Fisking the Piskies

My friend Christian calls the Episcopalians the ‘piskies. I hadn’t heard that one before, but it fits.

Here’s the letter from California Bishop Marc Andrus on the installation today of the new Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco–Abp. Cordileone–a staunch defender of marriage. Knowing the Anglicans pretty well, I thought I’d do a Fr.Z type fisk on the letter:


Dear Ones, ???? Sounds like one of those creepy New Age messages from an alien.

On the Feast of Saint Francis, patron saint of our city by the bay, Salvatore Cordileone notice no title of respect or office–not even ‘Rev’ or ‘Fr’ will be installed as the Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco. The Anglicans always have to call us ‘Roman Catholics’ this is because they think they are Catholic too. They know it’s an insult to us, but they do it anyway, and it’s usually done with a patronizing smile which says, “I know you don’t like me calling you Roman Catholic, but I’m going to make my little point anyway. The announcement of his appointment by Pope Benedict has come with mixed reactions and feelings from San Franciscans of all or no faith tradition.  subtext: We’re hopping mad that the Pope has imposed this conservative guy on us even though we’re not Catholics, you should take notice. Note that when liberals don’t want to listen to Catholic teaching they say, “Why do you force your morality on us?” But when they don’t like something we do they’re suddenly ‘one of us’ and their opinion matters. Bishop Cordileone was an active supporter of Proposition 8, which I and the other Episcopal bishops throughout California opposed. Ah, now we’re getting down to business.

Despite this difference of opinion and support, I look forward to working with Archbishop-designate Cordileone when and how we can, remembering as the Apostle Paul writes that we are one body, united by one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. Then there is also our Lord’s words that there should also be “one flock and one shepherd.” But we’ll overlook that shall we? Christianity has a long tradition of the faithful disagreeing with one another yet working together for common mission for the building of the Reign of God. “Reign of God” is code for “we don’t like that “kingdom of God” business–much to hierarchical and patriarchal. We’ll go ahead and change the God given inspired language chosen by the Lord Jesus Christ himself if we don’t like it. Religion is, after all, a human construct–the product of a certain time period and it needs to adapt to new times and new places and a new–better kind of people–us.

Archbishop-designate Cordileone’s predecessor and I have worked closely and fruitfully on reducing extreme poverty globally through the Millennium Development Goals. At the same time as we did this important work together, we took very different public positions on Proposition 8. We can and must both work together for the world’s good, and it is equally important, as I say in most of my blessings at the conclusion of the Eucharist, that “we make no peace with oppression.” Uh huh. Let’s cast the Catholic Church as an oppressive, tyrannical power. Usually they wheel out the ‘old man in the walled city’ ruling the world thing. The recognition of the dignity and rights, within civil society and the Church of lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgendered people, and of women are as core to our proclamation of the Gospel as our solidarity with the poor, with victims of violence and political oppression, and with the Earth. The whole agenda is there: helping the poor, lesbigay equality and ecology. What about free contraceptives for Sandra Fluke? By conflating the issues you can imply that Catholics actually oppress the poor.

Archbishop-designate Codelione and I share concerns for the treatment of immigrants to this country and reforming the United States’s immigration policies. Working to alleviate global poverty and change systems that disenfranchise all people are the concerns of those who follow our brother Christ, “brother Christ?” I wonder what his views are on the incarnation? Sounds slippery to me, and I wouldn’t be surprised if “Brother Christ” is just about all he grants the Lord. So much for “Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords and Righteous and Merciful Judge at the end of time…and all that stuff. and that work is not limited to the work of bishops.

