March 23, 2017

October 5, 2012


A Canonical Joke

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart once penned in jest a composition so bad that he entitled it A Musical Joke (in German: Ein Musikalischer Spaß).   If you would like to hear it performed by a modern orchestra, here is a link to the first movement, with links to the other three movements in the sidebar. 

The piece breaks nearly every compositional rule that had evolved until that time—it features parallel fifths, offbeat accents, terrible transitions, egregious writing for the horns (who used a notation that was notoriously difficult for amateurs to learn), and a level of overall banality and triteness that only a true master could commit knowingly to the page.

Mozart was having fun, as only such a genius could, at the expense of all the wealthy aristocrats who owned private orchestras and fancied themselves inspired composers, but who in reality were just dilettantes. They could command their own orchestras to perform their execrable compositions, while  the musicians could take no public revenge—so Mozart stepped up to give the house-tied musicians their own voice. They now could perform a piece that was so bad that it made their master’s compositions look good! And only the musicians would be in on the joke, as no doubt their master would praise their taste in having chosen such an outstanding practitioner of the art in order to show forth their talents.

(If you really want to get in on the joke, listen here to the insipid third movement, and pay attention to the solo for the horns.)

Well, it has taken more than 220 years, but now we have the canonical equivalent, within the Episcopal Church (USA), of Mozart’s Musical Joke. Except that this joke is not the offspring of a canonical genius—instead, it is the equivalent of one of those dilettantish compositions by privileged aristocrats which inspired Mozart to pen his immortal spoof.

For this canonical joke is outwardly a respectable appointment, made by the Presiding Bishop acting under her authority under ECUSA’s Canons, of the episcopal members of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, announced yesterday on the Church’s official Website. Here is the official text of her announcement:

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has announced appointments to the House of Bishops Committees for the 2013-2015 triennium as well as the bishop appointments to the General Convention Joint Committees and Standing Commissions.

Appointed by the Presiding Bishop are:
...

Disciplinary Board:  Bishops Ian Douglas of Connecticut, Dena Harrison of Texas, Herman Hollerith of Southern Virginia, Scott Mayer of Northwest Texas, Thomas Shaw of Massachusetts, Prince Singh of Rochester,  James Waggoner of Spokane, Catherine Waynick of Indianapolis. (Note: Dorsey Henderson of Central Florida is president of the Disciplinary Board and was elected by the HOB) ...

Do you see the joke in that announcement?

The Presiding Bishop has appointed no less of an episcopal personage than the Right Reverend Thomas Shaw, of the Diocese of Massachusetts, to sit in judgment of accusations brought against his peers, i.e., other Episcopal Church bishops.

This is the same Bishop Shaw who flagrantly violated the canons and BCP rubrics regarding the celebration of a ceremony of marriage in the Episcopal Church. He illegally presided as the celebrant, in St. Paul’s Cathedral, Boston, of the lesbian same-sex rites between Dean (”Abortion-Is-a-Blessing”) Katherine Ragsdale, of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, and his own canon to the ordinary, the Rev. Mally Lloyd.

When he performed the ceremony, in January 2011, General Convention had authorized (in 2009) a “generous pastoral response” to persons of the same sex who were cohabiting. It did not explicitly purport to authorize the performance of same-sex blessings until it adopted Resolution A-049 in Indianapolis this past summer.

Regardless of what General Convention may have considered to be allowed within the compass of its ambiguous words “generous pastoral response” in 2009, it could not have intended to authorize the performance by Episcopal clergy, in an Episcopal church, of marriages between persons of the same sex. That is because both the Canons of the Church, as well as the rubrics of its Book of Common Prayer, have always defined marriages in the Church as between “a man and a woman.”  

Despite those in the Church who seem to think that General Convention is unlimited in what it can do, there are boundaries upon its authority, placed by ECUSA’s Constitution. That document requires the approval of two successive General Conventions to authorize changes to the Book of Common Prayer. And it has contained that requirement ever since its first adoption in 1789.

The acts of General Convention in passing Resolution C-056 in 2009, and again in passing Resolution A-049 in 2012, did not rise to the level of a purported amendment of the Book of Common Prayer. These were mere resolutions, which had no further effect than to express the “mind of the Convention” at that particular moment. They were at the time, and are now, not binding upon anyone, let alone upon bishops or dioceses—they simply gave official permission for bishops to act within their already existing powers.

Those powers emphatically have never encompassed the flagrant disregard of the Book of Common Prayer.  That Book, still as of this very day, sanctions marriage in the Episcopal Church as only between a man and a woman. And under the new Title IV, bishops (and other clergy) who violated the previous version of the Canons (in effect until July 1, 2011) may still be prosecuted: violations of the old canons are treated (within specified time limits) as violations of those current canons with equivalent  provisions.

Our Presiding Bishop, who is known far and wide for her respect for the language and authority of the Church’s Constitution and Canons (to say nothing of its Book of Common Prayer), has thus seen fit to appoint, to the very body charged with the responsibility of disciplining Bishops for their violations of those august documents, a genuine miscreant—one who is wide open to being charged with having violated Canon IV.3.1, which states in relevant part:

Sec. 1. A Member of the Clergy shall be subject to proceedings under this Title for:

(a) knowingly violating or attempting to violate, directly or through the acts of another person, the Constitution or Canons of the Church ...

