Sunday, December 17, 2017

By The Way, Just How Much Screening And Background Checking Does The OCSP Do?

My regular correspondent had this reaction to my thoughts yesterday on how candidates are evaluated, or not, for ordination in the OCSP:
Certainly the selection process for prospective OCSP clergy has improved since Msgr Steenson's day. Unlike Frs Hough III and Meeks, Fr Perkins visits communities in formation. The candidates gather in Houston for a week of formation several times a year. I would assume that the Ordinariate makes use of the resources of the local archdiocese or seminary to conduct psychological screening while candidates are in town. The first wave of clergy simply had to present a clean bill of mental health from any certified professional, someone they were responsible for finding and paying. Of course this still doesn't approach the scrutiny of normal seminary formation. And no one in Houston has access to the channels necessary for a meaningful background check of someone from a different denomination.
But wait a moment. a "week of formation several times a year" implies that the process of formation takes years for OCSP candidates. But Dcns Bengry and Beahen were ordained to the transitional diaconate less then a year after being received, and only months after moving to Calgary. They were in actual "residence" in Houston for only a week or two at best, as far as I can see.

Let's not mince words here. I've pointed out several issues of concern on this blog, Bengry has gone under different names in recent years, even now calling himself "Brother" Robert Charles Bengry on his blog, while his blog address is still robertshanebengry. He switched from Shane as a preferred given name to Robert about the time he decided to seek Roman Catholic ordination. His mother is also going under a different name, such that apparently the new name caused the Calgary parish not to recognize that "Sister" Mary Myrna is actually Shane's, er, Robert's mother.

Remarkably, I've had spontaneous and independent reports from Brandon, Carberry, and Calgary that Shane, er, Robert is "charming" but "manipulative" and gives some individuals a "bad feeling". (Oddly, the only other OCSP priest of whom I've had multiple complaints from multiple locations is Fr Kenyon.)

I've cited clear cases of deceptiveness on Dcn Bengry's part here, and evaluation of his statements on his own blog and on the Gilbertine site leads other informed observers to conclude that he is pushing ambiguities to the limit for his own benefit.

I won't go farther here than to suggest his family history is bizarre and troubling, something that would urgently need to be pursued in the course of any serious psychological evaluation.

Now let's look at a description of normative diocesan screening procedures for seminary candidates:

More than a decade after the priest sex abuse crisis shook the Catholic Church from its pews to the altar, American seminaries increasingly are focusing on forming the man before forming the priest, according to rectors and staff psychologists at seminaries across the United States.

Seminary applicants today undergo screening that includes written psychological tests and intensely personal interviews to determine if their emotional development is appropriate to their age. Such screenings show what further growth they need to serve as a priest or whether they are afflicted by serious mental health issues that should prevent them from priestly formation.

Farther down,
“Our society has malformed, and it has a tendency to malform us, so someone who has a tendency to be malformed must be identified at the beginning of the process to enter a seminary,” Father Przybilla told Our Sunday Visitor. “For our diocese that is particularly important coming at this time. People are asking of the seminary, ‘Are they doing their job?’”
I don't represent myself as a mental health professional, and I deeply distrust pop psychology. Nevertheless, a quick search of psychopathic traits on the web will bring up characteristics like these:
  • Glib and superficial charm
  • Manipulative
  • Willingness to take extreme risks
  • Poor behavior controls
  • Antisocial behavior like cheating and lying.
This site raises issues that should be of particular concern to those tasked with evaluating prospective priests:
Initially, psychopaths are highly reliable, devoted and trustworthy, then suddenly and without provocation, they become extremely unreliable and show no regard or interest to how their actions affect the situation, regardless of its importance. Where they were once viewed as being honest and with sincere intentions, they will do a sudden about face and begin lying without concerns. This holds true even in small matters when there is no benefit in lying, yet the psychopath will choose to be untruthful.

Because psychopaths have mastered the art of deception by presenting such positive behavior at first, those around them are slow to accept the abrupt change and total disregard for the relationship that was built. When psychopaths are finally confronted with their lack of responsibility, honesty or loyalty, it generally has no impact on their attitude or future performance.

