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Msgr. Steenson Writes to St. Mary's of the Angels, LA Concerning Ordinariate

Msgr. Steenson Writes to St. Mary's of the Angels, LA Concerning Ordinariate



May 3, 2012
St. Mary of the Angels
4510 Finley Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90027

Dear Rector, Vestry, and People of St. Mary of the Angels, Los Angeles, CA:

After consulting with various parties, including Canon Anthony Morello of the Anglican Church in America, Diocese of the West, I want to communicate directly with you about the status of the request for St. Mary of the Angels Parish to be received into the Ordinariate. Especially, I want to acknowledge your collective patience with this process. We know that it has been a long and difficult journey for you. Please know that your have been in our thoughts and in our prayers throughout that journey. We have tried since January to determine the wishes of the parish and to determine how best to proceed. However, we have encountered some unexpected roadblocks, many of which will take some time to address. Therefore, I want to let you know the issues as we see them, and, more importantly, the option that is available in the interim to those who desire full communion with the Catholic Church through the Ordinariate.

1. Catechetical Preparation: While many elements of the Catholic faith are shared among the various traditions Western Christianity, other elements must be learned and fully embraced, as required by the profession of faith that every person makes when coming into full communion with the Catholic Church. The standard we follow is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Anglicanorum Coetibus makes provision for groups of Anglicans to come into full communion together while retaining distinctive elements of the Anglican patrimony. But the apostolic constitution also recognizes the personal nature of the journey. You yourself must choose this way, freely and conscientiously, and accept what the Catholic Church teaches. It is a solemn decision that must not be made lightly, and so it is important that each parishioner be fully cognizant of what is being asked of him or her.

2. Ecclesiastical Authority: The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter is an entity of the Roman Catholic Church, and is bound to follow the canon law of the Catholic Church. However, the Ordinari9ate cann9ot and should not intrude into the canonical issues of other churches. It ahs been brought to our attention that there have been serious questions raised regarding ecclesiastical authority over St. Mary of the Angels Parish. We are not in a position to make determinations regarding the authority of the canons of the ACA, the status of the Patrimony of the Primate, or determining who has canonical oversight of St. Mary's. We have no jurisdiction in this matter and no authority over the rector or the parish. This issue must be determined within the jurisdiction and structures of the ACA before Saint Mary's can move forward as a parish.

3. Local Authority: Determining ecclesiastical oversight also directly impacts your rector. As stated on St. Mary's parish website, the ACA bishop has brought disciplinary charges against the rector of St. Mary's. These charges are going to have to be addressed by whoever is determined to have oversight over your rector. The Ordinariate has a policy of not allowing candidates to go forward if there are unresolved disciplinary charges against them. Once again, it is not the place of the Ordinariate to interfere in the internal workings of another church. Until these internal issues have been resolved, FR. Kelley's candidacy for ordination under the terms of Anglicanorum Coetibus and the particular law of the Ordinariate cannot move forward.

4. The decision about who may be ordained to serve in the Ordinariate, the time and place of the ordinations, and the compensation of the men ordained are separate matters that fall under the authority of the Ordinary. If and when St. Mary of the Angels comes into the Ordinariate, a priest will be appointed, at least for the interim, to provide pastoral leadership for the parish.

5. There have been some questions raised whether the current vestry at St. Mary's is legitimately constituted. Given that a few weeks ago the ACA has appointed for St. Mary's a new senior warden, there is a significant question regarding who is the legitimate authority authorized to make decisions for the parish. Again, this is an internal matter that must be resolved before the parish can move forward.

6. The Parish Transition: The previous point is related to the question of the civil status of St. Mary of the Angels. There are also local that need to be addressed before the process to receive St. Mary's Parish can go forward.

a. Msgr. William Stetson is the Ordinariate's delegate to supervise the transition process.

b. It is my understanding that the current members of the parish congregation consititute the members of the civil corporation, and further that those members want to amend the articles of incorporation and civil bylaws to facilitate bringing the congregation and its church and patrimony into the Catholic Church. However, for the parish corporately to enter the Ordinar9iate, it will be necessary for St. Mary of the Angels to amend its articles and bylaws to bring them in conformity with Catholic canon law. In addition, it will be necessary that a Catholic parish have a finance council and parish pastoral council that are organized and governed by the norms of Catholic canon law. Fr. Kelley has been given the models of these documents from which to draft these legal and canonical documents. However, some of the proposed texts submitted to us did not conform to the models provided or to the required canon law.

