jQuery Slider

You are here

Traditional Catholics force Episcopal consecration from Catholic venue

Traditional Catholics force Episcopal consecration from Catholic venue
Susan Haynes sent scurrying to find another venue

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
January 26, 2020

When the news broke that Susan Haynes was to be consecrated the XI Bishop of Southern Virginia, conservative Roman Catholics rose up to protest that the Episcopal bishop-elect's Saturday (Feb. 1) ceremony was the be held in a Catholic church.

Breaking the story on Jan. 15, Catholic news website Church Militant's lead paragraph announcing the proposed consecration read: "Faithful Catholics are fuming after it was announced that a woman is to be consecrated a Protestant "bishop" inside a Virginia Catholic church."

Church Militant, a conservative Catholic Internet news apostolate, keeps a close eye on the activities of liberals in the Catholic fold and is not shy about reporting such shenanigans.

The Catholic news site reported: "Area Catholics in the Diocese of Richmond are outraged that a Catholic church, where Mass is regularly offered, would be used for a Protestant denomination's ceremonies."

The Catholic church in question is St. Bede's, a large modern edifice, in Williamsburg, Virginia. As a church-in-the-round, St. Bede's can seat 1,200 at a time to accommodate its nearly 3,000 family unit membership.

Roman Catholic dioceses record church membership according to the number of registered "family units" in a parish rather than by counting individual baptized, confirmed and communicant members.

Apparently, the decision to hold the Episcopal consecration at St. Bede's has been in the works since before Bishop-elect Haynes was elected in September. She was elected on the eighth ballot from a field of six, including two women priests.

Mother Haynes, as she likes to style herself, was the rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Mishawaka, Indiana. Her pulpit is being filled by retired Bishop Edward Little (VII Northern Indiana) until a new rector can be found.

On Jan. 14, St. Bede's pastor, Msgr. Joseph Lehman, explains in a letter to his parish that the request to use his facility came out of a long-standing formal relationship between the two dioceses. The monsignor is also the newly-named Ecumenical and interreligious Officer for the Diocese of Richmond.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Richmond overlaps all of the Episcopal dioceses of Southern Virginia and Southwestern Virginia and part of the Diocese of Virginia. It has 139 congregations served by 203 priests. There are 334 Episcopal congregations in the entire Commonwealth of Virginia served by 384 priests, of which 163 are female.

Susan Haynes will not be the first female bishop serving in the Diocese of Southern Virginia. From 2002-2005, Carol Joy Gallagher was the diocese's bishop suffragan.

"The Anglican (Episcopal) Communion and the Catholic Church have been in dialogue, both nationally and internationally, since the late 1960s. In addition, in 1990, the two Virginia Catholic dioceses [the dioceses of Arlington and Richmond], the three Episcopal dioceses [the dioceses of Virginia, Southern Virginia and Southwestern Virginia], and the two Lutheran Synods of the ECLA [the synods of Virginia and Metro Washington] in our Commonwealth have been in a covenant. The United Methodists [Virginia Conference] joined us in 2007."

Both the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the United Methodist Church have women clergy and bishops. The Methodist bishop of the Virginia United Methodist Conference is Sharma Lewis. Leila Ortiz is the bishop for the Lutheran Synod, the Metro Washington. The Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is Elizabeth Easton. She was enthroned while Katharine Jefferts Schori was the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. Episcopal Suffragan Bishop Susan Groff is the Bishop with Ecclesial Authority in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, and she is assisted by Bishop Jennifer Brooke-Davidson.

Catholic Bishop Barry Knestout (XIII Richmond) is surrounded by female bishops of every stripe -- Episcopal, Methodist and Lutheran.

More than a year ago, in December 2018, permission to use St. Bede's was originally obtained by the church's previous pastor Msgr. Tim Keeney from Bishop Knestout, with the caveat that the Eucharist be removed from the church during the time the Episcopalians are using it.

"The former pastor, Msgr. Tim Keeney, sought and received approval from our Bishop to host this event," Msgr. Lehman wrote in the letter. "The Bishop's only directive was to 'remove the reserved Blessed Sacrament.'"

Bishop Knestout was acting on a 1993 Vatican document on the Principles and Norms on Ecumenism which states: "... if priests, ministers or communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church do not have a place or the liturgical objects necessary for celebrating worthily their religious ceremonies, the diocesan bishop may allow them the use of a church or a Catholic building."

This was all too much for conservative Catholics. They rose up to dispute the planned consecration and an online petition "Stop Ordination of Female Episcopalian 'Bishop' at Catholic Church" was launched. The petition of protest to Bishop Knestout quickly garnered 2,000 signatures and now more than 3,000 have signed the plea.

