No doubt this article will raise some hackles, but The Anglo-Catholic is the pre-eminent space for debate, discussion and news about the Ordinariates, the Anglican Use, and, generally, the Anglican tradition in the Catholic Church. As much as we've been accused of kowtowing to the Establishment and holding the party line, it is consonant with the mission of the blog to explore different points of view — within the bounds and bonds of Catholic unity — and I believe that we have always striven to achieve this.
The fact of the matter is that some very poor decisions have been made with respect to the establishment of the American Ordinariate. Perhaps this is to be expected as such a thing has never before been attempted; but so too is it important that we recognise and debate issues of controversy.
The following article is by Vincent Uher, former parishioner of Our Lady of Walsingham, whom we have featured on The Anglo-Catholic before. It is a hard-hitting piece that will be condemned by the pay, pray, and obey crowd, but as the Gospel reading for today, the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (EF), teaches, Our Lord calls us individually to discern the Truth, judging the good fruit from the bad. This is an obligation that He places on everyone, not simply those in authority.
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Ordinariate of Fort Worth
The Personal Ordinariate of Jeffrey Steenson
It always seemed remarkable that in all of the USA Texas should be the heart of the Anglican Use and the Pastoral Provision of Bl. John Paul II.
But it is positively odd that the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter should be developed without the involvement of those same Texas Anglican Use Catholics.
And it is odder still that another group connected to the former ECUSA Diocese of Fort Worth should have exclusive control over the new Ordinariate in North America.
The Ordinary, the Vicar General, the Vicar of the Clergy, and the rector of the principal church (read: dean of the cathedral) are all 'Fort Worth men'. All of them. If this were the Personal Ordinariate of Fort Worth, there would be no problem with that. I doubt that any of these good and able men from Fort Worth have even paused to consider that some would find Msgr. Steenson's appointments problematical or objectionable rather than a cause for celebration.
There is a great difference between thinking like a local territorial bishop and thinking like an exarch for a Continent.
Absolutely, the U.S. Ordinary must think like an exarch of the continent and avoid all appearance of preferring one region for another, one city for another, etc. How would it be for England if the Ordinary and everyone he appointed all came from… oh say, Birmingham? Most would be appalled. (Yes, some sycophants would try to make a case for some mystical connexion to Blessed Newman, but they would be discounted at once for what they were.) Did Jesus choose the Twelve from only those from Nazareth?
As has been demonstrated before, either Msgr. Steenson has no natural facility for public relations, or he simply doesn't care. He could have made the announcement of the first Vicar of the Clergy at the same time that he announced the names of others from around North America who will serve on the Pastoral Council, the Financial Council, and the Governing Council. Never mind that all of these Councils should have been appointed ages ago — even if only provisionally.
Avoiding the appearance of impropriety by a hierarch is so very vital to the life of a church body today. 'Croneyism' is the word being used to describe these 'Fort Worth' appointments by Msgr. Steenson, and it is too bad because the men in question are extremely able and sincere servants of Christ.
They really deserve better than having someone's poor judgement cloud the fact that these are priests of God who have bravely left a misguided ecclesial body and offered to the Holy Church of Rome all of their gifts and talents. I want to be clear on this point. I think all of these Fort Worth men including the Ordinary have enormous gifts to give the Church. They aren't the only gifted ones in the Ordinariate, however, and it is a profound shame that the Ordinary does not have an "appointed Jesuit" to help him avoid unnecessary blunders with public relations or actual mistakes in terms of governance. Often times a critic can do one a greater service than a paid consultant.
"What would you have proposed, Vincent?" At the least the Ordinary could have announced the appointment of Rector and Vicar of the Clergy within the context of announcing his appointment of the many other men and women to the three Councils required by the Holy See. Also, there are structural matters and other appointments to consider that could be done to help alter this unfortunate "Club of Fort Worth" appearance.
Some things cannot be undone.
In early news reports, Msgr. Steenson said he could not form a Governing Council because he would have to wait until his new priests were ordained to put them on the new Governing Council. "What?" Yes, that is what the news accounts reported, and there were never any retractions or clarifications. "But what of all the Pastoral Provision priests?" Alors. Yes, what of them.
It is an apostolical misjudgement to mistake one's personal council of advice — one's intimate friends — for the necessary office bearers within one's exarchy or ordinariate. Without consultation and collaboration with the clergy and laity — even at the most minimal levels of the three Vatican required Councils which do not yet exist — no priest — not even a mitred priest granted jurisdiction — can lead an exarchy, eparchy, diocese, or ordinariate as well as he might were he to view the ordained and lay faithful as essential fellow collaborators in mission and decision-taking rather than as subjects to be ruled or 'trouble' to be avoided.
Dare anyone hope that in the future the six priests to be named to the Governing Council will come from somewhere other than the men of Fort Worth? Dare we hope that any of them will be Pastoral Provision clergy who have been Catholic priests for more than a few months? There is always hope.
There is always hope.