket admission of the Angelicans into the Catholic communion.

They could operate as before, picking their doctrines as they chose, ignoring whatever they didn't like. They could have hitchhiked all the more easily on prestige that wasn't theirs. The good thing about the aftermath of Anglicanorum coetibus is it showed the Angelicans up for who they are.

At the beginning of this Lent, a visitor e-mailed me saying that, for Lent, she'd decided to stop enabling some of these people. I think this would be a good resolution for many who do so by visiting Angelican blogs.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

As I Often Do, I'm Scratching My Head

I don't see where Mr Chadwick, his commenters, and I disagree. I commend Mr Chadwick for his forthrightness in announcing, as an informed insider, that almost none of the 2007 Portsmouth Petition signers took the document, or the high mass where it was signed, seriously. I do not dispute Mr Chadwick's claim that he was an informed insider in the TAC's deliberations.

I do not dispute the conclusion one might draw from the circumstances that all but a few of the signers (that is, all but the very few who actually embraced the Holy Father's gesture, usually characterized by the word "generous") abjured their signatures as soon as it became convenient.

So why on earth is this spirit of sweet agreement being described as "utter refusal to hear what anyone else is sayings [sic] and his perverse desire to warp every bit of information to support his venom?" Why call someone who agrees with you so completely a "filthy old man with flies buzzing round his head"?

Strange guy. Strange bunch. Most of them, like Stephen Smuts, have moved on. I would say, though, that Fr Z (a Catholic, so take it for what it's worth) on his blog occasionally worries that some bloggers allow their commenters to put their souls in danger. At least Mr Smuts is no longer providing that opportunity.

UPDATE: Predictably, Mr Chadwick said, "I have resolved not to answer anything further coming from this man", but his word is as good as the solemn word of any TAC bishop! I agree with him in that post, too -- to address someone as "Father" is at least a sign of respect.