I would suggest that a week or two of residence in Houston will not serve to root out problems like these. Clearly there are issues that diocesan staff concerned with clergy formation have had to confront, and I would assume that bitter experience has been part of their learning process.

As I've said before, there are red flags in Dcn Bengry's case that would come up with anyone who has ordinary common sense. So far, though, it appears that he's skated past whatever perfunctory screening Houston performs.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

St Aelred, Athens, GA?

My regular correspondent has come up with a new Potemkin village in the OCSP.
Scrolling through the parish list on the OCSP website on other business I came across a new name: St Aelred, Athens, GA The OCSP "Parish Finder," in its usual helpful, professional fashion, advised one to contact "Mr Gregory Tipton" for more information, without providing either a website, a phone number or an email address, but with a little effort I located a Facebook page. Apparently Mr Tipton, now a teacher at Msgr Donovan Catholic High School, waited until he got married in the summer of 2016 to discover that he was barking up the wrong tree as an Episcopal clergyman. His contact information and the fact that the "Episcopal Center at UGA" website has not been updated since Holy Week 2016, suggests that this position, which he took over after his ordination in 2014, disappeared at some point. I hate to appear cynical, but. . .
This raises two issues for me. The first is that this is entirely a clergy-centered enterprise: it's being set up to provide for Mr Tipton a path to ordination as an OCSP priest. The idea that lay people may wish to join the community is so secondary that no serious provision is made for them to find out where and when to meet, if this is at all possible. A reddit entry asks the pertinent question "Do they have a building yet?" The reply is,
While I'm not officially part of the community (hopefully one day), I am close to some of the people in it. As of now there's no building but they're looking high and low for possible locations! They've had a very cool journey however and God's definitely been opening doors for them.
This is telling -- it's pure blue sky. Isn't it completely premature to make any sort of announcement before a location can be found? But this will allow Bp Lopes to say in the next report he makes that "x new communities" have been formed. This benefits Bp Lopes, though I'm less and less certain how many of his colleagues this impresses.

The second issue is more troubling. The Pastoral Provision is still in effect for married priests from Anglican backgrounds to become Roman Catholic clergy. Most recently it appears that Philip Mayer, blocked from forming a Tampa-area OCSP group by the Bishop of St Petersburg, has been able to proceed to ordination under the Pastoral Provision in the same diocese. Clearly the bishop had no objection to married former Anglicans becoming priests in his own diocese. Did his reservations apply to the OCSP?

I'm new enough as a Catholic not to have an entirely clear picture of what a diocesan vocations director specifically does. However, I assume he plays a critical role in forming priests, and probably as well determining whether certain candidates have an authentic vocation. For Anglicans who didn't go through diocesan seminary, this would be even more important. Yet by and large, OCSP candidates bypass this sort of scrutiny. I wonder if this might have been part of the bishop's concerns in Tampa -- he presumably had no specific objection to Mr Mayer, but he may have wanted to assure himself that Mayer went through more thorough evaluation and formation under professionals who had his confidence.

Fr Perkins is listed on the OCSP staff page not only as Vicar General of the OCSP, but also Director of Clergy Personnel. I assume this duty incorporates both vicar for clergy and vocations director, but as far as I can tell, his experience prior to his appointment as vicar general after Bp Lopes's arrival had been entirely as a parish pastor, formerly Protestant. There are good reasons to question his qualifications, his incentives, and his judgment as a vocations director.

Look at the examples of Dcns Bengry and Beahen. Neither man is married. Based on their stories, they spent some period of time in discernment over whether to become Catholic priests. Did they ever make a serious effort, while living in Brandon, MB, to contact the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Winnipeg? As far as I can see, as happened with Fr Barker when he left St Mary's, there was no canonical obstacle to their undergoing formation as celibate diocesan priests. If they did contact the archdiocese, what was the result? If they didn't, why not? Instead, their main effort was clearly to become OCSP priests in Calgary, AB, 695 miles away.

