Dark Ages return in Baltimore?

mass paintingSo did you see that bizarre story about the Roman Catholic priest who got way out of line?

No, no, not that one. Not the priest who has been charged with stalking Conan O’Brien. I have no idea what that’s all about and I’m not sure I want to know (check out the role that La Dolce Vida plays in this story).

No, I’m talking about the story unfolding here in Baltimore, where the brand new Roman Catholic archbishop is sending signals that that there is a new man in town. The Baltimore Sun is treating this like a major scandal and, no surprise, the newspaper seems to be shocked by the archbishop’s actions. Here’s the top of the story:

Baltimore’s new Roman Catholic archbishop removed a priest who was pastor of three South Baltimore parishes for offenses that include officiating at a funeral Mass with an Episcopal priest, which violates canon law.

Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien personally ordered the Rev. Ray Martin, who has led the Catholic Community of South Baltimore for five years, to resign from the three churches and sign a statement yesterday apologizing for “bringing scandal to the church.”

Martin led the funeral Mass on Oct. 15 for Locust Point activist Ann Shirley Doda at Our Lady of Good Counsel with several clergy, including the Rev. Annette Chappell, the pastor of the Episcopal Church of the Redemption in Locust Point, Martin said.

Now, the first sign of what’s happening here is the name of Father Martin’s operation in South Baltimore — the Catholic Community. Everywhere I have covered the religion beat, the most edgy, progressive Catholic congregations have either had “community” or “center” in their names, as opposed to “church” or “parish.” I am not sure why that is, but there you go. Think “Paulist Center” in the Boston area.

The good news is that the Sun story does a pretty good job of letting the reader know why the priest is in trouble, even though lots of people are quoted who are very upset with the archbishop for enforcing Catholic teachings. Here is some background:

Sean Caine, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, said this was one example of repeated administrative and liturgical offenses Martin had committed in more than a year.

“Father Martin’s received advice and counsel on numerous occasions from the archdiocese, and he has repeatedly violated church teaching,” Caine said. His major offense was not complying with hiring and screening policies, but he also allowed dogs in the sanctuary and did not show up for a baptism, Caine said.

Dogs in the sanctuary? Is this a reference to some kind of hip St. Francis rite? However, this is not the key point. Here is the heart of the matter, describing the role of the female Episcopal priest:

Chappell did not participate in the consecration of the Eucharist but read the Gospel at the service, Martin said. Someone at the service reported to the archdiocese that Martin gestured to Chappell to take Communion, though Martin said he did not recall doing so.

Only ordained priests and deacons may read the Gospel at Mass, and non-Catholics may not receive Communion.

“I think that canon laws exist to protect the church from extremism. I don’t find that this is such an extreme situation,” Martin said.

The story does not give us two key details. It would have been appropriate, in this case, to have actually quoted some of the Catholic canon laws that were broken — so everyone is clear that there were, in fact, laws broken.

I also wondered if Chappell was fully vested for the rite, or merely in clerical clothing. I have been present in Episcopal services in which Catholic clergy take part — even very conservative bishops — yet they are careful not to fully vest as concelebrants. They also remain in the congregation or are careful to leave the altar area during the consecration prayers.

wiltI would think that the rules would be even more strict when the tables are turned and there are Episcopalians (from a church with open Communion) taking part in a Mass in a Catholic setting (a church that practices the ancient tradition of closed Communion).

One more key question: Did Chappell, wherever she was in the sanctuary, raise her hand in blessing during that part of the Mass?

So there are key details included in this story, but other details missing. It’s safe to assume that Father Martin’s supporters would consider these details to be picky or even trivial. After all, this is how the story ends:

Joyce Bauerle, a longtime friend of Shirley Doda, said having Chappell at her friend’s funeral service was a beautiful, ecumenical tribute to a woman who battled the status quo.

“What, are we in the Dark Ages again? This is absolutely ridiculous,” Bauerle said.

Victor Doda, who now operates the family funeral home, said he learned of Martin’s fate after conducting a funeral with him. …

“This ruins my mother’s legacy,” he said. “My mother would be turning in her grave to know that a priest was being victimized like this.”

I hope the Sun will follow up with the archbishop’s perspective when he is prepared to explain why he did what he did.

UPDATE: The Sun is back with an update on this story today. Once again, we can see the difference in how this issue is framed between what certainly seems to be the old Catholic guard in this progressive Catholic city and the new frame of reference (that would be Rome’s point of view, we must assume) offered by the new archbishop.

