Browsing articles tagged with " Catholic Priest"
Ahiara Diocese: Time For Truce
Published on May 16, 2013 by pmnews · No Comments
By Peter Claver Oparah
When he entered the conclave, in the wake of the historical resignation of Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, Pope Francis (then Cardinal Bergoglio), like the nearly 120 Cardinals that made up the conclave, went with his little briefcase containing essentials he may need for the period of time the conclave will last. This was televised live to the entire world. Since he emerged, after two days, as Pope Francis, no one has known or seen him go back to his native Argentina, either to take his personal belongings or check on his father’s heirloom, lands and estates. Recall that Pope Emeritus Benedict had not visited his native Germany since he voluntarily abdicated the Papacy on February 28. He may not even visit Germany again in his life time as he lives in a sequestrated monastery at the Vatican. The late Pope John Paul II lost his last earthly close relative, his father, when he was barely eighteen. This was after the death of his brother Edward but he went on to become a priest and reached the very zenith of priesthood, which is the Papacy. At his death in 2005, he was known not to have left any earthly possession except his private mails, which he instructed his Secretary to burn at his death. He was not known to have gone to his native Poland to inspect or supervise his family estate, lands or businesses.
That is how it is for every Catholic priest. He is ordained for the Church and exists for the Church. By Church, I mean the Holy Catholic Church and not the church where he is born or is raised. By my understanding, a Catholic priest can be called upon to work anywhere his services are needed. He exists and lives his life at the behest of the Church, exercised through the delegated authority of the local ordinary, which is the Bishop of the Diocese where he works. A priest can work for a diocese other than the one he is born into. That becomes his diocese and if he dies, he is buried there. He may be required to work in a different diocese from the one he is born and where duty calls, he moves without question. He belongs to that diocese for life and when he dies, he will be buried in that diocese as his body may not even be laid in state in the diocese of his origin. A priest, on ordination, takes the vow of poverty, obedience and chastity. This forbids him from owning properties, estates, wives, children or heirlooms or to inherit his father’s estates or properties. As it is with priests, so it is with bishops and even the Pope. While a priest, he is expected to live on the goodwill of the Church and the community of the faithful. That is the rule for Bishops and even the Pope.
This is why I find really disturbing the on-going slugfest over who should succeed the late Bishop Victor Adibe Chikwe as the Catholic Bishop of Ahiara (Mbaise) Diocese. Since this battle was kicked off with the announcement of Msgr. Peter Ebele Okpalaeke as the second bishop of Ahiara, and the rejection by a section of the Catholic community in the diocese, I had maintained a studied silence over the issue. I had rather decided to study and perhaps learn more from that issue than interfere but above all, I prayed silently and wished that the combatants will do their best and let the wheel of progress roll on. Since the issue started, I had read extensively the submissions of the section of Mbaise people that rejected the appointment of Okpalaeke and the often engaging, deep and incisive reactions from others, mainly Catholic priests, from outside the diocese. Curiously, as I read, I had not found any opinion or any voice outside Mbaise support the rejection of Okpalaeke.
In all I read, I had been nit picking to see where any egregious infraction that impedes the choice of Okpalaeke could be advertised. I had read deeper to see if there is any impediment that would prevent him from being a Catholic bishop to the faithful of Ahiara diocese. I had searched for any hefty indiscretion that endangers his capacity to be an effective bishop for the people of Ahiara diocese. I believe such indiscretion should be founded on very strong reasons to sustain any strong opposition against his candidacy for the Bishopric as being touted by a section of the Catholic community and the huge number of non Catholics that have tapped into this issue for reasons best known to them. Curiously, I have not seen any such malfeasance. I have not seen any scandal and I have not seen any dent in the tons of paid adverts, features and opinions sent forth by those who have sworn that Okpalaeke will not be Bishop of Ahiara. In fact, in its first noted public statement on the rejection, these combatants made up of some priests and lay faithful have said they were not opposing Msgr. Okpalaeke’s candidacy as an attack against him as they said they found nothing wrong about him as a person. So what is firing the unusual obduracy so far displayed by these people?
They said they will never accept Okpalaeke because he is not from Ahiara, that he is from Anambra and they have gone further to allege what they call a deliberate policy of forcing Anambra priests on many dioceses in and outside the East. They have gone further to say that Okpalaeke is not qualified to shepherd the teeming faithful in Ahiara because, as they put it, he doesn’t speak our language or understand our culture. In a nutshell, these form the corpus of their opposition. I have continued to search for more beefy reasons to tag along them and have found out that the many press statements and features they have brought out on this issue revolve around these issues. Strictly speaking, and in line with Catholic traditions, are these weighty enough to disallow Okpalaeke from being Bishop of Ahiara? I don’t think so. Given historical evidences and with our knowledge of the Catholic priesthood and the general history of the Catholic Church, are these sufficient reasons to withdraw the candidacy of Msgr. Okpalaeke? I don’t think so and I feel that those that are sworn to the opposition of Msgr. Okpalaeke’s candidacy should advance further reasons to ground their positions.
I am a Catholic from Ahiara diocese and I remain in full communion with the Catholic Church. To be fair to it, the Catholic Church has had least considerations for place of origin in deciding where its priests or bishops work. Why should it when it professes one Faith, one Baptism and one Father who is God? A priest once ordained becomes a member of the church. It does not assign roles to its priests on consideration of where one comes from. In other words, when ordained, a Catholic priest is primed to work in any part of the world. It may be true that most bishops particularly in the Eastern parts of the country are from Anambra, as insinuated by those that oppose Msgr. Okpalaeke. It may be true that Msgr. Okpalaeke was favoured over priests from Ahiara, in consideration for who succeeds Bishop Chikwe. It is true that Ahiara has one of the highest density of Catholic priests in Nigeria.
It is true that Ahiara has one of the highest density of Catholics in Nigeria. These facts have been well rehearsed by those that want someone from Ahiara as the next bishop of Ahiara. However, none of these facts dents the suitability of Okpalaeke for the Bishop of Ahiara. None is weighty enough to disqualify him for the position and those opposing him, especially the priests among them, know this fact. Okpalaeke is a priest of the Catholic Church and that qualifies him to be bishop of any diocese in the world. It is trite to insist that it must be ‘our son’ or nobody else as the provocateurs of the succession crisis in Ahiara are insisting. Their position finds no known anchor in the ordinances, practices and authorities of the Catholic Church. It is alien to the Church and that is why Ahiara priests work all over the globe.
