Thursday, May 28, 2015

What, After All, Is The Purpose Of Ordinariates?

There are a couple of posts at Ordinariate News, (here and here) suggesting, first, that some inchoate need exists among Anglo-Catholics that could be filled by reconstituting the Anglican Use Society, and second, that in the UK, there's not enough to distinguish Ordinariate parishes from Latin-rite parishes, especially when the Latin parishes host Ordinariate groups.

I'm a little puzzled that an announcement should be made of reconstituting the Anglican Use Society, followed immediately by a call for suggestions on what it might do with its reconstituted self. I've certainly heard the suggestion that the AUS is re-emerging due to unspecified dissatisfaction with the leadership of the US-Canadian Ordinariate -- although I'm not sure that, if in fact this is a factor, anything can seriously be done. Msgr Steenson is 63. He will not be obliged to submit his resignation until he is 75, although the Vatican could certainly choose to retain his services after 2028. He would not be replaced short of that date without some serious allegation of misconduct. Ain't gonna happen, even if the Anglican Use Society should eventually offer remonstrances.

At the same time, a UK commentator notes,

In cases where those groups who used the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite as Anglicans have experimented with the Ordinariate Use, they have found that a number of their group members have voted with their feet and started to go to Mass in a diocesan parish. The Ordinariate Use may be part of what distinguishes the Ordinariate and the liturgy may be particularly suited to special occasions like an Ordinariate pilgrimage or festival, the titular solemnity or another major feast day, but most groups feel more comfortable with the Ordinary Form as their regular Mass liturgy on weekdays and most Sundays. So one can fairly say that the Ordo Missae is therefore not the main distinctive feature of the Ordinariate in Britain.
This seems to echo the viewpoints in my last post on God-wottery. A visitor with experience at two Anglican Use/now Ordinariate parishes notes that, given the choice of driving a greater distance to get threefold repetitions, genuflections, and multiple kissings of the altar, or not traveling as far to get a mass that lasts no more than an hour, his preferences align with many communicants in the UK Ordinariate -- it's fine for special occasions, but. . .

Add to this my continued concern that the US-Canadian Ordinariate resembles "continuing Anglicanism" all too closely, not only in privileging a liturgy that doesn't appear to be all that popular among the rank and file, but also in what appears to be the opportunism among its clergy, including a disturbing tendency to ordain (or intend to ordain) candidates whose connections in Houston might be good but whose qualifications are, frankly, open to question.

Look, on the other hand, at the sort of issues that actually confront Catholics.

A senior Vatican official has attacked the legalisation of gay marriage in Ireland. The referendum that overwhelmingly backed marriage equality last weekend was a “defeat for humanity”, he claimed. . . .

It was a far more critical response than the circumspect reaction offered by archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, who said: “It is very clear that if this referendum is an affirmation of the views of young people … [then the church needs] a reality check.”

Meanwhile, the Anglican Use Society is asking for suggestions on what to do.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


I had an e-mail over the weekend from a visitor who raised again for me some questions that first appeared in a blog entry by Fr Allan Hawkins, the now-retired pastor of the St Mary the Virgin parish, Arlington, TX. The visitor told me that he was formerly a member of that parish, so Fr Hawkins may have had some influence on him as well. In the blog post, Fr Hawkins expresses a preference for Rite Two of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer over the more Cranmerian version in Rite One:
Monsignor Edwin Barnes, in his blog entry of November 29, 2014, refers to what he calls the American “God-wottery” of the Ordinariate Use. (Helpfully, he adds an explanation: “God-wottery” is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as ‘an affected quality of archaism, excessive fussiness and sentimentality’.) And Father Barnes adds that these are the very things that many English members of the Ordinariate, who have grown up with contemporary rites over a couple of generations now, find so unhelpful.

He refers to what he calls the excessive fussiness of the three-fold repetition of “Lord, I am not worthy …”. And why, Fr. Barnes asks, has the Ordinariate rite (re)-introduced the celebrant’s multiple kissings of the altar?

My impression (admittedly as an outsider) of the US-Canadian Ordinariate is that it is heavily influenced by "continuing Anglicanism", which fetishizes the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. And there was indeed considerable "archaism, excessive fussiness and sentimentality" among the core group of St Mary's troublemakers. But nobody among God-wotters needs to become Catholic, and I think this is part of the tension that broke up the parish. As I've observed, three-fold repetitions are plenty for those who simply want to overcompensate for other lacunae in their religious observance. The obligation to confess such lacunae sacramentally is far more than they wish to have.

Interestingly, my correspondent mentioned that he now sometimes attends an Ordinariate mass at a different, though large and successful, parish -- except that, well, there are Latin-rite parishes between his home and the Ordinariate one, and, well, it's often easier to make the Latin-rite masses of a Sunday. And the Latin-rite ones are guaranteed to last exactly an hour, and there's none of the threefold stuff.

