by Michael Caruso

Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church in East Mt. Airy hosted a truly groundbreaking event on Sunday, May 20.

The event, accompanied by a Mass, marked the formal introduction of the Anglican Catholic parish of St. Michael the Archangel, which worships at Holy Cross, into the Roman Catholic communion. St. Michael’s is the first Anglican parish in Greater Philadelphia to be received into the U.S. Ordinariate and one of the first nationwide.

The Mass was celebrated by Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson, Ordinary of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, a non-geographical structure established by Pope Benedict to provide Anglicans with distinctive liturgical elements of their church while moving them to full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

The Church of St. Michael the Archangel began as the Episcopal Church of St. James the Less in East Falls, which was founded in 1846.

The congregation of St. James the Less left its historic property in East Falls in 2006 and has not had its own church since then. The congregation had disaffiliated itself from the Episcopal Church in 1999 and had become a member of the Anglican Church in America.

The local Episcopal diocese sued for the property in 2001 and subsequently won the case.

The Rev. David Ousley, its rector since 1983, is one of 60 Anglican priests preparing to be ordained as Catholic priests, starting in June of this year. He was ordained a Catholic transitional deacon at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput on Saturday, May 12. The parish and all its members had already been accepted into the Catholic Church on April 2.

Explaining his decision and that of his parish to leave the Episcopal Church, Ousley said, “The root issue was authority of Scripture, as understood within the tradition.”

While individual dioceses and the Episcopal Church as a whole were moving in the direction of following the spirit of the times, Ousley and his fellow parishioners at St. James the Less were not willing to do so. Upon disaffiliating from the Episcopal Church, the parish joined the more traditional Anglican Church in America.

When asked why he and the parish decided to join the newly established Anglican Ordinariate, Ousley said the move to reconvene with the Catholic Church seemed like the right thing to do, “The catholicity of the church is important to us, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to be assured of the catholicity of any of the Anglican church bodies in the United States,” he said. “We were afraid of ending up with the externals of the faith but losing the substance.

“Then Pope Benedict’s offer and his stated desire to preserve the Anglican patrimony moved us to consider whether the schism, which began in the 16th century between the Church of England and Rome, was any longer defensible.

In other words, have the Reformation issues been substantially resolved? These factors all moved us to reconsider the things that divided us from the Roman Church, and to consider the opportunity that the Holy Father put before us. This entailed study and lengthy discussions, which eventually led us to where we are now.”

Ousley explained that while St. Michael the Archangel Church is located within the geographical boundaries of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, it is not actually within its hierarchical structure and has its own Ordinary, Monsignor Steenson.

He has all the powers of a typical Catholic bishop, but he heads a diocese constituted of all those formerly Episcopal parishes and priests who are now full members of the Catholic Church, rather than a geographical territory typical of a Catholic diocese.

In his sermon at Sunday’s Mass, Steenson recalled that he and Ousley had been friends since 1983 and that they and many traditionalist Episcopalians had suffered many wounds during the intervening years. But now, he affirmed, was the time for joy in celebrating their entrance into full communion with the See of St. Peter.

“The parish [of St. Michael the Archangel] has, I would say, a sense of joyful anticipation,” Ousley said. “This is a time of many changes, but we are looking forward to what God will do with us in the days ahead, rather than backward to what we have lost. The parish is in one way 165 years old. Yet we are also new. This is a new start for us, which is exciting and more than a little daunting.”

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  • Theo

    Good riddance. The Roman Church will make all your dreams come true. Let secrecy, lack of accountability, nepotism and dishonesty reign.

    • Michaelthoma

      As if Anglicanism isn’t the master of all deception. It’s very creation is based on filthy lies, and its scandals make Catholicism seem spotless. Even with less than onetenth of the members, clergy, or participants of Catholicism, the Anglican Communion’s list of perversity puts Catholicism to shame

      • Theo

        Yes, and that’s exactly what Cardinal Brady told all those unhappy Anglicans in Ireland. They believed him, too.

  • Theo

    Let us assume that the present-day Roman Catholic Church can only be held responsible for so much. Let us then disregard the Indulgences, and Joan of Arc, the Index and Galileo, the Knights Templar and the Conquista, the Borgias and the Inquisition, the witch hunts and the support to bloody regimes, the concordats with the likes of Hitler and Franco.

    I will subscribe myself to the last 20 years.

    In that time alone, the Roman Church has gifted the world with, to mention but a few:

    . Widespread and at points and by all accounts condoned sexual abuse of children by clergy and lay staff of the Roman Catholic Church, and subsequent cover-ups involving lay people, priests, bishops and cardinals.

    . The Vatican Bank. The Banco Ambrosiano 1982. The butler’s papers2012. Half a million dollars Nativity Scenes at St. Peter’s Square. You get my point.

    . An 85-mile shelving Vatican Secret Archive. No church should have so many shelved secrets.

    . Rwanda genocide. Google it.

