Tuesday, March 30, 2010



From Fr Randall Balmer at Religious Dispatches:

I have no authority whatsoever to speak for my Church, nor would I presume to do so. But as an Episcopal priest, I call on my ecclesiastical superiors to make a special overture to Roman Catholics who are disgruntled by the pedophilia scandals in the Catholic Church; scandals that increasingly point to the complicity of the man in charge of the Vatican, Benedict XVI.

My reference here, of course, is to the declaration last fall by the very same Benedict seeking to lure conservative Anglicans and Episcopalians to the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican sensed an opening, especially with those Episcopalians (and former Episcopalians) who were still fuming over the consecration of V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, as bishop of New Hampshire, the refusal of the Episcopal Church to foreswear same-sex marriages, and the ordination of gays and lesbians and even (still!) the ordination of women.

Last October, the Vatican offered disgruntled Anglicans and Episcopalians the opportunity to bring their music and liturgy with them to Rome. I’m not sure what we can offer disaffected Roman Catholics—except for the honesty and the integrity of facing difficult issues and asking vexing questions, such as sexual identity in relation to the New Testament mandate of love. Not everyone will agree with the answers we choose, but I’m proud to be associated with a Church willing to address those questions.

And for anyone ready to swim the Tiber in the other direction, you’re welcome in my parish anytime.

I'm proud to be associated with the Episcopal Church, too. All are welcome in my church, St. John's Episcopal Church in Thibodaux, LA. Not a few in my congregation, including me, are former Roman Catholics.

I am speaking only to those who have already determined to depart. If you wish to remain in the Roman Catholic Church to fight the good fight, then I urge you to stay where you are, and I give you my blessing.

Note: I do not speak for my church on my blog. The opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone.


  1. I find Balmer's note offensive -- like we have all the answers and you should come here when in reality we have as many issues - not just so big - as the RCs - we have sexual abuse still happening even with all the Title IV and training stuff. I want people to join TEC because of who we are not because they are running from something else. I think his piece would have been stronger if it has offered help and support in these days. What have we learned about sexual abuse and exploitation since we decided to do something about it? (thanks to the courts and insurance companies making us do something) - how is our screening and "safeguarding" training helping to help make our churches safe. Yes - RCC has a lot to answer for - but I don't think Balmer's answer is helpful.

  2. This letter seems to resonating outside the red church door. Digby reproduces it in full on her blog:


    The left blogs are usually very hostile to Christianity (though in all fairness to Digby, it's usually her comment writers who are the most hostile), so I find it striking that they should be interested in this at all.

  3. I want people to join TEC because of who we are not because they are running from something else.

    Then, you would not have wanted me, Ann. I changed over time and came to love the Episcopal Church for what it is. People come for many different reasons, and all should be welcomed.

    Just as folks turn to God and faith for many different reasons, and God accepts all however impure the original motivations, with the hope for change to loving God for God's own self.

  4. Counterlight, I find Digby's quoting Ballmer just short of miraculous. You are right about the hostility. I once engaged in the comments on the topic of religion in some of the lefty blogs, until I got tired of being beat up on.

  5. of course I would want you Mimi regardless of reason - I just think for an Episcopal priest to write as if we have all the answers is a bad idea. What happens when these newcomers are abused by our clergy (still happening) - thinking this is some kind of safe haven?

  6. Ann, I don't see that Ballmer says that the Episcopal Church has all the answers. He says, "warts and all" and speaks of "facing difficult issues and asking vexing questions, such as sexual identity in relation to the New Testament mandate of love. Not everyone will agree with the answers we choose, but I’m proud to be associated with a Church willing to address those questions." Not having the answers, but willing to ask the questions.

    And believe me, when I first attended the Episcopal Church, I was running away and quite timid about even being inside the doors of the church.

  7. I aired my complaint with Balmer - he wrote:

    Dear Rev. Fontaine:
    The people at RD forwarded your e-mail. Thanks and I quite agree. I think the provisions we'€™ve made over the years have been pretty effective. My column, as you may have surmised, was somewhat tongue in cheek, although I have to say I was pretty annoyed by the Vatican'€™s actions last fall.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. The actions of the Church of Rome have already driven many souls away from Christ. I can't see anything wrong with us trying to save a few of those souls Benedict XVI has cast aside.