In working together with the Archdiocese of San Francisco, however, I will not change my course with regard to the full inclusion of all people in the full life of the church. I hope that public disagreements can be handled respectfully and that criticisms of public statements may be met with mutual respect. subtext: We are taking a courageous stand here. We are the brave pioneers who will promote homosexuality without fear and without compromise. Some Catholics may find themselves less at home with Salvatore Cordileone’s installation and they may come to The Episcopal Church. We should welcome them as our sisters and brothers. “Putting ‘sisters’ before ‘brothers’ is always driven by a feminist agenda. Here’s a blatant appeal to steal sheep, and this from the folks who grumbled about the Anglican Ordinariate. and put every obstacle in the way of Anglicans who want to swim the Tiber. Never mind, their numbers are plummeting, and the Catholics who want to head that way probably should.

Even as we welcome those who may join us and look for ways to work with our Roman Catholic siblings in the faith, we will not be silenced in our proclamation of God’s inclusion. “God’s inclusion” has become their clarion call–a kind of artificial gospel. Our ecumenical partnership should be founded in our following Christ and shared service. It is our Christian duty to take stands in public or from our pulpits when others — especially those of our own faith — are in error and trying to suppress the rights of others who, too, have been created in God’s image. A judgement that we are ‘in error’ from one who would bleat that we mustn’t be judgemental. An infallible statement from one who does not believe in the pope’s infallibility.

I hope that we may move forward together in ministry and faith in a way that bears witness to the unity of Christianity without necessitating uniformity. Thank the Lord for that anyway.  I look forward to attending Salvatore Cordileone’s installation as Archbishop of San Francisco and working with him in the future. You shouldn’t fib.

+Marc Handley Andrus
Episcopal Bishop of California


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  • Fr. Christopher G. Phillips

    Apparently when Bp. Marc arrived, they discovered they were one chair short.

  • Collin M Nunis

    Nice one Fr. Dwight. But of course, seeing how far the Episcopal Church has come since the 1970s, nothing that they say will be of any relevance to anyone; religious or not. Besides, the contemporaries of the good Episcopal bishop are dying off anyway, and we are slowly seeing a resurgence of young Christians across all denominations that are committed to biblical teaching. Sure, we as Catholics will have our disagreements with these other Christians, but we share their passion in standing for biblical morality – something the Episcopal Church has long disregarded, neglected, and defied. And this bishop has already reflected on his irrelevance.

    I for one, do not think very highly of +Cordileone as he has some things to answer for, but it has nothing to do with his faith, and his commitment to teaching the faith as a Successor to the Apostles. In a Catholic bishop, that comes first.

  • Ramón Medina

    Well, with your reasoned comments, you made me read his nonsense… I don’t know how you managed! In any case, it was instructive to understands how some people think. Lately I have been trying to simply ignore foolish people, as scripture tells us, since reason is simply not exercised by them. They are happy with their touchy-feely wonderings and facts are simply too bothersome to deal with. Pascal said that our imagination is the enemy of our reason, and I believe that he was onto something… May God bless you, we sorely need priest like you…

  • Christian

    I learned the term ‘piskie from actual ‘piskies. I can’t claim credit.

  • Richard E

    I was discussing this letter in a group format yesterday and today in relation to why catholics are leaving the church. Going to share this link with them, many are not on FB

  • FW Ken

    Actually, Bp. Marc was late, missed the processional and got miffed when they didn’t interrupt the Mass to seat him.

    I learned “‘piskie” when I was one. We also made lots of jokes about “whiskypalians” and “where you find four Episcopalians, you’ll always find a fifth”. I’ve been Catholic for 25 years, but I still have fond memories of funny, friendly, nice people. Sadly, both liberals and conservatives in the Episcopal Church have become increasingly bitter as the center falls apart.

    As to “Roman Catholic”, we use the term freely here:

  • EssEm

    Whether it’s “Reign” or “Kingdom”, he used a verb with it that never once appears with it in the New Testament –please correct me if I’m wrong–and is, by contrast, frequently used by liberal Christians to describe their progressive political activity: “building the Kingdom.”

    IMHO, the Kingdom is not to be “built”, either on this earth or by human hands. Building the Church or building the Church as Temple is one thing. Building the Kingdom is a whole nother. This is rank crypto-Constantinianism in Democrat garb. Whether Catholics or Piskies use the phrase, it irks me.