    . Cooperation with organized crime. I know it, you know it, it’s the same in Padua Italy as in New Jersey.

    . Suppression of local theologies (India), silencing of local theologians (Latin America) and attacks against local communities (US nuns) not 100% in line with the ever-growingly conservative views of the Roman Catholic Church.

    Take your time in getting back at me about this.

  • Theo


    Dear Joseph, beloved brother in Christ,

    I’m becoming increasingly worried about the state of your soul. As a Christian in the twenty-first century, I find myself spending quite a bit of time actively, sometimes zealously, defending, justifying and explaining my faith and the Church (and, in fact the general concepts of “faith” and “church”) in exchanges with friends who are atheist or agnostic. Most often, this conversation begins when one of my atheist friends effectively accuses the Church (or religion in general) of being led by gangs of vipers, hypocrites and con-men (or women) who prey on the gullibility of those of us who, for whatever reason, simply refuse to see the realities before our eyes.

    Lately, when these friends point to their usual examples of the Inquisition or the priestly sex abuse scandal, it’s becoming harder and harder to answer by pointing to the Church of St. Francis of Assisi and Dorothy Day. To be frank, Holiness, your conduct and the conduct of those most immediately around you, are at the center of this difficulty.

    And now, this morning, I read a story about the fact that you (or those who work for you) are holding your former butler in a Vatican jail cell for leaking secrets about the conversations between you, and those around you, concerning the Vatican Bank. This one sentence may include more, and more interesting, examples of the kind of fodder you provide the critics of faith than any I could have imagined. Let’s “unpack” those examples.

    (1) You have a former butler (or a butler at all, for that matter); not a “secretary” or an “assistant,” a personal servant. The head of the Church founded by the Poor Man of Nazareth, who had nowhere to lay his head, has someone to pick up his fur-trimmed hats and expensive, hand tooled red shoes for him. The Church of St. Francis, who stood naked in the square at Assisi and then wrapped himself in castoff rags, whose conversion was completed by washing out the sores of lepers with his own hands, is headed by a man who has traded in the practice of all recent Popes (both conservative and “liberal”) of wearing simple, often worn clothing for one of excessive care for fashion, and who has made other men his personal servants.

    (2) You have secrets that can be “leaked.” With all due respect, the last time I looked your most important job was spreading the good news of Christ. All of the vast superstructure of Church and hierarchy at your command should be in service to that one, fundamental purpose. That good news is largely embodied in scripture in the form of a written record of Jesus disputing publicly with pretty much everyone he encountered, including his closest circle of associates. Likewise, much of the remaining scripture in Acts and the various Epistles consists of open, public, written disputation between St. Paul and other founders of the Church, including the founder of your own lineage, St. Peter. The notion that the Vicar of Christ has now become so obsessed with secrecy, with the need to conceal disputes within his own inner circle by jailing a hapless personal servant is scandalous in and of itself.

    (3) The Vatican has a bank, about which it holds such secrets. It’s hard to know where to begin. Given, public knowledge of the Vatican Bank’s existence is nothing new. I suppose that repeated public use of the term “Vatican Bank” has finally come to mean that we’ve become desensitized to just what a preposterous phrase that really is. Remember the man who turned over the tables of the money-changers in the temple? Remember that as being one of the acts that eventually led him to his execution at the insistence of the temple bureaucracy? Let’s be clear, you are now holding a person in prison for merely talking in public about the secrets of your own institutional temple money-changers. There’s really no more that needs to be said.

    (4) That leads us to possibly the worst of the lot. You have a prison. A prison that one of your functionaries dismisses as just some “cells” and justifies by referring to the fact that the Vatican is, after all, still a temporal “state” as well as the center of the living body of Christ. You do remember Christ, don’t you? The Christ who was held by jailers and then put to death by the temporal state for crimes against the dignity of religion? What part of ‘My kingdom is not of this world,” do you and those around you not understand? I hope you will spend some time meditating on the following sentence. “You are holding one of your personal servants in your own prison for the crime of making public secrets about the workings of your bank.”

    Of course, as Christians we believe that Our Lord will forgive manifold sins. More importantly, I take very, very seriously Jesus’ admonition that I not presume to judge, or really even recognize, the mote in the eye of my brother. I don’t mention all of these above in order to judge you. Those questions lay between you and God. However, you are also the “outward and visible” sign of the Body of Christ. You are a public figure and, for many, the public face of the Church and of people of faith in general. When you engage publicly in hypocritical, materialistic, bureaucratic and vengeful ways it reflects on all of us, and on our faith. As I mentioned at the outset, it makes it more and more difficult for all of us stand for religion in the intense public dialogue of the 21st century. In that sense, you are making yourself a cause of stumbling, in the sense of Matthew 18:6-7: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” And it is in this sense that I’m concerned for the state of your soul. With the increasing scandal that you engender and support, with your materialism and addiction to bureaucratic power and secrecy, you are causing others to stumble, and you are in spiritual danger as a result.

    Yours in Christ,