Pope Paul VI to the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Michael Ramsey

"(B)y entering into our house, you are entering your own house, we are happy to open our door and heart to you." - Pope Paul VI to Dr Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Patrons of the Anglican Ordinariates

On the Anglo Catholic blog, there is an interesting discussion on who should be the patron of the Anglican Ordinariates. Many have expressed their choice of Our Lady of Walsingham as a global patron. I believe it is a wise choice. John Henry Cardinal Newman is obviously another choice. We agree.

Ordinariates in different countries when they are eventually set up will probably have their national saints as their patrons. If the Philippines has an Anglican Ordinariate, it is likely that the Patron would be the Holy Virgin under a Filipino title, St Lorenzo Ruiz of Manila and Blessed Pedro Calungsod of the Visayas, both lay catechists also as patrons. This gives the message that the Filipinos are missionaries wherever they go and in doing so bear the cross even unto death. Father Joseph Frary of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines told me that Filipinos overseas have inspired people to pursue religious vocations, even in Mongolia!

I brought out the suggestion there that Father John A Staunton Jr can be a patron and a "Coming Home" witness for ecumenism and catholicity for Filipinos.  Filipinos can propose him for beatification, but like Newman, it may take a century or so or even more.
Our Lady of Walsingham, Our Lady of the Philippines, Blessed John Henry Newman, St Lorenzo of Manila, Blessed Pedro Calungsod, Father John A Staunton Jr, pray for us to God.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

John Staunton, Sagada and an Anglo Catholic journey

Sagada in the Mountain Province, Philippines is the only Anglican/Episcopal town in the Philippines. Today it is a small municipality with 11,000 residents and is a major ecotourism and cultural attraction. It's main attraction are the "hanging coffins" a traditional burial practice of the Igorot people which is no longer done.

The town was a small tribal settlement and in 1884 Spanish Roman Catholic missionaries established a presence there but due to the Philippine Revolution left. In 1904 the Rev John A Staunton Jr (1864-1944) established the first Episcopal mission among the Bontoc Igorots. The Bontocs welcomed the Episcopal missionaries.

Staunton was priest of St Mary the Virgin in New York, a church that  today still is staunchly Anglo-Catholic. The New York Sun reported that it was difficult to differentiate the Mass celebrated there from the Mass said at nearby St Patrick's Roman Catholic Cathedral. Staunton came from a family of Episcopal priests. He did a degree in mining engineering at Columbia University, attended Harvard before attending the General Theological Seminary. In college he was attracted to Anglo Catholicism. He considered himself as a Catholic during his entire career as a priest. Although at first not as a Roman Catholic, but a Catholic nonetheless.

He had a deep reverence for the Catholic liturgy and traditional devotional practices. This he brought when he established the mission in Sagada. The mission church in Sagada was dedicated to St Mary and was from the start an Anglo Catholic foundation.

Staunton the engineer-priest started building the community in tandem with preaching the Gospel. He built a sawmill, kilns, mines, taught the Bontoc to plant vegetables that gave the natives a means of employment. Machinery had to be imported to Sagada from the US, carried piece by piece from Manila to the mountains of the Cordillera. Eleven years later, Sagada was a wonder, a Christian town  of 2000 with industries in a largely non-Christian region.

Staunton was a strong authoritarian personality who required the natives to attend Mass. His wife Eliza, a nurse by profession, balanced  him in this regard and taught the women livelihoods at the time centered on the domestic arts.

The mission was supported by contributions from US Episcopalians largely through the efforts of Bishop Brent and Rev Staunton. However the financial effects of World War I and Great Depression the 1920s resulted in the drying up of donations. Many of the what Staunton wanted for Sagada, like a hydroelectric plant for energy self sufficiency, never came to pass.

Staunton's Anglo Catholicism were not without critics and opponents both from the Episcopal/Anglican and the Roman Catholic side. His reports to Bishop Brent clearly outlined the Anglo Catholic direction of the mission. Brent did not oppose his emphasis perhaps Brent realized that  his policy of "not building an altar over another" was consistent with allowing Anglo Catholic practice to flourish.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Nueva Segovia (Vigan. Ilocos Sur) sent Belgian missionaries to get the Episcopalians out of Sagada. It was a less ecumenical age but still Staunton lived up to the ecumenical ideals we in the 21st century now take for granted and in the end, had good relations with the Roman Catholic priests. When he resigned the Sagada mission, he even suggested to turn over the mission to the Roman Catholics.

