Monday, August 27, 2007

The work goes on



The ordination of Father Jonathan Filkins

On the morning of August 25th, a very hot Saturday even in northern Pennsylvania, I stood in the company of other priests, including some as notable as Fr. Charles Nalls, with our right hands laid upon the ordinand to the priesthood. Bishop Rocco Florenza, sitting on the episcopal throne, his hands stretched out on the head of the man before him, said the familiar words from the Ordinal: “Receive the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the Imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained. And be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God, and of his holy Sacraments; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.” Then I saw the bishop move his head nearer to the new priest’s ear, and say, “stay close to me, my son, and together we will work to build Christ’s Church.” I thought to myself, “now, that’s a true bishop.”

The detractors of faithful traditional Anglicans tell us that we are a small insignificant movement that has barely any present, and certainly no future. Even if that were true, men like Fr. Filkins, Bishop Florenza, the priests I stood with that morning, and indeed the priests I serve with and my own bishop in Easton, Maryland, would put it right. The ordination of Fr. Filkins, who served long as a deacon, points to the future; for those of us who have been together in the same foxhole in the same battle, his ordination is a triumph in itself, a victory against the forces of Satan. It is also a testimony to the character of a man formed by the Holy Spirit amidst hardship. Most men, knowing their calling, would have found a quicker and easier route than Jon Filkins; and most of them would not be as strong for finding it.

When I arrived in the Phoenix Valley in the summer of 2005, I was one of four local clergymen in the Anglican Province of Christ the King. Aside from two priests with their own parishes, I had the pleasure of working with a deacon about whom I knew only a little. But, what I knew impressed me. I knew that he had been turned down for ordination to the priesthood, and yet accepted the situation and continued to serve the people of the Church of the Atonement in Fountain Hills (just east of Scottsdale), and also Christ Church in Carefree. This impressed me because I know how easy it is, in all of the confusion of alphabet soup “Anglicanism” to find some bishop somewhere who, for whatever consideration, will ordain a man. I know also, with the various jurisdictions that have a presence in Phoenix and every major city, it is easy to leave one for another with or without much cause, and seek ordination. Jon Filkins had just cause to do that very thing, but he did not do it. He had been in the APCK seminary (St. Joseph of Arimathea Seminary) in Berkeley California after his ordination to the deaconate, sent with the full approval of the Bishop Ordinary of the Diocese of the Southwestern States, Rt. Rev. Frederick Morrison.

While then Deacon Filkins was there, Archbishop Robert Morse told him one day to prepare to be ordained to the priesthood and sent to Boston Massachusetts to a specific Parish. Later, the Archbishop told him to choose his presenter, and get his invitations ready: The date for ordination was set. Deacon Filkins asked, “but, what about my Bishop Ordinary?” It struck him as very strange that Bishop Frederick Morrison would send him to the seminary only to hand his entire vocation over to the Archbishop. The answer to him from Archbishop Morse was not to worry; everything was in place with the full approval of Bishop Morrison. Like a good soldier, then Deacon Filkins obeyed. He chose a presenter and sent invitations to friends and family as he was directed.

A few days later, Archbishop Morse was leaving to go to Washington D.C. From inside the car, Archbishop Morse called to Jon, and said “You need to call your Bishop right away.” The window rolled up, and the car was off to the airport. Without delay, the obedient deacon attempted to call Bishop Morrison. Archbishop Morse returned the following week only to hear that Bishop Morrison had never come to the phone and had never returned any of Deacon Filkins’ phone calls. Therefore, the archbishop himself said, “the ordination is off. You’re in conflict with your bishop.” And then, as if replying to an argument that had never been made, “I won’t break collegiality.” Archbishop Morse then said to him, “you need to leave the seminary as soon as possible.” The deacon had fallen into disfavor with his own bishop for doing what he had been told; he had presumed nothing, and had practiced the virtue of obedience in full trust- as many before him had done since 1978.

“You’re in conflict with your bishop.” A bishop who had never voiced any objections to him? A bishop who could not be bothered to talk to his own deacon under such trying circumstances? A bishop who knew that pain and confusion were sure to come to a man under his pastoral care, but who remained hidden away and indifferent? The conflict was between the archbishop, who had overstepped the boundaries of his authority, and a diocesan bishop who decided to punish this innocent man for the archbishop’s offense. The sad truth is, a lot of good clergy have found themselves victimized over these last three decades. Families of clergy have suffered both emotionally and financially, and the list of bodies buried outside the Provincial camp is long, and somewhat well known (I am exercising restraint. The facts that my fellow clergy have are documented and many).