One answer, of course, would be that professional vocations directors in Winnipeg would have far better experience, resources, and contacts to conduct real background checks on Bengry and Beahen in Brandon and determine whether they had authentic vocations. This might have included inquiries into how Beahen behaved while working as a bartender at the Carberry Motor Inn, or other observations of public intoxication by both. It appears that neither had an entirely savory reputation in the community.

Instead, they seem to have gone through Fr Perkins, with little time and apparently little experience in such background checks and evaluations. In this, I think Bp Lopes is also at least tacitly complicit.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Hold On! Somebody Else Is The Last Of The Gilbertines!

A visitor e-mails:

As far as I know +William Paul Vincent Hains-Howard a Canadian Old Catholic bishop styled himself the last of the Gilbertines. So there is a Canadian connection.

One of the more Anglican bishops up there told me that he used to wear a huge pointy miter at various functions. LOL!

I think he’s been departed since the late eighties, early nineties.

In all this I don’t understand +Lopes. Lean and mean would be a better approach rather than replication of officialdom. Everyone forgets that Episcopalianism started out in a house church in Scotland.

Google isn't much help here. The only reference I can find is on the site of the Neo-Luciferian Church, which describes itself as Apostolic and Gnostic, and frankly, that's about as far as I prefer to go.

There are certain sections of the Anglican patrimony. . .

I've asked a few of my contacts if they have other info on Bp Hains-Howard, but so far, nothing's come up.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Little Bit More On Habits

Yesterday I gave a hypothetical situation, "And if I were indeed to go to mass dressed in a Franciscan habit and call myself 'Brother John', I believe Fr Bob would, er, take me aside, notwithstanding there’s no dress code and we’re all brothers and sisters." The visitor who raised the original question that led to this post replied,
Yes, the pastor or the bishop obviously can intervene if somebody is acting in a manner that misleads others.

But, more importantly, the case of wearing clothing that’s substantially similar to the habit of an order to which one does not belong would constitute trademark infringement. That obviously would be a much more serious matter than simply introducing yourself to other members of your parish as “Brother John.”

But I think a more important issue is the one raised by the visitor I quoted this morning:
I can form a private association prayer group at my church, appoint myself Supreme Poobah, wear religious type of clothing and adorn myself with all sorts of private devotion images and accoutrements. Unfortunately, that would cause quite a bit of confusion from those who do not necessarily know me in regard to my public/private religious affiliation status. If I do or say untoward things in this garb, I run the serious risk of committing scandal and damaging the Body of Christ in His Church.
The garb of the Gilbertines is unique and doesn't violate any copyright. Yet the instance Dcn Bengry cites in his own 2012 homily, of appearing to be intoxicated in public and, whether in a habit or not, recognized as clergy by a parishioner, ought to be cause for disquiet, as the potential for scandal here is not remote, irrespective of copyright violation.

Yet More On The Gilbertines As A Private Association

A cradle Catholic from the US comments,
I read your blog today and I have in fact pondered those things. I also, after reading your earlier posts re: slander, calumny et. al., I did some internet searching on Brother/Deacon Bengry. It led me to some very interesting sites and some sad conclusions.

Here is the gist of what I learned from the Gilbertines’ own website and Brother/Dn. Bengry’s blogs:

