Fr. Phillips Sends Explanation to Our Lady of the Atonement Parishioners

Dear Friends,

It’s difficult to communicate important information by way of email – there’s an understandable tendency for recipients to forward them all over the place, and there is always the strong possibility of someone misinterpreting them. However, I do want to reiterate some of the points I made in yesterday’s email about my meeting with Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller and Bishop Oscar Cantu.

1. The archbishop is NOT preventing the parish from seeking entrance into the Ordinariate at this time, or at some future time. He was clear about that, and is very respectful of our right to make that request any time.

2. It is important to all of us that we preserve the integrity and unity of our parish – church and school, clergy and people, buildings and patrimony – and at the present time the only way we can insure this is by remaining as we are; namely, a Personal Parish of the Pastoral Provision, rather than a parish of the Ordinariate. We all want the parish to be able to continue as it is, with our clergy and people intact, and with our church and school serving those who want to be here. At some point we may be able to have that in the Ordinariate — but this is not the time.

3. Our way of worship – our liturgy, our devotional life, our music…everything we treasure and maintain – will be able to continue uninterrupted, and the archbishop and his auxiliary bishop have stated their support and admiration for what is done here.

I know the decision to withdraw our parish request to enter the Ordinariate is unexpected, and some of you might be perplexed. As you know, I have been very excited about the prospect of being in the Ordinariate, but I had to weigh every aspect of this, and decide what would be truly best for us. The stability of our parish is something I know you would not want to discard lightly, and this decision provides us with the best and safest way to continue to “preserve, nurture and share” our Anglican patrimony, as we have done for the past twenty-nine years.

As we have opportunities to deepen our communion with our Father-in-God, Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, let’s make the most of them. He was genuinely moved to learn that we will be remaining in his jurisdiction for now, and he looks forward (as do we) to strengthening our ties with the archdiocese which has been our home for so long.

The time may come when we are prepared to enter the Ordinariate, and when the Ordinariate will be in a better position to receive us as we are. We can be grateful that God has used our parish, in some small way, to prepare the ground for the establishment of the Ordinariate in this country. As strange as it seems for us not to be part of it from the very beginning, the time is not yet right.

Let’s all pray for the success of the Ordinariate, and especially for the men who are preparing for ordination over the next few months. No matter what jurisdiction we’re in, we’re all working for the same end – the building up of God’s Kingdom!

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Christopher G. Phillips

Author: Deborah Gyapong

Deborah Gyapong is a member of the Sodality of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary ( in Ottawa, a former parish of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada (Traditional Anglican Communion) whose members were received individually and corporately into the Roman Catholic Church on April 15, 2012 by Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast at St. Patrick’s Basilica. Under the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, the community will celebrate an approved Anglican Use liturgy and hopes to soon join with other sodalities across Canada to form the Canadian Deanery of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter under Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, Ordinary. As we wait for our priest(s) to be ordained as Catholic priests, God willing, Archbishop Prendergast will provide priests to celebrate our Sunday Eucharist according to the Anglican Use. Deborah is a journalist who covers religion and politics in Canada’s national capital, writing primarily for Roman Catholic newspapers since 2004. Her novel The Defilers, published in 2006, was not a best seller, alas. She spent 17 years at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in news and current affairs, including 12 years as a television producer.

44 thoughts on “Fr. Phillips Sends Explanation to Our Lady of the Atonement Parishioners”

  1. Has this development at the parish of Our Lady of the Atonement made the Anglo-Catholic website go into mourning? I hope not because, if so, it is at the expense of legibility. Please revert to the previous form.

  2. My understanding is that the Archbishop gave permission for clergy and people to individually apply to/join the Ordinariate, but that as a parish they cannot go and take their property with them. (How very Episcopalian!) Someone please correct me if I am wrong!

    1. As you seek correction, not only does your understanding explicitly contradict Fr. Phillips' statement that property was not the issue, but no one needs episcopal permission to apply to join the Ordinariate. It is a right (not a privilege) for those eligible that is now explicitly provided for under canon law.