c. Earlier this year, we requested a formal census of the membership of St. Mary's, and an actual vote tally from the last election. This has not been provided to us.

d. Additionally, prior to the last vote, we provided the parish with a statement regarding parish property ownership in the Catholic Church. We wanted to ensure that the parish knew what is required by canon law regarding property ownership before their vote. It is our understanding that this was not distributed or provided to the parish prior to their vote.

e. We also asked for a comprehensive independent audit from a C.P.A. We asked for this statement not out of concern, but as a way literally to close the books on the finances of one corporate entity as it is reorganized into a new entity. Unfortunately, again, to date this has not been received.

Until all of these very important issues are resolved, it is not possible to bring the corporate parish into the Ordinariate. Nevertheless, if you desire to come into the Ordinariate now as an individual or family, please contact Msgr. Bill Stetson to make arrangements for your reception into the Catholic Church.

The door to full communion, thanks to the gracious provisions of Pope Benedict XVI, truly is open to those Anglican groups who approach with the right disposition. I want to assure you of my prayers and willingness to help bring "this holy desire to realization."

Yours faithfully in Christ,

Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson


An Open Response to Msgr Steenson's Letter of May 3, 2012

By the Rector, Wardens, & Vestrymen Of Saint Mary of the Angels,
May 5, 2012

There have indeed been obstacles in our path, and these are being overcome.

1) Almost all Parishioners (and some desiring to become Parishioners) have been instructed in the Evangelium Catechism used by those entering the English Ordinariate. This was approved by Msgr. Stetson. Each person has been exhorted to examine his or her conscience in this matter. 65 have endorsed the Petition at this time.

2) The Corporation, underCalifornialaw, determines its affiliation. This has been tested in the past in court. Two votes of the Corporation members have already been taken in the affirmative, by over 80%. A third vote is scheduled for May / June, 2012.

3) St Mary's website does not refer to any charges, nor have any disciplinary actions been undertaken by any recognized authority over St Mary's Church. On the instruction of our Bishop, at the division of the House of Bishops of the ACA, our only connection to the ACA was the Patrimony of the Primate. When this structure closed, April 15, 2012, so too were our ties to the ACA. The Solemn Agreement adopted by all ACA bishops on April 26, 2011, at Tucson, guaranteed that any parish desiring to return to an ACA jurisdiction from the Patrimony had to formally request such a move. St Mary's has not done so. Dissolving in reverse, ex post facto, has no legal effect in theUnited States of America. (See above, Point 2, and the U.S.Constitution.)

4) The statement that there are "charges" - and this is noted on the website - is contrafactual, to the best of our knowledge and a thorough web-search. No "charges" were ever brought against Fr Kelley, only allegations, and that without foundation in evidence.

5) As a matter of Californiacivil law, who has oversight is a matter determined by the Corporation.

6) The Vestry has been duly elected at an Annual Parish Meeting, according to the By-Laws. NO Vestry Member may be "appointed" in this Parish, under CA Law, not even by any Rector, Bishop, or presumptive Canon. State Law in CA specifies who are the legitimate authorities, past and present.

7) Only a single Draft of proposed Articles and By-Laws was ever offered by us, and that only for comment, before its submission to the Vestry, although up to five drafts were communicated from sources unknown, pretending to be on authority.

8) The actual tally of votes was provided electronically immediately after the vote, Sunday, January 22, 2012; this was acknowledged by both Msgr Wm. Stetson and Fr S. Hurd. The vote countof May 1, 2011, was also transmitted and acknowledged. All Vestry members signed the letter to Cardinal Wuerl on December 11, 2011, expressing the stated will of the Parish (by over 80%) to join the Ordinariate soon after its formal erection in 2012. This was also acknowledged by the Cardinal's office.

9) At the January 2012 meeting, copies of Dr Chalmers's statement on parish property was made available to all who wished to examine it; several expressed interest and took it for examination; it was discussed on the floor of the meeting. Fr Raymond Willy and Mr Charles Coulombe were Roman Catholic witnesses; Pastor Philip George was a Presbyterian witness.

10) The nine points in bishop Steve Strawn's April 2 "Notice IF Inhibition" (sic) were all falsehoods. They rest only on slander, gossip, or speculation. Some of them are actually impossible, as does appear to any careful examiner. Bp Strawn has never had legitimate jurisdiction over St Mary of the Angels.


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