The comments on our Choir's Facebook Page took an unexpected turn yesterday, when a jovial-faced cleric commented that his Church would welcome us to Phoenix. He signed it (as you can see in the image) +Archbishop Michael Hillis. One of the sisters (from Phoenix, as it happens) didn't recognize the name. A Google search revealed that he was a "Bishop Emeritus" of the "Reformed Catholic Church," about which I have written before. It is a new splinter-church with mostly valid Orders (except for the women they lay hands on...).
I quickly posted a comment, which I then deleted (an hour or two later), responding first that we are a Boston-based group (the bishop seemed to think we were from another country), and then adding, in parentheses: " 'Reformed Catholic Church'? How heartbreaking."
That got the archbishop's attention, and he posted the second comment, which you can see and read below (or by clicking on the image). That was last night. I've been praying for Michael Hillis ever since. Offered my Mass and Communion for him, too.
Today we got one of his community members. You can see where she is coming from.
What the "Reformed" Catholics want us to believe is that theirs is just another perfectly valid expression of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Oh, you're "Roman"? How fine. And she's "Anglican," but we're all just as Catholic as the next. "Catholic is Catholic," as Hillis claimed. But the Anglicans already know from their own painful history that it's not as easy as just adding an adjective to the word "Catholic." Without that actual communion with the Pope of Rome, where is the center of unity? Where is the guarantee that the next bishop, the next generation, will "keep faith" with them? That the next diocese over (the "Reformed" group already has several dioceses and recently expanded, God help us, to Ireland) will "keep faith" with whatever their self-definition is at the present moment? Without a universal, visible center of unity, who gets to decide on that self-definition, anyway (since, without a universal, divinely established teaching authority, it can only be a self-definition)? (Sr Helena commented that I get really worked up over these issues... I think it is because this is so patently illogical that it is unanswerable!)
I feel very uneasy at the way I responded from the first as administrator of the choir's page. Mainly, I wanted to alert the other 2,400 "fans" that not every man in a clerical collar on Facebook is a Catholic priest in communion with the Pope, and not every bishop on Facebook is a Catholic bishop in full communion with the Pope. (In fact, my experience is that only 2% of the bishops on Facebook are Catholic bishops.) The way social networks operate and evolve, does this tiny set of posts and comments matter? Was it a mistake for me to tip Hillis off that his claim ("Archbishop of Phoenix") was not exactly...licit?