Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Cognitive Dissonance

I'm still trying to fit the puzzle pieces together over the Holy Martyrs Temecula mission, or group, or quasi-parish, or whatever it is. Here are just a few of my questions, in no particular order, in part because it's hard to discern whether there's a plan here at all:
  • This is a major construction project, and as far as I can see, it's the first one for the OCSP where ground has been broken, at least figuratively speaking. Big bucks are going into remodeling a large space. Mass is being held in the unfinished interior. Yet, although the Holy Martyrs whatever-it-is appears on the parish finder, there's been no announcement of this big event from Houston. Wouldn't a bishop normally be cutting a ribbon, wielding a shovel, or some such thing? Wouldn't this be a really important milestone for the putatively growing and prospering OCSP? Why the radio silence?
  • For such a major project, which considering the size of the Pentecost crowd, could potentially become a top-ten parish almost immediately, the parish finder gives only an e-mail and phone number. Call for mass times, I guess. The web presence is a closed Facebook group, with incredibly amateurish content.
  • We don't know what's being done behind the scenes (which is a big part of the problem anyhow), but from the visuals, a major Church resource, Fr Hugh Barbour, is being used only as a supply priest to say mass for a few dozen people in Irvine. This brings to mind the Clintons using uniformed military officers as cocktail waiters at White House soirees. God is not mocked.
  • Why the huge disparity between the Pentecost crowd in Murrieta and the very sparse attendance at other California groups? The San Diego group I'm told on Easter Day drew ten people, Palm Sunday about the same. Following Sunday, mass was canceled. The Pasadena group is on hiatus entirely
  • What's the plan for Irvine? One would think that this group had the potential to outgrow its small chapel, yet it seems to have taken a distant second place, while a big new facility with no prior activity suddently emerges 50 miles away.
  • Now, this is new and all, but my impression of the crowd in Murrieta is they are mainly millennials. And this is the season for confirmations and first communion, at least in diocesan parishes. Pentecost Sunday at our parish, there were about 50 first communions at three masses. Not in Murrieta. Something's missing here. (Heck, how many confirmations took place total in the OCSP? First communions?)
  • Why Murrieta, of all places? The explanation from the bishops' letter is that a few families got tired of the drive to Irvine for Sunday mass -- fine. But all of a sudden, we have something really big, a major startup of a very important OCSP community, from all indications. But the population of Riverside County, a very large area that includes Murrieta and a lot of desert, is 2.6 million. The population of Orange County, a more compact area that includes Irvine, is 3.1 million. Murrieta's population is 111,000. Irvine's population is 266,000. Wouldn't an equivalent effort in the Irvine area have been more justifiable?
  • The style of the whole enterprise is social-media-desultory. That it should revolve around a closed Facebook group reflects a clubbiness that doesn't bode well.
  • For something that's shaping up as such a major, big-bucks project, Houston seems oddly hands-off -- no publicity, no scheduled visits. It's a little like a rich and distant dad buying his son from a first marriage a Porsche but not paying much attention otherwise. Resources from the Busch Group itself or possibly the Diocese of Orange (probably not San Bernardino, though) seem to be involved for planning, vendor selection, and project management -- but are skill sets being transferred to Houston at all?
I keep wanting to impute a plan and a vision to Bp Lopes here somehow, and I keep finding pieces that might almost make a puzzle picture, but it never quite comes together.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Caliornia Recalibration

In addition to my regular correspondent's comments on the Facebook page of the Murrieta group, another visitor remarked on the size of the project, which drove me to take a closer look. If you haven't had a look, go here and scroll down. Don't be put off by the random photo of Chesterton or the campy St George, you have to dig a bit. One thing that's made it hard for me to take the project more seriously is the amateurishness behind this presentation.

In fact, the photo of the Pentecost mass shows a crowd filling the space. However, some pieces of this puzzle don't quite fit. My regular correspondent points out that the work being done on this space represents a major financial outlay, and I agree. In fact, it seems to indicate that an experienced contractor and an architectural firm are involved. This would be what a diocese would require in such a project -- in poking around the web, I've seen diocesan guidelines for construction projects, which require serious planning, review, and approval. For comparison, this is what's required in current expansion plans at our diocesan parish.

