Thursday, May 10, 2018

Late-Stage Schsim?

My regular correspondent commented on yesterday's post:
I am sure that former REC clergy and others educated at non-denominational Protestant seminaries who have been ordained for the OCSP fully intended to accept the Catholic position on the sacraments, along with the other tenets of the Catechism. I would imagine that intellectual acceptance is not entirely a substitute for a lifetime's Sitz im Leben, but one has to start somewhere.
I would not completely rule out the possibility of one day having a chat over coffee with our archdiocesan vocations director about this issue, although I recognize that realistically, he would need to have a great deal of trust in me to discuss such matters openly. However, several things bother me about my correspondent's view. I recall a priest saying that he had a New Testament course in seminary from a very learned Jewish professor. The man probably knew Paul's epistles better than anyone -- but as the priest put it, he probably didn't believe a word of them.

The mere time span that seems to be involved in accepting some very Protestant OCSP candidates for the priesthood -- often a matter of months -- suggests that whatever evaluation they receive is minimal. On the other hand, seminarians who go through a diocesan vocations program are evaluated over a much longer period of time, and I would think that an experienced vocations director has his own secret recipes. I'm sorry, just because Joe Blow has been to a Reformed seminary, couldn't get a career going as a Protestant, but suddenly becomes available to lead a storefront OCSP group in Podunk, doesn't make him just the thing as a Roman Catholic priest, no matter what he's been coached to say in interviews.

And remember, as far as I can see, the ex-TEC priests filling in as "vocations directors" in the OCSP aren't equivalent to the vocations resources available in dioceses. As are most other resources, such as expertise in acquiring serious objets or valuable property transfers, that Houston simply doesn't have. My correspondent continues,

My bigger issue is the motivation behind the initial investigation of the claims of the Catholic church, and how it affects these men's ministry going forward. My impression is that many were drawn to "continuing" or fringe denominations because standards were falling, everything was going to hell in a handbasket, etc. Nobody's got it right except this little group. Except that this little group is getting littler. The claims of the Church, combined with its size and power, made it worthwhile to reexamine Catholic doctrine from a more accepting standpoint. But the real attraction is what the Church has in common with the basement chapel pro-Diocese of North and South America: rules, and ways of dealing with people who don't follow them.

Huddling in the OCSP is a good way to avoid dealing with the reality that the Church is a diverse, messy organisation not unlike the one we are reading about in the Book of Acts this season. Coming to terms with the difference in style between Pope Benedict and Pope Francis has been a struggle; lots of posts about congenial leaders like Cardinals Sarah and Burke. Unlike assenting to, say, Marian doctrines, or baptismal regeneration, the yearning for unquestioned authority comes from a deep, life-long place.

I would exclude some OCSP clergy from this analysis, of course. Many were always Anglo-Catholics. But a significant number are simply opportunists.

I would also refer to Fr Dwight Longenecker's roughly decade-long struggle to become a Catholic priest. Our parish is currently on Numbers in Jeff Cavins's Great Journey course, and it's clear that Israel didn't reach the promised land without a great deal of testing, punishment, and false starts. Fr Longenecker seems to have had equivalent testing, but at the end of it, he speaks as a Catholic priest without a qualifier, not one occupying the granny flat for the Anglicans.

I put the OCSP in the context of Bp Hewett's address to his "continuing" synod. Hewett is recognizing, and apparently speaking from a consensus of his colleagues in the G-4 and the PNCC, that they're learning what life is like in late-stage schism, but they seem to have some inchoate notion that if they come up with some kind of new organizational structure, they can survive, or at least postpone collapse to some point beyond their retirement.

It's a little like the alcoholic who thinks that maybe if he moves to Idaho, things will get better. How is the OCSP any different from the new organization Hewett, Marsh, et al will concoct with the PNCC? I suspect the Catholic part of PNCC will gain them some sort of borrowed prestige -- but I think this is also a motive for those who've clutched to Anglicanorum coetibus for a life ring as well. They like the prestige of being Catholic, but they're still at heart hyphenated Catholics hoping to keep their special little group afloat in some form, at least until they can retire.

I commend for reflection remarks just the other day from Fr Hunwicke:

I am very much tempted to think that Ordinariate members should see themselves, not as "former Anglicans", but as "Anglicans", yet more proudly qualifying that already proud term by the phrase "in full communion with the Holy See".

I gather Melkites rather like calling themselves "Orthodox in communion with Rome".

This is the most prestigious blogger in any of the ordinariates, but he sees himself quite clearly sitting in the granny flat and happy as a bug with it. I am lucky that circumstances will almost certainly prevent me from ever getting within an ocean and a continent of this guy.