"On Saturday February 1, 2020 at 11am, St. Bede's Catholic Church in Williamsburg, Virginia, USA (bedeva.org) is allowing the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia to consecrate their new bishop, Susan Bunton Haynes inside a Catholic Church," the petition prefaced.

Petition authors consider Haynes' consecration as an Episcopal bishop a sacrilege which should not happen in a Catholic church setting.

"We are asking for your signature to help convince His Excellency, Bishop Barry Knestout of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond to stop this event and the desecration of one of his own parishes."

This was all too much for Bishop-elect Haynes. She was first to throw in the towel and withdrew from the plans to use the Catholic church for her consecration.

"I am writing to withdraw from our contract to use the lovely, holy space of St. Bede for my upcoming consecration as the 11th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia" she wrote to Bishop Knestout. "We have so appreciated and admired your grace and courage in extending this hospitality and abiding by your invitation even under fire from those within your own flocks."

The Diocese of Southern Virginia posted a more detailed explanation for the change of venue on its website, citing I Corinthians 8 for the scriptural basis for the move where "the Apostle Paul cautioned Christians to be careful about pursuing behavior that might cause problems for others within their community."

"The decision to change the location from St. Bede Catholic Church in Williamsburg arose out of concern and respect for the ministries and leadership of both the Catholic parish and the Catholic Diocese of Richmond," the Episcopal diocese posted. "Learning that its intended use of the building was causing dismay and distress, the Episcopal Diocese withdrew from its contract with St. Bede."

Now Saturday's consecration service is slated to be held at the Williamsburg Community Chapel, an interdenominational congregation which "sticks to a short list of core beliefs that we consider essential for true Christian fellowship, and we do our best to 'agree to disagree' on things that are nonessential." Its "short list of core beliefs" is loosely based on the articles of the Apostle's Creed.

Williamsburg is a community of nearly 15,000 people which was originally founded in 1632. Now, the wider 21st century community houses Colonial Williamsburg which draws upward to one million tourists a year. There are only two Episcopal congregations within the historic Virginia city -- Bruton Parish founded in 1674, which is a part of the Colonial Williamsburg complex; and St. Martin's Episcopal Church, which has two women priests and an all-female paid staff. Both Williamsburg Episcopal churches have two of the largest congregations in the diocese.

Episcopal Bishop Herman Hollerith (X Southern Virginia) was once the rector of Burton Parish before becoming bishop in 2009. He retired at the end on 2018. During the interim year, Armed Forces Bishop James Magness has stepped in as bishop pro tempore until Susan Haynes becomes the XI Bishop of Southern Virginia on Saturday.

Catholic Bishop Knestout is not happy about the move from St. Bede's.

"It is with great sadness that I have received a letter from Bishop-elect Susan Haynes stating that, due to the controversy of the proposed use of St. Bede Catholic Church for her consecration as the bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia, she has decided to find another location for the ceremony to take place."

He said that the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism, gives "clear guidelines and recommendations regarding the possibility of sharing space with our separated brothers and sisters."

As the bishop ordinary of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, he is responsible for exercising direction and discretion over ecumenical initiatives within his diocese with non-Catholics.

"Use of space in a Catholic parish for the Episcopal Church to conduct their own religious ceremony is well within the accepted ecumenical teachings and norms of the Church," the Catholic bishop said. "I appreciate that people are concerned that the sacred space of the Catholic Church be safeguarded, which it is."

Paragraph 137 of the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism first explains that "Catholic churches are consecrated or blessed buildings which have an important theological and liturgical significance for the Catholic community. They are therefore generally reserved for Catholic worship."

This directive is then followed by the all-important "however ..."

"However, if priests, ministers or communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church do not have a place or the liturgical objects necessary for celebrating worthily their religious ceremonies ..."

Whereas the Catholic Church will only ordain its clergy -- deacon, priest, bishop -- in a consecrated liturgical setting, The Episcopal Church has no such canonical mandate.

Bishop Knestout goes on to explain that Paragraph 207 of the Principles and Norms on Ecumenism document states: "Catholics can join with other Churches and ecclesial Communities -- provided there is nothing sectarian or deliberately anti-Catholic about their work of evangelization -- in organizations and programs that give common support to the missionary activities of all the participating Churches."

The Virginia Catholic bishop sees cooperating with the Episcopalians on the consecration of a woman bishop as the XI Bishop of Southern Virginia as in keeping with Paragraph 207.