Coming nearer home, it is an incontestable fact that more than sixty five per cent of Catholic bishops in Nigeria work in dioceses other their diocese of origin. It is an incontestable fact that more priests from Ahiara’s rich pool of priests work in several dioceses all over the world and in different religious congregations. If these were true, how can those opposed to Okpalaeke justify their position on the flimsy basis of ‘he is from Anambra’ or ‘he does not speak our language’ or ‘he does not understand our culture’? Okpalaeke, on my last check is Igbo, he speaks Igbo and is part of that culture, even when we insists that the Church is not a cultural platform. Igbo is a uniform people, with a single culture and language, albeit with slight dialectical variations so it is an abomination to hurl those charges on Igbo just because you want to strengthen a weak point. So if we must disallow Okpalaeke from Bishop of Ahiara on these flimsy grounds, what happens to the multitude of Ahiara born priests working in various parts of the world? Deport them to come and become parts of the okpulo inheritance syndrome that is firing the present tussle?
I know that the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, as a group and individually, has worked round the clock to solve this issue. I know that respectable Priests and Bishops have made rounds to Mbaise to clear this mess. But after each intervention, all you get is one belly-churning publication or the other, alleging injustice and name calling. I have tried my utmost best to understand the grouse of these agitators beyond the flabby articulation put forth so far. It is just repetition of why it should be ‘one of us of no other person’ and when you press it further, everything is collapsed into the magic word, ‘injustice’ and you begin to wonder if the issue is really about injustice. If it is, why is it that more than 65 per cent of Catholic Bishops in Nigeria work in dioceses outside their diocese of origin? When had justice in the Catholic Church been watered down to restricting priests and bishops to their home dioceses?
As it is, by the appointment of Okpalaeke as Bishop of Ahiara, he automatically becomes a citizen of Ahiara. If and when he dies, he would be buried in Ahiara and this conforms to the practice of the Catholic Church so why are we breaking our heads over nothing? Why have we willingly allowed agent provocateurs, fifth columnists into our barn such that they make rounds vilifying the Catholic Church and treating its traditions and practices to trampling? I ask this because I found out that those who have been most fanatical in this warfare are non-Catholics, self confessed traditionalists, people of doubtful Catholicity and those who have publicly renounced their communion with the Catholic Church. They have been carrying on as if their lives rest on the appointment of an Mbaise man as Bishop of Ahiara and shockingly, they are in cahoots with a section of priests and lay Catholics.
I do not see the protest of a section of Ahiara priests and lay faithful to Okpalaeke’s emergence as out of place. It is natural and should be limited to protests from which some useful lessons should be drawn. But then, they missed the opportunity to press the finest point in their position, which I believe, is asking why Mbaise priests cannot be Bishop of other dioceses. What prevents an Mbaise priest from being the Bishop of Awka or even the Archbishop of Onitsha when these positions become vacant? This was a beautiful ground the agitators for a native Bishop for Ahiara missed in the pent up obduracy to insist they must have their way.
I feel the church however takes note of this salient point and move on. Those who are agitating for a native bishop should rest their war machine and work for the progress of the church. All those who are engaged in this battle should call the truce and embrace peace so that we all will further the ends of development for the diocese and Mbaise land. Equally, those on the other side who are murmuring that ‘they rejected our son’ are misguided because they did not take into consideration the sentiments of a people just coming in contact with such succession reality.
We should put this squabble behind us because it is meaningless. Let us embrace Msgr. Okpalaeke as our brother and put forth our well known Mbaise warmth and conviviality to him. I know my people are capable of this and know when to end a battle. Let the new Bishop start his work, with an urgent mission to pursue reconciliation and peace among the fractious divisions that have developed amongst our people. Let all hands get on the deck and let everybody put the past behind to work for our people. Welcome, Msgr. Peter Ebele Okpalaeke to Ahiara Mbaise and long may your reign be!
•Oparah wrote from Lagos. •E-mail:email@example.com
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‘You’ll never guess what Pope Francis just told me!’
From Saturday’s Daily Telegraph
Christians should resist the “dark joy” of gossip, Pope Francis announced during an early-morning Mass the other day. It’s a memorable phrase, typical of the chatty new pontiff. I relayed it to a friend. “Well, that’s you screwed, then,” he said.
Here are the Pope’s exact words: “I don’t know why, but there is a dark joy in gossiping. Sometimes we begin by saying nice things about another, but then we slip into gossip, making the object of our chatter merchandise to be bartered. Let us ask forgiveness because when we do this to a friend, we do it to Jesus, because Jesus is in this friend.”
You don’t have to be a Catholic, or even religious, to agree with Francis: few pleasures are more dangerously seductive than gossip. And the Church has always condemned it.
There’s a story about the Italian saint Padre Pio, who came up with an unusual penance for a notorious woman gossip. She was told to walk to church carrying a feather pillow with a hole in it. Then she had to retrace her steps, picking up all the feathers, however far they had blown: they represented the spread of her nasty tales.
Fair enough. But with the greatest respect to the Holy Father, I wonder whether clergymen are the right people to front a crusade against gossip. I was previously the religious correspondent for this newspaper. I wouldn’t have been able to do my job if it hadn’t been for the wagging tongues of the gentlemen in dog collars.
I’m still plugged in to that network. Within minutes of Cardinal Bergoglio’s election as pope, a priest friend rang my mobile. “Marcia is having a fit,” he cackled.
Marcia? It took me a minute to work out that he meant a stuffy monsignor whose Christian name is Mark. To decode clerical gossip you need to remember a litany of female nicknames. A former Bishop of London, I seem to recall, was known as “Ena the Cruel”.
Catholic priests are drawn to gossip for the same reason they’re drawn to the bottle (or, as I discovered when I was writing a book about addiction, pornography): other pleasures are closed off to them. It sounds to me as if Francis has been on the receiving end of malicious speculation, perhaps by fellow Jesuits – and in Argentina, careless talk costs lives.
But the Pope was also addressing a world in which fast, cheap, bite-sized chatter is looming ever larger in our conversations. Mobiles are nothing if not gossip carriers. Sit on the top of any bus and listen to what people are barking into their iPhones: I can guarantee you that half of them will be “passing remarks”, as my grandmother used to say, about a third party. (“Of course it’s a wig. It moves when he speaks.”)
