News came through last week of an astonishing overreach by the Archbishop of San Antonio, Gustavo Garcia-Siller.
In a letter to parishioners
he explained that he was removing their pastor, Father Christopher
Phillips “to dedicate some time to reflect on certain specific concerns
that I have shared with him.”
Phillips’ fascinating story as a convert from the Anglican tradition was highlighted in an article at Crux a
few months ago.
In 1982, as an Episcopal priest with a young family,
Phillips traveled from his native Rhode Island and was ordained under
the rules of the Pastoral Provision by Archbishop Patrick Flores.
For the last thirty five years Phillips has worked with his people to
build a thriving parish and school in San Antonio.
faithfully maintains the Anglican patrimony within full communion of the
For the first decades of the parish’s existence it existed within the
diocese of San Antonio.
However, in 2009 Pope Benedict XVI established
the Anglican Ordinariate so that Catholics from the Anglican tradition
might have their own “church within a church.”
The Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter is the Anglican Ordinariate
for North America.
Now that the ordinariate is established, it should
be obvious to everyone that the parish of Our Lady of the Atonement’s
true home is in the non-geographical jurisdiction of the Anglican
Parishioners at Our Lady of the Atonement are justifiably mystified
by their archbishop’s letter. Why, they wonder, would the Archbishop
remove a good, hard working and experienced priest if he has done
Is he really simply asking Phillips to “dedicate some time to reflect
on some issues” or is there something darker lurking below those
The parish has issued a statement that the archbishop
has, in fact, begun the canonical procedure to remove Phillips as
If this is true, why has the archbishop not been transparent with the parishioners?
The archbishop’s predecessor, Archbishop Patrick Flores, died a few
Flores was a supporter of the provision for Anglican Use
parishes, Phillips and Our Lady of the Atonement parish.
Does Garcia-Siller’s action so soon after Flores’s decease have anything to do with his decision?
Human nature being what it is, parishioners wonder whether the
archbishop’s unprecedented move has more to do with the property and
finances of Our Lady of Atonement parish.
What pastoral motivation could
the archbishop have for removing a much loved, experienced and
Could it be that despite the archbishop’s graciously
worded letter, his action is no more than a blatant land grab?
By removing Phillips and installing his man, is the archbishop making
sure that the church, school, rectory and land of Our Lady of the
Atonement is not lost to the Ordinariate?
Inside sources indicate that
the archbishop wants to turn Our Lady of the Atonement into an ordinary
parish of the archdiocese, allowing just one Anglican rite Mass per
The Anglican Ordinariate is a historic and unprecedented move by the
Catholic Church to welcome Protestants into the Catholic fold. Those who
are watching the events unfold in San Antonio are asking what this says
about our Catholic bishops’ commitment to ecumenism.
If an archbishop uses his power to quash the Anglican Ordinariate,
those who are working hard to make it succeed will naturally be
It is ironic that it was during the Week of Prayer for
Christian Unity that Garcia-Siller has moved against one of the most
successful ecumenical experiments we have ever seen, and has inhibited
the ministry of a man who is an internationally known pioneer in this
Most disturbing is the archbishop’s treatment of Phillips himself.
Instead of following proper canonical procedures, the archbishop
demanded that Phillips not set foot on parish property and have no
communication with his parishioners.
This is the sort of draconian discipline dioceses use for priests who have seriously offended.
Quite apart from the remarkable use of threats and force, is the
archbishop not aware that whenever a priest is publicly disciplined his
people wonder what he has done wrong?
These questions are natural, and
another question naturally follows, “If the priest has done nothing
wrong, but he is publicly removed from his office, told he may not set
foot on parish property or communicate with parishioners, is that not a
He has done nothing wrong, but in the eyes of the public he is being treated in the same way as a priest accused of pedophilia.
Unfortunately, Catholic prelates are too often perceived as
inflexible, authoritarian and aggressively assertive.
I don’t believe
this is true, but Garcia-Siller’s actions in the case of Phillips and
Our Lady of the Atonement parish are not helping to correct the