Saturday, April 29, 2017

New Ordinations And Seminarians

On page 2 of the OCSP 2016 Year in Review it is noted that as of December 2016 there were 14 men in some formal stage of preparation for ordination in the OCSP. Therre were four celibate candidates in seminary. This leaves ten others. My regular correspondent tells me "Fr Perkins mentioned '10 or 11' former clergy in the pre-ordination program recently. Jonathan Erdman in Louisville has just been ordained deacon and will be ordained priest in June. Ed Wills will be ordained deacon in August. So there are another eight or nine."

Very little seems to be known about who these men are. There seems to be an assumption that most are married with families. It seems to me that we have the continued problem that Anglicanorum coetibus was originally intended to bring Anglicans into the Church as groups of both laity and clergy, but it appears that a new cohort of priests is in the pipeline without groups attached. But we're also talking about 10 or more priests who would have a hard time relocating, and if there are currently fewer than 10 parishes total that can pay a priest, potential openings for any of the new ones would seem to be problematic.

A month ago, my regular correspondent noted:

Bp Lopes will be ordaining three men to the priesthood this summer: Evan Simington, the "first seminarian" who was given major coverage in the now-defunct, apparently, Ordinariate Observer; Adrian Martens, who has been a parish deacon at St John the Evangelist, Calgary since 2014; and Jonathan Erdman, a former Episcopalian clergyman who entered the Church in December 2015 and who has gathered the small Community of Our Lady and St John in Louisville, KY. He [has just been] ordained to the diaconate. Only Mr Simington, the celibate candidate, would appear to have any potential to be moved to a community in need of a priest. The fact that Jonathan Erdman has been fast-tracked suggests that the others do not have even the nucleus of an OCSP community, nor are they potentially available to fill imminent vacancies in Toronto or Payson, AZ.
But add to this my correspondent's entirely reasonable projection that as many as half the OCSP groups will fold within five years. Unless Bp Lopes has ideas for radically renewing the OCSP and expanding it, it's difficult to see where this is headed.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

More On Diocesan vs OCSP

Regarding yesterday's post, a visitor comments
After reading today's post, I come away with the understanding that there are too many priests in the Ordinariate, or, at least more than are required for the number of parishioners. At Atonement, there are two priests, and the Parochial Vicar, Fr. Moore, has never had much of a role. This was mostly due to Fr. Phillips's inability to share. But there are nearby parishes that are larger, and only have one priest. It would seem that a solution could be to foster strong ties with the Archdioceses that the Ordinariate parishes reside. There could be a sharing of priest and a give and take that would benefit all. This of course would be 180 degrees change from the attitude against the Archdiocese that was fostered by Atonement leadership. But, already, the severing of the Archdiocese ties is having a negative effect on Atonement. I have indicated before, only a very small minority of Atonement is from an Anglican heritage. As such, it seems that perhaps it is time to consider "Archdiocesan" Patrimony.
It's hard to avoid thinking that there will be continued exchange of priests incardinated via the OCSP and the Pastoral Provision. I suppose that OCSP priests, even if on loan to a diocese, would be subject to recall and thus less likely to be permanently diverted to diocesan tasks, but so far, this is just a theoretical point. The fact is that since Bp Lopes's arrival, diocesan PP priests have been assigned to OCSP parishes (and a plum one at that), while OCSP priests have gone the other way.

Another issue could simply be the sensitivity of the married priest issue. Certainly there are bishops who don't like the idea, and I've heard of diocesan parishes that have objected strongly to being assigned a married priest. At least until the married OCSP priests are eventually replaced by celibate seminarians, this will continue to be a potentially divisive problem.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Couple More Puzzles

A visitor notes,
Regarding the youngest priests in the OCSP, Fr. Wagner, Kerrville, is about 58, and is on loan to the archdiocese as pastor of the mid-size Norte Dame parish. Fr. Joshua Whitfield, Dallas, is a young man who was ordained through the OCSP and serves as administrator of diocesan parish St. Rita, Dallas. I don't know what the "loan" arrangement there is. He is an occasional columnist for the Dallas Morning News and seems to be that paper's "go-to guy" on topics Catholic. I don't find his writing particularly enjoyable, it being overly pedantic and dense, but he gets a lot of inches with it. He was pastor of SMV briefly after retirement of Fr. Hawkins and apparently was not happy there.

So there you have two young OCSP priests with families serving not in the OCSP but in large diocesan parishes. How come, if a perceived issue is lack of dynamic pastoring?

The answer is simple: the two priests are expecting to be paid, but the OCSP can't offer them paid positions. I would say that even if they were willing to relocate with their families, they still couldn't be paid, at least not in OCSP parishes. This is a money problem, not a family relocation problem.

