correspondents

Australia

Bargains galore

eter Carnley, the former Archbishop of Perth and the Co-Chair of the ARCIC Agreed Statement Mary, Grace and Hope in Christ said in his homily at the international launch of the document that,

‘For 450 years, we have lived with the understanding that there were important teachings about Mary regarding which we differed; we have lived with the consequences of not sharing a common faith about the one we both believed to be the Mother of God. With a view to addressing these obstacles, the Commission worked its way calmly and systematically through the Scriptures and through the Tradition, asking to what extent a common understanding of the place of Mary in the economy of salvation could now be stated.’

Disdain for Our Lady

Those differences included the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption and the papal role in the proclamation of the same. As an Anglo-Papist I have little problem myself with any of these issues, but can appreciate that they may need some ‘working through’ in order that all may come to an agreement. It is interesting, however, that all the supposed problems the document addresses rest entirely on the side of Anglicanism. None come from the Roman Catholic side of the table.

‘Quite so’ say some. They point to the fact that the Roman Catholic Church finds no obstacles in the Mother of God. However, on an ecumenical sphere surely there remains the problem of discussing the issue with a church in which there have been (and are) bishops, priests and laity who not only belittle the role of Our Lady but in some cases even defame her.

Father Richard Seabrook, Rector of Benalla in the Diocese of Wangaratta, spoke recently of his experience of the English General Synod’s discussion on ARCIC’s The Gift of Authority. He said that ‘apart from the Catholic Group in Synod, at times the majority of those who voiced an opinion held Our Lady in disdain.’

But then the ARCIC situation, like so much of the Anglican way of life, often seems to be a one-way street. Anglicanism is good at indicating areas of difficulty, and suggesting how such factors may be changed to accommodate her, but at the same time she rarely seems eager to concede to her own optic plank.

Workplace legislation

Only a few months ago in this column I highlighted the inconsistency between Brisbane’s Archbishop Philip Aspinall’s criticism of proposed changes to workplace relations legislation and his removal of Bishop David Chislett from All Saint’s, Brisbane.

Since then, and now that the legislation is a major topic, with the Senate securely in the government’s control, a number of Australian Anglican bishops have made their comments on the proposed federal legislation. The Archbishop of Sydney has made a stand calling for the protection of vulnerable workers, and warning of the societal changes where there is an increased casualization of the workforce, whilst quite reasonably being concerned at the further erosion of Sunday as a day of rest and worship.

An oath too far

His comment, however, that ‘those who have less bargaining power need to be protected’ did make me wonder if this might be an opportunity for Sydney to dispense with the mandatory oath to be taken by those to be licensed, in which a clearly Anglican vestment authorized by the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is outlawed. As the oath declares:

‘I, N, being desirous of obtaining a Licence to perform the office of a Minister in the Diocese of Sydney, hereby solemnly undertake that so long as I hold any such Licence in the above Diocese, I will use the Surplice in all ministrations to the extent required by law and will neither by myself nor by others permit the use of the Chasuble or other vestment in any Church or Chapel or other place in such Diocese in which I may officiate until such use has been declared legal by the Archbishop of Sydney, or by some Tribunal competent to deal with the matter in and for the same Diocese.’

Perhaps a trembling clergyman desirous of working in the Diocese is not considered as needy of any bargaining power in order to wear what was authorized in the Second Year of the Reign of King Edward the Sixth!

Eroding rights

It still remains that such a situation is fairly unexceptional. Almost day by day potential Catholic incumbents around the Anglican world are stripped of bargaining rights. Often they are requested to erode parishes of accepted sound and loved liturgies, well-known ceremonies and, as we know, Resolutions A, B and C in England. In various parts of the Communion they may be required to make promises and oaths that undermine orthodox teaching and practice, before they are finally given the keys of the kingdom – or at least the parish.

Whilst the Federal Government here does now control the Upper House of Parliament, the Senate, a few instances with one coalition Senator (Barnaby Joyce) have shown that the one voice can not only be a thorn in the flesh of the party, but also make a difference.

It is time for all orthodox bishops in Australia to follow Senator Joyce’s line and accept that they may not be a majority, but they are a voice. The more Senator Joyce complained publicly, the more the government acceded to his requests. If the Catholic bishops here followed that example more often and more openly, the traditionalist parish priests with little bargaining power might just begin to get somewhere.

