Thursday, May 24, 2018

Secret Sauce

A visitor commented on yesterday's post:
You ask the question if the Murrieta situation is a poach job. I don’t know about that but I do recognize the “secret sauce”. This looks, feels and smells like the OLA formula; a few disgruntled Anglicans, a charismatic (mega fundraiser)-type pastor, big-money-little-known donors from outside the area, lots of younger traditional Catholics with multiple kids (hungry for conservative Catholic education that are willing to home school if necessary). Bam! Instant OCSP parish.
I ran this by my regular correspondent, who replied:
My only demur is that Fr Bartus is neither charismatic nor a mega-fundraiser. Four years after founding OLA with 18 people, including small children, Fr Phillips had attracted 40 families, they had purchased property, and were beginning construction of a church. Six years after its founding BJHN is still camping out in its third borrowed chapel. The Rosary Chapel at the Santiago Retreat Center and the Newman Academy came to naught. Now someone has funded the major renovation of a former gym in a shopping center, but this is not exactly on a par with OLA or even the "pseudo-Wrightian hall" in which OLW, Houston began. SMV, Arlington was constructed with a million dollar contribution from a single donor.

But apart from that the recipe seems familiar. There is no suggestion that this is an evangelising effort. As you point out, the attendees are already card-carrying Catholics. Clearly Bp Barnes had reservations---hence the cancellation of the inaugural mass at the wedding venue and the personal visit from Bp Lopes. So was he (Bp Barnes) scammed by having this described as "several families" previously worshipping at BJHN, nothing for St Martha, Murrieta to worry about? And now the Trojan Horse has been welcomed in, can Fr Bartus deliver in Murrieta what he failed to do in Santa Ana, Fullerton, and Irvine?

I also come back to the possible parallel I thought of with the distant rich dad who buys his son a Porsche. Maybe it was a cash deal, so the kid doesn't have payments, but he's got to buy insurance on an expensive car, and I recall Porsche fans who've remarked in the past that you need to get them expensive tuneups as well. This brings up the question of whether the disgruntled millennials who seem to make up the Murrieta group are willing to support the enterprise with their pledges -- the distant rich-dad donor who bought the renovations in the former gym probably isn't going to pay the rent, untilities, insurance, cleaning, and whatever else. And Fr Bartus wants to lose the day job teaching school, I'm sure.

And I'm scratching my head about the idea of a home-school co-op. Frankly, I can imagine this as being a circle of hell lower than dealing with a residents' association. So Tiffany Throckmorton is going to teach the kids math? What do you do when you discover Tiffany can't even balance a checkbook? You get what you pay for -- I can only think some of these disgruntleds mostly don't want to pay Catholic school tuition and think a co-op will be a bargain.

My regular correspondent sent an update on a related topic:

Fr Bartus has posted more pictures from last Sunday's mass in Murrieta on his personal FB page. Two show a row of young people at the altar rail, with a row of people behind them placing their hands on their shoulders, as Fr Bartus faces them and reads from a text and raises his right hand. In a later picture they are kneeling at the altar rail with their sponsors(?) behind them. Confirmation? He also asks if anyone has pictures of Fr Barbour's first mass at BJHN. Does it help him to show that it was packed, or sparsely attended?
This goes to my earlier remark that the style of the Murrieta enterprise is social-media desultory. I commented on a photo posted Sunday night on the Holy Martyrs Facebook page showing a crowd in the hall but asking where were first communions or confirmations -- a few days later, we get a photo of some confirmations the same Sunday on a different Facebook page. Well, this answers some of the legalities in the Complementary Norms, but it's plain that not enough adults are putting out anything like a real bulletin or website, where scheduled events are announced and explained, and some sort of consistent public image is presented.

The problem is that Fr Bartus is at best a junior priest who's going to get in farther and farther over his head, with nobody to mentor him and lots of leeway to screw things up.