Things went head to head when Brent resigned his missionary bishopric in 1918. Temporary Episcopal oversight of the Philippine diocese came under the Anglican Bishop of Shanghai, Bishop Frederick Graves. Graves visited Sagada soon after and was appalled at the Roman Catholic practices  (veneration of the Virgin's icon, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, the Rosary etc) instituted by Staunton. Graves forbade these rites. Staunton then wrote an open letter to the Bishop which remains as  definitive about the problems of living the Catholic faith within Anglicanism. The significance of the letter is that this deals with the problem of living the Catholic faith within Anglicanism and of BEING A MISSIONARY in a non-European land.

Bishop Governeur Mosher took over the Philippine missionary diocese and while he tolerated Staunton's Anglo Catholicism now called the "Sagada Rite", he passed Staunton's funding requests to the American Board of Missions who declined most of his requests. The result was Mosher and Staunton had a falling out. Several letters followed about "pan-Protestant virus" and accusations of "Protestantizing the missions" which even those sympathetic to Anglo Catholicism had to conclude that Staunton's nerves "were highly strung"

Staunton resigned his mission in September 1924 which Mosher accepted. In December of that year the American Board of Missions accepted it. He left the Philippines for the last time on Feb 23, 1925 at the age of 60. He then assumed the curacy of  an Episcopal parish in the USA but never was a successful priest like he was in Sagada. In 1930 came the definitive point in his Anglo-Catholic priesthood. In that year the Lambeth Conference allowed contraception in certain circumstances thus departing from traditional teaching. Staunton was received into the Catholic Church on September 22, 1930.  His wife missed Sagada  and died of illness in 1933. Staunton then entered the Pontifical Beda College in Rome as a seminarian. With failing health and eyesight, he was unable to finish his seminary studies but the Catholic hierarchy in Rome was moved by his circumstances, granted a dispensation and he was finally ordained as a Catholic priest. He celebrated his first Mass as a Roman Catholic. A month later he retired and spent his last years at a nursing home. He was called by his Maker in 1944.

In Staunton's day going to Sagada was difficult often on horseback. In the 21st century, we can get there by airconditioned bus to Baguio (300 km from Manila) and another bus for the  8 hour, 140 km  trip to Sagada. We now have mobile phones and Internet and so Sagada is a tad less  difficult to get to and less isolated than it was when Staunton came there in 1904!  Visitors to Sagada today will note that St Mary's Episcopal Church and St Mary's School remain  as the best monuments to Father Staunton. His career and ministry is a example of the journeys taken by numerous Anglo Catholics who in the end entered their own house as Pope Paul VI would tell the Archbishop of Canterbury. Many Anglo Catholics who completed their journeys in the Catholic Church are not clergy, but a vast majority of them are laypeople. No journey is the same. Mine is not the same as other Anglicans and cannot compare to the most famous one of all,  the one by John Henry Newman, but Staunton's journey remains remarkable indeed. First of all it was a true ecumenical journey. Staunton like Bishop Brent laboured to be on good relations with Roman Catholics and other Protestants. Only those who have visited Sagada, would know what I mean. The landscape, culture and people of this part of the Cordilleras are breathtaking. And at silent reflection and prayer in St Mary's we come home.

While St Mary's is only one of two non- Roman Catholic churches in the list of notable Filipino churches (the other one is the central temple of the Iglesia ni Cristo), no one goes to Sagada as pilgrims but as tourists, more likely as ecotourists. Sagada today faces the problems that befall such picturesque towns. Ms Danilova Molintas, a good friend of mine and debating "opponent" who attended the UP in Diliman and hails from the town has written an essay on the social costs of tourism in her Episcopalian town.

She told me that people go to Sagada to "find something or to run away from something" How true is that in the story of Father John A Staunton, Jr!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Charles Henry Brent, Episcopal Bishop of the Philippines and Witness for Ecumenism

Bishop Charles Henry Brent (1862-1929) was the first Episcopal bishop of the Philippines. Just a few years after American sovereignty was established in the country, he arrived on the same ship with Governor-General William H Taft as a missionary bishop. Thus the Episcopal mission in the Philippines from the start carried the prestige of American rule.

However Brent who prior to his consecration ministered to slums in Boston, was acutely aware of the poverty situation in the Philippines. He noted that Filipinos were not food secure and this was compounded that the majority of Filipinos did not have access to technical education. Brent also was a firm supporter of the University of the Philippines which was established in 1908. He believed the University will be an excellent institution for the nation.