New technology is indeed turning speech into merchandise to be bartered: our readiness to answer a call often depends on how much “dark joy” we’ll derive from it. And spammers long ago worked out that one of their most effective subject lines was, “Look what somebody has been saying about you”.
How are we supposed to reverse this trend? By being aware of it, I suppose – but, like all addictions, this one is hard to kick, and in any case there’s a fine line between rumours that create pointless misery and rumours that expose the truth.
I suppose I could give this not-gossiping thing a try. It’s an awful lot to ask of a journalist, though. That Padre Pio anecdote about the feathers, for example. A colleague of mine picked it up from a sermon about 10 years ago. Or so he says. I can’t find any trace of it on the internet. So please, if you pass it on, you didn’t hear it from me.
Sneaky trick puts Farage on the spot
Ukip had a nasty moment on Thursday when Lefty blog Political Scrapbook revealed that the party was being endorsed by the leader of the far-Right English Defence League, Stephen Lennon (who, like many conmen, also operates under another name, Tommy Robinson). Nigel Farage has nothing in common with the thugs of the EDL; they hate him, in fact, which is why the “endorsement” of Ukip was such a sneaky move. If Farage has to deny that he has any links with the EDL, then mere word association could drive away ordinary voters. My advice to him: make sure that CCHQ doesn’t try to create political capital out of Lennon’s mischievous stunt.
Unravelling the Windsor knot
Victims of crime who feel they have been targeted because of their distinctive clothing will now receive special support from Manchester police, we learnt this week. The move is intended to protect Goths and punks – but let’s hope that it also covers other minority groups whose sartorial choices provoke rage from passers-by.
I’m thinking, of course, of those strange men who wear their ties in a Windsor knot. There’s something smarmy and smug about this triangular horror, which James Bond, in From Russia with Love, considers the mark of a cad or Russian spy masquerading as an English gent. I sometimes feel the urge to strangle Windsor knot wearers with their own ties. But I shall resist it – at least when I’m in Manchester.
A voice like warm custard
The toes of an entire nation curled when George Osborne slipped into Mockney on Tuesday. But he was far from being the only politician to lose control of his accent. British prime ministers are especially prone to Wandering Vowel Syndrome.
Tony Blair had three voices: posh, blokey and mid-Atlantic. When he was nervous he sounded like Mike Yarwood on an off night. Then there was John Major, who attracted cruel jibes about Mr Pooter. Margaret Thatcher went from faux-posh to a Grantham growl – though the switch played well with voters. Edward Heath, on the other hand, adopted a version of RP so mangled that it sounded extraterrestrial.
As for Dave, his toned-down Etonian drawl is patronising but stable. And, unlike Osborne, he can talk for hours without hoarseness. “Most people gargle with mouthwash,” says my No 10 source. “But if you want your throat to stay lubricated, nothing beats gently heated Ambrosia Devon Custard.”
More of this masterpiece, please
Bach’s B Minor Mass is the summit of his art: existing cantata movements brilliantly refashioned to set (oddly for a Lutheran) a Catholic Mass. I’ve loved it since I was 17 and own a dozen recordings, including Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s searing 1985 performance with the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists. On Monday, at the end of Radio 3’s Bach Marathon at the Albert Hall, he conducted it with the same ensembles – but with miraculously finer results. Never in my life have I heard such singing, alternately flashing with drama and melting into thin air. Walking home, I felt like accosting complete strangers to rave about it. Please, Sir John Eliot, give us a second recording of this masterpiece.
The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers on issues both timely and timeless.
An old friend and mentor of mine, Ernan McMullin, was a philosopher of science widely respected in his discipline. He was also a Catholic priest. I don’t know how many times fellow philosophers at professional meetings drew me aside and asked, “Does Ernan really believe that stuff?” (He did.) Amid all the serious and generally respectful coverage of the papal resignation and the election of a new pope, I often detect an undertone of this same puzzlement. Can reflective and honest intellectuals actually believe that stuff?
Here I sketch my reasons for answering “yes.” What I offer is neither apologetics aimed at converting others nor merely personal testimony. Without claiming to speak for others, I try to articulate a position that I expect many fellow Catholics will find congenial and that non-Catholics (even those who reject all religion) may recognize as an intellectually respectable stance. Easter is the traditional time for Christians to reaffirm their faith. I want to show that we can do this without renouncing reason.
Toward the end of James Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” the protagonist, Stephen Dedalus, rejects the Roman Catholic faith he was raised in. A friend suggests that he might, then, become a Protestant. Stephen replies, “I said that I had lost the faith . . . but not that I had lost self-respect.” Factoring out the insult to Protestants, I would like to appropriate this Joycean mot to explain my own continuing attachment to the Catholic Church.
I read “self-respect” as respect for what are (to borrow the title of the philosopher Charles Taylor’s great book) the “sources of the self.” These are the sources nurturing the values that define an individual’s life. For me, there are two such sources. One is the Enlightenment, where I’m particularly inspired by Voltaire, Hume and the founders of the American republic. The other is the Catholic Church, in which I was baptized as an infant, raised by Catholic parents, and educated for 8 years of elementary school by Ursuline nuns and for 12 more years by Jesuits. For me to deny either of these sources would be to deny something central to my moral being.
The Enlightenment and the Catholic Church? Yes, that needs some explaining. But first let me explain my attachment to Catholicism. My Catholic education has left me with three deep convictions. First, it is utterly important to know, to the extent that we can, the fundamental truth about human life: where it came from, what (if anything) it is meant for, how it should be lived. Second, this truth can in principle be supported and defended by human reason. Third, the Catholic philosophical and theological tradition is a fruitful context for pursuing fundamental truth, but only if it is combined with the best available secular thought. (The Jesuits I studied with were particularly strong on all three of these claims.)
Careful readers will note that these three convictions do not include the belief that the specific teachings of the Catholic Church provide the fundamental truths of human life. What I do believe is that these teachings are very helpful for understanding the human condition. Here I distinguish three domains: metaphysical doctrines about the existence and nature of God, historical accounts from the Bible of how God has intervened in human history to reveal his truth and the ethics of love preached by Jesus.
The ethics of love I revere as the inspiration for so many (Catholics and others) who have led exemplary moral lives. I don’t say that this ethics is the only exemplary way to live or that we have anything near to an adequate understanding of it. But I know that it has been a powerful force for good. (Like so many Catholics, I do not see how the hierarchy’s rigid strictures on sex and marriage could follow from the ethics of love.) As to the theistic metaphysics, I’m agnostic about it taken literally, but see it as a superb intellectual construction that provides a fruitful context for understanding how our religious and moral experiences are tied to the ethics of love. The historical stories, I maintain, are best taken as parables illustrating moral and metaphysical teachings.
