Tuesday, July 31, 2018

"Any Of Them Could Have Become Roman Catholics At Any Time"

I had two e-mails yesterday that provide worthwhile angles to approach what I think are contradictions and even obstacles to the faithful in Anglicanorum coetibus. The first:
My appreciation of the generosity extended to the now homeless SMA parishioners is tempered by the fact that any of them, Fr. Kelley included, could have become Roman Catholics at any time during these difficult years. They could have “joined” the Ordinariate as well. This business of holding out until a priest gets in or a building gets in, or “we all get in together,” still seems to me to be a misreading of the ultimate reward of reception.
This is completely correct, and in fact the parish was told essentially this, twice, by Cardinals Manning and Mahony when it sought to go in under the Pastoral Provision in the 1980s. As I've said here repeatedly, I think the cardinals made the correct call at the time.

A major question I have, to which we'll never get a complete answer, is what role Cardinal Law played, along with Msgr Stetson, in allowing this story to continue the way it did from the late 1970s up to recent weeks. Law and his representatives (probably including Stetson) we know worked closely with Fr Jack Barker, then Rector of St Mary of the Angels, not only in developing a plan for St Mary's to leave TEC, but in attempting to get other founders of the "continuing Anglican" movement to enter an inchoate personal prelature in the context of the 1977 Congress of St Louis.

By Fr Barker's account, the "continuers" never took this seriously (not that their own approach was any more productive). But I've got to think some assurance was given to Fr Barker that the parish would be received in some way under Law's aegis, notwithstanding the Pastoral Provision was years in the future, and whatever assurance Law gave Barker proved utterly worthless by the mid-1980s. But we also know that Law continued to pursue the idea of a personal prelature, continuing back-channel contacts with Jeffrey Steenson and other "conservative" (read opportunistic) TEC figures in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Any of them could have become Catholic at any time, for that matter.

Anglicanorum coetibus was effectively drafted by Steenson, very likely with major input from Law, in the wake of a 1993 meeting with Cardinal Ratzinger; it stayed in Ratzinger's desk when St John Paul II proved lukewarm (quite correctly; he'd already promulgated the Pastoral Provision), and it emerged in 2009 only after Ratzinger became pontiff and could implement it himself.

Among the problems I see in it is its treatment of "groups of Anglicans" as something special -- it allows them to enter the Catholic Church on a vaguely streamlined basis, and it creates a major exception for their married clergy. What we see as a practical matter with the clergy in particular is that it's allowed the CDF to bypass effective diocesan vocations procedures and ordain whomever it chooses based on whim -- no MDiv is required; psychological review is cursory; no serious consideration is given to the numerous pitfalls connected with making married men Catholic priests.

By treating "groups of Anglicans" as something special over and above groups of Baptists or whatever else, it also feeds on existing feelings of Episcopalian class bias and exclusivity among both clergy and laity who come in, while at the same time it ghettoizes them into parishes that are outside dioceses and under their own jurisdiction -- as one US bishop put it, not just unique but separate. I agree with the commenter that this is a "misreading of the ultimate reward of reception".

On the other hand, I'm not inclined to be too hard on Fr Kelley and those of the parish who stayed out until the latest developments. The promise that was made to them in late 2011 was that they would in fact come in quickly. Once things began to go south -- a result of bungling by Stetson, Steenson, Hurd, and Mrs Chalmers -- the OCSP provided no serious guidance to the parish and effectively cut it loose, with only token communication in succeeding years. Much of the fault is on the pastoral side here, aided by the false impressions given by Anglicanorum coetibus. It's worth pointing out that the effective pastoral guidance the parish received after about 2014 was from Abp Hepworth, who stepped up to the plate when Houston did not. Fr Kelley also had a continuing pastoral obligation.

In addition, prudence is a virtue. Fr Kelley and the vestry had a fiduciary responsibility to preserve the significant asset in the parish property. I can give a man my cloak, but I can't give him another man's cloak. The property wasn't something they could simply give away. When the legal situation finally changed, their obligation in this matter changed. Given that a promise had effectively been made over decades by Law, Stetson, Steenson, Ratzinger, and many others from within the Church, I can't fault Fr Kelley and the core parishioners for giving it good-faith credence; presumably, this promise will now be carried through promptly.

I say presumably. The second e-mail I had yesterday, from an individual who went through the events of 2010-12 but is no longer connected with the parish or the OCSP, said

I never expected the degree of obfuscation, plausible deniability, and outright deception practiced in OCSP and whatever that continuing Anglican "church" is called. I am no political operator and am certainly unsuited for, and incompetent at, that bs. I pray that Fr Kelley is protected from further harm by those people.
Lucy can still pull the football away, as she has been doing here for decades, for reasons that are inscrutable. Timeo danaos et dona ferentes.