Swimming the Tiber in Maryland

The Washington Post reports on an Episcopal parish in the Washington, DC, area that recently made the jump to full communion with theAbp Wuerl Catholic Church under new guidelines:

The Rev. Mark Lewis awoke early on the last morning of his life as an Anglican priest and dressed in a suit and tie instead of his usual priestly regalia. That’s different, he thought, for the first of many times on a day when so much was different for St. Luke’s, the small Episcopal church in Maryland where Lewis had been rector since 2006.

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On Sunday — with Lewis wearing lay clothing and sitting with St. Luke’s parishioners inside the Crypt Church at Washington’s Basilica of the National Shine of the Immaculate Conception — most of the parish from Bladensburg converted to Catholicism.

In doing so, St. Luke’s became the first Episcopal church in the United States to convert under new Vatican rules meant to attract disaffected Protestants.

“This truly is a historic moment,” said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, who led Sunday’s conversion Mass, which he called “a joyful moment of completion.”

Now that Episcopal parishes are being received into full communion with Rome, what do you think? Do you agree with Cardinal Wuerl, that the mass conversion is "joyful moment of completion"? Or do you share the views of some ecumenists who have criticized the process as church poaching? Should these conversions be celebrated with the same feelings of elation many Catholics feel during the Easter vigil, or are they a reminder of the sad divisions that still plague the Church? If Catholic parishes were converting to the Episcopal faith, what would you feel? Are there certain sensitivities we owe our Episcopal brothers and sisters during a difficult time in their church? Some converts said that, "They said they didn’t like the range of views that Anglican clerics expressed on issues such as same-sex relationships and Christianity’s sole claim to God." Do these reasons change your views on the conversion?

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david power
6 years ago
Anne,

I think that your take on it is a little negative but agree that after all the fanfare the whole thing can only be seen as a failure so far.The bigger picture is terrifying for the church.  
I am Irish and have lived in both Poland and Italy. The former is a disaster in terms of faith.To be Polish is to be catholic just like to be from Pittsburg is to be a Steelers fan.It is not at all a convincing faith.The 45-50% of Ireland is 90% grey haired old ladies and their husbands who also have had a change of heart on the Church but go to be with God .Most Irish people in their 50's would be lukewarm and from there on it is pure indifference. People have Faith but it is not an informed faith and people in their 20's and 30's are aghast at Rome.
Italy?I spent five years in Rome where they had seen 27 years of a "Saint" Pope who basically canonized the equivalent of a small nation in his time and had a party every two weeks where the usual suspects went to St Peter's again and again.The result is that about 5-10% go to Mass and that is a lot less the younger they get. An Irish atheist is more religious and cares more for the Church than any Roman I ever met. 
The challenge for the Church is absolutely immense.To reach the man of today is a lot easier said than done.These people who are coming over are basically "churched" people. They would miss above all the community.If their Priest never spoke of the Incarnation or of Christ at all  they probably would not be too upset just as long as the notice board was updated and things were discussed and there was someone to argue with etc.
Pope Benedict has tried to reach people but he is limited to having a great intellect.He lacks the saltiness of Roncalli. He even acts the hammy acting of Wojtyla. But like most of his predeccesors(unfortunately) he lacks the basic respect for persons of faith. The abilty to listen,to imagine that lay people may have something to teach the Church is missing from most clerics in my view(many may disagree!). The Church will recover itself in history of that I have no doubt but only when it stops seeing itself as a "sign of contradiction".It is not some heroic trendbucker ,it is not paying the price for it's defiant loyalty to Jesus but for it's self-love and  it's arrogance.  There is surely somebody somewhere as I write being prepared to lead the Church back to Christ. A new Luciani,Roncalli ,Francis. History says it is a certainty.   
Thomas Piatak
6 years ago
I am glad that this parish chose to join the Catholic Church, and hope that many others follow its example. 
Eugene Pagano
6 years ago
I have swum the Tiber in the other direction, and am at a loss to understand why these few are being given so much leeway on liturgy at the same time the Vatican is compelling the adoption of that awful new translation of the Roman Missal.

Don't expect a big crowd.  In the United Kingdom, only about a thousand laypeople have left for the  Ordinariate.
Stanley Kopacz
6 years ago
What happens to the real estate?  Does the physical church still belong to the episcopal church or do they take it with them?  The Rochester, NY breakaway parish Spiritus Christi (formerly Corpus Christi) had no church following their leaving.  Is the formerly Episcopal church property now owned by Cardinal Wuerl?  Maybe Eugene Pagano can enlighten on how his church is set up.
Eugene Pagano
6 years ago
I have read that the Episcopal Diocese of Washington is leasing the building to the breakaway congregation.  (Interdenominational relations must be unusually cordial in Washington.  The Roman Catholic archdiocese made a substantial contribution for earthquake repairs to the Episcopal National Cathedral.)

