Location: Wisconsin, United States

I am a convert to the Catholic Church after serving in ordained ministry for more than nine years in another denomination. I hold a bachelor's degree in history, a master's degree in historical theology, and another in systematic theology, and am currently working (very slowly) on my doctorate. I work in Christian Education and Formation and teach at the University level. I am blessed with a wonderful wife and eight great kids! When I'm not studying, reading, or blogging, I enjoy eating and drinking! Like Bilbo Baggins, I have been specializing in food for many years, and my table has a high reputation!

Saturday, July 08, 2006


Some thoughts on the Council of Trent -- and possible lessons for the CEC.

On this blog and on others, many thoughts concerning the current crises in the CEC have been expressed. Some of these thoughts and concerns have to do with actions of particular persons in the CEC -- and those comments are beyond the scope of this posting. What I do want to express are some thoughts about the Reformation and the Council of Trent which may be of value to those in the CEC who earnestly desire reform in that body.

Many historians and theologians will argue (including many Lutherans) that the original causes of the Reformation were not doctrinal in nature, but rather disciplinary. Many of the criticisms made by Luther were valid -- and were eventually taken up by the Catholic Reformers at the Council of Trent.

It occurs to me that, following the old dictum that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, those persons of good will remaining in the CEC -- and there are many -- might take note at some of the specific disciplinary questions raised by the Reformers and addressed at the Council of Trent.

1) Seminary Training: It has been a major complaint by many in the CEC that the training, education, and spiritual formation of the clergy has been lacking. (From my own experience over 11 years, I have to say that I agree.) The Catholic Church in the Late Middle Ages experienced the same problem. In BOTH cases -- the CEC AND the late medieval Church -- this has not always been due to deliberate neglect.

The CEC has received many good and godly men from other religious entities -- some already with churches -- but with widely varying levels of education, training, and spiritual formation. This has led to confusion as to what the CEC actually does and does not teach and believe -- and to wide disparities between dioceses.

The late medieval Church, reeling from the Black Death, in which a significant percentage of the population of Europe died, faced an extreme shortage of clergy (due to the fact that since the clergy and religious were attending the sick and dying, their own mortality rate was exceptionally high). As a result, to fill the gaps, many people were rushed through the ordination process with only a fraction of the necessary formation needed to be good priests and religious.

(I must say that in both the CEC and in the late medieval Church, there have also been cases of gross neglect and corruption -- but that is not the topic of this post.)

The Council of Trent recognized that the Reformers had a valid point with regard to issues like the proper training of clergy. Thus, the Council mandated that seminaries be erected in the various dioceses of the Church to correct this fault. If the CEC truly wishes reform in this area, they need to follow suit with strong programs of academic, pastoral, and spiritual formation. All three are necessary.

2) Regular visitations by bishops: This was a major problem in the medieval Catholic Church. Visitations by bishops were, in many places very rare (especially among the smaller, poorer, and more rural churches.) As a result, the faithful were neglected by their spiritual shephards -- and corrupt priests were not held to proper account.

The CEC has had -- in some dioceses -- similar breakdowns. I know of one CEC parish which, in four years, never received a single visitation, while a larger, wealthier parish in the same state was visited several times a year. I know of another CEC church (in a different diocese) who had not received a visitation in at least that long -- and whenever there were candidates for confirmation, the candidates had to travel hours to the cathedral. I know of another CEC priest in yet another diocese, who had not received an official communication from his bishop -- in a decade. No wonder that many in the CEC feel isolated -- and that, in certain cases, corruption has been allowed to continue.

The Council of Trent mandated regular visitations by bishops -- and this was in a day and age where travel was not as easy as it is today! This would be a reform that the CEC could easily -- and should immediately -- implement.

3) Nepotism: Nepotism was a serious problem in the medieval Church. Church offices were routinely given out to close relatives of bishops and other senior Church officials. (Some of these also involved sins against chastity -- but that is not the topic of this post.) Favors were granted to, how shall we say, friends who had friends, etc.

WHETHER REAL OR NOT, the PERCEPTION of nepotism has been rife in some parts of the CEC. This has been an issue, frankly, from Day One. It has not been an issue everywhere -- but the accusations have been made -- and at least some of those accusations give the appearance of having merit.

FULL DISCLOSURE!!! I was a priest in the CEC; my father was a bishop in the CEC. I entered the CEC 9 months prior to my father; I was ordained deacon prior to my father's consecration as bishop. We never served in the same diocese together. By specific permission, my father was given the authority to ordain me priest, by my own bishop at the time, Bp. Ken Myers -- permission for which we were both grateful. But I never served in my father's diocese and can count on one hand the number of times I was invited to preach or concelebrate in his cathedral.

I make this statement so that no one can say that I am trying to talk out of both sides of my mouth!

The Council of Trent strongly condemned nepotism. While such was never completely eliminated, the extent of the problem was greatly curtailed.

