UPDATE 17 Jan 2020:
There is a development. CNA reports:
Catholic parish will not host Episcopalian consecration
The Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia will no longer hold an episcopal consecration and ordination at a Catholic parish in Williamsburg, following an internet petition signed by over 3,000 people objecting to the event.
“It is with great sadness that I have received a letter from Bishop-Elect Susan Haynes stating that, due to the controversy of the proposed use of St. Bede Catholic Church for her consecration of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia, she has decided to find another location for the ceremony to take place,” said a statement from Bishop Barry Knestout of the Catholic Richmond diocese on Friday, Jan. 17. St. Bede Catholic Church is located within the diocese.
A statement from the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia said that the consecration will now take place at Williamsburg Community Chapel. The Williamsburg Community Chapel’s website states that it is home to an “interdenominational family of faith.”
That story says that they had had a “contract” to use the Catholic parish. Interesting.
In any event, it seems that this chapter is now closing.
___ Originally Published on: Jan 16, 2020
From a reader…
I am a parishioner at St. Bede the Venerable Catholic Church in Williamsburg, VA. I and many others are outraged at the fact that the Bishop of Richmond (Barry Knestout) has given permission for the consecration of a woman episcopal bishop to take place in our church.
Please see the attached link.
Is this allowed??? What if anything can we do about it? I’d like your thoughts please. Thank you
Bishop Knestout of Richmond issued a statement about this. HERE
Church Militant has a piece about it. HERE
The short answer is: Yes, this is allowed.
The longer answer involves whether or not it should be allowed.
There is a petition against the event which calls on the bishop to cancel it. HERE I suspect that even if a million people sign it, the local bishop won’t change his mind.
The 1993 Directory for the Application of the Principles and Norms on Ecumenism make provision for other Christian denominations to use our churches:
137. Catholic churches are consecrated or blessed buildings which have an important theological and liturgical significance for the Catholic community. They are therefore generally reserved for Catholic worship. However, if priests, ministers or communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church do not have a place or the liturgical objects necessary for celebrating worthily their religious ceremonies, the diocesan Bishop may allow them the use of a church or a Catholic building and also lend them what may be necessary for their services. Under similar circumstances, permission may be given to them for interment or for the celebration of services at Catholic cemeteries.”
Note that the diocesan bishop gets to make these decisions. Pastors cannot make this decision on their own. I understand from what I have read that this was arranged without the knowledge of the parishioners.
Let’s be clear: There is no such thing as a female bishop, properly understood, in any denomination. It is ontologically impossible for a woman to be a real bishop. Denominations can call a woman whom they appoint as leader a “bishop”, but calling doesn’t make it so. The ministers of Christian denominations without valid apostolic succession are mere functionaries. As a matter of fact, this is something that is explained well in the new book by Card. Sarah and Benedict XVI. Moreover, the Church teaches that Anglican/Episcopalian orders are null and void. They do not have properly consecrated bishops. Hence they can’t consecrate anyone, much less a woman. They can go through whatever ceremonies they want, but at the end, when every walks out they are still what they were when they walked in, ontologically speaking.
So, these Protestants want to have a ceremony to “ordain” for themselves a woman. Whatever. Because they want to do it in a church, instead of a hall or auditorium of some kind (as sometimes Catholics have to do because the churches are too small) the Bishop of Richmond is going to let them use a Catholic church.
What is going to happen in there is pretty much a nothing burger. Also, it might or might not be the case that the church in question was consecrated – many are not consecrated, you know. So, there is a disconnect between the nature of the building as a sacred place and the nature of the ceremony to be enacted.
However, the Bishop is within his right to let that building be used. He can permit it, regardless of the sensibilities of Catholics who may be offended.
What recourse do offended Catholics have? Not much.
In the aftermath, they will have to decide if they want to contribute to that parish and to the diocesan fundraisers, or have anything to do with their projects. That’s up to them.
Choices have consequences.