      1. Nothing devilish has occurred and the diocese did not seek to keep the property. I suppose it would be too much to ask Nanette to apologise?

        1. Yes, I will apologize as I have been corrected by an outside source. I will ask our Moderator to delete my comments.

      2. Your "correction" is not much of one, since it is well known that a bishop can prevent a current Anglican Use parish from joining the Ordinariate. The "right" you talk about is for individuals, and yes, individuals can join the Ordinariate with no permission needed. We're talking about an entire parish with a huge physical plant.

        Quite frankly, even though I am not a parishioner, I have the utmost love and respect for Fr. Phillips, but if he fell into a vat of cow manure, he would just praise God for the free fertilizer, while the rest of us would complain about the stink and slime. So I don't think the picture is as rosy as portrayed. Fertilizer is a useful part of cow manure, but stink and slime are also realities, and the whole picture is not complete without all components. Plus, the stink and slime have to be faced *before* cow manure can be used as fertilizer.

  3. Whatever is going on here (and one need not play Kremlinologist in these things) all I can say is: "Father Christopher and parish/school, we will miss you sorely. May the season of reconsideration be sooner than later . . . and Go with God, Always!"

    Peace to all of you.

  4. If you read the first pastoral letter of the ordinary you will see that "no one is automatically member of the ordinariate". It is not a right. There are some prerequisites (come from the Anglicanism, (and not always)) which allow the person to request for the incorporation. His request should be accepted.

  5. In his second point, Fr. Phillips states:

    " It is important to all of us that we preserve the integrity and unity of our parish – church and school, clergy and people, buildings and patrimony – and at the present time the only way we can insure this is by remaining as we are; namely, a Personal Parish of the Pastoral Provision, rather than a parish of the Ordinariate. "

    I'm certainly not well schooled in the canonical details of the governance of either Personal Parishes, or of the Ordinariate, but could someone who is possibly elucidate what Fr. Phillips might mean here? Why is it that the "integrity and unity" of Our Lady of the Atonement can be better insured under the parish's current status than as part of the Ordinariate?

    1. The simplest reading of the statement would that a substantial proportion of the parish does not wish or is not eligible to join the Ordinariate at this time, hence the move would threaten the parish's "integrity." The simplest reading may not be an accurate one, but it's up to the conspiracy theorists to provide evidence of ill-will in this case.

      1. Actually the simplest reading might be in "when the Ordinariate will be in a better position to receive us as we are. " If the Ordinary does not feel he is in a position to receive the parish as it is, then what would the Archbishop be letting the parish go to?

      2. I think that the simplest reading is that there are logistical and pastoral issues involved with moving a large institution with budgets, employees, benefits and the rest from a well-established institution to a newborn one. Does the new Ordinariate have the non-financial wherewithal to handle the parish and growing school? I can only imagine the disruption to the school — to the students and teachers — of a pre-mature, hasty move. While I am sure that all desire a successful Ordinariate, the needs of the parish and the school must come before the needs of the Ordinariate, at least in that must be the priority of the school's pastor and bishop. The simplest reading is to say that they all made the pastoral, prudent judgement that moving the parish and school was simply too risky until the Ordinariate becomes capable of overseeing both adequately. Perhaps all concluded that the Ordinariate has more pressing issues than pastoring a growing parish and school. Perhaps it would be too much of a burden for them and for OLA.

        1. The Academy for years was an independent private school, and I doubt the that much of its growth can be attributed to the careful oversight of the Archdiocese.

          As some of the recent news from the Vatican has been the pope's grant to the English Ordinariate and speaking to the American Bishops about the value of Catholic schools. perhaps the Academy might provide the resources and personnel to oversee future efforts within the Ordinariate?

  6. If the unwillingness of the parishioners is the real motive to which Father Phillips has alluded then why didn't he just come out with it? From where arises the need to obfuscate?

    We have the unexpected statement of withdrawl of request for admission to the Ord. of the Chair of St. Peter from the pioneer Anglican Use pastor who is encharged with America's flagship A.U. parish. This kindly priest was the most tireless promoter of the very process from which he now seeks to extricate his people. It is only logical that one should ask oneself why he has concluded so suddenly that the Ord. of the Chair of St. Peter would be a disstabilizing and disunifying influence upon his church.

