Thursday, June 21, 2018

Hepworth And The Blogs

Regarding Abp Hepworth, my regular correspondent writes,
I agree that the process of Hepworth's removal as TAC Primate was a kangaroo court, shall we say, but I am somewhat sympathetic to the predicament of those who must deal with the sort of person who feels that he was demonstrably innocent of any financial wrongdoing at the parish of Gleneig, because "the bishop refused to confirm anything," while never retracting his allegations against Msgr Dempsey despite his being formally cleared by police, Department of Public Prosecutions, and Church investigations during which Hepworth was interviewed eight times. The term "pathological liar" is too lurid, but we have all met the sort of person for whom the truth is an entirely subjective concept unsusceptible to objective refutation.

Campbell, Smuts, and Chadwick were conspicuous spokespersons for Hepworth's version of the truth until it gradually dawned on them that they had been taken in by a fantasy. But many more private people must be attempting to understand their own similar experience. The fact that Samuel Prakash deposed him, the head of the entirely fictional 400,000 member Anglican Church of India which constituted the bulk of the "450,000 Anglicans to Become Catholic" back in 2011 is an irony worthy of the pen of Evelyn Waugh. And that ubiquitous headline is the founding nightmare from which the Ordinariates are still trying to wake up, IMHO.

Hyperbolic expectations, a small and uncertain reality. Apparent leadership, including Pope Benedict, Hepworth, (and Frs Phillips and Hurd to a lesser extent), which evaporated almost instantly, leaving a kind of taxi squad to take over and try to figure out what this was all supposed to be about. The UK and North American Ordinariates are pursuing two entirely different visions. Pope Francis clearly could care less about the entire thing.

I'm somewhat more favorable toward His Grace than my correspondent, primarily because I met him personally with lowered expectations. I saw immediately that he had the gift of blarney, which I noted here -- but as an adept persuader, which I think most will agree he is, I think he recognized that there was a range of assertions I'd accept and a range I wouldn't, and he stayed within the good range in our encounters. And vested, celebrating, and preaching, he does remarkably good Anglo-Catholic.

It's also worth pointing out that numbers in the hundred thousands as potential intake from "Anglican Catholics" weren't limited to Hepworth. TEC Bp Clarence Pope, presumably uncontradicted by Jeffrey Steenson, who was present in that 1993 meeting, gave Cardinal Ratzinger an estimate of 250,000 Episcopalians who would come in from the US, which would not be inconsistent with Hepworth's estimates in the range of 500,000 worldwide.

Finally, if we take the Church -- in this case, the "continuing" branch of the church universal -- as something of a family, it's worth applying the notion that you can pick your friends, but you can't pick your relatives. In the case of St Mary of the Angels, Hepworth has, shall we say, had the generosity to admit paternity, when he certainly had the option of not doing so and washing his hands of the business. So far, I've had the impression that it's been a positive development for the parish, whatever its eventual fate turns out to be.

Which is not to overlook the fact that His Grace sometimes overpromises.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Last Anglican

A visitor sent me an e-mail with the subject "The Last Anglican" noting, as I sometimes have here, the disappearance of "Anglican Catholic" blogs in the wake of the 2012 implementation of Anglicanorum coetibus. He asked me for my thoughts on why this happened.

As I thought about this, the image of an altarpiece came to mind at what Mr Chadwick believes is St Agatha's Portsmouth, UK, that he posted on his blog last month. (Click on image for a larger version.) In the lower right, it depicts Abp Hepworth standing next to Pope Benedict XVI in heaven. Clearly this was done in the context of the 2007 Portsmouth Petition from the TAC bishops and the 2009 promulgation of Anglicanorum coetibus. But rather clearly it couldn't have been done after Hepworth's 2012 expulsion from the TAC College of Bishops. Indeed, Mr Chadwick himself attended the 2007 Portsmouth meeting as an enthusiastic supporter of Hepworth, but he has since renounced him. This is an indication of how quickly the climate changed; the altarpiece is also an insight into the eccentricity of "Anglican Catholics", from whom Mr Chadwick himself now seems to want to separate -- well, at least from Abp Hepworth and his ilk.