Houston simply does not have these resources, which makes me think that this project is being supervised and financed with the help of channels outside the OCSP. This is clearly something bigger than has otherwise been undertaken by the OCSP. I'm now beginning to realize that this is what caused the joint letter from Bps Lopes and Barnes -- the size of the project must have come to Barnes's attention, and it probably led to a serious sit-down over what was going on.

However, to call the project a "mission", which is the word used in the bishops' letter, is disingenuous. As my regular correspondent points out, "the term 'mission' is not used in the OCSP, which has three categories: group-in-formation, quasi-parish, and parish." I'm not sure exactly what a Catholic canonical mission consists of, but an Anglican mission is not financially self-sustaining, and its budget and decisions come from the diocese, not a vestry. If the size of the Murrieta facility is any indication, if it's a "mission" of the Irvine group, the tail is wagging the dog.

So this is a big deal, and my guess is that Bp Barnes saw this before any lay observers did, and there had to be a sit-down to get it past him. One issue is how little publicity there has been about this project, despite its size. This is another indication of the amateurishness behind the OCSP. If this is something worthy of the effort and investment, why is it such a secret? Shouldn't this be the subject of a professional announcement from Houston? If they don't want to upset Bp Barnes by making a big deal of it, why bother with the effort at all?

My guess is that the money behind this is coming from Mr Busch of the Busch Group, which owns the building where the Irvine group has been meeting. An adult -- indeed, a wealthy philanthropic adult -- would require adult supervision of a project that is clearly going to run close to seven figures. One thing that's going to have to change at some point is the guy who publicizes the effort with campy St Georges is going to have to be told to put his efforts in places where they can be more effectively used, and Houston is going to have to wake up to this.

Someone must have gone to Mr Busch, or some equivalent donor, with a serious proposal that included realistic projections. The size of the Pentecost crowd suggests there may have been some basis for these. This may be reflected in the apparent association of Fr Barbour with a renewed California effort. We'll have to see.

On the other hand, God is not mocked. The same guy whose idea of outreach has previously been beer breakfasts and whiskey barbecues is going to have to be serioused-up or put in a much subordinate role. Houston is going to have to become a much more professional operation to sustain something like this as well.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

California Realignment?

My regular correspondent, an avid reader of OCSP Facebook tea leaves, reports on apparently related developments at the Blessed John Henry Newman group in Irvine and the new Holy Martyrs storefront in Murrieta -- again, these are more than an hour apart even in Sunday morning traffic. The report:
The BJHN, Irvine FB page has announced that Fr Hugh Barbour, O. Praem will be "regularly" celebrating the Sunday 11 am mass there as of this Sunday. Fr Barbour is described as the "long time prior of the Abbey from 1995-2017...now current chaplain to Catholic Answers." FB post also mentions that he grew up in South Pasadena and is a convert from the Episcopal Church. Any more interesting details are omitted.
Fr Barbour is something of a heavyweight in Catholic circles. His official thumbnail reads,
Fr. Hugh Barbour, O.Praem., is a Norbertine of St. Michael's Abbey in Silverado, California. He grew up in South Pasadena and is a convert from the Episcopal Church. After earning a bachelor’s degree in classics from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Fr. Hugh entered St. Michael's in 1982 and was ordained a priest in 1990. He earned a license in patristic theology at the Augustinianum and a doctorate in philosophy at the Angelicum in Rome. He has taught philosophy at St. Michael’s to the Abbey's junior professed seminarians studying for the priesthood since 1992 and was prior of the abbey from 1995 until 2017. Fr. Hugh has been active over the years in weekend parish ministry and in giving talks and retreats; he has served as chaplain of the St. Thomas More Society of Orange County and as censor deputatus of the Diocese of Orange, and he is a knight commander of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. He began his chaplaincy at Catholic Answers in September 2017.
Starting with just that information, he puts any OCSP priest other than the bishop to shame. In fact, given his experience as a religious superior, it seems to me that he's the sort of person who should be much closer to the bishop than he is -- or indeed, at least someone who might be giving serious guidance to the sketchy collection of ex-Protestants Fr Bartus has been assembling in California up to now. Fr Barbour is also a son of the late Fr Carroll Barbour, the revered, although openly gay, rector of St Thomas Hollywood, our former TEC parish. Fr Hugh delivered the homily at Fr Carroll's retirement mass.

