Prayers for Fr. Treco and St. Bede’s

I have hesitated to report on the case of Fr. Vaughn Treco, a priest ministering to the St. Bede the Venerable mission parish  of the Personal  Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

A man’s priesthood is at stake, as well as the viability of the community he has served.  There are issues of Catholic unity, of theology and canon law at play in a climate of confusion and anger in the wider Catholic Church.

Bishop Steven Lopes has temporarily suspended Fr. Treco for 60 days, and our  Ordinary-emeritus Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson has taken over as administrator of St. Bede’s.  He has already started celebrating the Sunday Mass there.

From all accounts I have heard, Fr. Treco is loved by members of his community and his fellow Ordinariate priests, and every effort is being made to help restore him, from the bishop on down.   That’s why I urge you to pray for him, his family and the community, as well as for our bishop and the Ordinariate that unity in the Catholic faith will prevail.   Here’s some background.

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Analysis from Fr. Louis Bouyer’s 1978 essay that may apply today

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The picture shows Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa celebrating a Traditional Latin Mass at the high altar of Notre Dame Cathedral last November in honor of the 50th anniversary of St. Clement’s Parish, a diocesan parish entrusted to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP). This Mass attracted hundreds of Catholics from all over the diocese, in a show of support for those who like the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite,.

It was a beautiful sign of unity in the Ottawa archdiocese. It also helps to mention Archbishop Prendergast has come to our parish and celebrated the Anglican Use liturgy several times in that period before our clergy were ordained to the Catholic priesthood.  He even came one Christmas Eve when we couldn’t find a Catholic priest for our Mass!  What a beautiful gesture of welcome and sign of unity of Catholic faith in diversity of expression.

All of this in contrast to concerns I have about disunity and division so common these days, especially online.

Whenever I see Catholics in online apostolates criticizing the Pope or members of the hierarchy, I think of this 1978 essay The Catholic Church in Crisis by Fr. Louis Bouyer that was translated from French by John M. Pepino in 2015 and published at Rorate Coeli.

This is not to say many criticisms are not valid, but the article offers a caution for those with a prophetic calling or the gift of exhortation to guard humility and to ensure they are not led astray by a spirit of division, pride, or rash judgement.  This caution applies to their readers as well.

For those of us who came into the Catholic Church under Pope Benedict XVI’s generous provision, it is especially incumbent on us to remember the fervent desire we had for full Catholic unity that propelled us to become officially members of One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  Continue reading

“Who cares?” if Anglicans become Catholic says the Archbishop of Canterbury

How things have changed since 2009, when news stories about Pope Benedict’s plan to erect personal ordinariates for Anglicans wishing to become Catholic described the move as the Pope “parking tanks on the lawn of Lambeth Palace,” the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

That was then. Archbishop Rowan Williams, an Anglo-Catholic, was the ABC then. In March 2013, the same month Pope Francis was elected to the papacy, Justin Welby was enthroned at Canterbury as the new spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion.

In a recent interview, Archbishop Welby tells the Spectator he doesn’t really mind if an Anglican becomes Catholic.

Not so long ago, it would be unthinkable for the Archbishop of Canterbury to be quoting agents of Rome, but times change. The two churches have been holding talks about possible reunion since 1970, but since the C of E admitted female vicars their paths have tended to diverge. Ten years ago, the Vatican made it easier for vicars to defect to Rome. Hundreds did so and now, by some estimates, one in ten Catholic priests is a former Anglican vicar.

I ask what he thinks about all this.  ‘Who cares?’ he says. ‘I don’t mind about all that. Particularly if people go to Rome, which is such a source of inspiration. I had an email from a very old friend, an Anglican priest who has decided to go to Rome. I wrote back saying: how wonderful! As long as you are following your vocation, you are following Christ. It’s just wonderful. What we need is for people to be disciples of Jesus Christ. I don’t really care whether it’s the Church of England or Rome or the Orthodox or Pentecostals or the Lutherans or Baptists. They are faithful disciples of Christ.’

If you think this is an unusual thing for the Archbishop of Canterbury to say, then you don’t know Justin Welby. He is a bridge-builder, so keen on fostering greater unity amongst Christians that he has assembled in Lambeth Palace a group of young Christians of various denominations called the Community of St Anselm. ‘One of the prayers we say every morning is for the unity of the church. That seems to me to be much more important. God called the church into being. We, as human beings, have managed to mess that up and split it up.’

Interesting.

Interpreting all things in continuity

Faithful Catholics have a Scylla and Charybdis to navigate in today’s fractious debates concerning interpretations of the Second Vatican Council.  Both dangers concern interpretations of the Council that see it as a rupture.  One one side are those who see this rupture as a good thing; on the other are those who see the rupture as a bad thing.

