Friday, March 23, 2018

A Quick Look At The Complementary Norms

A week ago I was checking on a detail and had reason to look through the Complementary Norms for the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus. Much of it is de minimis and common sense, and I see nothing unusual there. Other provisions, though, especially those farther down, lead me to question whether the ordinariates in practice reflect what was envisioned at the time Anglicanorum coetibus was promulgated.

Article 3, for instance, is noncontroversial and, at least on its face, ought to be observed:

The Ordinary, in the exercise of this office, must maintain close ties of communion with the Bishop of the Diocese in which the Ordinariate is present in order to coordinate its pastoral activity with the pastoral program of the Diocese.
On the other hand, the February controversy over Our Lady of the Atonement's intent to administer first communion to diocesan Catholic children who attend the OLA school, but who aren't members of OLA parish families, at the age of reason instead of at about twelve according to diocesan policy, indicates that coordination with the pastoral program of the territorial archdiocese isn't necessarily automatic -- and, since this policy applies to Bp Lopes as ordinary, it reflects on his performance.

For that matter, Abp Garcia-Siller had already told Fr Lewis of his preferred policy months earlier -- not a good look for Lopes. As local observers have pointed out, that members of an OLA faction would be running to Church Militant with their version of the story certainly doesn't help matters as they relate to Article 3.

Article 7 seems to be honored mostly in the breach:

§1 The Ordinary must ensure that adequate remuneration be provided to the clergy incardinated in the Ordinariate, and must provide for their needs in the event of sickness, disability, and old age.
Only a handful of OCSP communities can provide compensation for clergy. Beyond that, after six years, it doesn't appear that the communities that can't pay clergy now will ever be able to do so in the future. A retirement program has been implemented, but it has limited eligibility.
§2. Candidates for priestly ordination will receive their theological formation with other seminarians at a seminary or a theological faculty in conformity with an agreement concluded between the Ordinary and, respectively, the Diocesan Bishop or Bishops concerned. Candidates may receive other aspects of priestly formation at a seminary program or house of formation established, with the consent of the Governing Council, expressly for the purpose of transmitting Anglican patrimony.
At minimum, I would be interested to see whatever agreements might be in effect between "the Ordinary and, respectively, the Diocesan Bishop or Bishops concerned". The recent disastrous examples of Frs Kenyon and Reese suggest that priestly formation in the OCSP is not reliable.

And "Anglican patrimony" has never been adequately defined, and in fact is probably not susceptible to definition. In Bp Lopes's Vienna address, he seems to refer to it primarily as a limited number of Cranmerian prayers added to an Ordinary Form English mass, with some English archaisms emended into the canon as well. But the implication here and elsewhere is that the "patrimony" is somehow more than this -- but what it is has never been stated. Thus we have laity insisting to an audience of the faithful that the "Anglican patrimony" exempts OCSP members from the requirement of contrition in the sacrament of penance, without contradiction from OCSP clergy.

§3. The Ordinariate must have its own Program of Priestly Formation, approved by the Holy See; each house of formation should draw up its own rule, approved by the Ordinary (cf. CIC, can. 242, §1).

§4. The Ordinary may accept as seminarians only those faithful who belong to a personal parish of the Ordinariate or who were previously Anglican and have established full communion with the Catholic Church.

One difficulty with this provision is that the definition of "Anglican" isn't clearly established, and a number of current clergy don't strictly qualify. Several have simply been "Anglican" for brief periods while riding a Protestant denominational carousel, which violates at least the spirit of this provision. Others have been members of tiny groups-in-formation that appear to have been established specifically to qualify as "parishes" of which they are members, and only to allow their ordination.
§5. The Ordinariate sees to the continuing formation of its clergy, through their participation in local programs provided by the Episcopal Conference and the Diocesan Bishop.
I would be interested to see if any OCSP clergy have participated in any such diocesan local program.

Artilce 14 refers to potential problem areas:

§2. If there is no vicar, in the event of absence, incapacity, or death of the pastor, the pastor of the territorial parish in which the church of the personal parish is located can exercise his faculties as pastor so as to supply what is needed.
There are few full OCSP parishes, and so far, this particular contingency hasn't occurred. But given the small size of even most full OCSP parishes, I question whether a territorial bishop will think it's worthwhile to divert a diocesan pastor to fulfill this function, when he's probably fully, or more than fully, occupied with his own territorial parish.
§3. For the pastoral care of the faithful who live within the boundaries of a Diocese in which no personal parish has been erected, the Ordinary, having heard the opinion of the local Diocesan Bishop, can make provisions for quasi-parishes (cf. CIC, can. 516, §1).
It's hard to avoid thinking that this provision has been cited by some territorial bishops in resisting the formation of quasi-parishes, apparently at least in St Petersburg and San Bernardino, and at least provisionally in Rochester. Given what must be considered a high defect rate in OCSP ordinations to date, I've got to think this resistance is prudent, and we may well see more instances.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