Think about it -- a parish seems to have decided to spend a significant amount of its limited budget on a new altarpiece, however tasteless, that would go out of fashion in a brief matter of years and is now nothing more than a curious artifact. There are, of course, theological difficulties in its portrayal of heaven, with Abp Laud and Charles I ranged above Benedict and Hepworth, all surrounded by cherubs and dogs in the fluffy clouds. I assume that pre-2012, Mr Chadwick and many others would have endorsed the sentiments enthusiastically. Here are the factors that changed so quickly:

  • Abp Chaput's denial of votum for ordination to David Moyer, followed by Moyer's de facto expulsion from the ACA. I think observers saw this as sausage-making political maneuvering taking place with unseemly haste in the wake of Anglicanorum coetibus.
  • By the same token, the ACA's immediate dissolution of the Patrimony of the Primate was a final indication of the cynicism with which Bps Marsh and Strawn tolerated "Anglican Catholicism" within the ACA for only as long as they could get away with it.
  • The subsequent "trial" and expulsion of Hepworth from the TAC was a transparently cynical and opportunistic action from a group whose own founding in 1991 could be seen as an attempt to evade canonical action against Abp Falk.
  • The total of these events irreparably damaged the ACA's and TAC's reputations even before the legal actions it undertook against St Mary of the Angels in May 2012. Bloggers who had previously associated themselves with the TAC, including Chadwick, Campbell, and Smuts, saw their credibility decline.
  • The legal action by the ACA and a dissident faction of parishioners against St Mary of the Angels led to the start of this blog, which further exposed malice in the ACA and at best cliquishness, poor judgment, and arbitrary decision-making in the OCSP. This also damaged the credibility of "Anglican Catholic" blogs that refused to recognize these issues.
  • The decision by Fr Phillips in early 2012 to keep Our Lady of the Atonement out of the OCSP was originally seen as a black mark against Msgr Steenson, since in the runup to Anglicanorum coetibus, Phillips was by far the most prestigious of its US promoters. This damaged the optimistic outlook for the ordinariate, although Steenson's designation as ordinary put a colorless and uninspiring figure at its head as well.
  • However, subsequent developments regarding Our Lady of the Atonement, Fr Phillips, and Dcn Orr brought to light long-standing conflicts with the Archdiocese of San Antonio that at best called Phillips's judgment into question, leading to further deterioration in the prestige of the "Anglican Catholic" movement.
  • The continuing failure of the original Anglicanorum coetibus model to attract existing "Anglican Catholic" parishes -- especially prosperous and successful TEC ones -- into the OCSP has effectively destroyed any initial optimism about the project. This is reflected in the disappearance of "Anglican Catholic" blogs that had been optimistic about the project.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

No Rhyme Or Reason

A visitor with experience of the early intake process for ex-Anglicans in the OCSP reacts to yesterday's post:
There was never . . . a clear set of guidelines and responsibilities for candidates and the organization. We were told once at a meeting that we were canonically the equivalent of seminarians, but never pointed in the direction of what that actually entailed. I presume that everything was done on the fly and very much based on ad hoc application of rules to accomplish ordination/ deployment based on the whims and personal likes/dislikes of Steenson, Hough and the now laicized former TEC priest [Hurd] provided by the Archdiocese of Washington.
My regular correspondent registered something like the same puzzlement:
Jonathan Mitchican, former rector of Church of the Holy Comforter, Drexel Hill was received into the Church last summer, as we read here. He, however, was not forced to "gather" half a dozen potential converts to say Evensong in his living room under the patronage of St Swithun to justify his eventual ordination. Instead he was given a job working on "special projects" with Fr Sellers at St John XXIII Preparatory School on Katy, TX, also doing supply teaching and assisting the Chaplain, another OCSP priest, Fr Scott Blick. I think that this indicates that Mr Mitchican is seen as having real potential. Certainly this account is more reassuring than Mr Tipton's prose.
My correspondent in fact clarified that Mr Mitchicam was a TEC clergyman for 11 years and had become a rector. He also relocated with his family to the Houston area, which suggests that other possibilities may be in line for him in the OCSP. Even so, given his experience in real pastoral leadership, he's underemployed in "special projects" and substitute teaching. This says that even if his talents are recognized, there's currently no place where they can be effectively used, while rather sketchily qualified candidates are being ordained and put in charge of the Potemkin groups.