Traditional apologetics has started with metaphysical arguments for God’s existence, then argued from the action of God in the world to the truth of the Church’s teachings as revealed by God and finally justified the ethics of love by appealing to these teachings. I reverse this order, putting first the ethics of love as a teaching that directly captivates our moral sensibility, then taking the history and metaphysics as helpful elucidations of the ethics.
Of course, I can already hear the obvious objection: “What you believe isn’t Catholicism — it is a diluted concoction that might satisfy ultra-liberal Protestants or Unitarians, but is nothing like the robust tonic of orthodox Catholic doctrine. It’s not surprising that so paltry a ‘faith’ doesn’t conflict with the Enlightenment view of religion.” My answer is that Catholicism too has reconciled itself to the Enlightenment view of religion.
First, the Church now explicitly acknowledges the right of an individual’s conscience in religious matters: No one may “be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters” (“Catechism of the Catholic Church,” citing a decree from the Second Vatican Council). The official view still maintains that a conscience that rejects the hierarchy’s formal teaching is objectively in error. But it acknowledges that subjectively individuals not only may but should act on their sincere beliefs.
Second, the Church, in practice, hardly ever excludes from its community those who identity themselves as Catholics but reinterpret central teachings (and perhaps reject less central ones). The “faithful” who attend Mass, receive the sacraments, send their children to Catholic schools and sometimes even teach theology include many who hold views similar to mine. Church leaders have in effect agreed that the right to follow one’s conscience includes the right of dissident Catholics to remain members of the Church. They implicitly recognize the absurdity of the claim that a dissident who has been raised and educated in the Catholic Church and has maintained, with the Church’s implicit consent, a lifetime involvement in its life is not “really” a Catholic.
Read previous contributions to this series.
Those who think of themselves as the conservative “core” of the Church maintain that the faith of such “liberal” Catholics is nonetheless seriously defective because it deviates significantly from the hierarchy’s authoritative views. But liberal Catholics like Hans Küng argue that the conservative view itself is defective. Conservatives appeal to the authority of the hierarchy to justify their position, but this appeal is circular, since the nature of hierarchical authority is part of what liberals contest. And Küng and other liberals plausibly argue that the early Church’s structure was closer to the more democratic arrangements they favor than to the monarchist model of the Middle Ages.
The reasonable description of this situation is that there is deep disagreement within the Church about how its core doctrines, including those about the hierarchy’s authority, should be understood. With the Second Vatican Council, the hierarchy began a move toward the liberal position, which the successors of John XXIII have tried to reverse. But history shows that Catholics play in a very long game, and there is no reason to give up hope for a new blossoming of the liberal buds.
Critics outside the Church will ask how I adhere to an institution that has so many deep flaws. My first response is that the Catholic tradition of thought and practice is the only stance toward religion that, in William James’s phrase, is a “live option” for me — the only place I feel at home. Simply to renounce it would be, as I said at the outset, to lose my self-respect — to deny part of my moral core.
My second response is that the liberal drive for reform is the best hope of saving the Church. Its greatest present danger is precisely the loss of the members whom the hierarchy and the rest of the conservative core want to marginalize. I’m not willing to abandon the Church to them.
Gary Gutting is a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, and an editor of Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. He is the author, most recently, of “Thinking the Impossible: French Philosophy since 1960,” and writes regularly for The Stone. He was recently interviewed in 3am magazine.
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Pope Benedict XVI will wield considerable influence inside the Vatican after stepping down, according to leading Swiss theologian Professor Hans Küng, who likened him to a ‘shadow pope’.
Professor Küng, an emeritus professor at the University of Tübingen in Germany and a renowned critic of the Catholic spoke to euronews’ Rudolf Herbert on the day of Benedict’s last public audience as pontiff.
He said that Benedict’s conservative-leaning legacy will live on, whoever is named as his successor.
“I’m afraid that Joseph Ratzinger will be a shadow pope. He will not live in a monastery but in a former convent, which has been transformed into a beautiful villa, even in the future he will be addressed as ‘Your Holiness’, said Küng, who has his authority to teach Catholic theology revoked by the Vatican in 1979.
“It’s all very dangerous and it will restrict the freedom of the next pope, because Ratzinger will live close to the Vatican, he will reside there and maintain his contacts,” he added.
The Vatican took action against Küng more than 30 years ago after he became the first Catholic priest to publicly question the doctrine of papal infallibility.
Pope Benedict XVI took over in 2005 and his papacy has been dogged by child abuse allegations, as well as the recent ‘VatiLeaks’ scandal.
Küng said there is these events have “put a huge strain on the pontificate of Benedict XVI”, describing his tenure as having led the Church into “a bottleneck.”
“We have an exodus from the Church of men and women. The younger generation is not going anymore… We have a lot of problems, especially because we are steering off course from the second Vatican Council, the path of modernisation set by Pope John XXIII. We wanted to go forward. We are suffering from this restoration process that started with the Polish pope (John Paul II) and this German pope,” he told euronews.
More about: Benedict XVI, Catholicism, Pope Election Conclave 2013, Religion, Sex scandal
Copyright © 2013 euronews
Perhaps not coincidentally, the mid-2000s were the last time the Catholic vision of the good society — more egalitarian than American conservatism and more moralistic than American liberalism — enjoyed real influence in U.S. politics. At the time of John Paul’s death, the Republican Party’s agenda was still stamped by George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism,” which offered a right-of-center approach to Catholic ideas about social justice. The Democratic Party, meanwhile, was looking for ways to woo the “values voters” (many of them Catholic) who had just helped Bush win re-election, and prominent Democrats were calling for a friendlier attitude toward religion and a bigger tent on social issues.
That was a long eight years ago. Since then, the sex abuse scandals that shadowed John Paul’s last years have become the defining story of his successor’s papacy, and the unexpected abdication of Benedict XVI has only confirmed the narrative of a church in disarray. His predecessor was buried amid reverent coverage from secular outlets, but the current pope can expect a send-off marked by sourness and shrugs.
The collapse in the church’s reputation has coincided with a substantial loss of Catholic influence in American political debates. Whereas eight years ago, a Catholic view of economics and culture represented a center that both parties hoped to claim, today’s Republicans are more likely to channel Ayn Rand than Thomas Aquinas, and a strident social liberalism holds the whip hand in the Democratic Party.
