Outrage as Anglican Catholic Priest Removed by Texas Bishop



by Rodney Pelletier  •  •

January 23, 2017

The orthodox priest’s removal is being called “illegal and abusive”

SAN ANTONIO, Texas ( – A Catholic priest in charge of one of the most important Anglican Catholic parishes in the United States is being removed by the archbishop of San Antonio.

Parishioners of Our Lady of the Atonement (OLA) Catholic Church in San Antonio, Texas are claiming Abp. Gustavo García-Siller is removing Fr. Christopher Phillips in order to repurpose the parish, which has a solid reputation for orthodoxy and reverent liturgy.

Siller distributed a letter to parishioners on January 19 stating, “I have asked your pastor … to dedicate some time to reflect on some specific concerns that I have shared with him.”

It continues, “These specific concerns relate to expressions in the life of the parish that indicate an identity separate from, rather than simply unique, among the parishes of the archdiocese.”

He adds, “During this time of reflection and prayer, Fr. Phillips will not have the responsibility of pastoral care or authority in the parish.”

Parishioners are responding in shock and sadness. Charles Wilson, OLA parishioner and chairman of the St. Joseph Foundationcalls Siller’s decision “illegal and abusive.”

“He gives the impression that we are simply in a period of ‘reflection and prayer,'” Wilson commented. “I can tell you with certainty that this is not true. Instead, the archbishop has initiated the canonical process to remove Fr. Phillips as our pastor.”

He concludes, “If he succeeds, you can expect that Our Lady of the Atonement will become a territorial parish with perhaps one Anglican Use liturgy per week. All that we have sacrificed for will be lost.”

An inside source close to the situation told Church Militant, “Many within the OLA are saying this is a land grab. The archbishop has the legal right to keep the property, of course, but for five years now the presumption has been that OLA would eventually become part of the Ordinariate.”

“Promises and assurances were made to OLA about the Ordinariate,” he said. “They were just broken. The archbishop will keep the property and those who want to join the ordinariate can just move on.”

In December 2009, Pope Benedict XVI established a personal ordinariate for former Anglicans, basically giving them their own diocese. The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (the Ordinariate) was erected in Houston, Texas, in 2012 and incorporates 45 parishes in the United States and Canada.

Although OLA was the first Anglican Use parish in the United States, it has not yet been incorporated into the Ordinariate, and some in the parish believe the archdiocese doesn’t want that to happen.

Fr. Phillips with his wife and children in 2001.


Wilson noted the Ordinariate “was erected with Our Lady of the Atonement in mind. The Ordinariate wants us to become a parish, and we want to join just as diocesan parishes in Houston, Fort Worth, Scranton, Omaha and elsewhere have done.”

He continued, “In fact, it was Fr. Phillips’ petition to do just that that prompted the archbishop’s illegal and abusive action.”

Father Phillips and OLA are important to the history of the development of the Anglican Ordinariate in the United States.

In 1980, Pope St. John Paul II issued a pastoral provision allowing the ordination of married Anglican Protestant clergy who wish to convert to the Catholic faith. It further directed that provisional parishes — also called Anglican Use parishes — be established to allow Anglican converts to keep many aspects of their Anglican heritage, liturgy and traditions.

Phillips, originally living in Rhode Island, was a married man and considered a priest in the Episcopalian Protestant community. After study, he desired to convert to the Catholic Church. He contacted Bp. Louis Gelineau of the diocese of Providence, but Gelineau refused to ordain and establish Phillips in the diocese because of an agreement between the Catholic and Episcopal bishops of Providence, promising they wouldn’t seek converts from each others clergy.

In 1983, he was invited to a community of Episcopalian converts in San Antonio, where he was ordained a priest by Abp. Patrick Flores and made pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement — the first Anglican Use parish in the United States.

Since 1983, OLA has grown to be a successful Catholic parish, with Abp. Siller enthusing:

Your community has become a parish that draws many Catholics with a desire for clarity of doctrine and traditional liturgical expression. I have known your parish, in my many pastoral visits, to be a place of contemplation and reverence, a place of beauty in architecture, decor and expression, a place of doctrinal clarity, and a place of close-knit community.

Atonement Academy, the pre-K–12 school attached to OLA and started by Fr. Philips, currently enrolls more than 500 students. Philips noted in a 2011 interview that students attend Mass daily and must participate in the school’s choral music program.

One of the main apostolates for the church is education. Is not just about teaching them arithmetic; it’s about forming them as Catholics, and that includes a high standard of intellectual formation, teaching all the stuff they need to learn as far as math and science, too. But all within the context of the completeness of their faith! How can you educate a child without referring to God and what God has done in our lives? You’re only forming half the child.

Wilson notes in his letter, “The threat faced by our parish is extremely grave, but I cannot believe that Our Lady would have nourished and protected us all those years just to abandon us now. After all, this is Christ’s Church and in the end he will be victorious, no matter how grim things may appear in the immediate future.”

The case is now making its way to the Vatican, and Wilson is telling people, “[P]ray like we have never prayed before for a speedy and favorable outcome.”