I think it's probably correct to say there's no real vision in Houston for where things might be taken, nor how existing talents might best be used. I would agree with the visitor who sees little change between Steenson and Lopes in this regard.

UPDATE: My regular correspondent notes, "Mr Mitchican was ordained deacon earlier this year and is scheduled to be ordained priest August 22, 2018. I think they have plans for him." Still, it's hard to see how Blake/Gregory Tipton and Mitchican seem to have been on roughly the same schedule for ordination -- Tipton possibly even faster -- when Mitchican had 11 years of real TEC pastoral experience; Tipton had only been baptized in 2009.

Monday, June 18, 2018

What Are They Thinking?

Pretty much from the first time I heard about Anglicanorum coetibus, I also thought about the economic question connected with it: the Anglican job market for clergy is in surplus, while the Catholic job market is in shortage. By and large, regular parish positions for TEC clergy pay well, with good health and retirement benefits, and they occupy prestigious positions in their communities. However, the number of TEC (and for that matter "continuing") parishes continues to decline, while especially for TEC, openly gay, female, and even transgendered candidates have come into an applicant pool already in surplus.

Nevertheless, even with Anglicanorum coetibus allowing married candidates to apply to become Catholic priests, Catholic salaries are meant to support celibate clergy, and retirement benefits don't extend to wives. Catholic priests in diocesan parishes work a lot harder and deal more routinely with problems of the poor. So Anglican candidates are likely to favor any Anglican (especially TEC) jobs they can find -- ordinariate jobs are going to be a last resort prior to finding a new career (which would probably be a better idea for most in any case). This means that an ordinariate applicant pool is going to be made up of Anglican priests whose careers have stalled or never quite started, and we've seen this with many OCSP ordinands.

But beyond that, there are cases that strike me as instances where, married or not, an OCSP candidate would not have gotten very far with a diocesan vocations director, who quite possibly might have decided the candidate did not have an authentic vocation. In general, a diocesan candidate for the priesthood is expected (with exceptions in specific cases) to have lived in the diocese and to have participated in Catholic parish life to the extent that he's already known to diocesan clergy and laity. From having local priests familiar with him, through formation in seminary and regular contact with a vocations director, a diocesan candidate's character and suitability are assessed over a period of years.

This isn't happening in the OCSP, and troubling issues continue to emerge. My regular correspondent started out seriously concerned with Gregory Tipton's writing -- Tipton is to be ordained in the OCSP later this month and will be at the St Aelred group in Athens, GA. Here is a comment by him at the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society blog:

Thus what once was familiar and casual (du, tu, you) may develop to be for fittingly, given the telos of Liturgy, to be translated as something Familiar but Not Casual (Thou, Thee). Such is arguably also the case with calling a spouse “Beloved,” whereas it may once have been regarded as too formal, It may now be used as a familiar yet non casual manner, such as when a lover seeks to seriously but intimately express their love to the spouse. So too it is with “Thee.”
This led another commenter to ask, sincerely, whether Tipton was a native English speaker. My own view is that this goes beyond sophomoric incoherence and approaches word salad, and it suggests some issue with thought processes. It also occurred to me that if Tipton's written expression is like this, any written reports from him, for instance to a TEC bishop, or job applications, would result in someone raising questions. No wonder his TEC career stalled -- as we see in the record.

