The future of St. Mary of the Angels

John Bruce over at his gloomy blog speculates about the future of Hollywood’s St. Mary of the Angels parish in a recent post.   I am not providing a link.  Many of my readers already monitor this blog, but I consider it an unreliable source of information because of the biases of the author. Therefore I’m not sending any traffic its way.

He writes:

When I spoke with Abp Hepworth in April, he indicated that he is, at least in a low-key way, pursuing the continuing possibility of St Mary of the Angels entering the OCSP. Among other things, this would require the outstanding legal issues surrounding the parish to be resolved, so at this point, the matter is largely hypothetical.

On the other hand, the parish is rebuilding itself after a series of potentially cataclysmic setbacks. My wife and I visit from time to time, especially for the community outreach programs and concerts it’s been providing. These efforts are impressive.

An influential parishioner asked me this past Sunday if I thought the OCSP had a future. My answer was, “Not in its current form.”

Bruce then goes on to speculate about the Ordinariate, all in a very negative light, as is his wont.

He has an unduly dark picture of the future of the Ordinariates, and about whether they should exist at all, comparing them recently to “Obamacare.”

For the sake of the people at St. Mary of the Angels who might be contemplating joining the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, I would urge them to seek other sources of information and not judge based on the biases of a man who takes strong dislikes to people, most of whom he has never met in person, and who then finds every possible way to disparage them.   And that in addition to his disagreeing with the whole principle of preserving Anglican Patrimony within the Catholic Church through the generous gift of Pope Benedict XVI in Anglicanorum coetibus.  He considers the whole thing a colossal, strategic mistake.

Bruce speculates about the future of St. Mary’s if it were to become an Ordinariate parish and the Ordinariate were to fold.   Dear St. Mary’s people, the Ordinariates are not going to fold. As Bishop Lopes said after Pope Francis approved Divine Worship: the Missal:

Pope Francis was enormously encouraging! It is clear to me that with his approval of a proper missal for the ordinariates and with my appointment as bishop, he is giving concrete expression to the vision of Pope Benedict XVI for the unity of Christians.

Bruce also talks about other problems facing St. Mary’s should they get their legal difficulties solved.

  • St Mary of the Angels has a succession problem. Fr Kelley, whose ability to persevere through enormous difficulties and rebuild the parish has been clearly demonstrated, is about 70, which is the canonical retirement age in the OCSP. He is extremely fit and in general good health, but obviously, nothing lasts forever. The OCSP doesn’t appear to have any credible replacement. If I were Abp Hepworth and the vestry, I would strongly insist on some type of assurance from Houston or its successor that current or prospective OCSP California clergy would absolutely not be considered for Fr Kelley’s replacement. But the overall disappointing quality of OCSP clergy is nearly as big a concern.

It’s surprising a man who joined the Roman Catholic Church with his wife and has written previously everyone else should do the same, and that any attachment to Anglican Patrimony is merely a kind of Continuing Anglican cult is now advising his former parish to “insist” on favorable conditions.

When our parish came into the Church we had no guarantees whatsoever.  None of our clergy had so much as a nulla osta.  But we realized becoming Catholic was the right thing to do—and we decided to obey and trust.  The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter was only 4 months old when we came in—there was nothing there except an Ordinary and a document compared to what we have now–Divine Worship: The Missal, a Bishop; a Chancery; Seminarians; 42? communities and new ones sprouting up that are not official yet.

Becoming Catholic is a matter of delicate personal discernment, and not meant to be an escape from something we might be “disgruntled about” as we were so often told in advance of our coming in.

We we had our naysayers at the time, people who tried to convince us Archbishop Hepworth was lying to us, selling us a bill of goods and so on, that we would lose our building, that we would have priests foisted on us who didn’t understand us.  Well, almost everything he said would happen did happen, and while it was rocky coming in because many people in our communities listened to the naysayers and bolted, since coming into the Catholic Church we have been amazed at Her generosity towards us.

I realize St. Mary’s had had a tremendously painful history, going back to the Pastoral Provision days.  But Bruce is dead wrong about this:

But I think it’s realistic in trying to think two years out (or whatever) that the OCSP will not continue in its current form, and some type of renewed Pastoral Provision for the small number of surviving communities is one credible outcome.

There is no possibility of a renewed Pastoral Provision for communities.   It’s over.  The choices are: join the Ordinariate, remain a Continuing Anglican group, or become Roman Catholic like the Bruces did and disperse into the wider diocese.

I am glad Archbishop Hepworth has been working with the St. Mary’s people and encouraging them to become members of the Ordinariate.   He always told me he would try to usher every possible community into the Church that he could, then shut off the lights and close the door and make his own peace with the Church he loves.

It delighted me to hear he had brought St. Mary’s a copy of Divine Worship: The Missal and encouraged them to start using it and that he had helped the church resolve some of its horrendous legal difficulties.  I pray they will have a just outcome of the last legal battle they face coming up in November.

