Monday, July 22, 2019

David Virtue On TEC Bishop Love's Options

David Virtue has been covering the controversy over Episcopalian Bishop of Albany William Love, who has refused to accept same-sex marriage in his diocese, although the TEC General Convention has approved it. He discusses Love's options:
1. He can retire and leave the mess for someone else. That seems unlikely. He is not a quitter and he is fighting now and will continue to do so until he retires. It is highly unlikely that he would abandon his mostly Anglo-Catholic priests.

2. He could ask the diocese if it would consider resigning en masse and align with the ACNA. But this is fraught with legal land mines, resulting in his immediate inhibition, presentment and expulsion, and the real possibility that all the parishes would lose their buildings. The diocese doesn't have the money for a protracted legal battle and probably not the stomach for it either.

3. If he loses the ecclesiastical battle in a trial, and that could happen, that is, General Convention resolutions override diocesan canon laws, then he could face presentment and be tossed out of the church, thus paving the way for a new bishop.

. . .

5. This could result in wholesale resignations by priests in the diocese who may feel they have no future with a bishop who does not share their Catholic faith. Furthermore, with some 16 parishes unable now to pay their diocesan dues, it is likely that a wholesale revolt by the remaining parishes would virtually bankrupt the diocese.

6. Anglo Catholicism is in trouble in general and more so in towns still heavily dominated by a sterile Roman Catholicism.

Virtue's overall analysis of Love's position vis-a-vis The Episcopal Church is realistic, I think, but it's significant that he doesn't see Anglicanorum coetibus anywhere in the range of options, which is also a realistic point of view. A potential option for the diocese is to go with the ACNA, although the legal consequences would be self-defeating. The same would apply to a hypothetical move into the North American ordinariate, which let's recall was originally conceived in the late 1970s as a version of "continuing" Anglicanism, a corporate refuge for conservative parishes and conceivably dioceses disaffected with the TEC controversy-of-the-year.

Virtue thinks there could be wholesale resignations by priests, but of course, the dog that isn't barking is the essentially non-existent option for them to become priests in the ordinariate -- TEC priests who have been rectors of successful parishes and then become Catholic ordinariate priests for purely doctrinal reasons have been quite rare after the first wave. The intake has been primarily from fringe Anglican or non-Anglican denominations and men who haven't had established careers.

While Virtue's use of the term "Anglo Catholicism" is imprecise here, I think he's correct in seeing it as having only boutique appeal even in the North American ordinariate. There are "affirming" Episcopalian Anglo-Catholic parishes that are successful in upscale urban communities like midtown Manhattan and Hollywood. But that form of Anglo-Catholicism isn't even all that prevalent in the ordinariate. And it's worth pointing out that the most punctilious liturgical observance in the TEC Anglo-Catholic parishes goes with wholehearted acceptance of TEC's positions on sexuality. Liturgy by itself accomplishes nothing.

While I certainly disagree with Virtue theologically, I think he's an accurate observer of the dilemma facing high-church Protestantism. The outcome is not conversion to Catholicism, it's a general falling away from Christianity.

Cloning "continuing" Anglicanism hasn't been an effective strategy. Liturgy by itself isn't a solution, and it hasn't been uniformly applied even within the ordinariate.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

"A New Kind Of Catholic Church Is Coming To Jacksonville"

My regular correspondent found this post on the Facebook page of the Anglican Ordinariate Forum, referring to the St James St Augustine, FL group now moving to Jacksonville.

It's accompanied by the photo at left. Just lookinig at the photo, I'm not sure what's "new" about it. Looking closely at the enlarged original on the Facebook page, it's possible to see that the celebration is ad orientem, and we may assume that the sacrament is received kneeling at the communion rail, but neither is especially prominent, and the statues of the Blessed Virgin and the Sacred Heart are just plain ol' Catholic.