"In view of the request from the Episcopal Church for the use of space in one of our parishes on a special occasion for their community, the offer of hospitality to a Christian neighbor in need is an act of Christian charity and well within the teaching of ecumenism and the norms provided by the Church for ecumenical activities," the bishop penned in his brief one-page letter of clarification to his diocese.

Neither the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia nor the Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia have a cathedral. However, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia has a small open-air cathedral shrine in a grotto-type setting. The Cathedral Shrine of the Transfiguration would be unsuitable for the consecration of an Episcopal bishop. The venue is way too small to accommodate the crowd and liturgical needs for the service.

The diocesan offices for the Diocese of Southern Virginia are in Newport News. However, Williamsburg has great historical significance for the diocese even if there is no Episcopal cathedral there. The closest Episcopal cathedral is the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, where Bishop Hollerith's brother, Randolph, is cathedral dean. The IX Bishop of Washington is a female -- Marianne Budde.

In 2009, Bishop Hollerith was consecrated at the William and Mary Hall within the College of William & Mary. The college was charted in 1693 by the Letters of Patent issued by King William III of Orange (1650-1702) and Queen Mary II (1662-1694). It is one of three Colonial colleges founded in the 1600's along with New College (Harvard) in 1636; and King William's school (St. John's College-Annapolis) in 1696.

Initially, William & Mary was founded as an Anglican institution where students were required to be members of the Church of England, and professors were required to declare adherence to the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. Now the Colonial-era college is a public research university with no religious connections.

The consecration of an Episcopal bishop in a Catholic church is not the first time recently that Episcopalians ran into a buzz saw in trying to share liturgical space.

It is a common practice for Episcopalians to reach out to Catholics when they need a larger worship space for ordinations and consecrations. In 2000, Bishop Little was consecrated bishop at the Catholic Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

Sticklers will point to the fact that in 1896, Pope Leo XIII solemnly declared Anglican ordinations to be "absolutely null and utterly void." The problem is further complicated by Episcopal women priests and bishopettes seeking to use Catholic altars.


Early last summer (2019), the fat hit the fan when it became known that Bishop Wendell Gibbs (X Michigan) decided to have his celebratory retirement Eucharist at an area Roman Catholic Church in Brighton, Michigan.

Both Anglicans and Roman Catholics raised cane ostensibly because Bishop Gibbs' embrace of the LGBT agenda. VirtueOnline was the first to break the story that a formal complaint was filed with the Roman Catholic Bishop of Lansing, Earl Boyea (V Lansing), over the Episcopal bishop's desire to hold his retirement gala at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church. On June 27, 2019, the VOL headline read: "Pro-homosexual Episcopal 'Mass' at Catholic Church Draws Complaint."

It wasn't long before Church Militant picked up on the story and followed up with a story of its own: "Pro-Gay Episcopalian Service Moved Off Catholic Parish After Backlash" revealing that Bishop Gibbs was forced to move his Eucharistic celebration, he was being kicked out of St. Mary Magdalen even before he got there.

At the time, St. Mary Magdalen, a 30,000 square foot modernistic church-in-the-round which seats 700 worshippers, was in the throes of changing priests. Longtime pastor Fr. David Howell retired at the end of June and stepping behind the Brighton Catholic church altar for the first time in July 2019 was Fr. Shawn Lowery, O.S.F.S. He is a young friar of the Franciscan order of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. The offering and rescinding of his parish's altar occurred even before he arrived on the scene.

Bishop Gibbs' own Cathedral of St. Paul is in Detroit. The late Gothic Revival limestone edifice only seats 600, so a larger venue was needed to host Bishop Gibbs' November retirement service. In 2019, Bishop Gibbs was the longest still-sitting Episcopal bishop in the House of Bishops. He grabbed the mitre and crozier on November 2, 2000.

The planned November 9 event would be on a Saturday morning and the Episcopalians would have had plenty of time to clear out of St. Mary Magdalen for the Saturday 4:30 afternoon Catholic Mass.

But there should be a bigger issue in play than Bishop Gibbs' being friendly with the LGBT crowd. St. Mary Magdalen is a Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Rome does not ordain priestesses the way The Episcopal Church does. For conservative Catholics it would be a desecration of the Catholic altar to have a woman priest concelebrating an Episcopal Eucharistic celebration.

In all likelihood, Bishop Gibbs would be gathering together his priests to join him at the altar. In 2015, according to the latest Episcopal Church clergy stats, the Diocese of Michigan had 81 priests, 37 of whom are female. In addition to the priestesses, there are also a host of female deacons, who could also be tapped to proclaim the Gospel. That is another no-no. The Catholic Church does not allow women to be the Gospeller or preach -- even a nun.

After the dust settled, Bishop Gibbs returned to his own St. Paul's Cathedral for his retirement soiree.

