Is the Grass Greener?

Episcopalian bishop, formerly Roman Catholic, after having been Episcopalian bishop, having grown up Roman Catholic, returns to Episcopal Church.

With great respect for each person’s particular path, I sometimes thought during my time at Yale Div School that my path was rather dull compared to others. I was still on my first and only church tradition. Most seemed to have at least two or three under their belt already.



  1. Albany (Episcopal) Diocese has long been home to many closeted gay clergy. It is sad that the inability to deal with this issue honestly has caused so much pain for so many–lay and cleric.

  2. One might, perhaps, be forgiven for wondering how a faith journey can be like a tennis match….

      1. True enough, I suppose, but we could while away a few hours contemplating the substance of the net, and just what it’s dividing between Roman Catholics and our Anglican friends. If we were feeling particularly philosophical, of course. Just while we wait for the rain to end….

  3. In a world in which we can easily have a succession of marital affiliations, professional affiliations, it really shouldn’t be surprising to have a succession of religious affiliations. Perhaps we are surprised because we think religion should have more to do with God than with people.
    We also tend to over attribute behavior to personal characteristics rather than to social situations, e.g. if a person is successful again and again we are not likely to say they were just lucky, or if unsuccessful that they faced a series of difficult problems.
    We are likely to change from religion A to religion B if we acquire more friends in religion B, so if a person has a history in two affiliations, they may be particularly vulnerable to changing back and forth as the balance of their personal relationships changes.

  4. In fairness to the many Protestant denominations for which a change of membership does not mean so much, let me put a word in for those who change their affiliation while figuring out their adult commitments and their path to ministry. I know quite a few who change and stayed put, but even if they changed again it would not have been so drastic, because of the mindset of their communities. People join a new church when they move to a new town. I’ve known people to be baptized 3 times, whenever they had a renewal of faith! It’s just a different approach. They are very sincere in their commitment to Christ, it’s the organizational stuff that’s not so big for them.

    On the other hand, the phenomenon of Episcopalian clergy joining the Catholic Church as a protest vote or dramatic gesture has to be watched carefully, lest it lead to this kind of shilly-shallying. I note that the Rev. Pope was received into a Catholic parish consisting of Anglicans, by an Anglican priest. Would…

  5. this really allow him to see clearly EVERYTHING he was opting into? I am all for ecumenism, and not placing undue obstacles before people who wish to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, but there is such a thing as prudence. The National Statutes for the RCIA call for “a degree of probation” for candidates even when they are catechized. It’s not wise to waive this, imho, even for a bishop.

    1. Rita, I couldn’t agree more. There is a mindset that just because someone is a good practicing Episcopalian, Methodist or whatever and they seem to take interest in the Catholic Church that all we need to do is meet with them a few times and receive them. But if they have a love/hate relationship with their denomination, maybe they need to breath Catholic air a bit longer maybe as long as those who come to us unchurched or unbaptized. We combine our RCIA with candidates and catechumens and both learn from each other. We make sure to acknowledge the Christian formation of those already baptized, but they need to inhale Catholic air and our ecclessiology and our cultural difference. Catholicism in the Latin Rite is more caught than taught. Now obviously if someone already baptized has been attending the Catholic Church for a lengthy period of time, then you can do things more quickly. But a priest or bishop or lay person coming over without that period of time for prior reflection and prayer does not seem wise to me.

    2. I also agree. I tell people who have been active in another church and are interested in becoming Catholic that they had better make sure that what they are experiencing is a positive impulse toward Catholicism and not simply an impulse away from whatever it is they are leaving.

      1. They should be able in good conscience be able to state not only the Creed but everything else the Church holds. For example, form the oath taken by those to be ordained and anyone holding an office in the Church:

        With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in the Word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church, either by a solemn judgement or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed.

        I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.

        Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.

      2. Fr. Costigan, I appreciate your enthusiasm for loyalty, but I have to make a clarification here. The clergy loyalty oath is not only inappropriate for full communion, you’re not allowed to do it. It’s not your choice to make.

        The official norms for receiving people into full communion are in the RCIA, chapters 4 and 5 of part II. This is not part of them. The National Statutes for the Dioceses of the United States apply if you are in the U.S. This is not in them. Canon law governs reception. It does not approve of this.

