The head of the U.S. branch of the Anglican Ordinariate, Msg. Jeffrey Steenson, has denied accusations it has given preference to former Episcopal clergy in its ordination process. However, among its first class of priests, 16 of 19 are former Episcopal clergy, with only 3 receiving their formation and orders from the continuing church.
Questions and concerns about the implementation and interpretation of Anglicanorum coetibus have met the Vatican’s initiative to create a liturgical home for Anglicans with the Roman Catholic Church. In an interview with PBS’s Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, Dr. Ian Markham, Dean of the Virginia Theological Seminary criticized the pastoral provision for Anglicans for sheep stealing.
“There was a perception that this was poaching by the Roman Catholic Church of Anglicans around the world. It was discourteous, it was stealing sheep, it was unecumenical,” he said, adding “It’s viewed as not recognizing the value of and integrity of our traditions.”
Its critics also charge the sheep stealing is directed towards the Church of England and the Episcopal Church. While talks began in 1991 between leaders of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) and the Vatican on returning Anglican Catholics to Rome, TAC clergy have been noticeably absent from the Ordinariates in the U.S. and U.K. The three TAC bishops who spearheaded the reunion efforts with Rome -- David Moyer, John Hepworth and Louis Falk – are absent from the clergy ranks of the Ordinariate.
Some former TAC clergy who have applied for ordination in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter tell Anglican Ink that they have been treated brusquely. Others report that a year after contacting the Ordinariate’ s Washington office, they are still waiting to hear what the future holds.
One clergyman, who asked not to be named as he had applied for reception, told Anglican Ink he had been discouraged the “Pastoral Provision was so un-pastoral”. A “Fort Worth mafia” was dominating the U.S. Ordinariate – Msg. Steenson is a former Fort Worth rector, while the vicar for clergy, the Rev. Charles Hough III is the former canon to the ordinary of the Diocese of Fort Worth.
A second aspirant said he had been pressed to explain why he had not come to Rome when he left the Episcopal Church some twenty five years ago. If he accepted papal supremacy and the dogmas of the Catholic Church, why had he delayed a quarter century in making his submission, he was asked, the clergyman told AI.
The question is not an unfair one, however, as the Catholic Church’s self-understanding of its role in the economy of salvation is found in the statements of the Second Vatican Council.
Lumen Gentium14 states: “Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved”, which on its face, would appear to render suspect in Roman eyes those who have held long standing doubts as to the veracity of Anglican truth claims and delayed going over to Rome.
Of the 19 clergy re-ordained for service in the Ordinariate, 7 have come directly from the Episcopal Church, 6 from the Episcopal Church via the Anglican Church in North America, 3 from the Episcopal Church via the Anglican Church in America, 2 from the Anglican Church in America, and 1 from the Charismatic Episcopal Church.
Asked to respond to the assertions of unfair treatement of TAC clergy, Msg. Steenson said:“Not true. The judgment of Apostolicae curae falls on each of us alike. We treat each applicant equally, and apply the objective criteria of discernment that the Catholic Church requires.”