After more than a year Jon Filkins finally heard from his Bishop Ordinary. He spent his own money to travel to Tulsa Oklahoma to the annual diocesan synod, where Bishop Morrison told him, in front of the standing committee, that under no circumstances would he ever become a priest. The decision of the bishop, without spending any time to get to know this man, was firm and permanent. Under the Canons of the APCK, where all of the bishops must approve every postulant to the priesthood, this meant that then Deacon Jon Filkins would never be a priest, since Bishop Morrison, having once been slighted by the archbishop, would use his veto power to forever treat this human being as a symbol of the occasion.

Humble and obedient servant

Even with all of this provocation, the good Deacon never abandoned his post, and never ran off to the alphabet soup Anglicans. When I arrived in Arizona, and the Church of the Atonement was in the hands of a priest, he felt free to move away where he came under the pastoral care of a different bishop- Bishop Florenza. I did not know the story in those days, except for a very brief account by a few people who made it all sound a little confusing. When I heard from Bishop Frederick Morrison about this matter, the story was cleaned up, with a few subtractions and a few additions, all of which I believed at the time since I could not imagine that my bishop would ever tell me anything that was at all misleading. But, I knew Jon Filkins just long enough to know that he was the kind of man I would want with me in a foxhole. I knew that he had suffered some amount of injustice, even if it was only due to innocent failure of communication (something I thought, at the time, that I could try to put right), and that he had demonstrated humility, obedience and patience. He did not speak ill of the bishop, or of the archbishop at any time during the months that he served with me as deacon in the Church. He had been the pastor of the congregation for the months leading up to my arrival, and humbly took the place of a deacon under my authority as the priest. I relied on his understanding of the people in that church, since he knew them and their own peculiar ways as individuals. He loved them, and they loved him.

Father Jon Filkins has stepped into his new role as the rector of a country church in northern Pennsylvania. His congregation has been under the care of an elderly priest, Fr. Livingston, who is retiring and moving to North Carolina. St. Alban’s Anglican Church is near a college town that contains Penn State University. His prospects for evangelism sound particularly exciting, since Anglicanism does very well in college towns, especially for men who know how to make use of the intellectual resources available to us. Fr. Filkins is a living demonstration of God’s faithfulness, just as he is an example of patience and humility. And, his ordination is just another proof that we are moving ahead and taking ground.

The soul that to Jesus hath fled for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell shall endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

28 comments:

agrarian said...

A glorious story, Father. My favorite hymn too. Thank you for this. May the humble, saintly vessel of Fr. Filkins continue the conquest.

Anonymous said...

It's certainly great to see ordinations of longterm deacons into the priesthood. Our former Deacon, Jack Shrode, was just recently ordained into the priesthood after waiting for thirty-six years. We posted the story on our website http://www.tacuec.org/clergy.html

Just click on Father Jack's bio.
David Straw, Evansville, IN

rev'd up said...

Alleluja, alleluja. Beatus vir, qui suffert tentationem: quoniam, cum probatus fuerit, accipiet coronam vitae. Alleluia.

-Alleluja from the Feast of St. Louis.

Ken said...

Though I don't doubt the story, it seems a little strange that the deacon wouldn't at least call his bishop to say, "the archbishop told me to prepare to go to Boston" when the archbishop initially approached him at seminary.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

But he did make calls, over and over. The calls were not received and they were not answered. Furthermore, he was told that his bishop knew all about it, and that he approved. I meant to make this clear in the story.

Anonymous said...

One-sided screeds such as this hardly serve the purpose of "moving ahead and taking ground". I find it particularly interesting that all of these laudable characters -- Florenza, Waggener, Nalls, and the like -- have been with "Morse the King" for so long, while going along with, if not facilitating, the carnage of innocent priests and their families. What caused such a change of heart?

-- The Californian

Fr. Robert Hart said...

What caused such a change of heart?

The Holy Spirit, conscience, faith, courage.

Like it or not, I am telling the truth, and I don't plan to stop.

LP said...

These growing number of stories being made public echo rumors and reports which I've heard from time to time in the past even before this year.