  • Miriam

    Bishop Andrus arrived late, after the clergy had already entered the Cathedral and all who had not entered were asked to wait before they could enter and be seated. Therefore he was asked to wait to be seated, but apparently left and publicly claimed he had been snubbed, and was no longer there when the ushers returned to seat him. All very sad. He lacks the bearing of a bishop as we have seen over the years since the retirement of his honorable predecessor Bishop Swing.

  • Charles E. Mac Kay

    I live in Scotland. The haven of protestantism. The Episcopalians have always been called Piskies. One of their churches was called The Kirk o’ whistles because it had the only church steam organ then in Scotland. The presbyterians do not like them because they are too near the Catholics. The Catholics don’t like them because they sold out and lost their head. In this case the head was The Holy Father. The Piskies are more to be pitied than anything but always treat them with suspicion.

  • Daria Sockey

    I have a friend –former Episcopal priest, now lay Catholic–who sometimes calls them Pepsi-colians.

  • John

    What a crass statement of “welcome”. I thank God every day that I am a Catholic!

  • Keith Fraser

    “The Anglicans always have to call us ‘Roman Catholics’ this is because they think they are Catholic too. They know it’s an insult to us, but they do it anyway, and it’s usually done with a patronizing smile ”

    My experience (and this comes from being a Lay Clerk that sings regularly in Anglican cathedral and church choirs) is that they actually refer to us as “Romans”, not “Roman Catholics”. I actually have no problems with the latter, but the former is meant as a subtle insult, especially as there’s always a condescending intonation when they say “Roman” (like they’ve just stepping in some dog Roman, or there’s bird Roman on their windscreen that won’t wash off).

    I have had Anglicans say “Ohhhh you’re a ROMAN?” many, many times and I always rebuke them that I don’t wear a toga and herald from the Lazio region, therefore I’m a Roman Catholic, or just plain Catholic is fine with me.

    You really have to understand the subtle, yet prevalent air of superiority of some Anglicans that comes from the xeonophobia of catholicism being seen as a predominantly Irish working class expression of religion that lacks the rigid social structure and reserve of Anglicanism. Their religious outlook stems from their churches being cold, drab, often empty mausoleums and the social certainty where the Church Wardens have their pews, the Squire has his family pew, the members of the PCC have theirs and the lower orders sit near the back. The immigrant religion isn’t their “catholicism” where in the shires Our Lord is an upper middle class country gent, and in the chapters and inner-city parishes an eco-activist lesbian single parent in a wheelchair.

    I feel sorry for the CofE and for ++Rowan’s eventual successor, because if we (Roman) Catholics think the post vatican 2 turmoil is bad, you’ve seen nothing until you’ve experienced the present day Anglican (non)Communion tear itself apart at the seams. At least, I suppose, looking down on us “Romans” gives them a cause to unite behind.

  • Romulus

    In my culture, people who issue public insults to their neighbors don’t subsequently show up at their front doors wanting to party with them. He’s a rather pitiful figure, isn’t he?

  • flyingvic

    Sad, bitter, condescending. And I’m sorry to say that those adjectives apply equally to the original letter and the editorial comments. You disappoint me.

  • FW Ken

    There’s “Roman” and “the Church of Rome”. I always want to now that I’ve never been to Rome, much less been a member of the Church of Rome. I am a member off the Catholic Church of Fort Worth, in Communion with the Church of Rome.

    It should be noted that Eastern Rite Catholics do get testy when called “ROMAN” Catholic. Understandably so.

  • veritas

    Very good commentary by you.
    That “Dear Ones” letter is nauseating, and pretty well sums up everything that is wrong with the Anglican Church.

  • Korou

    Out of interest, I looked up the term “fisking” on Wikipedia, and found this.

