Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"Appearance Of Arbitrariness"

My regular correspondent writes,
You have, I know, heard from or about men who were not successful in their attempt to be ordained for the OSCP. I know that the delict of schism was generally fatal; five candidates in Canada were rejected on that basis, and the man in Raymond, ME about whom Ms Hayhurst comments all over the blogosphere, and the man from Australia whose disappointment is also widely expressed. A number of ACCC clergy without M.Divs and without groups were turned down, which strikes me as understandable. But the fragmented Anglican scene in the US, Canada, and Australia has led to an appearance of arbitrariness in regard to ordinations which has been avoided in the UK.
The poster boy for arbitrariness, I would submit, is Fr Baaten, whose closest brush with Anglicanism was a few months at the "snake belly low" St James Newport Beach.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Discernment And The OCSP

My regular correspondent notes,
I note that a former candidate for ordination in the OCSP this year, a former TEC clergyman, has returned to the Episcopal church. After leaving his TEC parish he was attending seminary full-time and discerned that the Catholic priesthood was in fact not what he was being called to. I think this is a good news story insofar as it reflects the typical experience of a candidate for Holy Orders, ie an extended formation period in which many seminarians (about 25%) decide that the priesthood is not for them.

I hope that there were men in the two initial formation groups, whose ordination preparation consisted of a one-week trip to Houston and a few weekend webinars, who also discerned that the Catholic priesthood was not what they were called to, but I think there were a number of obvious factors working against that. And I think that the OCSP has paid a price for rushing these men into leadership positions. This Sunday the OCSP takes a second collection for its Seminary Fund and I think this is important, regardless of the amount actually collected, because it focusses on the fact that preparation for ministry in the Ordinariate is being brought in line with that in the Church as a whole.

Two things strike me. One is that the process of reviewing candidates in 2012 did result in some notable negative outcomes, starting with David Moyer, but certainly a number of other candidates were disappointed. Given subsequent developments, it was probably all for the best, although these fine men have had to find other vocations in life.

But it's also worth noting that the initial personnel selections for the OCSP weren't especially good, and it appears that since Bp Lopes's arrival, something of a do-over is in progress. But what can a promising celibate seminarian see in the OCSP as a career path? His best hope could well be to cultivate Bp Lopes as a mentor and move up and out -- but otherwise, won't the OCSP be just a backwater?

Friday, September 23, 2016

A Different Approach To Anglican Outreach

Neither the Pastoral Provision nor Anglicanorum coetibus has matched expectations, at least in terms of attracting significant groups of Anglican laity to Catholicism. (If the Pastoral Provision had been successful, there would have been no need for Anglicanorum coetibus.) On reflection, I think a big reason for this has been the idea that disaffected Anglicans would come in as quasi-parish groups, or indeed as full parishes.

I've never felt that it was a particular error for Cardinals Manning and Mahony to reject the St Mary of the Angels application to come in as Anglican Use in the mid 1980s. Every indication is that it would have been a headache and indeed a continuing source of bad press -- why borrow trouble? Nevertheless, St Mary's parishioners and clergy did in fact become Catholic during that period. Why lay so much stress on coming in as a parish?

In fact, the experience not just of St Mary's but of other groups has been that the process of parish discernment is unnecessarily divisive and often wastefully expensive. In addition to seriously damaging St Mary's parish, it's done some measure of harm to the Los Feliz community.

Nevertheless, there are common areas of belief and practice between Anglicanism and Catholicism that shouldn't be ignored. But RCIA, since it's mostly aimed at unbaptized catechumens coming from widely varying backgrounds, isn't the best route for Anglicans seeking to come into the Church. Beyond that, even the pastor at our former diocesan parish acknowledged that RCIA is too dumbed-down for many people.

I'm not sure how cost-effective a specialized approach to Anglicans would be in any diocese, but it does seem to me that if you apply the broad definition of Anglican used in the complementary norms (including those married to Anglicans broadly defined, or members of a family in which there was one such member), the numbers affected could be significant.