Indeed, between Mitt Romney’s comments about the mooching 47 percent and the White House’s cynical decision to energize its base by picking fights over abortion and contraception, both parties spent 2012 effectively running against Catholic ideas about the common good.
This transformation suggests that we may have reached the end of a distinctive “Catholic moment” (to repurpose a phrase from the late Catholic priest-intellectual Richard John Neuhaus) in American politics, one that began in the 1980s after John Paul’s ascension to the papacy and the migration of many Catholic “Reagan Democrats” into the Republican Party.
This was hardly the first era when Catholic ideas shaped American debates. (New Deal-era liberalism, for instance, owed a major debt to Catholic social thought.) But it was the first era when the Catholic vote was both frequently decisive and genuinely up for grabs, and it was an era when Catholic debates and personalities filled the vacuum left by the decline of the Protestant mainline.
The fact that the Second Vatican Council had left the church internally divided limited Catholic influence in some ways but magnified it in others. Because the church’s divisions often mirrored the country’s, a politician who captured the typical Catholic voter was probably well on his way to victory, and so would-be leaders of both parties had every incentive to frame their positions in Catholic-friendly terms. The church might not always be speaking with one voice, but both left and right tried to borrow its language.
If this era is now passing, and Catholic ideas are becoming more marginal to our politics, it’s partially because institutional Christianity is weaker over all than a generation ago, and partially because Catholicism’s leaders have done their part, and then some, to hasten that de-Christianization. Any church that presides over a huge cover-up of sex abuse can hardly complain when its worldview is regarded with suspicion. The present pope has too often been scapegoated for the sex abuse crisis, but America’s bishops have if anything gotten off too easily, and even now seem insufficiently chastened for their sins.
The recent turn away from Catholic ideas has also been furthered by a political class that never particularly cared for them in the first place. Even in a more unchurched America, a synthesis of social conservatism and more egalitarian-minded economic policies could have a great deal of mass appeal. But our elites seem mostly relieved to stop paying lip service to the Catholic synthesis: professional Republicans are more libertarian than their constituents, professional Democrats are more secular than their party’s rank-and-file, and professional centrists get their encyclicals from Michael Bloomberg rather than the Vatican.
Nothing that happens in Rome over the next few months is likely to convert the Acela Corridor’s donors and strategists and think tankers to a more Catholic-friendly worldview. The next pope may be more effective than Benedict, or he may be clumsier; he may improve the church’s image in this country, or he may worsen it.
But if there is another Catholic moment waiting in our nation’s future, it can only be made by Americans themselves.
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MANILA, Philippines – Can Christians adhere to traditional Chinese practices without going against their faith? A Catholic priest of Chinese ancestry thinks so, under certain conditions.
Father Jimmy Liao grew up practicing traditional customs such as burning incense and offering food for his late grandparents during their special anniversaries in the lunar calendar.
After learning more about the Catholic faith, Liao later realized that the use of incense and offering of food is like lighting candles as gestures of veneration before Jesus, the saints and even departed loved ones.
“This is part of acculturation since candles were hardly used decades ago. Yes, traditional Chinese practices can be applicable in Christian worship. Nowadays both are followed,” he said in an interview with Philstar.
Liao, who spent decades in Hong Kong and Taiwan for pastoral ministry, also thinks there is practical science behind feng shui, believed to attract positive life energies through the physical arrangement of one’s surroundings.
“The popularity of feng shui cannot be denied and the practice of this ‘living skill’ undoubtedly requires study, time, patience, and money. Certainly we can admit that feng shui always improves one’s living condition,” Liao said.
Drawing the line
Liao, who as Theological Centrum executive director heads instructional activities for secular clergymen, cautioned Christians, however, not to replace belief in God’s hand with the invisible forces that feng shui is believed to direct.
“I often tell people that is allowed as long as one does not exchange it for prayer and trust in the divine providence,” he said.
Liao added that the practice is sometimes falsely seen as largely about bringing in wealth although it genuinely inspires interior and architectural design to create an impression of harmony in homes or offices.
Others, however, dismiss feng shui as mere superstition, and in some ways it may oppose Catholic teaching against superstitious beliefs and unreasonable faith in luck.
“It is not a quick magic cure because it represents only one-third of the trinity of luck: Heaven, which is what one is born with; Mankind, which is what one does with one’s life; And earth, which is feng shui,” Liao explained.
Other traditional Chinese practices bordering on superstition, however, are discouraged if one wishes to be faithful to the Christian creed.
“Burning paper money is indeed superstition as the Chinese consider that the dead need some money in the other world. So, I don’t practice it and discourage it among the Filipino-Chinese Catholics here in our country,” Liao said.
Of culture and creed
Liao is the first alumnus of Xavier School to become a priest since its foundation in 1956. The Jesuit-run preparatory school offers instruction specific to Chinese-Filipino boys.
He admitted, however, that it can be difficult to explain Catholic teachings to conservative Chinese who are deeply into Buddhist or Taoist beliefs.
“If they are told not to practice (some superstitions), it’s like asking them to stop being Chinese and become a non-Chinese. Nonetheless, as they become more educated in Western culture and history, Christianity can then be explained to them,” he said.
As he recounted in a previous interview, Liao experienced this firsthand in explaining his decision to become a priest to his parents, who eventually understood his calling by learning more about Christianity.
Two years after his ordination as a priest in 1977, Liao baptized his late father into Catholicism with the Christian name “Josemaria” as a sign of Liao’s devotion to Saint Josemaria Escriva, known as “the saint of ordinary life.”
“[Traditional Chinese] can accept Christianity, understanding that superstitions are the result of reliance to worldly gods while they can have a more certain assurance of help from the Christian God,” he said.
SAUL GONZALEZ, correspondent: At a Los Angeles ceremony, a group of Catholic women is about to commit an act of religious faith, but because they are women it’s an act the Vatican has condemned as a grave crime against the Roman Catholic Church and what the church sees as its divine laws.
“Bishop Olivia and members of the community, I am honored to testify on behalf of Jennifer’s readiness to be ordained to the priesthood.”
GONZALEZ: In a faith that prohibits females from becoming priests, these women are rebels, gathering here this afternoon to ordain this woman, Jennifer O’Malley, as a Catholic priest.
(to Jennifer O’Malley): Do you love the Catholic Church?