  • Brother Bengry was an Anglican who was an Anglican minister, who in 2009 founded a community called the Community of Sts. James & John. This group was recognized by the Anglican Diocese of Brandon, Canada in 2010 and Br. Bengry was voted the Prior General. There is some ambiguity about whether the group split in two or simply renamed itself as the Gilbertine Order of Sempringham when Br. Bengry made known his intention to take the group into the Catholic Church. Brother Bengry renounced his Anglican Orders and converted to Catholicism in 2016. At this point, the Gilbertines became a PRIVATE association, not sponsored by or approved by any Roman Catholic Diocese or the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Br. Bengry became a Deacon in 2017 and is in the process of becoming a Catholic priest for the OCSP.
  • Br./Dn. Bengry gains income as a contract heraldic artist.
  • Br./Dn. Bengry imagined and designed the symbolism for the blazon, arms and crest he was granted and registered as an individual that is now used by the Gilbertines as their Coat of Arms and religious medallions.
I saw nothing that led me to believe the Gilbertine Order of Sempringham is a not-for-profit, charitable organization, directly associated with the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. I saw links to various places on the OCSP website which IMPLY direct connection to the Ordinariate and/or that the OCSP is sponsoring them. I also saw a purported Benedictine medal that can ward off witchcraft and other evil spirits. Although the original Benedictine designed (and the more familiar 100 anniversary version) medals are credited with these powers, as a cradle Catholic with familiarity with many different devotional medals, I am dubious that this completely re-designed medal, while tasteful, holds the same power. Yes, these new medals are blessed, but the original Benedictine medals gained the power they wield from the intense witness and faith of St. Benedict and his followers. I’m not sure if the GSmp follow Benedictine or Augustine rule or something else entirely so, as of yet, these new medals are unproven in that regard.

Br./Dn. Bengry and his associates state up front they are a private association, but they seem to want to have it both ways. I can form a private association prayer group at my church, appoint myself Supreme Poobah, wear religious type of clothing and adorn myself with all sorts of private devotion images and accoutrements. Unfortunately, that would cause quite a bit of confusion from those who do not necessarily know me in regard to my public/private religious affiliation status. If I do or say untoward things in this garb, I run the serious risk of committing scandal and damaging the Body of Christ in His Church. Do Br./Dn Bengry, Br./Dn. Beahen and Sr. Myrna cause scandal by these ambiguous accessories? I don’t know, but I would bet it does cause confusion/misperceptions.

As a life-long Catholic I have known publically professed Brothers, Sisters, nuns (yes, there is a difference between Sisters and nuns), priests, and even one person publicly professed to the Ancient Order of Virgins living in the World. Last I checked, the title of Brother or Sister used for a person in the Catholic Church means that person has taken vows of chastity, poverty and obedience in a public religious order, not privately as these have done to their private Prior General (on a side note, who does the Prior General profess his vows to, himself? Who does the Prior General obey? Who owns the property?).

These three people are certainly entitled to call each other Brother and Sister within their private association but when they insist/encourage other Catholic faithful who are not a part of their private association to also call them by these tites or use them in public association correspondence, that to me, is VERY misleading. Maybe that’s the way Anglicans do it but I wasn’t raised Anglican so I don’t know. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for private devotions and associations. I’m just not at all in for confusing the faithful or the public at large with quasi-public/private religious titles or orders.

You sure know how to kick over hornets’ nests.

I make no secret of the fact that I'm not optimistic about the future of the OCSP. In the past, I think the evidence has pointed to the prelature slowly dying out, with the gathered groups fading due to actuarial reality and lack of new interest, while the dozen or so viable communities are re-absorbed or absorbed de novo into dioceses. That would have the world ending in ice. But now I wonder if there's a very real possibility of the OCSP collapsing in real scandal, driven by the lack of experience and unfamiliarity with monasticism that must be the case with Fr Perkins, along with what may well be Bp Lopes's eagerness to show progress and consequent unwillingness to ask hard questions. That would be the world ending in fire, which was Robert Frost's preference.

My regular correspondent commented on yesterday's posts,

I suppose we can console ourselves with the fact that whatever we and the SJE congregation do not know or understand about the fine points of vows and the canonical situation of the Gilbertines, Bp Lopes has the picture, at least on this subject. Before ordination they would have been required to disclose their financial situation, and presumably reconcile it with the requirements of the rules of the association, whatever they might be. I think that if things go pear at SJE it will be because of Dcn Bengry's unstable temperament. His repeated attempts to hit back at you I find quite disconcerting and completely inconsistent with the character of a priest or a religious. And the family history is not reassuring. If I were in charge I would have wanted to observe them in a parish setting far, far longer before going ahead with ordination.
One small footnote is the remark in the CCCB booklet cited yesterday, that "an annual rendering of accounts allows for a certain measure of verification as to whether the goods have been applied for the purposes of the association." It seems to me that this is essential, given the controversies we've begun to see dating from the brothers' time in the Anglican Diocese of Brandon. Yet Fr Perkins almost certainly doesn't have the experience to supervise such a thing, nor the resources to contract for it. And the first annual rendering of accounts should occur on July 1, 2018, just six months from now.

