Monday, January 30, 2017

Our Lady of the Atonement and the Ordinariate

A Typical Mass Celebrated at Our Lady of the Atonement

What is the Ordinariate, and why should Our Lady of the Atonement wish to join?

The question of what are the Ordinariates and why parishioners of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church, in San Antonio, should even want to join is a natural question at this time.  As such, I thought it would be helpful to put some thoughts down for consideration on this important issue.

Recent events have been confusing. Our Lady of the Atonement was formed under the 'Anglican Use Pastoral Provision' long before the Ordinariates for former Anglicans were created by Rome. These Anglican Use parishes, originally authorised by Pope St. John Paul II, served as a prototype for the Ordinariates, and Our Lady of the Atonement was/is one of the most successful of them all. When the Ordinariates were created, it was generally assumed that all the Anglican Use parishes (including Atonement) would likely join them. However, while it has always been the express wish of the parish, and her pastor (Fr. Christopher Phillips) to join the Ordinariate, it has been delayed for years. Most recently, however, some disturbing events have unfolded involving the sudden and unexpected removal of Fr. Phillips by Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, and comments made by His Excellency that seem to imply an intention of keeping Our Lady of the Atonement within the Archdiocese. For this reason, it is imperative that members of Our Lady of the Atonement, and parents who's children attend the parish school, understand exactly what is going on.


First, a bit of history in regards to what the Ordinariates are and why they were created, and how Our Lady of the Atonement finds itself in this current situation. From the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB):
What is Anglicanorum coetibus? 
This is an apostolic constitution issued by Pope Benedict XVI in November 2009 that authorized the creation of "ordinariates," geographic regions similar to dioceses but typically national in scope. Parishes in these ordinariates are to be Catholic yet retain elements of the Anglican heritage and liturgical practices. They are to be led by an "ordinary," who will have a role similar to a bishop, but who may be either a bishop or a priest. 
Note: Anglicanorum coetibus is pronounced Anglican-orum chay-tee-boose. 
Why did Pope Benedict authorize this? 
Anglicanorum coetibus was a response to repeated and persistent inquiries from Anglican groups worldwide who were seeking to become Catholic. Ordinariates seek to provide a way for these groups to enter in "corporate reunion"; that is, as a group and not simply as individuals. This will allow them to retain their Anglican liturgical heritage and traditions. 
How does an ordinariate work? 
According to the Complementary Norms for the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, issued in November 2009, an ordinariate is "juridically comparable to a diocese." 
An ordinary (an individual with a role similar to a bishop) who may be a bishop or a priest - is appointed by the Pope and is a voting member of the Episcopal Conference. If a priest is married, as Monsignor Keith Newton, the Ordinary for Our Lady of Walsingham is, he may not be ordained a bishop. 
How does this differ from the "pastoral provision"? 
The pastoral provision was established by Pope John Paul II in 1980 to provide a way for individual Episcopal priests, including those who may be married, to be ordained Catholic priests for dioceses in the United States. It also allowed Anglican parishes to become Catholic parishes or chaplaincies within existing dioceses. Since 1980, three parishes and a number of smaller groups have been established. They are commonly referred to as "Anglican Use" communities, since they use The Book of Divine Worship in their liturgies, a Vatican-approved Catholic resource that reflects traditional Anglican prayers and formularies. 
Anglicanorum coetibus is new in two ways: it applies to the world, not solely the United States, and it allows Anglican groups to be received into the Catholic Church - not through a local diocese, but through a new entity, an ordinariate that, though similar to a diocese, is national in scope and reflects Anglican liturgical and other traditions.
When the Ordinariates were created, they were created, not only for new groups to be received, but for parishes such as Our Lady of the Atonement, which is currently under the Pastoral Provision created by Pope St. John Paul II.  At this time, all other parishes of the Pastoral Provision have moved to the Ordinariates, and they were allowed to do so with all of their members, property, buildings, etc.  Requesting to join the Ordinariate is a right under Canon Law, and it is a right which has been upheld for the 8 other parishes from the Pastoral Provision, who have since made the switch.  Because this is a right, it needs to be made clear that Father Phillips has done nothing wrong in making this request.  Also, this was previously voted on by parishioners, so Fr. Phillips is not alone in expressing this desire.  Furthermore, in direct opposition to how he is handling the situation now, some internet archives report that Archbishop Garcia-Siller previously promised to support the right of Our Lady of the Atonement to leave the Archdiocese, and to join the Ordinariate (read more here).


