Having the best credentials won’t necessarily make you holy

Having the best credentials in the world for becoming a priest or a prelate does not ensure he is the best man for  the office.

In fact, if I had to choose between someone who has a God-given, supernatural faithor someone with a top notch education at the best Catholic universities without that faith, I would chose the former.  Having all the head-knowledge in the world cannot give someone a living faith, nor is it necessarily a sign of virtue and character.

Ideally, one should not have to choose.   A good, solid education and faith formation coupled with moral, psychological and Holy-Spirit inspired spiritual integrity are what we need in  priests and bishops.

In addition to being surrendered to God’s will, a priest must be a man who could have been (or is) a good husband and father, not someone asexual and oriented towards books or things, or other men, hoping to use the priesthood as a hedge against acting on those inclinations or worse, as a cover for leading a double life.

I have met some very simple, uneducated people who have great wisdom.  I have met pastors on the Protestant side with very little formal education who exhibit the fruits of the Holy Spirit and operate in supernatural gifts that can only come from God.  In fact, it was a simple, charismatic pastor who, through his teaching, and spiritual gifts imparted by the Spirit through his ministry, played a major role in my faith journey in preparing me to become Catholic—-because all true wisdom from God always tends towards unity and communion in Christ, in sharing that one mind that was in Christ Jesus.

The Catholic priests I know in the Ordinariate have that dual combination of holiness and theological depth, even if the education in every instance was not a typical seminary formation in the Anglican or Catholic sense.

As our former bishop once said to me, “Where would we send them?”  He meant that as an indictment of the state of Anglican formation, especially for those who had a Catholic understanding of sacraments.

The recent revelations about Cardinal McCarrick, the Archbishop-emeritus of Washington, also reminded me formation in Catholic seminaries has not always been so great either, even though it’s my understanding  things have improved a lot in North America since the 1980s and 90s.

The McCarrick revelations reminded me of Michael Rose’s 2002 book  Goodbye, Good Men: How Liberals Brought Corruption into the Catholic Church  and its stories about how orthodox, masculine candidates  were either pre-screened as unsuitable (too rigid!) for the seminary, or were forced out later by pressure from a lavender mafia.

Part of the journey into the Catholic Church for our former clergy included a detailed description of their spiritual journeys.  It was the authenticity and willingness to suffer for the faith that were convincing for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith of the caliber of men desirous of becoming Catholic priests, even if not all of them had the requisite degrees.

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Unity, Communion and Having One Mind

Yesterday, the collect for Our Lady of Atonement was as follows:

O GOD, who dost gather together those that have been scattered, and who dost preserve those that have been gathered: we beseech thee, through the intercession of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Atonement; that thou wouldest pour out upon thy Church the grace of unity and send thy Holy Spirit upon all mankind, that they may be one; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Our clergy and people took unity seriously, as an imperative, not an option as we made our journey into full communion with the Catholic Church.   Jesus’ prayer to the Father “that they may be one as we also are” was our lodestar when the journey became difficult, or confusing, or required ever more deeper conversion and surrender to Christ.

Unity and Communion were, we came to understand, came by the power of the Holy Spirit—it was not something we could accomplish on our own by forcing consensus from the outside in, but by openness, docility and willingness to say, “Thy will be done,” not ‘my will be done.’

Thus when I saw this passage from the recent document from the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) I had to shake my head:

 On the need for more open conversation, the quality of conversation at parochial and diocesan levels of the Catholic Church “could be enriched by learning from Anglican experience of open and sometimes painful debate while the church is in process of coming to a common mind.” (101)

Hmmm.  So, how is the process of “coming to a common mind” through “sometimes painful debate” working out for the Anglican Communion?  It has led to disintegration, schism, impaired communion, and women bishops, women priests, to say nothing of the elevation of immoral sexual activity as equivalent to the “marital act.”

One can work towards an artificial consensus through pressure by people in authority, through group think, through acquiescence to the worldly zeitgeist but will this “common mind” have anything in common with the “having the mind that was in Christ Jesus” and the unity and communion to which He calls us?

I don’t think so.

It bothers me that so much of the news on this document in Catholic circles, such as Crux, seem to focus on what the Catholic Church can learn from the Anglican Communion.

 

 

 

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Anglican Patrimony worth preserving–or not?

I have occasionally commented on the aspects of Anglicanism we are so glad to have left behind, whether it is: synodal and “democratic” approaches to doctrine whereby a truth or sacrament handed down by the Apostles gets overturned by a majority vote;  cafeteria Catholicism, whereby you pick and choose which beliefs in the faith to hold; and capitulating to the zeitgeist on all the touchy, politically correct issues of the day, particularly those in the arena of sexual morality.

There are, however, aspects of Anglican patrimony well-worth preserving and thankfully, the Catholic Church has generously made provision for us to keep these in the Personal Ordinariates for Catholics of Anglican Patrimony.