        The statement to be said upon reception was DELIBERATELY crafted to not require any more than strictly necessary (see RCIA 473 cf. UR 18 and Acts 15:28).

        I’ve run into an occasional pastor who wants them to sign oaths and things. No soap. Forget it. Out of court. Not for full communion.

      3. Rita, I don’t have a copy at hand (although, Todd is going through the text on his blog…), but does it explain specifically what “simply a profession of faith” (RCIA 479) entails? There are Christians who say the same “profession of faith” (i.e. Apostles’ or Nicene Creed) in their liturgies as Catholics do, so simply saying that creed again in a Catholic church doesn’t appear to me to be adequate that the person holds the Catholic faith.

        Would the Apostles’/Nicene Creed followed by the “act of faith” (“… I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches …”) be overly burdensome?

      4. I’m afraid that if the Oath of Fidelity were to be put in front of an Anglican seeking full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, that person would run screaming.

        Catholic moral thought upholds the primacy of the conscience: although the conscience can and must be formed, it is ultimately inviolable. Anglicans are formed to hold the same belief, but we’re also formed to hold to the primacy of the intellect — again, can and must be formed, but also inviolable. “Religious submission of intellect” would raise hackles to no end for most people coming out of a tradition that understands doctrine to have Scripture, Tradition and Reason (and NOT Magisterium) as its sources.

    3. Those received into the full communion of the Church make the following profession of Faith from the RCIA ritual which occurs after the renewal of baptismal promises:
      “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims, to be revealed by God.”
      Now that’s pretty all encompassing and needs to be clearly taught to Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians and other Christians long before they are actually received into the full communion of the Church. I suspect many don’t realize that they have to make this additional Profession of Faith until the rehearsal of the Liturgy or God forbid at the actual liturgy.

      1. Hi, Fr. MacDonald.
        Agreed, except you have to delete that last comma from your rendition of the profession of Catholic faith. It’s not in there. Check your text (RCIA 491).

        Here is the point. There are people who think that the profession means we are saying that everything the Catholic Church teaches is revealed by God. Not so. We are saying one professes faith in that which is revealed by God, as taught by the Catholic Church.

        I know that’s what you meant. 🙂

      2. Rita I agree with you, but the English punctuation seems a bit awkward to say publicly, in fact I usually break it into smaller word groupings and have them repeat after me–maybe a Latin linguist can tell us how it really should be translated into English with the correct punctuation.

  6. Jeffrey Pinyan, yes, there is a profession of Catholic faith following the recitation of the creed. It is this: “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God.”

    A lot of discussion and consultation went into producing this formula. It’s very precise. There is also no abjuration of heresy or schism. These were conscious decisions.

  7. I wasn’t suggesting using that oath. My point was that it should be made clear that coming into the Catholic Church entails much more than “I like the liturgy” and “the RCIA people are so nice.” There are tough teachings that have to be learned AND accepted before one can truthfully make a commitment. You must sign on to the whole package, not just those parts one likes.

    1. But Fr. Costigan it sounds like you pretty much want the effect of an oath, though canonically the oath can’t be imposed. Can you demand more of converts by way of doctrinal submission than we now demand of those in the pews?
      I think one needs to introduce folks to the Church as it is, warts and all, and not to one’s personal version of Catholicism. They might as well know both what the magisterium teaches (presented accurately and sympathetically) and what the Catholics they will be commuing with actually believe (about birth control, women’s ordination, etc). This will best prepare them for the adventure of faithful discipleship in this messy (and holy) Church.

      1. Good catechesis today will indeed indicate the diversity of opinions in the pew which are indeed diverse. I have a session on Holy Orders and why the Catholic and Orthodox understanding of this Sacrament precludes women’s ordination and why it isn’t precluded in Protestant denominations which do not recognize Holy Orders as a sacrament, or if they do have so adjusted it to allow it to be gender neutral just as they have allowed gender neutral terms for God, church and parent. The same with artificial birth control–I try to show the logic in the teaching recognizing the difficulty in implementing it in one’s life and that the Church isn’t the Gestapo enforcing a strict morality, but a teacher, like a Mother, leading people to use their free-will and choices in light of the Church’s moral teachings. But I cover all that people believe, whether in ignorance, from a perspective of dissent or simply being individualistic in terms of piety, morality or faith. But I always teach them the truth in terms of the “Deposit of Faith” and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Where there is no wiggle room I let them know and that if they think things will change to soothe their conscience, they’ll be sadly disappointed.

