Former Bishop Pope dies in Baton Rouge surrounded by wife, family

By ENS staff
Posted Jan 9, 2012

[Episcopal News Service] Second Diocese of Fort Worth Bishop Clarence Pope died in his sleep Jan. 8 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Pope, 81, will be buried from St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Baton Rouge, on Jan. 12. Visitation will begin at 10 a.m., with a Requiem Mass to begin at 11 a.m.

Pope had been the second rector of St. Luke’s and it was from there that he was elected to be bishop coadjutor of Fort Worth on Sept. 14, 1984. He succeeded diocesan Bishop A. Donald Davies in January 2006.

The Rev. Canon Chad Jones, rector of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, Zachary, will celebrate and preach at Pope’s service. Interment at the Grace Episcopal Church Cemetery, St. Francisville, will follow immediately.

Pope was reportedly being treated for pneumonia when he died. His wife, Dr. Martha Pope, and other members of his family had been with him during the week.

Both the continuing Diocese of Forth Worth and the diocese made up of Episcopalians who left the wider Episcopal Church in late 2008 noted Pope’s death Jan. 9.

Pope was the diocese’s second bishop, serving from 1986 to 1995. He announced in October 1994 that he intended to retire as diocesan bishop January 1, 1995, join the Roman Catholic Church and eventually seek ordination as a Roman Catholic priest. That effort would have been made under the Pastoral Provisions set in place by the Vatican in 1980 to allow married Episcopal priest to enter the Roman priesthood.

After his announcement, Pope took sabbatical leave and turned over his administrative duties to the Rt. Rev. Jack Iker, who was bishop coadjutor at the time.

He entered the Roman Catholic Church in early 1995 during a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston. The mass was held at St. Mary the Virgin Catholic Church in Arlington, Texas, a former Episcopal congregation which Pope and the diocesan Standing Committee had allowed to leave the diocese in 1991 after a nearly unanimous vote of the congregation.

In August 1995 Pope withdrew his letter of resignation from the House of Bishops and returned to the Episcopal Church. At the time, he told the New York Times that he had a “growing unease” with his decision because he would have to give up his episcopal orders to become a Roman Catholic priest. The House of Bishops had been scheduled to act on his resignation in September.

Pope reportedly explored the Roman Catholic Church again for a period of time  in 1998 but returned in December of that year.

Then in August 2007, Iker told his clergy that Pope had told him that he and his wife would be re-joining the Roman Catholic Church. Pope told Iker he had mailed a letter to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori informing her of his decision. During a subsequent House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans the next month, Jefferts Schori announced that Pope had voluntarily renounced his Episcopal Church orders.

Pope was a founder and first president of the Episcopal Synod of America, now Forward in Faith/North America.

Iker, who said that he had lost “a valued mentor and beloved friend,” said Pope “will be remembered first as a loving pastor who cared deeply for his clergy and their families, and second as a defender of the historic faith and order of the catholic church.”

Pope graduated from Centenary College and the University of the South and was ordained priest in 1955. He served as priest-in-charge at a number of missions in Louisiana and as rector of St. George’s, Bossier City, before being called to St. Luke’s, Baton Rouge, in 1963. He was a chaplain in the Air Force reserve for 10 years.


Comments (9)

  1. Robert Anton Franken says:

    What about his cartoons?

  2. Bill Dilworth says:

    I’m puzzled by his reported funeral plans, given the fact that various Roman Catholic sites state Bishop Pope died a Roman Catholic.

  3. Brent Caldwell says:

    I knew Bishop Pope when he was at Trinity Baton Rouge. He was very young and needless to say so was I. He led my confirmation class which was informative, meaningful and lots of fun. He was able to keep our age group engaged. – a major plus for us and him. I appreciate his being an important part of my youth. Brent Caldwell

  4. The Rev. John T. Farrell says:

    May he rest in peace. I presume Mr. Pope now knows which church is one and true, a question that vexed and puzzled him for many years. In the end, his confusion helped no one and he could not be said to be an adornment to either of the communions he favored at any given moment.

  5. Bill Dilworth says:

    De mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est, Fr. Farrell.

  6. Peter Ots says:

    I vividly remember Clarence prostrating himself during his ordination. I took his gesture to mean he fully understood his vow to “solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church.” However, the church he must have thought he knew was undergoing sure and steady cultural change. So many of his fellow Episcopalians had already reconsidered and shed their historical positions as—in light of late 20th-Century thinking—un-American and undemocratic: note that we barely bat an eyelash at a layperson who divorces then remarries, or who sleeps with his/her betrothed before marriage, things that were ubiquitously scandalous before the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s.

    It looks to me like he was trying to find the church that spiritually nourished the Greatest Generation only to feel it slip between his fingers like dry sand.

    May he find in the life of the world to come what this world could never offer him.

    1. John Kirk says:

      Precisely the question. Are “un-American” and “undemocratic,” not to mention “late 20th-Century thinking,” the final standards against which Truth, as it exists (if it exists), are to be measured? If something is true, then my reaction to it, my “liking” of it, is of no effect on that Truth or Truths whatsoever. I can be pleased by the Truth or dismayed by the Truth. It wouldn’t alter the Truth at all. I pray that Bishop Pope arrived at that truth, that safe harbor, at last and that there his soul will rest in peace.

      1. Peter Ots says:

        Peter Schickele (a.k.a P.D.Q. Bach’s “biographer”) once quipped, “Truth is Truth. You can’t have opinions about truth” during a soliloquy about P.D.Q.’s questioned authenticity (wow, what a mind!). That said, I don’t mind people saying they are uncomfortable with someone else’s views and actions.

        My own distaste came with the first article of the Constitution of the Diocese of Ft. Worth, which stated that it didn’t have to abide decisions of the ECUSA. If that’s the case, it should never have voted on any issue raised, because in a democracy, voting obligates you to abide the outcome. I always thought article was an I’m-going-to-take-my-marbles-and-go-home-but-then-I’m-going-to-tell-my-dad-on-you-and-he’ll-come-out-here-and-stomp-you-so-then-you’ll-be-sorry gold-plated diatribe.

        LOTS of Episcopalians aren’t wild about the direction the church is taking, but what we must fearlessly ask is, were we wrong? We don’t clamor to have the Churching of Women returned to common practice (q.v. BCP 1928). Why not? Birthing a child makes a woman unclean, or so the language strongly suggests, and it is based squarely on Scripture. Passing of bodily fluids is certainly messy but is it really an indication of judgment? Late 20th Century thinking and democratic thinking say “No!” Is that thinking right? I am inclined to believe it is.

        Our troubles as a church are more that we don’t listen to one another very well. Cooperation takes courage and humility; if you don’t have those qualities mastered, it’s impossible.

  7. Leslie Scoopmire says:

    May he rest in peace. But why are his funeral and burial Episcopalian?

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