(an op-ed from David Murphy)
Not only were most of us quite surprised when Monsignor Steenson resigned as Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter in the USA and Canada and Monsignor Steven Lopes was appointed Ordinary in the rank of bishop, but I was particularly dismayed by the reason which he gave for his resignation.
He apparently believes that the Ordinariate was somehow lacking since there was no bishop. He cited St. Ignatius of Antioch regarding the position of the Bishop in his local church, suggesting that an Ordinary who has not been ordained bishop is somehow deficient in this regard.
After studying again the founding documents of the Ordinariates I find that I must with the utmost respect and in all humility disagree with the Monsignor’s reasoning. Of the three canonical functions of a bishop, sanctification as well as governing and teaching (which together make up jurisdiction), there are only two specific sanctifying faculties which the presbyter Ordinary does not possess, because they are directly transmitted by episcopal ordination and cannot be delegated. These are ordination and the consecration of sacred chrism. All the other powers can be delegated to a presbyter by the Pope, as is the case with an Ordinary of a Personal Ordinariate. This is the opinion expressed in all of the commentaries on the Code of Canon Law which I have consulted on this point.
It is indeed not even true to say that there is a preference for the Ordinary being a bishop in episcopal orders. Unlike in the case of Military Ordinaries, where the Apostolic Constitution Spirituali militum curae specifically states:
SMC II § 1: Ordinariatui militari, ut proprius, praeficitur Ordinarius dignitate episcopali pro norma insignitus, qui omnibus gaudet iuribus Episcoporum dioecesanorum eorundemque obligationibus tenetur, nisi aliud ex rei natura vel statutis particularibus constet.
(translation: an Ordinary normally invested with the dignity of a bishop)
the Complementary Norms to the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus provide that the Ordinary can be a bishop or a presbyter, with no preference specified.
AC Complementary Norms Art. 4 § 1: The Ordinary may be a bishop or a presbyter appointed by the Roman Pontiff ad nutum Sanctae Sedis, based on a terna presented by the Governing Council. Canons 383-388, 392-394, and 396-398 of the Code of Canon Law apply to him.
The canons cited all refer to the powers of a bishop. In fact the Complementary Norms go on to make direct provisions for the case where the Ordinary will be a married ex-Anglican Bishop (Art. 11 § 1), but as Art. 4 § 1 clearly indicates, having been an Anglican bishop is not a precondition, ANY married presbyter can be appointed Ordinary.
There is no suggestion that appointing a non-bishop is a temporary or interim measure and that in putting together a terna in future preference should be given to a celibate priest who can be ordained bishop.
It may be the current wish of the Curia or of the Pope himself to appoint a bishop as Ordinary, but this will essentially be for “cosmetic” reasons (perhaps to increase his status in the eyes of his fellow members of the Bishops’ Conferences or to make a positive statement about the importance and the permanence of the Ordinariates as an ecclesial structure), but there can be no suggestion that the episcopal power of the Ordinaries who are married non-bishops is in any way deficient. To make this absolutely clear the power of the Ordinary is “vicarious” (whether he be a bishop or not!!) so that there can be no doubt that the Ordinariate is a local church in the full sense of the word and its leader a fully-fledged Ordinary with full jurisdictional power (governing and teaching) guaranteed by the Holy Father.
Monsignor Christian Wirz, Officialis of the Diocese of Hildesheim in Germany and a priest affiliate of the Ordinariate, wrote unequivocally in his canonical thesis “Das eigene Erbe wahren” (Essen, 2012) that it would be ludicrous to suggest that the character of a Personal Ordinariate as a local church depended in any way on the level of ordination of its Ordinary and that it would change back and forth if the Ordinary is a bishop or not.
I share Father Wirz’ reasoning and believe that a presbyter Ordinary has just as much magisterial authority as a bishop Ordinary and that his chair in the principal church is therefore a “Cathedra” and the church itself a “Cathedral” from Day One, and not only now that a bishop has been appointed. It would hardly make sense for it to cease to be a cathedral if the next Ordinary is not a bishop.
An analogous situation is that of the abbot in a territorial abbacy, like Montecassino in Italy. He is an Ordinary in every sense of the word and although he could be ordained bishop, being a celibate monk, interestingly this does not happen, and his abbey church is known as a cathedral (La cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta e San Benedetto abate).
In conclusion I personally believe it would be a mistake for either of the other Ordinaries to feel himself morally obliged to follow the example of Msgr. Steenson and resign to make way for a bishop, or for a Governing Council in future to feel obliged only to include celibate candidates in the terna which they present to the Holy See. The situation of the North American Ordinariate does not represent a case of precedence.
(Msgr. Entwistle will, of course, be retiring soon anyway because he has already reached the canonical age of retirement of 75 years.)
Is it not a part of the Anglican patrimony for an Ordinary to be able to be a married pastor and is it not for this reason that specific provision was made for this situation in the Apostolic Constitution, since convention does not currently permit a married man to be ordained bishop? I personally see no reason why we should not continue to have Ordinaries who are presbyters and married if they are the best men for the job.