Were I a diocesan bishop, I think I would gently deflect the original request to use the church for such an event. On the other hand, were there to be a case of a true emergency, I might help them out. Say they had a fire at their own cathedral the day before the event was scheduled. Then I might help them out. But this event isn’t an emergency.
I have a hard time getting really worked up about this. This from a guy who is forever railing on and on about the sacrum.
We do other things in our churches than only sacred liturgical rites. Talks can be given. That’s not liturgy. Concerts can be given. That’s not liturgy. If there were a horrible disaster, a church could be used to shelter and succor the wounded. That’s not liturgy. So, churches can be used for more than just liturgy.
Moreover, I have in my mind’s eye the fact that after the church of the Institute of Christ the King in Chicago burned down, the Presbyterians across the way welcomed Catholics regularly to use their gymnasium for their traditional Catholic Mass. Consider the theological origins of Presbyterianism. For Luther, Mass was ‘der größeste und schrecklichste Gräuel… he greatest and most shocking abomination” and a “Drachenschwanz… dragon’s tail”. Calvin viciously attacked the Mass and transubstantiation as forged by the Devil. He called it impious blasphemy and compared it to mumbling incantations and idol worship (like bowing down to Pachamama, perhaps).
The use of that Catholic church by these Episcopalians is clearly going to offend a lot of Catholics. A diocesan bishop ought to see to his own before seeing to others, if you get my drift. However, the use of that church by that group for this dopey (to us – important to them) ceremony is not going to violate the sacrality of the church.
Lemme back up: given the state of any Protestant group that would choose to “ordain” a woman, who knows what goofy liturgical things they will perpetrate, so they might violate the sacrality of the building. I hope that the bishop knows what they are going to do in their ceremonies. I don’t think they will be sacrificing chickens or doing something as bad as bowing down and worshiping wooden Pachamama idols or placing pagan worship bowls on the altar. They will engage in a kind of idolatry by referring to what is still a piece of bread as “God”, but – hey – we know that Protestants do that.
In short, within the guidelines of ecumenism in force today, we don’t expect that what they will do will be so contrary to everything holy that the building will have to be reconsecrated. So we hope.
If you want to see me get really irritated about something, the flip side of this thing in Richmond is far far more serious.
That is, some fake catholic group for wynym’s ordination going to a Protestant church for their sacrilegious acts of simulated ordination.
THAT is a serious problem and ecumenical insult of the highest degree. That is a huge “eff you” finger to the whole Catholic Church. That is a violation of our most sacred rites. They mock and trample on the priesthood and the Eucharist, on our whole identity as Catholics.
When any Protestant group allows that sort of horror show in one of their churches, the local diocesan bishop should act swiftly to inform them of the consequences for relations between their groups. As I have written in the past …
Upon hearing the news that this ceremony is going to take place (or has taken place), the local Catholic bishop must call the pastor of that Protestant parish and say,
“I’m the Catholic Bishop. Do not allow this sacrilege to be committed in your church. You wouldn’t do this for a group of dissident Jews wanting to ordain rabbis, but we are Catholics so you don’t care what offense you give us. Until an apology is issued, don’t look for us to dialogue with you again.”
Then that Catholic bishop should call the head of the denomination and convey the same message.
Then that Catholic Bishop should send an informative note to the USCCB’s ecumenical office and to the CDF and to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity to let them know the facts of the sacrileges that took place and who helped them.
Then that Catholic bishop should call the press and give them his view about the offense the Protestants gave and the damage they inflicted on ecumenical dialogue.
True ecumenism does not consist in lying down and letting some other church kick you and define what Mass is for you, or say who can be ordained, or stick their finger in your face by hosting these sacrilegious fakers.
That’s the sort of thing that get’s me worked up far more than letting a bunch of Protestants have their little thing in one of our churches.
That said, it seems to me that the diocesan bishop there, while entirely within his rights to allow the use of that church for this Protestant thing, would do well to provide good pastoral care to those who believe that our churches are sacred places, set apart for true sacred liturgical worship and things that are consistent with our Catholic Faith.