The Sun makes that crystal clear:

… (The) news yesterday that the Rev. Ray Martin, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel, was forced to resign for offenses that included officiating at a funeral Mass with an Episcopal priest, was met with outrage. Community members of all faiths decried Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien’s action and vowed to protest, noting how sharply it seemed to break from the emphasis on religious tolerance by his predecessor, Cardinal William H. Keeler.

Note the use of the word “tolerance” and the equating of civic activities with the actual Sacraments of the Catholic faith. Surely the newspaper knows that this is an apples and oranges situation.

Meanwhile, we have another key detail of the actions by the female Episcopal priest during the Mass.

The Mass, led by Martin, included several clergy, including the Rev. Annette Chappell, pastor of the Episcopal Church of the Redemption, whom Doda’s family asked to participate.

Chappell read the Gospel, which only ordained priests and deacons are allowed to do, and received Communion, which only Catholics may do, said Sean Caine, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Caine said these acts “gave the appearance of concelebration of the Mass, which is a violation of Canon law and is also a cause for confusion.”

The archdiocese received “multiple complaints” about the Mass, Caine said. “We have ministers of other denominations participate in weddings and funerals all the time. … Their presence alone does not constitute a violation of the church. It’s very common that they be present and that they offer words of prayer.”

Correct. Canon law does not forbid participation. It forbids specific actions that require ordination into the sacramental priesthood of the Catholic Church.

Still no word on whether Chappell was vested as a concelebrant or if she remained in the altar area during the consecration prayers. Stay tuned.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Stephen A.

    It’s kind of embarrassing that I, as a non-Catholic, seem to understand that Catholicism carries with it a set of rules, Traditions and structures that, well, make it an organized religion, and yet some self-identified Catholics seem not to.

    In other words, I share in Terry’s incredulity.

    The idea that all religions should be “tolerant” of other religions, to the point of compromising their rituals, is a rather novel concept. I’m perplexed (though not surprised) that reporters don’t understand that, or choose to slant stories to fit the tenor and mood of the reading public.

  • Lisa Messenger

    Hello. I am a parishioner at Holy Cross, one of the three churches that make up the Catholic Community of South Baltimore. Fr Ray has been our pastor for 5 years, and he is an excellent priest. I’m not saying he didn’t break Canon Law; I’m saying that he isn’t a bad priest. He held us together after the Archdiocese removed FR Tom Malia from us a little over 5 years ago. He went from being the pastor of one church to three with little complaint. His actions weren’t malicious; he just had compassion on a grieving family. Archbishop O’Brien spoke at a Theology on Tap at Ropewalk Tavern in Federal Hill the night before he asked FR Ray to resign. He spoke of community action at the grassroots level, how the Church was not just about law but was also about love, and he said he was willing to listen to our ideas. His actions do not match the words he spoke, and how are we to trust him? Twice in recent years the Archdiocese has taken a beloved priest from us. If they think we are going to set down and take this without a fight, they should remember that we didn’t last time and now the have the parishioners of three churches instead of two to contend with. WE want our priest back. The Church has an obligation to be loving and forgiving just like Jesus Christ; we just want actions that match the words.

  • Grandmother

    For crying out loud.. No manner of dressing, would allow a woman “priest” to participate in a RC funeral. He might have gotten away with it, had the “episcopalian” been a male, but this was more “in your face”, then just a mis-judgement on the rules..

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  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt


    “He spoke of community action at the grassroots level, how the Church was not just about law but was also about love, and he said he was willing to listen to our ideas.”

    OK, please explain how the archbishop’s enforcement of Catholic law contradicts the statement above. You are saying that the enforcement of Catholic teachings on the Sacraments is a contradiction?

  • Stephen A.

    I’m not saying he didn’t break Canon Law; I’m saying that he isn’t a bad priest.

    Isn’t violating Canon Law the very definition of being a ‘bad priest’?

    I don’t think anyone has implied that he’s evil or anything, but if the rituals of the Church can be compromised willy-nilly, how on earth can people then claim that to be Catholic is somehow different from being Protestant if these things don’t matter?

  • Stephen A.

    Question: Has the Roman Catholic Church become a democracy, or some kind of Sacrament Factory in which a “union” of members can threaten the hierarchy with some kind of walkout if their “demands” aren’t met?

