Friday, February 1, 2013

I'm Still Pondering

the formation process for ACA and TAC priests. I've reviewed the basic steps for becoming an Episcopal priest elsewhere here. The steps for becoming a Catholic priest are similar, but somewhat more rigorous:
  • Talk to your parish priest, your diocese's vocations director, or the vocation of a religious order if you are familiar with them. . . . They will talk with you about your vocation and possibly get you on a retreat specifically for men discerning the priesthood.
  • Go through the application process for the seminary through your diocese or through the religious order. This process usually includes several questions about yourself and your desire to discern the priesthood.
  • If you're accepted, go to the seminary. Unless you're somewhat older, you should expect to spend at least 6-8 years there, depending on how much college experience you have. Typically religious orders have a slightly different formation process, based on their own needs. Check with them about the exact steps they take that lead to ordination.
  • While you're there, continue to pray and discern God's will. Above all, do what your rector, bishop, vocation's director, or other superiors ask you to do.
  • The final test of whether or not you have a vocation to the priesthood is the call of the bishop. If the bishop does not call you to Holy Orders, you do not have a vocation to the priesthood. The bishop's call is definitive. . .
  • Be ordained a transitional deacon, making your promises of celibacy and obedience.
The more I've thought about this, the more I see that becoming a priest is not simply a matter of getting the right graduate-school training (as Frederick Rivers appears to think), although I would not have much trust in someone who called himself a "medical doctor" without a medical degree. By the same token, just for starters, I would not trust anyone who called himself a "priest" without having completed seminary.

Boiled down, the process of becoming a priest requires discernment and postulancy, several years of it. Application to seminary requires that you either apply through your diocese or get your bishop's approval for the application, which will only come after review. But completing several years of seminary isn't enough, you have to get the bishop's approval to be ordained after that. And let's face it, you want the approval of a real bishop, not a "bishop" who's come up through the "continuing Anglican" ranks, nor even a disaffected Episcopalian renegade. Not even Jeffrey Steenson, after all, can ordain you.

Under those criteria, a good many prominent ACA and TAC "priests" are not priests as we normally understand the term. This, as far as I can tell, includes "Father" Stephen Smuts. "Fr" Smuts, where did you receive your accredited seminary degree? Studying how many units? For what period of time? Frederick Rivers is not a priest by this definition. Stephen Strawn is not a priest by this definition. Something interfered with Brian Marsh's ordination in The Episcopal Church, and I continue to be curious as to what it was, because it suggests he would not be a priest as understood by Episcopalians or Catholics, and his use of the title "bishop" is as misleading as a quack calling himself a "doctor".

I don't even want to think about Samuel Prakash.