But this brings up another issue that Bp Lopes mentioned in his Vienna lecture: a disadvantage of the Pastoral Provision was that it was too easy for a diocesan bishop to redirect a PP priest to exclusively diocesan work. But here we have young and presumably dynamic OCSP priests being redirected to diocesan work, and I would say that this is due exclusively to a structural defect in the OCSP, viz, it can pay only a handful of priests.

UPDATE: My regular correspondent adds a slight correction:

Fr Whitfield was one of the "Fort Worth Six," along with Chuck Hough père et fils, ordained by Bp Vann in 2012 but he has always identified himself as PP. He is not on my list of active OCSP clergy, although some priests in military chaplaincy or diocesan ministry are (Frs Sherbourne and Rojas, for example) So I think he has been excardinated. Presumably the Anglican Patrimony doesn't interest him much. In Fr Wagner's case I think the diocesan assignment is more clearly one of financial necessity.
But this doesn't change my basic point, which is that there is little practical distinction between how married Anglican priests are used between the Pastoral Provision and the OCSP, especially if the canonical difference is externally indistinguishable. And this also reinforces my point that Anglicanorum coetibus did not resolve the problem, pace Bp Lopes.

My regular correspondent points again to the related actuarial and demographic issues:

Fragility seems to come in two forms in the OCSP. There are groups which have semi-respectable numbers and/or a building, but lack the resources to support a new priest when their current retiree retires again. St Anselm's, Rochester is currently in this situation. In a small town or city it may be difficult for a priest to find a second position which will provide him with a stipend but still leave him the time needed to minister to the OCSP group. Even where this arrangement is possible, of course, it does not seem conducive to growth. Corpus Christi, Charleston; St Anselm's Greenville; Our Lady of Hope, Kansas City are some examples of groups which share a pastor with a diocesan parish or school and seem to be merely staying afloat.

But even this may not be on in Payson, AZ. Then there are the truly tiny groups, barely in the double digits. Some of them, like St Augustine's, as you noted, and Our Lady of Walsingham, Maple Ridge, are in or near large population centres but just don't seem to have attracted any new members. It is easier for these groups to find someone---a sympathetic local diocesan priest, say---to officiate at a mass but this is not the kind of leadership which will build the community to the point where it can renew itself when key members disappear. I would estimate that half of the OCSP groups could close in the next five years because they are in one or other of these fragile groups.

So there is a confluence of related problems: younger married priests saw Anglicanorum coetibus as a way to bypass the hiring practices of TEC, where women and openly gay ordinands were competing in the applicant pool for steadily diminishing clerical slots. Effectively opportunists, they were ordained into a jurisdiction that almost immediately found itself in surplus and had to scramble to find them any opportunities at all -- but these were diocesan, in effect no different from the very situation Bp Lopes outlined that the CDF wanted to avoid. The problem wasn't solved!

But what's the problem? The problem is that even within five years of the OCSP's erection, there's not enough interest among former Anglicans even to maintain the 40-odd entities that were received in the first waves. It's not as though those OCSP priests in diocesan work can just wait a few years for new parishes to emerge in, say, Boise, Saskatoon, or Albuquerque (or Atlanta, Memphis, or Pittsburgh). The problem for Bp Lopes is going to be how to manage the situation when, as my regular correspondent points out, possibly half the remaining OCSP groups fade away in another five years.

I don't think this is an unreasonable projection. I would certainly be interested to hear realistic strategies for reversing the situation, but even Bp Lopes's Vienna lecture is explaining a problem the CDF saw in the 1980s and 90s, and it's not looking at the practical outcome in the 2010s. A visibly new strategy will be the only way to avoid this. I don't know what it might be, but then I'm not a bishop.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

So, What Happened In San Diego?

Regarding the small attendance for the Triduum at St Augustine of Canterbury North County, my regular correspondent notes,
I cannot imagine anyone turning up at such a tiny gathering unless they were on the lam from a previous parish, or several, where they had made themselves unwelcome. On a more positive note, it might be a place to take a friend or spouse who was leery about the Catholic church. St Augustine's started in 2010 as a community of about fifty enquirers, of whom 34 were received into the Church in 2012. About a year later their ACA clergyman was ordained priest. It appears that the group has gradually withered away. San Diego is its fourth location, which probably hasn't helped. It has probably dropped below critical mass now.
Regarding another situation, my correspondent notes,
Fr Matthew Venuti is one of the youngest priests in the OCSP. He had a small group, St Gregory the Great, Mobile, and was made pastor of a diocesan parish there, St Joan of Arc. Shortly after his ordination Fr Venuti had a serious heart attack followed by cardiac surgery. His condition further deteriorated and he is now fully retired. The OCSP group can never have been large, as they held their Sunday mass in the tiny rectory chapel. But a faithful lay member, now the group's pastoral administrator and an acolyte, arranged for a PP diocesan priest to say mass once a month, and that has now returned to a weekly celebration. It is now held in the church; I don't know whether that is because attendance is higher or because the rectory chapel is no longer available. Msgr Laurence Gipson, now retired, helps out, as does Fr Venuti as able. It's obviously a fragile arrangement, but somebody cared enough to persist.
But how many such fragile arrangements are in the OCSP? San Diego County is the second largest in the state, with a population of 3.3 million. The OCSP group there attracts a dozen for the high holidays. I can see this in the Ozarks or Northern Ontario. I can't see it in a major metropolitan area -- but remember that most metropolitan areas have no OCSP presence.