More Discernment

My wife and I are attending the Jeff Cavins Great Adventure Bible study course at our parish. He made a remark in last week's session that made at least some of us sit up in our seats: referring to Genesis 9:20-27, he discusses what was meant by Ham seeing Noah's nakedness. Cavins says the Hebrew for "see one's father's nakedness" is the same expression for "incest", and the episode, as far as it concerns Ham's sin, carries strong connotations of incest.

Our sub-group knows we're recovering Episcopalians, so the leader asked me, "Whew -- do Protestants have that sort of Bible study?" I said no -- or at least, having spent most of my life as a Protestant and having attended Bible study for some of that time, I hadn't seen it. In fact, the discussions I've read of Genesis by Protestants and Reform Jews don't mention that view of Noah's nakedness, although this evangelical site has a very thorough discussion. (Out of delicacy, Cavins refrains from the detail the site goes into.)

So one question I have is whether small groups of former Protestants, led by former Protestants, often ordained Catholic priests with very minimal formation, can have Bible study that goes into anything like that depth. Does any OCSP community have the resources, focus, or interest to conduct a Jeff Cavins course? (A parish program seems to involve several hundred dollars for parish publications and DVDs, as well as purchases of class materials in the $30 range from individuals.) Whether Bp Lopes is allowing people to become "catholic" and kid themselves that's what they are without being given the opportunity for real Catholic formation is a question that's above my paygrade, but it definitely is at the bishop's.

I've been rereading a passage from St Augustine lately, for that matter:

If, then, the Lord in the greatness of His grace and mercy raises our souls to life, that we may not die for ever, we may well understand that those three dead persons whom He raised in the body, have some figurative significance of that resurrection of the soul which is effected by faith: He raised up the ruler of the synagogue's daughter, while still lying in the house; Mark 5:41-42 He raised up the widow's young son, while being carried outside the gates of the city; Luke 7:14-15 and He raised up Lazarus, when four days in the grave. Let each one give heed to his own soul: in sinning he dies: sin is the death of the soul. But sometimes sin is committed only in thought. You have felt delight in what is evil, you have assented to its commission, you have sinned; that assent has slain you: but the death is internal, because the evil thought had not yet ripened into action. The Lord intimated that He would raise such a soul to life, in raising that girl, who had not yet been carried forth to the burial, but was lying dead in the house, as if sin still lay concealed. But if you have not only harbored a feeling of delight in evil, but hast also done the evil thing, you have, so to speak, carried the dead outside the gate: you are already without, and being carried to the tomb. Yet such an one also the Lord raised to life. and restored to his widowed mother. If you have sinned, repent, and the Lord will raise you up, and restore you to your mother Church. The third example of death is Lazarus. A grievous kind of death it is, and is distinguished as a habit of wickedness. For it is one thing to fall into sin, another to form the habit of sinning. He who falls into sin, and straightway submits to correction, will be speedily restored to life; for he is not yet entangled in the habit, he is not yet laid in the tomb. But he who has become habituated to sin, is buried, and has it properly said of him, he stinks; for his character, like some horrible smell, begins to be of the worst repute.
I can pretty much guarantee that you will not find this sort of Bible commentary in any Protestant denomination, in large part because Protestantism rejects the Catholic path to salvation (via the sacraments in particular) that Augustine endorses. This involves a mindset that is simply not taught in Protestant seminaries -- and even if you find it at, say, Nashotah House, it will be in an indifferentist context. I'm not at all sure that the people behind Anglicanorum coetibus understood this.

I still need to determine how much time I should spend arguing with people about this, versus the time I should be -- and am -- spending on a Catholic journey without a lot of unnecessary distraction. Certainly I agree with Patrick Madrid that the operant document here is Apostolicae Curae, not Anglicanorum coetibus.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Poorly Catechized, But Also Bad Writers

I don't normally visit the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society blog -- and I don't recommend it -- but I ran into this reference on a news aggregator to a recent post:
After Monday’s article about the Anglican Church in North America’s Anglo-Catholic section, the Missionary Diocese of All Saints contemplating leaving the ACNA we received a statement from the Sufferage Bishop of MDAS, Richard W. Lipka:
"Bishop" Lipka is listed on the MDAS website as "suffragan", not "sufferage". "Sufferage" is not a word. The title suffragan was covered in my TEC confirmation class, so whatever catechesis the author of the post had as an Anglican, it didn't take.