Prior to his application to be ordained in the OCSP, Tipton's apparent sole pastoral experience was as chaplain to the Episcopal Center at the University of Georgia, which is sponsored by Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Athens, the parish where he was baptized in 2009, and which also sponsored him in seminary. But vestry minutes from 2014 at Emmanuel Episcopal indicate his duties there were minimal:

The lack of upkeep of the Episcopal Center buildings has been an issue for many years. The Hodgson House closed on Sunday, July 27. Church insurance refused to cover it so the building will be condemned and torn down soon. . . . Father Blake Tipton’s biggest job now is to close down the Hodgson House and clean up the chapel, possibly using the basement as an office.
It's worth noting that Tipton's full name is Gregory Blake Tipton. As a TEC priest, he went by "Blake". However, in anticipation of going into the OCSP, he changed to "Gregory". This is the same issue we've seen with Dcn Bengry, and I would guess that changing one's name would be just one issue a diocesan vocations director would wish to investigate more fully. Stability is part of fortitude, after all.

My regular correspondent suggests that closing down Hodgson House and cleaning up the chapel "was not a plum posting", while all of Blake/Gregory's fellow 2014 ordinands in the diocese received parish assignments.

That Blake/Gregory was only baptized in 2009, presumably just two years before entering seminary, raises another troubling question. How much serious reflection went into his choice of vocation, if he'd been a Christian for just two years? How well did he understand a priest's job before deciding to go to seminary? What would a Catholic diocesan vocations director say about this?

How much actual pastoral experience did Blake/Gregory have, if his duties in TEC were defined primarily as shutting down an uninsurable facility and cleaning up a chapel? How long was he employed in this job? What were his options when he left? What sort of efforts did he make to get other TEC jobs? What were the results?

What on earth is Houston thinking?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

More Developments Regarding Dcn Orr

I heard from a visitor who had been searching the web for information on the former deacon at Our Lady of the Atonement, James Orr, and possible violation of Church guidelines regarding protection of children. The visitor had been connected with the Atonement Academy in the past and ran into a former student there, now grown. The visitor had apparently been unaware that Orr was since "retired" from the parish and that there is apparently now pending legal action. However,
Her classmates told her that Deacon Orr had invited three of her male class mates (they were in high school) to his home to “fix” his computer. The students reportedly found child pornography on his computer but did not dare to inform police.

After hearing this from [the former student] I immediately submitted a tip to the FBI online. An officer got in touch with me the following day. I gave him all the information I had but of course he needs to come into contact with the individuals themselves.

If anyone has contacted you with information about this incident please have them contact the San Antonio FBI, officer Jeffrey Allovio.

Jeffrey Allovio
Badge #624
FBI San Antonio Child Exploitation Task Force
(210) 650-6238 FBI office
(210) 777-0730 mobile

Thank you for publishing the information you have and calling on others who are in a position to do so to act.

From the incomplete information I've heard up to now about Orr's conduct, this appears to be a new allegation, but it certainly gives perspective to prior actions by the archdiocese in ordering Orr's retirement, as well as subsequent actions by the archdiocese in announcing a credible allegation of misconduct, and by the archdiocese and later the OCSP in barring him from the property, at least in theory -- this report from last March indicates he attends mass there whenever Fr Phillips celebrates it, and his apparent special relationship with Fr Phillips clearly continues.

Since at the time of this apparently new allegation, Phillips and Orr lived in homes on adjacent properties that were connected by a back gate, it's hard to imagine that Phillips did not know of students at the school being invited to Orr's home.