    Anglicans pride themselves on a mature outlook and on an ability to reason together candidlly. Instead we are hit by a ton of unnecessary speculation and innuendo engendered by this weighty announcement. Why can't the brethern simply be trusted with some inkling of whatever difficulties or disagreements have led to this unhappy turn of events

    Baffled in Pasadena,

    1. There is no unwillingness by the OLA parishioners. There is now openness and support from the ASA Archbishop and Auxiliary Bishop. The issues now stem from the Ordinariate's willingness to accept OLA as it is.

      Father Phillips is a true father to his parish. Keep him, the other clergy of the Parish, and their parishioners in your prayers.

      1. It is my understanding, that if OLA joined the Ordinariate, the Parish would be split, and also a new Ordinariate Priest would be brought in.
        If that is true, I don't see how it would preserve the Anglican Patrimony of OLA or could be the Holy Father's vision of Anglcanorum Coetibus.
        I assume that a strict interpretation by those charged with implementing AC in the US would call for splitting the Parish, and bringing in new clergy to replace Fr Phillips, and the other clergy at OLA.

        I am not a Canon Lawyer or anything, so, I couldn't really guess as to this. I wish Fr Phillips and his Parish well, and commend them for their efforts to bring the Ordinariate to fruition in the US…
        MT 23:27

  7. Whatever the real reasons are that OLA is not entering the Ordinariate, what I take from this whole issue, is that Fr. Phillips has shown how humble and obedient he is.

    God used him in a mighty way, just as He has many saints who were also unjustly treated, but now are considered saints by the Church.

    My prayers are with Fr. Phillips, his family and OLA. He is exactly what Christ wanted as a priest and it is an honor to know him.

  8. Actually, despite being Anglican Use and of the Pastoral Provision, I believe from Fr Phillips previous writings, that the majority of his parish, despite being Anglican Use, are actually cradle Catholics now. Yes, they may have been brought up with the Anglican Use rite, have never been Anglican at any point in their lives. So I don't if this means that only the old guard and any new Anglican converts would qualify to join the Ordinariate, and the younger members of the parish do not? Perhaps somebody can clarify, preferably Fr Phillips, as that would remove any useless speculation and conjecture.

    1. You might be confused over him having said that with a parish now over 25 years old, many parishioners were baptized there, had their own children baptized there, and could therefore be called "cradle Catholics" despite never having been a parishoner anywhere outside of the parish. I believe Msgr. Steenson has already done an infant baptism at an Ordinariate community, will that infant now be called a "cradle Catholic"?

  9. Sorry, for some reason the software left out some of my words. The following should as:
    " Yes, they may have been brought up with the Anglican Use rite, but have never been Anglican at any point in their lives. "

    1. It has been stated somewhere else for several times (amongst them at least once by Fr Philips himself) that 67% of the parishioners are converts from Anglicanism or their descendants and thus eligible for membership in the ordinariate. The remaining 33% are still many, but in no way the majority of the parish.

  10. Fr Phillips's letters are very carefully worded and intentionally vague in places, but I think they say the following pretty clearly. (1) While the archbishop's permission was needed for the parish to move to the Ordinariate, the archbishop did not deny this permission, and he would have been OK with the move had Phillips chosen to make it. (2) Clearly until recently, Phillips was a prime mover behind the Ordinariate. (3) Phillips is not now in favor of the parish joining the Ordinariate. (4) Phillips discussed this carefully with his superiors, and although they would have supported the move, they now support Phillips's withdrawal. (5) Phillips now feels that a move to the Ordinariate would risk the integrity of Our Lady of the Atonement parish.

    I think it's a fair conclusion from the above to infer that in Phillips's view, something about the Ordinariate has changed, and that change is serious enough that his superiors endorse his withdrawal, although they explicitly also endorse the parish's current direction, and by extension, its integrity in its current form.