Still, in the interests of being "fair and balanced", I'd like to hear what the "other side" has to say, even should the prevailing belief be (rightly or wrongly) that that "other side" acted improperly or dishonestly.


Have invitations been sent to APCK representatives to post here their own perspectives on these events? Not by way of creating an uncharitable "he said she said", but merely by way of letting them say "here are the facts as we see them."


I know, for example, that not everyone in the APCK-East felt 100% comfortable with how Bp. Florenza arranged for his parishes' and missions' departures -- but that's their feelings/experiences for them to recount first-hand if they so chose, not for me... especially as I have no idea whether that discomfort is legitimate or not.


In any event, my point is merely that it would be nice to add an "APCK perspective" to a site which seems to have posts largely from an ACC or ACA (or ex-APCK) perspective.


pax,
LP

Albion Land said...

LP,

First of all, let me thank you for your contributions to this blog, which are not only interesting but reasoned and well balanced.

As to your latest question, the answer is both yes and no.

Many months ago, when the blog was still fairly new, I wrote to every continuing bishop whose email I could find. I alerted them to the existence of the blog, invited them to become regular readers and welcomed not only commentary from them, but even invited them to propose or even offer topics.

As to the APCK, I heard from an aide to Archbishop Morse saying the invitation had been received.
That is the last I have ever heard from the top, and I don't recall ever hearing from any other APCK bishop.

So the APCK hierarchy is aware of us. Whether any of them are reading regularly, I do not know, as we have never received any comments or articles from them. I do know, however, that members of that jurisdiction are readers and have no doubt they would pass on to "head office" any concerns they might have about unflattering coverage here.

Albion Land said...

Californian,

You say: "I would very much like to hear an APCK perspective as well. It's very unlikely, however, that the hierarchy would take any serious notice of a blog. They're too busy building churches, seeing to the education of their clergy, etc."

I too would like to hear from the APCK, not only on this matter but on any matter of interest to our common goals. But I can neither force them to read the blog, nor force them to comment.

As I said in my previous comment, I do not know if they are reading us, but I imagine that they are. Perhaps Fr Hart could use his contacts to ensure that they are made aware of what he and others are saying about them.

As for your apparent insinuation that the reading of blogs is a waste of time this blog has been commended by people whose specialty is church growth.

I doubt that Archbishop Hepworth would object to my quoting a snippet from a recent email to me in which he said: "I do monitor The Continuum site almost daily, as part of my regular attempts to get a feel for what is exciting the Continuum at any given moment (and, I might say, I value the professionalism and solid standards achieved by your site)."

And then there is Fr Rob Whitaker, an ACC priest, who says: "Thanks so much for The Continuum. It's doing a great service for the Continuing Church--certainly the best forum I've seen in nearly 30 years with the ACC for discussing issues and clearing the air."

Sandra McColl said...

As I remarked on an earlier post, bishops really do read this blog. Unlike clergy and laity, however, they lack the freedom to express a private opinion. The moment a bishop posts in a combox, or contributes an article, it looks like an official pronouncement of his jurisdiction. Pity, really.

Anonymous said...

Albion,

I did not mean to insinuate that your blog is a waste of time. That judgment is entirely relative. If you feel called to spend your time blogging, go for it. If your vocation is to be a bishop (especially an Anglican one), there are more important things to do.

From the point of view of a layman, I can't help but think that the clergy's fascination with church politics (too many posts here bear witness) is a very bad habit. Don't they have anything better to do than bicker and disparage one another? But wait... it's all a matter of "telling the truth", right?

Forgive my cynicism... this post got me really riled-up.

-- The Californian

LP said...

---
If there has been an unabated carnage of priests going on for the "last three decades", why have Fr. Nalls and Bp. Florenza gone along with it, functioning themselves at the highest levels, for so long and with such enthusiasm?
---

On this score, perhaps Fr. Nalls himself might answer one way or the other. I know he's a sometimes-reader of this blog. I know, too, he's a thoughtful and conscientious man and priest, and so I'm sure he has a careful and reasonable explanation for his own choices ... even if they might be choices/explanations you disagree with.

Perhaps you could forward to him your comments here and invite him to reply? That probably would be the most productive route -- and the one most likely to avoid speculation or gossip.

Personally, in all such cases, I prefer to assume -- until forced to think otherwise -- that those on both sides are acting in good faith, and that disagreements are a result chiefly of miscommunication or misunderstanding rather than active lack of charity. I may be wrong as often as I'm right... but that seems the safest and least judgemental approach to take. (Not that my opinion makes much difference to anyone but myself, but there it is anyway. lol.)

pax,
LP

Fr. Robert Hart said...

