National Catholic Register –

Historic Anglican-Use Parish Faces Challenges in Bid to Join Ordinariate

The archbishop has suspended the pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement amid concerns for the parish’s ecclesiastical communion.

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SAN ANTONIO — The archbishop of San Antonio last month suspended the founding pastor of the first Anglican-use parish in the United States from pastoral ministry. The suspension, which came as a surprise for many in the parish, coincides with the parish’s application in Rome to leave the jurisdiction of the archdiocese and join the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

Our Lady of the Atonement Church in San Antonio began in 1983 as an Anglican-use parish, operating under a “Pastoral Provision” established by Pope John Paul II in 1980 to provide personal parishes for Episcopalian converts who had entered into full communion with the Catholic Church but wished to preserve liturgical aspects of Anglican worship.

Father Christopher George Phillips, the parish’s first and only pastor, has overseen significant growth in the parish and the school. The parish, which began with 18 members, has grown to 630 families, while the school, started in 1994, has more than 500 students. A priest celebrates the ordinariate form of the Roman rite at Mass daily, and three times on Sunday, as well as an ordinary form Latin Mass on Sunday evenings.

The ordinariate, founded in 2012 under Benedict XVI, is the canonical home for Catholic parishes and communities with a liturgical and spiritual inheritance nurtured in the Anglican tradition.

Several parishioners told the Register the parish has sought to become part of the ordinariate for that reason.

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller sent a letter Jan. 19 to Our Lady of the Atonement, explaining that he had asked Father Phillips to relinquish his pastoral duties.

In his letter to parishioners, the archbishop wrote, “I have known your parish, in my many pastoral visits, to be a place of contemplation and reverence, a place of beauty in architecture, decor and expression, a place of doctrinal clarity, and a place of close-knit community.”

The archbishop wrote that he respected and supported those aspects of the parish and considered the Pastoral Provision “a great blessing in our archdiocese,” but said he was concerned over “expressions in the life of the parish that indicate an identity separate from, rather than simply unique, among the parishes of the archdiocese.”

“Because of the pastoral concern that I have for your parish’s ecclesial communion, I have asked your pastor, Father Christopher Phillips, effective today, Jan. 19, 2017, to dedicate some time to reflect on certain specific concerns that I have shared with him,” Archbishop Garcia-Siller said, and then asked for their prayers.

During Father Phillips’ time of reflection, the archbishop has appointed Msgr. Frank Kurzaj parish administrator. 

 

Reflection or Removal?

In his letter, the archbishop made no mention of removing Father Phillips as pastor. But a press release sent to the Register by the archdiocese’s communications department said the archbishop was praying for Our Lady of the Atonement community “during this difficult period of transition from their founding pastor to new priestly leadership.”

The email sent by the parish office to parishioners after the archbishop’s letter arrived said that they were notified of a “canonical process being instigated by the archdiocese to remove Father Phillips as the pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Parish as well as the head of The Atonement Academy.”

“The archbishop stated that Father Phillips has done nothing wrong, but his ministry is detrimental to the faith of the people and keeps the people of the parish separate from the communal activities of the archdiocese,” it stated.

Kurt Martens, a professor of canon law at The Catholic University of America, told the Register bishops can remove pastors when “the ministry of the pastor has become harmful or ineffective. A pastor is supposed to be a stable shepherd, so removal can only be done because there are serious reasons to remove someone.”

The reasons behind Father Phillips’ suspension and possible removal have not been detailed. In a statement emailed to the Register along with the press release, Jordan McMorrough, the archdiocese’s communications director, said, “It is a priest personnel issue, and the Archdiocese of San Antonio is not commenting beyond the statement at this time.”

The new parish administrator, Msgr. Kurzaj, in his Jan. 29 homily, told parishioners the archbishop had asked him to be there for a few weeks. He told parishioners that there is not a conflict between Father Phillips and the archbishop, but they have to know “who is responsible for this beautiful place.”

“Our Lady of the Atonement: Is it a part of the Archdiocese of San Antonio or the ordinariate? We don’t know, and we have to know. Who is the bishop? This has to be solved — not here, but in Rome,” he said.

 

Who Has Responsibility?

For many parishioners, Msgr. Kurzaj’s words confirm their perception that Archbishop Garcia-Siller suspended Father Phillips because of his petition, as the parish representative, to join the ordinariate. Several sources in the parish told the Register that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is currently considering the parish’s petition to join the ordinariate.

“All of this is because Father applied to join the ordinariate in the fall,” said Allison Wiggins, a longtime parishioner.

Other sources in the parish agreed, telling the Register that they perceived Archbishop Garcia-Siller believed Father Phillips was harming ecclesiastical communion by attempting to bring the parish to the ordinariate. After Father Phillips submitted the petition to join the ordinariate to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in September, relations between the parish and archdiocese became fraught.

