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Crozier with the Annunciation, 13th century, Limoges

Some canonical considerations on the appointment of a bishop-ordinary for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter.

In succession to The Reverend Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson, P.A., today the Holy Father appointed The Reverend Monsignor Steven Lopes as the second ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, and its first bishop. Monsignor Steenson was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in January 2012, and led the personal ordinariate for the United States and Canada from its genesis, to a point where it boasts around forty communities, seventy clergy, a territorial deanery in Canada, an administrative and canonical infrastructure, and the facilities required (in terms of church buildings and a chancery) to establish itself permanently within the life of the Catholic Church in the United States. As he relinquishes this responsibility, the clergy and faithful of all three personal ordinariates can be grateful for his relentless work and commitment to this project, and for the example that he leaves for the development, growth, and success of the personal ordinariates as distinctive communities of Catholic life and faith, rooted in the liturgical, pastoral, and spiritual traditions of Anglicanism.

Bishop-Elect Lopes comes from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and is a Priest of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. He has been a collaborator and resolute supporter of the project of Anglicanorum cœtibu, since before it even had a name. More recently he served as the Secretary of the Anglicanæ tradtiones Interdicasterial Commission, which prepared the liturgical texts of Divine Worship; the missal coming into effect this Sunday. Bishop-Elect Lopes not only understands the traditions of the communities of the personal ordinariates, he also knows the communities themselves—the priests and the people. He has visited all three ordinariates, and has a keen sense of “the lie of the land.” It is a very exciting moment for all those committed to living-out what Pope Benedict called the “prophetic gesture” of Anglicanorum cœtibus. In his statement today, Bishop-Elect Lopes said, “I see the vitality that the ordinariate brings to the Universal Church, and I know that there is a bright future ahead.”

Upon announcing the appointment of Bishop-Elect Lopes this morning, Monsignor Steenson said, “That the ordinariate would ultimately be headed by a bishop has been the intention of Anglicanorum œtibus.” What, then, is the significance of the appointment of a bishop for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter today?

First, it is necessary to understand that it is inherent in the legislation governing the personal ordinariates that a married former Anglican bishop is eligible to be appointed ordinary (CN Art. 11 §1). This is the case in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, and until today in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter. That said, this provision is made in the complementary norms accompanying the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum cœtibus, and so  the universal law (found in the 1983 Code of Canon Law) is to be understood as normative; the provision is a concession. This means that canon 369, describing a diocese as “a portion of the people of God which is entrusted to a bishop”, is to be considered the legal norm for the personal ordinariates, which are “juridically comparable [aequatur] to a diocese” (AC I §3).

Secondly, if the personal ordinariates are “juridically comparable to a diocese”, this also means that the structures and offices proper to a diocese are to be part of their life. This, as we have seen in the United States, involves the appointment of vicars (general, episcopal, and forane), and the erection of personal parishes and territorial deaneries, in accordance with the norms of universal law and the particular law governing the personal ordinariates (AC VIII §1, CN Art. 4 §3). If a personal ordinariate is to be compared to a diocese, and thus to be considered as a particular Church de facto, it follows that the development of the structure would involve the emergence of more and more elements that reveal its equivalence with the model of the diocese. Here we might usefully recall the words of Saint Ignatius of Antioch in his epistle to the Church at Smyrna:

See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.

Thirdly, as the personal ordinariates are themselves based on other juridical models (the personal apostolic administration in the first place, and the military ordinariate in the second place), so the appointment of a bishop for a personal ordinariate is a step toward affirming the permanence of the personal ordinariates, and placing these new juridic entities in the context of other personal jurisdictions. The Personal Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney in Campos, Brazil, established by the decree of the Congregation for Bishops, Animarum bonum, for example, is led by a bishop. Animarum bonum and Anglicanorum cœtibus are documents which are all but identical in layout, format, and content. The same is true of other personal jurisdictions, including those ordinariates erected for the faithful of Eastern Churches in Latin territories without their proper hierarchy.

Finally, the practical path of the integration of the personal ordinariates into the life of the Catholic Church, in particular in the country or episcopal conference in which they are situated, suggests that in time this development may facilitate a greater awareness of the personal ordinariates and their mission, as well as ensure a greater degree of collaboration between the personal ordinariates and the local dioceses (cf. CN Art. 3). For example, although the ordinary of a personal ordinariate is a full member of the respective episcopal conference in which the personal ordinariate is situated (cc. 450 §1; 454 §1; CN Art. 2 §2), episcopal orders enables the ordinary to participate, to a greater degree, in the deliberations of the episcopal conference, particularly by chairing a committee or commission comprising others in episcopal orders. It also allows for the ordinary of a personal ordinariate to be appointed to the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, as any other bishop (PB Art. 3 §1). In both these cases, considering the background and purpose of the personal ordinariates, the areas of ecumenism, divine worship (distinctive liturgy), family life (the experience of moral theology taught principally from the pulpit rather than the confessional, and that of married clergy), and doctrine (particularly ecclesiology), all lend themselves to this provision.

One question arises from this development, concerning the power of the ordinary of the personal ordinariate. According to Anglicanorum cœtibus the ordinary enjoys potestas ordinaria vicaria; that is ordinary vicarious authority in the name of the Roman Pontiff (AC V). Gianfranco Ghirlanda notes that the ordinary “enjoys legitimate autonomy with respect to the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishops in which the faithful of the ordinariate have their domicile” for the purpose of ensuring the integrity of the personal ordinariate and the lessening of the chance of simple assimilation into the local diocese. However, a diocesan bishop possesses potestas ordinaria, propria et immediata; that is ordinary, proper and immediate power. Although the law states that this “is required for the exercise of his pastoral function”, it is not a power given to the ordinary of the personal ordinariate. A legitimate question is raised by this: if a personal ordinariate is juridically comparable to a diocese, with episcopal leadership what is the ecclesiological or juridic sense of maintaining the status quo? Could, according to the provisions of canon 372 §2, a particular Church de iure—that is what might be termed a personal diocese—be a logical next step?

Today should be a day of great rejoicing for the lay faithful and clergy of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, and for all those who have found a home in the Catholic Church through the missionary activity of the personal ordinariates. Divine Worship: The Missal provides this Collect for the Pope or Bishop. May this praiseworthy sentiment be realized in the life of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, and may God continue to bless the good work begun by Pope Benedict XVI and continued in such a wonderful way by his successor, Pope Francis:

O God, the Pastor and Ruler of all the faithful: mercifully look upon thy servant Steven, whom thou hast chosen to be shepherd and Bishop of thy Church; grant unto him to be in word and conduct a wholesome example to the people committed to his charge; that he with them may attain at last to the crown of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

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