Friday, March 2, 2018

I've Got Some Questions

For whatever reason, when I think about the OCSP, i keep thinking about Admiral Beatty's remark at the Battle of Jutland, "Chatfield, there seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today." What's gone wrong?

The best account we have of Luke Reese's career is from the 2016 announcement of his diaconal ordination:

He had been ordained a priest in the Anglican tradition about 10 years ago. To be properly formed for priestly life and ministry as a Catholic, he began commuting in the fall of 2012 from his family’s home in Indianapolis to Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad.

He also received assistance from the archdiocesan vicariate for clergy, religious and parish life coordinators in formation for pastoral ministry.

This says that his process of formation began in the 2012 tranche of candidates. But it also suggests that a number of exceptions to policy occurred in Reese's case. As a visitor put it to me a while ago,
Msgr. Steenson implemented a strict policy of not accepting former Anglican clergymen unless and until it was clear that they would have adequate means to maintain a decent lifestyle, whether from stipends supported by their communities or from Anglican pensions or from clearly identified employment that would continue after their Catholic ordinations.
But it appears that Reese spent four years in some type of remedial seminary study but "received assistance" while doing this. The same visitor noted in a different context,
I do not know the details of the programs of formation or courses of study that the ordinariates have used to prepare their clergy for ordination in the Catholic Church, beyond Cardinal Wuerl's briefing to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) several years ago in which he said that the applications were divided into three categories: (1) those who had completed a full program of formation in a "legit" Anglican seminary and thus would require relatively little additional formation, (2) those who had little formal preparation for ministry and thus would need essentially a full program of formation in a Catholic seminary, and (3) those who were somewhere in between, who would need individually tailored programs of formation to fill the gaps in the formation that they had received.
But my regular correspondent noted,
Several former ACCC clergy with no M.Div or equivalent were ordained after a few distance learning courses; one who is now incardinated in the Diocese of Calgary actually spent one year in a seminary, but no one else had to put in the time to take a full degree.
In addition, though, besides the three categories listed in Cardinal Wuerl's remarks, there was, especially in 2012, clearly a fourth category of candidates whose dossiers were "lost" or who were informally advised to drop their applications without receiving a formal rejection. But every sense I have is that this was a highly subjective, even political, process, driven by an apparent in-group surrounding Msgr Steenson.

The problem I see is that, especially among the 2012 tranche of candidates, for Reese to have had to spend four years in remedial formation would have been remarkably long, and for him to have received assistance while doing it would also be exceptional. One candidate who was informally scrubbed told me of having to spend thousands of dollars out of his own pocket for psychological evaluation -- it sounds as though Reese may not have had to make the same sort of expense, while undergoing far more remedial preparation than apparently anyone else in the 2012 tranche.

But whatever was done in Reese's case, it clearly didn't take. As a layman, I do get the impression that there must be a steady background chatter of diocesan priests who must receive some type of disciplinary or remedial attention, but clearly we almost never hear of cases where a Catholic priest explodes into a days-long criminal outburst as Reese did. Did all these exceptions in his formation have anything to do with this?

And weren't there warning signs? It's hard to avoid a sense that Reese's September violent outburst arose from pressures that had long been building. Reports of legal documents in the case refer to a long history of abuse within the family, as well as instances that had already been reported of providing alcohol to minors, intoxication with minors, and distributing white supremacist material. My correspondent noted,

Fr Reese commuted from Indianapolis to St Meinrad, 170 miles away, to attend seminary. What opportunity, if any, did faculty etc there have to see him in a family context?
My correspondent also noted,
I do agree that even if Indianapolis fumbled the ball in failing to notice problems with someone who, after all, has been employed at Holy Rosary since 2012, it still must be galling to have to consult with Houston about what to do, while local news media are having a field day with a problem that the diocese would never have faced in the absence of an OCSP priest. More usual Church sex scandals considerably less newsworthy by now. Only bright spot for Indianapolis is that presumably Houston must share the financial burden. although its resources are rather limited.
I can't avoid the feeling that the incidence of flagrant scandal in the OCSP is rather high compared to the Catholic priesthood in the US generally. In 2017, we had two really major incidents with Fr Kenyon and Luke Reese, as well as rather unseemly conduct from Fr Phillips. My own view is that the OCSP has additional ticking time bombs (others have characterized them as IEDs), about whom Houston has been warned.

I can only echo Admiral Beatty: "Chatfield, there seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today."