There's that blooper in the post, but there are other simple grammatical errors that a middle-school English student would normally be embarrassed to make. I understand that Mrs Gyapong is an amateur writer, but her editorial skills don't seem to be very good.

What Is It With M Scott Peck, By The Way?

I mentioned an e-mail exchange I had with a regular visitor -- now quite possibly a former regular visitor -- who said that, in insisting that Catholics did not need to avoid near occasions of sin, Mrs Gyapong was the "authentic" Catholic, and I was clueless. (He hasn't answered yesterday's post, and I'm wondering if he's finally decided I'm past his help. I kinda hope so.) Anyhow, this guy is a prominent commenter at the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society blog, and over the past few years, he's sent me e-mails that must total tens of thousands of words, mostly on fine points of canon law.

The apparent incongruity here, which has seemed more notable just recently, is how thoroughly he seems to be versed in canon law, but how unfamiliar he is with the sacrament of reconciliation. I've got to say that in my five years as a Catholic, I haven't quite memorized the act of contrition yet, but I've gotten pretty familiar with its contents, and from the start, I recognized "avoid the near occasions of sin". It's hard not to ask why this phrase seemed so inauthentic to him.

Over our past exchange, he seems to have exhausted canon law, and he's started to explain M Scott Peck to me, of all people. His point to start was along the line that Irish priests are extra-strict, but Irish priests was where the whole child sex abuse thing got started (huh?), and M Scott Peck, obviously an expert, has the solution. "In his book People of the Lie, M. Scott Peck, MD, notes that people who engage in such acts need cover to avoid discovery and that a fa├žade of holiness is one of the most effective forms of cover." It's hard to avoid thinking my visitor has me in mind here.

M Scott Peck, MD was a Me-Decade pop psychiatrist whose best-known books include The Road Less Traveled (1978) and People Of The Lie (1983). Oddly enough, Peck was very popular with St Mary of the Angels dissidents, especially Fr Bartus, who was most anxious to unmask Fr Kelley as a Person of the Lie. I read that one when it came out, but I've always thought it flattered the reader a bit too much. And Peck doesn't strike me as an authority on much of anything. According to this 2005 obituary in The Guardian:

Psychiatrist M Scott Peck, who has died aged 69, made millions with his first book by advocating self-discipline, restraint, and responsibility - all qualities he openly acknowledged were notably lacking in himself. The Road Less Travelled was first published in 1978. It eventually spent 13 years on the New York Times bestseller list to create a paperback record, sold 10 million copies worldwide and was translated into more than 20 languages. The opening words were: "Life is difficult." This was a pronouncement to which Peck could personally attest. He spent much of his life immersed in cheap gin, chain-smoking cigarettes and inhaling cannabis, and being persistently unfaithful to his wife, who eventually divorced him. He also went through estrangement with two of his three children.

Peck wrote openly of his adulterous affairs in another of his total of 15 books: In Search of Stones: A Pilgrimage of Faith, Reason and Discovery (1995), based on a visit to Britain to see ancient stone monuments. Never lacking in personal honesty, at least in print, he once said he had "the rare privilege of being able to give advice without having any responsibility".

Peck, whose personalised car number plate was THLOST, also spent much of his life seeking religious fulfilment (he was baptised a Christian at 43 after embracing Zen and then Sufism), and used this to explain his infidelities. "There was an element of quest in my extramarital romances," he wrote. "I was questing, through sexual romance, at least a brief visit to God's castle." Such visits, however brief, ceased when he became impotent, he disclosed.

When my visitor tried to hit me over the head with Peck and my supposed need to cover up my sins, I asked him,
Wait a moment. You cite M Scott Peck – not Catholic at all, not a priest, not a theologian – as an authority of some sort. But you don’t cite any Catholic authority that says it’s OK not to avoid near occasions of sin.
He replied,
I cite Scott Peck, a Christian and a psychiatrist, as an authority on the psychiatric disorders behind sexual abuse of minors — not as an authority on Catholic doctrine.
Peck sure was a Christian, huh? And if someone is aware of peer-reviewed papers by Peck on the psychiatric disorders behind sexual abuse of minors, I hope they'll send me the links. I think my visitor's actual point here is that, apparently in citing the act of contrition, I'm not only inauthentically Catholic but secretly lusting after twelve-year-olds and need psychiatric help. I guess I should find this offensive, but consider the source. If he wants to apologize and reset the discussion, I'll be happy to accept his apology.

