Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Measure Twice, Cut Once

One of the issues in the autocephalous Catholic movement that can be troublesome is constant change. True, a large benefit of our movement is that we can be nimble. As we feel called to a particular lifestyle or charism we can adopt and adapt it at will. This is advantageous as compared to larger, more mainstream groups. The rule of St. Francis, for example, was proposed in 1209 but took until 1223 to receive official written approval.

The downside of this, however, is that things can start and stop at someone's whim. This can give the impression that things are unstable. I will admit that I have been susceptible to these rapid changes in the past. Something sounds effective or good, so why not do it? I'm offering this advice so you can learn from my mistakes. The problem is, however, when it affects the faithful. Too often we have seen examples of religious orders or parishes which have started only to stop abruptly at the decision of the priest. In some cases they begin again anew later, only to stop yet again. The same is true when we pick jurisdictions to join, only to leave them shortly thereafter. The key to building is consistency and a steady pace. Something may not take fruit immediately but it needs time to build awareness and trust. That does not mean that we can never try anything new. Or that our efforts won't be frustrated and we need to re-chart the course. But we have to think very carefully about doing it rapidly or without some type of plan. Beginning the parish of St. Patrick, then starting St. Romulus, then starting St. Agatha only allows our detractors to say "see--they don't know what they're doing." And that benefits no one.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish." Luke 14:28

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Quality Control

One of the greatest problems of the autocephalous Catholic movement is the quality control of clergy. The movement as a whole typically attracts people for a variety of reasons. Some legitimately feel their beliefs do not fit with the Roman Catholic/Orthodox/Anglican churches, some wish to be married or in same-sex relationships, some are of another gender, and some could not have been ordained in another church.

I focus here on the last category. There are people who get ordained but have various psychological issues which should have prevented their ordination. I am not being hard on the movement as a whole, because we well know there are many more "mainstream" clergy who also should not have been ordained. The problem here with our movement is quality control. In the Roman Catholic church, for example, there is the requirement of excardination of clergy move dioceses. Generally, bishops will get permission from other bishops to accept a priest and will also receive a dossier of their suitability.

There is, unfortunately, no such process in the movement. It allows unsuitable clerics to move from jurisdiction to jurisdiction causing havoc on each one. Bishops often do not ask for letters of incardination because 1) they believe the story of the cleric about their supposed abusive bishop, 2) they really want to grow their church and it doesn't matter if the cleric is properly vetted, 3) they believe (perhaps like a forlorn lover) that they can "change" the cleric. I can honestly say that having a cleric who is psychologically unsuitable is a hardship that is absolutely not worth the time and effort. Like energetic vampires they draw out energy which could be used building up the Kingdom. Moreover, many of them should not be in positions of authority over unsuspecting laity.

I do believe that there is a legitimate issue with clergy who have unsuspectingly found themselves under problematic bishops. Because of the lack of general ordination standards persons can be elevated past their mental or psychological ability. This is a continuation of the discussion above, because problematic priests can become problematic bishops. However, I think it behooves us to at least reach out to a cleric's former bishop and hear their side of the story. Then, weigh the evidence and try to make some reasonable determination if the cleric is fit. If the bishop is abusive, combative, or downright crazy then maybe there is a reason the cleric left! References can also be helpful as can psychological evaluations. It takes a multitude of sources to determine if a person is suitable. And that, for bishops, is the most important part of your job. You have the power to ordain and license people who are entrusted with the souls of others. This is a tremendously frightening and sobering responsibility. It can't be taken lightly.

"The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way— for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil." - 1. Tim. 3:1-13.