Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Comments, Phone Calls, Emails and other assorted Brickbats and Strange Stuff

November 22, 2012

It is amazing some of the comments and utterances I hear from people, not to mention some of the actions I see individuals take - along with some random thoughts....................

This evening I would like to share with you some random odds and ends that have been piling up on the corner of my desk:

Item - Message from a priest from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Crookston MN:  "You are the spawn of Satin."

Item - Phone call from someone with a vocation:  "Do I really have to go to the seminary to be part of your Church?  I've read the Bible.

Item - Questioned asked of my by employee at Jewel Food Stores in Chicago about a bottle of non-alcoholic wine used at Church:  "Do you only get half-drunk from this kind of wine?"

Item - Driving behind a double-deck Chicago touring bus while someone was throwing-up over the back.

Item - Trying to convince myself that Honey Boo-Boo is a scripted character.

Thought - When is George Ryan ever going to be released from prison?

So much for what is on my mind.  Time for a defrag of my brain.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The invaluable lessons to be learned from the Lennon Cihak case.

This past weekend has indeed witness the perfect sacramental and ecclesiastical storm.  

The name of this storm is Lennon Cihak, a young Catholic lad from Barnesville MN enjoying the fun of youth, living a private life and born with a conscience.  

As with the overwhelming majority of Americans, Lennon Cihak has a Facebook account.  Just before the November elections Lennon decided to exercise his constitutional right of free speech and thought by posting his support for marriage equality in our country. Mr. Cihak's support on this matter is just one of millions in this country who are supporting the very same cause.  In most cases, Lennon Cihak's support would be considered one in several million and his name would never emerge from the millions who also support this issue.


Lennon Cihak has been in preparation to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation at the Roman Catholic Church of the Assumption in Barnesville, MN - that was until the pastor of Assumption, the Reverend Gary LaMoine came across Lennon's Facebook page and saw Lennon supporting marriage equality and expelled Lennon from his confirmation preparations.  Father LaMoine informed Lennon that his support of marriage equality runs "contrary to Roman Catholic teachings that states that marriage can only take place between a man and a woman."  Father LaMoine also informed Lennon that if he would "stand before the congregation of Assumption and recant his heretical beliegs, he might be permitted to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.


The matter of Lennon Cihak has, of this date, become an international topic of conversation, thrusting a family from a small town in Minnesota into a media storm.  Father LaMoine is upset that this story is out in the open, if you will pardon the expression.  The Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Crookston has been officially "unavailable."

This story was forwarded to me by another of the bishops of the Evangelical Catholic Church, Bishop Joseph Ryan of Ireland and for the record I wish to state that I have reached out to the Cihak family to offer the Sacrament of Confirmation to their son, if they so desire.

But what I wish to attempt to discuss in this essay is the topics of rights, obligations and obediences of individuals and institutions.

The Roman Catholic Church, just like the Evangelical Catholic Church and all other institutions of faith has the unconditional right to enact any laws, regulations or norms binding ALL of its members to adherence. The Roman Catholic community has been and continues to be very clear regarding their theology on marriage.  When preparing candidates for the Confirmation, jurisdictions of faith make very clear to the candidates that the time for them to embrace the totality of their faith as adults has now come and when a candidate says "yes" to this responsibility - then their Church should count on their obedience to ALL aspects of the faith.  Obviously on the matter of marriage equality, young Lennon Cihak and the Roman Catholic Church holds two opposing opinions which gives the Roman Catholic Church the right to refuse the Sacrament to the young man.

So why did I stick my episcopal nose into the matter by offering to bestow upon the lad the Sacrament of Confirmation?  Because of conscious, faith and the Holy Spirit.

No matter which of the Catholic jurisdictions one belongs to, the expectations of the People of God is that their Church will take seriously its obligation to care for the souls of the faithful.  The actions of Father LaMoine and the Diocese of Crookston has abdicated their obligations to the soul of Lennon Cihak.  Because this young man has chosen to express his catholic faith inclusively, he paid the price of having the might weight and wrath of the institutional Roman Catholic Church pounce upon him.  One would think that young Mr. Cihak is the first and only Roman Catholic to hold a view that different from the institutional church.  Maybe the institutional Roman Catholic Church felt that they could make an example out of a 17 year old high school lad from Minnesota. I guess going after a 17 year old youth might not cause any blowback had the institutional Roman Catholic Church decided to excommunicate all adult women who hold active prescription for birth-control pills in their purses.  Is not the doctrine found in Humane Vitae just as important to uphold and police as their policies on marriage? Was isn't the Roman Catholic Church denying the Sacrament of Marriage to couples who have been living together for years or have elected not to have any children?  I guess it just comes down to the fact that a 17 year old lad is easier to go after.

Now that Lennon Cihak is now recognized as an adult with the gift of adult reasoning - I hope that this young adult might ask himself "is this jurisdiction of faith the one where I belong?"  Maybe this is a question that many of us should be asking ourselves.  

There is no question that the Roman Catholic Church has the right to enforce their laws.  They won the argument.  Too bad God and Lennon lost.

Monday, November 5, 2012

An Example of Unity within the Autocephalous Catholic Movement

On Saturday, November 3, 2012, in a simple and prayerful moment, the Evangelical Catholic Church and the United States Old Catholic Church signed a Concordat of Recognition entitled “Call to Shared Journey,” in Chicago.  Archbishop James Long and Bishop Douglas Prenya represented the United States Old Catholic Church and I represented the Evangelical Catholic Church as its Presiding Bishop.

