Ordinariate of Fort Worth

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.

Author: Christian Clay Columba Campbell

Christian Clay Columba Campbell is a Roman Catholic of the Anglican Use. As Senior Warden of the Cathedral of the Incarnation (Orlando, FL), he organized the process by which the parish accepted the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, petitioning to join the Catholic Church. The Anglican Cathedral is now the Church of the Incarnation in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. He is also the CEO of Three Fish Consulting, LLC, an Information Technology consultancy based in Orlando, FL. He can be reached via email at ccampbell at threefish dot co.

13 thoughts on “Ordinariate of Fort Worth”

  1. Please note that I come into this as a Latin Rite Catholic having only been attending OLW in Houston for a little less than a year. I don't know much of how the Ordinariate is forming or about the more technical politicking side of things, being a theology student with his head in the clouds.

    I have to second AndrewWS' comment. Are the pastoral provision priests of the Ordinariate still incardinated in their diocese? For Laity, a kind of "dual citizenship" isn't as much of a problem. For priests, there is. A major aspect of Ecclesial Communion is the relation of the priest and his ordinary, one of filial obedience. One may object to so much as mentioning the idea of obedience, but it is core to the Catholic identity, moving from the obedience of the Apostles to Christ, the early desert fathers to their abbots, the mendicant priests to their superiors, the Jesuits to their general, and, at all time periods, the priest and deacons to their bishop. Thus how does this work with priests already incardinated in another diocese? Have they foresworn their prior incardination? Has the bishop released them? Is everyone somewhat unsure?

    Further, at the pace many want this to go, Msgr. Steenson has to work with what he knows. He knows the Fort Worth men. Mr. Urher has made clear that he finds these men capable. The problem, from what I can tell, is how Msgr. Steenson is handling things. Truthfully, is the problem him only choosing these men from Ft. Worth or not being politically savvy about it? I'm personally fine with Msgr. Steenson failing to be politically savvy. We have far too many politicians involved in the Church.

    In general, I believe it is fine and good to bring up these questions in the interest of making discussion. However, I worry about the spirit these questions are brought up in. Comments such as "the Ordinariate of Fort Worth" or "the personal Ordinariate of Jeffrey Steenson" in the context of this essay are scandalous, bordering upon detraction. Similar veiled comments concerning clericalism are likewise scandalous and bordering upon detraction.

    These questions and discussions can be brought up without fostering an "us vs. them," a "grassroots vs. establishment" mentality. Perhaps we should dwell more on St. Bonaventure's mentality toward being involved with the hierarchical movements in the Church, or St. Francis de Sales. Or really most any Sainted bishop. We have enough bad blood going around with the liturgical discussions going on. We shouldn't add atop it complaints about the political savviness of our leaders.

  2. I don't belong to the 'pay, pray and obey' group, whatever that is, but I do think that whilst teething problems will always occur in a new adventure (note, not venture, I believe this to be so much more in terms of the Church's furture) it is sort of baffling to question what the Ordinary has done.

    I point you in the direction of the Personal Ordinariate of OLW where the Ordinariate is presently run by the three former Church of England Bishops and the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor are priests of the Diocese of Plymouth and the Archdiocese of Westminster.

    There is an interim governing council (can't find the names at present) but it is not the council as it will be. This is after 18 months. I urge patience on Mr Uher.

    The funny thing is that many people have criticised Msgr Steenson for moving too slowly; it seems to be that he is now to be criticised for moving too fast.

    As for the Anglican Use priests – which ones are presently members of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter? I think only Fr Eric Bergman in Scranton, who has a remarkable amount of work to do with the st Thoams More Parish in the former St Joesph Church.

    Let us look back in a year's time.

  3. I've followed a number of posts from Mr Uher both here and on his Tonus Peregrinus blog. I understand him to be a former Anglican priest and present Catholic layman who could not pursue his priestly ministry by reason of ill health. He has some liturgical views and I count him among the many self-appointed experts on liturgy who feel they should have been asked to opine on Ordinariate liturgies by the Interdicasterial Commission. The problem is that with so many experts around the globe, some selection had to be made.

    I rather think Mr Uher may have found the transition from being a big fish in a smallish pool to that of a medium sized fish in a rather bigger pool a little difficult.

    One of the things I find a taad irritating is that he doesn't always bother to look up the rules before he pontificates. – pastoral provision priests are members of the college of priests of their dioceses – the Ordinariates are to elect their governing councils from among the priests of the Ordinariate.

    A pastoral provision priest (like any other diocesan priest) may at his request be excardinated from his diocese and be incardinated in the Ordinariate – and vice versa. The procedure is set forth in Canon Law. One diocese may loan a priest to another jurisdiction. The state of vocations in the USA and the UK is such that many churches would have to close were it not for priests on loan from other countries. They benefit from the possibility of doing further education courses and the like, we benefit by having parishes kept open that would otherwise have to close. Likewise in the UK many ordinariate clergy hold diocesan appintments as well as ordinariate ones.