In fact, as we've seen, the suburban Baltimore communities celebrate versus populum and incorporate charismatic and pentecostal features in their worship -- but apparently this particular "new" won't be part of the Jacksonville project. My regular correspondent observes,

Unfortunately, those attracted by the prospect of "old traditions" "solemnity" and "formality" in the reasonably attractive church depicted---St Benedict the Moor, St Augustine---may be somewhat dismayed when they discover that the St James, Jacksonville worship space is not exactly as pictured. On the other hand, those who have read a more recent posting on the site, regarding the detestable enormity of the "orans" posture during the Our Father, and the even more objectionable practice of holding hands, " both...touchy-feely borrowings from non-Catholic practices, used in western neo-churches so recently born that no element of their worship merits application of the word 'tradition', " may be alarmed to see the attendees of St James indulging in both these practices in the photos supplied.
As a reminder, at right is their new worship space. What is the objective here? Although there's a reference to "old traditions" in the Facebook post, a school cafetorium isn't especially traditional. And how many tradition-minded Anglicans will they recruit in Jacksonville from the ordinariate Facebook page? The style of worship in the Bible Belt generally isn't like that. My regular correspondent points out that Fr Mayer's background in The Episcopal Church was not Anglo-Catholic; he was running a startup meeting at the Marriott in The Colony, TX, but at this point, he's been Catholic longer than he was ever Anglican.

I think we're looking at a half-baked effort to follow the California model of going after disaffected diocesan traddies. This has been more successful in some cases than trying to clone "continuing" Anglicanism in the Catholic Church, but it has two disadvantages that won't work to its long-term success. The first problem is that diocesan bishops will get wise to what's happening -- their own parishes are being poached -- but in addition, the ordinariate model is to put poorly formed men into unpredictable situations without supervision.

The bishops won't like that much, either.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Luke Reese Update

A visitor sent me a link to a recent post at Simcha Fisher's blog:
The disgraced Roman Catholic priest Luke Reese, who was convicted of beating his wife and holding her against her will, is now living as a “caretaker” on a property listed as the headquarters for a charity under the legal control of the Archbishop of Indianapolis.

Also living on the property, according to the records we reviewed, is Sister Judith Ayers who is listed as treasurer of the charity, and who publicly defended Reese’s innocence. The charity in question, Heart of Mercy Solitude Inc., has not filed federal tax returns in more than a decade.

. . . Reese was sentenced to one year of house arrest, as well as probation. On June 20 Reese’s request to transfer his probation to Owen County was granted by the court in Marion County. The new address, according to the court’s order, is in the town of Spencer in Owen County. The same address Reese gives for his new home in court records is also given as the principal address for an legal entity named Heart of Mercy Solitude Inc.

. . . According to documents on file with the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office, Heart of Mercy Solitude Inc., is a charity with a sole member, the Archbishop of Indianapolis. The articles of incorporation, filed in 2009, list John Jay Mercer, the archdiocesan attorney, as incorporator, and Monsignor Joseph Schaedel as the registered agent. Schaedel’s address is given as the Archdiocesan offices of 1400 North Meridian. St. Sister Judith Ayers is listed as the treasurer. Ayers, according to the Archdiocesan magazine, “lives a life consecrated to God outside of a religious order.”

. . . The documents do not give any indication as to what, exactly, Heart of Mercy Solitude Inc. does as a charitable organization, and the group has not filed a federal tax return, a 990, since 2002. That return was not immediately available. The only constant is Ayers. The principal address of the organization listed in Indiana state filings often mirror Ayers’s own address.

Ayers was listed as the treasurer of the organization when it was active in Arkansas in the 1990s. It is not clear how much money the organization collects in revenue, where that money comes from, or how it is spent.

Heart of Mercy Solutide Inc. listed the Spencer property as the principal address for Heart of Mercy Solitude Inc. in October of 2018, according to state records. The property is described as a 30 acre property with two houses on site, one for Ayers, and one for Reese and his children when he has them for visitation, according to the notice for relocation Reese filed in court as part of his divorce case.

. . . The owner of the Spencer property told us he is renting the property to Ayers, though he declined to disclose the monthly rent. The property is more than 50 miles from Indianapolis, where five of the children live with their mother, and where Reese works as a manager in a restaurant.

Ayers has a history of supporting Reese, and has made public statements blaming the victim for the assault, which Reese himself has also done.

