Atonement parish described as ‘in crisis’ Since Father Christopher Phillips’ removal last month as pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church, archdiocese officials have remained mostly mum about the Anglican-turned-Catholic priest’s standing. Observers say tensions have risen among at least some parishioners, while the archbishop has reiterated his “pastoral concerns” for removing him. In Feb. 5 statement, García-Siller’s expressed in more distressed tones what he called “many untrue and harmful statements” being circulated about “my intentions toward the parish.” Wilson has distributed letters to parishioners that encourage them to sign a procurator mandates, documents that essential give Wilson the power of attorney under canon law to represent them. The one-page document opposes “any intention or act by ecclesiastical authority that would result in a change in the canonical status of the parish,” except for its transfer to the Personal ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peters.
In a move that surprised members of Our Lady of the Atonement parish, the Archdiocese of San Antonio has replaced Father Christopher Phillips as pastor, citing “pastoral concerns” about the former Anglican priest ordained a Catholic clergyman in the 1980s. In a one-page letter to parishioners, Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller called the Catholic Church’s “pastoral provision” to bring Anglicans into the fold “a great blessing in our archdiocese, and a path for many of our separated (Anglican) brothers and sisters.” Two parishioners and one former parishioner said they interpreted the archbishop’s concern as a reference to a longtime hope by Phillips and other members of Our Lady of the Atonement to someday leave the auspices of the archdiocese and join the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. The Houston-based ordinariate is a Catholic diocese or jurisdiction that oversees about 40 churches of converts from the Anglican tradition in the U.S. and Canada. Like many former Anglican priests who converted and became Catholic priests, Phillips is married. A story in October by the Catholic website Crux described Atonement’s worship as “high-church Anglican liturgy … celebrated with solemnity, grace and beauty, but the parish is happily free of the right-wing extremism and apocalyptic conspiracy theories too often associated with the Catholic traditionalist movement.” In an unsigned email from the church office to parishioners, provided by a founding parishioner, Chuck Wilson, the parish staff seemed surprised at Phillips’ removal from the parish operations, including its school.