      2. How can someone honestly make a profession of faith and be received into a church if they come in thinking that we will eventually ordain women, birth control is fine, we don’t need priests and bishops, Sunday Mass is optional… They are just setting themselves up for disappointment and agony. It is bvery similar to those who went into the seminary and were ordained in the 60s and 70s thinking that they would just have to “suffer through a few years of celibacy” and the Church would change in a few years and they would be able to get married. In many of those cases it wasn’t the fault of the candidates but those teaching them who told them “don’t worry, everything will change.” I would not want to be responsible for someone coming to me years from now and saying that they were told the Church would change on various topics and that they based their conversion not on the faith but on their idea of what the faith may perhaps be in the future.

    2. How can someone honestly make a profession of faith and be received into a church if they come in thinking that we will eventually ordain women, … They can do it precisely because they are joining an ecclesial family where a significant proportion of existing members also think these things.

      The major problem I have with the Oath of Allegiance-type of Profession of Faith is that it makes absolutely no allowance for the journey in faith, for the fact that we all change and grow in our faith through life. That’s why statements like “it’s the whole package or nothing at all” are both untenable and pastorally indefensible.

      I defy anyone to find a church full of Catholics who can even understand absolutely everything that the Church professes and teaches. But we are immersed in these things, and as we mature we gradually improve in our understanding and in our faith. We go in deeper.

      Christopher, you should not be a gatekeeper but a gateway, IMHO.

      1. Further to that point, the Oath of Allegiance approach is more about the catechist/pastor having something to check off as something he has done than something substantive about the candidate’s pilgrimage of faith. It’s not so much about the candidate as a kind of best practices & procedures corporate-think (which is not bad in and of itself, but must always be subordinated to the more fundamental dimension), something that time and again has tended to take over our liturgical and sacramental life as Catholics.

        This dynamic parallels the ever-present tendency to reduce discipleship to moralism (a tendency very much as present on the progressive camp as any other camp, lest anyone mistake my meaning), instead of theosis.

  8. Amen to what Paul just said… hopefully people join a Church in which they live in hope of what it may become, not just the static status quo. We are a pilgrim Church.. many things that were not possible before Vatican II for example, are now the norm.

    We need such people to grace our Church – while we profess our faith, it is not a “loyalty oath” – but a belief in a Church centered in Jesus, on the journey. Paschal Mystery demands it.

    1. David, if I were inquiring into the Catholic faith and Church, I would be a bit befuddled by the language you use. Certainly I would want to know about God’s personal relationship with His people through the Church and how I could enter into a personal relationship with God. I would like to know if there are any “unchanging truths” as the world turns and changes and my life turns and changes. Certainly I would like to grow in the truth and love of God, but if I don’t know the unchanging truth and love of God how can I grow in the Paschal Mystery? We’re all on a journey, hopefully to heaven and it seems to me if we really understand the truth and love of God and experience it in people, Word, Sacrament and life then the Church is centered on Jesus, not change, cult of personality or vapid opinions and ideologies.

  9. Like a number of those commenting here, I think it is no accident that the church asks one level of doctrinal assent from her pastors (i.e. the oath of fidelity) and another level of doctrinal assent from those being receive into the Church (the profession of faith). And this seems to me entirely appropriate. It seems to me that one can think of the Church as being defined primarily by clear borders, in which case one would want everyone within her borders to give the same level of assent to her teachings, or one might think of the Church as defined by a clear doctrinal center with fairly fuzzy boarders, in which case it is important for the leaders to have a high level of doctrinal assent, whereas one can be more laissez-faire about the average person in the pew. It seems to me that, historically, the latter has been more characteristic of Catholicism and the former has been characteristic of more sectarian forms of Christianity.

