Fr. Jeffrey Steenson, who was formerly the Episcopalian bishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico, will serve as the first ordinary. Steenson, a patristic scholar, converted to the Catholic Church in 2007. He was ordained a deacon in 2008 and a priest in 2009. Since 2009 Steenson has held the Carl and Lois Davis Visiting Professor in Patristic Studies at the University of St. Thomas/St Mary's Seminary in Houston, Texas. Because he is married, Steenson will not be consecrated a Catholic bishop. However, because he was ordained a bishop in the Anglican communion, he will be permitted to exercise a ministry that is pratically, if not formally, episcopal. According to Anglicanorum Coetibus, Pope Benedict XVI's Apostolic Constitution governing the establishment of various Personal/Anglican Ordinariates throughout the world, former Anglican bishops may:
- be appointed as the ordinary and thus exercise ecclesiastical governance equivalent to that of a bishop
- if appointed as an ordinary he is an ex officio and full member of the episcopal conference regardless of the degree of holy orders to which he is ordained
- a former Anglican bishop who is a member of the ordinariate may be called upon to assist in its administration
- a former Anglican bishop called upon to assist in the administration of the ordinariate serves in a role analogous to that of an auxiliary bishop within a diocese or as the "delegate" in charge of a "deanery"
- be invited to participate in the meetings of the episcopal conference, with the status of a retired bishop
- receive permission to use episcopal insignia
- these provisions do not extend to former Anglican bishops who are in so-called "irregular" marriages
Bl. John Henry Newman, pray for us. Having just finished re-reading his Apologia, I can't help but think what relief such an option would have brought the future-Cardinal Newman in his day. What a wonderful gift for the new year! May this be but one step towards healing the divisions among all who bear the name Christian. Since it was established today, the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother God, it will have a special affiliation with her, too. I am very interested to follow the developments of the Personal Ordinariate, The Chair of St. Peter.