This will surely test (and demonstrate) the sincerity of the man:
Archbishop John Hepworth will be forced to relinquish his role as the primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion if he is to reconcile with the Catholic Church, after being informed he will only be accepted as a layperson.
Archbishop Hepworth has been notified by the Catholic Church that his bid to reunify the TAC with Rome has been successful, but his own case is conditional.
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference general secretary Brian Lucas confirmed that under the Anglicanorum coetibus — guidelines created by the Vatican two years ago — Anglicans and members of the TAC would be welcomed.
“Each Anglican bishop or each group of Anglicans who apply are treated individually, so we anticipate there will be some groups within the TAC that for their reasons do not want to join the Catholic Church,” Father Lucas said.
He said the document confirmed any Catholic priest or bishop who became an Anglican and then wanted to return to Catholicism would only be able to do so as laity.Archbishop Hepworth was ordained a Catholic priest in the 1960s but left and became an Anglican in 1974.
He has campaigned for the TAC to reunite with Rome for the past two years and in September claimed he had been sexually abused by three Catholic priests in the 1960s.
Senator Nick Xenophon then named Monsignor Ian Dempsey as his alleged abuser under parliamentary privilege. Monsignor Dempsey has denied the allegations.
Archbishop Hepworth has not yet decided whether he will accept the Catholic Church’s offer.
“Archbishop Denis Hart (of Melbourne) and I agreed that I would have several weeks to consider my position,” he said.
“I regret that the Australian Bishops Conference has seen fit to publish the document without any consultation with me.”
Father Lucas said the sexual abuse allegations had nothing to do with the church ruling.
“I can be confident that the public statements (Mr Hepworth) made about that are not at all relevant to this decision,” he said. “It would be the policy of the church . . . never to publicise reasons connected with the personal circumstances of somebody in Archbishop Hepworth’s position as a former Catholic priest seeking to find a place within the church.”
As for the rest of the Traditional Anglican Church’s clergy, it will be on an individual basis. That much is now clear.
According to Fr Anthony Chadwick:
Last Wednesday, Archbishop Hepworth was given a letter from Rome by the hand of the Archbishop of Melbourne. This was to have been kept quiet to allow the Archbishop a reflection period of several weeks. However, the content of this letter was leaked by an Australian bishop by way of gossip and the Australian Bishops Conference released the text to The Australian. This whole thing has been precipitated in a deliberate move with destructive intentions. How Christian to stick the boot in like English football hooligans attacking a defenceless victim!
UPDATE: Archbishop John Hepworth takes Catholic Church to the Police here.