A natural question for parishioners, parents, and students, is why Our Lady of the Atonement should desire to switch from the Archdiocese of San Antonio to the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter in the first place.  The first reason, and most benign, is that it would place the parish, school, and parishioners in a structure which is designed to foster and protect the things that make Our Lady of the Atonement unique. The parish would have a bishop who understands her liturgy, traditions, and heritage, and who is committed to protecting and nurturing them. Current seminarians, some of whom have come from Our Lady of the Atonement, and who will soon be priests, will have been formed in such a way that they will already understand the parish and its unique situation, her liturgy, and her spirituality. As noted by Fr. Longnecker in a recent article:
For the first decades of the parish’s existence it existed within the diocese of San Antonio. However, in 2009 Pope Benedict XVI established the Anglican Ordinariate so that Catholics from the Anglican tradition might have their own “church within a church.” 
The Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter is the Anglican Ordinariate for North America. Now that the ordinariate is established, it should be obvious to everyone that the parish of Our Lady of the Atonement’s true home is in the non-geographical jurisdiction of the Anglican Ordinariate.
The phrase “non-geographical jurisdiction” that Father Longnecker uses is one that has potential for confusion.  What does this mean?  The easiest example, and given the make-up of the people of San Antonio, one that might make this easier to understand, is that of the Archdiocese for Military Services, which exists for all persons serving in the military, regardless of their physical location.  It has its own bishop and structure that exists within the Catholic Church, but outside of the typical territorial diocese, based purely on location.  Just like the Archdiocese for Military Services, the Ordinariate is a diocese that is not tied to any particular physical location, but exists for all persons who belong to a parish just like Our Lady of the Atonement.

The second reason Our Lady of the Atonement should desire to join the Ordinariate, and this seems unfortunately more sinister in nature, is the current situation that exists in the parish in relation to the removal of Fr. Christopher Phillips as pastor. Despite what has been reported by the Archbishop, this is likely an attempt to remove Fr. Phillips permanently, and is not merely a time for "reflection and prayer."  It has been reported, by reliable sources, that steps have already been taken in regards to the process of removing a pastor permanently, which is where the 15-day period comes from.  From the Code of Canon Law for permanent removal of a Pastor:
Canon 1742, paragraph 1
"the bishop must, for validity, indicate to the parish priest the reason and the arguments, and persuade him in a fatherly manner to resign his parish within 15 days".
The only way the parish (including the school) can continue as it is, is within the ordinariate. The Archbishop's letter made it sound as though after fifteen days of "reflection" Fr. Phillips would be coming back.  Reports indicate that is untrue. As can be seen above, this is likely a step in the process of removing a pastor according to the Code of Canon Law. It has been reported that His Excellency, per his own words to more than one reliable source, has made it clear that Fr. Phillips will not be the pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement as long as it is in the Archdiocese of San Antonio.

In addition, and this goes far beyond the fate of one man, the Archbishop has made it plain that, despite his claims of respect for what the parish does and what it stands for, his apparent intent is to fundamentally transform the parish in order to do away with the character, the ethos, the very nature of the parish.  It appears that he desires for Our Lady of the Atonement to become a regular parish of the Archdiocese, with perhaps one Anglican Use Mass per week.  This may even include the installation of a new headmaster at the school, who will radically alter the curriculum, to include the teaching of the Faith. As noted by Fr. Dwight Longnecker, in a recent article:
Inside sources indicate that the Archbishop wants to turn Our Lady of the Atonement into an ordinary parish of the archdiocese, allowing just one Anglican rite Mass per week.
These concerns have been confirmed by a number of credible sources in recent days, sources which include persons outside of Our Lady of the Atonement Parish who have absolutely no stake in this personally.  Moreover, the current situation goes far beyond the question of who is the pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement today and in the near future.  It is also about who gets to appoint the next pastor. Will it be a bishop who is committed to the preservation of that which the parish, with God's grace, has worked so hard to develop?  Or, will it be a bishop who desires the removal of many of the things which have led to the tremendous growth and the vibrant faith-life of the parish?