Brent broke from the Protestant approach of dividing the archipelago for their missions in order to convert the Filipinos. He recognized that the Roman Catholic Church (which commanded the religious affiliation of the majority) was a Christian church. Thus he desisted in building "an altar over another". The Episcopal Church thus focused its missionary work on non-Christians and the expatriate community.

For this Brent is remembered as one of the first witnesses of ecumenism. He supported the work of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila and was ready to cooperate with him. He promoted harmony among the Protestant missions.

He declined to be named to any American see until 1918 when he assumed the bishopric of Western New York. He helped organize the World Conference on Faith and Order in Lausanne, Switzerland. This organization later became the World Council of Churches. Also he campaigned against substance abuse and asked the British government to stop the production of opium. In this he was unsuccessful as the British made money from the trade. But he continued to protest until his death on March 27, 1929.

Filipinos today know Brent as the man who gave the name to Brent School. But little do they know that  the good bishop was far ahead of his time in addressing social issues and in his ecumenism. What Brent rallied against are still our problems in the 21st century; poverty, an insensitive elite class, substance abuse, access to quality education and most of all corruption in government. In a New York Times interview published on December 4, 1910 he noted that the Philippine government "was practically free from graft". But that was the government run by Americans like Taft and like heaven according to upcoming politician Manuel Quezon, which later on became first President of the Philippine Commonwealth. These Americans like Brent were progressive.

Brent noted too the hostility showed by the elite class to the Americans and their reforms in government.  But the elite were hostile because the Americans conquered the Philippines.

The Episcopal Church in the United States commemorates Bishop Brent on March 27 while the Episcopal Church in the Philippines commemorates him on August 25.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A piece of Anglican patrimony in the Philippines: The English language

The Philippines is the 3rd largest English speaking nation in the world. English is remains the official language together with the Tagalog-based national language, Filipino. More than half (55.7%)  of the 90 million Filipinos can speak it. A vast majority are functional in its use as a second  language.

Western visitors to these sun kissed tropical isles in Asia would wonder how English became widespread. The answer lies in the American interlude of Philippine history. When the Americans defeated the Filipino republican forces in the Philippine-American war (1899-1902), they took over the country. One of the first important American policies was to establish a universal public education system with English as a medium of instruction. With an acute shortage of teachers, the American insular government brought in 600 teachers called Thomasites who had the task of teaching English, citizenship, the trades and training Filipino teachers. Many of the teachers were progressives and idealists, and not a few were Protestant Episcopalians.

And here is where the Episcopal story enters my family. My grandparents were taught English by Episcopalian Thomasites. They did not come from wealthy means and the American public school represented a way out of poverty. They learned English with the English that even today can identify "Piskies" coming from New England.

My grandparents came from Northern Philippines and this is where the Protestant Episcopal Church had its missionary focus. To this day it has become stereotypical for many Filipinos that people of the Ilocano, Ibanag, Itawes, Cordillera cultures can speak proper English. And not just any English, but the English that the Episcopalian teachers taught. This is so true of Sagada, which is the only Episcopal/Anglican town in the Philippines.

When my father passed away, at the funeral, the Ilocanos expressed their condolences and they did that not in their regional language or the national language but in English. English is part of their regional identity.

This is still apparent today 110 years after the first American teachers landed. In Tuguegarao's Roman Catholic Cathedral (a Spanish colonial foundation), the Mass is often celebrated in English. The homily is in English and the vast majority of Ibanag and Itawes people can understand. In the Basilica of Our Lady of Piat (a major pilgrimage site for Filipinos), the Mass is celebrated in English. The homilies are in English. The songs to the Holy Virgin are in English. But the icon of our Lady of Piat is definitely Asian and northern Filipino and is so unlike the Virgin at Walsingham, England. And yet what is sung in Walsingham is the same sung in Piat!

English was taught not just by reading Shakespeare and the English Lit Canon but by having selections from the King James Version (definitely Anglican) of the Bible, poems by Robert Southwell, the Canterbury Tales, and other medieval and early Renaissance English works which included the Prayer Book. When I was young, we still used Camilo Osias "the Philippine Readers" and these had biblical selections! This were the same books my grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts learned their English with. But the nationalist sentiments of the 1970s did away with these readers. Reading at the books children use today, they have lost much continuity with the past. The bible selections are no longer there as the world became more secular. You cannot now imagine an English lit book for public schools having selections from the Bible! People would crow, what about the Muslims? But they forget that even the American colonial "Philippine Readers" had a selection from the Koran!

