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Pope creates ordinariate in America for ex-Anglicans

By on Sunday, 1 January 2012

The homepage of the US ordinariate website, Usordinariate.org

The homepage of the US ordinariate website, Usordinariate.org

Benedict XVI has established a personal ordinariate for groups of ex-Anglicans in America who wish to become Catholics and named a married former Episcopal bishop to lead it.

The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter will be based at a parish in Houston, Texas. It will be led by Fr Jeffrey Steenson, the former Episcopal bishop of the Rio Grande who was ordained a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico, in February 2009.

The establishment of the ordinariate and the naming of its first leader were announced by the Vatican on New Year’s Day.

More than 100 former Anglican priests have applied to become Catholic priests in the ordinariate and 1,400 individuals from 22 communities have expressed interest in joining. Last autumn members of St Luke’s in Bladensburg, Maryland, and St Peter of the Rock Community in Fort Worth, Texas, were received into the Catholic Church with the intention of joining the ordinariate.

It is the second such jurisdiction established under the provisions of Pope Benedict’s 2009 apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus. The first was the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, created for England and Wales in January 2011. Others are reportedly under consideration in Canada and Australia.

The parishes and communities accepted into the ordinariate will be fully Catholic but retain elements of their Anglican heritage and traditions, particularly in the liturgy.

Fr Steenson and his wife, Debra, have three grown children and a grandson. As he is married, the 59-year-old Fr Steenson will not be ordained a bishop and will not be able to ordain priests. He will, however, otherwise function as a bishop and will be a voting member of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

After working briefly in a New Mexico parish following his ordination, Fr Steenson has been teaching theology at the University of St Thomas Center for Faith and Culture and at St Mary’s Seminary, both in Houston, since August 2009. He also is an assisting priest at St Cyril of Alexandria parish in Houston.

Educated at Harvard Divinity School and at Oxford, he is an expert in Patristics, the study of the early Church fathers. Born in Camp Rucker, Alabama, he was raised on a farm in Hillsboro, North Dakota, that has been in his family since the 1880s.

In a 2009 interview with Catholic News Service, Fr Steenson said he had been “attracted to Catholicism all of my life”.

“It’s not negative things that turned me to the Catholic Church,” he said. “I just felt God saying: ‘It’s time.’ ”

The time came, he said, in 2007 when he felt the bishops of the Episcopal Church had decided to give priority to their autonomy rather than to unity with the larger Anglican Communion.

Fr Steenson said that, for him, gay people were not the issue. “It was the way the decisions were made and the way they were defended”, placing the local church and modern cultural sensitivities ahead of the universal Church and fidelity to tradition, he said.

Het said that while the Episcopal Church spoke of the importance of Christian unity, it continued to approve practices – ordaining women priests and bishops, and blessing same-sex unions – that everyone knew would be an obstacle to Christian unity.

“The frustration with being a Protestant is that every morning you get up and have to reinvent the church all over again,” Fr Steenson said.

The new ordinariate has been in the works since September 2010, when the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asked Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington to be its delegate for the implementation of Anglicanorum coetibus in the United States.

Cardinal Wuerl welcomed the announcement, saying it was “the fulfillment of the hopes of many Anglicans in the United States who have longed and prayed for reconciliation with the Catholic Church while retaining cherished elements of the Anglican patrimony”.

He said that Fr Steenson “brings to the position of ordinary great pastoral and administrative experience, along with his gifts as a theologian”.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, in whose archdiocese the ordinariate’s headquarters will be located, called Fr Steenson “not only an outstanding Patristic scholar, but a priest with a strong pastoral sense and an abiding respect for all people”.

“He will surely be an effective, kind and joyful leader who will love and guide God’s people with the attitude of Christ,” he added.

Fr Scott Hurd, who was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1993, joined the Catholic Church in 1996 and was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Washington in 2000, will be on loan to the ordinariate for three years to serve as vicar general.

Fr Hurd, who has been assisting Cardinal Wuerl in the US implementation of Anglicanorum coetibus, will continue to be based in Washington.