One of the questions that pops up when this topic is broached is that of who can and cannot join the Ordinariate.  I have heard, through reliable sources, that a message may be distributed within the parish with the suggestion that the parishioners of Our Lady of the Atonement should not wish to join the Ordinariate because some members of the parish might not be able to join. The implication, obviously, is that those members would have to leave the parish and/or the school. IF you hear this, please know that this is categorically NOT true.

First of all, it is important to note that, when other parishes from the Pastoral Provision moved to the Ordinariate, all parishioners who desired to come along were grandfathered in, regardless of whether or not they were former Anglicans or “cradle” Catholics.  Even if that were not the case this time, it would still not prevent anyone at all from being a parishioner of Our Lady of the Atonement.

As is stands, in the unlikely event that all parishioners are not “grandfathered” in the way they have when all other parishes of the Pastoral Provision made the switch, most parishioners in Our Lady of the Atonement could already join the ordinariate formally. Those who could not, are still FULLY able to register as parishioners, have their kids in the school, receive the sacraments, etc. No one who wishes to be a part of the life of the parish would be excluded in any way. All current parishioners, and all Roman Catholics who wanted to join in the future, would still be full members of the parish. The following is straight from the Ordinariate website:
What if I am not eligible for membership? 
If you are a Roman Catholic who cannot affirm one or more of the above questions in the previous section, you are still strongly encouraged to register as a parishioner in an Ordinariate parish and participate fully in the life of your local Ordinariate parish. Parish membership in one of our communities does NOT require one to be a registered member of the Ordinariate.
As one can see, this is a situation that is both complex and unfortunate, and in many ways it is not as it seems upon first glance.  Let us all pray for a swift and positive resolution to this current crisis.

Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of ' -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

A Catholic Guide
to the Last Days
Catholicism for
Regnum Dei Press

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

How We Got The Bible

The Gutenberg Bible
Photo by NYC Wanderer (Kevin Eng), Wikipedia

All Christians revere the Bible as the written word of God. Few, however, know why that is. In fact, most Christians just assume that to be the case without every questioning it. They hear if from their pastors and their churches. Everybody says it. So how do we know it's true? There is really only one way. We need to know where the Bible came from.

So, where did the Bible Come from?

That's a very good question, and to understand where the Bible came from, we have to know a little bit of history. Let's go back, way back, to the 1st century AD. Jesus and his apostles were travelling the countryside in Galilee and Judea. They were Jews, and because they were Jews, they were using the Jewish Bible. Today we call that Jewish Bible the "Old Testament." This was all they had at the time.

