Saturday, April 21, 2018

Clear Creek Community and The Benedict Option, Part 1. The Idea of a Village Conference.

Annual Clear Creek Conference, The Idea of a Village.  June 30th, 2018:

I hear the Clear Creek community is having another annual conference with topics that relate to the idea of starting a Catholic Village around Clear Creek monastery, based in part on the writings of John Senior.  Fr. Bethel, OSB, Abbey Prior, spoke last year,  being the published expert on the thought of John Senior.

This year's featured speaker will be Fr. Dwight Longenecker, a married Catholic priest, Anglican convert, and blogger known for his defense of Amoris Latitiae, accepting its heresy that public, unrepentant adulterers can sacriligeously receive Holy Communion.   Not to mention his reputation for portraying Catholic traditionalists as fundamentalists.  (Most Clear Creekers are traditionalists, btw).

The Benedict Option:

I am all for the so-called Benedict Option in theory.  The idea being for Catholics to live near each other, forming communities, distinct from the secular mainstream, in particular around monasteries.  It is a noble idea.  In the most general sense, I support some people considering this way of life.  

There is historic precedence after all, i.e. during the so-called dark ages, those periods in the medieval period marked by barbarianism to the point many devout Christians gravitated towards living near monasteries.  To form pockets of Christian civilization, distinct from the pagan culture around them.  

And aren't we living in another dark age?  it seems legitimate to at least consider the possibility of a Catholic village or neighborhood.

Monasteries were not only the source of Christian learning, and preservation of culture, they became a locus of social living, an institution that helped Christianize Europe.  The Rule of St. Benedict in particular, as lived out in the Benedictine lifestyle, infused the Christian spirit into the hamlets, villages, and towns that often formed around them.

This phenomenon is well documented by most Catholic historians, including Cardinal Newman, and Warren Carroll whose now authoritative volumes on Catholic history are commonplace in many a traditional Catholic's library.

As are the books of John Senior, which were very informative for me in my "journey to Catholic tradition," eighteen years ago.  In his The Restoration of Christian Culture, a must read, Senior advocates for Catholics to form communities around Benedictine monasteries, or to found Catholic neighborhoods in the city.

In other words, The Benedict Option.

Attempts at Catholic Communities:

There has been some very relative success.  St. Mary's, KS is probably the best example.  The town has 2000+ traditional Catholics for decades, most of the families sending their children to St. Mary's Academy.

But it also has its colorful history of nutters and infighting, and some would say cultish behaviors.

The Society of St. John fantasized about founding a medieval village in PA, with stone-oven bakers and juggling monks, but we know how that ended...

Star of the Sea community, in Arkansas, is a strange mix of charismatics and traditionalists.  Having visited there, it did seem peaceable enough, but it was somewhat (behind the scenes) divided between the two factions, small, and lacking energy.   The founder wanted a lay community of "Catholic pro-life activists" living the simple life in the country-side.  It evolved into something quite different.

John Michael Talbot's Little Portion Hermitage outside of Eureka Springs, AR.  Enough said.  I trust most readers know about their eclectic blend of religion, spirituality, and vocations.  That said, I do like to listen to some of Talbot's songs -- in my living room.

I'm sure there are dozens of other examples.  I myself briefly considered joining a "pro-life community" in Wisconsin, before I came to my senses.  It was called "The Servants of Our Lady of Guadalupe" founded by Bishop Burke (later Cardinal) of LaCrosse, WI (it dissolved).  I was 24, so I'm not too hard on myself for the frame of mind that motivates some young Catholics looking for an ideal, alternative environment, as was my thinking at the time.  Hindsight is 20/20, they say.

The Clear Creek Village Project:

A few years ago, I read an article by Abbot Anderson, praising the project of forming a village around the monastery, as a way of returning to a more traditional, 19th century way of living.  His words.  But with all due respect, it struck me as overly poetic, and wishful thinking.  Case in point, he was describing the design and construction of a "village store," where the CC locals can come together.  

Well, it is 2018, and I've never seen or heard any sign of this Village Store in the 5-6 times I've visited CC in the last 2-3 years.  Does it exist?

I am sure certain families have their sociable, private cliques, but I've heard maybe 10 first hand comments about major divisions that exist there.  And I am a listener, not a meddler.  

A good number have moved there believing the world is about to end.  Some have followed a seer, directing them to live there and wait for the final tribulation.

Others have transplanted their families to a traditionalist, Latin Mass monastery, having little or no exposure to either the Latin Mass or traditional Catholics.  Naturely then, there is division between the traditionalists and those who are more Novus Ordo Catholics.

Fr. Longenecker, for example, is a Novus Ordo rite Catholic.


Just shooting from the hip, how about:

1.  The newer, young families re-boot the idea of starting a traditional parish near the monastery.  There are a number of young, millenial-aged men with leadership abilities who can organize people, encourage them, and work for unity, since they do seem to be a de facto Catholic community already.  And it is the nature of a local community of Catholics to form a "local church," in other words a "parish."

