Fr. Harry Winter, OMI: Pope Francis Vindicates The Anglican Ordinariate

The Oblate Connection     By Harry E. Winter, OMI

(Immediately following this article, Fr. Sal De George, OMI, who attended the consecration reflects on the experience and its meaning)

Almost as soon as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected pope (March 13, 2013), the Anglican Archbishop of Buenos Aires was quoted as saying that Cardinal Bergoglio felt the Anglican Ordinariate was unnecessary.  Some hoped the new pope would abolish or diminish this controversial development of Pope Benedict.


Bishop Steven Lopes

But on Nov. 24, 2015, the pope surprised many people by naming the first bishop for the ordinariate, a 40 years old monsignor from San Francisco, Steven Lopes.  Three cardinals presided at the consecration on Feb. 2, 2016, in the Sacred Heart Cathedral, the co-cathedral of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, TX.  Cardinal Ludwig Mueller, prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, was the principal consecrator;  Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Washington, DC, and Cardinal William Levada, prefect emeritus of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, were the principal co-consecrators.

Bishop Lopes was deeply involved in editing the Anglican Book of Common Prayer in its Catholic edition, called Divine Worship: the Missal.  Those who watched the consecration and the first Mass of Bishop Lopes, on EWTN, Feb. 2, noticed the use of “thy, thou, thine,” and other phrases of the much praised Book of Common Prayer. Also kept are prayers from Eastern Liturgies, which were adapted by the Anglicans for BCP, such as the “Prayer of Humble Access,” before Holy Communion:

We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies.  We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table.  But thou are the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy.  Grant us therefore, gracious lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us.  Amen.

Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism  has two very interesting statements which are most relevant today as the creation of the Anglican Ordinariate causes controversy.  The Decree very carefully separates the conversion of individuals from the work of Christian unity: “However, it is evident that the work of preparing and reconciling those individuals who wish for full Catholic communion is of its nature distinct from ecumenical action.  But there is no opposition between the two, since both proceed from the wondrous providence of God” (#4).

In speaking of the Churches coming from the Protestant Reformation, the Council observed “Among those in which some Catholic traditions and institutions continue to exist, the Anglican Communion occupies a special place” (#13). I write from the United States, where the world-wide Anglican Communion’s representative is called The Protestant Episcopal Church USA. My concern for the Anglican Ordinariate issue began at our General House in Rome, Italy, when I was visiting there on September21, 1989, and was interviewing a high ranking member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, who had joined us for dinner.  He told me very frankly that an Anglican Archbishop in India had approached the PCPCU concerning joining the Roman Catholic Church with his entire archdiocese, and the PCPCU rejected him, “since it would not be ecumenical.”  I was stunned. It seemed then, and seems to me now, very much against the spirit of Vatican II, to prevent individuals or groups from joining the Roman Catholic Church.

It would seem that liberal Catholics are afraid the Anglican Ordinariate is bringing in conservative Anglicans (I shall use this term also for Episcopalians) who are hung up on anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, and other very conservative issues.  It is my conviction that this thesis is very incorrect and harmful. One may see it in the article  of  the Australian professor Andrew McGowan,  first published in Jesuit Communications of Australia 22 (#16), “Vatican prefers tanks to talks to achieve unity,” and reprinted in the National Catholic Reporter , August 20, 2012, with comments by editor Dennis Coday, available on the internet.  My experience is that the Anglican Ordinariate is a Godsend for Mission and Christian Unity.

Since Vatican II, we are learning more about differences within the Church hierarchy.  So it doesn’t come as a surprise that leading ecumenists can differ.  Fortunately, the matter of the Anglican Ordinariate was taken out of the ecumenical structure of the PCPCU and lodged within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. However, there almost certainly was consultation, since the former president, Cardinal Walter Kasper has developed so thoroughly the teaching that each Christian Church and Ecclesial Community now has something the others need. With the formal institution of the Anglican Ordinariate in Australia, Great Britain and North America, we are receiving very valuable treasures from the Anglican Communion, which greatly help the Roman Catholic Church become both more evangelical and ecumenical.