Equally, Bishop Shaw may still be charged with having openly and notoriously violated current Canon IV.4.1 (b):

CANON 4: Of Standards of Conduct

Sec. 1. In exercising his or her ministry, a Member of the Clergy shall:
...

(b) conform to the Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer ...

And this miscreant, this Bishop of the Episcopal Church (USA), is to sit in judgment over his fellow bishops who are (so far as we less privileged ones may know) yet to be charged with canonical violations of their own.

It is, as I say, a Canonical Joke —one composed not by a genius akin to Mozart, but only by a far, far lesser light, who is utterly unable to understand, honor or follow the one indisputable rule by which the entire Church has agreed to abide for the last 223 years.

And thus does the Episcopal Church (USA) descend into its own peculiar hell of irrelevance and inconsequence—on a path paved, as St. John Chrysostom once said, “with the skulls of erring priests, with bishops as their signposts.”


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8 comments

The greater joke, I think, is that not ONE SINGLE bishop, priest or standing committee within TEC, not even the most vaunted “conservatives”, brought charges against “bishop” Shaw.  Plenty of carping, complaining, “something must be done”, “he’s in violation of Canon (take your pick)”...

But just as with CWOB, and all the other desecration of sacraments, not one single official in TEC, anywhere, is actually willing to take a stand and do something about it.

[1] Posted by tjmcmahon on 10-5-2012 at 07:00 AM · [top]

You are twice cruel, Mr Haley! In providing a soundtrack from purgatory to complement the narration of chaotic dissolution, you have ruined the morning that might otherwise be pleasantly enjoyed.

As to why no one speaks out, one better versed in the pathology of family dynamics would be able to answer. I would suspect it has something to do with the fear of things getting precipitously worse and out of control. I also suspect that Bishops, whatever their theology, like control.

[2] Posted by Stefano on 10-5-2012 at 07:19 AM · [top]

By his actions, I consider that he has renounced whatever Holy Orders he might have once had.

Is this the same bishop who takes seminarians to homosexual bars? From the photos of the notorious “wedding,” I know he has no taste in vestments. Our esteemed colleague, Pageantmaster, refers to him as the Tangerine Queen.

I wonder how many bishops and other TEC clergy are currently in sexual relationships outside of Christian marriage, as defined by the BCP and canons. Some are. and, this is also being ignored.

[3] Posted by Ralph on 10-5-2012 at 07:30 AM · [top]

Sounds a lot like the court that acquitted Bp. Walter Righter in 1996 of the charge of “holding and teaching publicly or privately, and advisedly any doctrine contrary to that held by this Church” for ordaining an openly practicing homosexual, in which case several of the bishops on the court had done likewise. That for me was the moment when the fall of TEC became irreversible.

[4] Posted by Stephen Noll on 10-5-2012 at 09:58 AM · [top]

Would that it were a joke!  It is SOP.

[5] Posted by dwstroudmd+ on 10-5-2012 at 10:35 AM · [top]

This is from last month’s Boston Herald:

The Rev. Paul A. LaCharite, 65, was arrested on one count of assault to rape a child and three counts of indecent assault and battery on a child, Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone and Somerville Police Chief Thomas Pasquarello said in a news release. They alleged the abuse occurred over a 10-year period, beginning in the 1990s when the child was in elementary school. The victim told authorities this week of the alleged abuse.

Police would not say if LaCharite was in jail Friday evening.

A man who answered a phone number for LaCharite and identified himself as Bruce Shaw said he does not expect LaCharite to be released from police custody until Monday. He said the abuse allegations are false.

“I don’t believe a word of it,” Shaw said.

Shaw said he has been LaCharite’s partner for 31 years and they have been married for six.

http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2012/09/08/mass_episcopal_priest_charged_with_abusing_child/

I don’t know if Bruce Shaw and Thomas Shaw are related, and good Christian leaders have been hit by dark betrayals of their disciples going back to Judas, but isn’t a bishop still officially charged with maintaining discipline among his priests?  And doesn’t gay marriage still violate that discipline according to Windsor

Unfortunately, the story takes an even more tragic turn as LaCharite, the accused priest, died of a drug overdose two weeks ago.  Prosecutors have not issued a statement so far as I can tell.  But if there’s an unresolved clergy child-rape and suicide case going on in Boston, shouldn’t that be settled before appointing the Bishop to a high judicial court?  I’ve seen zero evidence that Bishop Shaw knew of the Rev. LaCharite’s crimes, and he appears to be cooperating with police much to his credit, but doesn’t this situation need to be publicly resolved first?  We’re innocent until proven guilty, but you wouldn’t appoint a state governor to the Supreme Court two weeks after one of his deputies killed himself after being indicted for child rape, would you?

[6] Posted by The Plantagenets on 10-5-2012 at 04:03 PM · [top]

Sounds a lot like the court that acquitted Bp. Walter Righter in 1996 of the charge of “holding and teaching publicly or privately, and advisedly any doctrine contrary to that held by this Church” for ordaining an openly practicing homosexual, in which case several of the bishops on the court had done likewise. That for me was the moment when the fall of TEC became irreversible.

A good point, although I can’t help but wonder if TEC’s failure to discipline heretical Bishop John Spong was an even more egregious offense.

[7] Posted by the virginian on 10-5-2012 at 04:37 PM · [top]

Only those who stand for orthodoxy get charged for anything - otherwise, anything goes.

[8] Posted by AnglicanXn on 10-6-2012 at 02:03 PM · [top]

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