As a matter of fact, I forwarded the link for this post to bishop Morrison himself. He is free to respond to my criticism of his "pastoral" ministry.

I am not an enemy of the APCK, and consider it to be an orthodox jurisdiction. The priests are very well educated, and have been doing a difficult and necessary job for many years. That orthodoxy itself was a reason to remain in the APCK, and try to work within it.

But, it is only fair to let men know, those who are called to Holy Orders, that a very real amount of chaos and episcopal irresponsibility puts them and their families in economic and emotional peril. We have enough to ward off from the evil one himself, without bishops demonstrating their ignorance of Satan's devices, or worse, their willingness to go along with those devices.

Sadly, all I have done here is report facts. Perhaps my critic can tell us what he believes to be "inaccurate."

Anonymous said...

In fact, posts of this nature are unhelpful on several different levels. In addition to being inherently uncharitable, the purported goal of "getting out the facts" is not even realistic. Perhaps the facts are temporarily hidden for legal reasons, let alone being inappropriate for a public forum.

Again, I know nothing about the particular case treated in this post (beyond Fr. Hart's accusations). I do recall similar noises not too long ago on account of McMannus: a Province bishop who was deposed. You heard the typical "Morse the King" babble. The Province kept quiet for legal reasons. The facts eventually came out, revealing McM's long criminal history (he was thrown in jail, as I recall).

What's the upshot? Patience and charity. The Church's problems are not solved on the bloggosphere. If anything, they are exacerbated by improper uses of such a forum.

-- The Californian

Anonymous said...

To Californian,

Once again, anonymity provides the comfortable screen for the sniper to make distasteful claims such as the Auschwitz analogy. For those of us with family who perished in the Holocaust-in this case a small-town Hungarian mayor and his wife who stood up for their people (my wife's grand-parents)-we might take more than a sneering, academic interest in your analogies.

I open by saying that, unless you have lived where I have lived or have been granted the God-like charism of knowing my heart, do try to put a lid on your public accusations or have the manhood to sign your name so that we might have an open discussion. If you'd simply like to know some answers, you can e-mail me at cnalls@canonlaw.org, and I'll be happy to chat offline. Somehow I doubt that you have the courage.

Next, while you may put me where you will, please do not put my bishop and Fr. Alban Waggener in the same basket. Bishop Florenza was with the Province almost since its inception. Then-Bp. Waggener, now an Orthodox priest, was with us but for several years leaving for reasons purportedly related to the APCK's marriage discipline, particularly for its bishops. (It is still an issue in some quarters.) We can pray that he has found a home, peace and an end to wandering.

As for Bp. Florenza, I won't put words in his mouth. His statements tell the story. You can accept them or not. (My hunch is that you and other Angricans are not capable of that. So be it.) One reaches a point, I suppose, after being given a portfolio to negotiate to heal a breach, and then witness the potemkin nature of the discussion-both with the ACA and ACC let me assure you-there might have been a "last straw" moment.

While not a member of the APCK, you mention, "They're too busy building churches, seeing to the education of their clergy, etc."

As one who who built several missions for the Province with little or no support, let me assure you that's not the primary focus of the effort of the APCK. Mission is something that has happened for many years mostly on the initiative of the people and line clergy. To be sure, there were show efforts like the parish in Cambridge, and the purchase of ASt. Ann's Palo Alto erected because of Archbishop Morse's need for "missions" in "respectable" and visible venues, particularly prestigious universities.

Indeed, that's the very reason APCK has maintained a church in the fashionable Georgetown section of D.C. where there is no natural constituency,no parking, and no facility for families and children.
When confronted with these realities, there was always the answer that "we need to maintain a 'presence' in the most powerful city in the world." And, "We are an embassy to the Nation's Capitol." Twenty-four and seven evangelism, program and some wonderful people barely kept the place afloat. I know, Californian, I was vicar there for five years-the latest in a long line of bodies left by the Province amidst the quaint brick gardens of Georgetown.