What this means is difficult to say. It appears that Fr Hugh was ousted from his position in the abbey last year, although he is only 58, still quite young for a Catholic priest. He appears no longer to live at the abbey and is currently listed in bulletins at Our Lady of Grace, El Cajon, CA, as "in residence". I take "in residence" to mean that he lives in the rectory and takes masses and hears confessions according to a schedule there, but he has a day job elsewhere in the Church. El Cajon is 91 miles from Irvine and a 90-minute Sunday morning drive.

Fr Jack Barker, retired from the Diocese of San Bernardino, also continues to celebrate masses at both BJHN and the new Murrieta storefront. However, Fr Barker is in his seventies and has had health issues.

What this means for Fr Bartus is difficult to say. Fr Barbour is more than a supply priest, and it's difficult for me to imagine him taking orders from Fr Bartus, given his age, experience, and education, although my impression of Barbour -- by coincidence, I sat in the same row with him once on a flight from LAX to New Orleans with a young boy traveling unaccompanied between us -- is that he's a very patient and good-humored man. But I don't think I'd mess with him.

My regular correspondent says,

The seating capacity of the Queen of Life chapel is only 65, and Fr Bartus is presumably still celebrating the Saturday vigil and the Sunday 9 am mass. Holy Martyrs looks potentially larger and the renovations and fittings---pews, altar rails, pulpit, altar with reredos---must be costing thousands of dollars. Instagram page shows an organ with six singers around it, labelled "choir practice."

There will be three weekday DW masses in addition to the Sunday celebration. Website outlines plans for Religious Ed, KofC, as well as the home school co-op. My bet is that the plan is for this to be the flagship location of the "SoCal Ordinariate." Of course this has yet to come to fruition, but the renovations and furnishings represent the only significant financial investment SoCal has made in six years other than some very fancy vestments.

However -- I double checked -- the Sunday morning masses at BJHN are 9:00 and 11:00. If we assume the 9:00 mass -- not sure if it has music, or if it's DW -- takes at least 45 minutes, this means it lets out at 9:45 or later, which doesn't allow Fr Bartus much time to make the hour's drive to Murrieta. So I'm dubious about the idea that he can do a 9:00 mass in Irvine and an 11:00 in Murrieta.

Also, the official word from the bishops implies that the Murrieta group is small, and the group is a mission:

Several families from southwest Riverside County who come from this tradition were traveling to Irvine each week to attend Mass at Blessed John Henry Newman. Based on this observed interest, Holy Martyrs of England and Wales was established as a mission of Blessed John Henry Newman in the greater Murrieta area.
We'll have to see what develops. But if there is a way for Bp Lopes to make productive use of Fr Barbour's talents, which may not be fully deployed right now, it could be a game-changer for the OCSP.

Friday, May 18, 2018

What Problem Was The Reformed Episcopal Church Trying To Solve?

George David Cummins, the leader of the 1873 break by the REC from TEC, was an unlikely candidate to be its first presiding bishop. He was only an assistant bishop in Kentucky, so he wasn't a major figure in TEC. In addition, as Guelzo points out, Anglo-Catholicism represented a major shift in agenda and market within TEC. In the first part of the 19th century, building on the Second Great Awakening and the rise of Jacksonian democracy, TEC, led by its Evangelical wing and with what looked like a strong church polity, seemed likely to become the most influential Protestant denomination, and at that point, there weren't that many Catholics to factor into the equation.

I think Guelzo's insight, that Protestantism, especially its more fundamentalist wing, was severely challenged by Lyell on geology is key. Edmund Gosse, recounting the crisis as it struck his father, mentions Lyell but Darwin far less, if at all -- the scientific basis for "old earth" appears to have been an earlier, and possibly stronger, challenge to Biblical literalism. By the time of The Origin of Species in 1859, the loss of influence by the evangelical wing of TEC was well under way.

By the same token, railroads, as a very visible early manifestation of technology, appeared in the US and the UK at roughly the same time in the 1830s, and in demonstrating the superiority of materialist technology -- and let's not forget, raising relative living standards, as all subsequent industrial technology would do -- undermined the traditional unworldly claims of religion. I've said before that the simultaneous successes of rail technology and the Oxford Movement aren't a coincidence.

My own somewhat idiosyncratic view is that William James's 1902 The Varieties of Religious Experience was the first effective response to Hume, Lyell, and Darwin, at least by American Protestants, to this development, arguing that the hope of heaven was not the only solution that traditional religion offered to the human condition. The religious impulse is built into human nature, and it is meant to address problems beyond simple poverty and disease. Aquinas, of course, would not disagree.