A very helpful analysis “The Pastoral Provision and the Anglicanorum coetibus,” by Rev. Msgr. James Sheehan appeared  in Ecumenical Trends 39 (April, 2010, #4:13/61-14/62).  One line could be taken out of context, and appeared in a teaser box:  “It is clear that the Pastoral Provision is not the work of ecumenism.” One must remember the last line quoted above “There is no opposition between the two.”  Ecumenism is part and parcel of Mission/Evangelization/Proclamation, although also an integral movement in itself.  For this, see my “Marcello Zago, OMI:  Bonding Proclamation, Ecumenism and Dialogue,” reprinted on this website (  from Ecumenical Trends 41 (June 2012 #6: 12/92-15/9

Until about fifteen years ago, my community pastored four parishes in three states in the heart of Appalachia, a missionary area. Due to a lack of personnel, we had to withdraw from all of Appalachia.  In one of those parishes, which covers an entire county, the diocese had to withdraw all official Catholic presence, due to a lack of its own personnel.  Mass is offered only once a year in this county, on August 15.  Interestingly enough, one of the former Episcopalian pastors in the area and his wife have been received into the Catholic Church.  He has  completed the process for ordination to the Catholic priesthood and was approved in one of the last official acts of Pope Benedict. He could become the missionary pastor the county is desperately in need of.


Archbishop Roger Schwietz, OMI

During our national Oblate convocation of April 15-19, 2013, I was able to interview Archbishop Roger Schwietz, OMI, of Anchorage, Alaska.  He had related to me earlier that he had ordained a former Episcopalian priest and Army Chaplain, Ken Bolin, to the transitional deaconate on Dec. 11, 2012, and was preparing him for priestly ordination.  I asked him his impressions of the entire process:  working with the Congregation for Doctrine in Rome and the North American counterpart, headed by Washington, DC’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl, meeting Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, the former Episcopal bishop who is the ordinary of the Anglican Ordinariate in North America, and of course his impression of the deacon. He replied that he found the entire situation, as it affected him as archbishop, to be very inspiring.  In an archdiocese of few priests, he felt that the eventual ordination to the priesthood of the transitional deacon would be a huge benefit.  He also told me that the process involved the deacon continuing to serve as a military chaplain until he was ordained as a Catholic priest. Since the Catholic chaplaincy does not support deacons as chaplains, this required the cooperation of the Episcopal military diocese. Archbishop Schwietz found his Episcopal counterpart to be most gracious and not at all resentful that one of his former priests is now serving in the RC Church.  In an e-mail of May 7, he stated “I truly see it as the work of the Spirit and the cooperation between the Catholic and Episcopal authorities in all of this is, as I see it, a marvelous ecumenical effort.”  For a thorough account of the March 7 ordination to the priesthood, see the archdiocesan newspaper online, Catholic Anchor, March 25, 2013, “Former Anglican Clergyman completes ‘odyssey’ to Catholic priesthood.”

The archbishop did relay that Msgr. Steenson has found some Roman Catholic priests to be hostile and  impeding good relations.  I believe that Archbishop Schwietz’s experience shows how kindness and missionary zeal can overcome most obstacles.  We can have good relations with the world-wide Anglican Communion and continue our dialogue with them.  We can also see the creation of the Anglican Ordinariate as another challenge by the Holy Spirit, and simultaneously work with this new structure.  Ecumenists should be very good at multi-tasking.

It is interesting and significant that the Salesian Order has noted that the increasing number of Episcopal parishes joining the Catholic Church in the USA, could be a source of vocations to the priesthood and religious life (see the BlogSpot “Da Mihi Animas, salesianity,” March 5, 2010).