And, thank you LP, for your kind comments, but there have been many times when I have not been a "thoughtful and conscientious man and priest". Were there situations that warranted action on my part as chancellor? Yes--we had instances of priests with money "issues", sexual "issues" and just pure-darned craziness "issues". Many of these were dealt with with far more aplomb than those who simply dissented or told the truth. On some occasions, one says the things one wishes to get the boss off the line and get back to the work of the church. Not a good thing, but expedient when dealing with the likes of "the king".

Did I see the problems? Unlike Californian who is "not a member of the APCK", I was not only a member, but a priest, chancellor, and canonist. Did I work hard enough in these roles to stop the abuses. No, I did not, and, to Californian and all who might be reading, I have been, and will spend, a long time apologizing for at times serving Berkeley more than Christ Jesus. That is my burden, and, Californian, you cannot appreciate it, nor, I'll warrant are you even willing to make an effort at understanding it. But, I don't have the charism of reading anyone's heart, much less yours.

However, for at least these last two years I have tried to speak rationally on these issues. The response was exclusion and protracted periods of silence from the front office. Again, you not being a member of the Province, much less working at "the highest" levels neither know how it works, or the agony of being involved in it while trying to preach the Word, bear the Sacrament and love the people entrusted to your care both in the civilian and military realm. Like sausage and legislation being made, you really do not wish to have seed behind the curtain.

You will not hear those specifics from me here or in other fora, much though I think there are those who salivate at any prospect of a continuing church "tell all". (I do offer the caveat to others-please don't lie or resort to untruth, because, fr. Hart is correct, the truth does need to be told to avoid the horrible mistakes of the past.)

You,Californian, also cannot know that for more than a year, after a particular incident of offering advice unwelcome in Berkeley, I was reduced to a handful of calls from my then rector or the imperium...er...magisterium...well,whatever one wishes to call it.

Still, I had to soldier on being left with two parishes, legal issues, one closing parish, a military ministry, and, God, forbid I should smpend any time with them, a family of my own.

But when, a year ago, I found myself trying to do the work of one of the "brave" APCK bishops (you know who you are), who probably was so busy building churches and educating priests that he left it to me to do an extra- canonical "take out" on a dear friend and brother priest, I had had quite enough. I was sick at heart when I left Fond du Lac on a pilgrimage that should have buoyed me. That was my moment when my Lord said "enough." "Time to look at the beam in your own eye."

Californian, there is much, much more. Some of it I put in the letter noting my dimission which I have not published for your delectation. Much of it I left aside-what was the point? My suspicion is that most who read comments to lengthy posts, particularly some one fond of Nazi analogies levied on those they don't know, wouldn't be swayed. So be it.
I'll note only that the curse of these years is a long and painful memory and a longer e-mail file. I simply vowed that I would not hurt anyone else in the name of the APCK, Robert Morse or the church by whatever initials she goes. I resigned as archdiocesan (how I resist that name applied to our Brigadoon archdiocese) chancellor, and began to pray about what I should do next to live out my vocation.

Throughout all of this, Bp. Florenza was a pastor and father in Christ to me and to my family. Not only did he care for us and raise our cause with the "heirarchy", but he went to bat for others whenever and wherever he could. Remember, Californian, there are four other guys with funny hats out where you hail from, and only one of them playing the tune with the backup voices of the other three in a short chorus of "Getting to Yes." And, you know, whether you are "not in the APCK" or a long-time member, you can count.

I am neither big on confessional statements or "witness", particularly in response to an individual who hasn't the backbone to sign their name. Sufficed to say, I hope and pray, Californian, that you never, ever find yourself in a place remotely akin to the place I found myself in the APCK. I pray that you never find yourself in the place of Frs. Hart, Novak, Edwards,Filkins and...well...there is a longer list that includes those I have had a hand in skewering for the APCK who have had the incredible personal grace to offer forgiveness where none was deserved. (I do hope for all reading that you have others willing to love you that much after you have wronged them.)

As for me and my family, we are beginning to exhale. Our diocesan bishop, Bp. Campese and so many of the clergy and members of the ACA/TAC have shown us true compassion during the ordeal of the winter and spring, and as we have made the transition with Bp. Florenza and the bulk of our diocese. I would add, that there are ACC clergy and bishops who have shown us incredible love and support. It has been incredibly uplifting and heartening.

So, for those like Californian, who are "not part of the APCK" and for those readers who are--and for those of us who are members of other parts of the continuum (recently or otherwise), pray and work for an end to this nonsense. Pray for a cessation of anger, "gotcha" statements, maneuvering to steal each other's dwindling parishes (70 down below 40 in the APCK), and other sterling behaviors that have earned us opprobrium and caused scandal. Otherwise, there will be no holiness, no visible sanctity, and no unity.