Philip Murphy

 

Scotland

AEO in Scotland?

n December 2004, a group of six evangelical Episcopalian church leaders in Scotland met to pray about and discuss the ongoing crisis in the Anglican Communion over biblical authority, particularly as it related to homosexual practice. We determined to do and say nothing unless or until the Scottish Episcopal Church changed its public teaching in this area. On March 4 2005, that happened, when our bishops said in a statement released to the press,

‘The Scottish Episcopal Church has never regarded the fact that someone was in a close relationship with a member of the same sex as in itself constituting a bar to the exercise of an ordained ministry. Indeed, the Windsor Report itself in suggesting that a moratorium be placed on such persons being consecrated bishops, itself acknowledges the existence of many such relationships within the Church.’

No retraction

The press took little notice, but a few weeks later, the statement was re-released, and this time the press used it. So much notice was taken that it was the lead item on Radio 4’s Today programme. A province of the Anglican Communion had openly declared a stance on the issue of practising homosexuality that flew directly in the face of Scripture, tradition, most of the Catholic Church, and the position taken in Lambeth Resolution 1.10.

Those six leaders were stung into action, setting up a website at <www.scottishanglican.net> to coordinate action and give the press access to our thinking. We garnered support from other churches and individuals including some Anglo-Catholics.

Over the next few months we met with the bishops three times, seeking a retraction of the March 4 statement. At our first meeting with them, at the General Synod Office in Edinburgh, one of the windows blew in, creating a Pentecost-like moment which made us feel that perhaps the Lord was in all this, and that things would be sorted out reasonably. Sadly, the bishops seemed unable or unwilling to do so. Their statement was to them merely stating what ‘is’. The wider world took it as being both welcoming and affirming of homosexual practice.

We were overwhelmed by the messages from around the world offering prayer and moral support. I even got a personal email of support from an Archbishop on Easter Day! In June, the bishops issued a further statement, which did nothing to alleviate our concerns.

Planning ahead

Over the summer, we waited patiently for further response from the bishops. Their position now seems to be one of taking the time to listen, as encouraged by the Lambeth resolution. Whether that includes further listening to our concerns is uncertain. We are making clear that we believe that a small denomination has no right to change the faith once delivered to the saints, with no reference to the wider body of Christ. To do so is to become merely a sect.

In the meantime, we have clergy and churches beginning to wonder if alternative episcopal oversight is necessary, including one who has appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Panel of Reference. We are unclear as to what lies ahead for us. We do know that there is decreased confidence in the bishops’ leadership.

We want to be known as churches and people that preach and live the Gospel, believing in Jesus resurrection power to transform every situation. We hope and pray that the bishops might still turn and allow the Scottish Episcopal Church to do just that.

David McCarthy

Secretary of the Scottish Anglican Network and Rector of St Silas’ Glasgow

America

San Francisco to Rome

his has been a banner year for former San Francisco Archbishop William Levada, who was tapped by Pope Benedict XVI in May to become Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) – Benedict’s previous job. Since then, Levada has been in charge of the Vatican bureaucracy that defends the Catholic faith against heresy, and that deals with priests accused of abuse. As such, he holds the second-most powerful post in the Vatican, and is the first American to hold such high rank and great influence within the Catholic Church.

A strange appointment

The problem with this for Catholic and other conservative Christians is that Levada’s appointment does not compute. As Archbishop, Levada chose compromise rather than confrontation on several hot-button culture-war issues; spoke favourably to Pope John Paul II about the controversial United Religions Initiative; and was last seen in San Francisco reluctantly accepting subpoenas that demanded his testimony about his role in managing – or covering up – the priest abuse scandal.

Levada’s rise in the Catholic hierarchy began in 1976, when he was appointed to the staff of the CDF at the recommendation of Joseph Bernardin, who was then the President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). During this Vatican posting, which lasted until 1982, Levada met Ratzinger and they became friends. In 1986, Levada became the Archbishop of Portland, Oregon; in 1995, Pope John Paul II moved him to San Francisco.

From 1986 to 1993, Levada was the only American member of the Vatican committee who wrote the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Because of this, he acquired a reputation for orthodoxy, to the point that liberal Catholics in San Francisco dubbed him ‘Darth Vader’ when they heard that he was coming to the region.

Archbishop Levada, however, proved to be a moderate, not a strict conservative. In 1996, he struck a compromise with San Francisco when it decided to require those doing business with the city to provide benefits to same-sex domestic partners. In 2004, he said that bishops should ‘dialogue’ with Catholic politicians who vote for abortion, while other Catholic bishops were insisting that such politicians must not be given the Sacrament. As well, he never allowed the celebration of the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass in the archdiocese, despite a 1988 papal statement urging bishops to be generous in offering the old rites to those who desire them.

One-world religion

Levada has also fostered Catholic participation in the aforementioned United Religions Initiative (URI), the New Age-oriented interfaith movement, founded in 1995 by liberal California Episcopal Bishop William Swing, which appears aimed at creating a one-world religion.

