Sunday, April 8, 2018

An Artifact Of Recent History

My regular correspondent sent me a link to this 2500-word piece by the pseudonymous Mary Ann Mueller from last January at Virtue Online. It's ostensibly about the return of the remaining Poor Clare Sisters from the OLA parish property to their home house in Alabama, but it manages to reprise all the grievances of the Phillips faction at OLA against Abp Garcia-Siller.

There's not much purpose in revisiting the specifics -- throughout the story, my interest has been in focusing on other opinions from within the OLA parish, the Archdiocese of San Antonio, and other sources that cast the Phillips narrative in a different light. Briefly, Fr Phillips and the OLA parish consistently refused to follow archdiocesan financial policies in key matters, and this had fostered enmity within the chancery, irrespective of the attitudes of particular archbishops. Fr Phillips indulged conduct by his deacon and school administrator, James Orr, that clearly conflicted with established child protection guidelines, and which led to at least one credible allegation of abuse.

Reports from different sources also indicate that Phillips would have had conflicts with Msgr Steenson, the OCSP's first ordinary, that would not have been much different from his conflicts with Abp Garcia-Siller, and which led directly to OLA's remaining out of the OCSP until 2017, when Phillips may have hoped he could get a better deal with Bp Lopes. At best, though, Bp Lopes replaced him as pastor before he reached retirement age and gave him a "Pastor Emeritus" title as a face-saving move.

But from several months perspective, I think a pattern is emerging that perhaps says more about Anglicanorum coetibus, the OCSP, and its future under Bp Lopes. The first point of reference is, yet again, the tendency of a faction sympathetic to Fr Phillips in both the OLA parish and the OCSP, to take their story outside of accepted channels, in particular Church Militant and Virtue Online. VOL is particularly low-church Anglican and at best suspicious of Rome, and the January piece would have an implication there that those Anglicans who trust Rome's offer will be betrayed. This won't sit well in the Church generally, or it wouldn't if anyone paid attention, which isn't likely.

Church Militant tends to divide bishops into good-guys vs bad-guys and is likely to make centrist bishops suspicious at best. It's worth pointing again to Article 3 of the Complementary Norms:

The Ordinary, in the exercise of this office, must maintain close ties of communion with the Bishop of the Diocese in which the Ordinariate is present in order to coordinate its pastoral activity with the pastoral program of the Diocese.
That Bp Lopes seems unable to control the press activities of the Phillips faction at Our Lady of the Atonement does not reflect well. In addition, the blog of the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society, which seems to regard itself as a semi-official arm of the OCSP that is entitled to make definitive statements on what the Anglican Patrimony consists of, probably represents additional problems for Bp Lopes.

For instance, buried in the January VOL story, we find this:

OLA is the mother church of the Pastoral Provision and Anglican Use in the United States which has eventually lead [sic] to the erection of the Anglican ordinariate by the Vatican offering a gracious way to provide disenfranchised Anglicans and Episcopalians a path to enter into the fullness of the Catholic Church yet retain beloved elements of their unique Anglican patrimony and liturgy.
But at the Angicanorum Coetibus Society blog, we saw not long ago these remarks from Charles Coulombe referring to "that line of story-tellers which includes C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, Dorothy Sayers, G.K. Chesterton, M. R. James, Ralph Adams Cram, and Arthur Machen? Certainly this is a precious part of the Patrimony that the Ordinariates bring to the Catholic Church". Mr Coulombe, a cradle Catholic of French Canadian background, has for some reason become a regular contributor there and, as we can see, has joined Mrs Gyapong as a member of that august group that can explain the Anglican Patrimony to us benighted ex-Episcopolians.

Of the list he gives above, M.R.James was raised a low-church Anglican and does not appear ever to have become Catholic or anything like it. Charles Williams was an American pulp detective writer of no discernible religious affiliation. (So why didn't Mr Coulombe claim Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hamett, Jim Thompson, or James M Cain as part of the Anglican Patrimony?)

UPDATE: My regular correspondent thinks the Charles Williams to whom Mr Coulombe refers is Charles W.S. Williams, a mamber of the Inklings and an associate of T.S. Eliot and C.S.Lewis. Williams, never Catholic, seems to have identified as Anglican but espoused his own foggy-mystical version of Christianity which would be a good match for the "Anglican Patrimony" we see espoused here. But come to think of it, why did Mr Coulombe leave T.S.Eliot off his list, if he included so many other vaguely Anglican types?

Ralph Adams Cram was a US Episcopalian architect whose commissions were primarily for Episcopalian and other Protestant churches -- but he wasn't a "storyteller".

Arthur Machen, an Anglican clergyman's son, eventually became a high-church Anglican of the occultist variety, a strain that continues in "affirming" Anglo-Catholic TEC parishes and which also manifested itself in Bp Pike's demise. Er, do we want to bring this into the Catholic Church? Dorothy Sayers, raised Anglican, endorsed Christianity in her later writings but doesn't seem ever to have taken Christian teachings much to heart. What kind of a patrimony is this? C.S.Lewis was an effective Christian apologist, with the reservation that as an Anglican, he promoted a sort of indifferentism -- but his literary work strikes me as cloying.

The only Catholic convert in the group is Chesterton, but it seems as though his presence on the list is diluted by all the others. (Why leave out Graham Greene, Ronald Knox, or Evelyn Waugh, all better examples than the others he cites?) And the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society is clearly presenting this rag-tag assemblage of stuff as part of the "Anglican Patrimony". It's impossibly vague and subject to infinite substitution of individual judgment -- if Charles Williams is part of the Patrimony, then so is Raymond Chandler (who grew up in England, after all), and why can't I be a good Anglican and an alcoholic as well?

UPDATE: My regular correspondent comments, "I think the reason why Mr Coulombe chooses to leave out Greene, Waugh, and other writers who actually LEFT the Church of England rather than thought nice Catholic thoughts within it is because they never had a subsequent good word to say about Anglicanism and wouldn't have wiped their shoes on the BCP."

On one hand, it's good for the Church that the appeal of this sort of thing is minimal. On the other, Bp Lopes's colleagues in the US and Canadian councils must certainly be getting an overall impression of what the OCSP is really about, with rather silly pronouncements emanating from self-appointed semi-official spokespeople -- and with the sketchy ordinations still taking place in the OCSP that represent real risks to the territorial bishops who will need to clean up the mess.

This is not going to end well.