    So what changed? The big outward change is the designation of Msgr Steenson as Ordinary. I've found a number of his public statements, including the March 22 interview he granted Virtue Online (following, by the way, an admonition from his Chancellor to me that I shou.ld not participate in discussions there, since VOL is not pro-Ordinariate!) and the open letter of May 5 to the parishioners of St Mary of the Angels (in which, among other things, he explicitly reserves to himself the ability to make any changes he wishes to clergy and staff), to be troubling.

    I would say that the fact that neither Phillips's original letter , nor the explanation, mentions Steenson at all, has some significance.

    1. I'm not sure who you think Fr. Phillips "superiors" are other than the Bishop himself. He still seems to be very much endorsing the Ordinariate, and clearly still had been intending to go even after Msgr. Steenson's appointment. What has not been clear since the time of Cardinal Wuerl's appointment to oversee the process, is whether or not the Ordinariate wanted the Anglican Use parishes. It would seem that as much as possible, they'd prefer starting from scratch rather than accepting an existing and successful parish. It is perhaps too much for the Ordinary to handle, as he has mentioned that the duties of the Ordinary will be something he does in his free time as he continues on with his faculty position.

      1. Aren't Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller and Bishop Oscar Cantu both Phillips's superiors? All I'm doing is reading Phillips's letter at an eighth-grade level; seems like he has an Archbishop and an Auxiliary to report to here. And it seems to me that Phillips's letter is pretty plain: there's a problem with the Ordinariate, not with the Archbishop of San Antonio. Phillips is hoping that at some future date, the problem with the Ordinariate can be resolved, and OLA can go in. That's what he's saying. I don't think the dots are all that difficult to connect here.

    2. Stop your cabal against Mgr. Steenson. who are you so despise and hate so much the ordinary?

      + PAX et BONUM

  11. I can't say I've noticed much said about any of the prior Anglican Use parishes and their efforts to become part of the Ordinariate beyond the standard "it is not automatic" response. It's not even clear to me the status of the "parish" of Our Lady of Walsingham even while the church building was named the "principal church". Is it somewhat starting over from scratch, with the new pastor being named by Msgr. Steenson? Are they removing from the parish registry those that would not appear to be eligible for the Ordinariate? Will the deacons remain with an Ordinariate parish, or being incardinated by the diocese be given new assignments? Will its various parish organizations such as the Institute of Catholic Culture be allowed to continue, or be dropped as proper oversight cannot be provided?

    Other than an early announcement by Bishop Vann how he would grant permission for St. Mary the Virgin to enter the Ordinariate, little has been said since. Will the existing clergy retire first before it can enter to be replaced by brand new clergy to be ordained before long? Will they as will clean up their parish registry to remove persons that the Ordinariate does not feel qualify for membership? Will an independent audit be required first to be sure that there is a clean transition?

    1. Ah, Americans and legality, procedures and all… You guys just love trials, audits and all those stuffs!

      + PAX et BONUM

      1. Be sure to include Msgr. Steenson in the "guys" group. One of the reasons he had given for rejecting St. Mary of the Angels in Los Angeles had to do with them not having done an independent audit, which is why I threw it in.

        1. He didn't reject SMA. We hope that when all those procedures are completed, the parish will be able to join the ordinariate.

          + PAX et BONUM

  12. If every parish seeking entry into the Ordinariate is allowed in, the result will be nearly twice as many Ordinariate parishes as FSSP apostolates in North America.

    The writing is on the wall, and the bishops can read it. Traditional liturgy in hieratic vernacular means the swift death of the Novus Ordo, and I've thought since 2003 and Cardinal Ratzinger's letter to the Dallas conservatives that's precisely what the Holy Father intends.

  13. The FSSP web site says "The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter is now active in 32 diocese in the United States and 6 in Canada. This page will help you locate mass times in your area." The US Ordinariate web site, last time I checked, listed 20 groups and parishes intending to enter the Ordinariate. However, as far as I can see, fewer than half of the 20 are actual parishes; the others are "groups" of a few dozen or fewer who will be lucky to have some sort of liturgy between masses in donated space at Roman Catholic parishes. The 20 that I saw the last time I visited the Ordinariate site would be at least one fewer with the departure of OLA.