One of those aspects is the importance of beauty in worship, and not severing Beauty from Truth,  Goodness or Unity.

Interestingly,  former Anglican priest Fr. Dwight Longenecker wrote recently about the aesthetic niceties of the Church of England, but when beauty gets separated from the truth of right doctrine, and so on it becomes, merely “good taste, or,  as he writes:  “Practically Perfect Poppinism.” after Mary Poppins.

What can a sophisticated person dislike?

But the Church of England is practically perfect in other ways too. The Anglican Church seems to have kept all that is lovely about the Catholic faith and jettisoned all that is disagreeable. This applies in matters of taste as well as doctrine. So, for example, they have retained Evensong, but (for the most part) got rid of the monasticism from which it comes. They have retained tasteful statues of Our Lady of Walsingham, but are untroubled by the more tasteless apocalyptic apparitions to shepherd children in Ireland, Portugal or France. They have kept lovely cathedrals with tasteful art, but politely declined the souvenir shops that cluster in pilgrimage places with their racks of clacking rosaries, their hologram postcards of Jesus that turns into Mary and water bottles shaped like the Our Lady of Lourdes, whose crown unscrews so you can dash the holy water on demons.

While eschewing the tasteless aspects of Catholicism, they have also successfully selected from Catholic doctrine. They will have the Blessed Virgin, but not her Immaculate Conception, Glorious Assumption into heaven or her Coronation as the Queen of Heaven. They will have respect for the Pope–even some admiration, but they demur at calling him the Vicar of Christ and the infallible successor of St Peter the Prince of the Apostles. They allow for the creed to be recited–almost as a matter of choice, but dismiss the idea that there is such a thing as dogma which must be adhered to or else… Holy Communion is a lovely symbol which becomes the Body of Christ as you receive it, but one need not be troubled by something as literal and superstitious as transubstantiation. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Go on over and read the whole thing.

As members of the Ordinariates, we are Catholics who firmly believe in all the Marian dogmas—we sure were catechized on them, and we all signed on the dotted line that we affirmed them—and long before entering the Catholic Church we had a reverence for the Blessed Sacrament.   Thankfully now, we are assured of our Holy Orders and of the validity of our Eucharist.

We were so steeped in reverence, I would see liturgical abuses that made me gasp when I sometimes went to local Roman Catholic Churches, such as consecrating the Precious Blood in a glass pitcher, then pouring it afterwards into glass goblets that Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion then held while communicants dipped the Consecrated Host into them with no concern whether the Precious Blood was spilled in the process.

While that parish might have had a real Eucharist, we had a form of worship that was much more congruent with the Truth, even if it—importantly–lacked the guarantee of Catholic Communion.  Now we have the congruence of beauty, goodness and truth in our worship that is fully Catholic.

Fr. Longenecker writes:

After I became a Catholic, a former colleague in the Church of England asked, “Well, now that you’re a Catholic do you like the Catholic Church?”

I answered, “No. If I were choosing a church I liked I’d still be an Anglican. I didn’t choose the Catholic Church because I liked it. I chose it because it is the church Christ founded on earth.”

This is true.  Thankfully, we were not made to choose between the Church that Christ founded and all that was good and true in Anglican patrimony that of course had its origins in the English Catholicism that preceded the Reformation, and was touched by that Reformation insofar as the liturgy was translated into the vernacular by a man who who could translate the Catholic prayers in Latin into the most beautiful sacral English.

The Book of Common Prayer  has been foundational to culture of the Anglosphere for hundreds of years.  How marvelous what is worthy in this book has been preserved within the Catholic Church, while Anglican bodies jettison it, or worse, consider yet another revision that would remove all masculine references to God.

AUSTIN, Texas — A committee tasked with hearing desired revisions to the Book of Common Prayer listened to remarks on Wednesday from Episcopalian leaders and others who want to make the historical book’s text more gender-neutral by removing masculine nouns and pronouns for God and mankind. Some Episcopalians disagree, and have presented a resolution asking that no changes be made to the book, but rather that deeper devotion be given to the existing text.

“As long as a masculine God remains at the top of the pyramid, nothing else we do matters. We construct a theological framework in which we talk about gender equality … then we say that which is most holy in the universe is only and exclusively male. That just undoes some of the key theology that says we are equal in God’s sight, we are fully created in God’s image,” Wil Gafney, a Hebrew Bible professor at Brite Divinity School in Texas, who is among those calling for the change, told The Washington Post.

While the devolution and disintegration the the Anglican Communion continues apace, it saddens me to see signs within the One True Church of pressures to adopt aspects of the bad model of Anglicanism, such as some German bishops offering Protestant spouses the Holy Eucharist without conversion to the Catholic faith; or national bishops’ conferences or regional assemblies within them offering differing interpretations on Amoris Laetitia on whether the divorced and remarried without annulment can receive communion.

 

 

 

 

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Welcome to our new Catholic priests!