My regular correspondent observed,
Sounds like Sister Judith is a hermitess, like Sister Myrna. And like her and Dr Hicks [associated with Fr Borley Bengry in Manitoba], an enabler. How interesting. One has to admire Ms Fisher's zeal as a researcher.
Although the post was written by Ms Fisher's husband, as a team, they're pretty good. Unfortunately, I think they have an agenda that detracts to some extent from their good work, since the subtext of the story is to hang the Reese affair on the Archdiocese of Indianapolis:
We found the information about Reese’s new home as the Indianapolis Archdiocese finds itself mired in scandal over the treatment of gay teachers at Catholic high schools. The archdiocese is currently being sued by one teacher fired from an archdiocesan school, and the diocese stripped Jesuit Brebeuf Preparatory School of its official Catholic identity when the Jesuit leadership refused to fire a gay teacher at its school. The two teachers in question are married to each other.
But the issue isn't gay teachers and Jesuits, the issue is the consistent very poor judgment shown by a succession of vocation directors in Houston. Reese should never have been ordained, and corners were probably cut to be able to claim an Indianapolis community on he parish finder map. There was a series of red flags in Reese's case, as there were in cases like Treco, Borley Bengry, and Beahen -- and there's reason to question other recent ordinations.

As long as Reese is away from his former parish and doesn't represent himself as an active priest, he himself isn't a problem, and his case will proceed through official channels as it proceeds. But he returns now and then to some sort of prominence at least as a reminder that the problems in Houston that created his particular case haven't been fixed.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Report On The 2018 Bishop's Appeal

A little-noticed feature in the current Ordinariate Observer (p 34) is a list of the communities that met or exceeded their goals for the 2018 Bishop's Appeal.

To recap, each community's goal for the ordinariate's bishop's appeal is assessed based on a proportion of the tithe each parish sends to Houston. The tithe is sent directly from parish funds that come from pledges and other income. The bishop's appeal is raised via individual contributions from parishioners and represents a separate fundraising challenge that's the responsibility of the priest. Although it's expected that the contributions from individual parishioners will meet the goal, any shortfall is assessed directly from parish funds in the following year.

It's something of a blot on a parish record not to meet the goal, while it's a matter of pride for a new priest in a parish to establish a record of meeting the goal where it had previously not been met.

A special twist that applies to the North American ordinariate is that, as we've seen, the proceeds from the bishop's appeal go almost entirely to the chancery's operating budget for expenses like the bishop's travel and communications, rather than to mission-oriented or charitable projects, which is the case in territorial dioceses.

Taken from the Observer story, here's the list, in alphabetical order:

Blessed John Henry Newman Irvine
Blessed John Henry Newman Victoria
Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham Houston
Christ the King Towson
Corpus Christi Charleston, SC
Holy Martyrs Temecula
Holy Nativity Payson
Our Lady and St John Louisville
Our Lady of the Atonement San Antonio
St Alban Rochester
St Barnabas Omaha
St Bede St Paul Park MN (now closed)
St Benedict Mundare AB
St George Republic MO
St James St Augustine FL
St John the Baptist Bridgeport PA
St John Vianney Cleburne TX
St Timothy Catonsville MD

My regular correspondent remarked,

This means that half the OCSP communities did not meet their assessed goal, including six (half) the full parishes. St John the Evangelist, Calgary was one of the parishes which failed to meet its goal, which as we learned previously was $6,055---not a vast sum. UPDATE: This is the 2019 goal. Prior years' goals, as I understand it, were higher, and this year's goal was reduced. We don't know if the parish will meet this year's goal.

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. And vice-versa.

In addition, St Mary the Virgin, Arlington TX; St Luke, Washington, DC; St Thomas More, Scranton; Incarnation, Orlando; and Mt Calvary, Baltimore were full parishes that did not meet their goals. A territorial diocese might consider reassigning more capable priests to parishes like these, but the ordinariate is severely limited in its ability to relocate priests with their families, not to mention the limited supply of competent personnel at its diesposal. The impression I have is that St Thomas More and St Luke are very marginal operations that could, under equivalent Anglican canons, lose their parish status and be placed directly under the bishop's budgetary and administrative control.