Levada allowed Fr Gerard O’Rourke of the diocesan Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs to serve on URI’s board of directors from 1996 to 2002. In recent years, the archdiocesan newspaper has run several news stories friendly to the URI, and Bishop Swing was the featured speaker at a February 2004 young adult outreach event co-sponsored by the local Catholic and Episcopal dioceses. Eight members of the URI board of directors were public participants in an archdiocese-sponsored January 2002 interfaith prayer service at the Catholic cathedral in San Francisco. The event included joint prayer and reading of holy texts by members of many faiths – activities the Vatican carefully avoided in its 2002 Assisi interfaith gathering, so as not to give the impression of religious syncretism.

Levada, highly praised by Swing earlier this year, ignored requests from several local Catholics to disassociate himself from the URI. In 2003, the head of the interfaith office of the USCCB raised no objection to the URI activity in the San Francisco Archdiocese, and in 2004, the USCCB followed through by donating to the URI.

Abuse scandals

Levada and the San Francisco archdiocese say that they have responded in a timely, compassionate manner to the ongoing scandal of sexual molestation by Catholic priests. When Levada left for Rome, he told a news conference that, ‘We have done our best to reach out’ to the victims of abuse, and ‘I leave San Francisco with a good conscience.’ However, while no one has ever accused Levada of abuse, his record indicates that he has, like many other American bishops, responded to the scandal with cover-up, spin, and evasion of responsibility.

The Archdiocese of Portland, which he led for nine years, filed for bankruptcy protection in July 2004 – the first US diocese to do so, as a response to lawsuits by abuse survivors who were seeking $155 million in damages. Within the last year, three of the Portland-area plaintiffs have committed suicide.

According to Catholic World Report, ‘Several of the devastating lawsuits against the archdiocese involved priests who were restored to parish work by Archbishop Levada, after having been accused of molesting children, or protected from criminal prosecution when their misdeed came to the archbishop’s attention.’ In July 2004, Levada blamed the Portland crisis on ‘the greed of plaintiffs’ attorneys.’

On August 7 of this year, just before he began his final Sunday Mass in San Francisco, a process server handed Levada a subpoena requiring him to testify about the abuse cases in Portland. The Archbishop called the server ‘a disgrace to the Church,’ but accepted the summons. He will waive diplomatic immunity, and return to the US to testify in January 2006. On August 13, at his farewell dinner, Levada received another Portland-related subpoena from a process server disguised as a paying guest.

Poor management

Levada managed the abuse scandal in San Francisco in similar fashion. There, Catholic World Report states that ‘the archbishop has been roundly denounced by sex-abuse victims for what they see as his uncooperative attitude in efforts to identify and punish clerical abusers.’ But some of the criticism raised against Archbishop Levada has also come from neutral parties. For example, James Jenkins, a layman chosen by the archbishop to chair an independent review board examining child-abuse allegations, eventually resigned in protest, charging that Levada had stymied the work of the board through ‘deception, manipulation, and control.’

In 1997, when Fr John Conley turned in a fellow priest, Fr James Aylward, whom he had caught ‘wrestling’ with a teenage boy in a darkened parish sacristy, Levada’s first move was to punish the whistle-blower and quietly transfer Aylward to another parish. Only later, after the ‘wrestler’ admitted his sexual activities in a civil suit, was Aylward suspended. Since then, the archdiocese has paid a $750,000 settlement to Fr Conley for wrongful termination, and agreed that Conley did the right thing when he reported the Aylward case to the police.

According to San Francisco Faith, Levada had known since 1996 of charges that Fr Gregory Ingels, a prominent canon lawyer, had ‘orally copulated a teenage boy in Marin County in 1972.’ Ingels was also accused of abusing a high school girl for four years starting in 1973, and the Archdiocese paid a large settlement in June 2005 to his (and other priests’) victims. (Criminal charges were barred by the statute of limitations.)

Until his forced retirement under the 2002 zero-tolerance policy, Ingels had advised US bishops on handling clergy abuse cases, served as an expert witness on behalf of the church in abuse cases all over the US, gave legal advice to accused priests, and served on the diocesan tribunal that decides on marriage annulments. Since 1995, Ingels has shared an elegant house on the campus of St Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, California with John Quinn, Levada’s predecessor as Archbishop of San Francisco.

Given these facts, it remains a mystery as to why Benedict XVI, who has a stern reputation in dealing with clerical abuse and theological aberrations, chose Archbishop Levada as his successor at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Lee Penn

a frequent contributor to the US-based orthodox Anglican journal, The Christian Challenge, is the author of False Dawn: The United Religions Initiative, Globalism, and the Quest for a One-World Religion (Sophia Perennis, 2005)

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