When I was an Episcopalian, the parishes I attended were often proud of the fact that parishioners would pass by other, closer Episcopal parishes to worship there. Doesn't sound like even the most successful Ordinariate parishes necessarily have the same draw. God-wottery, frankly, is a tough sell. Fr Hawkins concluded his post with the observation,

There will surely be only few more Anglicans still looking for a congenial home in communion with Peter. Thus there is, I am convinced, a real danger that it could swiftly become nothing more than a liturgical museum – of interest only to a dwindling esoteric band.
I like the Ordinary Form, I'm coming to recognize, because it's so much like Rite Two.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Money

My wife was doing business at the Citibank branch that's located on the corner of Finley and Hillhurst -- this is the rental property owned by the St Mary of the Angels parish. We have a couple of accounts there, and a teller told my wife that the branch would be moving farther down Hillhurst later this year. I don't remember when the lease was up -- the bank would be obligated to pay rent thourgh the end of the lease, but it the lease is up this year, that means no rent from the bank after that time.

Monthly rental income to the parish from the bank was a little less than $21,000. Monthly income from all other sources, including plate and pledge, was about $7500. This alone would cover only utilities, insurance, and various miscellaneous expenses -- it would not cover any payroll costs, including clergy, organist, choir, or housekeeping. In other words, the parish will need to line up another tenant in a hurry. It doesn't help that the question of who the landlord would be is tied up in the courts.

Unfortunately, throughout its modern history, the parish has in effect been living off the "trust fund" that Fr Dodd set up for it. At one time, I'm told, it was the wealthiest Episcopal parish in the diocese. Three separate cycles of lawsuits have depleted that. My impression is that the group of long-term parishioners who were the core troublemakers never wanted to wake up to the fact that the money was gone, and there would need to be serious fundraising if the parish was to survive -- didn't matter to them, they were in their 70s and 80s anyhow. In fact, most of them didn't even pledge, ignoring the fact that you had to pledge to qualify for the vestry.

During my brief time as treasurer, I got on Fr Kelley's case about this. Apparently the core group had laid down the law to him when he started -- there was to be no silliness over pledging, it disturbed the serenity of the high-church atmosphere, or something like that. When I met with the parish's new accountant, he told me what I already knew: relying on the rental income was utterly imprudent. Banks merge all the time, they move and close branches every day. You can't count on that money.

Sources close to the elected vestry tell me that the loss of the tenant could be an inducement for the dissidents to let go of the place more willingly. I certainly don't have the impression that a bunch of inward-looking snobs has any real interest in the real-world problems of running a parish.

My wife, though, has always been of the view that the ultimate fate of St Mary's will be to become a secular Museum of Culture, perhaps with Mmes Bush and Brandt as docents.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Regarding Shrinkage,

an anonymous visitor raises the following, slightly edited:
As we noted , the St John Fisher community website was all about Fr Sly. Whether that was a cause or a symptom of the group's failure to grow, it was inevitable that it would not survive his departure. I would imagine that there are at least another dozen US-Canadian groups that will fold when their pastor dies or retires, usually because they have not grown beyond an elderly remnant of his former ACCC/ACA parishioners. Succession planning is also difficult even for larger, more viable groups. Unlike the UK Ordinariate, the US-Canadian Ordinariate has drawn almost no one directly from mainstream Anglicanism. Surely the supply of candidates from the "continuing" alphabet soup is drying up, and as for celibate seminarians, good luck. Even the large and successful Texas former and current Pastoral Provision congregations have not produced candidates for ordination in their several decades of existence, perhaps because there was no celibate parish priest to model that vocation in a positive way. An organisation made up entirely of retreads faces fundamental difficulties.
This brings up a bigger question that I'm only starting to get my head around. The basic assumption behind the 1993 meeting between Pope-Steenson and Cardinal Ratzinger was that as many as 250,000 US Episcopalians (25% of the denomination) were prepared to leave in a bunch and go over to a special dispensation to be set up by Rome. The reasons for their disaffection were essentially the same as the reasons behind the St Louis Affirmation of 1977, which led to the "continuing Anglican" movement. However, the one diligent study of Episcopal disaffection, Douglas Bess's Divided We Stand, draws one big conclusion: the actual numbers have never matched the wildly exaggerated projections, and TEC never notices the departures. In this sense, the US-Canadian Ordinariate has simply repeated the pattern of the 1970s and 80s.

There's another pattern that's been creeping into my thinking: Jeffrey Steenson simply isn't the first renegade Episcopal bishop: that honor, as far as I can see, belongs to James A. Pike. Other Episcopal bishops have certainly been controversial and even in some cases subject to trial or discipline, including John Spong, Charles Bennison, and Eugene Robinson. But none of those specifically abrogated their vows, and as far as I'm aware, all retired still able to exercise priestly functions. Pike resigned as bishop and was subsequently de facto deposed by his successor; in his subsequent public career, Pike advocated against Christian doctrines.

Steenson, as far as I can see, is closer to Pike than any other Episcopal bishop, at least in the specifics of his career. Although he and Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori were careful to ease him out with a minimum of public disturbance (unlike that with Pike), Steenson resigned as bishop and left the denomination, presumably no longer able to exercise priestly functions within it, however politely this may have been finessed. I've commented before on the tone of self-absorption that can be seen in his resignation letter. (In fact, revisiting that post, I'm struck by the similarity between Steenson's remark, "An effective leader cannot be so conflicted about the guiding principles of the Church he serves" and Pike's statement at the time of his 1965 resignation that he "cannot be twins".)

