Friday, May 27, 2016

Star On "Hollywood Bl" For Fr Neal Dodd

Yesterday, May 26, marked the 50th anniversary of the death of Fr Neal Dodd, the founding pastor of St Mary of the Angels parish. From Fr Kelley,
A native of Iowa, he came to Hollywood in 1917, in response to what he perceived as a call from God. His parish ministry in Petaluma was highly successful, including one of the first church-sponsored Boy Scout troops in California. He left there, sensing that he was bidden to establish a church mission to the nascent movie industry here.

The church began on February 3, 1918, in a storefront on N. Vermont Avenue, but soon moved to a site on N. New Hampshire. By 1930, the new church was built on Finley Avenue.

Fr Dodd was a member of the Screen Actors Guild, and always played the part of a clergyman. Directors knew him as "One-Shot Dodd" -- he never needed to do a scene over again; he got it right the first time. Many will remember him as the Senate Chaplain in "Mr Smith Goes to Washington", with Jimmy Stewart, or the Priest in the Garden awaiting Claudette Colbert, in "It Happened One Night." His three-hundredth screen "wedding" featured Rosalind Russell as the bride. Altogether he had about 385 film roles. He also worked behind the scenes, as an advisor to the likes of Cecil B. De Mille, on both versions of "The Ten Commandments" -- black & white, and color.

It is likely that he originated the idea of the Motion Picture Relief Fund, to help out-of- work actors and actresses, then promoted the idea to Mary Pickford, Doug Fairbanks, Sr., and Charlie Chaplin, who raised the funds that Fr Dodd distributed.

A biography named him "A Candle Among the Stars." And there is a movement afoot to honor him in an appropriate way. The parish hopes to host a film festival featuring him in some of the movies in which he took roles.

An unofficial star to commemorate Fr Dodd was recently placed on the Finley Avenue sidewalk in front of the St Mary's parish.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Couple Of Vocation Quick Hits

Some visitors have proposed what might seem to be a resolution to the problem of where celibate vocations will come from in the short-to-medium term in the Ordinariates: the Catholic Church will surely relax the discipline of a celibate priesthood overall, at which point this will resolve the whole question of vocations, in the Ordinariates and in the Latin rite as well.

I suppose this could happen. On the other hand, Fr Z has referred to priests who were persuaded to go in during the 1960s, when they were told that things would change any time now, so they could get married in a few years. The result, of course, wasn't good, for the priests or the Church. There was also the argument made during the sex abuse crisis, that allowing married priests would give them an outlet and keep them away from the altar servers. But the lack of conjugal sex doesn't cause pedophilia, and its availability doesn't cure it.

A bigger question to me is the great variability in the environments that produce traditional celibate vocations. Of two parishes we know, one has had only one vocation in 90 years, the other 70 in roughly the same period. A visitor tells me,

This may surprise you, but the Roman Catholic campus ministry at one educational institution in the Archdiocese of Boston has yielded more vocations to ordained ministry and religious life than all other campuses in the archdiocese combined over the past several years.

That campus probably is the one that you would least expect to be a font of vocations -- the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

What made the difference is quite simple: emphasis on making a personal commitment of faith, and thereby yielding one's life in prayerful obedience to God. But this is what God calls all Christians to do.

The problem of vocations is clearly not monolithic. Some environments foster them, others don't. What problem are we trying to solve?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

More Thoughts On Vocations

I was a Protestant, and for a while a very lapsed one, for 65 years. While it wasn't my doing, it does mean I never had two big advantages I could have had, a Catholic family and a Catholic education. I recognize that there is no guarantee that the family would not have been just as dysfunctional, and the education just as mediocre, as the ones I did have. On the other hand, I've often reflected on how a devout Catholic family might have raised me differently, and a rigorous Catholic education might have prepared me better for the challenges I encountered.

