Last month, San Antonio’s Archbishop removed the longtime priest at Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church. It’s not just any church. It was founded by
By removing a dedicated pastor at an Anglican Use parish, Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio has not only engaged in a striking overreach, but he’s fed perceptions that Catholic prelates are inflexible, authoritarian and aggressively assertive.
This was the 7:30 a.m. Mass where Fr. Martin Leopold of the Archdiocese read the letter from Archbishop Garcia-Siller to the congregation. The sadness in the church is palpable even watching the video.
The orthodox priest’s removal is being called
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.