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them separated brethren

By Diogenes (articles ) | Aug 23, 2007

In amongst the National Catholic Reporter's classified ads, under the admirably elastic "vocations" heading, we're always bound to find a gateway to entertaining reading. This week we find an ad for the autocephalous American Catholic Church ("progressive, diverse, inclusive"), whereat we're linked to their ecclesiastical canons. Pour yourselves a bracer, because you're in for some high-powered legal syntax. Article I, Chapter 1, concerns the Church: Jurisdiction and Boundaries.

a) The boundaries of The American Catholic Church shall be coincident with worldwide boundaries.

OK, that seems clear enough, if somewhat optimistic.

b) In addition to the foregoing [my emphasis], the American Catholic Church boundaries shall be construed so as to include all territories, commonwealths, and possessions of the United States of American and/or Canada, including the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Trust Territories of the Pacific; together with such other areas as may be at any time governed by the United States of America and/or Canada or their respective representatives, wherever situated.

We're starting to wobble here, unless they were just kidding about Canon A. I like the qualifier "or their respective representatives, wherever situated," though. I was beginning to have doubts about the International Space Station.

c) Furthermore, all military and naval facilities and vessels of the United States of America and/or Canada, wherever situated, together with the personnel and their families assigned thereto; and all persons acting in an official capacity as representatives of the government of the United States of American and/or Canada together with their families, wherever situated, shall be construed as being within the boundaries of the American Catholic Church.

Sounds like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz reading his diploma, doesn't it?

d) The American Catholic Church shall have jurisdiction anywhere in the worldwhere it chooses to establish a mission.

Well why didn't you say so in the first place?

e) The American Catholic Church has jurisdiction everywhere within its boundaries.

That's a relief. For a minute I thought they were taking about Wilton Gregory's kind of boundary. On the main web page the ACC also provides us with a Mission Statement, a Statement of Principles, a Statement of Beliefs, and -- hold on -- a Statement Regarding Sexual Misconduct, so I guess the Gregorian boundaries made it in there after all!

The ACC also makes available an extremely handy request form for the "Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Holy Orders, Anointing of the Sick." I especially like the geniality of the "date requested" box in the matter of Holy Orders. It must simplify vocation recruitment in the Trust Territories of the Pacific, and elsewhere.

One more point. The ACC "leaves to the informed conscience of our people matters which are properly theirs to decide before God" -- and if it seems insufficiently obvious which matters count as properly ours to decide before God, they are buying ads in the NCR, are they not?

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Show 10 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Aug. 24, 2007 4:26 PM ET USA

    (c) Military personnel? Count me as AWOL!

  • Posted by: - Aug. 24, 2007 2:01 PM ET USA

    The proclamation is widespread. I am inspired to follow the lead of a famous Hollywood figure of the past, Luis B. Mayer. Presented with a business deal which other tinseltown figures advocated in a meeting, Mayer mulled the proposal and then stated: "Include me out."

  • Posted by: - Aug. 24, 2007 11:37 AM ET USA

    The forgot (f): "We are the bosses of EVERYONE, and that means YOU, except when we don't want to be (like when our representatives misbehave)."

  • Posted by: - Aug. 24, 2007 7:13 AM ET USA

    If they want Canada, its a snow job.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 24, 2007 12:25 AM ET USA

    Could you please walk us through their Mission Statement, Statement of Principles, and Statement of Beliefs? I suspect these elements will be as humorous as their Jurisdiction and Boundaries. It is likely to bring a smile, or even a laugh, to all of us. On a more serious note, can you determine if these guys have valid orders or not?

  • Posted by: Art Kelly - Aug. 24, 2007 12:25 AM ET USA

    Could you please walk us through their Mission Statement, Statement of Principles, and Statement of Beliefs? I suspect these elements will be as humorous as their Jurisdiction and Boundaries. It is likely to bring a smile, or even a laugh, to all of us. On a more serious note, can you determine if these guys have valid orders or not?

  • Posted by: - Aug. 23, 2007 7:36 PM ET USA

    **YAWN** Uncle Di, please pass the salt. Just a grain.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 23, 2007 6:21 PM ET USA

    As with all such statements, it is hyperbole of the greatest magnitude, a worldwide apostolate but call American Catholic and thereby already localized and particularized. It should have called itself simply the "New Catholic Church" to contract with the "Old Catholics" but that comparison might raise regrettable conclusions insofar as they will go the same way ultimately into irrelevancy and oblivion ordaining anything that breathes or is willing to name the date. Go therefore and advertise.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 23, 2007 5:26 PM ET USA

    Alas, some of its boundaries appear to have shrunk. I lived in the "Trust Territories of the Pacific" (the island of Yap, to be specific) from 1973 until the Trust Territory (it is singular) ceased to exist in 1979, being replaced by the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Belau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas. I guess the hidebound old Vatican-based Catholic Church will have to manage things in those new countries.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 23, 2007 4:25 PM ET USA

    The clause "possessions of the United States of American and/or Canada" from (b), above, raises a question. It seems that Canada, reacting with unusual insouciance to the recent acquisition of the North Pole by the Soviets, has staked out that boundary for itself. Is this Church trying to get us into war here? Does the 'Mission Statement' include concern for polar bears?

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