Sunday, June 26, 2016

Seen On The Blessed John Henry Newman Irvine Facebook Page

This is all I know (thanks to a visitor for the heads-up):

There is no announcement of a group in formation on the US-Canadian Ordinariate site. Whether the idea was broached and shot down, or whether there's some other explanation, I don't know. I do note that the whiskey evenings and beer breakfasts continue in full force among the Irvine group -- think of the sacrifice it would be for Fr Bartus to have to sponsor additional alcohol-related events in LA County.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

More On Wishful Thinking

My regular correspondent continues,
In 2014 (latest year for which I can find stats) about 67,000 adults previously baptized were received into the US Catholic church. While a not unimpressive figure, this averages out to about four per US parish. So, unsurprisingly, leaving a former denomination for the Catholic church is a relatively rare decision, and I would guess that in the majority of cases it is done in the context of marrying a Catholic (a 2009 Pew Research study estimated that this was the deciding factor in 72% of conversions but this included both adult baptisms and receptions). There is no evidence that the establishment of the OCSP has had any impact on this larger statistical reality. Most adult church attenders are happy with their denominational experience, and if they're not, blaming it on the fact that perhaps their denomination is not part of the One True Church after all is not the first idea that pops into their head. Some will come to that conclusion, but they will always be a fraction of 1%. An ecclesial structure built on their membership will be necessarily a niche operation.
Another visitor has suggested,
As to new groups, large numbers of communities tend to come in waves driven by "reforms" that make the denominations to which they belong no longer hospitable for them. The original wave that motivated the so-called "pastoral provision" was driven by the decision of the Episcopal Church -- U. S. A. (ECUSA), now known as The Episcopal Church (TEC), to ordain women. The more recent wave was driven by the TEC decision to promote a practicing homosexual to the office of bishop and push for sanction of homosexual unions in both TEC and the Anglican Church in Canada (ACC) in North America, and also by similar actions in the Church of England (CoE) and the Anglican Church in Australia. However, there are always a few outliers that petition between waves. These outliers may experience some local provocation (replacement of a supportive bishop with a bishop who is not supportive, for example) or no provocation at all.
I think there are practical problems with the idea that there may be additional waves of Anglican defections. While the Gene Robinson wave led to creation of the ACNA, it doesn't seem like there has been any further equivalent wave following the endorsement of same-sex marriages. This may be because the fate of parishes that leave their denominations in prior waves has been conclusively and consistently demonstrated -- they mostly lose their properties and dissipate their resources. It's a destructive and counterproductive effort.

The second issue is that defections have mainly been from low-church parishes. This is particularly true of the ACNA, but among those familiar with the ACA, thought to be the highest of the "continuing" denominations, even it has generally proven to be low-church. This means that a disposition to leave TEC has not automatically meant a motivation to join the US-Canadian Ordinariate.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Future For The Ordinariates? Quick Prognosis

My regular correspondent comments,
I doubt that many more groups will be entering any of the Ordinariates. Priests will be ordained to replace retiring pastors, and perhaps some new groups will be gathered, like the St Margaret's congregation in Katy, TX, around an unassigned clergyman. But I think the "continuing" bodies are tapped out, and as for and as for mainstream Anglican/TEC congregations---what could they be waiting for?
I'm inclined to agree. The basic issue is, as Frederick Kinsman had recognized by 1920, Anglicanism is a congregational denomination. Among other things, if an Episcopal parish is dissatisfied with actions of the national church, it makes little difference if they're satisfied with how things are at St Thomas Podunk and Fr Schmidlap. If they become dissatisfied with Fr Schmidlap, they kick him out and get someone new. Any idea of departing the denomination would become destructive and divisive to the community that's generally satisfied with how things are.

Clearly this has been the experience we've seen with parishes that attempt to leave either TEC or a continuing denomination.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

More Policy Uncertainties

In response to yesterday's post, my regular correspondent replies,
As you mentioned, in early 2013 the priest in charge of St Thomas More, Toronto mentioned in his blog that the number of members required for official "Quasi-parish/Mission" status was 24, something he clearly got from somewhere, but this number was subsequently hotly disputed on one of the blogs of record (I'm still looking). In any event, at the OCSP clergy conference in November, 2014 five groups were officially designated as parishes and nine as quasi-parishes, without any discussion of the criteria used. One parish has been added to the former list.