We Catholics of Anglican patrimony must not fall prey to either of these dangers. Continue reading

The St. Gregory Prayer Book

Shane Schaetzel has given me permission to re-post this from his Complete Christianity Website:

Not long ago, I was privileged and blessed to sit on the international editorial board that formulated the “St. Gregory’s Prayer Book.” I won’t mention who the other men were, as I don’t wish to speak out of place. Some of them may wish to remain anonymous, others may wish to speak in their own time. I’ll let them say so when they’re ready. As for me, I didn’t do much. My job was to represent the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society (ACS) as I was on the Board of Directors at that time. I made a few suggestions, but that’s about it. The bulk of the work was carried out by a prominent liturgical scholar, an American layman, who served as our chief editor, and two distinguished clergymen who also made contributions from the UK and Australia. The product is a forthcoming devotional, schedule to be released in late February of this year.

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Charles I’s Vow to Return Land to the Church

In the latest SKCM news, Benjamin Guyer reveals the text of a vow made by Charles I at Oxford on April 16, 1646, to return all Monastery and other Church lands held by the Crown since Henry VIII stole them – this included “…any Abbey, or other Religious House.” Granted that this did not include such lands in private hands, it represents a return to the Marian settlement in this area, taken together with his oft-expressed desire for reunion with the Holy See. One cannot but help be struck with the resemblance of this vow to that of Louis XVI to the Sacred Heart.

https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw01222/King-Charles-I?LinkID=mp00840&role=sit&rNo=7

The “Marriage” (Jan 25, AD 1533) of Henry VIII (1491 – 1547) to Anne Boleyn (1507 – 1536)

Video

[#21 in the series This Week in English Catholic History: Week of January 20 – 26]

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HIS week in English Catholic History, on January 25th, 1533 the execrable Henry VIII, King of England, consummated his break with the Catholic Church by taking the extreme step of marrying his pregnant mistress Anne Boleyn, without obtaining an annulment from Rome of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. This action, in direct defiance of the Pope, precipitated Henry’s declaration of himself as the Head of the Church of England (1534), and guaranteed Henry’s excommunication (1538) over his annulment of his marriage to Catherine for Anne.

The sad truth is that in medieval Europe, annulments were frightfully easy to obtain for the rich and powerful, and were granted on dubious grounds in many cases. To cite just one example connected to English History, Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122 – 1204) had been married to Louis VII of France, but the couple had their marriage annulled on the grounds of consanguinity (they were fourth cousins). In fact, the marriage was “annulled” because Eleanor failed to produce a male heir for Louis, though she had produced two daughters. But Eleanor was the wealthiest woman in all Europe. So just eight weeks later, Eleanor married Henry II of England – her THIRD cousin, and her junior by eleven years! – and would become the mother of the celebrated Richard the Lionheart, the infamous King John and six more children by Henry. Many, many more examples of dubious annulments could be given.

So, considering the moral cesspool in which most of the European nobility swam, ennabled by a corrupt church, Henry VIII might have expected the Pope to grant his request for what amounted to Catholic rubber-stamped divorce from Catherine.

Yet two circumstances prevented the Pope from acquiescing. Alas, the fact that Catherine insisted she was Henry’s wife and the mental state of either spouse at the time of their marriage probably did not factor into Pope Clement VII‘s decision, as it would in an annulment today.

First, Catherine was the aunt of the most powerful man in Europe, Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. Charles had Pope Clement in a military stranglehold. Approving the divorce was a slight against Charles’s family, and the Pope was unwilling to do this.

Secondly, the marriage of Henry VIII to Catherine had already been granted through a special exception by the Pope, since Catherine had been Henry’s brother Arthur’s wife, ordinarily a canonical bar. But the would-be couple asserted that Catherine had not been able to consummate her marriage to Henry’s brother before his death, and therefore that marriage was not valid. Asking the Pope to invalidate the new marriage on the grounds Catherine had been Henry’s brother’s wife, that the Pope had already allowed at Henry’s request on the basis that she was not, was unprecedented and would further damage the Papacy’s already crumbling credibility. The Pope wouldn’t do it.

The marriage to Anne Boleyn was accomplished secretly, officiated by Thomas Cranmer who had been recalled from Germany four months earlier. The place is unknown, and there are even some contradictory accounts about the date, though most sources agree the marriage happened on this day. Unfortunately for Anne, the child born eight months and two weeks later on 7 September the same year would be female, the future Queen Elizabeth I, who would seek a middle way between the religion of her radical Puritan Protestant subjects and the Catholics and Catholic sympathisers to many of whom she was an illegitimate ruler, making reconciliation with the Catholic Church a practical impossibility.  

