Tuesday, November 21, 2017

So Where Is Anglicanorum Coetibus Headed? -- I

I've had some thoughtful e-mails from two correspondents over the past few days that are leading me to ponder how the Anglican ecumenism project is likely to develop. It's worth pointing out that 2017, in addition to being the 500th anniversary of the 95 Theses (which were never nailed to the church door), is also the 40th anniversary of the Affirmation of St Louis (which is now essentially forgotten). But this year also marks 40 years of St Mary of the Angels attempting, and so far failing, to become a Roman Catholic parish. The initial failure in the 1980s is generally acknowledged to have been an impetus for the 1993 meeting of TEC Bp Pope and Fr Steenson with Cardinal Ratzinger that led to Anglicanorum coetibus, which, whatever problem it was trying to solve, did not solve the problem of how St Mary of the Angels could come in.

So St Mary's Hollywood is an important player, if only in a negative sense. But let's start out by looking at an OCSP community that in many ways parallels St Mary of the Angels, the Blessed John Henry Newman group currently meeting in a converted garage in Irvine, CA. The group was started in 2011 by Andrew Bartus as a secondary project when he was still curate of St Mary of the Angels. (He was terminated from that position in April 2012 following discovery of plans by the dissidents and the ACA to seize the parish and place him as rector.) His Newman group first met at the Blessed Sacrament TEC parish in Placentia, CA, and subsequently moved to two different Catholic parishes before finding a longer-term home in the Busch Group's unused garage in its Irvine business complex.

The Busch Group is headed by Timothy Busch, a major Catholic philanthropist who has funded the Diocese of Orange's acquisition of the Christ Cathedral property, the Napa Institute, the Catholic University business school, and Catholic schools in the Orange County area. It would appear that support of the Newman group is not high on this list, for whatever reason. This brings us to the question my regular correspondent asks, why, with so many potential advantages, the Newman group hasn't advanced to the status of a full OCSP parish.

My regular correspondent seems to have asked this question most recently after reading a November 4 comment by Newman stalwart Greg K Herr on the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society blog:

With an enthusiastic, cobbled together group of Anglicans and Catholics, we somehow formed, sang Evensong, took catechesis (Evangelium), and, on July 3, 2012 were received as a Catholic community with 17 people. Today, we are about 200 families.
Mr Herr elsewhere identifies himself as a member of "the Board of Directors for Orange County’s newest Catholic parish, an Anglican Ordinariate church, which he helped to co-found five years ago." However, the Newman group is not a parish and does not, at least canonically, have a board of directors. So it's worth looking more carefully at anything Mr Herr tells us. To start with, a rule of thumb correspondents have given me from time to time is that a "family" in terms of parish size translates to three people, so if we follow Mr Herr's version, there would be 600 people registered with the Newman group and meeting in the former garage. (I will appreciate any firmer clarification on what a Catholic "family" translates to in individuals.)

The OCSP, unlike many dioceses, does not publish official membership or registration statistics. But I asked my regular correspondent if any comparable numbers could be found to measure where the Newman group stands with reference to established OCSP parishes. The reply came piecemeal:

About a year ago Fr Bergman reported the membership of STM, Scranton as "215 souls"
OLW, Houston publishes previous week's attendance in the Sunday bulletin, as here. Sunday mass November 5: 745
Two years ago Bp Lopes came to Incarnation, Orlando to administer Confirmation and First Communion They expected "a large group of 120+ people" to attend the pot-luck following, so this gives you a sense, at least.
St Luke, Washington became a parish with an ASA of about 125 while sharing a building with a diocesan parish.
Another visitor gave this estimate for the size of Our Lady of the Atonement, although according to Fr Lewis, the initial OCSP membership drive resulted in only 300 families:
The nave of the OLA church building has a capacity of not much more than 500, though there could be another 100 in the cry rooms and choir loft. The 9 and 11 am Mass would seem to have the best attendance, though Latin Mass might be close. If a pew is full, it's usually due to 2 or 3 children with parents. A number of pews have only 2 or 3, so my guess is about 2/3 full or 350 or so at Mass. The 4 Sunday Masses therefore likely have 1,200 or so attending on a somewhat normal Sunday, which is likely between 350 to 400 families.
So if Mr Herr's figure of 200 families is correct, this would certainly place the group among the half-dozen or so largest OCSP parishes, not just communities. But my regular correspondent asks,
So why are they worshipping in a chapel which holds 65?
Although there's a Saturday vigil mass and two Sunday masses there, it's hard to say how well they're attended. And according to my regular correspondent,
All four [California] groups were invited to the Sunday mass celebrated by Bp Lopes last month, followed by a pot-luck lunch, and they seemed to fit into the Queen of Life chapel.
I think a preliminary conclusion, which I'll investigate further tomorrow, would be that the BJHN Irvine group is a Potemkin village little different from the other groups-in-formation. I suspect too that Mr Busch, if he were assessing the situation comparably to the master in this past Sunday's gospel, would have awarded talents to the group comparable to its abilities, and the talent he's given them in comparison to other projects may reflect this.

But why should Potemkin villages be so characteristic of the OCSP?