The atmosphere at our current parish, which has produced a good many vocations throughout its history, has brought me back to the question of how family and education foster vocations. A visitor pointed me to a USCCB survey of the 2015 class of ordinands to the priesthood. Over 90% came from Catholic families, mostly with both parents Catholic. Family members, as well as parish priests, typically fostered and encouraged their vocations. They commonly came from larger families, typically with 3,4, or 5 children. Over half had Catholic elementary educations, with about 45% attending a Catholic college.

It seems to me that boys and young men raised in families that have come into the Ordinariate are less likely to have these sorts of backgrounds. Anglican families are smaller; they'll be more likely to send their kids to Episcopal or public schools and secular prestige universities. There won't be a Catholic family background extending for generations. There won't be Catholic parish priests and religious to serve as inspirations and mentors. Currently, according to the USCCB survey, less than 10% of ordinands come from this sort of background.

In fact, the current cohort of Ordinariate priests are typically 65+, retired with a pension from the Anglican priesthood, and married. As parish priests, they aren't going to be worthwhile examples for the few boys and young men now in Ordinariate parishes. They became Catholic as a late-career strategic move, not as a sacrificial vocational choice made in transition to adulthood.

I don't see how this thing can succeed, frankly.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Bright Spot, Of Sorts

My regular correspondent raises the example of St Luke's, Washington DC:
This parish has struck me as one of the OCSP's success stories. I was not surprised that Msgr Steenson appointed the pastor, Fr Mark Lewis, as the first Vicar Forane in the US (although I was surprised that while Fr Lewis is Dean of the Eastern Deanery, there is no Western,Southern, or Northern Deanery, which strikes me as illogical). In any event, one of the sources of St Luke's strength, IMHO, is the fact that it chose to leave its previous church in Bladensburg, despite the willingness of their TEC diocese to rent them the building with an option to purchase. No doubt this was a wrench, but they traded the headaches of an aging building in a less central location for a suitable facility in downtown DC whose expenses they share with the much larger host congregation.

So I was somewhat dismayed to see in the February newsletter that the long-term goal is still to have a separate church building. Of course if the congregation grows to many hundreds and needs so many mass times and facilities for activities that sharing is no longer an option, that would be great news. But the more likely reality is that they have a hankering to join the many congregations of many denominations pouring all their energy into the support of a building for its own sake. Generally speaking denominations with a strong central authority, mainly Catholics and "official" Anglicans, are able to be fairly ruthless about closing marginal parishes. Where local congregations hold the power, there is more likelihood of magical thinking.

Financial prudence and realistic goals may be ingredients for a successful parish, but the LA archdiocese's associate director of vocations gave me a new perspective when he celebrated mass at our parish yesterday. (Since it was Trinity Sunday, with great good humor he introduced us to the term patripassianism. My kind of homily.) But in his remarks at the end of the mass, he noted that two men from the parish will be ordained to the priesthood next month, with three total in the past two years. The parish has produced something like 70 priests in its history. The parish we left last year has produced just one in 90 years.

Fr Ward implied as well that vocations come from generations of Catholic families. If there are ingredients that keep a parish from failing early in its formation, it seems to me that a big sign of a successful parish is vocations. I'm not seeing much in the way of vocations from any Ordinariate, when, considering the average age of current clergy, they will be urgently needed very soon.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

"Not 'No,' But 'Hell, No!'"

This is the title of an article by Charles Coulombe, a Los Angeles Catholic writer, that appeared in the Los Angeles Lay Catholic Mission, December 1999. I found it on the web (it was linked at The Anglo Catholic blog in 2011), but it had apparently been taken down by the time I started this blog. A visitor located it on the Wayback Machine and very kindly sent me a copy.