The problem is what I'm starting to see is a glaring lack of basic catechesis among those closely associated with the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society. I recognize this visitor is not a member of that society and is not a member of the OCSP, but he clearly posts frequent comments on that blog and is clearly sympathizing with Mrs Gyapong in his e-mails to me.

His most recent point, it seems to me, is basically that devout Catholics, or at least those who take the sacrament of penance seriously, have psychiatric issues. I'm puzzled. I was hearing this in late-night dorm room discussions as a sophomore, but I grew up in the decades following. Not sure why my visitor thinks he's come up with anything new here -- and maybe Peck is old hat by now, too.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

More On Near Occasions Of Sin

The visitor who disagreed with me yesterday said this in his reply e-mail:
I also did a search on the entire Compendium of the Catholic Church, which is a conversion of the Catechism of the Catholic Church into a question-and-answer format that mercifully appears in a single file, and the entire file contains only ONE reference to “occasions of sin” — and that’s in the Act of Contrition supplied as an example in an appendix of common prayers. There are no references to “near occasions of sin” in the actual doctrinal text.

However, paragraph 1451 of the CCC says,

Among the penitent's acts contrition occupies first place. Contrition is "sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again."
The Baltimore Catechism says in paragraph 406:
406. What is the firm purpose of sinning no more?

The firm purpose of sinning no more is the sincere resolve not only to avoid sin but to avoid as far as possible the near occasions of sin.

The Baltimore Catechism, as I understand this, has not been "superseded". It is a teaching document meant to explain the Catholic faith, which does not change. If the John Paul II catechism doesn't offer a particular explanation for words in the act of contrition, this doesn't mean the words are meaningless.

A simple web search on "avoid near occasion of sin" brings out many, many hits. I found this discussion of views from St Gregory the Great and St Thomas Aquinas, two Doctors of the Church, on near occasions of sin:

Throughout St. Thomas’s treatment on sin, he deals primarily with mortal sin and secondarily with venial sin, there being an infinite distance of the two kinds of sin. Nevertheless, he is very clear that repeated venial sin also can become a disposition or road to grave sins as well. So, for example, he writes:
“Because he that commits a sin venial in genus turns aside from some particular order; and through accustoming his will not be subject to the due order in lesser matters, he is disposed not to subject his will even in the order of the lasting end, by choosing something that is a mortal sin in its genus.”
While venial sin does not mean the lessening of charity in the will or sanctifying grace in the soul, it stops the progress of growth in the perfection of the charity and the virtues. And what Aquinas means is that it can incline someone toward grave sin by enabling someone used to choose an array of disorders contrary to God’s will. It can become like a “small vice” or a disposition for any major vice’s act or a mortal sin.
A visitor commented,
The very Catholic and God-like wisdom of the Church Doctors to advise and even admonish the faithful to avoid proximity to sin is very practical. There is no Catholic doctrine prohibiting anyone under pain of sin, especially small children, from running with scissors and yet, we admonish people all the time, “Don’t run with scissors!” Why is it bad to run with scissors? Well, if I need to explain that to you, you will not understand how hanging around people, places and or things that cause (meaning lead or entice) you to sin is also bad in the exact same way. Nine times out of ten, you might be able to run with scissors (be near occasions of sin) and get away without injury (sinning), maybe even more than that, but eventually, or even more frequently if you are clumsy, you will accidentally slip, trip, poke/stab or otherwise hurt yourself with those scissors (sins). Wouldn’t it be better to not run with scissors in the first place? And so it is with near occasions of sin. Wouldn’t it be better to just avoid proximity to sin in the first place?
This raises some questions for me.
  • How well do Mrs Gyapong, those who agree with her like my visitor, and other OCSP members -- including clergy -- understand the sacrament of penance and the act of contrition?
  • What does this say about the catechesis provided in the OCSP?
  • Why have Fr Bergman and other OCSP clergy not moved to ask Mrs Gyapong to correct or retract the clearly erroneous statements she made on behalf of the Anglicnorum Coetibus Society on the need not to avoid near occasions of sin?
  • Do any laity or clergy in any ordinariate believe the "Anglican Patrimony" exempts them from any provisions of the Catholic faith?

Monday, March 19, 2018


As I've said recently, I'm trying to discern what direction I should take with this blog, or with the set of abilities I might take to some other effort. For now, I'm still praying. But I did get a couple of hints yesterday -- as they say, if you're catching flak, it means you're over the target.