Many remain unaware of the presence of the Autocephalous Catholic Movement. It is, simply put, Catholics who are members of smaller, yet validly consecrated “independent” jurisdictions throughout the world who seldom have any real sense of connection with one another. Here in the United States and also in Western Europe many such jurisdictions exist, though many struggle to document their claims of linkage within historic apostolic succession – a necessity to validly ordain to Orders and celebrate the catholic sacraments.

In the cases of the Evangelical Catholic Church and the United States Old Catholic Church, the validity of their roots in historic apostolic succession is a fact which makes them unique within Autocephalous Catholicism because since the 1980’s many Catholics laypersons who have found themselves pastorally orphaned have looked to the autocephalous catholic world to continue their journeys in faith. The autocephalous catholic world has also become a option for inactive priests who have married or for women called to the priestly vocation for consideration. Sadly, for many years those who have considered the autocephalous catholic option have found their choices anemic and underwhelming.

An educated eye will find, upon simply examination and research, many of those claiming to be bishops, priests and deacon have little, if any, academic or spiritual formation experience that one would expect of those holding these offices. Sadly many have little, if any, ministerial goals or agendas of service for the People of God. The potentiality of what the autocephalous could be has long been overshadowed and kept in bondage by the silliness of so many “dress-up” wannabes.

Since the 1990’s there has been a slow, but steady flow of seriously minded Catholics making investments into jurisdictions staffed by professionally trained bishops, priests and deacon who use contemporary protocols for screening their candidates and providing them with the best possible academic and spiritual formation. The People of God who are “crossing the Rubicon” to join these jurisdictions have already left behind their experiences with dysfunctionality and have no desire to take on a whole new boatload with a new jurisdiction.

I believe that for many years, those considering a move to the autocephalous catholic movement have also been turned off by the cattiness, ignorance and superegos of many of the “leaders” representing the movement.

Some within the autocephalous world have come to realize that one of the signs of apostasy in the early Christian Church was the bickering and disunity among Christians. Jesus said that the world would know that we were His disciples by the love that we have for one another (John 13:35). In Col. 3:14, it says that love is the perfect bond of unity. The New Testament speaks about us being unified in Christ (Eph. 4:5). In response to Christians who follow after individuals rather than Jesus, Paul says that Christ is not divided (1 Cor. 1:12-13). Though Christ is not divided, His body of believers where.

What is it that unites us?

Primarily, it is the saving work of Christ that unites us. Secondarily, it is the essential doctrines that define orthodoxy. We have, as a common heritage, the blood of Christ that has been shed for the forgiveness of our sins. True Christians serve the true and living God and we know Jesus in a personal and intimate way (1 Cor. 1:9). We have been redeemed by God himself. Furthermore, we have the body of Scriptures which tell us the essentials of the faith and deviating from these essentials means to be outside the camp of Christ. It is the essential doctrines that we must know and unite ourselves within.

To best understand these facts, candidates for the priesthood need to be grounded with a sound academic formation. Several years ago, the United States Old Catholic Church established the Saint John the Evangelist Seminary. The academic goals and standards of this seminary are consistent with the academic formation goals of any Roman Catholic seminary. In 2011 the Evangelical Catholic Church committed itself to sending their candidates to Saint John’s for their academic formation.

The apostle Paul also recognized the value of unity. From his own sufferings in Philippi he knew the infant Church faced determined opposition. Paul warned his friends of opponents, suffering and conflict soon to come. Paul’s central concern to the Church at Corinth was also a concern of division. Paul expressed his concern with these words, “I appeal to you brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” The Corinthians had formed cliques based upon the supposed superiority of various leaders. These divisions had shattered the unity of the local congregation and created dissension. Paul’s focus here is that the division in the Corinthian Church was wrong. Paul’s goal in his writing is found in the first sentence where he urges them to resolve their differences and restore unity in their Church fellowship.

Our two jurisdictions have come together at this moment in time to witness the embracing of Paul’s goals. This unprecedented instrument witnesses a desire between these two jurisdictions to embrace unity and respect rather than continue to perpetuate the examples of disunity and counter productivity Paul attempted to heal with the Church at Corinth.

For many years, our two communities of faith have been walking nearly identical sacramental, ecclesial and liturgical paths until the Holy Spirit chose the opportune time for them to discover each other.

The Concordat of Recognition focuses on these important matters of faith:

Agreement in the Doctrine of the Faith
Agreement in Ministry
Commitment to Share Episcopal Succession
Interchangeability of Clergy

This Concordat of Recognition is also the realization and acknowledgement of our mutual call to a shared journey in faith, life and vocation to serve the People of God. It has also become our combined obligation to also help reform take place within the autocephalous catholic movement. Despite the self-inflicted damage it has done to itself over the years, renovation and restoration is light at the end of the tunnel which is clearly visible to those wishing to role up their sleeves and does the work.

The Concordat states that “Recognizing each other as churches in which the gospel is truly preached and the holy sacraments duly administered, we receive with thanksgiving the gift of unity which is already given in Christ.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers -- all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross (Colossians 1:15-20).

Repeatedly Christians have echoed the scriptural confession that the unity of the church is both Christ's own work and his call to us. It is therefore our task as well as his gift. We must "make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3). We pray that we may rely upon, and willingly receive from one another, the gifts Christ gives through his Spirit "for building up the body of Christ" in love (Ephesians 4:16).”

We pray that this commitment will witness the grace of unity hoped for by St. Paul when he wrote, "Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose" (Phil. 2:2).

Many thanks to Rick Garcia who oversaw the signing ceremony and Professor Mark Wojcik of the John Marshall School of Law for being the office witness to the documents.