  • Adam Thomson

    Was St. Peter allowed to ordain priests? What about the rest of the apostles? (1 Cor. 9.5)

  • Adam Thomson

    “As he is married, the 59 year-old Fr Steenson will not be ordained a bishop and wil not be able to ordain priests.”

    Was St. Peter allowed to ordain priests? What about the rest of the apostles? (1 Cor. 9.5)


  • greg

    It is believed that Peter and his wife separated in order to allow him to be wholly consecration to his apostolic ministry.  At any rate, it is understood among the ancient Churches that after the Apostles there is no evidence of married bishops in the early church anywhere, north south east or west. We don’t have to guess or argue about Biblical interpretation of such matters as Christ has left us his living Church to ensure that we have unity and certainty.

  • Adam Thomson

    Greg -

    1. You say, “It is believed that Peter and his wife separated.” 
      – But St. Paul affirmed his right to ‘lead about a sister, a wife, even as the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas.’ St. Peter ‘led about’ his wife; that is not consistent with separation from her.

    2.  You say, “… after the Apostles there is no evidence of married bishops in the early church anywhere, north south east or west.”
      – But according to the New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, ‘During the fourth century most of the bishops in Greece, Egypt, and western Europe were unmarried or left their wives after consecration. … In the East, the sixth and seventh centuries saw laws enacted which forbade the marriage of bishops.’ Also, Gregory of Nyssa was a married bishop.

    3. St. Paul also said, ‘The bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife’ (1Tim 3.2).

  • Nyankslawrence

    People don`t want to know the truth.
    It`s only the catholic and Apostolic church that Jesus started.So,it`s high time for those who are still in darkness of confusion to went back home.
    He said to St.Peter “you are the Rock and it`s that Rock that i will build my church and even no hedges from beneath shall break it”
    So,which Faith should we follow?
    Remember whatever is taking place now is being inspired bu the Holy Spirit.

  • Johndtreat

    What an old-school
    Spike might say with tongue-in-cheek about the direction the U.S. Ordinariate
    seems to be taking:


    apologies to the late E.L. Mascall)


    I’m Ordinariate-Catholic—No
    ‘Anglo,’ I beseech you.

    You’ll find
    no trace of gin or lace in anything I teach you.

    All our
    priests are manly men with whiskers and a bowler,

    Our leader, a
    former sportswriter—a clerical Garagiola.


    I despise bum-freezer
    cottas; give me surplices long and slattern.

    My psalms are
    Grail or Coverdale.  I do not read much

    My liturgy’s
    veneered with ye olde Anglican pretenses,

    But the ordo
    recitandi is strict Bugniniensis.


    I teach the
    children in CCD the new Catholic Catechism,

    Anything pre
    ‘80s, may be weak on personalism.

    The works of
    JPII and Hans I bate not one iota

    I have not
    read the decrees of Trent.  They might as
    well be in Lakota.


    We dance the
    tune the Bishops call to keep Conference approval.

    A stand-up
    man in Tiber-Land has arranged his own removal.

    For we depend
    on Roman bishops to take our ordinations,

    Mere supplicants
    as we, don’t presume above our station.


    For music we
    have Willan, and Merbecke’s noble simplicity.

    We don’t go
    in for melismas and can do without polyphony.

    Electric keyboards
    and a cantor assist us from the gallery.

    Rome killed
    off musicians years ago; it helps to pay my salary.


    started a Sodality of St. Richard John of Neuhaus,

    of five bloggers who fight heresy like Mighty Mouse.

    They don’t
    come for Sunday Evensong, e’en though I cry to heaven,

    But they’ve denounced
    a score of liberals by Monday at eleven.


    Pope Benedict’s
    theology I extol in fervid perorations.

    I keep quiet
    on his justice fluff; it has pinko implications.

    Perhaps I’ll
    be a bishop, as I feel the Lord’s directed.

    Do pray he’ll
    send St. Peter, to get my wife collected.

  • Poppy Tupper

    So who looked after his wife and kids while he went about doing apostolic stuff?

  • Acordova1205

    What on earth are you about?

