Friday, March 16, 2018

Syncretism: Catechesis

Yesterday we saw Fr Longenecker's opinion that the remedy for indifferentism (and by extension the related problem of syncretism) among Catholics is catechesis and strong preaching. But the comments I quoted from a visitor who assumed the catechesis OCSP candidates receive is thorough raise an intriguing question. Where did this impression come from? Let's repeat:
[A]ll of the communities that came into the ordinariates went through several months of intense formation and catechesis with Catholic priests from the local diocese or a religious order assigned to oversee their preparation while their former Anglican pastors were preparing for Catholic ordination.
Somehow I got a similar impression in late 2011, that communities coming in would have a Catholic "chaplain" assigned who would be involved in their reception (possibly by a bishop), who would catechize them, and who would say mass for them during an interim period before their Anglican priest was ordained Catholic. Looking over the Complementary Norms, I see no requirement that this take place, but for anyone who might choose to do this, the number of other provisions in the norms that so far haven't been observed is remarkable. Maybe I'll post on this in the future.

Certainly the process that was initiated for the St Mary of the Angels parish in late 2011 -- which was presumably meant to be paradigmatic -- involved the presence of Msgr William Stetson, and the oral tradition that we were given was that reception would take place early in 2012, and Msgr Stetson as part of this process would hear our initial confessions in the days before the mass at which the reception would take place. Stetson would also say mass for the parish for some period before Anglican clergy was ordained. But for whatever reason -- and the full story will almost certainly never be known -- Houston tacitly abandoned this plan by the first week of 2012. (Legal issues could not have been a factor; the first lawsuits weren't filed until May 2012. More likely a disastrous lack of detailed planning in Houston was at fault.)

So somehow, this model of an on-site Catholic "chaplain" taking new OCSP communities under his wing for some period while the Anglican pastor continued his formation seems never quite to have been implemented. But the impression that this was what was done clearly remains, as the comments from the visitor indicate. Thanks to help from my regular correspondent, I've been able to determine what catechesis was actually done by some of the larger OCSP communities as part of their reception.

  • Let's keep in mind that the largest OCSP communities were Pastoral Provision parishes prior to their reception, and their members had already been catechized according to diocesan policy. (But I've been told that Our Lady of the Atonement had discontinued catechism classes for parish children who weren't in the OLA school.)
  • St Luke's was in fact received by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore in October 2011 prior to the erection of the OCSP, and this was apparently done following archdiocesan procedures, although there may have been time pressures in this case due to the pending retirement of the TEC bishop who was allowing St Luke's to leave. But St Luke's was clearly a special case.
  • Incarnation Orlando, according to this post, undertook " a vigorous three year program of Catholic catechesis" conducted by Louis Campese, the former ACA bishop who was never ordained a Catholic priest, "to insure, when the time came, that his people would fully understand what it means to be a Roman Catholic living their faith out within the familiarity of the Anglican patrimony". Campese, though "raised Catholic", was not a Catholic priest, and I'm not at all sure what "within the familiarity of the Anglican patrimony" means, especially since this post concerns syncretism. Also, there is no mention of a Catholic priest ever being on site during this process other than Msgr Steenson at the time of the parish's reception.
  • Two groups went together to make up the St John the Baptist parish in the Philadelphia area. The former TEC St Michael the Archangel group "studied the United States Catechism of the Catholic Church for Adults, working closely with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia". This sounds as if it may have been an abbreviated version of RCIA, but depending on the parish, a full RCIA program can take up to two years. A reference to a Philadelphia Inquirer story is behind a paywall, but my regular correspondent says, "Apparently Fr Ouseley prepared the remaining parishioners of Good Shepherd, Rosemont". While Fr Ouseley would have been a Catholic priest by this point, the situation strikes me as a little like a man standing in a bucket trying to pull himself up by the handle.
  • My regular correspondent says, "All the Canadian communities had so-called mentor priests from the local diocese or a religious order who prepared them for reception and in most cases celebrated mass for them until their clergyman was ordained." Considering the very small size and number of the Canadian communities, I would be interested in more details here.
The bottom line is that the conventional-wisdom assumption, particularly in the US, that incoming OCSP communities were thoroughly catechized by mentoring on-site Catholic priests who also provided the sacraments for them during some interim period while their Anglican pastor continued formation was, from the start, a rare exception, if it in fact ever occurred. In fact, as far as can be determined from sporadic reports on blogs, the new model is for small groups-in-formation to be led by Protestant clergy of vaguely Anglican background who conduct evensong or morning prayer for them until they, with the other members of the group, are received. Ordination occurs on an abbreviated and accelerated schedule. There is usually no mentoring Catholic priest on site, with the exception of Fr Bartus in California, who, himself a former Anglican, provides no assurance that there will be effective catechesis.

We simply have no recent account of what specific catechesis the members of more recent groups-in-formation receive. The extension of eligibility for the ordinariates to Catholics who have not received the sacraments of initiation (which includes confirmation, of course) is a troubling factor. Unbaptized adolescents who become catechumens in a diocesan parish must be confirmed via RCIA, which can take up to two years. But an unbaptized Catholic (or other adult) who wanders into an OCSP group-in-formation will, as far as I can tell, get Evangelium at best, a program that takes a few months. Whether people in the little basement groups get copies of the Catechism, or are even encouraged to buy one, let alone study it, is an open question.

I have a feeling there are other issues that have a higher priority for Bp Lopes. But for that reason, among many others, I wouldn't go anywhere near an OCSP community.