The inclusion of "families" in the recently published guidelines seems less appropriate to Ordinariate groups, often consisting of single older adults, than it would to a normal Catholic parish. Otherwise I think that, as you say, it is a step forward that something is now a matter of record.

One of the topics to be discussed in detail at the plenary OCSP clergy meeting in the fall is compensation and benefits. At the moment there are no formal guidelines, but if one of the requirements for becoming a parish is stability, then it must be able to guarantee that the clergy necessary to carry out its mission will be adequately compensated. If this ceased to be the case in a mainstream Catholic or Anglican diocese, the congregation would lose its parish status. I cannot imagine it would be otherwise in an Ordinariate.

The question of what happens if a parish doesn't cover its payroll has been at the back of my mind as well. Certainly in the Anglican canons I've seen, this is cause for a parish to be declared a mission, and notwithstanding the stated desire of the Ordinariate not to follow Anglican ecclesial structures, I've got to assume not meeting payroll is a serious matter that could get a parish in trouble with secular authorities.

The problem is that, by Fr Bergman's admission, St Thomas More Scranton has been missing payroll.

This leads to a bigger unanswered question that, so far, hasn't been covered in published policies: selection criteria for Ordinariate priests. Several candidates, as far as I'm aware, have been told that the OCSP doesn't ordain priests not associated with groups in formation -- but this is unpublished oral history that clearly isn't borne out by the numbers of OCSP priests who in fact are not, and have never been, associated with any group or parish.

In addition, while the Pastoral Provision delegate, Bp Vann, has clearly designated what denominations qualify as "Anglican" for a candidate to qualify, Houston has never done this, and it has ordained CEC priests who woud not be eligible for the Pastoral Provision, and beyond that, Glenn Baaten, a former Presbyterian pastor with a previous Evangelical background, is in line for ordination to the OCSP later this month. The word I've had from St Paul Park, MN appears to be that this sort of formation does not lead to happiness in the Ordinariate, but nobody seems to be questioning this.

What I can put together from partial accounts by several candidates for the OCSP priesthood is that the typical reaction to an application is that it simply goes into a "black hole". It then depends on what sort of powerful allies the candidate can marshal to extricate the application from the black hole, but of course, most applications will not emerge from the black hole.

Yet somehow less suitable -- at least on the face of it -- candidates like Fr Treco and Mr Baaten seem to emerge from the black hole irrespective of any deficiencies in their formation.

What action Houston may or may not be taking over missed payrolls in Scranton has not come to light, either.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

More Thoughts On Houston's Published Policies

A visitor raises several worthwhile points, which are worth responding to at length:
I'm not persuaded that the document to which you linked in today's post [here] reflects any sort of major change in the policy of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. A couple years ago, the pastor of St. Thomas More in Toronto remarked on his personal blog ("Peregrinations") that the ordinariate had established definitive criteria for ordinariate communities to attain the status of "mission" and then of "parish." Nevertheless, the publication of this information in an official document is clearly a major change in practice and a step in the right direction.
But unless definitive criteria, or definitive policies, for any area are written and published, they aren't very useful. Let's take one "policy" I've heard expressed several times over the past four years: a parish or group or whatever can't be involved in civil litigation, which is typically invoked to explain Houston's lack of initiative on the St Mary of the Angels case.

But in the policy as published, item (6) Stability: Civil Litigation, a "community in formation" is not excluded from civil litigation, although I assume this anticipates that any such litigation would be resolved in the process of admission.

But As of January 2012, St Mary's had not been involved in litigation, which was brought only in May 2012 by the ACA, and this was at least in part a result of miscalculation in Houston. As of 2016, it is anticipated that this litigation will be resolved favorably in a fairly short period -- which would not exclude the parish becoming a "group in formation", which is what it would have to become in any case to begin the process of admission.