It's a big prayer.

In Christ,

Fr. Charles H. Nalls, SSM

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I want to thank Fr. Charles Nalls for his comment. I know it was not easy for him to relive some of that. Thank God, as the name of my article says, the work goes on.

LP wrote:
Personally, in all such cases, I prefer to assume -- until forced to think otherwise -- that those on both sides are acting in good faith, and that disagreements are a result chiefly of miscommunication or misunderstanding rather than active lack of charity.

I spent two years convincing myself that this was all that could have happened in this case. The sad fact is, contrasted to the valid expectation that the Church ought to have that the bishops are pastors and fathers in God to their clergy and postulents, we have the model provided by men like Frederick Morrison. He could not be bothered to treat his deacon and postulent, Jon Filkins, with anything remotely resembling pastoral care. We also have the model of Bishop William C. Wiygul who shot a good and respected man, Fr. Samuel Edwards, out of the saddle just to satisfy a rich, mean, woman. Fr. Nalls was too kind to mention Bp. Wiygul by name. But, I am not.

Long time readers of this blog know that I almost never write anything except to edify and teach. But, having seen brutality inflicted on a large number of good men, Christ's priests, how can I be silent? (The spirit of Saul and Doeg the Edomite needs to be exorcised from the Church.) If this were not a pattern with numerous examples it would be quite different.

agrarian said...

God bless you, Father Nalls! God bless you!

With regard to Fr. Hart's critics, the tone of a response is very instructive to the impartial observer's/uninvolved party's discernment of the truth. The honest poster will ever seek to avoid the appearance of impropriety in all things, and work in all humility to clear up what must necessarily be to him a "tragic misunderstanding" (which weighs on his conscience). The dishonest poster, by contrast, attacks and produces smoke in order to occlude visibility around an alleged impropriety. And where there is smoke, there is fire.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Nalls,

Please forgive my concentration camp reference. I regret having made it. My only excuse is getting caught up in the poisonous rhetoric of this post.

You call me a coward on account of my anonymity (it seems some other anonymus fellow just accused me of dishonesty, but no matter). I hope you will still weigh my comments with an equal mind. The fact is that we were friendly once, and I am especially keen now that you have entered the discussion to remain anonymus in order to keep those fond memories intact... for what it is worth. I have had the misfortune to have many priestly friends, only to see those friendships shredded on account of things like this.

If the blog owner would be kind enough to let me get on my soapbox one last time, I would like to make two points.

1. Again from a layman: the lower the clergy stoops, the more you posture against each other and make public accusations, the more you harm the Church. It might be worthwhile to note as well what a huge resposibility you bear and the nature of your accountability, thinking especially of the Lord´s remark about millstones. I don´t buy one bit that this is all about telling the truth. Rousseau´s tout dire is a dangerous fiction.

2. Please disallusion yourself of the notion that the ACA (or the APCK or the ACC for that matter) is some fairy-tale organization. Church organizations will fail and disappoint by their very nature, it is only a matter of the way in which they fail and to what degree. Not to demean your suffering in the APCK, Fr. Nalls (which after reading the above comment I believe and am sorry for), but even with the general descriptions you have given of these atrocities, I must say that they pale in comparision with what I have suffed at the hands ACA clergy. This is not sniping, I beg you to believe me. You must have acquinted yourself with the history of the Diocese of the West... any casual historian will find more than just smoke there.

The bottom line I think is this: ¨if you do not believe in Original Sin, spend some time in the Continuum¨. Some readers of this blog will know the origins of this quote. Until we can love one another, the devil will continue whispering sweet nothings in our ears, manifesting in the form of truth, justice, whatever the enemy can use.

For this reason I strongly disapprove of such posts... for what it is worth

-- The Californian

LP said...

----
For this reason I strongly disapprove of such posts... for what it is worth
----

The flip side of this may be that "transparency" is just what the Continuum needs.

It may well be that the kind of episcopal-mismanagement described and implied on this blog (if, indeed, the reports are accurate -- having only heard these things second hand, I can't judge for myself) would never have happened if the leadership knew that it would be held accountable by its members.