JENNIFER O’MALLEY: I do. It’s who I am, so I can’t leave. You know, I’ve gone to other churches and they’re beautiful, but I’m Catholic, and I can’t separate myself from that.
GONZALEZ: O’Malley is a member of a group called Roman Catholic Women Priests. It was started in 2002 when seven women, in an act of defiance against the Vatican, were ordained as priests by a male bishop in Europe. Ever since, the group’s been fighting for full acceptance of women into the priesthood. In the last decade, Roman Catholic Women Priests has ordained more than 100 women in ceremonies similar to this one for Jennifer O’Malley.
“We choose you our sister Jennifer for the order of priesthood. Thanks be to God.”
GONZALEZ: The ordinations are held in non-Catholic churches and definitely without the sanction or recognition of the Catholic Church. In fact, under Vatican policy O’Malley’s ordination, like the women who have done this before her, brings automatic excommunication. That means she’s barred from receiving the church’s sacraments or participating in the liturgy, unless she repents.
O’MALLEY: You know, in a sense it’s hurtful, and the fact that I’m being excommunicated by people who don’t even know me. But on the other hand, again, it is a consequence of doing what God has called me to do.
GONZALEZ: And your response to those who think at worst this is heresy, out and out, and at best some sort of a stunt, really. What do you say to them?
O’MALLEY: You know, it’s a call from God, and I believe it to be a true call, so those other things have to be put aside. And if that means breaking a law within the church, I know within myself, within my intellect and emotionally, that it is the right thing to do.
GONZALEZ: Catholic leaders, of course, see the ordination of women very differently.
REV. THOMAS RAUSCH (Professor of Catholic Theology, Loyola Marymount University): The Catholic Church is not ready for the ordination of women right now.
GONZALEZ: Father Thomas Rausch is a priest and professor of Catholic theology at L.A.’s Loyola Marymount University.
RAUSCH: As far as the church is concerned, these are not valid ordinations. Ordination is an act of the whole church, and this is not an act of the whole church. In a sense, this is an act against the communion of the whole church. It is very difficult to call yourself a Roman Catholic if you are not living in communion with the Roman Catholic Church, and communion means you are recognized by the bishop and you have this network of relationships, which is…It’s the kind of glue that holds the Catholic Church together
GONZALEZ: The theological justification most often cited for barring women from the Catholic priesthood goes back to Jesus’ choice of men only to be his disciples. That was followed by centuries of male-dominated customs developed within the church.
RAUSCH: I think that, you know, the culture was patriarchal. It was very much male-centered. Males were educated. They took roles of leadership. They played leading roles in the churches. So I think those cultural reasons really have to be taken into account in order to understand the exclusion of women from ordained ministry in the life of the church.
GONZALEZ: Although there was talk about the possible ordination of women in the wake of Vatican II 50 years ago, in re cent decades the church has taken a tougher stand against the idea of women in the priesthood. In 2008, the Vatican formally declared its policy of excommunication of women who completed ordination. That was followed two years later by the listing of the ordination of women as a “grave crime” against Catholic sacramental law. The church says it’s taken these steps to maintain theological purity and centuries of Catholic tradition and unity. Many who favor the ordination of women, though, say sexism and chauvinism are the real reasons women are barred from the Catholic priesthood.
JANE VIA: When I chose to get ordained, it was because I feel that intelligent, articulate women must act to try to change the church.
GONZALEZ: Jane Via is a Catholic woman priest in San Diego.
VIA: I realized there are no clergymen who are going to stand up to this authoritarian, totalitarian, patriarchal, sexist system, because they have too much invested.
GONZALEZ: Via is one the most prominent figures in the women Catholic priests movement; partly that’s because of her unusual background. Along with having a PhD in theology, Via was also an assistant district attorney in San Diego for over 25 years. That courtroom experience, she says, has helped her in her present conflict with the leaders of the Catholic Church. Via says the evidence she’s gathered shows women had a prominent role in the early church.
VIA: There no are no scriptural barriers to the ordination of women, and the first 300-400 years of the early church I believe the evidence shows clearly included the ordination of women as deacons, the ordination of women as priests, and the ordination of women as bishops.
“Let us pray.”
GONZALEZ: Via leads a congregation in San Diego, with masses held in a borrowed Lutheran church.
Via blessing child: “Giles, God bless you and keep you…”
GONZALEZ: Although worship services here aren’t recognized by the local Catholic archdiocese, Via carries out all of the typical duties of a male priest. The people who attend mass here say that despite this congregation’s outsider status within the Catholic Church, they’re secure in their own religious identities.
(to congregants) How do you identify yourself? What’s your faith?
Group of congregants: Roman Catholic.
(to congregant): What would you say to your fellow Catholics watching this who look at this and see a woman as priest and say that just isn’t real, and the mass you’ve gone to has no legitimacy.
Congregant: For me it is real. It’s as real as a male priest standing there. What’s the difference? Just because one is a woman and one is a man? I don’t think God distinguishes.
GONZALEZ: But Via acknowledges that her battle with the Catholic Church has cost her, from broken friendships to the pain of excommunication.
VIA: I remember being really grieved about not being able to be buried in a Catholic cemetery. That was sort of the ultimate exclusion. You can’t take the sacraments. I knew I would be excommunicated so I knew I could not accept the sacraments in a canonical Catholic church anymore, unless I was unknown to the population there, which is hard for me to be in San Diego.
GONZALEZ: What do you say to those who would say join another community of faith, join another faith, become something else, but don’t stay in the Catholic Church with your views. You would say what?
VIA: For me to just turn my back on this institution and say, “You’re all a bunch of worthless idiots, and I’m not participating anymore. I’m going to do my own thing. I’m going to go be Episcopalian and I can be a priest there” is completely irresponsible. This is my community. If everyone who is progressive-minded, progressive thinking, and willing to stand up to the Vatican leaves the church, the church will never change.
O’MALLEY (at altar): “…and for this we always thank and praise you.”
Ceremony: “We join with the saints of all times and places as they sing forever to your glory.”
GONZALEZ: Yet despite the hardening position of the church against their movement and its ordinations, the women Catholic priests say they aren’t retreating. They say they believe that although they might not see it in their own lifetimes, women will one day be allowed to become Roman Catholic priests—and with the support and blessings of the Vatican.
For Religion Ethics NewsWeekly, I’m Saul Gonzalez in Los Angeles.