If some Filipinos long to hear the Catholic prayers in "Anglican style" maybe this is due to a need to recover continuity. Even the people who love the Latin Mass would be aghast to see the English translation of the Mass in post-modern English. They would have it in "Anglican style"!

And that is why  some eagerly await the new ICEL translation of the Mass!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Anglicanorum Coetibus in the Philippines: some initial reactions on married clergy

Pope Benedict XVI promulgated the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus (AC) last October. The constitution is a significant church document that establishes a new particular church. In this case this church is not bounded by a territorial jurisdiction but is defined by persons having a similar faith tradition. The constitution established a personal ordinariate (equivalent to a territorial diocese) for individual or groups of Anglicans and Anglican churches who wish to join the Roman Catholic Church.

The Pope's constitution puts a premium in preserving Anglican patrimony and its liturgies as long as these do not contradict Catholic doctrine as stated in the Catholic Catechism. The Anglicans in the Catholic Church will be permitted to have their Anglican married clergy on a case to case basis, their bishops can be ordained bishops if unmarried, married Anglican bishops can be priest-ordinaries and can wear their episcopal insignia. The appointment of future bishops will be on the recommendation of the Anglican ordinariate governing council and not just by the Papal nuncio. This according to the norms, respects the synodical tradition in Anglicanism.

The AC as we call it is the subject of many discussion in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Anglicans planning to become Catholic and even secular blogosphere. Surely the Ordinariate scheme is a significant development in Church history but how will it be applied?

The secular press latched on the idea of the Ordinariate becoming the only place in the Roman Catholic Church where married priests are allowed. The Vatican had to clarify that the Church has previously allowed exception to celibacy for convert clergy but even in the Ordinariates it will still be the exception rather than the norm. I don't think a radical revision of the discipline of the Latin Church will be good as of this time. It has to be recalled that the Eastern Catholic Churches allow married priests but THEY ARE THE BIGGEST FANS of the discipline of celibacy.

In the Philippines this is the first initial reaction to the AC as evidenced by this bit of news about the opinions of the Catholic Bishop of Baguio and the Anglican Dean of Baguio on the matter. How workable is having married clergy in the Catholic Church? I find their reactions a bit strange and rather negative. Filipinos don't have a problem with married clergy. I believe that a majority of Filipino Catholics can accept married clergy if they are models for Christian living. Many would say if the Protestant pastor in town can have a family and manage to be holy, why can't the Catholic priest? Also the problem of poor communities having a married pastor is not a big hindrance. Many married Protestant ministers are serving poor communities. And another thing, many congregations are smaller than Catholic ones and are not organized along episcopal lines. Thus it would be more financially difficult  for a congregation to support a pastor than a larger Catholic diocese supporting a priest.

The Filipino Catholic resistance to a married clergy probably is with the clerics themselves. Having a married clergy would require a new way of looking at being clergy. We laypeople have dealt with Protestant ministers and Catholic priests and we don't see any problem at all. There have been faithful married pastors and Catholic priests [more in the majority, Deo gratias!] as well as unfaithful ones.

My opinion here does not mean that I downplay celibacy as an authentic vocation of the priesthood. Celibacy indeed has its gifts and is in perfect accordance to the will of Christ as stated in the Gospels.

It still puzzles me that the Philippine hierarchy has not yet instituted the permanent diaconate in the Philippines as revived by Vatican II. Our social and religious situation makes the role of the permanent deacon  more essential. There is a need for ordained ministers to fulfill tasks of catechesis and works of charity. This is the ministry of deacons.

Roman Catholic permanent deacons can be married and have secular jobs. They too can be unmarried but they will be required to remain celibate but can have a secular jobs. My parish in Louisiana has a married deacon who is a top notch trial lawyer. On many times I have approached him for advice on legal and spiritual matters. Surely many Filipino men can be deacons as they live holy lives and are successful in their professions or trades.

But permanent deacons can be married. And I'm pretty sure if the Philippine bishops institute it, many who will have the vocation will be married. And they will bring their wives and families to their ministries. I believe that the acerbic debate on reproductive health would be less acidic if you have married deacons [and a few convert married priests!] to explain the Catholic side.

But the question is if the hierarchy is able to accept a married clergy. The laypeople can.