Monday, April 20, 2015

What's Missing

In the interactions I had in early 2012 with Ms Chalmers, the Ordinariate's disappointing Chancellor, she told me, "We're making it up as we go along." Well, maybe that could have been barely acceptable as an excuse in early 2012 (shouldn't there have been planning before things were launched?), but three years later, I don't get the impression that much has changed.

In the various discussions I've had with lay people involved with groups-in-formation, I simply don't get the feeling that there are any guidelines available on how to do it. Should the groups pay clergy? How much? How can a group without a priest connect with priests without groups? Who in a local diocese is best to contact in identifying worship space? Do we need to incorporate? Roughly how much money should we be expecting to raise? What other practical advice can anyone give?

Frankly, I can't avoid the impression that nobody's quite sure who in Houston answers such questions, or whether such a person, if he exists, is motivated enough to answer them at all. ("But we're all just volunteers!")

If I google "clergy pay guidelines Episcopal", I get page after page of hits from nearly every diocese. Picking one at random from the Diocese of East Carolina, I get clergy compensation guidelines, as well as many other useful policies, including those on background checks and alcohol use. On the other hand, if I go to the Ordinariate Questions & Answers page, I get desultory chit-chat about Anglicanorum coetibus but, significantly, nothing about what next steps I might take if I'm actually interested. There are references to application forms in the chit-chat, but no place on the site I can find them. Someone might want to undertake a project of requesting such forms from Houston -- I'd be interested to hear the result.

Msgr Steenson, formerly Episcopal Bishop of the Rio Grande, must certainly be familiar with how such bodies disseminate policies and make forms available. Here's a page from his former see. Check out the "12 marks of healthy church behavior assessment sheet", by the way. Three years in, there's nothing like it on the Ordinariate site.

A visitor commented,

What would be great, if there's some sort of event or conference for of all the Ordinariate and interested people to gather for some Q&A and some news and a simple "suggestion box" type of function that doesn't make the CoSP Ordinariate seem so mysterious and inscrutable (read: disorganized) and it would do well to establish a "Friends of the Ordinariates" analogue with laypersons involved.
My first question might be more along the line of what form we need to fill out to request a new Ordinary. Seriously. Where in the Vatican do we get to make our feelings known? Does anyone have suggestions?

UPDATE: A form can in fact be found from a JOIN link at the top of the home page, but there is no other reference to it that I can identify. And how hard would it be to add a link to the form on the Q&A page? In addition, there does not appear to be an equivalent way to inquire about forming a group, which of course is the coetibus part of the whole thing.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Case For Friends Of The Ordinariate

Prof Andrew Jordan of the University of Rochester appears to be the lay driving force behind the Fellowship of St. Alban Ordinariate group in Rochester, NY. Since I've begun to learn more about the individual Ordinariate parishes and missions, I've visited the group's web site and come away impressed. The group is currently working to find a new pastor.

Prof Jordan responded to my posts on group finances with the following:

hi Mr. Bruce, I noticed your series of posts on finances for the Ordinariate groups. Thanks for your concern! We accept checks to assist our mission. They may be made out to

The fellowship of St. Alban Ordinariate group

and mailed to me:
Andrew Jordan
91 Westerloe Ave.
Rochester, NY
14620

I would be happy to forward it on to our treasurer.

We do have donors that are not local - we would be happy to remember you at the mass as a benefactor.

Best wishes,
Andrew

Three things strike me here. One is that the Fellowship of St Alban is ahead of the game in matters like incorporation, a checking account, and a treasurer, although up to now, this appears to be all the same to Houston. Another is the presence of a strong lay leader in the group. A third is that the strong lay leader isn't bashful about soliciting donations.

This is all to the good. On balance, I would discuss a fairly nominal donation with my wife and send it along -- but that really isn't an answer, is it? OK, we support our Latin parish, we support Augustinian and other charities, but why send a check to Rochester, NY out of the blue? Wouldn't it be a better idea to support a larger number of Ordinariate causes in a more systematic way?

Why no Friends of the Ordinariate? These already exist in the UK and Australia. Why no strong lay figure in the US and Canadian Ordinariate who could promote something like that?

Clearly there are donations being made, apparently sometimes substantial, to individual Ordinariate clergy in the form of personal property (ethically questionable), or in the form of multimillion-dollar pet projects like the Houston Chancery --- but both of these seem more to glorify individuals than further the cause of Anglicanorum coetibus.

I'm not sure, in fact, if Houston would be entirely comfortable with the idea of a strong lay figure or figures. But I wish Prof Jordan and his group the best, I will talk with my wife, and I hope others will think about how best to further the cause as well.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Case For Closer Supervision

I don't mean to pursue Andrew Bartus exclusively in posts here, but things keep coming to me about the situation in (now) Irvine, and frankly, I think they're concrete examples of what's wrong with the US-Canadian Ordinariate.