    Co-operation is also imporant, that is why Ordinariate priests have the privilege of also being members of the college of priests of the diocese where they exercise their ministry. They may be asked to supply in parishes (and vice versa) so it is good for them to get to know their brother priests.

    The Ordinaries have much to accomplish. I think they should be allowed to get on with the task the Holy Father has given them without incessant carping from the sidelines.

  4. Please give the American Ordinariate more time to get really on its feet! Calling the Ordinariate as "Ordinariate of Fort Worth" does no good at all especially at this time. But this isn't really new. Remember that in England someone called the proto Ordinariate as "Newton's Ordinariate"?

  5. " It is a hard-hitting piece"

    Actually I feel that a hard hitting piece would deal with facts and truth. Statements such as the following I consider to be of the ad hominem variety which don't build up the Body of Christ.

    "As has been demonstrated before, either Msgr. Steenson has no natural facility for public relations, or he simply doesn't care. "

  6. Those who state that there is a "canonical problem" with the Pastoral Provision priests being members of the governing council do not seem to harbor the same reservations when it comes to the many other canonical irregularities perepetuated by Msgr. Steenson. To cite two examples:

    –The Vicar General of the Ordinariate is not incardinated in the Ordinariate but is a priest of the Archdiocese of Washinton D.C. No one seems to find this canonically irregular or practically questionable (whom does the Vicar General serve? The Cardinal or the Ordinary?).

    –Bishop Vann of Fort Worth has been placed on the governing council as reported by the Fort Worth Star Telegram here, http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/06/30/v-print/4071150/6-former-episcopal-clergymen-are.html. Bishop Vann is not a priest of the Ordinariate but Msgr. Steenson appointed him. No one questioned this highly irregular appointment.

    The Ordinary has shown himself more than willing to be flexible with Canon Law when it suits his purposes as the above examples show. It is not because of canon law that the Ordinary has refrained from appointing more members of the Governing Council.

    1. It would help if before voicing criticism, one troubled to read (a) the relevant provisions of canon law and (b) relevant announcements.

      Governing Councils do not fall to be established until their statutes are approved by the CDF and there are sufficient priests incardinated to elect the members of the Council.

      Father Scott Hurd is a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington. As it happens he became a Catholic Priest by way of the Pastoral Provision. He has been involved in the imprementation of Anglicanorum Coetibus in the USA from the beginning because Cardinal Wuerl was the delegate of the US Conference of Catholic Biships for that purpose. Therefore the Archdiocese very kindly lent Fr Hurd to the Ordinariate to seve as Vicar General – moreover – the Archdiocese is loaning him for free.

      IIf you read the rules on incardination and excardination, you will find that Fr Hurd remains a priest of the Archdiocese. That is the jurisdiction which issues his "Celebret". But while he is on loan he is answerable to the Ordinary for all matters relating to that ministry. That's absolutely routine administration and its the same throughout the world-wide church.

      But I think there is one thing to get straight. The Church is not a democracy, its a hierachy. Mgr Steenson's hierachical superior is the Holy Father. How he organises his administration until he has a sufficient number of priests to hold elections to the govering council once the Ordinariate statutes relating to the governing council have been approved by the CDF in Rome is entirely a matter for Mgr Steenson's discretion.

      It seems to me that co-opting his local diocesan – with whom he has to have a good day-to-day working relationship – and who, as the ordinary of a remarkably well-run diocese, will be able to tender very good advice on how the Church operates, seems to me to be a very wise exercise of the powers the Holy Father has given him.

      So, there has been nothing uncanonical whatsoever in the way Mgr Steenson is proceeding

  7. The vicar general is a pastoral provision priest on loan to the ordinariate, similar to a religious order priest to a diocese. One of the first things the ordinariate needed is clergy and he was the priest helping Cardinal Wuerl establish the ordinariate, so it make sense. The criticism about Fort Worth doesn't make sense. Rev. Hurd is from the east and has lived back in the east for over 10 yrs. The ordinary is from the midwest and worked in Pennsylvania as well as three places in Texas. The chancellor is in South Carolina. But, also, the strongest pastoral provision communities have been Texas so it is also not surprising Texas would have good candidates for leadership.

    1. Though isn't Fr. Hurd as well a former Episcopal priest from the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth? I'm not sure how his time there coincides with Msgr. Steenson's term as the bishop there.

      1. Msgr. Steenson was not bishop "there;" he was Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande, which comprehends New Mexico and a portion of western Texas. Earlier on, he was Rector of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Fort Worth — in the 90s until, IIRC, about 2001.

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