It was my privilege to spend three weeks in a summer experience in 1964 at the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, near Geneva, Switzerland when I was in the last year of theological studies.  Among the other students was a newly ordained Anglican priest from Uganda, Rev. Janani Luwum.  Luwum became the Anglican archbishop there and was martyred by Idi Amin.  The missionary work of the Anglican Communion can not be doubted. Other Oblates of my order have worked with Anglicans in the Canadian Arctic, and with Episcopalians in the Ojibwe reservation of White Earth, MN.

We would have liked to have expanded our ministry in southern NY State, in the Diocese of Buffalo.  I believe it is significant that a former Episcopalian priest has just been ordained for the nearby diocese of Rochester, NY and serves as part of the Anglican Ordinariate in both dioceses:  Rev. John Cornelius.  His ordination on Jan. 26, 2013 was extensively covered by both the Buffalo Catholic newspaper Western New York Catholic ( February, p. 9) and the TV station WIVB (, Jan. 23).

What about the role of Blessed John Henry Newman, sometimes called the grandfather of Vatican II? Nicholas Lash has quoted Oratorian Stephen Dessain:

At the Second Vatican Council the tides of clericalism, over-centralisation, creeping infallibility, narrow unhistorical theology and exaggerated Mariology were thrown back, while the things Newman stood for were brought forward—freedom, the supremacy of conscience, the Church as a communion, the return to Scripture and the fathers, the rightful place of the laity, work for unity, and all the efforts to meet the needs of the age, and for the Church to take its place in the modern world.  Any disarray or confusion there may now be in the Church is the measure of how necessary this renewal was (“Waiting for Dr. Newman,” America, Feb. 1-8, 2010, p. 14).

Newman’s conversion caused controversy both in the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches.  Yet it was a great blessing.  Those acquainted personally with the workings of the Anglican Ordinariate have already experienced the blessings it is bringing to us.

Practically as soon as the Anglican Ordinariate in Canada/ USA was instituted, in 2009, the matter of a similar Lutheran Ordinariate was raised.  Lutherans too insist on the continual reformation of the Church, which Roman Catholics rediscovered at Vatican II, after a silence of about five hundred years (see my earlier article here “Did Vatican II ‘Reform’ the Church”). Having a Lutheran component within the Roman Catholic Church, in addition to having the Anglican component, would certainly reinforce many of the tendencies mentioned by Newman above.  Rev. James Massa, former executive director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, noted that the governing structure of the Anglican Ordinariate adapts “synodal forms of administration found in Anglicanism (e.g. the Governing Council made up of presbyters)” (Ecumenical Trends  40 [Sept. 2011,#8: 9/121]).  So the Anglican Ordinariate and the possible Lutheran Ordinariate would reinforce and continue the more democratic approach begun by Vatican II.

I would beg any Catholic who has misgivings about the Anglican Ordinariate, to find a former Anglican pastor who has survived the first year of the preparation course for ordination to the priesthood in the Catholic Church.  By this time, the angry ultra-conservatives have either been weeded out or transformed.  I think you will like those you meet, and welcome them as a blessing to our Church.

Further reading:  Lutheran Ordinariate, Mark Cyprian E. Chapman, OBL,SB, “Ecumenism of the Open Door:  Suggestions from Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus,” Ecumenical Trends 42 (April, 2013, #4:12/60/–15/63; interview with Cardinal Kurt Koch,  Oct. 30, 2012, on the internet.

The Knights of Columbus have helped the Canada/USA Anglican Ordinariate financially, and published in their magazine Columbia an account of this, with a delightful, full page photo of Msgr. Steenson in his robes:  “Into Full Communion,” by Monica Hatcher, Feb. 2013, pp. 20-23.


Interview with Father Sal De George, OMI, Who Attended the Consecration of Bishop Lopes

by Harry E. Winter, OMI

Q: How Would You Describe the Experience of Attending the Episcopal Consecration?