Condemners of their own error, Henry VIII and Archbishop Cranmer would themselves annul the marriage to Anne on May 14th, 1536 in order for Henry to marry Jane Seymour. Anne was executed three days later by beheading for treason, adultery and witchcraft on May 17th, her body buried in an unmarked grave. Just thirteen days after on May 30th, Henry married Jane.

 

Here’s to you, Anne Boleyn:

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Spread of Disease from “Passing the Peace” Not a Problem for Many Traditional English Catholics in the Ordinariates, and Reflections on Hierarchy in the Mass and Human Government


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OR the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance, he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

Robert Jastrow (1925 – 2008), God and the Astronomer (1978)

In many American settings today, Catholics have been urged not to physically shake hands while “passing the peace” in order to prevent the spread of disease.

While I was visiting Oregon recently where there is yet no obligation-fulfilling TEM (or any regular TEM in the state, alas) this happened and was announced from the pulpit at daily Mass. This article shows another recent example.

But in many Ordinariate parishes the peace is not passed in the first place, because, although many Episcopalian congregations do pass the Peace in a way reminiscent of a Meet-and-Greet social on a cruise ship, it is not part of our local traditions in many Ordinariate parishes.

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English Catholic Patrimony at the USCCB retreat

I now have some time to look at Fr. Cantalamessa’s talks at the USCCB retreat, and came across this in the first talk:

The Cloud of Unknowing, at the beginning of his treatise on contemplation, gives to his readers an advice which is fundamental also for making a good retreat. In order to pierce the cloud of unknowing which exists above us, between us and God, we need to put first “a cloud of forgetting beneath us”, living aside for a time every problem, project or anxiety we may have at the moment. (Footnote to Chapter 5 of the Cloud of Unknowing)

I remember coming across The Cloud of Unknowing while in college, perhaps as a result of a course in religion.  I loved it and its exhortations continue to speak to me.

Here’s a link to the whole work translated by Evelyn Underhill,  an Anglo-Catholic who was an expert in Christian mysticism.  Perhaps we can claim her and the Cloud of Unknowing as part of our patrimony in the Ordinariates for Catholics of Anglican Tradition.

Here’s an interesting article from the Evelyn Undermill Association on whether it’s possible to be a do-it-yourself Christian mystic:

Carl McOlman writes:

Nearly all Christian mystics maintain that an essential characteristic of Christian mysticism is participation in the Body of Christ, which is to say, in the Christian community of faith. In other words, to be a Christian mystic, it is as important to be a follower of Christ as it is to be a mystic. And to be a follower of Christ means to express spirituality in a communal way. The above statements annoy a lot of people. Sorry about that, but that’s how it rolls.

Community. If it’s good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for us. Recently a reader of this blog forwarded me an email from a friend of his who criticizes some of Evelyn Underhill’s ideas in her book Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness. These two people, whom I’ll call “the reader” and “the friend,” were looking at a passage in Mysticism where Underhill describes two core mystical principles. I’ll post the complete email at the end of this post, but for now, here’s just the highlights.

Here are Underhill’s two principles, from Mysticism:

  1. While mysticism is an essential element in full human religion, it can never be the whole content of such religion. It requires to be embodied in some degree in history, dogma and institutions if it is to reach the sense-conditioned human mind.
  2. The antithesis between the religions of “authority” and of “spirit,” the “Church” and the “mystic,” is false. Each requires the other. (pages ix-x)

Underhill goes on to say:

The “exclusive” mystic, who condemns all outward forms and rejects the support of the religious complex, is an abnormality. He inevitably tends towards pantheism, and seldom exhibits in its richness the Unitive Life. It is the “inclusive” mystic, whose freedom and originality are fed but not hampered by the spiritual tradition within which he appears, who accepts the incarnational status of the human spirit, and can “find the inward in the outward as well as the inward in the inward,” who shows us in their fullness and beauty the life-giving possibilities of the soul transfigured in God.

What Evelyn Underhill is doing here is very simple: she is drawing a distinction between mysticism in a generic sense, and mysticism as specifically manifested within Christianity.

I was a do-it-myself Christian mystic in a sense during about a decade where I had a regular contemplative prayer discipline but no orthodox  Christian community where I was prepared to sign on the dotted line that I believed any particular creed.

One one hand, I benefited greatly from the practise of entering that Cloud of Unknowing, and I believe God honors any honest searching for Him, regardless of the context, whether it’s in a big charismatic revival or through sitting still in a room, gently trying to stay aware of the present moment, the way I was doing.  But the best and fastest spiritual growth came when I was anchored in a Christian community and learned how important it is to believe in order to understand rather than understand as a pre condition for believing.

Anyone else familiar with this book?  With a similar contemplative practice?