The Episcopal Church's canon law states that local churches hold their property in trust for the Episcopal diocese and the national church.  New York's highest court applied that rule in a case involving the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester. (http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2008/2008_07991.htm)
 
On another aspect of reactions to Anglicanorum Coetibus, does anyone think that it cheapens the vows of celibacy required of Roman Catholic priests?
Anne Chapman
6 years ago
According to news reports, the congregation is leasing the physical church from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington DC with an option to buy. 

The lawsuits related to conservative Episcopal churches in Virginia who either joined an Anglican diocese in Africa or a new American Anglican church group were settled in favor of the Episcopal Church by the state supreme court, rather than in favor of the individual congregations. These cases are governed by local property laws rather than national laws.

The Ordinariate in England brought in somewhat fewer than 1000 new members to the Roman Catholic church - according to John Allen, nobody expects very many more to join - an optimistic estimate would be 500 this year, probably far less. Also the Ordinariate is having severe money problems already now that they've pretty much run through the subsidy given them to get started. They may not be happy with Church of England, but it does not seem that very many of the estimated 50,000 conservative Anglicans in the UK want to join Rome either.  Perhaps they realized that joining Rome had far more doctrinal implications for them than simply ''protecting'' them from women priests. 
Stephen SCHEWE
6 years ago
Best of luck to everyone involved, but this may be a case of marry in haste, repent at leisure.  The Episcopal churches I'm familiar with all offer the Eucharist in two species; based on recent news from Phoenix and Madison, I wonder how long that will continue to be true in Roman churches.
Jim McCrea
6 years ago
Once again, Holy Mother the Church makes much ballyhoo of the mass conversion of the few, but is ALWAYS silent about the large number of individual drifters in the direction taken by Eugene Pagano.

I have read that the number of former Catholic  priests exercising ministry now in the Church of England is one figure, but the number of married former RC priests in the C of E but not exercising the ministry of their orders would raise the total.

In 2010 twenty Catholic priests left the RCC and joined the Spanish Anglican Church (IERE).

While there are probably more C of E priests going the other way at the moment, as a proportion of the total number of priests in each church the number coming to the C of E is more significant than it looks.
A
nother very interesting but difficult to ascertain statistic would be the number of Anglican ordinands brought up in the RCC who have converted and are training for ordination in the C of E. Anecdotally there are large numbers in this category including a large number of women.

So before His Most Gracious Archbishop (and others) get too excited by this one particular small event, they should pay attention to the swim to the other side of the Tiber on a world-wide basis.
There seem to be no reliable way of ascertaining how many RCC laypeople walk out the back door of HMTC and enter the front door of the local Episcopal/Anglican church, but I’m sure that anyone with that experience can fill us in on what they have discovered.  I know of 4 Episcopal women priests who were all raised in the RCC.
Everyone needs support on his/her faith journey and encouragement to follow where their conscience takes them.  What is not needed is sectarian score-keeping when the real scores are way too hard to ascertain.
ed gleason
6 years ago
One would think that being in or even watching a triumphalist parade would be embarrassing to all involved, knowing the mess most Churches are in.
Emily Henderson
6 years ago
The author here noted:  "In doing so, St. Luke’s became the first Episcopal church in the United States to convert under new Vatican rules meant to attract disaffected Protestants"  Despite Vatican commentary to the contrary implying that the ordinariate was simply adopted to provide an option for congregations actively seeking reunification with Rome, this sentence is clear... the measure is designed to "attract" disaffected Protestants.  In fact it is targeted to attract disaffected Anglicans be it from The Episcopal Church, the continuning churches, ACNA, anglo-catholics etc.   For ecumenical relations,  I believe the operative issue on poaching is "meant to attract."  In addition, there is surely a difference between attracting individuals and the wholesale invitation to a worshipping community to change, retain its congregational integrityand move  to a new denomination.    Romans have been swimming the Tiber for years for the shores of their Anglican and Lutheran cousins, but, I know of no case where church leaders in these denominations have taken the initiative to build a boat  to accomodate them and invite their entire religious community for settlement in their new land.  
Anne Chapman
6 years ago
Emily, this program, designed to ''attract'' disaffected Anglican/Episcopal congregations seems to be a sign of Rome's desparation.

Rome has ''lost'' Catholic Europe, for all practical purposes, even Ireland now, the most Catholic of Catholic countries outside of Poland.  It has lost more than 30 million cradle Catholics in America during the last 30+ years.  But, it taps in to the confusion and unhappiness of many in the Anglican communion over women priests and the various issues related to homosexuality.  Rome saw an opportunity and it took it by creating a quick and easy way to bring in whole congregations at one time. No long, drawn out RCIA or other formation process. Ignore the RCC's long-standing insistance on the discipline of celibacy for priests, ignore a lot of things - they are putting aside all the demands they place on non-Anglicans who wish to join the church in order to boost their numbers a bit  - and maybe try to persuade themselves that they must be right on how they understand these difficult issues or these 58 people wouldn't be joining up. 

The response to the Ordinariate, however, has actually been underwhelming. Even after all the hype in the UK following the pope's visit, including financial support for the defecting congregations from C of E, fewer than 1000 joined the RCC last Easter. I wonder if the Archdiocese of Washington will actually be subsidizing the lease of the church buildings in effort to sweeten the deal even more. 