EDMONTON, Alberta — When Muskegon native Matthew
Anthony Hysell was ordained last week at St. Joseph’s Cathedral Basilica in
Edmonton, he became Canada’s first deaf priest.
distinction of being the first deaf priest in Canada was certainly not an honor
I was looking for” Hysell said in an e-mail. “But
I do admit that I am pleased with the recognition that this occasion is
bringing to the needs of the deaf community.”
Matthew Anthony Hysell, right, assisting at a recent ordination of a bishop.
There are nearly 129,000 deaf Catholics in Canada, according
to the Archdiocese of Edmonton. Hysell, who is active in St. Mark’s Catholic
Community of the Deaf, will serve as a parish priest at St. Thomas Church in
“Just as God spoke to the human family as a human person in
the incarnate word, Jesus Christ, my ordination is an occasion for the church
to promote its message to the deaf community in the language of deaf
people — sign language — in the person of a deaf priest,” Hysell said.
He added that the recognition of the pastoral needs of the deaf people and his ordination to the priesthood remains true to the church’s
“The key word here, I think, is ‘solidarity’ — my ministry
will be the church’s solidarity with the deaf,” Hysell said.
lost his hearing after contracting meningitis as a toddler. It was his mother
who wanted him to learn to speak and be fluent in sign language.
Born at Mercy Health Partners Hackley Campus, Hysell attended Marquette
Elementary School and spent a year at Steele Middle School before moving on to Fruitport Middle and High Schools.
fonder memories of Muskegon include the Seaway Festival, Hackley Public Library,
the L.C. Walker Arena with the Muskegon Lumberjacks and the art fair at Hackley
Park,” Hysell said.
first wanted to be a priest when he was in seventh grade at Steele Middle School.
He recalled reading a black and white picture book called “The Catholic Priest”
during a study hall.
was deeply impressed at the self-donation of priests in their ministry that I
decided there and then that’s what I wanted to do with my life,” Hysell said.
Baptist, he converted to Catholicism when he was 16 years old. He said his
formal journey began when he moved to New York in 1990 into a house of formation
begun by the late Cardinal John O’Connor.
receiving his undergraduate degree in philosophy, Hysell attended the Dominican
School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, Calif., where he studied Catholic theology.
wasn’t until I went to World Youth Day in Denver that the possibility of becoming
a priest became viable,” Hysell said.
there, he met Father Thomas Coughlin, the first-born deaf priest in the United
States. It was through his agency and friendship, Hysell said, that he was able
to undertake his journey to priesthood.
“It was through him that I began to understand that my defects
of deafness were in fact blessings in disguise,” Hysell said.
Hysell’s connection to Edmonton began when the Sisters of
Providence invited him to give presentations on spiritual topics at St. Mark’s
Catholic Community of the Deaf. He later attended Newman Theological College in Edmonton,
where he met Archbishop Richard Smith, who knew sign
Smith said Hysell’s openness in faith of where the Lord
wants him to be and his strong desire to serve people has impressed him.
“He is just anxious — as he would put it, ‘To get to work’ — so
he would be guiding people,” Smith said.
He also said Hysell doesn’t want this recognition to draw attention
“He says, ‘Listen this isn’t about me, this is about the
Lord. I’m only his instrument,’” Smith said, “There’s humility and modesty,
which is wonderful.”
The Muskegon native said priesthood is like the military, where
you are sent where you are told.
“Would I like to come back? Most certainly,” Hysell said, “Will
I? It’s too early to tell and somewhat unlikely.”
Catholics coming to seek forgiveness in Matthew Hysell’s parish will have to forgo the confessional and meet face-to-face with their priest.
Over the weekend, Hysell became the first deaf Catholic priest to be ordained in Canada – meaning from now on there will be new challenges and strategies in place to communicate with his parishioners.
The Edmonton pastor, however, does not see this achievement as a milestone for himself, but rather a sign of progress for the church.
“It is with some trepidation that I find myself in this position,” Hysell said at a news conference Friday night – hours before taking his final vows. “Honestly, I think this is more about the church than it is about individual achievement.
“It is a signal of the solidarity the church feels for people who live in a world of silence.”
According to the website mlive.com, Hysell lost his hearing after a bout with meningitis as a toddler. His mother encouraged him to become fluent in sign language and to learn how to speak.
He can hear a tiny bit in one ear, with the help of a hearing aid, so to assist his communication with others Hysell has become an expert at lip-reading and can speak perfectly, the Edmonton Journal reports. This skill was achieved by attending speech classes and reading words out of the dictionary with his mother.
Hysell told the Journal he decided he wanted to become a priest at the age of 13, after reading about them in school. He converted to Catholicism at age 16 and entered a seminary program in New York in 1999, which was founded by Father Tom Coughlin, the first deaf Catholic priest in the U.S.
It was Coughlin who first encouraged Hysell to use his deafness as a tool in his journey to priesthood.
“It was through him that I began to understand that my defects of deafness were in fact blessings in disguise,” Hysell told mlive.com.
Hysell came to Alberta in 2008 when he decided to study at Edmonton’s Newman Theological College. There he met Archbishop Richard Smith, who knew sign language and used sign language when delivering sermons.
Hysell plans to use sign language to communicate with deaf parishioners as Mill Woods’ St. Thomas Church parish priest.
“I want deaf people to know the church cares for them, not only for their spiritual life, but for their temporal life as well,” Hysell told the Journal.
“I want them to know they don’t have to settle in life, and that it can be worthwhile.”
According to the Archdiocese of Edmonton there are approximately 130,000 deaf Catholics in Canada and about 50 of them attend St. Mark’s in Edmonton. Hysell is one of 16 deaf priests worldwide.
Also on HuffPost:
“I was thinking at 14 that possibly I might have had the calling to be a priest. Blues singers and people who are singing on stage have the same feelings and emotions that someone who is called to be a priest might have,” a href=”http://www.spinner.com/2011/01/24/jack-white-priesthood-teenager/?utm_source=feedburnerutm_medium=feedutm_campaign=Feed%3A+Spinner+” target=”_hplink”White said in an interview /awith the BBC.
The Latina siren told Contact Music that a href=”http://www.contactmusic.com/news/mendes-gave-up-nun-dream-over-salary-sadness_1124048″ target=”_hplink”she once considered becoming a nun/a — but was dissuaded out of it once she found out how much money they earned (none). Mendes’ current beau Ryan Gosling should be relieved.