Rodney Pelletier is a staff writer for





by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  January 17, 2017   10 Comments

“The indissolubility of marriage is our own teaching found in Scripture”

HOUSTON ( – The Anglican Ordinariate in America — a Catholic group of former Anglicans — is implementing Amoris Laetitia by making clear that those in invalid unions may not approach to receive Holy Communion until their situation is regularized.

The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, established by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI for Anglican converts, published its guidelines January 16 on the papal exhortation on marriage. The guidelines reiterate Pope St. John Paul II’s exhortation Familiaris Consortiowhich requires the couple to make a commitment to live chastely as brother and sister before being re-admitted to the sacraments.

The new guidelines titled “A Pledged Troth” read, “A civilly remarried couple, if committed to complete continence, could have the Eucharist available to them, after proper discernment … and making recourse to the sacrament of reconciliation.”
The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, based in Houston, Texas, and established in 2012, is the second of three such personal ordinariates established by Pope Benedict XVI’s document Anglicanorum Coetibus. The first such establishment was the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham for former Anglicans in the United Kingdom, and the third was the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross for Anglican converts to Catholicism in Australia.


The ordinary for the Houston-based ordinariate is Bp. Steven Lopes. In his guidelines, he advises civilly remarried divorcees to have their previous marriage examined by a marriage tribunal to see if it was valid. If the Church finds it to be invalid, then the persons can receive a decree of nullity — commonly called an annulment — and are free to marry their partner in a valid Catholic ceremony.


He cautions, “In some cases, the discernment leads to the conclusion that the first marriage was valid.” In the case of the latter, he cites paragraph 1650 from the Catechism of the Catholic Church saying such couples “find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Holy Communion as long as this situation persists.”


Paragraph 1650 of the Catechism goes on to teach, “Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence.”


In his guidelines, Bp. Lopes admits that it may be difficult for civilly remarried couples to live chastely, but it is possible with the grace of God. He quotes from section 295 of Amoris Laetitia: “As Pope Francis reminds us, ‘The law is itself a gift of God which points out the way, a gift for everyone without exception; it can be followed with the help of grace.'”


This is in sharp contrast to the position of the bishops of Malta, who last week in their marriage guidelines implementing Amoris Laetitia claimed, “[T]here are complex situations where the choice to live ‘as brother and sister’ becomes humanly impossible.” The Maltese bishops diverge from the perennial teaching of the Church to allow civilly remarried Catholics, who remain sexually active, to receive the sacraments without living in complete continence.

In his guidelines, Bp. Lopes explains why civilly remarried Catholics must pledge to live as brother and sister, “Reconciliation requires contrition … detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again.”

This differs from a civilly remarried couple who doesn’t firmly intend to live chastely, the bishop emphasized, regardless of how “much they may feel sorrow for the failure of their first marriage.” Of such couples he said, “[T]hey either do not acknowledge that their unchastity, which is adultery, is gravely wrong or they do not firmly intend to avoid sin. In either case, the disposition required for reconciliation is not satisfied, and they would receive the Eucharist in a condition of grave sin.”

The bishop reminded his flock of the immoral teaching found in their former Anglican Church, which they left behind in order to join the Catholic Church with its authentic moral doctrine. “The Anglican Communion … has liberalized divorce, allowed contraception, admitted those engaged in homosexual activity to Holy Communion … and begun to bless same-sex unions.”

He notes that this was what they fled when joining the Catholic Church. Claiming Catholic doctrine as their own, Bp. Lopes affirmed, “The indissolubility of marriage is our own teaching found in Scripture, from our Lord, in our liturgy, in reason with the nature of marriage itself, and in the tradition of the Church of which we are part.”

Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th. is a staff writer for

Follow Bradley on Twitter: @BradleyLEli

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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  1. sixupman says:

    John: you can bet the house upon that assessment!

  2. says:

    Might these former Anglicans be more Catholic than the Archbishop?

    Sent from my iPad


  3. Julie says:

    Such persecution! I was at that parish in November, attended a beautiful Mass there and was given a tour of this awesome church and grounds. Unbelievable! My heart is breaking for this holy priest and his parishioners.  Julie

    From: ABYSSUS ABYSSUM INVOCAT / DEEP CALLS TO DEEP To: Sent: Monday, January 23, 2017 10:15 PM Subject: [New post] THERE IS OUTRAGE IN SAN ANTONIO OVER THE REMOVAL OF PASTOR WHO STARTED AND HAS BUILT UP ONE OF THE BEST PARISHES IN THE ARCHDIOCESE #yiv5596414746 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv5596414746 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv5596414746 a.yiv5596414746primaryactionlink:link, #yiv5596414746 a.yiv5596414746primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv5596414746 a.yiv5596414746primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv5596414746 a.yiv5596414746primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv5596414746 | abyssum posted: “OUTRAGE AS ANGLICAN CATHOLIC PRIEST REMOVED BY TEXAS BISHOP by Rodney Pelletier  •  •January 23, 2017The orthodox priest’s removal is being called “illegal and abusive”SAN ANTONIO, Texas ( – A Catholic pries” | |

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