Wednesday, September 5, 2018

How Did This Get Started, Anyhow?

A visitor sent me a link to another page on the Taylor Marshall website:
Did the founder of Opus Dei prophesy the Pope’s Anglican Ordinariate? In a way, yes.

According to Msgr. Bill Stetson, Saint Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, visited England back in 1958. He frequented many Anglican Churches and was keen on rekindling fervor in England for the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

While visiting an Anglican Church, Saint Josemaria Escriva said in Spanish, “If we don’t lend them a hand, the Christian Faith will die away in fifty years.”

Well fifty years later (2008) the Anglican Communion became fractured through the ordination of active homosexuals and by the general erosion of Christian orthodoxy. Fifty-one years later (2009) the Holy Father “lends a hand” by establishing the Anglican personal ordinariate. Pretty amazing if you ask me. Saint Josemaria had it just about right.

My position here continues to be that Opus Dei is largely outside the scope of this blog. I know little about it, although this appears to be in part because the prelature is secretive.

On the other hand, Msgr Stetson is a priest of Opus Dei. His Wikipedia page says in part:

William H. Stetson is a Roman Catholic priest of the Prelature of Opus Dei ordained in 1962. . . . He presently lives in Los Angeles, California. [He moved to Los Angeles to serve as a confidant to Abp Gómez, also an Opus Dei priest.]

Msgr Stetson is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, during which time he became a numerary of the Prelature of Opus Dei. He later earned a doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome. He taught for several years on the faculty of Canon Law at the University of Navarre, where he also was involved in establishing the School of Liberal Arts. [Abp Gómez is a Navarra alumnus.] For seventeen years, Msgr. Stetson was the vicar of Opus Dei in Chicago, during which time priests of the Prelature of Opus Dei were entrusted with operating a parish of the Archdiocese of Chicago, St. Mary of the Angels, and renovating one of the Archdiocese's largest church buildings.

Msgr. Stetson was appointed Director of the Catholic Information Center in Washington, DC, by Theodore Cardinal McCarrick in 2004. He succeeded Fr. C. John McCloskey who had been director since 1998. The operation of the Center has been entrusted to priests of the Prelature of Opus Dei since 1993. In fall of 2007, Msgr. Stetson left as head of the Catholic Information Center. It is now under the direction of Fr. Arne A. Panula, S.T.D.

Since 1983 Monsignor Stetson has also served as consultant and later secretary to the Ecclesiastical Delegate of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for the Pastoral Provision for former Episcopal priests, by means of which over a hundred men have been ordained for priestly service in the Roman Catholic Church. He maintained the Pastoral Provision Office at Our Lady of Walsingham parish, an Anglican Use congregation in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston from 2007-2010. He continued to assist at the Holy Cross Chapel in downtown Houston, until being assigned to Los Angeles in 2011 where assists at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels and performs pastoral work for Opus Dei.

This bio minimizes Stetson's role as the Secretary for the Pastoral Provision, and it mentions nothing about his long association with Bernard Law, which appears to have begun at Harvard. In Fr Jack Barker's history of the Pastoral Provision, he mentions
[In 1978,] Bishop Bernard Law invited Frs. Barker and Brown to meet with a canonist in Chicago to explore together the form of an Anglican "common identity" in the Catholic Church.
While the canonist mentioned was not Stetson, it's interesting that the meeting took place in Chicago -- Law at the time was Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau in Missouri, but Stetson was Vicar for Opus Dei in Chicago. Barker continues,
In addition to the above, representatives of SSC and the Evangelical Catholic Mission (ECM) were also invited by Bishop Law. The three groups met with Bishop Law’s Canonist at the Hilton Hotel at O’Hare Airport. The Anglicans present favored the proposal on structure modeled on the Military Ordinariate, but the small number of parochial communities, the death of Cardinal Seper who had taken a personal interest in this cause, together with the reluctance on the part of the American Catholic hierarchy mitigated against such a possibility.
It's worth pointing out that the only other purely personal prelature in the Catholic Church is Opus Dei. Although the idea was promulgated by Paul VI in his motu proprio Ecclesiae sanctae, none was established until Opus Dei under John Paul II in 1982. The only others to date are the personal ordinariates established under Anglicanorum coetibus in 2011-12.

I think there are questions worth pursuing here. Stetson's relationship with Bernard Law prior to the establishment of the Pastoral Provision, for which he worked for Law from the start, is murky.

  • What was "Bill Stetson's" role in encouraging St Mary of the Angels to revise its bylaws to leave TEC in early 1977, before the Congress of St Louis, and before any official contacts were made with Catholic authorities?
  • There seems to have been an agenda to establish an Anglican personal prelature from the start, when none yet existed, and following the establishment of Opus Dei as such, only the Anglican prelatures have since been erected. What's up with that?
  • Stetson seems to have been an informal point of contact and general fixer for recruitment of Episcopalians and other Anglicans from the start of the Pastoral Provision to 2012. Taylor Marshall seems to have been an example fairly late in the process. It will be useful to locate other examples.
  • Is there an Opus Dei agenda here? Are there agendas other than Opus Dei, for that matter?