19 June 2012

Archbishop Ireland

Those among the Catholic bishops who are currently inclined to thwart or stop the Personal Ordinariates arising from Anglicanorum coetibus would do well to consider the legacy of Archbishop Ireland of Minnesota, or like him they may wind up reviled and on the wrong side of history. Archbishop Ireland has his defenders citing several things, but violating Church Law and causing a schism eclipses everything else.  He was not alone among the Irish Catholic clergy to greet the Greek Catholics with contempt bordering upon hate, but he is remembered as the very worst.  Who wants to be seen in his company?

Archbishop Ireland is personally responsible for the biggest schism in Catholicism in the USA.  His poor decisions and belligerence with regard to the Greek Catholics, his violation of the Law of the Church that went unchallenged, all of these issues sent large numbers of Eastern Greek Catholics into the Orthodox Church where they contributed significantly to the birth of the Orthodox Church of America.  In fact, with tongue planted firmly in cheek Archbishop Ireland is called "the Father of the Orthodox Church of America".

The US bishops had sought and received from Rome a prohibition on married priests serving among or being ordained to serve  the Eastern Catholics in the USA.  They were wrong, and for their error the bishops have had to apologise in our time.   During the "Russian Greek Catholic Schism" the US Latin-rite Catholic bishops stood with Archbishop Ireland in his attack on the legitimate Canonical rights of the Greek Catholics.  They were wrong to do so.  They learned nothing from the experience, and later another 100,000 Greek Catholics would leave for the Orthodox Church under the Patriarch of Constantinople.  Similar situations obtained in Canada. 

Although apologies would be issued in our time, U.S. Catholic bishops have continued to seek for a ban on married Greek Catholic priests.  It violates treaty and meddles in the rights of Eastern Catholics under their Canon Law.  Because of meddling by certain Latin Rite Catholic bishops into the affairs of an Eastern Catholic Church, the Pittsburgh Byzantine Catholic metropolia was required to put into their Particular Law the unnecessary burden of seeking approval from Rome on a case by case basis for each married man who is to receive ordination instead of letting the Metropolia follow the Code of Canon Law for Eastern Catholic Churches as it is written and was approved by the Holy Father.      
So the dreadful legacy of Archbishop Ireland is not over.  There remain bishops who think as narrowly and without vision as he did.  They don't want Ordinariate groups to have their own churches, or they want to prevent strong candidates for the priesthood from being ordained.  The list of these things is too long, dear reader.  In my view the only way to deal with it is to expose it and bring it into the light of day.  There is no merit in silence in these situations.   Jesus didn't call all of us to build little enclaves where we could hide, but He called us to the great Mission to reunite the Church and evangelise those who have not heard the Gospel and to bring healing and understanding to those who have been hurt by those who bear the Gospel. 

Does Jesus want his Church reunited or not?  Think of what awaits those clergy who work to keep the Church from being made whole, from being made strong.  What awaits those who are not willing to welcome whole-heartedly those entering Holy Church under Pope Benedict's most generous invitation?  Has the Church not learned from the Portuguese disaster in India? from the Greek Catholic exodus in North America?  Will we really find Anglicanorum coetibus thwarted and blunted at every turn leading those who had wished to be loyal sons and daughters of the Church to make a telephone call to the Polish National Catholics or the Antiochian Orthodox for a chat?  Please, Lord God, let everyone wake up to receive the gift they are being given through Anglicanorum coetibus.  May they listen to the aspirations of the new clergy and laity and help them realise their goals so they can enter the mission field that is their own nation fully furnished with what they need to be that part of the Church that cherishes and makes use of the Anglican Patrimony.

+Kyrie eleison imas.