Perhaps one of the biggest challenges of this movement is that some people are drawn to a lack of authenticity. This ties in, somewhat, to my post related to hypocrisy. But I think the issue of authenticity relates to a macro scale.
I joined the Autocephalous Catholic movement at the tender age of 16. Since then, I have done my very best to document its history as well as become an expert on the theologies and figures of the movement as a whole. From studying the movement for many years now I have noticed some consistent things about the movement. These are not academic observations just just commonalities I have discovered:
- Lay people are often attracted to "Roman replicators" because the liturgy is familiar and it is akin to going to St. Mary's down the street. This can be problematic for clergy who like a particular liturgy or have attached themselves to a certain ethos to differentiate themselves from Rome.
- There is not a lot of jurisdictional "buy in" from lay people in terms of keeping a jurisdiction going. They may identify as "xyz Catholic" but typically they will just call themselves Catholic.
- The most difficult thing in this movement is keeping a parish going. Most communities do not survive the charismatic founder stage.
- There are a lot of clergy and jurisdictions that say one thing but reality is very different. In my experience it is the honest clergy and jurisdictions who are the most successful.
The purpose of this post is regarding observation 4. My experience has included a number of jurisdictions who say one thing but practice another. Unfortunately this typically describes entities which are very conscious about other people's thoughts. This can range from proclaiming to be traditional but actually being open to esotericism, proclaiming traditional morality while priests live with "roomates," and even being open about the crazier side of their history. While this information is tightly stored away we find that it was rampant throughout the history of our movement. Some of our most prestigious forefathers pastored Unitarian churches but were apostolic bishops, or dabbled in Esotericism, or were divorced/remarried, or were thought to have been celibate but had a wife and children, or had any number of personal foibles they may not have wanted others to know.
In many ways this is why I admire some of the more unique entities within our movement. There are groups which have elected their own pope, reshaped their theology, or otherwise differentiated themselves from Roman Catholicism to make them completely unique. What is curious about these groups is that they seem to have staying power. They attract a distinctive following and they generally stay after the leader's demise. I'm not proposing we all go out and elect a pope, but historically it is notable how some of our most successful brethren (or sometimes we may want to say barely cousins) are those which are themselves and who own their individuality. Look at, for example, the Liberal Catholic Church which has 100 years under its belt. The same is true of the Philippine Independent Church and the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church, which have each adapted themselves to their local situations and individual needs. There are many other smaller groups which have demonstrated their own staying power because they crafted something truly novel.
Now--a word of warning. Just because groups are authentically themselves does not give them license to do whatever they want. There must be some provisions to prevent falling into cult-like behavior, harming others, or generally completely embarrassing the rest of us. I am a big believer in the professional image of the clergy. We may have inclusive, broad, or even quirky views, but we can't allow that to cause scandal to others. If you're sacrificing animals on your front porch--it's a problem. It is enough to state one's case and be honest about your convictions while maintaining social and legal mores.
It also does not mean that there is not a place for "Roman Replicators." There are many, many people who are served well by them and who provide sacraments and support to those who can't find it at their home parish. In fact, these groups are often our most numerically successful (as noted in point 1). While the moniker is "Roman Replicators" it is not limited those closely tied to Roman Catholicism. It can be "Constantinople Replicators" or "Canterbury Replicators." There is truly a place for them.
But it is apparent, as I look through my own ecclesiastical history and the churches where I have been committed, that it is those with an authenticity that is uniquely their own charism which continuously outlive the founders. Not always but can. This is true when clergy are themselves and are honest about why they joined the movement in the first place. Because they were authentic in where they felt the spirit calling them. Sometimes our ministries are for an hour, or a day, or a year, or even a dozen years before they end. And that's ok. But sometimes they do last generations. And that's ok too. This is not a road map for success, it's merely built upon my observations of the entities with the longest histories and the people who built them. May we all have the ability to be our authentic selves.
"Be who you were created to be, and you will set the world on fire!" St. Catherine of Siena.