However, there wasn't just one Jewish Bible. In fact, there were THREE! You see, each mainline Jewish sect had its own canon (Bible) of Scripture it considered authoritative. In first century Israel, this is what existed...
  1. The Torah - These were the first five books of Moses, originally written in Hebrew. All Jews considered these books authoritative. However, the Sadducees limited their canon to just those five books. Jesus and his apostles clearly disagreed with this approach.
  2. The Tanakh - These were the first five books of Moses, plus the writings of history, psalms, poetry, and prophets. Some were written in Hebrew, others in Aramaic. In total, there were about 39 books. This was the canon of the Pharisees. From the writings of the apostles we learn that Jesus and his followers agreed more with the Pharisees than they did with the Sadducees, and accepted the Pharisaical canon of Scripture as authoritative.
  3. The Septuagint - These were all the books mentioned above in the Tanakh, plus seven more, for a total of 46 books with longer editions to the books of Esther and Daniel. The Septuagint was a Greek translation of the Jewish canon (Old Testament) that had some additions which many Jews considered authoritative. Among those Jews were Jesus and his apostles. 
Upon examining the writings of the apostles, it becomes apparent that they accepted as authoritative both the Tanakh and the Septuagint on equal footing. This is why the early Church Councils decreed that the Old Testament would have 46 books, based on the expanded canon of the Septuagint, in addition to the shorter canon of the Tanakh. Thus, Christians have always had 46 books in their Old Testament. It wasn't until Martin Luther came along in the 16th century and systematically removed 7 books from the Old Testament, preferring to copy the canon of the Pharisees, reducing the number of books in the Christian Old Testament to 39. Today, Christians who follow the teachings of Martin Luther have 39 books in their Old Testament, while as Christians who strictly follow the apostles have 46 books in their Old Testament. How many books does your Old Testament have? If it has 39 books, your Bible is modelled after the teachings of Martin Luther and the Pharisees. If it has 46 books, your Bible is modelled after the teachings of Jesus' apostles and the early Church. Examples of some English Bibles that contain all 46 Old Testament books are as follows...
  1. New American Bible
  2. New Revised Standard Bible - Catholic Edition
  3. Revised Standard Bible - Catholic Edition
  4. New Jerusalem Bible
  5. Contemporary English Version - with Deutercanonicals
  6. Douay-Rheims Bible
  7. King James Bible - with Apocrypha
Now when it comes to the New Testament, all Christians of all types agree. There are exactly 27 books, no more and no less. How did the early Christians decide on these books?

The answer requires a little more knowledge of history. From the time of Jesus, all the way into the 4th century (about 300 years), Christians had no set New Testament. What they had instead was a number of scrolls that came from the apostolic era. What scrolls they used had a lot to do with where they were located, and each area used a different set of scroll. Thus, early Christianity had no set or standardised New Testament.

About that time, a dynamic and charismatic priest came along name Arius. He was a presbyter in the early Church. He rejected the common teaching that Jesus Christ is God, and instead insisted that he was just the greatest of prophets, who was fully human, and had no divine characteristics at all. Sensing the lack of continuity among New Testament Scriptures in the early Church, he began formulating his own list of books (canon) that his followers would use exclusively. This was known as the Arian Canon. It was the New Testament according to Arius, and he had it standardised wherever he went. The Arian canon backed Arius' teaching that Jesus Christ was not divine.

So when the early Church met at the Council of Nicea (AD 325) to refute Arius and his heresy, they made two monumental decisions that would change the history of Christianity forever. The first was the creation of the Nicean Creed. This creed would be learned and recited by all Christians every Sunday for the rest of history. The creed is still recited to this day in all Catholic churches, as well as Eastern Orthodox churches, Anglican churches, Lutheran churches, and several other churches. The second was the decision to standardised a Christian New Testament based entirely on the Tradition of the apostles, as still taught and preserved by the Catholic bishops of that time, so as to oppose the heresies of the Arian New Testament. Thus the decision was made to compile the New Testament we all know and use today. So for years the work was ongoing among Catholic bishops to discern the required books within apostolic Tradition.

In AD 367, about 40 years after the Council of Nicea, Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria, Egypt, compiled a list of 27 books, starting with the Gospel of St. Matthew, and ending with the Apocalypse of St. John (Book of Revelation). His work was a compilation of lists derived from other Catholic bishops in Europe, West Asia and North Africa. Bishop Athanasius was a fierce opponent of Arianism, and was well known in the region for keeping his diocese clean of the Arian heresy. At the Synods of Rome, Hippo and Carthage (late 3rd century), Athanasius' list of 27 books were adopted as the Christian New Testament. In the year AD 405, Pope Innocent I decreed that all Christians would now use this 27 book list as the universal and standard Christian New Testament.

So that's how we got the Bible. It came from the tireless work of Catholic bishops in the 4th century, and the decree of a pope in the early 5th century. The Old Testament was decided early, by the apostles, and affirmed by the pope and Catholic bishops of the 4th - 5th centuries. The New Testament wasn't decided until the late 4th century, and affirmed by a pope in the 5th century. That's the historical fact of how we got the Bible.