But James was too late for the REC. I agree with Guelzo that the swift rise and dominance of the Anglo-Catholic faction in TEC reflected a shift in social class orientation, whereby Jacksonian primitive republicans were abandoned in favor of new elites made wealthy by industrial technology. The new style was friendly to wealth and ostentation, although Guelzo is also correct in saying it proved a distraction, not an answer, to the fundamental questions posed by the rising tide in living standards that lifted all boats, combined with the materialist threats to spirituality.

I think there are many similarities to the 1873 REC break and the "continuing" movement a century later. The biggest is that in both cases, as Douglas Bess pointed out with the "continuers", TEC took no notice. The REC had no focus beyond a certain class-based resentment against the TEC majority, and it quickly subdivided into its own conflicts over liturgy and vestments. The "continuers" have fared no differently, with the original ACC splitting over personalities and the other splinter groups oriented mainly toward personal agendas and almost cult-like followings.

By the 21st century, both the REC and the "continuers" have sought to join larger groups, with the remnant REC going into the ACNA and presumably accepting the 1979 BCP, which would have been anathema to Cummins and Cheney, while four of the biggest "continuing" groups are now proposing some type of merger with the PNCC. It's worth pointing out that if this were to take place, the numbers involved would be some multiple of the membership of the OCSP, which has not made a significant dent in the "continuing" movement.

This brings me to my question here: what problem was the REC trying to solve? I would guess that a major part of the REC's failure was that it never clearly defined what the problem was -- Cummins and his allies apparently resented the success of the Anglo-Catholic movement, but resentment isn't a program. On the other hand, the real problem, the one Guelzo identifies posed by Hume, Lyell, and Darwin, went far beyond preferences in liturgy and vestments but doesn't seem to have been clearly identified by either side.

Anglicanorum coetibus is rather plainly trying to appeal to the resentment wing of Anglicanism. Resentment is not a program, and it isn't a selling point.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Anglo-Catholicism And Darwin

Just yesterday I ran across a remarkable passage in Guelzo's For the Union of Evangelical Christendom:
The publication of Sir Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology (three volumes 1830-1833) and then of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859 turned the entire Baconian, empirical, common-sense, natural-law apologetic completely on its head by showing on precisely the same Baconian, empirical, common-sense, natural-law principles as those espoused by Butler, Paley, Hodge, and McIlvaine that the description of the creation and providence of natural world found in the Bible was simply unthinkable. From that point on, the Evangelicals were thrown on the defensive, and a stampede to Romantic escapism in American culture commenced. . . . Many historians have chronicled this movement into Romantic revolt in terms of individuals or movements, but they have usually missed how perfectly it was embodied in one of the largest, wealthiest, and most influential of American institutions, the Episcopal Church. Anglo-Catholic ritualism served for late Victorian Anglo-American culture the same purpose that the Paley-Butler-Hodge gospel of rationality had once served in the heyday of commercial capitalism, in that the silver plates and rich brocades of Anglo-Catholic ornament reflected the transition of capitalism from the limited horizons of eighteenth-century commercial capitalism to the unprecedented power of industrial capitalism and the new patterns of international finance that accompanied it. The sacred symbols of the Anglo-Catholics -- such as Ralph Adams Cram's Gothic cathedrals -- were also the ultimate symbols of Victorian affluence, and taken together they represent a new attempt to rationalize the aggressive power of the industrial marketplace without wholly repudiating it. (p 190)
I am about 85% with Guelzo here. The threat modern geology, including fossil evidence of wholly extinct kinds of animals, posed to evangelical Christianity was covered in Edmund Gosse's Father and Son (1907), whch I studied as an undergraduate, as well as Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. We've talked about Ralph Adams Cram recently here, and I saw in St Thomas Fifth Avenue precisely what Guelzo seems to see. The Lambeth Conferences began in 1867 in direct response to Darwin's Origin of Species.

However, I don't think there's ever been a whole lot of empricism or rationality in sola scriptura - sola fides Protestantism, which Guelzo seems to conflate with a greater spectum of Christianity. Retreat into romanticism isn't the actual Catholic response to the challenges of Darwin and Hume, if it is in fact the Anglo-Catholic response. Ven Fulton Sheen seems to have seen Freud and Marx as greater threats to Catholic Christianity by the time of his 1950s broadcasts -- to which, as a Thomist, he offered authentically rationalist responses -- but an equivalent rationalist response to Darwin and Hume is certainly available.