The first thing I've noticed personally, based on a visit to the Newman group while it was in formation at Placentia, was that wine was served at parish functions. I now notice, based on visits to the parish Facebook page, that this practice continues, and I'm told that wine is routinely served during the period normally called "coffee hour" after 11 AM mass, to the extent that apparently some parishioners regard it as "wine hour".

Several Episcopal parishes I've observed, including my most recent one in Hollywood, have a strict no-alcohol-on-premises policy (excluding communion wine, of course). The rector of the Hollywood parish put it persuasively -- with so many people struggling with alcohol issues, it's simply irresponsible to have an environment in a church that enables abuse. But whatever the specific policy, I've simply never seen any parish in any denomination, other than this Newman group, that serves wine after the 11 AM mass. This group does, with plenty of toddlers and young children around. The liability issues are also apparent -- if you serve alcohol and someone has an auto accident afterward, you're on the hook.

Another issue that's been pointed out is that in the Newman group, there doesn't seem to be any distinction between parish activities and Bartus social events, with apparently one type just transitioning into the other. The problem is that would-be parishioners who don't conform to the favored yuppie demographic feel excluded from both. This situation is well within an ethical gray area, and as I've surmised here in the past, if people saw it at St Mary of the Angels while he was there, it would likely continue, and it apparently has.

Third, it appears that there isn't a clear distinction between gifts to Bartus personally and donations to the Newman group. My understanding is that Bartus has solicited donations for vestments, but it isn't entirely clear if the vestments become his personal property, or are the property of the Newman group. (A significant set appears to be his property.) Normally vestments belong to a parish and are kept in the sacristy, but with the group moving frequently and renting or borrowing space, ownership isn't clear. In addition, my understanding is that substantial monetary gifts have been made to the Bartus family. This is also well within an ethical gray area, and in many denominations, direct cash gifts to clergy are unethical.

Somehow an adult needs to take a close look at what's going on here, stop the "wine hour", and set clear boundaries over social activities, gifts, and donations. Requiring an accounting system for all Ordinariate groups is just a very minimal start to what needs to be done. Make it clear what things are; issue 1099s and W-2s for payments; issue receipts for gifts to the tax exempt entity. If the boundaries aren't clear in the Ordinariate, this is just one more reason I can't recommend that the St Mary of the Angels parish get involved.

Msgr Steenson, pay a little now or pay a lot later.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Vicar General For California Groups?

I'm told -- and I'm not sure how reliable this is -- that a Catholic priest due for retirement from parish work in the area, who is familiar with Anglican Use, may be designated a vicar general for the Ordinariate missions in Southern California. This is apparently based on some comments made after mass in a Latin rite parish in the area, which may have been misunderstood.

However, like the expectation that all parishes and missions use standardized accounting software (and be responsible for that minimal expense), I think this is another indication that adults may be taking over in the Ordinariate. I will eagerly follow developments and will welcome any further correction or clarification. However, the lack of effective supervision has already been pointed out here as a serious deficiency in the current state of affairs.

We do know that Fr Jack Barker, a previous rector at St Mary of the Angels who later became a Catholic priest, will be leaving his Murrieta, CA parish on July 1, 2015.

More On Finances

Regarding my post yesterday, my visitor replies (slightly edited),
Purely speculative here, but taking as an example St Edmund's, Kitchener, a group of about ten people, who previously had Sunday mass celebrated for them by a diocesan priest at a side altar in his parish church: I am sure they paid him some sort of honorarium, and perhaps made a donation to the parish, but did not pay formal rent. Now they have their own Ordinariate pastor who celebrates Sunday mass for them at another parish church and lives in the rectory with the pastor of the diocesan parish. Again, I am sure a contribution is made, but paying any kind of rent would seem beyond them. The bulletin does encourage donors to make cheques out to St Edmund's, so as you suggest they must have their own bank account and be able to issue charitable receipts. I know that the group in Vancouver/Maple Ridge simply funnels money through their host parish. In a few cases the Ordinariate priest is also the pastor of a diocesan parish, as in Mobile, AL or is on the staff of a diocesan parish (Boerne, TX). So there are creative ways of dealing with financial viability. My bigger concern was the thought of one of the elderly volunteers in a smaller group having to master the intricacies of the software to handle the $73 weekly collection. Which will ultimately be completely swallowed up in paying for the program.
This raises some interesting questions, not least about fairness and accountability. As I've been giving thought to how the small groups-in-formation work and eventually develop, I can't help but come back to the question of whether they should grow. Let's look at some ordinary expenses. The Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, an organization that we may assume is comparable in practice to the Ordinariate (or at least we should aspire to be comparable to it), specifies that the honorarium for a supply priest is $125 per one Sunday mass, $175 for two, plus mileage. Let's set this as a fairly nominal amount that a group-in-formation should be wanting to pay a priest.

