With the appointment of a Bishop Ordinary, Our Lady of Walsingham, Houston, becomes a Cathedral

At 12 noon today, CST, I was able to take part in a telephone press conference with the Ordinariate Chancery in Houston, at which Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson introduced the newly appointed Bishop-elect Steven Lopes.

Apart from the Ordinariate Communications Director, Jenny Faber, the participants also included Mary Ann Mueller of Virtueonline and Mark Anderson of the Catholic News Service.

Asked why he had retired, Monsignor Steenson quipped that he had not had enough time for his hobby of piloting his own small aircraft (as opposed to the thousands of airmiles which he had accumulated in one of the largest Catholic circumscriptions in the world – Msgr Steenson was known to describe the territory of the Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter as from Hawaii to Newfoundland and from the Rio Grande to the Arctic Circle).

But in a more serious tone he went on to elucidate his belief that the Ordinariate was incomplete without a bishop leading and teaching his clergy and people. He quoted St. Ignatius of Antioch who, as in Chapter VIII of his Letter to the Smyrnaeans, described the Christians gathered around their bishop, as around Jesus Christ.

“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 where Christ is, there does all the heavenly host stand by, waiting upon Him as the Chief Captain of the Lord’s might, and the Governor of every intelligent nature.”

Monsignor Steenson explained that he has a full teaching load at St. Thomas’ University for the Summer Semester, but until Bishop-elect Lopes’ ordination on February 2nd, 2016, in Houston (the location is still to be fixed) he will act as Apostolic Administrator of the Ordinariate. He will then remain a priest of the Ordinariate as Ordinary emeritus.

Asked what his first activities will now be, Bishop-elect Lopes jokingly mentioned flying but then went on to say that he would preach at the first Solemn Mass at Our Lady of Walsingham using the new Divine Worship Missal on the First Sunday of Advent in five days’ time. The principal celebrant will be Monsignor Steenson and he will concelebrate. In this context the new bishop referred to his “Cathedral”, and when specifically queried on this point, he stated that just as Military Ordinaries have a cathedral, as in the United Kingdom (Aldershot), the Bishop Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate would have his “cathedra”, the seat from where he teaches and presides, in his principal church, which will then become the Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham. The following photograph taken on November 24th shows Bishop-elect Lopes with his new cathedral in the background.

Bishop-elect Lopes 20151124Bishop-elect Lopes will take up permanent residence in Houston from the beginning of 2016 after clearing his desk at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. He is particularly looking forward to his work in the US and Canadian Bishops’ Conferences, of which Msgr Steenson will remain a member as Ordinary emeritus.

One of the questions directed to Bishop-elect Lopes concerned the fact that he will be leading an Ordinariate made up of former Anglicans nourishing their Anglican patrimony although he himself is a cradle Catholic. Monsignor Steenson did not hesitate to explain how Monsignor Lopes had been closely involved with the Ordinariate project for the last ten years at the CDF. He was the secretary of the Anglicanae Traditiones commission  which drew up the Divine Worship liturgy and therefore had more experience in matters of Anglican patrimony than most people.

On the question of vocations to the priesthood, the bishop-elect explained how the Ordinariate is subject to the discipline of celibacy and that there is already one seminarian preparing for the celibate priesthood and two candidates waiting to enter seminary. The Ordinariate will continue the practice of petitioning Rome for a dispensation from the obligation to celibacy for married former Anglican clergymen, but the Ordinariate will not be putting other married men (so-called “viri probati“) forward for ordination.

In the conference I took the opportunity to thank Monsignor Steenson for his work as Ordinary and to wish Bishop-elect Lopes every blessing and Godspeed for his new mission.

David Murphy

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3 Responses to With the appointment of a Bishop Ordinary, Our Lady of Walsingham, Houston, becomes a Cathedral

  1. NORM sent the following comment by e-Mail:

    Unfortunately, it appears that Bishop-elect Lopes misspoke and that your
    jubilation on the “Ordinariate Expats” blog about the Church of Our Lady of
    Walsingham becoming a “cathedral” is rather premature. In Catholic use, a
    “cathedral” is “the principle church of a diocese” so the Church of Our Lady
    of Walsingham canonically will not become a cathedral until the Personal
    Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter becomes a (personal) diocese. That
    probably will happen at some time in the future, but not yet. In any case,
    I doubt that anybody will be changing the sign in front of the building to
    say “cathedral” instead of “principal church” any time soon.