On one hand, my experience in the corporate world suggests that if I were to raise this sort of issue over a corporate policy, it would be taken as yet another indication that I am a smartass. On the other, I am not currently in a position to endorse the St Mary's parish taking this step in any case. But it's an indication of why it is desirable for policies to be published, since without publication, people still "assume" what they are, often in error.

My visitor continues with another worthwhile point:

As to the situation at St. Thomas More in Scranton, I doubt that its status will change unless it really comes unglued. The stated criteria are to "become" a mission or a parish -- NOT to "remain" a mission or a parish. The last thing that the hierarchy wants is a "yoyo" community that oscillates between status as one type of community or another as families moving in and out cause its membership to oscillate around some threshold or as economic cycles cause its fluctuations in its economic situation.

In the same way, a new Benedictine priory must grow to twelve solemnly professed monks to become an abbey -- but it does not cease to be an abbey if it subsequently drops below that number. The Benedictine community with which I habitually worship had several deaths in a short time that caused it to drop to only eight monks two decades ago. It now has nine monks in solemn vows, but it's still an abbey even two decades after its membership dropped to just 2/3 of the threshold to gain that status.

Clearly, as stated in the policy, a principal goal is stability of communities, and my visitor is correct in saying it would defeat the purpose to have a community yo-yo between states. On the other hand, and the policy might have been better conceived to make this clearer, many of its criteria appear to be aimed specifically at the responsibilities -- i.e., performance criteria -- of priests in parishes.

The farther down we read in the policy, the more we see performance criteria that look a lot like those in corporate personnel appraisals -- for instance, (5) STABILITY: SACRAMENTAL DISCIPLINE, (7) VITALITY: RELATIONSHIP WITH LOCAL DIOCESE, and (8) VITALITY: DOCILITY TO ORDINARY & PEACE WITH ONE ANOTHER. One might see categories like these, or variations depending on circumstances, in a corporate annual appraisal form, the only addition being boxes for "Exceeds Expectations", "Meets Expectations", and "Improvement Needed", with space for comments.

Naturally, the appropriate response by the Ordinary if a priest is determined to be deficient in any of these areas would not be to demote the whole parish to mission. But isn't a response called for? The clearest example we see is that of St Thomas More Scranton, where an appraisal might result in "Improvement Needed" for Fr Bergman in several categories. In a corporate environment, we would expect vigorous incentives to be applied that would be aimed at rapidly bringing the individual up to par, probably within a period of months.

Yet Fr Bergman continues on the Ordinariate governing council and is an important member of the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society, where he is apparently valued as a member of Bp Lopes's inner circle. Not good.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Finally, Written Policies From Houston

My regular correspondent has pointed me to a new Guide for Parish Development on the US-Canadian Ordinariate website, which is described as "an essential tool for evaluating the development of our communities from their earliest beginnings as groups in formation through to their canonical erection as Parishes".

The big step is that it defines "Parish", "Quasi-parish/Mission", and "Community in Formation". Up to now, this and other issues had been vaguely referred to in informal discussions with Houston as "policy", but "policy" had varied according to convenience and was basically just oral history. Now everyone will have a clear set of guidelines on what constitutes a real parish and what a group or mission needs to do to become one.

Maybe. There seems to be general agreement, for instance, that St Thomas More Scranton is a full parish. But the financial criteria for a full parish are simply "Debt: Manageable Assets: Sufficient Location: Secured (ownership or long-term agreement)". The only information we have on St Thomas More is that its financial condition has been misrepresented, by its pastor's admission, and it is in fact not meeting debt payments and even missing payroll. What move is Houston making to investigate and correct this situation?

The guidelines also point out that "Ordinariate missions and parishes are required to have functioning pastoral and finance councils." Again, whether St Thomas More has a functioning finance council is an open question. Do favored clergy get exemptions from these guidelines? If so, this simply suggests that the OCSP is corrupt.

It does appear that Houston sees a continuing problem in another area.