    Lisa, from your comment above, that’s the impression I get.

  • Jerry

    This case is a classic illustration of the tension between the right of the Catholic church to organize itself itself however it desires against what some members want. The natural result is that some will devide that the rules of the Church should take precedence. Others will find the rules of the Church too restrictive and decide to look for a different form of worship.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    I have yet to read the second story but the thing that bothered me about the first one was the complete failure to explain *why* the Catholics have the relevant laws on the books. That’s what made the story so horribly one-sided, in my view.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Three cheers for the archbishop. Only a Catholic deacon (or in his absence the celebrating priest) should be reading the Gospel at a Catholic Mass–and certainly not a Protestant minister. Father Martin’s defenders refer to the constant liberal fall-back “compassion”–even if it is in actuality “anarchy” in the Mass. But as a Catholic deacon I consider it a kick in the head (not exactly compassion) that this Father Martin would import a Protestant minister instead of a Catholic deacon to read the Gospel and assist at the altar.

  • http://crosslandfoundation.org Lee Podles

    Although Martin’s actiosn were irreular, and the Archbishop should have called him in for fraternal correction,it seems extreme to remove him from his parish.
    There may have been more to the story. Did he have a problem that affected his judgment?

    Far worse abuses, such as Holloween masses and gay masses, are tolerated by other bishops.

    Also, Catholics have learned that disobeying liturgical laws and presenting Rome with a fait accompli (e.g., altar girls)forces Rome to change Church rules.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt


    It appears that this was the latest of several confrontations over a number of issues, some liturgical and some otherwise.

    It appears that Martin’s actions were somewhat normal under the old regime?

  • http://rub-a-dub.blogspot.com Mattk

    Lee, I’m not a Catholic and my knowledge of your church is extremely limited. But you said saomething that seemd to disagree with the little I thought I knew. You used the phrase “fraternal correction”. I would have thought paternal correction, since the ministry of the bishop is the source of the ministry of the priest. Do I missunderstand the nature of the Catholic hierarchy?

  • Robert Kosak

    The Catholic Church, like any organization has RULES. Membership is volentary. If a “Catholic and esp. a priest” don’t like the rules (canon Law) and they have any intregrity, they can leave and join another Church which meets their fancy. To stay a member and be consciously in disobedience, subvert the rules, is dishonest and unacceptable. The psudo media and other denominations should mind their own business and not tell the Catholic Church how to manage their church. This priest was NOT a good priest. Their are too many priests like him today who want to make our Holy Sacrements into their play things. He got what he deserved. JMJ Robert

  • http://none Henry D.

    All established organizations have rules,be it schools industries, governments,clubs,and yes religions. Without
    rules these organizations will flounder and run into chaos
    confusion,dissension,disunity,disruptive and ultimitly
    anarchy in which the organization will fall apart and cease
    to exist and it’s members scattered and demoralized. Show me
    A successful organization and I will show you one that has
    strict rules of conduct.

  • Michele

    The unfortunate thing is that the pitiful lack of sound Catholic doctrinal teachings has been absent in the Archdiocese of Baltimore for many, many years. The previous regime was wrong in being “tolerant” of the sins of disobedience and I’m sure he will pay a price for his sins of omission on judgment day. This “tolerance” has caused nothing but confusion in the uncatechised. Archbishop O’Brien did exactly what he was supposed to do but the people have been steeped in error for so long, they don’t recognize and appreciate the new, great leadership we now have in Baltimore.

  • Jacqueline

    The sad reality here is that the focus here should be God and His Son. What would God say? What would God do?

    This is a ridiculous, ridiculous, ridiclous thing.

    All of these Canon laws and all of these other rituals are all made up laws and rituals. These were not rules and guidelines given to us from God, but they derived from the development of the Cathoplic religion.

    As a child, I was baptized, had my first communion, and was confirmed at St. Mary Star of the Sea, one of the three churches in this community. It saddens me to know that this community has lost such a wonderful man, who certainly may have faults. Everyone needs to remember that none of us will ever be perfect and we won’t nearly be half the person that God’s son was.

    Instead of sitting here and going back and forth about what is right and wrong, I turn my thoughts to prayer. God will take this in His hands and will be the one to place judgement on Father Ray. A right that neither you or I have.

    I pray that things turn out the way that they should. I pray for Father Ray and for all of the people who are involved.