    There is another dimension to this issue. Canonically, a diocesan bishop
    holds “original” authority to govern his diocese in his own name whereas the
    ordinary of an ordinariate holds “vicarious” (or “delegated”) authority to
    govern the ordinariate “in the name of the Roman Pontiff” who is officially
    its diocesan bishop, with the consequence that the cathedral of all three
    ordinariates actually is the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome. The
    appointment of a bishop as the ordinary of an ordinariate does not change
    any of this. Upon his episcopal ordination and taking possession of the
    ordinariate, Bishop Lopes will still exercise “vicarious” power “in the name
    of the Roman Pontiff” with respect to governance of the ordinariate. Of
    course, the papal delegation of authority to the ordinary by the law itself
    is exactly the same authority that a diocesan bishop holds over his diocese,
    so this distinction is of little real consequence in day to day affairs.
    Even so, the ordinary is not a diocesan bishop, but is “equivalent to a
    diocesan bishop” from a canonical perspective, even if he is a bishop. The
    only thing that will change when the new ordinary takes office is that he
    typically will ordain new clergy to the orders of deacon and presbyter
    personally so he will not have to ask bishops of other jurisdictions to do
    so on his behalf. In fact, he also will be able to ordain clergy for either
    of the other two ordinariates if the respective ordinary asks him to do so.

    It appears that the “Cathedral” of St Michael and St George in Aldershot, to
    which Msgr. Lopes referred in his remarks, actually was originally intended
    to be a cathedral church for the “Bishop for the Forces” of the Church of
    England (CoE), and that nobody bothered to change the sign in front of the
    building when the CoE sold the building to the Roman Catholic “Bishopric of
    the Forces” (military ordinariate for England). Canonically, however, it
    appears that this building is a “principal church” rather than a “cathedral”
    since it seems unlikely that the “Bishopric of the Forces” is canonically
    erected as a personal diocese.

    Of course, the terminology is of little real importance. The “principal
    church” of a jurisdiction that is not a diocese serves pretty much the same
    function as the cathedral church of a diocese in the life of the respective
    entity, as implied by the definition of “cathedral” as “the principle church
    of a diocese.”


    • godfrey1099 says:

      1. Norm, contrary to your opinion, the principal church of the Military Ordinariate in my country (Poland) is referred to as “the cathedral” in all the documents I have seen, including the official websites of the Military Ordinariate and the cathedral itself. And the term ‘cathedral’ was not in any way ‘inherited’, as you suggest was the case in Aldershot.
      2. I have made a quick search, and the Military Ordinariates have cathedrals in such countries as Austria, Philippines or Spain, to name just a few.
      3. As ‘Anglican’ Ordinariates are directly modelled on military ones, I do not think that your position (that their cathedral is in Rome) will apply. I believe (and hope) that as from 2 Feb 2016 the OLW Church will be properly referred to as the OLW Cathedral.

    • I think Norm will find that what he writes is incorrect. And if there is anyone who should know that the Ordinariate is equivalent to a diocese, then surely it is the man who was closely involved inside the CDF in the drawing up and implementation of Anglicanorum coetibus, Monsignor Steven Lopes.

      Norm will find that a large number of Military Ordinariates specifically call their principal churches Cathedrals. My own personal opinion is that the Ordinariate principal churches should have been called Cathedrals from Day One, since the Pope specifically delegates all of the powers of a Diocesan bishop to his Vicar, the Ordinary, including the magisterial power to preside and teach from the Cathedra, whether he be a bishop or not. The only powers a non-episcopal Ordinary does not receive are those which are specifically linked to the sacrament of episcopal ordination, namely the power to ordain and to consecrate chrism.

      Please note that the principal churches of territorial abbeys which are quasi-dioceses are also referred to as Cathedrals, such as the Abbey Church in Montecassino, which is known as the “Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta e San Benedetto abate” although the Ordinary is “only” an abbot and not a bishop and although the territorial abbey covers only an area of 5km² and has 11 inhabitants.

      David Murphy

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