  14. Thanks to everyone for such insightful responses to my question.

    I believe we can all take comfort in the fact that Father Phillips has reaffirmed the spiritual unity of all Anglican Use Catholics in nurturing, preserving and sharing the common patrimony whether they be members of the Pastoral Provision or of the Ordinariate. He, also, still harbors the hope of one day strengthening his parish's ties to the Ordinariate.

    [It is very big-hearted of the Church that she would allow for the co-existance of two jurisdictions for the Anglican Use faithful if that is what meets their present needs.]

    As Father Phillips pointed out we are all still striving alongside one another for the establishment of God's kingdom on earth. Unity in Him is all we really need.

    Cor ad Cor Loquitur,

    1. I rather doubt that this dual jurisdiction is what Pope Benedict had in mind, though I take it he could have made things clearer if he chose to.

      So the Pastoral Provision office has remained open with their new express purpose being to receive priests who have no interest in preserving Anglican Patrimony but just want to be diocesan priests (at least in the United States). This somehow related to the Pastoral Provision that was established in order that groups might be received into the Catholic Church that wanted to preserve their common identity. After 30 years in existence, the Pastoral Provision office did not seem to have any more parishes than they began with. They perhaps still want to hang onto the ones they have while only losing OLW to the Ordinariate.

      Some 30 years ago, St. Mary of the Angels seemed set to enter the Church under the Pastoral Provision. Msgr. William Stetson, the person most responsible for the Pastoral Provision for years, is made the delegate to Msgr. Steenson to assist them into the Church under the Personal Ordinariate. So far, that does not seem to be going well.

  15. You guys all missed Fr's first letter sent out to parishoners after the ordinary met with Abp. Gus. It was a lot more clear. It included the ominous "wants an English Novus Ordo said at OLA". Looks like the explanation for all this is very simple. OLA was quietly doing its thing for years, now the eye of Sauron is upon it. Fr. is a saintly man who would obviously give anything for his flock, and that's what he's being made to do.

    1. I know Fr Phillips was excluded from that meeting between Msgr Steenson, and Archbishop Gustavo-Siller, even though he asked to be present.

  16. In fact, that would be the best solution, a cumulative jurisdiction, as military ordinariates or personal prelature have. In fact, Anglicanorum Coetibus did not say that the jurisdiction of the personal ordinariates is exclusive.

  17. Archbishop Gustavo is a good and humble shepherd and is very supportive of OLA. The Ordinariate is just not ready for a parish like OLA. This simply is not the time. Period.

    1. I was under the impression that the Ordinariate would accept OLA, but bring in an Ordinariate Priest to replace Fr Phillips.

      1. The Ordinariate does not seem to have ever made a statement regarding OLA and whether it would be welcome in or not. Cardinals Wuerl and DiNardo made a point to clarify at the Bishops Conference Meeting that the Pastoral Provision Parishes would not be automatically included but were part of their current diocese, despite that you'd think they already knew that OLW was to be the Mother Church and that Bishop Vann (who was part of the organizing group) would wind up saying that St Mary the Virgin would have his permission (eventually some time) to join the Ordinariate. It would seem to me that Cardinal Wuerl, as the head of the committee to get the Ordinariate running, would have spent some time with Archbishop Gustavo to convince him to give his permission for such a move. So you could believe that Cardinal Wuerl had no influence over Archbishop Gustavo (whose predecessor Gomez had already indicated his willingness to give permission) or figure that Cardinal Wuerl was not interested in having OLA or Fr. Phillips involved. Cardinal Wuerl would still seem to be the CDF delegate as well, yet who ever knows his opinion on any of this?

  18. I'll leave it to you to discuss personally with Father Phillips about how our parish is currently viewed by Archbishop Gustavo and the way the Holy Spirit has worked this last week. There are miracles of the heart happening in San Antonio! It's a great moment of grace. Let us all continue to pray for each other as we take this journey together.

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