  • Michele

    What would Jesus do? In the Sacred Scriptures, Jesus said to Peter, the first leader (Pope) of the Catholic Church…”Whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven”. Jesus gave St. Peter the KEYS to the Kingdom of Heaven when He said, “Upon this rock (Peter) I will build My Church”. The Apostles were the first bishops of the Catholic Church. The Pope is the Vicar of Christ on earth and has authority handed down to him by Christ himself. The Holy See makes the laws of the Church and expects the bishops, priests and faithful to obey them. This is what Archbishop O’Brien did; he defended the teachings of the Church. Sad that some do not recognize this gem we now have in Baltimore.
    God already took this matter in His hands through his faithful servant, our new Archbishop. A grave abuse of the Holy Eucharist takes place when non-Catholics receive the Sacred Body and Blood of Christ. There is no com-union with our beliefs, so it represents a lie to receive by one outside the Church. Without laws there is chaos.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    I am trying to figure out what Father Martin’s defenders are saying here and in the stories.

    Are you saying that Catholicism can exist without episcopal authority?

    Are you saying that Father Martin was guilty as charged, but that these offences should not lead to punishment?

    And, in terms of news, the most interesting question: Are you saying that these kinds of ecumenical rites, this blurring of the lines, was common under the previous shepherd?

  • Dan

    … I might even half way sympathize with those who think the discipline was too harsh were it not for the fact that liturgical abuse runs rampant and unchecked throughout the Catholic Church in the United States and this is the case in large part because bishops do nothing about it. It is about time someone, somewhere did something. Also, this case involved no accidental breach of canon law. I have no training in canon law but even I know that only a priest or a deacon is supposed to do the Gospel reading. Father Martin deliberately flouted this well known and important liturgical rule. If he doesn’t know how to celebrate Mass correctly, he shouldn’t be celebrating it.

  • Michele

    Let’s address the issue of scandal. To the uncatechised these disobedient acts of Fr. Martin do not represent scandal. They don’t see it as such because they don’t know what the Church teaches. The doctrines of the Catholic Church are for the benefit and good of all Catholics. But to faithful, committed Catholics who are knowledgable about what the Catholic Church teaches and why it teaches what it does, it is a scandal and causes pain to us who see such disregard for our holy Catholic Church. As for Fr. Martin’s “punishment”, a retreat to the beautiful Monastery in Latrobe, PA. would seem like heaven.

  • Mike

    As egregious as the violation of Canon Law in Liturgical Sacramental Celebrations is, one particular offense of this nature would not, and did not constitute the sole reason for the forced resignation. If it had just been one act, it would have most likely been private discipline and an admonition not to do it again. Unfortunately, from the Archdiosecan perspective, this was just the “straw that broke the camels back.” Other violations that have been mentioned included Fr. Martin having his personal dog in the santuary during lituries and perhaps the most serious, not following Archdiosecan practice for hiring and recruitment of employees. Apparently, there is a possibility that a person with an criminal record was on the staff of the parish, possibly in a position where there would be contact with children. While some have argued that the Church needs to be forgiving and loving with people who have made mistakes, in the current climate it is unacceptable to have this occur. The same people that are angry for the Church for this particular part of the issue are the ones who would be the first to condemn it if something happened to a child in the parish. The Church is not a democracy and it has rubrics and laws that have a depth of meaning behind them. To deny the importance of these laws is to show a lack of understanding of the profound solemnity required in celebrating the sacred rites of the Church and the reverence and level of belief required for participation in these rituals and the handling of sacred elements.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    Father Z’s blog (www.wdtprs.com) gives more of the Sun story, where the deceased’s son is quoted as saying that “Martin agreed to have Chappell involved and that such ecumenical activity wasn’t unusual at the church.

    “In our neighborhood, when you go to church dinner or a church function on a social level, people from all churches are involved,” he said. “That’s the kind of relationship the churches have. It’s very, very close.”

    They Just Don’t Get It. Here is someone whose idea of “ecumenical activity” does not see any difference, or pretends not to see any difference, between getting together at social events and taking part in another church’s sacramental ministry.

    Opus Dei commandos, advance with Point-of-View-Guns at the ready!

    If you do not see any problem here, ask yourself how likely it is that a syngagogue would invited a Catholic priest to act as cantor. [Bracing for shrieks of "That's DIFFERENT!" and accusations of "anti-semitism".]

