Here come the Anglicans: details on America’s first ordinariate

This broke while I was away from my desk, in the middle of the Sunday Marathon of Masses, but Rocco has all you need to know:

In an unprecedented Sunday announcement — a significant sign of Rome’s degree of seriousness about the effort — the Vatican’s press bulletin gave official word of the erection of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter, encompassing the territory of the United States. The national quasi-diocese for the entering groups is the second of its kind, following England’s Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, which was launched a year ago this month.

Fr Jeffrey Steenson, 59, the former Episcopal bishop of Rio Grande ordained a priest of the archdiocese of Santa Fe in 2009, has been named the founding Ordinary. A married father of three and Oxford-trained patristics scholar who’s been serving until now as a professor at Houston’s St Mary’s Seminary and University of St Thomas, Steenson’s appointment is effective immediately.

But the real interesting nugget is buried further down in Rocco’s report, which indicates this “married father of three” will effectively be a bishop in everything but name:

Even as Steenson will be able to exercise the full authority of a bishop among his nationwide flock, the Anglicanorum provisions and Catholic theology preclude the elevation of a married cleric to the episcopacy. As Ordinary — that is, head of an ecclesial organ “juridically equivalent to a diocese” — he will regardless have full membership in the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In addition, any former Anglican bishops ordained to the Catholic priesthood may use the use “the insignia of the episcopal office” after seeking Rome’s permission — which, according to one credible report, Steenson has already received — and are entitled to sit in the episcopal conference with the status of a retired prelate.

To date, one other prior Episcopal hierarch, the now-former Bishop John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida, was also ordained a Catholic priest in 2009. The 61 year-old cleric serves in the diocese of St Petersburg.



  1. Eugene Pagano says:

    How does “Catholic theology preclude the elevation of a married cleric to the episcopacy?”

  2. Good point, it should have said Catholic Discipline.

  3. Rocco Palmer seems premature in expecting Anglican Use parishes to form a base. As Cardinal DiNardo and Cardinal Wuerl made an explicit point of making at the Bishops’ Conference meeting, it is not automatic and would have to be approved by their current bishops and the new Ordinary. Seeing as how there are very few parishes and very few bishops that would be involved (and Cardinal DiNardo had obviously given his own permission), it would seem the other Anglican Use parishes may be prevented from joining the Ordinariate. When I saw Fr. Steenson a few weeks back before I knew he was to be appointed the Ordinary I had asked him why that question was so publicly stated and he indicated that it was actually asked on behalf of another bishop. Bishop Garcia-Sillar? “Oh he’s a very nice man”. Bishop Vann, who is now head of the Pastoral Provision office, sounds as though he feels that having St. Mary the Virgin parish a treasure for the diocese. Does he want it to remain a Personal Parish under the Pastoral Provision that he is now in charge of rather than allowing it to join the Ordinariate? While it should seem obvious that the Anglican Use parishes should be allowed to join the Ordinariate (and it seems they all have indicated some interest in doing so) it seems far from a sure thing at this point. Does Fr. Steenson not desire it himself?

  4. Per the new Ordinariate’s own website: “Anglicanorum coetibus was a response to repeated and persistent inquiries from Anglican groups worldwide who were seeking to become Catholic.” I don’t believe these inquiries were coming from the Episcopal Church itself, but rather from the “Continuing Anglican” groups such as the ACA and TAC. Many of the ACA parishes have been anxious to join for the past couple of years since Angicanorum Coetibus was announced. I find it disappointing that all of the focus seems to be on groups that are just now about to leave the Episcopal Church while hardly any mention at all is made of the ACA. The focus might even more be said to be upon groups entering in Cardinal Wuerl’s, Cardinal DiNardo’s and Bishop Vann’s diocese; totally ignoring groups that had been in line before them. Before Cardinal Wuerl and Bishop Vann accepted Episcopal groups into the Catholic Church prior to the establishment of the Ordinariate with the understanding that they would be made part of it later, it doesn’t seem other communities were given the option to do so. Hopefully Fr. Steenson will soon acknowledge these other groups and help to clear their early entrance into the Church as well.