If clergy & laity are informed and aware of what the bishops they support are doing -- not as having "authority" or "veto" power over them (which would be protestant, not catholic) but by way of having all things done openly, as befits the daylight -- then the temptations (to which Satan surely subjects all church leaders) would be made easier to resist.


In short, the same sort of argument which observes how the Roman ephebophilia scandals would have been less if they'd been openly and honestly fixed at the time, rather than covered up and festering for decades.


Now, as you point out, the flip side is that such publicity can needlessly hurt the church -- after all, if there is good monitoring of all in authority by their peers, and if any problems are quickly, honestly and efficiently taken care of, why should the laity & public be needlessly scandalized by the advertising of a problem (and there will always be problems) which was properly addressed right away? And I think there's merit to that argument.

Still, based on what I've read & heard hear and elsewhere in the last months, I can't help but think that the Continuum as a whole has erred far too far in the direction of secrecy and paranoia and away from transparency.


(But, hey, not knowing the whole "behind the scenes story" of any of this, I could well be wrong.)


pax,
LP

Anonymous said...

(I know I said that I wouldn´t post anymore, but LP brings up a very good point.)

LP,

First, thanks for your even-minded remarks and gentlemanly criticism.

Your proposition seems problematic to me, as it appears to be based on a false analogy. Transparency is certainly what one should hope for in politics of the world. Posting details of the Senate´s latest scandal on the cover of the Wall Street Journal could be seen as a deterrent (the people, seeing what scoundrels run the country, will vote them out of office). On the other hand, the Church is not a purely political organization. Posting details of the Church´s latest scandal on Sunday´s bulletin is probably not a good idea. If the world´s politics are driven by self-interest, church politics should be exactly the opposite. Charity should be the fundamental principle, versus whatever happens to be driving the Machiavellian world.

I´m not saying transparency in church matters is a bad thing, but one should be very careful. I don´t think this blog has yet risen to the level of careful transparecy (if indeed such a thing could even be achieved on a blog... I don´t know).

-- The Californian

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Charity should be the fundamental principle, versus whatever happens to be driving the Machiavellian world.

The problem, Californian, is Machiavellian behavior by bishops in a thirty year old pattern, and no means to call them to account, or motivate them to change, except the last resort of public disclosure.

LP said...

----
I´m not saying transparency in church matters is a bad thing, but one should be very careful. I don´t think this blog has yet risen to the level of careful transparecy
---

My comments are meant generally. I don't know the details of any of the alleged abuses reported here beyond what's been publically posted, nor am I suggesting that this forum is necessarily the place for "transparency". Maybe yes, maybe no. Others who have more details could answer that.


I'm simply wondering if the early formation of the Continuing Church movement - and all the betrayals which drove its founders out of PECUSA - perhaps set a bad habit of playing things too close to the vest and of assuming the worst of others. Again, speculation... I dunno.


As far as "transparency" goes, I certainly don't think that laity ought to be examining and micromanaging episcopal decisions. That's hardly catholic or edifying.

But surely it's appropriate for there to be some degree of "accountability", even just by making certain decisions and reasons openly known to the appropriate peer group -- say, bishops to each other in all major decisions; the disciplining (and reasons for it) of a priest made known to his priestly peers in the diocese; etc. Or something along these lines -- again, someone with greater familiarity with clerical mechanisms than I would be in a much better position to suggest the appropriate degrees and circles.


So as far as the CC goes, I'm merely wondering aloud, after reading some of the things here, if perhaps there hasn't been quite enough of this sort of "transparency" and "accountability" in the past -- to whatever degree or in whatever circles would have been appropriate (and in all jurisdictions) -- so as to prevent the breakdown of both due process and fraternal trust among clergy.


If so -- and whether or how an online blog ought to play in to creating such accountability & transparency (if, indeed, it is actually lacking) -- is a question for more informed minds than my own...


pax,
LP

John A. Hollister said...

The Anonymous California said something extremely profound, and well worth remembering, when he wrote, "Church organizations will fail and disappoint by their very nature, it is only a matter of the way in which they fail and to what degree."

Why Our Lord chose to create a society for the perfection of His creatures and then fill it with human beings must ever remain a mystery. Nevertheless, he did so, and we must live with the results.

Perhaps I was fortunate, although I did not think so at the time, that whithin a year after I joined the Continuing Church movement, an attempt was made to split or destroy my home parish. The focus of this was the driving out of the very Priest who had received me into the Church and who had fostered my dimly-perceived vocation; the agents of this were a few sociopathic laymen working in concert with a bishop who, at that time, I thought was evil but who, in retrospect, proved merely to have been insane.