  • Realist

    ” It is believed that Peter and his wife separated in order to allow him to be wholly consecration to his apostolic ministry. ”
    This is just another tradition which was promulgated by the Constantine church to enhance Peter’s dreadful credibility. Read about him. He was a marketing disaster. The last word on him we will leave to Our Lord – Peter’s hands were bound and he was taken where he did not wish to go.

  • Realist

    There were no priests in the early church.

  • Sojohowitz

    Is this for priests only, or can Episcopalian laity convert easily as well?

  • Jaybird1951

    They were called presbyters. That is the root word for priest. Look it up.

  • Anonymous

    ” “It was the way the decisions were made and the way they were defended”, placing the local church and modern cultural sensitivities ahead of the universal Church and fidelity to tradition, he said.”

    ## IOW, “man is made for the Sabbath” after all. Pharisees 1 – Jesus 0. This is good old Catholic/EU corporatism at its best. The Empire must stand, though the ruled should go to the wall. Caiaphas would have endorsed the argument; or rather he did endorse it. This will definitely not encourage Anglicans to tread the primrose path to Rome. It is in any case daft to oppose “fidelity to Tradition” to “modern cultural sensitivities” as though the Tradition were beyond question; especially if the Tradition is itself unhealthy or defective or sub-Christian. It’s possible for both to be healthy and needed (Matthew 13.52). If Tradition is all, Jesus was in the wrong, Caiaphas in the right. The argument that old is true is a truly Roman argument – it turns up all the time in Cicero’s “Nature of the Gods”. That idea is partly why novelties like Christianity were not accepted by adherents of Rome’s religion.

    “As he is married, the 59-year-old Fr Steenson will not be ordained a bishop and will not be able to ordain priests. He will, however, otherwise function as a bishop and will be a voting member of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.”

    ## There are precedents for simple priests ordaining clerics to the priesthood (see Denzinger for 15th-century examples); and there have been mitred abbots with episcopal jurisdiction – but how can a priest (especially one is who a convert) exercise some episcopal jurisdiction but not all ? It seems a very strange set-up. And what is the point of cutting down on mitred abbots, if there is going to been a growth in the number of priests with quasi-episcopal jurisdiction ? It seems very untidy.

  • Kennyinliverpool

    I don’t think that Anglicans who hate gays and women should enter the Catholic Church – it isn’t a sufficient reason … hopefully there’s a little bit more to Catholicism than hating gays and women…?
    - I think the Church needs to let married Catholic men become priests … not doing so is seriously undermining the Church all around the world … it’s so annoying! The entire argument against it is negated by letting married Protestant men become Catholic priests …. there is NO logic to this at all … and is probably pushing Catholic men who want to become church leaders out of the Church ….
    I think the Ordinariate will probably be quite popular in America and that’s nice … but it won’t be what the Vatican wants it to be … an easy way to get more priests serving in parishes … Maybe the next Pope whoever it is will use this system to introduce married priests into the mainstream Church? 

  • Realist

    The well-known Catholic scholar, Raymond E Brown, in his book ‘Priest and Bishop: Biblical Reflections (New York: Paulist Press, 1970), p. 13. writes that ‘When we move from the Old Testament to the New Testament, it is striking that while there are pagan priests and Jewish priests on the scene, no individual Christian is ever specifically identified as a priest. The Epistle to the Hebrews speaks of the high priesthood of Jesus by comparing his death and entry into heaven with the actions of the Jewish high priest who went into the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle once a year with a blood offering for himself and for the sins of his people (Hebrews 9: 6, 7). But it is noteworthy that the author of Hebrews does not associate the priesthood of Jesus with the Eucharist or the Last Supper; neither does he suggest that other Christians are priests in the likeness of Christ. In fact the once-for-all atmosphere that surrounds the priesthood of Jesus in Hebrews 10:12 -14 has been offered as an explanation of why there are no Christian priests in the New Testament period.’  Priests were a post-Constantine development.

  • Twsumrall

    It’s for all, both priests and laity. In fact, the main reason the ordinariates were set forth is so that entire congregations could convert.

  • Anonymous

    You need to read the writings of the early church fathers.

  • Anonymous


    You are a bit confused. Nobody hates women or gays. There is a difference between a religious vocation and a secular one. A religious vocation is a calling. It’s not fair that there are so many people giving up everything to follow their vocation, when others want a list of things, and throw a fit when things don’t go their way.