Edward Feser and Bp Barron, both Thomists, have dealt extensively with the opposition to natural religion offered by Hume and Kant -- see Feser's Five Proofs and Barron's numerous YouTube videos on the "new atheists".

Effective opposition to Darwin has begun to emerge since the 1990s from a number of quarters, although it appears that the Intelligent Design movement, an essentially deist position, has begun to lose steam amid controversy. Paley's watchmaker argument, to which Guelzo indirectly refers, may be challenged by Darwin, so I'll go along with him there, but Paley is a Protestant, not a rationalist, and Darwin can be seen to fail on the basis of rational inconsistencies.

As Berlinski, a non-observant Jew but a scientific rationalist, points out, Darwinian natural selection is not a scientific theory in that it cannot be expressed mathematically. It cannot be confirmed via empirical testing or reproduction of results. It violates established scientific principles like the second law of thermodynamics. As Fr Ripperger, a Thomist, points out, it violates rational principles like the principle of sufficient reason, while Feser points out that Paley's explanation of teleological purpose is insufficient, since it reflects an incomplete understanding of first cause.

Guelzo is chronicling the position of Evangelical Anglicanism and Anglo-Catholicism as formative influences in 19th and 20th-century American culture, so I can't really fault him, and he is correctly pointing out the ultimate failure of both the Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic approaches to the intellectual threats to Christianity that emerged by the first half of the 19th century. He's also quite correct in recognizing that Anglo-Catholcism was much more successful in offering a solution that allowed elites to temporize with the problem by retreating into historical fantasy, alhough in the process, the fantasy misrepresented actual Roman Catholicsm.

The actual Catholic responses to Hume and Darwin have been much more robust, addressing them (with non-Catholic support) on scientific and rational grounds. I think we need to go to these responses for further progress in re-Catholicizing the culture -- but I think Guelzo's observations suggest that Anglo-Catholicism, as an essentially inauthentic development within Protestant Christianity (and it arose prior to the arrival in the US of many more Catholics in the late 19th century), is not a resource the Church can rely on.

This is yet another reason to shut the ordinariates down and redirect the resources, however minimal they may be, elsewhere.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Anglicanorum Coetibus And Lack Of Seriousness

Respondoing to an earlier post on how available weekday masses and other devotional resources are to OCSP members, my regular correspondent noted, "About half of the OCSP parishes/groups have a mass at least four days a week other than Sunday," but added, "Those which do not have regular weekday masses tend not to have irregular ones either, even on holy days of obligation."

My surmise is that if you asked Houston about this sort of thing, either you'd get a reply saying "we don't keep track of this," or if they did, they'd find a reason not to give an informative answer. A reasonable next question, though, would be to ask if those OCSP priests who don't offer mass on holy days of obligation take the trouble to point out that Catholics must still attend mass on those days and suggest they find a nearby diocesan parish that offers them, typically at several convenient times.

Actually, I'd say that if some of those members did go to the 12:15 All Saints' Day mass at a diocesan parish, they might discover a whole new dimension -- our parish has music at that mass, with cantors of professional-level talent. They wouldn't find this at their storefront or basement chapel. Why isn't this happening? Certianly nobody on the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society blog has mentioned it. I'm wondering if lack of seriousness is involved here somewhere, or perhaps spiritual sloth, which would be a close relative.

And a reasonable follow-up might be to ask of the lay members whether they actually do this. And here, I'm just not sure. The impression I have from the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society blog, which, let's face it, is about the only visible web presence from OCSP laity, is that it seems to be conducted by members of the smallest groups with the least options for observance -- yet they're the most publicly enthusiastic. The little Pasadena offshoot, for instance, which is the one with which Mr Coulombe is associated, is now on hiatus pending the ordination of its permanent priest.

If I were to raise this in a question-and-answer with someone from Houston, I suspect I'd get an answer along the line that "Well, we're growing. And we're growing quickly! It's true that as many as half the new groups can't offer weekday masses, or even masses on days of obligation. But they'll soon be able to!"