The lesson I learned is that no clergyman can ever survive if he must look outside himself for approval, validation, or spiritual stability, because most of the time he won't get it. Sometimes he will, and those times are precious, but they are few and far between.

Nor should he ever get into a situation of complete dependence upon a congregation for his own and his family's basic security. Most congregations appreciate having a priest at all and will do their best to care for him but sooner or later one will, we hope temporarily, "turn bad" and treat their servant like dirt.

Dealing with human beings can be very frustrating. Long ago, my father came home one evening from work and quoted to me one of his co-workers who had been having a particularly difficult day: "If it weren't for our customers and employees, this wouldn't be a bad business to be in."

Even as a middle school student, I recognized that were that condition to be fulfilled, there wouldn't be any business at all.

So, as clergy, we are called to care for God's flock where they are and as they are, in hopes we may, to some small extent, raise them up and help them to improve themselves by His Grace. If you can't get along with sheep, it's a mistake to become a shepherd.

John A. Hollister+

Fr. Robert Hart said...

If you can't get along with sheep, it's a mistake to become a shepherd.

For the record,our new brother priest, Fr. Filkins, gets along well with "sheep," and with his current bishop. What about the problem of getting along with bishops who are either evil or insane? "Sanity" and "sanctity" are from the same Latin root.

Anonymous said...

Californian (and others who might be lurking),

I have nothing further on the main topic (although there is some very tempting material). I note only that you say:

"The fact is that we were friendly once, and I am especially keen now that you have entered the discussion to remain anonymus [sic] in order to keep those fond memories intact... for what it is worth. I have had the misfortune to have many priestly friends, only to see those friendships shredded on account of things like this."

True-one might fairly expect some damage to a friendship or even "fond memories" based on a post assaulting another as was done here. If we were, as you say, "friendly once" why did you not e-mail your concerns to me directly? Better still, why did you not call me? I actually am in the book. (Just ask the pro-gay "journalist" who took to calling my home and e-mailing me during the Accokeek litigation.) Anyone who knows me is aware that I answer both my phone and my e-mail unless it is at an unusual hour of the night when I am not too sporting about the "wired world".

As well, Californian, anyone who actually knows me has heard me say more than once that I do not believe in a "perfect church", much less a "fairy-tale" church. I have given lengthy, boring public speeches making the point. I am not a naif--it's an incarnate world and the church is full of sinners. Some of them even wear funny hats.

But, more to the point, Californian and others are emblematic of a major problem. Blogs insulate us from the personal-they afford the anonymous sniper a chance to make any claim without taking responsibility or having contact with those with whom they were "once friendly." That is the lamentable part of this form of communication.

Does The Continuum provide an invaluable forum? Absolutely! We have genuinely erudite postings for which we don't have to pay a subscription and more than a little necessary truth-truth that the "jurisdictional" websites don't really care to have aired. (I'll resist the cockroaches in the kitchen analogy.)

However, to those who have "once been friendly" to others, if you have a question or questions as Californian apparently does, pick up a telephone before posting distasteful comments. Have the strength and courage to believe that the person on the other end of the telephone will speak to you in charity. (I think there are some Scriptural admonitions about doing just that.)

If one can't do that simple act, if one can't risk a friendship to speak truth to an erring brother (or one perceived to be erring), then either there is cowardice or ulterior motive. In that event, turn off the computer, put down the diet soda and cool ranch Doritos, put on some clothes, walk out in the sunlight, go to church, maybe make confession, and get a life other than the internet. You have need so to do.

Blessings,

Fr. Charles H. Nalls, SSM

Anonymous said...

Another problem with blogs, public accusations, etc. Fr. Nalls was never assaulted in the above remarks. I think a careful reading of my comments will bear this out, although blogs are rarely read (let alone written) carefully... my anonymous-self not exempted. The issue was an inconsistency with the litany of one-sided accusations of this post and what we know of the laudable characters involved (viz., if the APCK has been slaughtering priests for so long, why have seemingly good men gone along with it for so long?)

Fr. Nalls, you were not contacted by me personally because you were not the object of my criticism. Alright?!

It's unfortunate to see the venom continue...

-- The Californian

Albion Land said...

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is time to move on. I am closing the comments on this thread.