  5. naturgesetz says:

    As I read the Ordinariate’s website, the ordinariate will be able to erect parishes. So if a bishop refuses to allow an Anglican Use parish to join the ordinariate, it is at least theoretically possible that the ordinariate would erect a parish in the area and the members of the Anglican Use parish would flock to it. Also it seems that it will be possible for individuals of Anglican heritage to join the ordinariate as well, once the parishes are there to receive them.

    So I hope the Roman rite bishops won’t be recalcitrant. In the long run, it appears that resistance is futile.

  6. And Orthodox discipline too. As I understand it they select bishops from the monastery and EOC bishops are celibate.

  7. For the life of me, I will never be able to understand why we in the Catholic Church can have married priests if they come from a different denomination and are already married as clergy, yet cannot ordain as priests married men who have been lifelong Catholics. I’m sure there are all sorts of wonderful explanations (that are above most of our heads), but to me it is utterly non-sensical. If there is a good reason that priests should remain unmarried and celibate, fine…if not, fine…but stop with the two sets of rules. I know far too many good and holy married Catholic men who would choose to serve as priests if they were given the opportunity. Jesus didn’t make His Apostles choose one or the other…I’m not sure why it’s necessary to do so today…but no matter, have the same discipline for everyone!!

  8. The very first Anglican Use parish has remained under the direction of its one pastor for years now. He began with a small group that met at one of the other parishes. Over the years and under his direction, the parish not only built and expanded a church building (that seats twice as many as OL of Walsingham) but also a school that goes from pre-K through 12 grade. Over the years, questions often arose as to whether the Anglican Use was a permanent thing or if it would eventually go away, especially when communities in Austin and Las Vegas were suppressed when new bishops took over. Theoretically, his bishop could assign him to another parish and suppress the Anglican Use in the diocese while perhaps deciding to close the parish and sell the property. While in theory the Ordinariate doesn’t need to obtain the permission of the local parish to establish a parish, the Ordinary is supposed to consult him. Perhaps theoretically an Ordinariate might be established in the same area where an Anglican Use parish had once been, starting all over from scratch. It would not look particularly good for that bishop however, and it seems silly if any of them are impeding an Anglican Use parish that wishes to join the Ordinariate from doing so or for Fr. Steenson to not support their entry. That may not be the case, though Cardinal DiNardo is the one that made it a public issue at the last Bishops’ Conference meeting. They should quit playing coy, and do the right thing.

  9. John Placette says:

    As a candidates for the diaconate, our class had the wonderful privilege for having Fr. Steenson as our professor for two different classes.

    He is both brilliant and very down to earth. (He had to come down to our level!).

    At one point, I asked Fr. Steenson if there was a chance that he would be involved in the new Ordinariate. At the time, I’m positive, he had no idea he would be called to such a task.

    May God bless him, his wife and family, and his work.

    Fr. Steenson,
    If you happen to read this: I now have a full grasp of what is modalism and what is not! Thank you and Godspeed!

  10. The thoughts expressed in Charles B’s comment above have occurred to me also. In addition, I have heard that perhaps entire Episcopalian parishes will become Catholic at the same time. If that is so — and I don’t know for sure that it is — will those who have been divorced and remarried have their marriages examined or will the marriages just be accepted as valid no matter how many previous marriages ? I ask the question because I believe there are many, many Catholics who are not in church today because they do not have an annulment. If so, perhaps they should run to the nearest Episcopal parish and join up.

  11. Will entire Anglican parishes and their priests become Catholic together? If so, will those who have been divorced and remarried have their marriages examined or will that also be a double standard with those who are already Catholic having to obtain annullments and former Episcopalians not being required to? With regard to your post, I spent time this weekend with a former Catholic priest and his family. I just don’t understand this double standard either.

  12. The “former Catholic priest” married after he was ordained, vs. those coming in that will be ordained after being married. It will only be those married Anglican priests that will receive consideration to be ordained as Catholic priest while remaining in the married state, though they are giving up their positions in their former church with no assurances that they’ll be ordained in the Catholic Church. Not only will the validity of their marriages be examined, but so will their theological training.