In addition, Mt Calvary Baltimore, which as far as we can determine has a generous endowment that funds a catered brunch following Sunday mass, was unable to meet its goal. We may assume that this is no matter to the parish or its priest, since the subsequent assessment for the shortfall will also be paid from endowment income. What a commentary on this group and its priest.

But overall, this record is an indication of how marginal the whole ordinariate operation is.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

What About The Uighurs?

One area where I've grown increasingly skeptical of Francis-bashing is the criticism we've seen, for example in yesterday's post, of the deal he made with the Chinese government that seeks to unify the official and underground Church there. My wife has mentioned several times the radical difference between how Catholics and Muslim Uighurs are treated in China. For example, I found this piece in Bloomberg Opinion:
The evidence is mounting that China is expanding its campaign against the Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking, Muslim minority. Testimonials of survivors describe torture and near-starvation at the province’s so-called “re-education centers.” Investigative reports detail the state’s separation of Uighur children from their families and forced attendance at high-walled kindergartens. Academic research has unearthed state documents showing this campaign is deliberate and escalating.

. . . Last summer, United Nations investigators estimated that 1 million Uighurs were in the camps. In May, Randall Schriver, the U.S. assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security, estimated that at least 3 million Uighurs are being detained. (Other U.S. officials tell me this larger estimate includes people who are compelled to visit a re-education facility but still live in their homes.)

My impression is that, in contrast, Catholics have been forced to remove crosses and crucifixes from the outside of church buildings, there are restrictions on steeple height, and in some cases, overzealous officials have forced church demolitions -- but so far, there are no re-education camps. I assume the Vatican is fully aware of conditions in China, for Catholics and other Christians, as well as for groups like the Uighurs. None of this is cause for celebration.

But I mentioned Pius XII yesterday. I read and speak German, and I've been interested in the country's modern history, Catholics under the National Socialist regime were in a precarious situation. Accounts from ordinary officers in the armed forces indicate that even regular attendance at mass could bring unwelcome attention from the Gestapo, as Catholics were felt to have better informal networks that could, and did, lead to assassination conspiracies, however feckless they all proved to be.

Pius XII was fully aware of the measures the National Socialists took against the Jews, and as a diplomat who'd spent years in Germany earlier in his career, he fully understood they were capable of further measures against Catholics -- which Bismark had undertaken in the Kulturkampf. The issues on which Pacelli compromised with Hitler in 1934 were of long standing in that context.

Pacelli himself, as a diplomat, went on to strike a much-criticized deal with Hitler’s Third Reich in 1934, after six months of talks. Again, the removal of Catholics from political life, including the decimation of the Center Party, formed part of a deal that offered concessions on Catholic education and law. But just as the Italian Catholics turned to the fascists when their political outlet was shut down, so too the Germans lurched towards Hitler’s Nazi Party. Long before he was Pope, Pacelli was accused of giving Vatican sign-off to German control of coveted regions, in return for other political favours.
I think Pius was acutely aware of the atmosphere in Berlin, and the potential for anti-Catholic measures much more severe than those in place must have been in his mind. I think he also had to be aware of the unrealistic nature of Catholic plots to decapitate the Third Reich and the potential for widespread retribution against Catholics that could potentially ensue. The link above gives some insight into Francis's thinking:
Pope Francis says the church is confident that the papacy would withstand the findings by historians’ studying the archives, saying Pius was “criticized, one can say, with some prejudice and exaggeration.”

“The church isn’t afraid of history, on the contrary, it loves it, and would like to love it even more, like it loves God,” Francis said. “Thus, with the same trust of my predecessors, I open, and entrust to researchers, this patrimony of documentation.”

He said the Pius papacy included “moments of grave difficulties, tormented decisions of human and Christian prudence, that to some could appear as reticence.” Instead, he said they could be seen as attempts “to keep lit, in the darkest and cruelest periods, the flame of humanitarian initiatives, of hidden but active diplomacy” aimed at possibly “opening hearts.”