    It stems from a misunderstanding of a religious vocation.

    Apostolic tradition ordains married men as in the Eastern churches. But their monks and nuns are celibate and so are the Bishops.

    Catholics and Orthodox make a distinction between a religious vocation and a secular one though in different ways.

  • Anonymous

    It’s a bit like this. There were apostles who were married before they followed Jesus, but did not marry after that.

    Peter himself said, 

     Matt 27 Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?”
     28 Jesus replied, “I assure you that when the world is made new[i] and the Son of Man[j] sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. 30

    Religious life from the beginning was designed to be a separate vocation.

  • Adam Thomson

     1. St. Peter had not given up his wife, and did not do so later. He took her with him : 1 Cor 9.5.

    2. St. Paul said : “It behoveth therefore a bishop to be blameless, the husband of one wife, sober, prudent, of good behaviour …” (1 Tim 3.2, Douay-Rheims).

  • Realist

    I’m afraid we will just have to agree to disagree on this matter; or as the apostle Paul put it, ‘be persuaded in our own mind’. And for that freedom we thank the Lord in these latter days now that the ‘pope’s divisions’ are no more.

  • Anonymous

    I also thank God for this, now that the King’s tower’s in England are no more.

  • Anonymous

    1:Cor 9: 5 refers to Paul not Peter.

    [5] A woman, a sister: Some erroneous translators have corrupted this text by rendering it, a sister, a wife: whereas, it is certain, St. Paul had no wife (chap. 7 ver. 7, 8) and that he only speaks of such devout women, as, according to the custom of the Jewish nation, waited upon the preachers of the gospel, and supplied them with necessaries.

    [2] Of one wife: The meaning is not that every bishop should have a wife (for St. Paul himself had none), but that no one should be admitted to the holy orders of bishop, priest, or deacon, who had been married more than once.

    Why do Protestant pastors get married and divorced and re-marry?Why don’t you follow the Bible?

  • Realist

    Let us both be thankful then and get back to the table around which brothers in Christ met to share the bread and wine; despite some of the saints over-indulging occasionally.

  • Anonymous

    This is not possible, physically because of our differing views on the Eucharist and the priesthood necessary for it.

    But, I agree we can still be united in spirit.

  • Realist

    No chance you will ever over-indulge then:-)

  • Aunt Raven

    The Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter has now been announced in the United States, and the former Episcopal Bishop of the Rio Grande,  Fr Jeffery Steenson, has been named Ordinary. This announcement was greeted with joy by all who know Fr Steenson–universally agreed to be a holy and humble man, a learned scholar, gifted administrator and pastor.   The beautiful new (Anglican Use) shrine church of Our Lady of Walsingham, Houston Texas was, on the same day,  named as principal church of the American Ordinariate.  By this generous provision, Daniel Cardinal Di Nardo of Houston proves by action as well as words that he as well as the Holy Father consider the Ordinariate a great gift of the Holy Spirit  to the life of the Church. The Cardinal  had earlier made provision for Fr Steenson to oversee the study programme at the Houston’s St Mary’s Seminary (theology school of the University of St Thomas) for incoming formerly Anglican priests.   What a welcome contrast to the plight of the UK Ordinariate, now a year old: the Catholic Primate ++ Vincent Nichols recently made a public statement that giving even one space for the use of the Ordinariate to call their own is “not a priority.”

  • Adam Thomson

    1. “1 Cor 9:5 refers to Paul not Peter.”

    In 1 Cor 9.5 Paul rhetorically asks whether he doesn’t have the same right to lead about a sister, a wife, just as the rest of the apostles and Peter do. So he refers to the fact that he himself does not do this, and also to the fact that the other apostles, including Peter, do.