Fr. Sal De George, OMI

Fr. De George: “I would describe the Feb. 2, 2016 episcopal consecration of Steven Lopes as the first bishop of the Anglican Ordinariate this way:  beautiful, elegant, and solemn.  Sacred Heart Cathedral here in Houston was full.  On a more personal note, I had accepted the general invitation to the clergy to come with our vestments and concelebrate.  But it was a busy day, and I was literally running late.  So I said to myself that I would just put the vestments on over my running clothes.  When I got to the cathedral I realized I had no shoes in the car.  So there I was, standing in the back of the cathedral with my sneakers on, and it seemed to me that all the archdiocesan staff and clergy I knew were grinning at me as they passed me in the entrance procession. The entire service was three and a half hours long.”

Q: What Does the Establishment of the Cathedral of the Anglican Ordinariate in Houston Mean?

Fr. De George: “Life does become a little more complicated now.  Technically Cardinal Daniel DiNardo is the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, of the Latin rite, with our cathedral of St. Mary’s Basilica in Galveston. (There is a lot of Oblate history in the Galveston area, from the time of St. Eugene). The co-cathedral  (where all major archdiocesan events are held) is the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, in Houston.  Our Lady of Walsingham was a simple church, the headquarters of the Anglican Ordinariate in the USA and Canada, until Steven Lopes was named bishop back on Nov. 24.  It then became the Cathedral of the Anglican Ordinariate in North America. So Houston now has two Catholic Cathedrals.”

Q: May Roman Catholics Become Members of an Anglican Ordinariate Parish?

“Technically, a Latin rite Catholic, or an Eastern rite Catholic may not become a member of the Anglican Ordinariate.  Only former Anglicans (known as Episcopalians in the USA) may be members.  But I’m sure that those Latin rite Catholics who want a more poetic and inspirational worship, will attend Mass at Our Lady of Walsingham, and the more than 40 parishes scattered throughout North America.  So now there are three official rites within our Latin Church, for our Mass:  the Vatican II rite, with its 10 Eucharistic Prayers; the Tridentine rite, for those who want Mass in Latin; and the Anglican rite, more properly called The Worship: the Missal, a Vatican approved revision of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.”

Q: Does the Creation of the Anglican Rite Affect Evangelization in Any Way?

Fr. De George: “One very interesting exception made to the rule above, that only former Anglicans could become members of the Ordinariate, was made by Pope Francis in 2013:

                A person who has been baptised in the Catholic Church but who has not completed the Sacraments of Initiation, and subsequently returns to the faith and practice of the Church as a result of the evangelising mission of the Ordinariate, may be admitted to membership in the Ordinariate and receive the Sacrament of Confirmation or the Sacrament of the Eucharist or both.

                This confirms the place of the Personal Ordinariates within the mission of the wider Catholic Church, not simply as a jurisdiction for those from the Anglican tradition, but as a contributor to the urgent work of the New Evangelization (Pope Francis, May 31, 2013).”

Q: Does Attending Mass at an Anglican rite Parish Fulfill Our Sunday Obligation?

Fr. De George:  “When our Houston Catholics ask me:  may we attend Mass at Our Lady of Walsingham–does it satisfy our Sunday obligation, I will respond yes.  But if they ask me if they can become members, I will have to tell them no, unless they fit the exception above.  Given the massive numbers of people who were baptized Catholic, but never received Confirmation, I suspect the number of members of the ordinariate will grow.

 I will also tell them  if The Worship: the Missal text for Mass attracts our people to attend Mass at the Anglican Ordinariate parishes,I suspect there will be pressure on the American bishops and the  Vatican to modify our current English Mass texts into something more relevant. Sooner rather than later we may have worship language that is more poetic and inspirational.”

Q: What Caution Should We Have about the Anglican Ordinariate?

Fr. De George: “Perhaps a cautela: remember that membership may be getting lost in the effort to have worship and dignity at the expense of weakening the platform of attention to the poor and social justice, which is so much part of the message of Pope Francis.”

Q: A Final Thought?

Fr. De George: “May we Oblates and our Associates consider the Anglican Ordinariate a gift for the New Evangelization, and for better worship.”