He and his group have my heartfelt congratulations and very best wishes, and I particularly admire Moyer's integrity, humility, and fortitude in coming to accept laicization in order to go in with his group. But what changed?
In February 2012, after Moyer was denied Archbishop Chaput's votum to come into the Catholic Church as a priest, Steenson is reported to have said,
"I told the people on Sunday that they must follow their conscience on the question of coming into full communion with the Catholic Church. Lumen Gentium 14 (the Vatican II constitution on the Church) makes this a matter of salvation: 'Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved. So, even if the Fellowship was not ready to make this decision, if an individual was convinced about what the Catholic Church teaches about herself, he or she should not be afraid to move forward.(I was told during RCIA, by the way, that those of us who had already been baptized into the Christian faith were candidates, not catechumens. A double check confirms that catechumens are not yet baptized, and the act of baptism radically changes a Christian's status, whether Catholic or not. I'm puzzled that Steenson, a theologian, would miss this, as the members of the Newman Fellowship, active Anglicans and former Episcopalians, had all certainly been baptized.)
"Catechumens who, moved by the Holy Spirit, seek with explicit intention to be incorporated into the Church are by that very intention joined with her. With love and solicitude Mother Church already embraces them as her own.'" (LG 14)," Steenson told VOL.
Steenson's remarks were generally interpreted in reports at the time as telling the people of the Newman Fellowship that their group would not be received into the Ordinariate, with or without Moyer, and the clear intent of the remarks above is that their only other option was to come into the Catholic Church as individuals. In other remarks, Steenson at the time was generally reported as offering the Newman group the opportunity to join the other Philadelphia-area Ordinariate group, St Michael Archangel, or nothing:
If the congregation, sans Moyer, truly believes in the faith as Rome sees it, they are jeopardizing their souls not to join St. Michael’s under the Rev. Dr. David Ousley who will be given the nod to enter Rome through the Ordinariate some time down the road.Vested as they may have been in cloying churchladyspeak, Steenson's remarks above strike me as basically a snotty putdown of what was, by Ordinariate standards, a large, sincere, and prosperous group. Mischaracterizing them as catechumens was tactless and condescending at best. Moyer's laicization does not seem to have been the only issue: it doesn't appear that they were offered any other option but coming in individually or via St Michael Archangel. After all, any group wishing to come in at the start was going to have to have a Catholic priest who served as chaplain while the Anglican priest who served with the group awaited ordination. What was so different with Newman?
It's hard to avoid thinking that something changed. Did Steenson pick up the phone at some point in subsequent years to have someone, divine or mortal, explain to him that, indeed, the Newman Fellowship is a large, sincere, and prosperous group, and, er, Steenson perhaps needed to give a bit more thought to pledges, donations, and bequests? Is this a sign that the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter might have become a little less the Ordinariate of the Diocese of Ft Worth?