Ordinariate Questions & Answers

The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter is a structure, similar to a diocese, that was created by the Vatican in 2012 for former Anglican communities and clergy seeking to become Catholic. Once Catholic, the communities retain many aspects of their Anglican heritage, liturgy and traditions. Anglican Priests must apply for ordination as Catholic priests and first complete an approved formation program.

What territory does the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter encompass?
Based in Houston, Texas, the Ordinariate includes communities throughout the United States and Canada. Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston is the principal church. Other large communities include St. Luke, Bladensburg, MD; Christ the King, Towson, MD; Church of the Incarnation, Orlando, FL; and St. Thomas More, Scranton, PA. Ordinariate groups and clergy are located in areas such as Maryland, Texas, California, Iowa, Alabama, New York and South Carolina; Oshawa, Victoria, Ottawa and Calgary.

Why was the Ordinariate formed?
In November 2009, in response to repeated and persistent inquiries from Anglican groups worldwide who were seeking to become Catholic, Pope Benedict XVI issued an apostolic constitution called Anglicanorum coetibus (pronounced Anglican-orum chay-tee-boose). This document authorized the creation of “Ordinariates.” These communities are Catholic yet retain elements of Anglican heritage and liturgical practice. Ordinariates also have been established by the Vatican in the United Kingdom (2011) and Australia (2012). In Feb. 2012, the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter sponsored a symposium, “The Mission of the Ordinariate”, featuring Archbishop Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on his first official visit to the United States. The talk is online at usordinariate.org/symposium.

Is there precedent for this?
The Ordinariates are new in that they provide a way for Anglicans to enter the Church in a corporate manner; that is, as a group or community, while also retaining some of their Anglican heritage and traditions. However, there are other Catholic Ordinariates, such as military Ordinariates that are responsible for Catholics serving in the armed services and that work in collaboration with local bishops.

What is an Ordinary? Is he a diocesan Bishop?
While the Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter is similar to a diocesan bishop, he is not a diocesan bishop. In some ways he is much like a territorial abbot of a religious community who is not a bishop. Anglicanorum Coetibus describes the Ordinary as being juridically equivalent to a diocesan bishop but his power is 1) ordinary, which means it is defined by his office; 2) vicarious, in that he exercises it on behalf of the Pope; and 3) personal, in that his jurisdiction is over a specific class of people rather than being defined exclusively by a territory. In contrast, a diocesan bishop’s power is ordinary, proper (exercised in his own name by virtue of the office) and immediate (which means that his governance extends over a specific territorial diocese).
If the Ordinary is unmarried, then he can also be a bishop. If he is married, he remains a Monsignor with the title of Ordinary. The Ordinary’s responsibilities in Canon Law are very similar to a diocesan bishop, with the exception that since the Ordinary is not a bishop he cannot ordain his own priests. In this way he is very much like a territorial abbot of a religious community. The Ordinary is also a full member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Who is the Ordinary?
Monsignor Jeffrey N. Steenson is the Ordinary for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter. A Catholic priest since 2009, Msgr. Steenson is the former Episcopal Bishop of Rio Grande; is based in Houston, Texas; and is a full member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is not a bishop (he is married), but as Ordinary, Msgr. Steenson has the privileges of a bishop, with one major exception: he cannot ordain priests. He grew up on a farm in North Dakota. He attended Harvard Divinity School and received a doctorate from Oxford University in 1983. He was ordained an Anglican priest in 1980, and was an Episcopal bishop from 2004-2007, when he resigned to become Catholic. In 2009, he was ordained a Catholic priest for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

Are members of the Ordinariates still Anglicans?
No, if you are a member of the Ordinariate you are no longer a member of the Anglican Communion or one of the continuing Anglican jurisdictions. Instead, you are a Latin Rite Roman Catholic of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, and in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. However, because we maintain our own distinct heritage and traditions, we are Catholics who maintain our distinct Anglican Tradition within the Roman Catholic Church.

Are Ordinariate communities a part of local dioceses?
No, they are part of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, which is its own jurisdiction within the Church. However, Ordinariate communities and clergy are encouraged to have close relationships with the dioceses in which they are located and most Ordinariate priests receive faculties to assist in diocesan parishes.

Is the Ordinariate a separate Rite within the Catholic Church?
No. The Ordinariate is a separate “use” within the Latin Rite, but not its own independent Rite. Ordinariate communities celebrate a liturgy based on the traditional Anglican liturgy, though they may also use the Roman Missal.

What is the process for an Anglican priest to become a Catholic priest?
Anglican clergy seeking to be ordained as Catholic priests must first complete an extensive process that includes background checks; an endorsement by the local Ordinary; approval by the head of the Ordinariate and by the Vatican; completion of an approved Ordinariate formation program; and an examination. Celibacy is the norm for the clergy. Permission has been given on a case-by-case basis by the Pope for former Anglican priests who are married to be ordained Catholic priests for the Ordinariate. If widowed, they may not remarry.

What liturgy is used?
The liturgy looks very similar to a traditional Anglican liturgy. At this time, parishes are using an interim liturgy that incorporates Anglican prayers and material, though all three Ordinariates will soon be using a single Ordinariate liturgy. The Roman Missal also is authorized for use. There are also special Baptismal, Marriage, and Funeral rites that have been created for the Ordinariate that more closely reflect Anglican heritage and sensibilities.

How do laity become members of the Ordinariate?
Those who are not yet Catholics are required to undergo a period of preparation, to submit an application to join the Ordinariate, and to be confirmed as Catholics, as others entering the Church do. The approved formation process currently includes study of the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults. Those former Anglicans and Methodists who have already become Catholic simply need to fill out and submit an application form to the Ordinariate.

Can lifelong Catholics join the Ordinariate?
Any Catholic is welcome to attend Ordinariate liturgies and functions, just as members of the Ordinariate are welcome to attend liturgies and functions at other Catholic Churches. However, the Ordinariate was formed in response to repeated and persistent inquiries from Anglican groups who were seeking to become Catholic, and is intended for those coming from an Anglican tradition. Normally, lifelong Catholics remain members of a regular diocese and diocesan parish unless a close family member is eligible to join the Ordinariate. However, if a Catholic has left the Church but is reconciled to it through an Ordinariate parish and completes their sacramental initiation, they are eligible for membership. Lifelong Catholics who worship with an Ordinariate community are welcome to become formal “affiliates” of the Ordinariate, and should consult with their local Ordinariate pastor about how to do so.

Does an Anglican or other eligible person who wants to become Catholic have to join the Ordinariate?
No. An individual may seek to join the Ordinariate, join a pastoral provision parish that maintains the Anglican-use heritage but remains a Latin-rite diocesan parish, or attend a local Catholic RCIA and be received in a non-Ordinariate diocesan parish. In all cases, the person must follow all of the usual requirements to become Catholic. An Anglican priest in the United States may also apply to be a diocesan priest through the Pastoral Provision rather than become a part of the Ordinariate.

How many Ordinariates are there?
At this time there are three Ordinariates for former Anglicans: Our Lady of Walsingham in the United Kingdom; the Chair of St. Peter in the United States and Canada; and Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia.

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