Post stands firm on its St. Luke's facts

The calendar page at the website of the church formerly known as Mount Calvary Episcopal in Baltimore contains a number of items that should be of interest to reporters covering stories about believers who are now making their way into the Vatican's newly created "personal ordinariate" for "Anglicans entering full communion with the Catholic Church." Looking down the list, there is October 24, 2010, when the parishioners of Mount Calvary Church approved resolutions to leave the Episcopal Church and to "seek to become an Anglican Use parish of the Roman Catholic Church." There is a link to the website of the Baltimore Catholic newspaper, where one finds a news report on this with the headline, "Baltimore Episcopal parish votes to enter Catholic faith." The Baltimore Sun offered no such report.

The calendar contains other twists and turns in this sago right on up to June 2, 2011, with the announcement that:

Mount Calvary will host a service of Solemn Evensong for the feast of Our Lord’s Ascension. This will be a gathering of all those in the greater Baltimore/Washington area planning to enter the Catholic Church under the provisions of Anglicanorum coetibus, as well as local Catholic friends, both clergy and laity.

The key phrase, of course, is "planning to enter" the Catholic Church.

You see, different churches are at different places on that road. However, it is clear that Mount Calvary's congregation was the first to approve the move and to start the journey. Thus, the parish homepage now offers this information out front:

June 6, 2011 -- Mount Calvary congratulates St. Luke’s Church in Bladensburg, Maryland for its decision to enter the Catholic Church under the provisions of Anglicanorum coetibus. We also salute the Episcopal Diocese of Washington for their pastoral generosity in reaching an agreement with St. Luke’s enabling the congregation to continue to worship in their building.

All of which -- as previously discussed here at GetReligion -- makes the ongoing Washington Post coverage of these events most interesting. Here is the top of the latest report:

An Episcopal church for more than a century, St. Luke’s in Bladensburg added a new prayer to its routine Sunday: “for Benedict, our pope.”

It was the first Sunday Mass since St. Luke’s made international news by announcing it would become the first Episcopal parish in the United States to convert to Catholicism under a new Vatican structure meant to attract orthodox Anglicans.

Have these Episcopalians already converted? Are they attending a Catholic Mass and, thus, receiving Catholic sacraments? Well, no.

That's in the future. Thus, this story does note that the "date set for the parish’s formal conversion to Catholicism is Oct. 9." The church is already using a Vatican-approved version of the Anglican Service Book favored by Anglo-Catholic traditionalists. The members of the parish will begin attending conversion classes in the next few weeks. The story notes:

But congregants noted Sunday that many at St. Luke’s aren’t accustomed to practices such as Confession -- required in Catholicism -- and praying the rosary. Some might have reservations about Catholicism’s reverence for Mary. What will happen this summer, they said, isn’t totally clear.

“I think the journey has actually just begun,” said Randy King, a defense contractor from Crownsville. “We’ve always been Anglo-Catholics, but did people really know what that was? Now they’re going to find out. ..."

Actually, Confession is not new for most Anglo-Catholics at parishes of this kind and, for many, the same can be said of Rosary prayers of various kinds. Do people already go to Confession at Mount Calvary in Baltimore? Why, yes, scheduled times for Confession are already in that parish's weekly calendar.

So what are we discussing here? Both of these parishes in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. have voted to go to Rome -- with Mount Calvary clearly voting first and beginning the process. In terms of people in the parish, it may even be further along the road. Journalists may want to visit and ask.

Now, St. Luke's has voted to take the same action -- becoming the second Episcopal parish to do so.

These facts are clear. Thus, why is the Post continuing to use the language featured at the top of this report? You know, the part that says that St. Luke's "made international news by announcing it would become the first Episcopal parish in the United States to convert to Catholicism under a new Vatican structure"?

Well, it is true that because of the financial decisions of Episcopal leaders in Washington, D.C., St. Luke's may reach the finish line first and enter Communion with Rome. That may happen this fall, it appears. Journalists, however, must note that this issue of timing says more about Episcopal leaders in Baltimore than it does the intentions and actions of parishioners at St. Luke's and Mount Calvary.

So it would be accurate to say that appears that the parishioners at St. Luke's have, for legal reasons, been able to move to the head of the line among Episcopalians who have made the decision to swim the Tiber under these new provisions? That appears to be case.

But were the faithful at Mount Calvary the first to vote to begin the journey to Rome and to openly announce their decision? Did this parish make international news by doing so? The answer is clearly, "Yes." That is, it made news in Catholic publications.

Did the members of Mount Calvary make news in the Sun and the Post when they did so? The answer is clearly, "No."

So, if an ecclesiastical tree falls in the urban Baltimore-Washington forest and this fact is not reported in the Sun and the Post, does it make a sound?

Apparently not.

Photo: Mount Calvary Church in Baltimore.

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