On June 30, the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham welcome eight—that’s right–eight new priests who were ordained at the Birmingham Oratory.  Though six were former Anglican priests, two of the new priests came from within the Ordinariate formation program.

The Catholic Herald reports:

Archbishop of Birmingham Bernard Longley celebrated the Mass according to the Ordinariate Use of the Roman Rite, carrying the crozier of Blessed John Henry Newman, the Ordinariate’s patron.

The Oratory is the home of the Shrine and Relics of Cardinal Newman.

-snip-

The number of priests ordained for the Ordinariate was two more than for England’s largest diocese – the Archdiocese of Westminster – which ordained six priests on the same day.

The number of priests in the Ordinariate is now 100 exactly.

On June 29, the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Bishop Steven Lopes ordained three Catholic priests: Father Robert-Charles Bengry, Father Sean-Patrick Beahen, and Father Jason McCrimmon at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham.

If you’d like to watch the Ordinariations, the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter has video here.

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The Induction of Grace

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What the Catholic and Anglican Churches can learn from each other . . .

The National Catholic Reporter’s Josh McElwee reports on the latest document to come out of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission’s dialogue.

Among the considerations in the 68-page report, released July 2, are questions of how the Catholic Church might learn from the Anglican experience to empower local church leaders to act more independently from Rome at times, and to give more governing authority to consultative bodies such as the Synod of Bishops.

“The Roman Catholic Church can learn from the culture of open and frank debate that exists at all levels of the Anglican Communion,” the members of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission state in one of the conclusions of their document, titled: “Walking Together on the Way: Learning to Be the Church — Local, Regional, Universal.”

“The Anglican practice of granting a deliberative role to synods and of investing authority in regional instruments of communion indicates that the Synod of Bishops could be granted a deliberative role and further suggests the need for the Roman Catholic Church to articulate more clearly the authority of episcopal conferences,” the document continues.

It adds that the Catholic Church can also “fruitfully learn from the inclusion of laity in decision-making structures at every level of Anglican life.”

What could possibly go wrong?

Continue reading

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The Patrimony and the Precious Blood

In the Roman Rite prior to 1969, July 1 was the feast of the Precious Blood of Jesus; July remains the month of the Precious Blood. Cradle Catholics over a certain age will remember the line of booklets produced by the Confraternity of that name, based at the Brooklyn Monastery of the Sisters Adorers of the Precious Blood, an order with French-Canadian origins. Given that the feast was instituted by Bl. Pius IX in thanksgiving for his regaining control of Rome in 1849, an individual of Anglican origins might be forgiven for thinking that it is a devotion of more interest to Latins. This would be a great mistake.

Without wanting to plug my latest book, A Catholic Quest for the Holy Grail, unduly, I describe at great length therein close connexion between the Holy Grail (an integral part of the Arthurian legend and so of patrimonial literature) and devotion to the Precious Blood. Catholic, Anglican, and New Age visitors thrill when visiting Glastonbury to the stories there of St. Joseph of Arimathea and his blooming thorn-staff, the Abbey, the Catholic shrine, and the Tor – many of which refer to the Holy Grail. But the chalice that Christ used at the Last Supper is, if it is anywhere, most likely in Valencia, Spain. Moreover, the earliest legends do not describe St. Joseph as bringing the Grail, but relics of the blood and water that flowed from Christ’s side at the Crucifixion. The Blood he is supposed to have concealed under what is now the Chalice Well, and the Water under the White Spring; geologists ascribe the reddish hue of the former’s water and the whitish of the latter’s to differing minerals in each. Still, it IS odd that such closely situated springs should have such radically different minerals.

In any case, the story is not quite as farfetched as one might think. In French legendry, St. Joseph and his sacred relics are said to have come from Palestine with the party of Apostles and Disciples that first evangelised Provence. In Medieval England, relics of Christ’s Blood were venerated at Hailes, Ashridge, and Westminster – even as similar relics are enshrined at Bruges, Fecamp, Mantua, Weingarten, Neuvy-Saint-Sepulchre, Reichenau, and elsewhere in Europe to-day. While the English relics were destroyed at the Reformation, the concept of the cleansing Blood of Christ washing the believer free of his sins was retained by all the Protestant churches: amongst Anglicans, the Caroline Divines and Nonjurors retained the identification of that Blood on the Cross with the contents of the chalice used at Holy Communion. This was revived under nascent Anglo-Catholicism, culminating in the foundation of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament.

Among the first generation of Oxford Movement-era converts to Rome was Fr. Frederick Faber, founder of the Brompton Oratory. Foremost among the large number of devotional works he wrote was one about the Precious Blood, which became very popular among English Catholics.  That popularity, alongside the memory of the Holy Blood that had existed at Westminster Abbey, led in 1895 to the new cathedral of the Archdiocese being named “The Cathedral of The Precious Blood.” Ironically, the Catholic Church of the Most Precious Blood in Southwark has been placed in the hands of the Ordinariate.

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