St Mary of the Angels was, insofar as I can remember, collecting $75 per evening for twelve-step meetings. Based on bulletin board notices, my earlier Episcopal parish was definitely collecting rent for similar meetings, and it was renting the nave on Sunday afternoons to an Orthodox parish. A group in formation might also want to finance refreshments for any after-mass reception -- let's call it $50 for coffee, juice, pastries, cookies, and so forth. A paid organist and choir is a significant expense, $2700 per month at St Mary of the Angels in 2011. A group in formation is not being realistic if it is not at least looking toward meeting expenses at this level.

If I were the Ordinary, I think I would be irresponsible if I allowed any group-in-formation to think it could be successful over any kind of medium term without the ability to meet this level of expenses. Without a paid music program, you're still looking at an absolute minimum of $350 per week to pay a priest for saying mass, serve coffee, and have access to worship space. And if a founding priest is willing to say mass for free, what about his successor? Where does idealism stop and exploitation start? To do anything like this, you'd need a core group that can reliably pledge anything from $30-$50 per week.

Yes, I've seen the elderly parish treasurer who really isn't in a position to learn a computer app -- but the actuarial reality is you can't rely on him forever. When does a group in formation have to start to get serious about five or ten years in the future? How does it seriously expect to grow and evangelize? I'm not seeing this with the smaller groups, at least so far, and I'm not getting the impression that Houston has a sense of this, either -- though a requirement that a group front $450 per year for software is not a bad start.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ordinariate Accounting

The questions I had yesterday about the financial status of the Blessed John Henry Newman church in California raised, in part, the question of hall rental. I simply don't know how Ordinariate groups that meet in diocesan parish buildings handle this issue. Certainly the parishes with which I've been familiar that host Twelve-Step meetings, yoga classes, or whatever, do charge rental for the space, and this is reasonable, since lights, restrooms, heat, air conditioning, cleaning, and maintenance all cost money. Parishes that allow other denominations to use their worship space certainly charge for the privilege.

Since Twelve-Step programs are anonymous, the rental from those groups came to St Mary of the Angels in cash, mostly ones. Other groups using the hall paid by check on the accounts of the groups.

I'm assuming that Ordinariate groups in formation must incorporate at some early stage in their development, and certainly must exist as formal entities to be recognized at all by the Ordinary. A visitor now tells me that Houston "will soon have a state-of-the-art parish accounting software system which will be mandatory for every group to use. This package, which will cost around $450 per group per year, is used by many Catholic dioceses (like Detroit) but seems a bit elaborate for OCSP, which has many groups with membership in the low double digits. Houston is picking up the cost for the first year."

The visitor suggests that some groups may need to set up bank accounts and so forth for the first time in order to accommodate this, but I'm simply not sure if this hasn't already been done. It does, though, lead to the question of what the typical plate-and-pledge amounts to for the smaller groups, and what their expenses are. If a smaller group has 15 pledging entities each contributing $20 per week, that's $300, but I'm not sure how realistic that is -- as an usher at my Catholic parish, I see many people putting much smaller amounts in the basket (and plenty just pass it by), and our pastor has asked those pledging less than $5 per week to increase the amount to $5.

On the other hand, I don't know what hall rental amounts to, either, nor what other expenses a small group has, assuming the clergy is non-stipendiary. This is information I badly wanted to know when I was briefly treasurer of St Mary's -- these were the sorts of things that nobody in the Diocese of Ft Worth in-group seemed much concerned about, and nobody was providing any sort of guidance. It seems to me that some uniform system of accounting must be essential to the Ordinariate -- but frankly, it raises the question of how many smaller groups can, or should, continue.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Flushing, NY Ordinariate Community

A visitor mentioned to me several times the case of an Ordinariate community-in-formation in Flushing, NY whose status had been in question following the unexpected death of its pastor in 2014. I now see that this group was received into the Catholic Church as an Ordinariate community this past Sunday.

However, the comments on this post raise several questions. First, they still have no pastor and are simply attending the regular novus ordo Spanish-language mass at a Catholic parish. Other than their supervision by Msgr Steenson rather than a diocesan ordinary, it's difficult to see what makes them Anglican, other than their prior affiliation with a Spanish-language Episcopal parish.

This raises the question, as noted in the comments, of whether the US-Canadian Ordinariate has any particular focus.

By the way, this community is not yet listed on the parish finder of the Houston web site.