So how about a streamlined but enriched RCIA program? This might go along with a campaign of education that stressed that Catholic parishes vary in liturgical observance, and perhaps a bishop could extend a particular invitation to Anglicans to visit a variety of diocesan parishes to see if they might find certain ones appealing. Then announce the enhanced RCIA in particular parishes -- if there were just one or two catechists who might be best suited to this, fine -- offer the class at different times in different places.

I think a big miscalculation in Anglican outreach has been to gloss over the fact that it's always a personal decision to become Catholic. So far, the personal decision is unnecessarily tied up with parish factionalism, while the best alternative, RCIA, isn't well-suited to educated people who are already fairly well catechized.

A different approach might be worth some thought.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Other Vulnerable OCSP Groups

My regular correspondent points out,
There are easily another ten OCSP groups which would appear to have no ability to replace and/or support a priest when the current (elderly) parochial administrator retires again. Local diocesan clergy may step in in a few instances but I doubt that this is a recipe for long-term survival. The home page of the Our Lady of Hope, Kansas City website, with the Holy Week service times still posted, is my Exhibit A for the case that a priest who has significant diocesan responsibilities will have little time or energy to devote to the small group of OCSP members he is responsible for. And Fr Sly is OCSP, after all. What will be the time commitment of someone with no prior Ordinariate connection? Better to direct the members of these groups to diocesan parishes with greater opportunities for fellowship, involvement, and growth in the faith, IMHO.
It seems to me that the story arc of the OCSP has been that it was founded by an in-group of former Episcopal priests, themselves approaching secular retirement age, who saw Anglican unity with Rome as not much more than a prestigious career capstone. Many of these have proved unsatisfactory even for the minimal duties to which they were assigned, and by Catholic standards, their retirements have been premature, if justifiable. But having failed at the purpose for which it was founded, what else is it supposed to accomplish?

A visitor very kindly sent me a set of lectures delivered in 1944 by an Oxford Anglo-Papalist. They are very worthwhile as scriptural exegesis as well as historical analysis of the papacy, but they run into the Anglo-Papalist dilemma: assuming Anglican unity with Rome is a good thing, how is it to be brought about? Do the Anglican bishops suddenly resign and defer to the Catholic ones? If not, how else do we proceed? This would be a special problem for England, where the Church of England is established, and there are legal issues.

But in the US, there are parallel problems. TEC is not legally privileged, but Episcopalians still think they're special, and the assumption seems to have been that they need a special liturgy with thees and thous. Apparently they also need to bond with each other in special prestigious parishes, or at least that's how the assumption went.

But our diocesan parish relies on many Anglican hymns in its missal book. Just this past Sunday, we sang the Joachim Neander Lobe den Herren, which should probably be designated "honorary Anglican" for the enthusiasm which which it has been translated in Anglican hymnals. Throughout my Episcopal period, every version I sang had all the thees, thous, and thys, as well as the eths. The Catholic translation did away with every one of them. It was a bit of a shock, but I suddenly realized it works, and it calls attention to the words.

I'm wondering if Bp Lopes should be thinking along the lines of sending all the OCSP laity to diocesan parishes.

Monday, September 19, 2016

More Context

My regular correspondent has added some context to the question of OCSP groups that lose their priests:
Fr Reid left Ottawa to return to Victoria, BC and take over the Fellowship of BlJHN there, as the Ottawa parish had two other clergy, and Fr Reid is originally from Victoria. Fr Ortiz-Guzman was able to hold off his retirement until a replacement at St Augustine, Carlsbad was found in now-Fr Baaten. Fr Catania will be taking over from Fr Scheiblhofer at St Barnabas, Omaha, while assisting at a diocesan parish.

Fr Venuti has had to give up the leadership of St Gregory, Mobile for health reasons, but a diocesan priest offers mass for them once or twice a month (conflicting info depending on where you look).

On the other hand, I would add St Gilbert, Boerne to your list of groups which have folded owing to the departure of their priest. Fr Cannaday, the original leader, has now fully retired and his replacement, Fr Wagner, has taken over a diocesan parish in another community. The group was supposed to relocate to the latter's vicinity but I find no evidence that this has happened.