I have a sense that Francis has more than a little sympathy for the dilemmas Pius faced, because it's fairly clear that he faces similar dilemmas in China.

Ms Littlejohn is a puzzling case. Certainly she didn't discover the Chinese one child policy or the existence of forced abortion; that's been known for decades, while she didn't even take the name Reggie Littlejohn until about 2009. US presidents of both parties have spoken out against the one child policy and forced abortion. The question is what anyone has been able to do about it, and this is no different from the dilemmas Pius XII faced with the Holocaust.

Things could be much worse for Catholics in China, as they could have been for Catholics in Germany under Hitler. Francis is clearly aware of the issues.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Not A Good Look

Two weeks after Bp Lopes ordained her husband a Catholic priest, Fr Kirk's wife, Ms Littlejohn, turns up on Lifesite News with the headline, "Communist Party uses Vatican deal to bludgeon the Catholic Church in China, activist says".
The Vatican’s secret deal with the Chinese communist government is being used to crush the Catholic Church in that country, making things worse for faithful Catholics in China, according to a women’s rights activist.

Reggie Littljohn, president of Women's Rights Without Frontiers, explained to EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo how the secretive nature of the Vatican’s agreement with the Communist Party-ruled government is being exploited by Chinese officials in a destructive manner. , explained to EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo how the secretive nature of the Vatican’s agreement with the Communist Party-ruled government is being exploited by Chinese officials in a destructive manner.

An hour's due diligence should have alerted both Raymond Arroyo and Litesite News that Women's Rights Without Frontiers is a non-profit with no specific program, with income and expenditures too small to rate by the normal charity watchdog sites. More work would have brought out that Ms Littlejohn reinvented herself as a "women's rights activist" about 2009, with extensive plastic surgery and a new name, and her non-profit, of which she is the only staff member, exists primarily as a vehicle for her own self-promotion.

In addition to self-promotion, Ms Littlejohn barely skirts Francis-bashing, but she's less indulgent with the local bishops:

“I have no doubt that Pope Francis and that that deal does not authorize the things that are going on,” said Littlejohn. “But the fact that it’s secret leaves the people in China helpless.”

Littlejohn scoffed when asked about San Francisco Auxiliary Bishop Ignatius C. Wang’s recent declaration that the Vatican’s China deal is very good and “I just hope it doesn't happen that they send bad (proposed bishops) on purpose for approval in Rome.”

The first question I have is one Fr Longenecker raised several weeks ago in a different context: What are you going to do about it? Her non-profit is feckless as a policy advocate in either the US or China. Ms Littlejohn herself has little credibility as a serious spokesperson for Chinese Catholics -- I've instinctively got to give more credence to a San Francisco auxiliary bishop named Ignatius Wang.
Ignatius Chung Wang (pronounced Wong) was born in Beijing, China in 1934, the fifth of eight children in a family that had been Christian for twelve generations. . . . After his ordination, Fr. Wang was unable to serve in China because of the Communist government. He was sent to Rome where he completed a doctorate in Canon Law in 1962. . . . Bishop Wang began his service in the Archdiocese of San Francisco 1974. He was a Parochial Vicar in several parishes and in 1981 was named the first archdiocesan Director of the Office of Chinese Catholic Ministry. . . . Pope John Paul II named him a Prelate of Honor of His Holiness with the title of Monsignor in 1989. He also has served in the archdiocesan Tribunal and as Coordinator of the Chinese Apostolate.

On Dec. 13, 2002, Pope John Paul II appointed Monsignor Wang to the post of Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Bishop Wang is the first Catholic Bishop of Chinese ancestry and of Asian background to be appointed in the United States.

I'm just not sure why some lady with a fake name and phony face should be believed over someone who's lived much of recent Chinese history. Just sayin'. In addition, the little I know about Pius XII (the last real pope, according to some traddies) during World War II is that he had to take seriously the potential for massive anti-Catholic retaliation by the Nazis in Germany and occupied territories -- he had an obligation to support anti-Nazi resistance, but he had to balance it against the general welfare of Catholics. It's hard to imagine that Francis doesn't see a similar precarious situation in China and is doing the best he can with it.

