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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Come home to the Catholic Church

No one should be surprised at the actions of the recent General Convention of the Episcopal church. It is a brilliant, but not final, victory for equal LGBT rights in the Episcopal church. This victory is unfolding exactly as did the victory for women's ordination. First came a request for dialogue, then came unauthorized action, then came authorized action and promises that the consciences of all would be respected. Finally, with the sincerest condescension, will be the demand for conforming action with the explanation that actions do not violate consciences because consciences are only internal and one's private thoughts may be retained.

At the Anglican Use Conference earlier this summer I talked with a younger former Episcopalian priest who is now Catholic. He was shocked to hear that the groundwork for this victory was being laid over 25 years ago. It probably goes back even farther. This victory is the result of decades of planning and work to gain power at every level.

Please do not assume that because I say the victory is brilliant, that I approve. I certainly do not. Its ruthlessness betrays its true nature. Witness the victors' lawsuits against departing dioceses and parishes. Their intention seems to be total victory at any cost, to take control of all the spoils by achieving the absolute surrender of the vanquished. They are willing to spend a century of the accumulated legacies of past generations intended for "domestic and foreign missions." It means the end of missions and ministries but at least the victors will get title to some nice old, but now empty and useless buildings. The victors have outmaneuvered all opponents and have destroyed all enemies who refused to get out of their way. The victors masqueraded as tolerant people interested only in the inclusion of all viewpoints only as long as they held a minority opinion or held an equal power, but have acted with ruthless power as soon as they outlasted and got rid of enough opponents. Final victory will come only when the orthodox no longer have the right to refuse ordination to the unchaste, just as they lost the right to retain the traditional all-male priesthood. The tragedy is that by then the Episcopal church and not just its buildings will simply be an empty shell. The Glory departed long ago. The victory will be a nuclear victory.

I have the greatest respect for those who have struggled to stay loyal, hopeful, or simply remain below the radar in spite of the Episcopal church's suicidal trajectory, and I have the same respect for those who have tried to find another Anglican option. But is there really any reason for Anglicanism to exist, apart from Anglicanism healed of its split from the rest of the Catholic Church? Isn't the action of Episcopal General Convention simply more evidence that one can't be Catholic outside the Catholic Church? Traditions do not make a person a Catholic, even if many of those traditions look very much like Catholic traditions. Catholicism is not an aesthetic. It is the Faith. I believe the opposite is true of Episcopalianism: it is an aesthetic, not a faith. Episcopalians have many aesthetic gifts to offer the Catholic Church. But the Catholic Church has the Faith to offer Episcopalians.

The Pastoral Provision is an extremely generous invitation to come home to the Catholic Church. Isn't the General Convention simply more evidence that it is time to look into it?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Anglican Use Weddings/Parish Growth

I spoke with one of Kansas City's premier wedding planners to let him know that St. Therese and I are available to work with Catholic/Episcopalian or Anglican couples who need a beautiful church for a traditional Anglican Use wedding. Several Kansas City parishes serve as the site for many weddings because of the beauty of the buildings. St. Therese is a hidden gem - a beautiful building, outstanding acoustics and an incomparable liturgy for Catholics with an Anglican or Episcopalian connection.

I'd like to crow a bit about St. Therese. We have just finished a second year of solid growth. Giving increased 9% last year, a bit slower than the 12% growth we experienced the year before, but that still means we have made significant progress for two years in a row. Growth appears to be accelerating. I told the congregation we are heading out of the woods. We are not out of the woods, yet, but we're making progress. Giving is now equal to the giving ten years ago.

Last Sunday several members and former members of St. Mary's were in the congregation. When I asked for a critique from an Episcopal priest in the congregation, he said simply, "That's the way we used to do it at St. Mary's." That is a pretty high compliment.

I'm beginning to think it is time to add a Saturday evening Mass am wondering how we might do that without dividing the parish. We should avoid duplicating any of our existing services, because that would certainly be a disappointing experience.

Our new Knights of Columbus chapter provided a free dinner to everyone at all the Masses last weekend in gratitude for parish support in obtaining our charter.

The new Community Garden is installed and ready for church members and neighbors.