So if you like your Bible, and you appreciate that it doesn't contain any Arian heresies, you can thank the Catholic pope and bishops of the 4th - 5th centuries. Sadly, many Christians today show no appreciation to the Catholic Church for this, and instead accept the Bible while proverbially "spitting" on its original publisher. It's an odd behaviour to be sure, but very common these days.

If you would like to learn more about the origin of the Bible, and the organisation responsible for getting it to us, contact your nearest Catholic Church and bookmark the apologetics page of this blog for further reading.
Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of ' -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

A Catholic Guide
to the Last Days
Catholicism for
Regnum Dei Press

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Living as a Catholic in the Bible Belt

Buffalo River Area, Ozark Mountains, Northern Arkansas

The Ozark Mountains are firmly situated within the Bible Belt of the United States. In fact, the northern frontier of the Bible Belt begins on the western border of Missouri, right at the foothills of the Ozarks. I remember driving back and forth to Kansas a few times for some professional seminars. I found the cultural shift very profound right at the Missouri-Kansas border. On the Missouri side, the dominate churches were Baptist and Pentecostal. On the Kansas side it was Catholic, Lutheran and Methodist. I've found a similar cultural shift within Missouri too, while driving north and crossing the invisible Mason-Dixon line approaching St. Louis. Everything north of it is Catholic, Lutheran and Methodist. Everything south of it is Baptist and Pentecostal. Now to be sure, all of these churches exist on both sides of these borders, but what I'm talking about here is concentration. The Ozarks represent the northern frontier of the Bible Belt on the West side of the Mississippi River, and here, Evangelicalism (Baptist, Pentecostal and nondenominational) are considered the "norm" of Christian faith.

Click to Enlarge
I've used this map many times to illustrate what I'm talking about. The map is from the U.S. Census Bureau and illustrates the dominate religious denomination in each county of the United States. Those areas shaded red represent the Southern Baptist Convention, and this also happens to outline the area commonly referred to as the "Bible Belt" of the United States. Here Evangelicalism (Baptist, Pentecostal, nondenominational) is considered "normal" Christianity. In fact, people who have lived in this area all their lives have difficulty imagining a Christianity any different than the Evangelical model. For example; when speaking with various types of Evangelicals in the Ozarks, they'll often tell me that they really don't know anything about Catholicism, and have absolutely no knowledge of what it is. They've seen it on television, and in the movies, but it's really kind of strange and foreign to them. I can't tell you how many times I've revealed that I'm Catholic and the response I get is something along the lines of: "Oh wait, I once had a friend who was Catholic a long time ago." This statement is of course an attempt to show a sense of familiarity and kindness toward somebody who's religious faith is completely foreign to them. I once had a person say to me: "Oh you're Catholic? Well, Haaaaaill Maaaarry!" She yelled it with an Ozarkian twang, sounding a lot like Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors) from The Andy Griffith Show. I chuckled a bit, and said "thank you" quietly, understanding that this was an attempt at neighbourly kindness. Like most people around here, she went on to tell me she once knew somebody who was Catholic. I've learnt that we should never misinterpret such things as mockery or animosity of any sort. Most of the time these people are just trying to be kind and friendly. They only have the best of intentions. It's not their fault that they happen to live in an area where Catholicism is so rare that they have almost no familiarity with it. It's best to graciously accept their little acts of kindness and politely continue the conversation as if nothing is awkward or out of the ordinary.