    1. F C Bauerschmidt, “it seems to me” too that you are correct. We don’t test our candidates who are received into the Church but we pray that they are honest with themselves and us and if they have major difficulties with points of revealed doctrine and dogma that they should discuss this and if insurmountable, not continue with initiation into the Church. Doctrine and dogma is pretty clear cut, something either is or it isn’t. In terms of morality where there is plenty of gray area, we can be a bit more flexible, but if someone is raging pro-choice, belongs to the KKK and runs a brothel, we might need to define the parameters of morality a bit more exclusively in terms of Catholic identity.

  10. The World Values Study,, surveys in 97 societies containing almost 90 percent of the world’s population, in five waves from 1981 to 2007 have documented the value changes accompaning transition from agrarian to industrial to postindustrial societies. Religiously, industrial societies are characterized by rational authority where denominations compete with one another and secular values. Postindustrial societies are characterized by freedom, the pursuit of happiness, and self expressive values. Christianity becomes the pursuit of spirituality and the particular saint one is meant to be. Catholicism has the great advantage in the postindustrial world since it has the greatest diversity of saints and spiritualities. Some Catholics continue to fight the fights of the industrial age, e.g. against secularism, and press for strong identity markers such as Latin, loyaly oaths, etc. Originally from Pittsburgh area, I am so glad we left the industrial age.

  11. Herzog had been very dissatisfied with the way the TEC was heading doctrinally. But to now accept a promulgation from a woman presiding bishop….wow!
    The Anglican diocese of Albany is orthodox; that is a stark contrast to the Catholic one of that area. An Anglo-Catholic priest I know working in the area just before Herzog arrived told me he could not cross the Tiber because the RCC in USA, including its hierarchy, has mostly lost the Faith of the Fathers. So often when invited to Catholic homes, he would have to correct his hosts on their Catholic doctrine and even defend the pope, JPII!
    Interestigly, the hierachy of TAC has signed the Catechism wishing to cross the Tiber. I wonder how many Catholics in USA would be prepared to do that? That is perhaps a consequence of having Catholic children draw nice pictures of JMJ instead of learning the Baltimore Catechism. satan and its cohorts are waging an intellectual war on faith, not a war on drawing pictures.

  12. “So often when invited to Catholic homes, he would have to correct his hosts on their Catholic doctrine and even defend the pope, JPII!”

    Sounds like a fun guy at parties. He probably wasn’t invited back. And rightfully so. What a censorious attitude!

    1. But admonishing the erroneous with a strong sense of pride or self-righteousness is not virtuous, either.

      1. What I fear with Anglicans who come over to Rome is that they still have their “reformation” mentality–that is, if the “Church” veers from their theology of what the Church should be, then they leave it and form something else. For many Catholics, they’ll do what the Magisterium teaches. I know that if Pope Benedict said tomorrow in an “infallible bull” that women can be ordained, then I would follow that in obedience and not go into some schismatic group opposing it. The converse is true, since it has been stated clearly that no pope has the authority to change this, then I accept that. I don’t think those of a “protestant” outlook see it this way.

      2. And how do you know that the “Anglo-Catholic priest” Ted spoke of had “a strong sense of pride or self-righteousness” when defending Catholic doctrine and Pope John Paul II?

      3. Fr. McDonald, maybe I’m misunderstanding your post, since the last sentence counters the previous one, but if Pope Benedict were to do what you mentioned, I would not be able to obey in good conscience. There is too much Magisterial evidence against such a decision (and recently, too).

  13. if Pope Benedict said tomorrow in an “infallible bull” that women can be ordained, then I would follow that in obedience and not go into some schismatic group opposing it

    if Pope Benedict were to do what you mentioned, I would not be able to obey in good conscience. There is too much Magisterial evidence against such a decision (and recently, too)

    It sounds to me as if Allan can cope with change and development in the Church’s thinking on issues, while Jeffrey can’t. And that pretty much sums up many of the disagreements that have been evidenced on this blog.

    The difficulty I have is when it’s not so much a question of change and development as of retrogression. I don’t believe that an organic, living body like the Church can stand still, let alone go backwards.

    1. Could you clarify what you mean by “retrogression” and “go[ing] backwards”? The ressourcement / ad fontes movement could be considered a “going backwards”, rewinding the Church’s liturgy to before all these unworthy accretions were piled onto it.

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