Charles Wilson, a founding parishioner and canon lawyer, told the Register that Father Phillips’ suspension would have no effect on the petition to join the ordinariate.

In 2012, Father Phillips examined joining the ordinariate, but decided that the stability of the community, and its integrity as a parish, would have suffered in the transition. In a May 2012 email, he wrote, “The archbishop is not preventing the parish from seeking entrance into the ordinariate at this time, or at some future time. He was clear about that and is very respectful of our right to make that request anytime.”

The ordinariate did not respond to the Register’s requests for comment.

 

Pastoral Provision to Ordinariate

Five of the seven Pastoral Provision parishes in operation in 2012 have entered the North American ordinariate.  

In Texas, the cathedral-parish of the ordinariate, Our Lady of Walsingham, began in 1984 as a Pastoral Provision parish in the now-Archdiocese of Houston-Galveston, before joining the ordinariate in 2012, along with all its parishioners and property. Elsewhere in Texas, St. Mary the Virgin in the Diocese of Fort Worth and St. Anselm of Canterbury in the Diocese of Corpus Christi were both Pastoral Provision parishes before entering the ordinariate.

“It was always the plan [at Our Lady of the Atonement] to join the ordinariate,” said Wiggins.

The ordinariate and Pastoral Provision parishes celebrate the same English form of the Roman liturgy, Divine Worship: The Missal. A 2012 survey conducted by the parish found that the majority of Our Lady of the Atonement parishioners have backgrounds as converts, or children of converts, from Anglican churches and have a common desire to preserve the Anglican patrimony within the Catholic Church.

Pastoral Provision parishes originated in a decision by Pope St. John Paul II to allow ordination for married Episcopalian clergy who entered the Catholic Church. That decision also permitted the creation of personal parishes for Episcopalian laity who wished to retain parts of their Anglican patrimony. These parishes were erected within a diocese by the local bishop and were under his jurisdiction.

Since the decision establishing the Pastoral Provision came in 1980, some of these parishes, such as Our Lady of the Atonement and Our Lady of Walsingham, significantly predate the founding of the ordinariate. 

No new Pastoral Provision parishes have been erected since 2012, when the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter began. Congregations from the Anglican tradition coming into communion with the Church now enter the ordinariate instead. The Pastoral Provision remains in effect only for married clergy from several Anglican churches in North America who wish to continue their ministry as diocesan priests.

According to the ordinariate’s membership requirements, Catholics who have received, or could receive, any of the sacraments of initiation through a Pastoral Provision or ordinariate parish, are eligible for canonical membership in the ordinariate. Their families are also eligible to join. However, a Catholic does not need to join the ordinariate in order to register as a member of an ordinariate parish. Many Catholics are registered at parishes outside the territorial boundaries of their canonical parish, such as Catholics who register at a parish because it offers the extraordinary form of the Mass.

 

Vatican to Decide

Parishioners have been thrown into confusion by the suspension of Father Phillips, but continue to look forward to joining the ordinariate together with their pastor, should Rome give its blessing.

“As far as the archbishop of San Antonio is concerned, he is my bishop, I respect him, and I will do everything I can to discharge my responsibility as a member of the faithful of the Archdiocese of San Antonio,” Wilson told the Register. “But we want to be in the ordinariate.”

Professor Martens cautioned against forming premature opinions of the case. “If you don’t know what’s really going on in a case, it’s very difficult to comment on it,” he said. “You’re talking about a people, about the parish, and also about the history, and you don’t know what has been going on. There might be that one piece of information we don’t have.”

The Vatican will ultimately determine the jurisdiction of the parish. Until the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith makes its decision, all parties involved continue to pray for the good of Our Lady of the Atonement.

 

Nicholas Wolfram Smith is a Register correspondent

 

 

Published on Oct 29, 2014

Father Phillips was raised in Connecticut by Methodist parents. The Last Supper always played an important role in his faith life. In college he married and soon entered the Episcopal Church, attended seminary in England and was ordained an Episcopal priest. He was received into the Catholic Church in the early 1980’s and later ordained a priest under the Pastoral Provision. Father Phillips is the pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement (Anglican Use) Parish, in San Antonio, Texas.

For more information about the Journey Home Program produced in the CHNetwork studio and broadcast on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), to find out where/when to watch or listen, to browse/search episodes, suggest a guest or submit questions/comments, please visit: http://chnetwork.org/media/journeyhome/

I know that this is old news from 2012, but it is an interesting read nonetheless.