In this small congregation in Maryland, only slightly more than half (58 of around 100) chose to become Catholic at this time. So, do those who have (for now) chosen not to become Catholic stay at St. Luke's, or will they find another Episcopal congregation once they realize that they are no longer welcome at the communion table in their own parish church? Or will this parish alone be dispensed from the requirement that all who come to the table in a Roman Catholic church be baptized Catholics in good standing?  Or will the ban remain - to pressure those in the congregation who have decided to reflect a bit more to join up too?
 
Thomas Piatak
6 years ago
The Ordinariate was erected in reaction to requests by Anglicans to the Holy See.  The demand for the Ordinariate came from Anglicans, not from the Holy See.

As for the religious situation in Europe, Catholicism is doing much better than all of the historic Protestant denominations.  More Catholics worship each Sunday in England than do Anglicans, though Anglicans vastly outnumber Catholics in England.  Just 2% of Anglicans in England attend weekly religious services. 

Yes, the Church has problems in Ireland, but weekly Mass attendance there is still around 45-50%.  There are comparable levels of weekly Mass attendance in Poland and Slovakia.  Weekly Mass attendance in Italy is about the same level as here.  There are no historic Protestant denominations in Europe that have weekly attendance at their services at the level of weekly Mass attendance found in Ireland and Poland and Slovakia or even Italy.  Liberal Protestantism has collapsed in Europe, just as it has collapsed everywhere.  
Tom Maher
6 years ago
Catholics and Christians generally have a deep fundemental need for authenticity and orthodoxy in church doctrine and practice.   Being hip and adaptable to the latest church intellectual and spiritual fad most people do not have any need for and can even be repelled by meaningless  diversions to the church's  mission of spreading and teaching the authentic meaning of the Gospel.   

It makes great sense that some people would seek out a more constant and steady church doctrine and practice rooted in the authentic eternal truths of the Gospel undiluted  by popular or intellectual fads.  The church can readily offer to people its authenticity of doctrine and practice one person at a time.
Bill Mazzella
6 years ago
These kinds of conversions are more pomp than substance. Are the converts eager to join the likes of Bishop Finn of Kansas City who was indicted today. Choosing a church for doctrine is different than choosing for the sake of goodness. The church of dogma is dead while the church of the beatitudes live on. Power is for dogmatists. The gospel is for the the church, i.e., the people.
Anne Chapman
6 years ago
David Power, thank you for your first-hand account of the situation in Ireland, Italy and Poland.

 Unfortunately, your conclusion - ''...it is not paying the price for it's defiant loyalty to Jesus but for it's self-love and  its arrogance'' - is on target.  I hope you are right about this - ''There is surely somebody somewhere as I write being prepared to lead the Church back to Christ. A new Luciani,Roncalli ,Francis. History says it is a certainty.'' 

It does not seem like a certainty anytime soon, however.  
Katherine McEwen
6 years ago
Wow.  The poor folks who've crossed the Atlantic, forded the Thames and now swum the Tiber.  I'm amazed the Episcopal diocese is even working with the breakaway dissidents.  Usually when a congregation leaves the Episcopal Church, they forfeit their building; like the Catholic Church, the Episcopal diocese generally holds title to church buildings and related properties.  Now these folks need to learn Catholic culture, and are they possibly in for a rude shock and need more time than they expect to become fully acculturated.  I swam the Tiber and forded the Thames almost 20 years ago.  I'm not sorry I did.  Being an Episcopalian means having most of the richness of Catholicism-there's a lot the Catholic Church has to offer which other traditions have adopted-such as music, liturgy, prayer, theology.  What the Episcopal Church also has is a much more practical approach to who's eligible for ordination.  Women, gays and lesbians (in some jurisdictions), single and married people.  And generally more than an adequate amount of clergy for a parish.   My own Episcopal parish has FOUR priests, two women and two men, and TWO permanent deacons, both women.  We've raised up at least one priest and two deacons since I've been a member.  One of our priests grew up in our parish which means she's been a member for more than 50 years!  There's demonstrated richness in both traditions and some cross-pollination of prayer, spirituality and outreach.  So, good luck to the new Episcopal Catholics, and don't be surprised when you meet an unexpected aspect of your newly chosen culture; you will learn to navigate these unknown shoals and grow accustomed to your new culture and citizenship! 
Stanley Kopacz
6 years ago
With all due respect to our Epicopalian brothers and sisters, your Church is missing one thing, Jesuits.  I'll stay on this side of the Tiber because there are still so many great voices here (not just Jesuits).  One time I did some white water rafting in the upper Hudson.  Our raft became caught in a huge hydraulic.  During the washing machine-like buffeting, half the rafters were knocked out into the foam.  I considered jumping out of the raft over the wave's edge with some chance of an easy exit.  But I still heard the guide's voice exhorting the remainder to paddle.  As long as the guide was in the raft, I kept paddling like hell.  And we pulled out of the hydraulic.  So, in spite of the horrible management, as long as I still hear those great voices, I will endure.  But all God's best to the rest of you.

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