I think this suggests that Houston can sometimes scramble when replacements are available, but it still looks like more often than not, if a priest is unable to continue, the group will fold. The best bet is to have an available celibate who can easily relocate, but not enough of these are in the pipeline to meet likely contingencies.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Is This Thing Sustainable At All?

By my possibly imperfect count, four OCSP groups have gone inactive at minimum after losing their priests: St Edmund Kitchener, St Alban Rochester, St John Fisher Virginia, and now St Gregory the Great Stoneham. The reasons in each case are slightly different, but the bottom line is that the OCSP is unable to replace a priest who retires, loses his visa, has to move for family issues, or can't get diocesan support. Surely additional circumstances will arise that bring the same result.

Add to that the implication in both comments I had yesterday on St Gregory the Great that congregations are aging along with their priests, which means they will inevitably lose mobility and be less able even to commute to a parish not especially distant. But beyond that, as the parishioners age, actuarial reality will catch up, but I don't see those who pass on being replaced.

Nor is this problem new: the loss of Fr Tea at the Anglican Use parish St Mary Las Vegas had exactly the same result. Within five years of its founding, the OCSP has lost roughly 10% of its parishes and groups and is clearly unable to sustain many of the others if any adverse situation comes up. I think a reasonable projection would be that within a fairly short time, it will revert to the roughly half-dozen prosperous parishes that came in as that sort of special case.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Cheer Up, Things Could Be Worse -- Except, Er. . .

I've had two comments on the challenge St Gregory The Great Stoneham faces with Fr Liias's retirement. From my regular correspondent,
Apropos of Fr Wolfe's age, if Fr Liias (his seminary classmate) was the minimum canonical age for Episcopalian ordination in 1974 (24) he will be 66 this year. The congregation of St Gregory the Great, Stoneham has been encouraged to begin attending St Athanasius, whose PP pastor was ordained in TEC in 1970, making him at least 70. Of course aging is not a consistent phenomenon, but until 2009 70 was the mandatory retirement age for clergy in the Archdiocese of Boston (now it is 75; whether this reflects better health care or a priest shortage I can only speculate). So St Athanasius, Brookline will be facing its own leadership issue soon enough.
However, a regular visitor points out,
With respect to your blog post yesterday regarding the imminent retirement of Fr. Jurgen Llias and the fact that the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter does not have an immediate replacement available, it would be highly impracticable for the members of the Church of St. Gregory the Great, currently worshipping at St. Patrick's Church in Stoneham, Massachusetts, a suburb to the north of Boston, to worship with the members of the St. Athanasius Community, which worships at St. Lawrence Church in Chestnut Hill, a neighborhood at the junction of the municipalities of Boston, Brookline, and Newton.

These communities are only about ten or fifteen miles apart as the crow flies, but the saying in local parlance is that "you can't get they-ah from hee-ah." The only major road into the Chestnut Hill area is Massachusetts Route 9, which is a secondary divided highway (limited access in some segments but a few signals in others) going due west and city streets to the east, so access to St. Lawrence Church is reasonably convenient only for those who live in the western neighborhoods of the city, in the nearby inner suburbs, and in the suburbs to the west.

From the suburbs to the north or to the south, one may either take the inner beltway around Boston, originally built as Route 128 and now designated as I-95 and the southernmost segment of I-93, around the city to Route 9 and then head eastward on Route 9 -- a route that is anything but direct -- or muddle through a labyrinth of congested city streets and winding secondary roads.

The highway route from St. Patrick's Church to St. Lawrence Church is over twenty-five (25) miles -- and St. Gregory the Great Church has already moved fifteen miles southward from its original location in Beverly, Massachusetts, to its present location, so the additional commute simply would not be viable for many of that congregation's parishioners.

And going the other way, many of the members of the St. Athanasius Community undoubtedly depend upon public transportation -- which does not provide convenient access to St. Patrick's Church, so a merger at St. Patrick's Church also would not be viable.