One week after Susan Haynes becomes Southern Virginia's bishop on Feb. 1, Bonnie Perry is slated to become the XI Bishop of Michigan, grabbing Bishop Gibbs' crozier as bishop ordinary. Haynes and Perry will respectively become the 38th and 39th women elected to the Episcopal House of Bishops.

Perry is staying well away from any Catholic venue for her Feb. 8 consecration. She has selected the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center in Dearborn for her event.

In addition to becoming a female bishop, Bonnie Perry will also become the second partnered lesbian in the HOB, and the fifth openly partnered homosexual to join the episcopal ranks. Other out and proud gay bishops include Mary Glasspool (New York assistant); Thomas Brown (X Maine); and, of course, Vicky Gene Robinson (IX New Hampshire). Deon Johnson is slated to become the XI Bishop of Missouri in April. His consecration is to be held at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, an independent Catholic church in St. Louis.

It took Perry three cracks to break the stained-glass ceiling for herself. She first offered herself for membership in the House of Bishops in 2006, seeking to become the VIII Bishop of California -- and the first partnered lesbian bishop -- the same year that Katharine Jefferts Schori broke through the stained-glass ceiling as The Episcopal Church's first presiding bishop. But Perry lost out to Bishop Marc Andrus. In 2009, Bonnie Perry lost her bid to become the IX Bishop of Minnesota to Brian Prior. The third try charm came in 2019 when she went after Bishop Gibbs' seat in Michigan.


In 2014, the 19th dean of Nashotah Bishop Edward Salmon (XIII South Carolina) issued an invitation to Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to "come and see" Nashotah House -- the premier Anglo-Catholic seminary in The Episcopal Church.

The female Presiding Bishop was not offered the altar. Nashotah House does not allow women to celebrate the Service of Holy Communion. But she was offered the pulpit. In the 178-year history, no woman has ever exercised her priesthood at Nashotah's altar. Nashotah is one of the few places remaining in The Episcopal Church where the male priesthood takes precedence, although Nashotah is a coeducation institution.

However, in short order, after the news of her invitation became known, two revered ACNA bishops revolted. Bishop Jack Iker (IV Fort Worth), who with Archbishop Robert Duncan (I ACNA) was at the time attending GAFCON II in Nairobi, Kenya. Bishop William Wantland (IV Eau Claire) also had enough and made his views known.

Bishop Iker immediately resigned as a Nashotah House Board trustee, stating that he would not be a part of any institution which honors the XVI Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church; and Bishop Wantland distanced himself from the Wisconsin seminary. He said that he "will not take part in any functions at Nashotah" nor continue "to give financial support to the House as long as the present administration remains."

Then Chairman of the Board Bishop Daniel Martins (X Springfield) blogged as the crisis unfolded: "A tempest has arisen from the news that the seminary has extended an invitation to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to visit the House and preach at the Eucharist for the feasts of Ss Philip & James on May 1, and she has accepted."

The "tempest" Bishop Martins is referring to is that Katharine Jefferts Schori, a very liberal, theologically-challenged and dictatorial female Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church was coming to town and that news didn't sit well with the theologically conservative and Anglo-Catholic mindset which has set Nashotah House apart from the rest of the more liberal TEC seminaries. The blogosphere was starting to have a field day with the breaking tempest and its unfolding story.

The Presiding Bishop was to be a part of Nashotah's Thursday Evening Preaching Series designed to foster deep theological discussions and a greater search for the truth, while affording the seminarians a broader understanding of the wideness, depth and heights of the Anglican stream of Christianity.

As the Nashotah tempest unfolded, it was determined and as the story continued to expand, it was learned that the prominent Wisconsin seminary planned to reach out to Katharine Jefferts Schori with the "pure Gospel of Jesus Christ being presented in a graceful, non-judgmental and loving manner thus graphically showing that her misconceptions and negative opinions about Nashotah House are unfounded."

"The House is a place -- perhaps the only place -- in the Anglican Communion where ecclesial affiliation has remained secondary to our primary mission of forming faithful priests and lay leaders for service on the modern frontier," Bishop Salmon explained in a Nashotah news release on the subject.

"I'm not looking to enter into a theological battle with her to get her to see the world the way we see it," Bishop Salmon told VOL at the time. "She has been invited to preach to a theological community, not a parish church where half the people don't know any theology. She is coming to preach to a sophisticated theological community with a fine faculty and students who know the New Testament and know Jesus."