The visitor reports a "tense and strange environment" at the school at the time the visitor was there, which is borne out by other reports from OLA members. It's hard not to surmise that the availability of the school, and the exclusive "Episcopalian" atmosphere of the parish, led at least some parishioners to look the other way over the creepier aspects of parish life. It's also hard for me to avoid thinking that the OCSP priests who are trying to replicate the "Phillips model" of parish growth may be getting a bit too much in that bargain.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Yet More On The St Aelred Group

I got a long, informative, and insightful e-mail from a visitor who, while not a member of the Athens, GA group, is clearly quite familiar with it. To comment adequately on the e-mail, I'm going to break it up and discuss its observations separately.
In general, I think you make some insightful and important points, however, at other times I think you may be speculating a little too wildly. For instance, the name Aelred was chosen very intentionally, with a full understanding of the gay connection in the Anglican communion, because of the members’ particular devotion to his works “Spiritual Friendship” And “Mirror of Charity.” There was, I think, some idea of “reclaiming” the saint from affirming groups that motivated their decision. . . . it was clear that Houston was aware of the connection, and had encouraged the group to proceed carefully. (To that, I should mention, my Spiritual director was very happy with the decision, who as a Cistercian has a great love for Aelred.)
We're nevertheless looking at a very young ex-Protestant long on naive enthusiasm and short on experience and, we might surmise, caution -- and Houston's response is to "proceed carefully". Indeed. My regular correspondent's reaction is
"Reclaiming" St Aelred is a mug's game; miscommunication on the one side, antagonism on the other.
I agree that the situation seems ripe for one set of listeners to hear one thing about "spiritual friendship" and another group another, and this is complicated by the contemporary idea that there is something called "being gay" that's separate from, but in the view of some justifies, same-sex conduct. I would say that a priest who's quite a bit older and probably quite a bit smarter should be handling this sort of thing. Prudence is the queen of virtues. I don't see it anywhere near this situation.

The visitor continues,

You also seem to be confused as to the level of formation and parish involvement the community has. I believe they all attended RCIA at St Joseph’s in Athens, and now attend mass there together (until a weekly DW Mass can be offered). From the outside, they really just look like a group with weird liturgy sponsored by the parish. Mr. Tipton himself is being mentored by the two priests in Athens, and the pastor of St. James in Madison (about 20 minutes away). The Pastor at St. James, I’ve been told, is getting permission to say the DW form for the community.
My regular correspondent comments,
Nobody was suggesting that the core group of new Catholics at St Aelred's was not adequately prepared. They went through the RCIA process at St Joseph's and have been attending the parish OF mass there, except when Fr Perkins visited and celebrated DW. The point is that there is no way that group has seventy people in it. That would have been a number of receptions greater than all but two or three incoming OCSP groups of the last six years. Ten or twelve is a more typical number; many have been smaller. So most of the recent DW attendees were longer term Catholics looking, as your correspondent strangely put it, for a "less Evangelical Mass."
This puzzled me, too, and I followed up with the visitor on what he meant by "less Evangelical". He replied,
I don’t use evangelical negatively, I’m talking more about musical choice, prayer postures and such which bear a resemblance to Evangelical protestant worship. When I see guitars, contemporary music, people holding up their hands, etc. That is, in my mind, an Evangelical expression of worship. It’s not inherently irreverent, and can of course be very reverent. There just exists in that area a sizeable minority who would prefer a more solemn expression of worship.
So now we're in fact changing the subject, and we've gotten off Anglicans and reclaiming St Aelred and onto cradle Catholics who don't like hand-waving and guitars in mass. It seems to me that this is a problem with an entirely different remedy, especially since all but a few parts of the country lack the option of a nearby DW mass -- and even there, as my regular correspondent points out, many OCSP groups have only guitars themselves, and doubtless they wave their hands as well. So this is a straw man argument, and it misses the point.

Guitars and tambourines in mass reflect no formal music program, and that reflects no money for a formal music program. My visitor replied,

Huh. I’ve never drawn the connection between guitars and low funding. It makes sense, organs and singers get expensive.. but at the same time, there are certainly well funded programs that still use contemporary guitar music- think Bishop Barron’s word on fire conferences.
But in any case, before anyone decides to go the 3 PM DW mass route in the next county, the appropriate place to address this is with the parish pastor, the parish council, and the parish worship committee. As Fr Z puts it, you have to be wiling to support your preferences with a monetary contribution. If there's no organist and you want to hire one, this is clearly a major project. A group would need to undertake this with strong leadership and serious backing. I get the sense that people who sorta-kinda might want to go to a DW mass if someone else pays the organist aren't that kind of serious -- on the other hand, if they are serious, they don't need to go outside the parish and the diocese.