    2. You say, “Some erroneous translators have corrupted this text by rendering it, a sister, a wife: whereas, it is certain, St. Paul had no wife.”

    a. Yes, it is certain that St. Paul had no wife. That is part of the point he is making. He had no wife, but he had the RIGHT to have one! In this chapter he affirms that he voluntarily foregoes certain things, while equally affirming his right to them.

    b. The Greek word gunaikos can mean ‘woman’ or ‘wife’ according to context. The context here demands the meaning ‘wife’.
         First, it would be completely unnecessary to qualify ‘sister’ by explaining that he means a woman. What else can a sister be but a woman? He means ‘wife’. A woman who is both a sister in the Lord, and also his wife.
         Secondly, it is difficult to believe that Paul would make such an issue of whether or not he had a housekeeper! It is also difficult to see that choosing not to have a housekeeper would be any advantage to his apostolic ministry – rather the opposite. But we can easily understand the reasons for his decision not to have a wife and family.

    3. “Of one wife: The meaning is … that no one should be admitted to the holy orders of bishop, priest, or deacon, who had been married more than once.”

    But why should twice-widowed men be singled out for exclusion from office? If a man gets married but his wife dies in childbirth (an all too common scenario at that time) and he later remarries, why would that render him unfit for office?  I suggest that the true meaning of 1 Tim 3.2 is ‘he must be a man who (if married) is faithful to his one wife’. In other words, marital faithfulness is the issue. He must not be a man who indulges in extra-marital affairs.

    4. “Why do Protestant pastors get married and divorced and re-marry?”

    That is exactly like asking, ‘Why do Catholic priests abuse children?’ The answer to both questions is, ‘Most of them don’t.’

  • Anonymous

    1. I would say this is a discipline, not a doctrine. It does not mean that marriage is mandatory. If so then a childless husband would not qualify, since, then by the same logic “keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way” would mean that he had to have children. it would even follow that an ordained bishop whose wife or children died would become unqualified for ministry! Clearly such excessive literalism must be rejected. Why would Paul place a requirement on others, that he himself did not meet?Each vocation has its own proper challenges: the celibate man must exercise “self-control” (1 Cor. 7:9); the husband must love and care for his wife selflessly (Eph. 5:25); and the father must raise his children well (1 Tim. 3:4). Every man must meet Paul’s standard of “managing his household well,” even if his “household” is only himself.
    But is there scriptural precedent for this practice of restricting membership in a group to those who take a voluntary vow of celibacy? 

    Yes. Paul, writing once again to Timothy, mentions an order of widows pledged not to remarry (1 Tim 5:9-16); in particular advising: “But refuse to enroll younger widows; for when they grow wanton against Christ they desire to marry, and so they incur condemnation for having violated their first pledge” (5:11–12). 

    This “first pledge” broken by remarriage cannot refer to previous wedding vows, for Paul does not condemn widows for remarrying (cf. Rom. 7:2-3). It can only refer to a vow not to remarry taken by widows enrolled in this group. 
    In effect, they were an early form of women religious—New Testament nuns. The New Testament Church did contain orders with mandatory celibacy, just as the Catholic Church does today. 
    2. The key Greek words in 1 Corinthians 9:5 are “adelphaen gunaika.” The first means “sister,” and the second can be translated as either “woman” or “wife.” This means the phrase translates as “sister woman” or “sister wife,” with “sister” indicating not a biological but a spiritual relationship. It would make sense for the apostles to be accompanied by “sister women” who could assist them in ministering to women—for example, at full-immersion baptisms, where a question of modesty could arise, or in cases where it would be more appropriate for a woman to perform a charitable or catechetical function.This finds support in the Fathers. “Sister woman” is found in Jerome’s Vulgate, and Jerome wrote that “It is clear that [they] must not be seen as wives but, as we have said, as women who assisted [the apostles] with their goods” (Ad. Jovinian I, 26). Clement of Alexandria agreed, saying the women were not the wives of the apostles but were female assistants who could enter the homes of women and could teach them there (Stromata III, 6).3.  It has been a practise since the earliest days of Christianity, that priests who were widowed did not re-marry. This is still followed by the Orthodox.This is not a clerical marriage, since the ordination took place before marriage.The practise of clerical marriage only stared with Martin Luther.In short this is consistent with the Christianity as a whole.Each individual Christian is responsible for their own spiritual combat.

  • Anonymous

    I assume you don’t have a sound knowledge of what Apostolic tradition is all about. Scripture and tradition are not in opposition.