Chats in the monastery parking lot, and private cliques, just don't cut the mustard, if you want to aim for a "Catholic Village."  There is a large supply of motu proprio-devoted diocesan priests, in their own limbo, who might jump at the chance of starting a parish there in the countryside, with permissions.  And the new parish can integrate attendance at Mass between the parish church and the monastery.  I am sure the monks would still support the integration.

2.  Start first with a community center of sorts.  A building.  A public place.  A convenience store/post office/pizza place.  Something.  It could be small, but accommodate a crowd.  A public point of reference.  A Village is a public thing, so to organically develop into a public thing, the private has to yield more and more to a public reality.  Hence this public blog post.

3.  If the idea is The Benedict Option, then follow the traditionalism of the Clear Creek monks, in preserving all things traditional:  the liturgy, spirituality, culture, lifestyle, etc.  Be united in Catholic tradition.  Yes, there will be a place for private disagreements.  But there will always be ideological differences between traditional and conservative Catholics today.  The Novus Ordo Catholics need to yield to the traditionalist spirit of the Abbey and traditional Catholic locals.  

4.  Please, reconsider moving to Clear Creek IF:

a.  You cannot adequately, financially support your family living there. 

b.  You want to live in Catholic Disneyland.  There will never be a Catholic Disneyland, except in heaven.

c.  You are planning to practice a "private Catholicism" in your home and closed, cliquish circle.   These monks are called to a purely cloistered life, and cannot provide pastoral support.  You have to try to form a parish, or travel to Tulsa for the Latin Mass and parish life.   


I hope their conference is a success, and that they can form an authentic, traditional Catholic parish community around Clear Creek monastery.  Having visited CC dozens of times over the years, that hollowed place will always have a special place in my soul.  

(Part 2: hopefully an interview discussion with Tom Montgomery, 90 y.o part-time CC resident, and parishioner at Most Precious Blood in Tulsa, about his words of wisdom for a CC community)


  1. Good luck. Such a project would only be possible with strong, level headed priests, who would be capable of stomping out the wackos who end up ruining all of these types
    of communities.

    1. Right, and it's kinda hard for contemplative monks to do just that, though the Abbot has tried over the years. The paradox seems to be that to form a parish there, there has to be people who realize the paramount importance of establishing a parish community, overseen by an ordained pastor; whereas, many who move there seem to not make belonging to a parish a priority in the first place. So it's an uphill battle, hence it seems why the Bishop's first attempt at a parish there fell through. Most residents treat the monastery like it is their parish, which can turn the cloistered environment into a circus and frustrate the monk's contemplative life. It definitely would take strong leadership to form a parish, and an actual, formal Catholic community there.

  2. The idea always seems to be the British idea of a village. If that is the case, shouldn't the pub the the center of gathering?

    1. Good idea. Someone recently told me they thought traditional Catholics need to drink more. A place to drink a beer, talk, share news. A perfect spot would be near the monastery entrance.

  3. What is going on at Clear Creek that they would invite Longenecker to speak there????

    1. I like that priest, generally, but not some of his reckless portrayal of traditionalist Catholics. Christopher Ferrara even went so far to threaten him with a lawsuit if he didn't withdraw certain statements on his blog, which he did. Which is why I included him in the intro to my post, since many or most Clear Creekers are generally traditionalists. BTW, this post is getting hundreds of views since posting it last night.

    2. That's cause you're linked on Canon212.

      Isn't Tulsa where the Bishop kicked the good Mother superior (nee Roz Moss) and her new fledgling traditional order of nuns out of his diocese? That stunk to High Heaven. Speaking of which, have you any news of how she and her order are doing, and where they ended up?

    3. She and the sisters go to Most Precious Blood Parish in Tulsa. They are still looking for a Bishop to welcome them to his diocese.

    4. I don't care for Fr. Longenecker. His calumny on his blog and flawed understanding of the Catholic faith. He is also a married priest. Do he and his wife practice perfect continence? As canonist Ed Peters showed in his 30+ page document on the requirement of continence by permanent deacons the same would apply, even more so to priests. Not to mention that I have yet to see a Novus Ordo celebrated in which grave Eucharistic sacrilege isn't committed, so there is that.

    5. Has anyone from the Clear Creek Village ever asked the FSSP to establish a parish there, I wonder? Someone with a high threshold for annoyance towards the "wackos," John's word.

      I'm no sociologist, but without a parish there, I can't see it being a viable Catholic community in the long term.

  4. I don't know if they have or not, but without a parish, it isn't Catholic, not in the full sense of the word, but we do live in extraordinary times.

  5. Cool dudes... it's a process. We're still working it. A Pub centric model has potential ;)
    I can offer good coffee until next steps are in place.

    1. So there is no village store? Abbot Anderson in his 2016 article said it was going to be constructed. Quite a drive to Peggs or Hulbert.

      In countries like Mexico or the Philippines, they have these little road side restaurants/stores. A few shelves, hot plates, plastic tables, and chairs, and bingo you have a public place. But what percentage of the CC people seriously want/need a public place? A deacon from Broken Arrow wrote a blog post praising the community, but was alarmed the country store on your way to Hulbert had rarely had Clear Creekers enter it's doors.