It's too long to reprint in full here, but the relevant passage is a quote from Cardinal Mahony's 1986 letter unequivocally rejecting the St Mary of the Angels application to become an Anglican Use parish in the Los Angeles archdiocese:

"I wish to acknowledge your letter of October 14, 1986," wrote Mahony, "with respect to your desire that St. Mary of the Angels Church community be received into communion with the Roman Catholic Church. The history of your parish community is not paralleled with any other similar Episcopal community which has been received into the Roman Catholic Church in our country. Your letter to His Eminence, Cardinal Bernard Law, does not reflect the long and very volatile public legal proceedings which you took against the Episcopal Diocese, a process which proceeded through both the Superior Court and the Appellate Court. This factor distinguishes your history from every other application of which I am aware. You indicate that your numbers continue to dwindle, and there is still division and divisiveness among the community. In addition, you seem to require that a major focus be upon the physical plant of St. Mary of the Angels community. All of these considerations compel me and my consultants to look negatively upon your interest in union with the Roman Catholic Church as an Anglican Use community. I am hopeful that this letter will help to crystallize once again the problems which have been so prevalent in the past efforts of your community to seek union with the Roman Catholic Church."
If anyone can now locate a copy of the October 14, 1986 letter from the parish to Cardinal Mahony, this would go a great length to complete the historical record.

From my point of view, the letter is remarkably perceptive about the parish and its difficulties. The references to "long and very volatile public legal proceedings", as well as continued "division and divisiveness among the community", have a very contemporary ring. In fact, the letter has given me some reason to reflect on how the troubles that began in 2011-12 relate to the parish's overall history.

The parish's "First Lawsuit" period of the late 1970s has always interested me, because it hit the local news around the time I was deciding to return to the Church as an Episcopalian. Mrs Brandt, as I recall, was then telegenic and was the parish spokesperson in the news segments -- she remained a long-term member until the 2012 troubles and was something of a doyenne among the dissidents. I remember her telling the 1970s interviewer that The Episcopal Church, in ordaining women priests, had taken away the parish's "Catholicity".

This caused me to ask the Episcopal priest who was conducting my confirmation class at a nearby parish what this was all about. His answer, which I've quoted here before, has stayed with me: "These are people who want to have the prestige of calling themselves Catholic without paying the real dues you have to pay actually to be Catholic." My subsequent experience at the parish itself has confirmed that there was a substantial group to whom this definitely applied.

On top of that, an observation in other local media was that the parish was "more an exclusive social club than a church", and Mrs Brandt, from a prominent and well-off California family, represented this side of the parish as well. One one hand, there was punctilious liturgical observance. On the other, anything more seriously related to the Roman cathechism was treated with a wink.

Garry South, a longtime member of the parish and a benefactor, is a political consultant who advises liberal Democrats exclusively, helping them to stress "women's health issues" in order to get elected. (Although Mr South appears to have sided with the pro-Ordinariate members in the 2011-12 votes, he does not appear to have returned to the parish since its restoration by Judge Strobel.)

With the perspective of Cardinal Mahony's letter, I think I have a better understanding of the deep divisions in the parish that led to the 2011-12 troubles, and they probably stem from Fr Kelley's arrival in 2007. Fr Kelley, an erudite, sincere, and conscientious priest, wasn't much interested in social prestige. The long-term parish stalwarts like Mrs Brandt, and the new wannabes like Mrs Bush who wished to emulate her, were poorly catechized -- these were the people who struggled with the Church calendar and promoted "Angelicanism" once they had control of the parish web site.

Fr Kelley, on the other hand, was concerned with Anglo-Catholic theology, adult education, and Bible study. He was disinclined to wink at the things the parish stalwarts had winked at. The formal catechesis the parish undertook on Sunday afternoons in the summer of 2011 in the runup to its attempt to join the US-Canadian Ordinariate probably did not help things one bit.

At this point, I think there may be grounds for optimism that the angry, snobbish, poorly catechized faction of the parish of which Cardinal Mahony seems to have been fully aware may finally have purged itself in the 2011-2015 troubles. On he other hand, the qualities of conscientiousness, erudition, fortitude, and faith that did not endear Fr Kelley to this faction also left him out in the cold with the ACA, and so far as well with the old-boy network in the US-Canadian Ordinariate.

The future of the parish is uncertain -- but then, so is the future of the Ordinariate.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

What's A Diocesan Chancellor, Anyhow?