Simple House is working with us on a Block Party for the neighborhood in August. Plenty of parishioners have signed up to go door to door with invitations and plan the food and the games.

St. Therese is an exciting place to be right now.


Avila University Organ coming to St. Therese

I have spent most of the day with a group of volunteers dismantling the pipe organ at Avila University. They have donated the organ to St. Therese - a very generous gift - after determining that they had little use for it and that it hindered their plans for chapel renovation. I have to admit it is a very large instrument for their small chapel. It was an enlightening experience working with organ specialists oohing and ah-ing over mottled metal and rounded thingamabobs in the trompettes. All 580 pipes have been removed, the smaller ones crated and all moved and stored in the balcony and shrine at St. Therese. In another half day the blowers and bellows can be dismantled and moved. Bruce Prince-Joseph and Keith Gottschall of Mid-States Pipe Organ are working out how the nine ranks of the Avila Organ can be combined with the four-rank Kilgen at St. Therese. How it will be installed is the next question. People rave about the acoustics at St. Therese and tell me the organ will sound fantastic in its new home.

As Avila officials were discussing the future of their organ and considering making the contribution to us, I asked Therese to intercede with Teresa of Avila for us. Apparently she did, and we are grateful. I have the feeling she is putting the pieces together for some new project she is revealing to us step by step. To give glory to Jesus, yes. To build up his church, yes. And something very special for the people of the inner city. Can it be of direct service in some way, such as to support the development of a Boy Choir? Bruce is very enthusiastic about the project. I don't think the organ - even if used weekly at St. Therese to support the Anglican Use Mass - is intended for the parish alone. Beauty is certainly not something to be restricted to the wealthy suburbs. If any of you know of examples of churches that use classical music and especially organ music to benefit inner city residents - to give Glory to God and build up the people - let me know.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Kansas City Star on St. Therese Little Flower

The Kansas City Star Magazine ran an article on St. Therese Little Flower Parish recently. I am pleased to say that it was very well done. You may not agree with who we are, but this gives a fair idea of what you would find if you should visit. http://www.kansascity.com/238/story/1247074.html

General Convention of the Episcopal Church

To all of my friends in the Episcopal Church: You, your parishes, dioceses and the Episcopal Church will be in my prayers during this Convention. May you have peace in your hearts, clear minds, and deep humility.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Rejoice and be glad!

Episcopalian bishops and the Presiding bishop often declare that Episcopal priests and bishops who chose to enter a different Anglican province or become Catholic have "renounced their orders." In other words, the Episcopal Church is stating that they have repudiated their ordination and their ministry. Perhaps some have actually repudiated their previous ministry. Many times these same priests and bishops state they never did any such thing.

Before I made a Profession of Faith and entered the Catholic Church, I visited Bishop John Buchanan of the Episcopal Diocese of West Missouri and informed him of my intentions. He was surprised, but we had a cordial conversation. The very next day, I received a copy of an official notice from Bishop Buchanan, ratified by the Standing Committee, that I had renounced my orders. I never renounced my orders. When I made my Profession of Faith as a Catholic, I was not required to renounce them. When I was ordained as a Catholic deacon and priest, I was not asked to renounce them. I still honor my ordinations as deacon and priest in the Episcopal Church. The Catholic Church does, too. I am grateful for all the Episcopal Church taught me, and the Catholic Church, by accepting my seminary education, is apparently grateful, too. I still believe all of my Episcopalian sacramental and pastoral acts had all the validity the Episcopal Church had to offer. In declaring that I had renounced my orders, the Episcopal Church declared I said things that I never felt, believed, said, or intended. The way I see it, the Catholic Church has honored my integrity more than the Episcopal Church.

To be honest, though, I do renounce one particular misunderstanding about my ordination as an Episcopal priest. I renounce my misunderstanding that the Episcopal Church had any authority to ordain me as a Catholic deacon and priest. It seems so clear, now. But I have never renounced and have no intention of renouncing my ordination by Episcopal bishops as an Episcopal deacon and priest.

To those priests and bishops who are receiving copies of declarations that they have renounced their orders when they have never done so, I say, consider who is saying these things about you. Don't worry about it. The words of Jesus give comfort and strength: "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad!" May you always be so blessed!