It would be churlish to keep insisting in such a session that I don't see this growth, that in fact the startups often just stop when the priest retires or moves on, and the groups, even if they continue with two dozen members, don't grow and don't move into better quarters.

There are various facets to Anglo-Catholicism -- most recently I've been looking at medieval romanticism, but I still keep coming back to Fr David Miller's remarks in my TEC confirmation class, that Anglo-Catholics want the prestige of calling themselves Catholic without paying the dues real Catholics have to pay. To what extent is Anglicanorum coetibus trying to appeal to a market of unserious people?

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Reflections On An Amateur Show

I haven't dwelt on this constantly, but posts over the last few weeks have brought me to reexamine the events of 2012 as they applied to St Mary of the Angels. Let's look at some of the facts as we now know them, based on the education I've had over a six-year period:
  • Msgr Steenson appointed Mrs Chalmers, a canon lawyer without corporate experience as far as I can tell, as "chancellor" of the OCSP. Apparently Steenson didn't understand the difference between a chancellor in an Anglican diocese, who is the general counsel, and a Catholic chancellor, who is not a lawyer but is a notary and archivist -- or maybe he thought Mrs Chalmers could be both.
  • Nobody, at least not among the St Mary's vestry or Houston, seems to have understood the actual value of the St Mary's property. Various chats I've had with vestry members indicate they relied on assessed property value in the early years of the story, usually talking in the range of $8 million. It's likely that if the property were to sell for redevelopment as luxury condos, the value would be considerably more. It wasn't until Abp Hepworth got involved that anyone began to factor in the value of the Della Robbia altarpiece, which puts the total value of the property in the high eight figures.
  • I simply don't know what sort of resources the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange has put into the acquisition and remodeling of the former Crystal Cathedral property. It's worth more, but the value of the St Mary of the Angels property required something much more like the attention the Diocese of Orange has put into their project. One assumes the legal work wasn't done by a canon lawyer married to a member of the Houston clique.
  • The reason Houston put the admission of the St Mary's parish into the OCSP on hold in early 2012 has never been completely clear. Statements from Canon Morello of the ACA at the time suggest he had been in communication with Houston. Other statements suggest that at least a tacit arrangement had been reached with Msgr Steenson that the ACA would get rid of Fr Kelley, solve non-existent financial irregularities, and at some later date turn the parish over to Houston with Msgr Steenson's fingerprints kept off the purge of Fr Kelley. The priorites here couldn't be more confused.
  • I can't imagine a competent attorney experienced in high-value real estate transfers allowing this kind of amateur game-playing, and the result was only to be expected. Msgr Steenson, apparently without competent advice, allowed himself to be had by Canon Morello, himself a rank amateur.
What I'm coming to see is that there's been a continuity in Houston between Msgr Steenson and Bp Lopes. When I look at what I'm learning of how things are done in a Catholic diocese, I recognize that the dioceses have institutional knowledge, as well as the ability to rely on specialists, including specialists in fields like art and real estate law. Msgr Steenson had zero experience in a Catholic diocese, and he didn't have staff with institutional knowledge to give him any sort of useful advice.

Houston belatedly recognized that the ParishSoft implementation failed because the OCSP somehow assumed that lay leadership in vestries, as well as competent lay staff, that could be taken for granted in TEC, would l also be available to the OCSP, but it wasn't. (For that matter, most OCSP clergy weren't experienced top-tier TEC clergy -- they were also-rans in TEC or "continuers" with tiny groups.) Even now in Houston, there doesn't appear to be staff with experience and institutional knowledge of how things like vocations are handled in Catholic dioceses.

I haven't carefully reviewed Bp Lopes's vita, and I don't have the experienced Catholic's ability to read signs in these cases. But I have the impression that he got his parish ticket punched as a diocesan associate but moved pretty quickly into the Vatican bureaucracy. As a result, I question how much diocesan experence he's had -- in looking at more typical bishop careers, they seem to cycle first into assistant bishop positions, where I would think they're exposed to a wide variety of practical situations that occur in dioceses.

Instead, Bp Lopes seems to have made his career primarily as a liturgist, and a specialist in one of the more esoteric fields of liturgy at that. This is probably one reason why we don't see a whole lot of change between the Steenson and Lopes regimes -- both men are amatuers at running Catholic dioceses. Things might be better if you put a real bishop in the job -- but what real bishop, looking at a situation where no seriouis resources are available, would want to get involved?