The first was when one of our priests took me aside after mass. i'm aware that one or two people try to find out what parish we attend and attempt to complain about me to our clergy. I also knew that in mentioning that Fr Longenecker had spoken to our parish, this could give these folks a clue, and indeed, this is what happened. Fr _____ got an e-mail about this blog. The complainant, though, apparently hadn't read Fr Z's tips on how to make an effective complaint, and from Fr _____'s remarks, I got the impression that there were lots of caps and exclamation points, which seem to have caused him not to take it very seriously. He seems to have wondered if the person was a native speaker of English, in fact.

Anyhow, this gave me an opportunity to test one of my theories, that if one were to mention Anglicanorum coetibus to a diocesan priest, the reaction would be a quizzical expression. I was spot on. I did give him an 80,000-foot view of what I was trying to do with this blog, and without thinking, I blurted out the words "instant ordinations" and "disaster". This is the first time I ever put those words together in a short discussion of Anglicanorum coetibus, and it surprised me, but it occurred to me that perhaps this is related to my goals here. Maybe this is what I should be doing, I don't yet know fully. But thanks to my complainant for the help!

The other hint I got yesterday was from a regular visitor, who said

In today’s post, you quoted Deborah Gyapong as saying:

“There are some Catholics who take avoiding a “near occasion of sin” to such extremes that they create a whole new set of rules to put a hedge around such occasions, and then act as if violating one of the “preventive” rules is also somehow sinful. I am going to pronounce right now that this kind of thing is not part of our English Catholic/Anglican Patrimony going forward.”

in a post on another blog some time ago, and then proceeded to use this as a pretext to tarnish the ordinariates for not being authentically Catholic.

But, guess what?

It’s the very “preventive rules” forming fences around the real forbidden acts that are not authentically Catholic. In rejecting such fences, she — and the ordinariates — are more authentically Catholic than those who engage in such behavior.

Now I'm puzzled. I would say that a standard Catholic reading of "if your eye offends you, pluck it out" is in fact to avoid occasions of sin. For instance, if your computer makes it too easy to seek out pornography and you have no other option, get rid of your computer. I've heard this in homily after homily. I e-mailed him back and asked him to cite a Catholic authority that said it was OK not to do this. He complained that it was too hard to search the whole Catechism on line, but apparently he was unable to find the paragraph that said it was silly and unnecessary to avoid near occasions of sin.

He did cite the act of contrition, "I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin", but suggested that was just between the penitent and his confessor. And after all, if you don't go to confession, you don't have to worry about this stuff, right?

So who am I to question the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society, which gives the dispensation for Anglicans within Catholicism not to have to avoid near occasions of sin?

These are little bits of my discernment process. I'm still not sure what to do with this thing, but I just thought people might want to know.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

"Catholic within Anglicanism" vs "Anglican Within Catholicism"

So I thought some more about Fr Longenecker's seminary-days justification to his spiritual director of being "Catholic within Anglicanism". This is by no means unusual among Anglo-Catholics, a sort of weasel-mindedness that brings me back yet again to TEC Fr David Miller's remark in my confirmation class that Anglo-Catholics want the prestige of calling themselves Catholic without paying the dues real Catholics pay.

But this sort of weasel-mindedness is one of the factors that makes me concerned about syncretism. Anglicanism developed in its first hundred years as a way for people to justify for themselves that they were adhering to a state religion, and the state accommodated them by giving them lots of leeway -- they could be low church, broad church, or high church, just as long as they weren't Catholic. "Catholic within Anglicanism" was copacetic.

The difficulty is that the small number of Anglicans who've bought into Anglicanorum coetibus, it seems to me, mostly haven't left this mindset behind. Last week we saw a reference by Mrs Gyapong to Bp Campese working so his flock would "fully understand what it means to be a Roman Catholic living their [sic] faith out within the familiarity of the Anglican patrimony". This is the same Mrs Gyapong who said a few months ago

There are some Catholics who take avoiding a “near occasion of sin” to such extremes that they create a whole new set of rules to put a hedge around such occasions, and then act as if violating one of the “preventive” rules is also somehow sinful. I am going to pronounce right now that this kind of thing is not part of our English Catholic/Anglican Patrimony going forward.
It's hard to avoid thinking that the atmosphere in the granny flat ain't the same as the atmosphere in the rest of the house, and the "Catholicism" that's apparently espoused in the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society seems to be closely circumscribed and filtered through Anglo-Catholic funhouse glasses.

I would also suggest that the Catholic priests ordained in the OCSP are culpable -- and will be held to account at their particular judgment -- for not correcting statements like these, clearly meant as definitive pronouncements for members on matters of faith and morals.

We're back to Abp Garcia-Siller's penetrating insight, that these people want to be not just unique but separate. I think Bp Lopes needs to give this matter some serious reevaluation.