Now we get to the crux. My visitor concludes,

Their medievalism can be a little pretentious (they really are sort of Tolkien-y hipsters), but they’re generally well meaning and open to newcomers. I was in the area for Fr. Perkins’ Mass, and my understanding was that the 70+ was a blend of their members and local Catholics who were looking for a less Evangelical Mass, something I could never find when I lived there.
I think the bottom line is that a mixture of Tolkien-y hipsters and cradle Catholics without the fortitude to improve their worship environment in their own parishes isn't a recipe for success. Certainly when I anticipated what the OCSP would be in 2012, I never thought this was what it would turn out to be.

Friday, June 15, 2018

What's In The Name?

Regarding the St Aelred group, my regular correspondent notes,
The Rev'd Mr Tipton's blog of which you can read an example here is not overtly "affirming." I am sure that the name was chosen in an effort to add Olde Englishe tone. Frankly the blog reminds me of Fr Bartus' early efforts: Anglophilia, Wikipedia-level biblical/theological/historical insights, social activities involving Pimm's No 1 cup and bbq wings. Harmless, but sophomoric. In a normal Catholic parish a neophyte priest would be mentored by an experienced pastor.

Even if he had to be in charge right out of the seminary, often the case for TEC clergy, he would inherit experienced lay leaders and parishioners with institutional memory. In this case someone whose clerical experience was functioning briefly as a university chaplain is now in charge of making it up from scratch. I am sure the pastor of the host parish is available for advice, but frankly if we assume that the majority of the "70+" are/were his parishioners we can't really expect him to spend a lot of time mentoring Mr Tipton. And Houston is a long way away.

Regarding names, when Houston told St Timothy's, Ft Worth to move to the Diocesan Center chapel they were also told to choose a new name, according to their website. There is an OCSP St Timothy's in Catonsby, MD and a TEC St Timothy's, Ft Worth, so I can see why it was a good idea. The fact that this has not happened is another indication to me that the community is being allowed to wither away. There is already an OCSP St James, in Florida, but the other common TEC names are up for grabs.

The selection of someone who died rather than become an Anglican as the patron of an OCSP parish strikes me as odd, but there are two St Thomas More's and were two St John Fishers until the one in Arlington, VA folded, not to mention Holy Martyrs. [But why stop there? St Oliver Plunkett is available, too! --jb]

Mr Tipton strikes me as the sort who was trying to choose between St Aelred and St Swithun. Probably made a bad call.

Another possible parallel with Fr Bartus is that Mr Tipton probably also had no serious future with TEC. Nice kid, but the rectors, search committees, vestries, and bishops probably had plentiful supplies of better candidates. But that I should mention St Aelred and get almost immediate replies from several people concerning the (spurious) gay connection in TEC circles also indicates a tone-deafness. And as my correspondent puts it, Houston is a long way away.

Another visitor notes,

I thought the bit about St. Aelred blog sounding like wanting to be a part of Middle earth was funny! . . . But I suspect St. Aelred, which worships at 3 on Sunday, will be guided (or controlled) by the narrowly focused, and perhaps acute and opinionated members who make up their inner circle. Sometimes, it is my feeling that, in such communities, that growth is actually not wanted. Because if there is growth, then there is change. And then someone might say, "you know, we should have a think about the name of our parish". . ."and about this Middle Earth motif".
I think the surmise, that this guy is not a strong leader and probably tone deaf, is not a good augury for the future, and I can't avoid thinking this was a reaction in TEC. But Houston's the place that's going to put him in the microwave for 30 seconds and ordain him.