Even though he has been a Catholic priest for only about three years, Steenson was Pope Benedict XVI’s pick to lead a brand-new structure for Catholic converts from Anglican churches, a position he officially takes this weekend in Houston. The ordinariate consists of Catholic parishes that maintain some traditional Anglican prayers and music in services. Catholics hope their Episcopal neighbors see the initiative positively, as an unprecedented way of honoring the Anglican tradition and its core liturgy, in the Book of Common Prayer, by officially making a place for it in the Catholic Church. The formation of the ordinariate is the latest move by Benedict — who took the second-ever papal trip to England in 2010 — to reach out to disaffected Anglicans who may feel connected to Catholic theology and practice. “While the words of the church sounded Protestant, it always looked very Catholic,” said Aysha Pollnitz, a lecturer in early modern British history at Rice University. Through the Anglican Use parishes, the Catholic Church lets ex-Episcopalians keep worshipping from the Book of Common Prayer, the quintessential and beloved Anglican text that lays out the forms of service and worship, plus gives them a sense of fellowship with other parishioners and clergy who came from Anglicanism. The basic elements of Mass are the same, Hurd said, and a majority of his parishioners have thought and prayed through issues such as papal authority, devotion to Mary and other theological differences before coming into the Catholic Church.

Source: Ex-Anglican Catholics to welcome new leader – San Antonio Express-News

Source: Fr Hunwicke’s Mutual Enrichment: Diversity?? (1) [with clarifications]

25 January 2017

Diversity?? (1) [with clarifications]

CLARIFICATIONS: 

(1) There are restrictions on who can formally join an Ordinariate. But there are no restrictions on worshipping in an Ordinariate church.
(2) Our Lady of the Atonement has hitherto been a personal parish of the Archdiocese with borders coterminous with those of the Archdiocese, and has been part of the Anglican Use, the original set-up devised by Ratzinger for formerly Anglican parishes coming into Full Communion with their own liturgical heritage, long before the Ordinariates were set up.

 Many readers will have read of the disgraceful treatment which the Anglican Use Church and Parish of our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio has received at the hands of the Archbishop of San Antonio.

The Pastor of that Church, Fr Christopher Phillips, founded the parish with a handful of refugees from the Protestant Episcopal Church of the US of A back in the early 1980s. It has grown into a flourishing and enormous complex in which both the Church and the Academy are packed to the rafters. Splendid Liturgy prevails in the Church, and when I visited the Academy a year or two ago for their Commencement, and nosed around a bit on the ground finding out the facts for myself, I was enormously impressed by the atmospherically high academic standards … including the large amount of Latin taught. And by the remarkable standards of student piety and devotion in Church. The whole set-up is vastly impressive. When, perhaps, you recollect that most of my working life was spent in a college with academic and Classical ambitions and a claimed Catholic culture, and that I am a critical and cynical old body, you might concede that I have some right to have an opinion and not to have it  dismissed out of hand.

The Parish, now that the American Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter is up and running and flourishing under the admirable Bishop Steven Lopes, naturally wishes to join its brethren of the Anglican Patrimony in the Ordinariate. But the Archbishop resents this and has put in a replacement pastor while Fr Phillips is sent off for Reflection and Prayer. The parishioners, several of whom alerted me to what is going on, resent this and suspect that the ‘temporary’ sidelining of Fr Phillips is, in fact, final. It seems to be their impression … how am I to know where they got it from … that such a slippery way of acting is the sort of thing you expect from Catholic bishops.

“We want our priest and our Church back”.

The said prelate acknowledges the strengths and excellences of the Atonement set-up, although the letter he sent to the parishioners deftly contrives to suggest that everything was built up by his own predecessor (who died recently) and makes no mention that Fr Phillips might have had anything whatsoever to do with it all. The Archbishop professes to intend to maintain the Parish’s Anglican Patrimony for those who come from Anglicanism; suggesting by this sinister qualification that he does not think it right that the large numbers of cradle Catholics (including many Latinos) who worship there should be exposed to the perils of the Anglican Patrimony and the enormities of Anglican-style liturgy.

Why? Any Catholic of any Rite is entitled to worship in any Catholic Church and Rite he desires. Why is it necessary to discourage Latin Catholics of that diocese from attending Ukrainian Rite or Anglican Use or Melkite Rite or Extraordinary Form liturgy? Is the Archbishop afraid that they might discover something he would rather they did not know? Or a spirituality by which he would rather they were not fed? Or a culture which makes him feel threatened?

Otherwise, he makes vague and unspecific comments about the Parish being out of sync with the Diocese. If this man had an Anglo-Saxon sense of Natural Justice he would be man enough to let it be made public what his case against the Pastor is, so that the parishioners had the materials to form mature and adult judgements. All that stuff about Discernment and the Sacrosanctity of Conscience appears to have flown out of some window.

But here we have yet another example of the sad need which a certain sort of sad Catholic cleric seems to have to keep the laity safely and permanently infantilised; a damning reflection on their poor relationships with their lay people and on a profoundly “pre-Conciliar” mind-set towards them.

As Cardinal Ratzinger memorably said about the English Catholic bishops in the 1990s, “What are they so afraid of?”
I have a lot more to say on this.