But Ms Littlejohn is now married to a priest of the North American ordinariate, though she seems to see little reason to restrain her public positions, which are clearly at variance with the hierarchy. This is not a good look for Bp Lopes, though it's only one recent episode among many.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

"Churchness" And The North American Ordinariate

B C Butler (1902-1986) was a Church of England priest who converted to Catholicism and became a Benedictine. As president of the English Benedictine congregation, "he attended all four sessions of the second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965, during which he emerged as perhaps the leading English-speaking participant." In his published writing he frequently addressed the issue of Anglican-Roman Catholic schism.

His 1977 extended essay The Church and Unity takes the position that the Church is a visible and historical entity, which from gospel times has been regarded as a single unity. The essay is in large part a response to the Anglican scholar S L Greenslade, whom he places among "objectors" who ask, "Is it not totally unreasonable to pretend that the Church is undivided, when most manifestly it is not?" (p 3).

Butler's argument is that from the Church Fathers until Vatican II, the Church has recognized that "real sacraments, , , can exist outside its boundaries. At the same time, it maintains that these sacraments . . . are among a group of "elements or endowments" which together "build up and give life to" the Church herself" ((p 147).

One must surely agree with Greenslade that sacraments, and the other things that he enumerates, are 'things of the Church'. They are of course at a deeper level, one that Greenslade and I would both wish to emphasize, 'things of God'. But they are things of God given in and to and through the Church. He is also correct, I think, in holding that they are constitutive of the Church. The Church is not something that happens to be responsible for the sacraments; the Church is the Church because the sacraments — and the other holy things — make it such. I think we can go further with many modern theologians and say that the Church is sacramental through and through; and even that she herself is (after Christ, the 'sacrament of God') the sacrament of Christ.

Since sacraments are constitutive of the Church there is good reason to say that where valid sacraments are given and received there is `churchness' — Greenslade's word, and a very useful one. This, incidentally, is the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, though it uses its own language to express it and nowhere, I think, avails itself of the word `churchness'. (p 146)

It seems to me that Butler is arguing against a "branches of a tree" view of the Church that's frequently found among Anglicans, who will often say that Anglicans are just another respectable branch of Christianity equivalent to Orthodoxy or even Lutheranism. Butler is saying that the Church recognizes some elements of schismatic bodies outside itself, but they are worthwhile primarily insofar as they lead the faithful to the true Church.

But what strikes me is the view among the amateur apologists for Anglicanorum coetibus that there is some special value to Anglican "churchness", as in the commonly cited "precious spiritual treasures of the Anglican patrimony". The use of the term "Anglican" would refer to the dominant form of Protestant Christianity found in England and the British Empire, not pre-Reformation English Catholicism, and this implies that those who come into the Church via Anglicanorum coetibus are in a special class of some sort -- clearly entitled to schismatic artifacts eo be preserved in their own liturgy, their own parishes, and their own bishop.

I don't see this in the writing of prior generations of Anglican converts like Butler, Knox, or Newman. And looking most recently at the suburban Baltimore ordinariate communities, what I'm seeing is that small groups of converts seem to have gotten the idea that if a separate specifically Anglican "cburchness" is a good thing to bring into the Church, then a charismatic or pentecostal "churchness" can tailgate in under the same dispensation. Thus Fr Worgul can dwell on his Baptist formation, and Houston seems to rely on a legalistic interpretation that if a candidate for ordination has been arguably "Anglican" for a minimal period, he's eligible, notwithstanding decades as some other flavor of Protestant.

Under Anglicanorum coetibus, the Church in fact seems to validate the idea that some schismatics can retain a sense of separateness from the Church and cling to what is in fact an incomplete "churchness". What I find in a diocesan parish with conscientious clergy is that we're constantly being challenged to understand the teachings of Vatican II, and indeed to recognize the authority of the Holy Father and our bishop. Yet as a practical matter, it's not hard to find instances where ordinariate parishioners are being told it's OK to wink at both, if not to reject them.

As Butler points out, "churchness" is there, but it's not enough, and it shouldn't be made a fetish.