What I also run into is something even more fascinating. You see, I was raised as an Evangelical (Baptist) Protestant too, but that was in Southern California, wherein we were surrounded by Catholicism. All but two of my childhood friends were Catholic. In fact, Catholicism was such a regular part of my childhood that I often found myself at mass on Sunday mornings whenever I spent the night at a friend's house. So as an Evangelical boy, I was extremely familiar with liturgy, vestments, incense, candles, bells, etc. I didn't believe in any of that stuff at the time, and I was very proud to be raised in a Baptist church, but I at least had a clue when it came to Catholicism. Where I grew up in California, the divide was about 60/40. By that I mean 60% Catholic and 40% Protestant (of various denominations). So I had an advantage the good folks here in the Bible Belt don't have. I was always familiar with Catholicism, and it was never foreign to me, simply because I was surrounded by it. This is not the case here in the Ozark Mountains of the Bible Belt. Most Evangelical Protestants in this area are raised with the notion that Evangelical Protestantism is the "normal" kind of Christianity, and everything else is foreign. As a result, not only do folks around here have little knowledge about Catholicism, but many of them are not even sure if it's Christian. I'll often get such questions as...
  • So, do you Catholics believe in Jesus?
  • Are you Christians?
  • How many gods do you worship?
  • Do you believe the pope is a god?
  • Do you worship Mary as God (big "G") or as a separate goddess (little "g")?
  • Do you read the Bible?
  • How many Bibles do you have?
  • Is the pope above the Bible?
Now you have to understand, these questions are usually asked in sincerity and not in an argumentative way. They genuinely don't know, and are operating only on what they see in the movies, on television, or what they may have heard in their own churches. In my experience, about 80% of the time here in the Ozarks, it's an honest and sincere kind of ignorance. From experience, I know this is not the case in Southern California. When Evangelicals ask such questions there, it's usually in an accusatory kind of way, with the intent of starting a debate. Evangelicals in California know perfectly well what Catholics believe. Here in the Bible Belt, however, where Catholicism is so rare, Evangelicals often genuinely don't know, and are asking in sincerity. I've seen some of my fellow Catholics rudely shut down some of my local Evangelical friends, simply for asking honest and sincere questions. Why? Because my fellow Catholics thought they were behaving as California Evangelicals, and failed to recognise that people here in the Ozarks genuinely don't know.

Here's another phenomenon I've run into. Because Evangelicalism is the norm in the Bible Belt, I have found that most people (even a lot of local Catholics) think it's the norm all over the world. I used to lecture Catholic teenagers years ago, and one of the things I noticed is that a lot of them believed Catholicism was a minority religion everywhere you go around the world. These kids grew up right here in the Ozarks. So you can imagine, if being a minority is all they've ever known, many of them just assume it's that way everywhere. Most of them were shocked when I told them that Catholics make up the majority of Christians in the world. They're even more shocked when I tell them the Catholic Church is the largest grouping of Christians in America, bigger than any other type, with a membership of some 60 million people. When I tell them the Southern Baptist Convention rates a distant second place at just 16 million people, their jaws would drop. "How is that possible!" They would ask. You see, these kids were raised in such a thick Protestant environment, that all their lives they were condition to think they were the minority around the world. 

The same goes for a lot of Evangelical Protestants in this area. A large number of them believe everything is the same everywhere else you go. They have no idea, that worldwide, THEY are the minority, not Catholics. There are an estimated number of about 325 million Evangelicals on planet earth. That's a whole lot of people to be sure! This includes Baptists, Pentecostals, nondenominations, etc. All of them are divided among various denominations and sects, each having their own unique doctrines and practises. Now in comparison, there are about 1.3 billion Catholics! (That's billion with a "b.") That means, worldwide, Catholics outnumber Evangelicals by about 4 to 1. Here in the United States, while Protestantism is the dominate religion, these Protestants are divided into multiple sects and denominations. A lot of those denominations still retain many Catholic characteristics too. In America, Catholics only make up about 21% of the U.S. population, but we have the largest unified Church at 60 million members, dwarfing the second largest unified denomination (Southern Baptist Convention) at just 16 million members. It's just in the Bible Belt that Evangelicalism is concentrated. Those who live here are living in another world, so to speak, much like an "alternate universe" where Catholics are the tiny minority while Evangelical Protestantism reigns supreme. If you've never lived outside of the area, or if you've never bothered to study the issue, it's easy to get confused.

Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of ' -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

A Catholic Guide
to the Last Days
Catholicism for
Regnum Dei Press