I urge the St. Mary’s people to go to the sources for their information. Contact the chancery of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.  Maintain the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity as you discern the way forward by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Remember Christ’s desire for unity is not an option, and the Catholic Church has generously provided a way for you to maintain your precious Anglican patrimony.  It doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily get your way in everything—being Catholic is not about getting our way, or laying down conditions, but in yielding to God’s will and trusting in the mediation of His Church.





4 thoughts on “The future of St. Mary of the Angels

  1. You are certainly giving good advice.

    I am a founding member of Our Lady of the Atonement and have personal knowledge of those days leading up to and following the establishment of the Pastoral Provision. Simply put, I agree that Mr. Bruce is way off base in his assessment of Fr. Phillips and the present condition of the parish.

    I’m sorry that I will be unable to join the meeting next Sunday and pray for its success.

    Kindest regards,

    Chuck Wilson


  2. There is no doubt whatsoever that the ordinariates are here to stay. Their failure would be an utter disaster for ecumenism.

    Backing up a step, ecumenism seeks the reconciliation of all Christians into a unified church. The Catholic Church represents the overwhelming majority of all Christians worldwide (over 90%, IIRV) and thus is the proverbial elephant in the room that inevitably will be the core of such a reconciled body. Nevertheless, other denominations undoubtedly want some sort of assurance that they will be able to maintain their customs, their patrimony, and their organizational structure. The sui juris ritual churches have long embodied this for the churches of the Orthodox Communion and the ancient oriental churches. Now, the ordinariates embody this for Protestant and Anglican bodies.

    As to the argument that the ordinariates lack critical mass, the statistics clearly say otherwise.

    >> The Roman Catholic Diocese of Juneau has had its present territory since 1966. According to the statistics published in the 2015 edition of the Catholic Almanac, the diocese has about 10,000 parishioners and a total of 11 priests. The diocesan web site shows nine parishes and seven missions. Two of the missions also appear in the list of parishes in the diocesan web site.

    >> According to the Wikipedia article on Eastern Catholic Churches,

    * the Albanian Greek Catholic Church, established in 1628, consists of an apostolic administration with about 3845 parishioners,

    * the Bulgarian Catholic Church, formed by a group received into full communion from the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in 1861, consists of one apostolic exarchate with about 10,000 parishioners,

    * the Greek Catholic Church, originally formed in Constantinople in 1829 but many members of which moved to Greece c. 1920, now consists of two apostolic exarchates, one in Greece and the other in Turkey, with a total of about 6,020 parishioners.

    So clearly an entity the size of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter or the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham are viable in the Catholic Church. The viability of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross may seem a bit more tenuous, but the reception of the Church of the Torres Strait will strengthen it considerably. This is an area in which Mr. Bruce clearly has missed the mark.

    I think that Mr. Bruce’s comments regarding ordinariate clergy and their formation also clearly are completely off of the mark. The Vatican would not tolerate ordination of anybody who does not meet its standards of formation, and many of the ordinariate’s clergy have considerably deeper theological education than what’s normative for the clergy of many Catholic dioceses.

    We all need to pray for the Parish of St. Mary of the Angels in Hollywood. Unfortunately, the legal case of which Mr. Bruce has written most recently is NOT the last hurrah to this parish’s legal difficulties. There is another case in which the trial court finally awarded custody of the property to what I believe to be the legitimate vestry, but it is still before the appellate court and may well be headed to the California Supreme Court after the appellate court rules. I anticipate that the appellate court will uphold the ruling of the trial court because that ruling was on remand of a prior appeal, but one can never be certain what agenda the ladies and gents in black robes might have.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Our priest, who came from St Mary of the Angels, formed an Anglican Use community before there was an Ordinariate in the U.S., provided Catholic catechesis, and launched with 17 people in 2012, simultaneously with his ordination in the OCSP.

    That priest has grown the parish to over 150 in five years, and is working on multiple other fronts to foster even more (one already has weekly masses, so he serves both communities).

    Mr Bruce: We and the Ordinariate are not going away.

    Gregory Martha Herr, Obl.S.B.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tragically, Mr. Bruce has had more than a few disparaging comments about Fr. Andrew Bartus over the years. He seems to think that Fr. Bartus sided with the dissidents who attempted to hijack the property of St. Mary of the Angels, now thwarted through the legal system. I have no idea where the truth resides in that regard, but Fr. Bartus does seem to be having success in forming new ordinariate communities in southern California.

      Mr. Bruce seems to think that there’s an adverse relationship between Fr. Bartus and the legitimate leadership of St. Mary of the Angels. I have no idea whether, or to what extent, that actually might be the case, but we all can pray for whatever healing it might require. If Fr. Kelly, the current pastor of St. Mary of the Angels, really is nearing retirement, the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter may well be in the best position to provide a successor, contrary to Mr. Bruce’s assessment.



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