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    P.S. Is there some canon or rubric against the simple *presence* of animals in church? If so, what about the mice? And is thy servant a dog?

  • http://aconservativeblogforpeace.pageshow.net/ The young fogey

    “We have ministers of other denominations participate in weddings and funerals all the time. . . . Their presence alone does not constitute a violation of the church. It’s very common that they be present and that they offer words of prayer.”

    Correct. Canon law does not forbid participation. It forbids specific actions that require ordination into the sacramental priesthood of the Catholic Church.

    Very sensible.

  • http://crosslandfoundation.org Lee Podles

    What troubles me about this case is that there are infinitely worse things going on in he Baltimore archdiocese. For decades pro-abortion politicians have traded on their Catholic identity and have been honored by Catholic institutions. O’Brien seems to be trying to get a reputation as a strict disciplinarian by stomping on an unimportant priest, while Barbara Mikulski is a leading Catholic in the Senate and the recipient of the highest Catholic award in Maryland. We have been warned about straining out gnats and swallowing camels.

  • Maureen

    “Sanctuary” in this case does not mean the nave of a church, as in a Protestant church. It means the altar area, which is particularly sacred.

    I’ve even heard that the original reason for altar rails extending to the ground (beyond being a smaller and more porous version of the rood screen/iconostasis) was to keep wandering animals out of the sanctuary. In the olden days, when no non-clergy person was allowed to set foot in the sanctuary, this was an obvious concern. But it still should be; humans with no business in the sanctuary aren’t supposed to wander up there, and animals should never have any business there. (Except maybe a service dog, and that would probably require a dispensation from the bishop or something.)

    If an animal is in the sanctuary, it might easily steal or knock over the Body and Blood of Our Lord, or have an accident of some kind. And that sacrilege wouldn’t be the animal’s fault; all blame would belong to careless humans.

    (Which is not to say that you should be letting non-service animals into the nave, either. But that would just be A Bad Idea, not openly sacrilegious or against canon law.)

  • Maureen

    Just so you know it’s not all about insulting dogs. (I love my dog, but she isn’t going to church!)

    One piece of liturgical equipment that’s mostly obsolete in the Latin Rite, but is alive and well in certain Eastern rites, is the flabellum, held by the servers or deacons and intended primarily to swish away flies before they can get into the Body and Blood. (It also has the symbolic meaning in some rites of representing the descent of the Holy Spirit, or the attendant cherubim.)


    The Riha flabellum

    A German peacock feather flabellum

  • Michele

    Archbishop O’Brien has only been installed as head of the Archdiocese for little over a month. I have a feeling that his future agenda may include doing something about the Maryland “Catholic” pro-abort pols. Besides pro-abort Sen. Babes Mikulski, we have pro-abort Gov. O’Malley, and Lt. Gov. Brown who also are “Catholic”. Yes, abuses of every kind abound here in Maryland because for so long the abuses went unchecked and were permitted. Many liberal Catholics here have grown complacent about this, unfortunately.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    If they mean “chancel”, why in vastation don’t they say so?
    And did everyone who “took sanctuary” in the old days crowd onto the footpace?

  • str1977

    I agree with the posting that it would be good to know the details about the Anglican minister’s involvement.

    Sure, her reading the Gospel is against the rubrics and not right BUT in itself not a reason for such action.

    The same goes for giving communuon to her. This is worse than the reading issue (though “closed communion” is not a proper description of the Catholic regulations and not an ancient practice) but all in all no different from the priest giving communion to others (Catholics included) not meeting the requirements.

    If she however was allowed somehow appeared as concelebrating, the bishop’s reaction is more than proper.

    In any case, since this appears to be only the final straw, the disciplinary action was right in any case.

    PS. Dogs have no place in the sanctuary, not even “service dogs” – there is no reason for them to be there.

  • http://www.reenchantment.net Ken Larson

    I do not know of Baltimore’s new Archbishop but if he’s orthodox and a good Catholic, he may be taking his stance with the priest because of the “inclusion” of the Episcopal priestess. And that would be because it was upsetting to him that his guy was participating in a service with a heretic. That’s harsh language but readers of this page need to be aware of the nature of the The Episcopal Church of the United States, its lawsuits and threats to clergy and congregations just because they put the Lordship of Jesus Christ ahead of global warming. It may not be Christian to suggest it, but Fr. Martin has been chastised for the company he keeps.