  10. Ann, I read Ballmer's words as somewhat tongue in cheek - "what's sauce for the goose....", and I did not find them offensive.

    Wade, I tend to be quite careful about even the appearance of poaching, which makes me rather a poor evangelist for TEC. This is my first ever public post inviting people to my church.

  11. Cool, old-fashioned church sign! Thanks for the welcome! Somehow the invite to services at your parish made my day.

  12. Марко, your comment made MY day. It's good to have you visit. How are you? You remain in my daily prayers.

  13. I am happy today and thankful for a lot of simple things...

    Bless you, Grandmère Mimi!

  14. Good commentary "A Protestant Remembers the Good of the Catholic Church" on a secular blog:


    This seems appropriate to share with everyone for purposes of discussion. And there is a lot of a goodwill in the article.

  15. Mark, I remember the good, too. I spent 60 years of my life in the RCC, and I was educated in RCC schools for 16 years, through university. I agree with the author of the article.

    RCC priests and lay folks go about their business of doing the Lord's work, even as the highest of the hierarchy circle the wagons in defensive mode.

  16. Those of us who grew up Catholic (me too) can point to lots of selfless, dedicated religious who worked tirelessly for others.

    We can also remember a time when the brains of the laity were engaged and acknowledged as people able to think and decide for themselves, not mindless sheep..

    The current self-protective scandals of the Institutional church insult those fine men and women who lived by the rules. And they insult the intelligence of the laity. I remember the era before everyone was supposed to march in cultic lockstep, do you?

    Great article by EJ Dionne at Truthdig:The church’s problem is, above all, theological and religious. Its core difficulty is that rather than drawing on its Christian resources, the church has acted almost entirely on the basis of this world’s imperatives and standards.

    It has worried about lawsuits. It has worried about its image. It has worried about itself as an institution and about protecting its leaders from public scandal. In so doing, it has made millions of Catholics righteously furious and aggravated every one of its problems.

    The church has been reluctant to speak plainly about the heart of its problem: in handling these cases, it put institutional self-protection first.

    The church needs to show it understands the flaws of its own internal culture by examining its own conscience, its own practices, its own reflexes when faced with challenge. As the church rightly teaches, acknowledging the true nature of our sin is the one and only path to redemption and forgiveness.

    Of course this will not be easy. Enemies of the church will use this scandal to discredit the institution no matter what the Vatican does. Many in the hierarchy thought they were doing the right thing, however wrong their decisions were. And the church is not alone in facing problems of this sort.

    But defensiveness and institutional self-protection are not Gospel values.

  17. I also don't want to even appear to be "poaching." But, if someone wants to come in and receive communion and finds the church the place they want to belong then I welcome them with open arms.

    There was a Roman Catholic woman who used to come to church occasionally in one of the parishes I served. She primarily came to receive communion from a woman. As far as I know, she is still RC.

    I also know many who have become Episcopalian because the RC just didn't meet their needs, or because they felt unwelcome there, or because of their disgust at the scandals, etc.. Lots of reasons and all valid.

  18. Thanks to all of you who engaged in this lively and interesting discussion of Ballmer's article.

    I thought and rethought about Fr Ballmer's piece before I posted and quoted from it, but I decided that I may have been far too timid and reticent in the past about invitations to disaffected Roman Catholics. The former Roman Catholics in my congregation want the emphasis on the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, that the Episcopal Church offers. As I said, if folks want to stay in the RCC and fight the good fight, then good for them, and they have my blessing.

  19. Since we've been the target of it for a very long time - well before the ordinariate bushwa - Episcopalians tend to get very skittish about anything that appears to be TEC/Anglican proselytism. But, while Fr. Ballmer is writing tongue-in-cheek, and should be read so, I think it expresses a real desire to reach out to disaffected RC's . . . as well as a significant amount of anger and betrayal.

    I think we need to realize that there are many RC's who do need to be told we welcome them. They truly don't know this. That's not poaching or proselytism, it's pastoral care. We need to approach it as we always have, that, regardless of Rome's feelings on the issue, we are all One Body in Christ and we provide a different pastoral care than Rome does, that's all.

    Will Rome spin such actions? Of course! They have a truly repulsive and wicked group of men under one of the worst of them in charge.

    So. What. We're used to taking abuse. We've gotten good at it.

  20. We're used to taking abuse. We've gotten good at it.

    And a good bit from one of our own.


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