Got news? Sun misses exit to Rome

The other day, we observed the interesting fact that editors of the Baltimore Sun were not interested in the story of how a priest from here in Charm City — Father F. Richard Spencer, to be precise — ended up being named by the Vatican to serve as the new auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese for U.S. Military Service. His record as a military chaplain under fire is actually rather fascinating.

The installation rites at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., drew zippo in terms of Sun coverage and, ever since, I’ve been checking to see if anything has filtered into the newspaper that lands in my front yard morning after morning. I haven’t seen anything and nothing shows up in their search engine.

I still think that is rather odd. Maybe it would have drawn coverage here if he was a bishop in the giant Evangelical Lutheran Church in America? That’s such a giant, historic flock in Maryland, you know.

Now we have another highly symbolic Baltimore story that is getting ink in religious publications far and wide — but nothing so far in the Sun.

Here’s the lede from a weblog that focuses on covering this kind of story. (You can also check out the report at this link.)

The vestry of Mount Calvary Church (Episcopal), a small but historic Anglo-Catholic parish in Baltimore, has voted unanimously in favor of two resolutions: first, to leave the Episcopal Church and second, to become an Anglican Use parish in the Holy Catholic Church under terms of Anglicanorum Coetibus, the apostolic constitution announced last year by the Vatican that provides for “personal ordinariates for Anglicans entering full communion with the Catholic Church,” while allowing them to retain most elements of Anglican worship using a modified version of the Book of Common Prayer.

The rector of Mount Calvary, the Rev’d Jason Catania, has sent his parishioners a letter … announcing a special meeting on October 24th at which the vestry’s resolutions will be voted upon by the parish. Fr. Catania writes: “The result of these developments is that the Archdiocese of Baltimore now stands ready to welcome Mount Calvary as a body into full communion with the successor of St. Peter, and the process of establishing ordinariates in various countries, including the United States, has begun.”

While certainly a dramatic move, the impact of Mount Calvary’s departure for Rome remains to be seen. The number of Anglo-Catholics in the United States has always been relatively small and after thirty-some years of increasing heterodoxy in the Episcopal Church, many of those not having gone theologically “soft” have already left, most to breakaway Anglican churches, a few to Rome.

I don’t know, maybe the story would have been more interesting if it took place in London, just before or after Pope Benedict XVI’s hostile invasion of the United Kingdom?

As it turns out, there is even a second newsworthy angle to this affair that is raising Anglican eyebrows. Can this be true?

… (The) Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, while saddened by Mount Calvary’s decision, has indicated, happily, its willingness to negotiate an amicable separation that will permit the parish to keep its property. It is also believed there will not be objections from 815 Second Avenue in New York in as much Mount Calvary is leaving for Rome, not another Anglican entity. Let us pray it is so.

Now, as you would imagine, there are other reports out there from commentators that are partial to the point of view of this parish, which is an isolated Anglo-Catholic flock in an overwhelming liberal local diocese. But mainstream coverage? That would be helpful, methinks.

Still, the local Episcopal bishop has certainly acted in a charitable and unusual manner in letting Mount Calvary depart without financial bloodshed. So, when will the news break here in Baltimore?

I will keep watching, but I am not holding my breath.

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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.

  • Jeffrey

    That’s such a giant, historic flock in Maryland, you know.

    I’m sensing you are being facetious.

    Of course, with two of the largest ELCA seminaries on Maryland’s borders and Lutheran settlements dating back to the late 1600s, and with over 180 churches and over 86,000 members in the synod, the ELCA has a rich history in Maryland. Now, it may not be as rich as the Catholic history or as important to your friends as a parish of 75 people, but I think a lot of ELCA types would consider installation of a new bishop to be significant.

  • tmatt

    Actually, I think both stories were worthy of coverage. The ELCA story and the military chaplain story.

    Oh, I know no one at Mount Calvary Episcopal. Never been there. Who are my friends, in your semi-conspiracy reference?

  • Passing By

    Parish stats suggest that there’s a story to be told: 40% decline in attendance over 4 years. That’s a
    higher rate than TEC, which loses about 4-6% attendance annually. The 10 year trend is even more interesting. Parish statistics may or may not have big-picture meaning, but they often point to a very human story that needs telling.

    A good follow-up story would be what happens when they do become Catholic. The one parish I know that made the switch as a community promptly tripled in attendance.

  • Stephen

    Interesting that most urban Roman Catholic dioceses are busy closing churches rather than opening them. The Episcopal Church may be eager to transfer the costs of maintaining the parish’s physical fabric onto the Roman Catholics.

  • Jeffrey

    My “semi-conspiracy” is that you tend to pay a lot of attention to the Episcopal dissidents, where this story has been all the rage. My bigger question was your dismissiveness of the historic place of the ELCA-branch of Lutheranism in Maryland.

    I agree this is a story that the Sun should cover, because it looks like there are multiple stories going on. The crossing of the Tiber is one, but the other is the decline in church attendance and giving after the new leader showed up which suggests this has been a controversial move for the people in the church since people are apparently fleeing both in bodies and dollars.

  • Martha

    “The installation rites at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., drew zippo in terms of Sun coverage”

    Now, if he’d only been a woman priest…

    Cynical? Moi?

  • The Bovina Bloviator

    When the Catholic Church, in the wake of Vatican II, was ditching the Trindentine Mass, Gregorian Chant and polyphony in favor of the newspaper-English of Novus Ordo and mind-numbing insipidity of Marty Haugen and David Haas, most Anglo-Catholic parishes in the Episcopal Church remained loyal to the soaring beauty of Thomas Cranmer’s Prayer Book and the glorious musical heritage of the Anglican Church, of which there is little equal in Christendom.

    As I suggested last week when I broke this story, many Catholics, starved for decent liturgy and music and not finding it in most Catholic churches, even entire dioceses, may well flock to an Anglican Use parish like Mount Calvary when it is received, Deo volente into the Holy Catholic church via Anglicanonorum Coetibus. Mount Calvary, as a Catholic church, may even serve as inspiration for other churches to clean up the egregious messes that pass for Catholic worship in far too many of them; stranger things have happened.

  • Passing By

    #5 – the new rector came in ’06, but the decline had already started. Yes, it accelerated, but were they talking about crossing the Tiber 4 years ago? It’s more likely to be simply a reaction to new leadership, but we really don’t know.

    Which is the journalism point: we don’t know.

    most urban Roman Catholic dioceses are busy closing churches rather than opening them

    Except for Boston, the major archdioceses in the U.S. haven’t lost membership in significant numbers. Most of the closures elsewhere (and even in Boston) were due to shifting population patterns and the priest shortage: Baltimore gained some numbers, Washington D.C. lost some. New York, Philadephia, and even Detroit have all gained numbers, but people move to the suburbs, or in from the suburbs, or new downtown housing springs up. We don’t really know, do we?

    When you get to the southwest, it’s almost all growth, mostly due to the Hispanic influx, but also through conversions other racial groups moving in. All of the inner-city parishes in my town have new churches, education space, or both.

  • Pat

    Most gave up on holding on, hoping to restore sanctity and sanity in the larger church. Most, maybe 95% went to the Roman Catholic church. You can only hold on to the Catholic faith so long when so many of the denomination believe and act so differently. There has been recent young growth. I have been dreaming of this move for 72 years.

  • Passing By

    Pat – are you giving first hand testimony? Are you from this parish or know people who are?

    One of the disadvantages of this website is that I get curious about things and can’t get the info I want. :-)