The Church of Our Lady of Atonement in San Antonio, Texas

25 January 2017

Diversity?? (1) [with clarifications]


(1) There are restrictions on who can formally join an Ordinariate. But there are no restrictions on worshipping in an Ordinariate church.
(2) Our Lady of the Atonement has hitherto been a personal parish of the Archdiocese with borders coterminous with those of the Archdiocese, and has been part of the Anglican Use, the original set-up devised by Ratzinger for formerly Anglican parishes coming into Full Communion with their own liturgical heritage, long before the Ordinariates were set up.

 Many readers will have read of the disgraceful treatment which the Anglican Use Church and Parish of our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio has received at the hands of the Archbishop of San Antonio.

The Pastor of that Church, Fr Christopher Phillips, founded the parish with a handful of refugees from the Protestant Episcopal Church of the US of A back in the early 1980s. It has grown into a flourishing and enormous complex in which both the Church and the Academy are packed to the rafters. Splendid Liturgy prevails in the Church, and when I visited the Academy a year or two ago for their Commencement, and nosed around a bit on the ground finding out the facts for myself, I was enormously impressed by the atmospherically high academic standards … including the large amount of Latin taught. And by the remarkable standards of student piety and devotion in Church. The whole set-up is vastly impressive. When, perhaps, you recollect that most of my working life was spent in a college with academic and Classical ambitions and a claimed Catholic culture, and that I am a critical and cynical old body, you might concede that I have some right to have an opinion and not to have it  dismissed out of hand.

The Parish, now that the American Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter is up and running and flourishing under the admirable Bishop Steven Lopes, naturally wishes to join its brethren of the Anglican Patrimony in the Ordinariate. But the Archbishop resents this and has put in a replacement pastor while Fr Phillips is sent off for Reflection and Prayer. The parishioners, several of whom alerted me to what is going on, resent this and suspect that the ‘temporary’ sidelining of Fr Phillips is, in fact, final. It seems to be their impression … how am I to know where they got it from … that such a slippery way of acting is the sort of thing you expect from Catholic bishops.

“We want our priest and our Church back”.

The said prelate acknowledges the strengths and excellences of the Atonement set-up, although the letter he sent to the parishioners deftly contrives to suggest that everything was built up by his own predecessor (who died recently) and makes no mention that Fr Phillips might have had anything whatsoever to do with it all. The Archbishop professes to intend to maintain the Parish’s Anglican Patrimony for those who come from Anglicanism; suggesting by this sinister qualification that he does not think it right that the large numbers of cradle Catholics (including many Latinos) who worship there should be exposed to the perils of the Anglican Patrimony and the enormities of Anglican-style liturgy.

Why? Any Catholic of any Rite is entitled to worship in any Catholic Church and Rite he desires. Why is it necessary to discourage Latin Catholics of that diocese from attending Ukrainian Rite or Anglican Use or Melkite Rite or Extraordinary Form liturgy? Is the Archbishop afraid that they might discover something he would rather they did not know? Or a spirituality by which he would rather they were not fed? Or a culture which makes him feel threatened?

Otherwise, he makes vague and unspecific comments about the Parish being out of sync with the Diocese. If this man had an Anglo-Saxon sense of Natural Justice he would be man enough to let it be made public what his case against the Pastor is, so that the parishioners had the materials to form mature and adult judgements. All that stuff about Discernment and the Sacrosanctity of Conscience appears to have flown out of some window.

But here we have yet another example of the sad need which a certain sort of sad Catholic cleric seems to have to keep the laity safely and permanently infantilised; a damning reflection on their poor relationships with their lay people and on a profoundly “pre-Conciliar” mind-set towards them.

As Cardinal Ratzinger memorably said about the English Catholic bishops in the 1990s, “What are they so afraid of?”
I have a lot more to say on this.


  1. This is all the more disgraceful if it is true that the archdiocese originally sold the parish some disused land that they had no purpose for, and made the then small and homeless group pay the full market price for it.


  2. What we see is the raw excise of power divorced from Christ and Christianity. We see when Bergoglio forces the head of a sovereign state to resign> We see it when liberals impose heterodoxy. The Parish needs to join the Ordinariate. The Archbishop of San Antonio gives Holy Communion to adulterers. That is why he is moving against Fr Phillips. Its to block the parish joining the Ordinariate.


  3. Fr.I find that the Ordinariates are far more Catholic than our sorry shower of Liberal Lefties that we have in The Church.What it boils down to Father is this-our Catholic clergy,in the main,are embarrassed by these former Protestants !They are Catholic to the core and put our own to shame!We have fallen along way now that we are ashamed of our own Glorious Holy Catholic Faith.Long live The Ordinariates!


  4. Thank you for your comments. We remain hopeful and continue to pray for our pastor, Fr. Christopher Phillips, for our Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller and for our journey to the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter and that all of this may be concluded soon.


  5. ***
  6. The issue here, of course, is (surely) taxation. The diocese can and does tax diocesan parishes. It would not be permitted to tax an ordinariate parish within its geographic borders. That the bishop has taken such absurd measures over what is, at heart, a budget line item is venality of the very worst sort.


  7. The new Peronist spirit seems to be flourishing. How long Oh Lord?


  8. I believe this is the link to Father Hunwickes blog. If not simply google ‘Father Hunwicke’ to find his blog. His comments wil explain why catholics are able to worship in whatever rite they choose and several other questions raised in the comments column.


About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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