This, too, would be a relatively easy reform for the CEC to make -- and one which, I believe, should be made. Reasonable provisions (re: Bp. Myers' generosity to myself and my father) should be permitted, but regulated by Canon. "Automatic" inheritance of office or authority should be strongly discouraged.

4) Uniformity of Liturgy: One of the biggest problems in the late medieval Church was a lack of uniformity in liturgy. This lack of uniformity existed not just from country to country, but frequently between city to city as well. The upshot was that it became difficult to discern what the Prayer of the Church; the Work of the People; actually was.

This has been a significant problem in the CEC from Day One. The preferred text was the 1979 Episcopal Book of Common Prayer -- with several other texts which "could" be authorized by bishops. This was problematic for those (like myself) who honestly believed that the 1979 BCP (and almost ANY Anglican formulary) was insufficient at best (and quite possibly invalid) AND for those who found themselves worshiping in different CEC churches in different parts of the country. In many cases, there is not even a uniformity within the CEC as it concerns the Nicene Creed.

The Council of Trent mandated a unified liturgy for the Church. (Minor exceptions were allowed for certain religious orders -- but that is beyond the scope of this post.) This proved to be an incredible unifying factor for the Catholic Church.

Frankly, after more than 14 years of existence, the CEC needs to do the same. If they choose to use the 1979 BCP -- they need to realize that they will lose people -- not only over doctrinal issues, but also over any apparent connection (real or imagined) with the Episcopal Church. Frankly, the same would be true of any other existing rite. What the CEC needs to do is to draft its own Communion-wide (or at least, North American-wide) liturgy, using the best resources from the best scholarship the CEC can muster, to come up with an authentic liturgy which represents the best of Three-Streams worship -- AND the best of the available theological acumen. The model liturgy prepared by the Eastern Province would be a good starting point.

Anyhow, these are just a few suggestions; a few areas in which those in the CEC who wish to learn from history might propose.

Papa Z

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Blogger Fish CampMore said...

You write about things I am unfamiliar with because I was never privy to the inner workings of the ICCEC. Also, I left the ICCEC about eight years ago. (I do know that the seminary training nowhere compares to "real" seminary training--not even close.) However, even if all these reforms which you suggest were made, the ICCEC is still destined to go the way of all sects and schisms. I must admit that I enjoy watching the end results of when communions set out to be more catholic than the Catholic Church, for it confirms the fact that..."The gates of Hell shall not prevail."

3:48 PM  
Blogger PadreT said...

Insightful and a sound comparison, well thought out PZ. It is a bit off topic (I need the distraction) and you may have expounded this elsewhere, but, would you go into why you consider Anglican rites (esp. BCP '79) insufficient or invalid? If you do not wish to use this space for that, would you email me your thoughts? Thank you.

9:16 AM  
Blogger David Zampino said...


I agree with you concerning the seminary training (or lack thereof) in the CEC. Holy Trinity Seminary, which is connected to Life in Jesus, and is no longer part of the CEC, was strenuously trying to significantly raise the level of preparation. (The Dean of the Seminary actually has an earned PhD in the field and has been teaching/adminstrating on the seminary level for many years -- even prior to his entry into the CEC). Holy Trinity was the exception, rather than the rule. The St. Michael's Seminary program was woefully inadequate in many ways -- and at times, internally self-contradicting. The rigorousness of the program also varied HUGELY from diocese to diocese.

I also agree that your comment about sects and schisms is well-made. Nevertheless, the reforms suggested would at least provide stability while the membership tried to figure out what to do.

10:15 AM  
Blogger David Zampino said...

Padre T,

I would be glad to forward you a paper I wrote on the subject. Indeed, that very question was the basis of my MA essay at Marquette.

10:16 AM  
Blogger The Singing Claymore said...

You have stated well many of the issues in the CEC.

I heard it said by a college professor that the method used in the CEC is inadequate in that most seminaries invite outside professors to come in for debate and/or teaching, none of which occurs in the CEC seminary, which makes it much more closed system.

One of my primary complaints was the bishop rarely came to the churches for a visitation. This is unacceptable in the CEC. Many cathedrals have a Dean who would be the senior pastor, which shoudl free the bishop to visit his churches at least two times (or more) per year. Instead the churches (and clergy) are isolated unless they are large churches or have some other major value to the bishop.

Great writing my friend.


11:39 PM  
Blogger truth seeker said...

Your assessment seems to reflect that of many in the CEC (past and present). Sad, but true.

1:29 PM  
Blogger PadreT said...

If you would forward them that would be great. You also have offered some work on the lines of succession (A&F site)for the CEC which I am also interested in reading...please email them or do you need a snail mail address? Thank you.

3:48 PM  
Blogger bonniebz said...

Hello Brother Father!

You never cease to amaze me. Excellent work. Maybe you could put that post into some sort of paper and have it available for CEC clergy and bishops who may wish to help implement some of your suggestions.

Well done!


