Monday, December 31, 2007

That Didn't Take Long

In a remarkably clumsy move, the (maybe) Bishop of San Joaquin has relieved the vicar of St. Nicholas, Atwater of his position. This has been seized upon as something for the revisionists/legalists to complain about (and there's a LOT more at Fr. Jake's besides that article); conversely, there is decided silence at Stand Firm, apparently because mention of the incident is being censored there.


If we're talking legalism, then it is hardly remarkable that John David Schofield might exercise a power which, under ordinary circumstances, there is no question about him exercising. Well, besides the usual allegations of firing people for holding the wrong opinions; but if we started handing out tickets for that, we could paper every revisionist diocese in the country with the accusations. To the degree that this is an issue, the conflict is already lost, and we as an institution are damned from decades on.

And if it be an issue, we move on to the next point. The obvious analogue to the Atwater dismissal is the Connecticut Six, but it is a false analogy, because the issue in Connecticut is the unprecedented nature of the acts. What happened in Atwater is therefore no more than fallout from the real issue: whether San Joaquin's unprecedented move leaves its bishop without powers. It is unremarkable that he should consider that he believes that he may exercise them, so on that level the incident is merely cause for "ain't it awful" hand-wringing.

The truly sticky point is that the only precedents we have were set by Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, and their bishops. It's not a good precedent if you think that canons are our only recourse; it would direct the parishes and dioceses to turn in their keys to the nearest Roman authority.

But the conflict, at this stage, is baldly a war over territory. If charity were given its due, GC would reconvene, concede irreconcilable differences, and set forth a negotiation to carry the division through with as little pain as possible. This is not going to happen because each of the driving factions is intent on getting as much territory for itself and denying the opposition as can be denied. In the middle are a lot of people-- perhaps the majority-- who cannot be claimed as adherents of either extreme, and whose bishops, saying that "schism is worse than heresy", refuse to deal with a situation in which they will have both schism and heresy.

In the battle, Atwater is a rather small prize (ASA of 20 at last count). San Joaquin is a smallish diocese. The real contest is over the dispersion of dioceses like Virginia and Washington and Maryland. The revisionists cannot afford to let moderates have a choice or conservative properties escape. That's where the law comes in.

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