We recall that while the Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, provides for the preservation of the Anglican liturgical and spiritual patrimony in the Catholic Church, it is rather more cautious about Anglican ecclesial models in the hierarchical constitution of the Church.
Rejecting prior forms of institutionalized animus and embracing Catholic communion is an ongoing mark of spiritual and community health and vitality.
It appears that Bp Lopes wants to avoid having the OCSP become a clone of a "continuing Anglican" denomination. One means of controlling this, of course, would be to contain the continuing tendency of OCSP priests to self-promotion.

However, while this one set of written policies is a desirable step, their consistent enforcement must follow. But beyond that, only about half of OCSP priests are connected with groups, missions, or parishes. How a candidate qualifies for ordination in the OCSP is still a matter reserved to informal oral history, and what responsibilities priests like Fr Jon Chalmers have in relation to Houston is a mystery. The few dozen or so free-floating OCSP priests strike me, frankly, as an opportunity for catastrophe down the road -- as is the apparently unresolved financial issue at St Thomas More.

So the new guidelines are a step, but only a first step. To me, they're more important mostly as a reminder of how much is yet undone.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

More Of The Story

on the two former CEC priests who had been associated with the now-defunct St John Fisher group in Arlington, VA and their subsequent pastoral careers.

Following his move to Kansas City, Fr Sly's primary job has been as associate pastor of the St Therese diocesan parish there. This appears to be a parish of normal size with four Sunday masses. The Kansas City Ordinariate group is Our Lady of Hope, which meets at the Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic parish and has what I assume is a BDW mass at 9:15 on Sundays. The Our Lady of Sorrows host parish is a small and apparently declining one that had been under Fr Anthony Pileggi, who has been transferred full time to the diocesan marriage tribunal.

The Our Lady of Hope Ordinariate group has been under Fr Davis, a former Pastoral Provision priest. However, he has announced that effective July 1, he will be on a six-month sabbatical and will apparently undertake other duties on his return. In addition, a pilgrimage to Walsingham that it had been anticipated he would lead in September has been canceled for lack of interest.

Fr Joseph Cisetti announced in the latest St Therese parish newsletter that Bishop Johnston had requested that Fr Sly take over as administrator of the Our Lady of Sorrows parish until the end of the year, maintaining his duties as associate at St Therese. He doesn't mention Fr Sly's Ordinariate connection, but I assume Fr Sly will also take over the Our Lady of Hope group as well. That the diocesan bishop would want to expand Fr Sly's duties outside the Ordinariate seems to speak well of him, and Fr Cisetti seems to speak will of him in the newsletter. While some people have been skeptical of the formation some former CEC priests received, the fact that Fr Sly was also a former Wesleyan Methodist pastor may have been an advantage for him and the St Therese parish.

A visitor has clarified some of the circumstances surrounding the St Bede group in St Paul Park, MN. According to that visitor, the entire St Bede's group decided to relocate to St Paul Park, although its administrator did remain in the abbey in Collegeville. "A major consideration was demographics: the larger and generally more cosmopolitan population in the Twin Cities provided more opportunities for growth, it seemed, than would be the case in rural Collegeville." However, members drifted away from the group following the move.

In November 2015 some members of the original St Bede's group decided to form a new group, the St. Benet Biscop Chapter of St. John’s Oblates, that would allow them to "begin again" in Collegeville. "Though most of the 20 members of the St. Benet Biscop Chapter are members of the OCSP, the chapter itself is not under the jurisdiction of the OCSP but of the abbot of St. John’s." Nevertheless, Bp Lopes has contacted the group and expressed his support. To tell the truth, I'm not sure how to parse this, but I post it here in the context that in the visitor's opinion there was never a "split" among the St Bede's group.

In addition, the visitor clarifies that the group did in fact contact Msgr Steenson well before moving to St Paul Park. "It was Monsignor Steenson who contacted Bishop Cozzens." In any case, the initiative to have Fr Treco ordained would have come from Msgr Steenson. However, it's difficult to avoid seeing some subtext in the visitor's remarks that the "new start" in the Oblate group came from some level of dissatisfaction with Fr Treco, whose "Protestant Evangelical" formation "gave the members of St. Bede’s pause".

Frs Sly and Treco seem to be different people.