My correspondent writes,
I am trying to educate myself about the role of diocesan Chancellor. I had assumed that this position would necessarily be held by a lawyer, or at least a canon lawyer, who would advise the bishop and diocesan committees on any legal issues that might arise . But according to Wikipedia, and who are we to challenge that magisterium?, this position is more like a cross between an archivist and a notary. So it is not surprising that Bp Lopes' administrative assistant currently holds that position in the OCSP. However, this does not mean that the Ordinariate does not also require legal expertise.

I recall that when Divine Worship debuted clergy were initially told that copyright rules forbade the production of any sort of pew booklet with mass texts. Even a handout with the day's Scripture readings was forbidden; then it was decided that these could be made available---as long as people were prevented from taking them home! Now, as a new issue of [Ordinariate Observer] is in preparation, clergy have been asked to submit pictures, making sure that any pictures including minors are accompanied by signed permission forms from parents or guardians. These seem, in the light of the St Thomas More debacle, classic instances of straining out a gnat while swallowing a camel.

I did some searching on this myself and found this Wikipedia entry. Since most of us who come here are current or recovering Anglicans, it appears that we may have missed an important distinction: an Anglican chancellor is in fact an attorney, while a Catholic chancellor is more or less a notary who vouches for the authenticity of a bishop's actions and maintains the archive. A visitor has sent me this link to the description of a Chancellor's duties in the Catholic canons.

It appears that the two chancellors appointed by Msgr Steenson were attorneys, and that suggests he may have had the Anglican role in mind. Bp Lopes appears to have a Catholic view of the position. On the other hand, based on my correspondent's account, it does appear that the OCSP is lacking strong legal leadership at this point, which contributes to an overall impression that things are in disorder.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Churning In Office Of Chancellor

My regular correspondent noted that I seemed in recent posts to assume Fr Ken Wolfe is Chancellor of the US-Canadian Ordinariate:
Were you suggesting that Fr Wolfe is the Chancellor? He is in charge of Child and Youth Protection. Laurie Miller, the bishop's PA, is listed as the Chancellor. Msgr Steenson had appointed Fr Benedict Soule, O.P. to the position of Judicial Vicar but in fact, since he is not incardinated in the OCSP and could therefore not sit on the Governing Council this was not a workable appointment and he is now acting in an advisory capacity to Bp Lopes, who is handling the responsibilities of Judicial Vicar. So there is no legal expert on the OCSP staff.
However, as I noted in July 2015, the June 2015 Ordinariate Observer carried this announcement of Fr Wolfe's ordination:
At the ordination it was announced that Fr. Wolfe, an attorney, will serve as the Chancellor of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. He will work from Tucson with periodic trips to Houston.
Apparently the office of Judicial Vicar deals with canon law and is, or may be, separate from the office of Chancellor. But if Fr Wolfe is no longer Chancellor, I'm not sure if this was ever announced. Whatever the cause, it doesn't seem as though a competent person in Houston did any effective review of the St Thomas More plan to reopen the Guild Store.

And naturally, if personnel churning continually takes place, with responsibilities never clearly defined among staff, this is a failure of leadership. So far, this doesn't seem to be changing under Bp Lopes.

UPDATE: My correspondent replies,

The announcement of Fr Wolfe's appointment as Chancellor was in the previous edition of the OO, the "double issue" identified as Vol I 2&3 although it was actually 3&4. This is the issue you link to in the July 2015 post. In volume II no 1 linked to today's post we have the appointment of Fr Soule, working closely with Margaret Chalmers the "first Chancellor," but he is not explicitly identified as the new Chancellor. The issue also describes Fr Wolfe's responsibilities in the Safe Environment program. Looking at these issues, with their chaotic layout and multiplicity of fonts, (not to mention the misinformation, but that is less readily apparent), must be an embarrassment for the current administration. No wonder they are so hard to access from the OCSP site.
I'm not sure what's changed since Bp Lopes's appointment.