Given Dcn Bengry's public record of deceptiveness, cited just yesterday, his clear tendency to push ambiguities to the limit that we see in the Gilbertines' web sites, and possible evidence of his unstable personality, I don't see a good outcome here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Back To The Matter Of Habits And Titles

A visitor with a background in canon law remarks,
I’m not aware of anything in the Codex Juris Canonici that stipulates who is or is not entitled to use the titles of “brother” and “sister” — but theologically, these titles actually are proper to every baptized Christian. With God as our adoptive father, we all are siblings in our Lord, which is why religious orders, in seeking to live the gospel more fully, started using them.
Naturally, a pastor may often address us as "my brothers and sisters" in a homily, and this would not be inaccurate or in any way reprehensible. Nor, as far as I'm aware, is there anything in the canons that prevents me from wearing a Franciscan habit if I choose, especially in the back yard. Nor, as far as I can see, especially if I can come to mass in shorts, flip-flops, and a torn t-shirt, is there anything that prevents me, canonically, from coming to mass in a Franciscan habit.

However, in the case I covered here of the ACA priest who styled himself OSA though he had never been an Augustinian, the regional superior of the Augustinians whom I consulted made it clear the guy was not entitled to say he’s OSA. And if I were indeed to go to mass dressed in a Franciscan habit and call myself “Brother John”, I believe Fr Bob would, er, take me aside, notwithstanding there’s no dress code and we’re all brothers and sisters.

Some things are misleading and could represent a danger to the flock even if the canons have no opinion.

The Matter Of Truthfulness

In his recent blog post, Dcn Bengry refers to me as
. . . a certain blogger. . . . [who] claims he’s happy to be corrected, but that’s not really the case and I know this because I tried to do so early on. (According to his many uncorrected claims, for example, Father Hodgins was apparently retired months ago.) He ignored the corrections he couldn’t dispute and used the rest to fuel further waves of calumnious speculation.
"Calumnious speculation" is a serious charge, since calumny is a mortal sin. According to catechsim 2482, "A lie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving." The one example Dcn Bengry gives of calumny I may have committed, though, is puzzling. He says,
According to his many uncorrected claims, for example, Father Hodgins was apparently retired months ago.
But in the post that mentions Fr Hodgins, I didn't say anything about Fr Hodgins at all -- I quoted my regular correspondent, who said,
Fr Hodgins wishes to retire from STM, Toronto.
My correspondent confirmed this just now, saying,
Regarding Fr Hodgins, whom he mentioned in passing as an example of your misinformation: Fr Hodgins announced that he wished to retire as of 2017. As no replacement has been located, he continues to celebrate mass at STM.
So let's go through this. I quoted my regular correspondent, who said Fr Hodgins "wishes to retire", which as far as anyone can determine was then, and is now, accurate. But I didn't say it, my correspondent did. But Dcn Bengry said I claimed Fr Hodgins was apparently retired. I never said any such thing. Beyond that, Dcn Bengry implies he tried to correct this misinformation, which I never gave, but I didn't correct it. I have no record of this in my e-mails from Bengry.

Out of those who read this post -- which contains no link to anything I may have said about Fr Hodgins, and indeed no link to my blog at all -- I can't imagine anyone would try to search my blog for Fr Hodgins's name to double-check Dcn Bengry's claim.

So let me get this straight. He becomes guilty of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them. Dcn Bengry cites the false example above as his only support for using terms like calumny, libel, one who is "set upon sowing seeds of discord", and so forth.

At minimum, Dcn Bengry's reaction to my posts verges on being unhinged, but that he himself should resort to making false accusations is troubling. As a true crime fan and sometime juror, I would note that a standard US jury instruction is that if a witness is shown to have lied on one matter, his credibility can be called into question on any other matter.