12:26 PM  
Blogger sjl+ said...

As usual your knowledge and analysis of history is impeccable. Your comparisons between the current situation in the ICCEC (apparently now it’s all the vogue to include the “IC,” whereas it never seemed necessary before) shows some keen insight, although I would disagree with some elements of your posting.

With regards to seminary training, I agree. The CEC has taken in many “good and godly men” who lacked adequate training. It is a sign of a young movement to act in a “grab and go” manner and work on the details after the fact. Consider it a folly of youth. God willing, this situation will improve as the communion ages. Your father, as well as others, had built up a program of good repute. May others continue in his footsteps and continue the work he began. The difficulties in the endeavor, considering that the majority of our clergy are bi-vocational, are manifold.

With regards to episcopal visitation, likewise, I agree. While I can say that in the Southeastern Province I do not believe that this has ever been an issue, I am certainly not as well-informed at the goings on abroad. The bishops of the Southeastern Province are, to my knowledge, very well connected to their clergy and do make regular visits as well as hold regular meetings in various parts of their diocese to facilitate communication with their clergy. This has been the case for many years. Yet, assuming that somewhere in the Communion a situation like the one you describe exists (and I don’t doubt you), it certainly needs an immediate remedy. Perhaps the bishops described should take their cues from the SEP.

As to the nepotism, I am afraid that you lose me on this point. My experience with the children of clergy is that they receive little to no benefit, perceived or otherwise from their episcopal parents. Very clearly you received no special treatment or plush assignments as a result of your father’s position. This contention in your post seems to beg questions regarding the Patriarch and his sons. I have little first hand knowledge of these gentlemen, but, from what I understand, one of them is an associate at St. Michael’s and the other two have humble cures in other diocese. The only favoritism seems to be a fond, loving respect for his sons. Might there be other situations, possibly, but, again, to my knowledge, no such situation exists in the Southeastern Province and I have witnesses no such favoritism abroad. If there were nepotism being practiced than it should be avoided, but I am unfamiliar with any circumstances of such.

As to uniformity in liturgy, I am in, as I believe many others are, in whole-hearted agreement. The work begun by the Eastern Province is an excellent start. I pray that that work continues and quickly. It is difficult to be seen as a distinctive movement when one worships using anyone else’s worship book. I believe that steps are being taken towards this end and have been for quite some time already.

Well done, Dave. I do hope that this posting finds its way onto the desks of some of our bishops and senior clergy. You make some valid points. If it does come across their desks, I hope that it is not dismisses because of an unfair association with many of the far more negative and much less thoughtful posts that have been found around the internet as of late. I do believe, though, that a great many of the items for which you are calling are already being enacted.

Finally, to Fish CampMore, shame on you, sir. How can you dare glibly sit back and confess, “I must admit that I enjoy watching the end results of when communions set out to be more catholic than the Catholic Church…” This is sectarian partisanship at its worst. I draw from St. Mark’s Gospel, the ninth chapter, verses 38-41: “Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.” But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” Your remarks about being “more catholic than the Catholic Church” have little basis by this point, but even if they did, the men and women of the ICCEC set out to do the work of God, to carry the banner of Christ in the way that we feel that God has revealed to us. Does the CEC reach out to the lost, does it proclaim Christ Crucified, does it feed the hungry, visit those in prison, give drink to the thirsty and strive, in our own fallen and sinful way, to live our lives as best we can for our Lord and Savior? The answer to these questions is overwhelmingly YES! “He who is not against us is on our side,” says Our Lord. How dare you sit back watch with contentment, if not glee, while part of the body of Christ struggles and suffers. We are part of the body of Christ and you find amusement at our misfortune! For shame! If you cannot find it in your heart to pray for a spirit of reformation in the CEC, to intend a decade of your rosary for the ministry of the CEC, to spend five minutes before the Blessed Sacrament praying that God have mercy on the people and Clergy of the CEC, then at least have the decency to keep your patently anti-Christian comments to yourself. Might “anti-Christian” be too strong? What else would you call it when Our Lord makes a statement and you do the contrary? If by chance this has pricked your conscience and you feel the need for the Sacrament of Penance, I know several wonderful priests.

Having returned from that most unfortunate rabbit trail, Dave, do give my love Michelle and the kids. My family still speaks highly of the warm reception you gave them. Congratulate David, Jr. on his Eagle Scout award. I, too, am proud of him. Keep me updated on your incardination.
In Christ’s Love, my friend,

11:16 PM  
Blogger Christoph said...

I had the impression, that the CEC and the Convergence Movement are seen here sometimes as the same thing. For example: The CEC falls apart and the Convergence Movement ends?
Dear David, very interesting thoughts!!!

I'm a Deacon in the CEEC since last year. But right now I'm in Austria, Europe and so I really don't know whats going on in the states. Does anyone know how the CEEC is doing?

David, I would love to read your 2001 and 2006 papers.

Greetings from Austria!


10:38 AM  

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