    “A point-by-point refutation of a blog entry or (especially) news story. A really stylish fisking is witty, logical, sarcastic and ruthlessly factual; flaming or handwaving is considered poor form.”

    I draw your attention to the last seven words. And, for that matter, the first five as well – it didn’t look like you were refuting him so much as showing the ways he got under your skin.

  • AnneG

    Now the Rt Rev is claiming he was snubbed. He showed up late after the procession had begun. They asked him to wait to be seated, just as you would at a wedding, which Abp Cordileone’s installation is. Instead of waiting he left in a huff, whining that he was dissed. Great example.

  • JG

    There are news reports that Bishop Andrus was deliberately snubbed by the SF Archdiocese. He arrived early and was in the basement with other notables. He was in the process of being taken upstairs with Greek Orthodox clergy (something that should be possible to verify) when he was intercepted and told to wait with a diocesan employee. He finally left after the ceremony began.

    This is disgraceful conduct on the part of some diocesan employee or employees. Why invite someone and then insult him?

  • Glenn Juday

    Confusion and the entropy that accompanies any event that pulls together this many busy people with divergent schedules into a single, tightly scripted and timed event must start out as the default explanation. I am a bit taken aback by the enthusiasm that I see among some to immediately read deep meaning into this unfortunate situation. In fact it seems that such a tendency may have played a role in launching the incident. The Episcopal bishop decided to launch a relationship with a pointed statement of differences with Bishop Cordileone (actually the Catholic Church). It seems reasonable to assume he arrived with at least a residue of that feeling in mind, and it may have contributed to mistaken interpretations of the situation and events he encountered.

    I assume Bishop Andrus was aware that he could not take a place in the sanctuary with the Orthodox bishops or clergy who hold what the Catholic Church teaches are valid orders, while the Catholic Church teaches that his ordination does not have the same valid character. Since this is at the heart of “bishoping” surely he knew this. If there is an implication in his statement that he was “snubbed” because of this fundamental point of Catholic teaching, I am sure that he would want to correct the record. With that clarification and an apology from Bishop Cordileone for the confusion, it should be possible for the Catholic Church and Episcopalians in San Francisco to move forward toward better relations.

  • SteveD

    Mr. Andrus went home and missed the installation. Great! I don’t care why or how it happened, I’m just glad it did.

  • veritas

    Let me get this perfectly clear.

    Firstly Andrus writes a patronizing letter to his people that directly challenges what the new Catholic Archbishop stands for then he gets upset that he is not given some place of honor at the Archbishop’s installation!!!!

    What a thick hide this man has.

  • Al Bergstrazer

    What a disgraceful double talking piece of work this Bishop is, “(S)ome Catholics may find themselves less at home with Salvatore Cordileone’s installation and they may come to The Episcopal Church. We should welcome them as our sisters and brothers.” He first says he’s willing to work with the new Archbishop despite their differences, but then states he’s more than willing to steal some of the Archbishop’s sheep.

  • Steve Brown

    Because he wrote that letter.

  • joe

    The fisking is a bit too Bill O’Reilly. All you really needed was the very last line, which is perfect.

  • Al Avila

    I’m new to your site but love your comments. Knowing a bit about your conversion, it’s great to get your perspective. Truthfully, had I seen and read this, some the bishop’s agenda would have been too obvious to miss, but many comments would have gone unnoticed. It was an eye-opener
    Each Lent my wife and I read the Gargoyle Code and have bought a dozen copies I’m sure and given them to friends and even a copy to our priest. We have ALWAYS respected the way you write to proclaim and defend the true teachings of the Church. Especially how it relates to our culture today. How tempted we all are to make the Gospels “our own” when they are God’s word given to us for His glory and our happiness and salvation.
    God Bless you and your family! Thank you!

  • Fred Garvin

    99.999% of those who refer to Catholics as “Romans” never refer to the Orthodox as “Greeks” or “Moscovites”; it’s some pathetic pre-raphaelite affectation and tons of ludicrous self-importance.