Sunday, June 3, 2018

Random Updates Centering On Priestly Formation

My regular correspondent sent me several updates yesterday that seem to focus mainly on the puzzling question of OCSP priestly formation, and related subjects like why there are so many mediocre priests that make-work projects seem to be created for them -- when diocesan priests are in a shortage.

Ponder this:

Fr Peter Davids having silently retired as Director of Clergy Formation, I see that Fr Rick Kramer has been silently hired to replace him. The news that his wife, also a former Episcopalian priest, has been hired as Associate Director of Pastoral Formation at St Mary's Seminary in Houston adds something to a discussion of the great gulf between Catholic seminary formation and that of other denominations.
This is a double, or maybe a triple whammy. I assume various second-tier candidates, the likes of Bengry, Beahen, Bayles, and others, were streamed in on Fr Davids's watch, which makes me wonder just what the duties of an ordinariate formation director consist of. I assume the lack of publicity continues the pattern in the OCSP where no publicity is good publicity, in large part because Houston doesn't want this stuff to get out.

But then we get to the peculiar business of bringing in Mrs Kramer as an associate director of formation at the seminary -- the same week, interestingly, in which Bp Lopes's boss announced that yet once again, women wil not be ordained Catholic priests. So what on earth does Mrs Kramer bring to the party? (What kind of an Episcopalian was this lady if she became a priest? How Catholic can she be if she bought into the whole post-1970s program to that extent?)

I suspect that she's been hired mainly to supplement whatever Fr Kramer is being paid -- this is the university dodge, if salary guidelines won't let a department hire a prestigious prof because he wants too much money, they'll find a way to hire his wife as an associate director of campus inclusion or whatever to bring things up to standard. Fine, if Fr Kramer has to feed a family on a celibate priest's stipend, I guess something has to be done -- but let's get real, all an OCSP vocations director really does is rubber-stamp the political decisions to ordain the usual mediocrities.

I think of Samuel Johnson's frequent remark, as reported by Boswell, "If I were _____, I would hang myself." Well, Johnson wasn't Catholic, nor even a good Anglican, and suicide isn't a solution -- but if I found myself trapped in a sham job, under pressure to ordain unsuitable people to the Catholic priesthood, with my wife further reinforcing the bonds that kept me in that position, I would pray fervently for guidance and a way out of that very poisonous situation. Just sayin'.


Thinking further on the themes of parish growth and school chapels, I thought of St John Vianney, Cleburne, which currently meets in an elementary school "cafetorium" and/but seems to be a growing community. Looking at this account of their history, I see that it started out with twelve members. Now land has been purchased and they are fund-raising to build their own church. Shades of Fr Phillips. Fr Hough III was the founding priest but he was replaced by Fr Jonathan Duncan in 2013 shortly after the group moved to the school site. At the time I thought this was simply a way to give a man with a young family a job, but the subsequent disappearance of Fr Hough III under Bp Lopes' regime suggests that there might have been more to it.

In early 2016 Fr Duncan left to become a school chaplain in Greenville, SC and take over the OCSP group there, which has now folded. As I have mentioned before, Fr Stainbrook was then redeployed from St Timothy's, Ft Worth, a group he brought into the Church, and put in charge of SJV, which is apparently going from strength to strength despite having to be "church in a box" set up on the school stage every Sunday. Meanwhile St Timothy's, which started with sixty members, is withering away, as we have discussed, with no permanent clerical leadership.

There are effective priests in the OCSP, but they're in remarkably short supply, while unpromising -- even very shaky -- candidates continue to be ordained. (This points again to Fr Kramer's unhappy dilemma.) I would guess that for the good ones, the best option is to get into a diocesan assignment.

Finally, an e-mail with just this in the title and no text:

BJHN, Irvine has discontinued its Saturday Vigil Mass
Wasn't this instituted not all that long ago (UPDATE: April 22, 2017), and wasn't it to be taken as a sign that the Irvine group was growing? Now it looks like Fr Bartus is moving over to the new Murrieta group and leaving Irvine to wither with supply priests. Was the Saturday vigil mass just a Potemkin sham, or what? If it was needed, why not find a supply priest for it (for instance, Fr Baaten of the San Diego group, who lives much closer to Irvine than Fr Barbour)? My guess is that the Saturday vigil was a sham, and the attendance wouldn't pay a supply priest's stipend.

I can't avoid hypothesizing -- which is all I can do at this point, and we'll have to see how things shake out -- that the Murrieta group is an opportunistic development, arising in some measure from a peculiar dynamic that must exist between Bp Barnes and Mr Truax II. But the money's there for it now, and it's going to get Fr Bartus's full energy, with no particular plan for continuity at Irvine.

Says something about Irvine.