"I invited Katharine Schori to The House because three students that she told 'not to come' wanted her to see a place where people were from ACNA and TEC and all kinds other places and we weren't suing each other, and we weren't mad at each other, and we were living in a Christ-centered community," The Nashotah bishop continued. "I don't know how it will affect her. That is the message she needs to hear from us. I want her to see a place where all kinds of people from different ecclesial bodies are living in harmony with each other."

The Anglican traditionals were not having it. They were not accepting Bishop Salmon's rationale. VirtueOnline called for his resignation.

"Bishop Edward Salmon, Dean and President of Nashotah House, the flagship Anglo Catholic seminary in Nashotah, Wisconsin should resign, having forfeited his right to continue to lead the seminary following an invitation to Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to address the student body there." David Virtue wrote. "In this latest debacle Salmon has revealed himself to be a prevaricator, a fence sitter and useful idiot for the episcopal administration."

Anglican conservatives feel that not only the altar, but the pulpit must be protected from error because both the Word (pulpit) and Sacrament (altar) are vitally important.

"We take no joy from the knowledge that folks who love The House are grieved by the invitation and it was not issued in any other spirit than that of engaging in mission. The 'Pax Nashotah' is not going to go away. The commitment to the Anglo-Catholic vision of the 'faith once delivered to the Saints' is not going to go away," a Nashotah news release concluded. "The mission of The House, the direction of The House, the theology of The House is not changing. A visit -- even one involving a sermon -- will not change what has been bought at a price."

The Presiding Bishop's invitation was not rescinded and Bishop Salmon did not resign. Katharine Jefferts Schori visited the seminary, participating in Evensong and preaching. But the event has left a lasting bitter taste in the mouth of those who support Nashotah House.

Bishop Solman died in 2016, at the age of 82.


Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, the Catholic archbishop of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston has a habit of loaning out his massive 27,800 square foot co-cathedral. The edifice can seat 2,000 in a pinch.

In February 2012, he let the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter take over the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart for its inaugural Mass and enthronement of former Episcopal Bishop Jeffrey Steenson (VIII Rio Grande) as its first ordinary. That action was not problematic, since the Anglican Ordinariate is fully Roman Catholic, albeit with an Anglican accent.

However, it was in May 2013, when Cardinal DiNardo (IV Galveston-Houston) allowed the Methodists in for a "Service of Commissioning and Ordination" led by United Methodist Bishopette Janice Huie (Texas United Methodist Conference). It is not known if the Eucharist was removed during the Methodists' occupation of the Houston cathedral. Catholics were incensed.

One young Catholic e-mailed Church Militant, which broke the story.

"Just talked with Cardinal DiNardo for 15 minutes on the phone. He made the decision and sees nothing wrong with what he did. I mentioned the fact that the Methodists are pro-gay 'marriage' and pro-abortion. He didn't seem to care. Considered the action to be "ecumenical hospitality" to promote "goodwill" with the Protestants. I told him that he has created scandal. He said 'sorry you're scandalized'... but I responded 'it's not just me ... it's many young adults.' I suggested he give a public explanation for his actions. He said 'well they are your friends, so you tell them.' I said, 'I definitely will, but I think it would be appropriate for you to do it yourself, publicly, so that I don't misrepresent anything you told me.'" He said he'd consider my advisement."

The Houston cardinal also allowed the 2014 funeral of Lisa Benitez at his co-cathedral. Benitez was an active Planned Parenthood organizer and gay "marriage" supporter.

Catholic canon law prohibits church funerals for "notorious apostates, heretics, and schismatics; and other manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful."

Benitez' 2014 funeral was followed by a 2015 funeral where Paul-David Phy -- "survived by his beloved husband Christopher Victor Lemus of Tampa, Florida" -- received full Catholic burial rites at another Catholic church in Houston.

In 2016, Cardinal DiNardo was elected president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). After a stormy three-year stint, he retired from that post late last year (2019).

Then in November 2018, during his tenure as the USCCB head, law enforcement officers from neighboring Montgomery County (Texas); the Conroe (Texas) Police; and the Texas Rangers, along with various federal agencies, descended upon his chancery and carted off documents and the infamous locked "secret files" as a part of a growing sex abuse scandal surrounding a former Conroe priest.

Apparently, the accumulating stress became too much for the Houston cardinal and while leading a Lenten Friday Stations of the Cross at his cathedral, Cardinal DiNardo suffered a stroke and was immediately hospitalized. His suffragan, Bishop George Sheltz, stepped in to complete the service.

Cardinal DiNardo has returned to work. He will turn 75 in 2024, at which point he can turn in his retirement papers to the Vatican. He is the first sitting cardinal from Texas.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Prayer Book Alliance

Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee

Drink Coffee

Do Good

Sustainable Ministry

Coffee, Community, Social Justice


Go To Top