    It would seem possible that on a case-by-case basis married seminarians in the Anglican Church might be given consideration for ordination. Otherwise it would mean that they should go through with being ordained as an Anglican in order to get any consideration in the Catholic Church. Beyond that, the norm would be celibate candidates only, though case by case exceptions might be considered.

    While it is intended that communities would allow to remain together, it is still a matter of individuals being received. They will be required to go through a process not dissimilar to what a typical RCIA program may be like, even though many of them have already made a long study of the Catechism in order to make their decision. Quite likely they will wind up much better educated than the person that goes through a normal RCIA program in order that they might get married in the Church, not to mention a number of cradle Catholics that have made no effort to study their faith since their First Communion classes in 2nd grade.

  13. My question about annulments was really meant to address laity. I went through RCIA and there were those in my group who didn’t know if they could enter the Church at the Easter Vigil due to previous marriages, marriages they entered into long before they had any idea that they might one day want to become Catholic. I know Catholics who attend church somewhere other than a Catholic parish because they are divorced and remarried. One spoke recently about missing the Mass. My understanding is that for her to return she must go through the annulment process and hope for the best. Will laity entering the Church through sn ordinariate have to go through the annulment process as those I knew in RCIA did and as remarried Catholics must?

  14. BTW, a deacon led out RCIA. Believe me, many in RCIA have “read themselves ” into the Church and done much soul searching. Scott Hahn’s books and others have spoken to that. One person in my RCIA class is now a deacon himself. The two moms who joined perhaps because they married Catholics are at Mass every week with their children as is a man who joined his Catholic wife. The following year’s RCIA class also yielded a deacon.

  15. Matthew the Wayfarer says:

    A widowed Priest may be elevated to the Episcopacy as well. His Grace the Right Reverend Bishop Basil (Rodzianko) of San Francisco was married with 2 sons. After the death of his wife Marya he was tonsured a monk and was made a Bishop in the OCA.

  16. Wonderful. Blessings and welcome to all those new Catholics.

  17. They are accepting what the Catholic Church teaches if they are coming in. That includes the Church teaching on marriage and “remarriage”. The Anglican Church does have their own system of canon law and annulments. Whether those annulments would be automatically accepted or require an additional look may not have been decided yet, and might depend upon whether it was within the Anglican Communion or in one the continuing Anglican movements.

  18. The Pope has asked for further study on the reception of Communion by divorced and remarried Catholics. He seems to be very sensitive to this very painful situation and has even indicated that the annullment process may be flawed and may result in an incorrect decision. Deacon Greg posted this link several weeks ago – here it is again in case it was missed:

  19. Jack B. Nimble says:

    Oh believe me they have, and not in anticipation of your new”Ordinariate” either. In pure numbers, many more disaffected Roman Catholics join other churches or just stop “doing the religion bit” (you have so many more members of your church to begin with) than will ever leave Anglicanism for Rome. I’d add Deacon K., that the missed story is not the one you mentioned but is the de facto acceptance of Anglican orders and the Book of Common Prayer. You guys can spin it any way you want, but what cradle Catholic could ever be ordained priest or even deacon after taking a few ONLINE (!) courses. That though, as I understand it, is the approved protocol for Episcopal priest converts.

  20. I have been at two occasions of the reception of an Anglican Use community, one an existing (former) Episcopal parish, and another organized by former Episcopalians. The members were received as individuals, then the parish was erected. I was Catholic for some years before either occasion, but went through a process of catechsis with the second group. Some weeks after the reception, the priests were ordained deacon, then priest, and resume their pastoral duties in full.

    Yes, during the process, marital irregularities were resolved ; one couple involved told me how much peace they got through the process.

    As far as online courses go, Episcopal priests earn an M.Div. prior to their Anglican ordination and pass a rigorous exam. The men I know who became Catholic priests engaged in a program of reading (under a mentor ) to fill in specific Catholic material. Doubt that is now available online, in the same way as a degree program

  21. It is largely a recognition of the education they have received, not the orders. If there was a recognition of the orders, they would not need to be ordained again. If a cradle Catholic already had a theology degree, his time in the seminary might be shortened as well.


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