Neither "continuing Anglicanism" nor the example of James Pike strikes me as a recipe for success. What's beginning to bother me about the whole idea of Ordinariates (something Steenson was involved with proposing from the start) is simply the presence of conflicting jurisdictions. The Anglican Use Pastoral Provision involved a sympathetic diocesan applying consistent policies across a diocese. The Ordinariates involve designating clergy with radically different backgrounds (as well as mostly being married) from diocesan priests, under different expectations, in a situation that can potentially be exploited, with ambitious self-promoters able to play the diocesans off against the Ordinary and vice versa.

Like my anonymous visitor, I'm less and less comfortable with what I'm seeing.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


The St Mary's dissidents may have updated their calendar, but that for the neighboring ACA parish, All Saints Fountain Valley, CA, still carries the schedule for Holy Week. Interestingly, the schedule for Easter Sunday lists only "Festal Morning Prayer" at 9:30 AM, which suggests they're having some difficulty lining up supply priests. It doesn't appear that they have had a regular priest to say mass since Robert W. Bowman left, after I pointed out his child pornography arrest. (The parish was slow to act, and I finally notified Fountain Valley police of the situation, after which it appears to have been cleared up.)

Looking at the ACA Diocese of the West generally, it lists a parish and a mission in Arizona, four parishes and a mission in California, a parish in Oregon, and a mission in Montana. The missions seem iffy indeed. All Saints Fountain Valley has not had a rector since the death of Anthony Morello more than two years ago, and it seems to have difficulty finding even supply priests. St Mary of the Angels is very much up in the air, with the results of the legal appeal suggesting control will revert to the elected vestry in August of this year. At that point, the ACA Diocese of the West will be down to five parishes in three states, the status of the missions very much in question. This will probably still be too much for "Bishop" Williams to handle.

Meanwhile, the St John Fisher Ordinariate community in Potomac Falls, VA will merge with the St Luke's parish in DC. As far as I can see, this amounts to a reduction in the total number of Ordinariate communities.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The St Mary's Dissidents Finally Updated Their Web Site

Pentecost finally appears on the calendar, although the Diocese of the West still has an inexplicable presence in Alaska.

The problem of unmaintained web sites is not limited to Mrs Bush and her minions. A commenter recently noted at Ordinariate News, with an unaccustomed tone of exasperation,

In particular, the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter needs to give priority to keeping its web site current. It should not take more than a few minutes to update the listing of a community or to add a listing of a new community.
It seems to me that the subliminal message being sent, whether by the shade of Anthony Morello, Mrs Bush and her friends, or Msgr Steenson, is that we don't need to be concerned with outsiders. These are thoroughly inward-focused organizations.

Monday, May 18, 2015

More Catholic Than The USCCB

There has been a minor flap at Ordinariate News (also in the comments here) regarding the apparent (but who knows for sure?) policy of the US-Canadian and UK Ordinariates to treat Ascension Thursday as a Holy Day of Obligation. A discussion of the most prevalent policy, at least in the US, is here.

My head hurts. Naturally, if I miss mass on a holy day of obligation, I've sinned. I'm not sure, though -- if I'd been traveling last week and found myself in Philadelphia on May 14, would I have sinned if I didn't go to mass that day in Philadelphia, but returned to LA in time to attend mass on the day it's transferred here, May 17? And because my baptismal certificate has gone south, I'm not yet registered in my diocese. I'm not sure if Frs M or D would have been confident of my status if I confessed it to them -- they'd probably have absolved me of all my sins anyhow (possibly with a chuckle), whether that covered this one of not. Three Our Fathers.

The problem is compounded when, as noted in the comments on the Ordinariate News threads, the policy isn't posted in any understandable way on the US-Canadian Ordinariate web site. And beyond that, when did this become Ordinariate policy? The US-Canadian one has been going for 3-1/2 years, but the issue has come up only now, as far as I can see. Was this always the policy -- in which case, do any Ordinariate members need to hie themselves to the confessional? Or has it changed more recently?

This specific issue is taking me back to a bigger problem I've come to see in the Anglo-Catholic flavor of "continuing Anglicanism", which I'm beginning to wonder is bleeding into the Ordinariate, at least in North America. I think there's a subtext among some communicants that, if they go through all the supposed liturgical supererogations, this will compensate for whatever lacunae may occur in their actual religious observance. I insist upon incense, bells, maniples, and copes -- which compensates for (fill in the blank, almost certainly a bit of grave matter). I keep thinking of the prominent St Mary of the Angels parishioner, a political operator closely associated with pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage interests, who gifted favored clergy with elaborate vestments.

It's hard enough to be a Catholo-Catholic. Why make it harder? And why cloud things all the more by communicating so poorly?

I'm less and less inclined to have anything to do with the Ordinariates, and I thank my guardian angel for keeping me from making any premature decisions about them.