Fix it or shut it down. These are new Catholics who aren't being properly formed or shepherded.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Then I Will Not Destroy It For The Sake Of The Ten

A visitor pointed me to Genesis 18:32:
Finally, Abraham said, "Lord, please don't be angry with me if I speak one more time. Suppose only ten are found there?" And the LORD replied, "Then I will not destroy it for the sake of the ten."
But I can't ignore Fr Kelley's remark on this passage, that although the Almighty said he wouldn’t destroy the city if there were ten righteous people there, he did in fact destroy it! But this raises an intriguing question. To what extent are the tiny groups in the OCSP cutting themselves off from nearby Catholic resources? Do they go to available Catholic masses at other times than the limited schedules of their groups allow? How about confession?

How about when they travel, since OCSP parishes don't exist in most places? If a group of a dozen or so can't support a music program, do they ever go to parishes that have a good one? Do the groups of a dozen or so have other educational opportunities like Bible study? If nearby Catholic parishes support Catholic speakers, do any group members attend these?

But if these groups would need only to attend mass at a different time at a host parish, or drive a few miles to find these things nearby, what on earth is the reason for camping out the way they are? It might be possible to argue that they're building for the future, but frankly, I don't get that impression about most of these groups.

Is the OCSP doing any of these people any favors if it allows them to think they can stay apart from the greater Church because they've somehow got things right? Apparently Bp Lopes and Fr Perkins do tell groups that are going inactive that they should take advantage of the diocesan resources available to them in those cases. But what damage are they doing to the laity entrusted to them if they delay unnecessarily in shutting other groups down?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

On The Other Hand,

I think it's potentially misleading to be too optimistic about the handful of OCSP parishes that are genuinely successful. My regular correspondent noted yesterday,
looking over the very large number of Holy Week pictures posted on Facebook by St Augustine of Canterbury, San Diego I see that Palm Sunday attracted twelve people and Easter Day somewhat fewer. Their first Triduum (they formerly shared space in a parish church which could not offer it for these services) was slightly curtailed as the Easter Vigil was cancelled and Fr Baaten assisted at BJHN, Irvine. All very odd.
There are clearly more OCSP groups like this one that are neither thriving nor growing than those in the mold of SMV, OLA, or OLW.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Ordinariate And Diocesan Parishes Located Nearby And Coexisting

A visitor picks up on a half-formed thought I raised the other day:
Regarding appeal of mainstream diocesan vs. Ordinariate parishes, SMV Arlington is four minutes by car (and Uber) from the much larger (and older, as a Catholic parish, or younger, given SMV's previous history as an Episcopal parish), Most Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church. Both are thriving. I remember Fr. Hawkins of SMV being quoted in the newspaper one time as saying that they at SMV must have some unique appeal in the Diocese of Ft. Worth (when SMV was still a diocesan parish, having been erected corporately under the Pastoral Provision), because the nearest mainstream parish was only blocks away. Here are both parish's bulletins for Sunday, Apr 23:

Most Blessed Sacrament

St Mary The Virgin

I think a look at these bulletins gives a good impression of the different "feel" between the two. If you were a Catholic visiting in town, maybe to go to Six Flags or a Texas Rangers baseball game or a Dallas Cowboys game, and web-surfed to find a mass to fulfill your obligation, which would you choose? SMV historically has eschewed a Saturday vigil but always had a Sunday 6p mass. I imagine neighborhood Catholics who are running long from a busy weekend wind up at that SMV Sunday evening mass, which when I've been there was a nice experience, dispensing with incense and some other ceremonial but is a very solemn and worshipful mass. I realize that the attitudinal impacts of the bishops and pastors involved in the SMV saga were very important in this apparently happy co-existence, but it does show the two diocesan arrangements can function, regardless of distance.

The neighboring Catholic parish in Hollywood to St Mary of the Angels is, unfortunately, not as successful as Most Blessed Sacrament appears to be. The archdiocese seems to be aware of this, at least to the point of forcing budget cuts, but the Augustinians who run the parish probably need to wake up more than they have -- shortage of priests is an issue. My visitor is suggesting, though, that there can even be synergy between nearby successful Ordinariate and diocesan parishes.