The “Mission Impossible: II” director admitted that if he hadn’t become Hong Kong’s biggest action filmmaker, he would’ve pursued a path in education or ministry instead. “I love helping people. When I was a kid I got so much help from the Church,” a href=”http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/callingtheshots/john_woo.shtml” target=”_hplink”Woo told the BBC/a. “So I was so grateful to the church, I just wanted to pay back to society.”
Despite the fact that her father was an atheist, Anjelica Huston said she aspired to be a nun. “I longed to be indoctrinated. I’d put my mother’s old tutus on my head and pretend I was at my First Communion. When I was six, I told my father I wanted to be a nun and he said: ‘That’s wonderful, honey. When are you going to start?’” a href=”http://www.independent.ie/lifestyle/independent-woman/celebrity-news-gossip/anjelica-huston-i-wanted-to-be-a-nun-3087636.html#ixzz26O2cJJ2M” target=”_hplink”she told U.K.’s emThe Independent./em /a
The young Hollywood starlet who gave Elvis Presley his first onscreen kiss famously broke off her engagement to her fiance and became a Roman Catholic nun at age 24.
The “Fahrenheit 9/11″ director attended a parochial school in Michigan and entertained the idea of becoming priest — or so he says. “I went to the seminary to become a priest,” a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFkpzgkBRMIfeature=player_embedded#!” target=”_hplink”he told ABC News’ Terry Moran/a, after sharing that his health documentary “Sicko” had come “from a very spiritual place.”
“Did I want to be a priest? Sure…yeah, I wanted to for about 9 seconds. This is not to take away from the excellent high school education I had at the hands of great priests/teachers and the blessed sisters who fed our student body at St. Pius X Minor Preparatory Seminary for Boys,” the a href=”https://www.facebook.com/DanAykroyd/posts/292123190853845″ target=”_hplink”"Ghostbusters” star wrote on his Facebook page /ain March 2012.
News that the veteran director was taking on the Jesuit priest drama “Silence” only highlighted his own ambitions to become a priest, before he pursued film. Scorsese went to numerous Catholic schools and counts Father Francis Principe, of Cardinal Hayes High School, as one of his biggest mentors as a young boy. And after viewing “Taxi Driver” in 1976,a href=”http://www.americamagazine.org/blog/entry.cfm?blog_id=2entry_id=5019″ target=”_hplink” Father Principe told the young Scorsese/a, “I’m glad you ended it on Easter Sunday and not on Good Friday.”
The world’s biggest movie star wasa href=”http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/07/09/tom-cruise-was-on-track-to-become-a-priest-in-his-youth.html” target=”_hplink” once enrolled at St. Francis/a, a seminary school in Ohio. Now, he’s reportedly one of the highest-ranking officials at the Church of Scientology.
“When I was younger I thought about becoming a nun for a while. You know how it is when you’re growing up and you’re going to be a lot of different things, but I actually wanted to be an actress before I wanted to be a nun. The nun was more of a side-bar thing,” the “Les Miserables” star a href=”http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/news/anne-hathaway-wanted-to-be-a-nun-2343678.html” target=”_hplink”said/a.
The “Slumdog Millionaire” director and master of the opening ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics thinks there is little difference between his vocation and priesthood. “It’s basically the same job — poncing around, telling people what to think,” a href=”http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/9431931/London-2012-Opening-Ceremony-Danny-Boyle-biography.html” target=”_hplink”said Boyle/a, who was raised Irish Catholic.
Last month, Gipson was accepted as a Catholic into the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, a structure set up by Pope Benedict XVI to accept former Anglicans into the Catholic Church.
“The nature of authority in the Catholic Church is what attracted me to it,” Gipson said. “After I retired, I was concerned and had been for many years about the Episcopal Church’s authority structure.”
Gipson will be among 69 candidates for Catholic priesthood attending a formation retreat this weekend in Houston at the ordinariate’s headquarters.
Among those leading seminars at the Formation Retreat in Houston will be the Rev. Jon Chalmers, who was ordained a Catholic priest in June, the second former Episcopal cleric to be accepted as a priest under the ordinariate.
His wife, Margaret Chalmers, former canon lawyer for the Catholic Diocese of Birmingham and now chancellor of the ordinariate, will also be a presenter at the weekend retreat that runs Friday night through Sunday, Dec. 2.
“It’s a really big deal,” she said. “Larry Gipson, who was the priest of the largest Episcopal church in America, is now a Catholic.”
Although married Episcopal priests have been accepted as Catholic priests since 1983 under Pope John Paul II, only just over 100 came in during that process, Margaret Chalmers said.
This year, the ordinariate has already ordained 24 priests, with 69 in preparation. Her husband was accepted as a Catholic in January and ordained as a Catholic priest in June.
The Rev. Matthew Venuti of Mobile was the first ex-Episcopal priest ordained a Catholic priest in the ordinariate, which covers the United States and Canada.
Venuti and Chalmers both have young children, as do many of the new Catholic priests, Margaret Chalmers said.
The ordinariate allows the new Catholics to keep their Anglican form of worship, including the Book of Common Prayer.
Gipson and his wife of 48 years, Mary Frances, attend the headquarters church of the ordinariate, Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston.
“All their services are Prayer Book services,” Gipson said. “The music is from the 1940 (Episcopal) hymnal. It is the Anglican Rite prayer book. It’s the opportunity to come into the Catholic Church while maintaining Anglican tradition.”
Although many Episcopalians have left the denomination over issues such as consecrating openly gay bishops and blessing same-sex unions, Gipson said he didn’t leave in anger.
“I don’t have the right to ask the Anglican Church to change its traditions for me,” he said. “I’m the one who has got to make the changes. Anglicanism has always been hesitant to define doctrine because it has opposing factions. It has left doctrine blurry. People can believe almost mutually opposing beliefs.”
Gipson, who turned 70 on Oct. 23, started attending an Episcopal church with his future wife when he was 14 in Memphis. “I’m thankful to the Episcopal Church,” he said. “I spent my life there. All my friends and people I love are in it. I do not in any way wish to denigrate it. I’m not angry. I was seeking something that I’ve been longing for, for a long time.”
Now, he’s looking forward to the possibility of being ordained as a Catholic priest. Earlier this year he earned a master’s degree in Catholic theology from St. Thomas University, although he already had a master of divinity degree from Yale University.
“I was an Episcopal priest for 42 years,” he said. “I can’t imagine not being a priest. I’m anxious to get back to priestly work.”
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