Confidential: Former TAC Archbishop Hepworth Seeks to Regroup
June 12, 2012 19 Comments
Exposed: Openly schismatic behaviour…Subversive and so unChristian. What kind of men are they?!
My Dear Fathers, Brothers and Sister,
For some weeks, a number of us (including our founding Primate Archbishop Falk) have been praying and working on a response to the activities of the minority of our brothers who have seized control of our Communion and seek to pervert it to anti-catholic ends. Their actions are already destroying much of our work over the past twenty five years. Our Roman Catholic friends (and there are many, including the new Australian Ambassador to the Holy See) have been dismayed.
The document that is attached is the result of our efforts. (An identical document is attached in two versions of Word.) Neither Archbishop Falk nor I seek to lead this body. We are simply asking two things:
1. Your preparedness to attach your name so that the document can be published among our communities and more widely, and to seek the concurrence of your clergy and people in whatever way might be appropriate to take this proposal to the next stage.
2. To attend a meeting, with a clergyman and lay person from your Diocese or community as appropriate, in England from 9th – 11th October this year, to determine the shape, life and leadership of the Fellowship.
The Rev’d Dr. John Fleming, a long time friend of many in the Traditional Anglican Communion, and in his third term with the Vatican-based Pontifical Academy for Life, has been suggested as an ideal person to be the mentor mentioned in the document.
Each of us needs to commit ourselves to the prayerful defense of each other at this time. The Roman Catholic Church needs to know that there are Traditional Anglican Communion bishops still committed to the promises of Portsmouth.
I am prepared to collate the signatures and circulate the document with names attached for you to publish. This is urgent.
I should also wish you to know at this time that Lay Canon Woodman is seriously ill as a result of the stress of the vicious attacks on her and her property by the group led by Samuel Prakash.
This is being sent to the following, all of whom are invited to indicate support: the bishops names will appear as a block, followed by Traditional Anglican Communion clergy and laity; it is not intended to name our Catholic supporters in the published document, but we value knowing you are with us:
Lay Canon Woodman, Dr. John Fleming. Archbishop Falk Bishops Moyer, Entwistle, Hudson, Banzana, Kajiwarra, Nona, Garcia, Campese. Dr Labusga (Argentine), Father Kinmont (VG Australia), Father McManus (England), Father Chadwick (France) And to our former brothers in the episcopate Father Robert Mercer, Peter Wilkinson and Carl Reid, seeking their prayers, understanding and fellowship (will Peter please inform Robert?)
With every good wish,
Archbishop John Hepworth P.O. Box 746 Blackwood SA 5051 Australia
Dissident TAC Group Forms Saint Benedict Fellowship
June 11, 2012
We are bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion who signed the Portsmouth Petition and the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the altar in the midst of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. We understood then, and continue to understand, that our signatures had the sacred nature of an oath.
We are bishops who rejoiced at the proclamation of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus by Pope Benedict XVI, which so amply fulfilled the dreams we had dared to express in our Petition, and the dreams that others had expressed to the Holy Father.
We number among us the bishops and Primates who commissioned, led and supported the cause of Anglican/Roman Catholic unity over the past thirty years, who were supported by their clergy, laity and synods, and who sustained isolation, ridicule and hardship.
We have experienced the difficulties and trauma of the implementation of the Apostolic Constitution, and understand the hurt and frustration of many of our brothers and sisters at this time.
We accept the responsibility bestowed on us by the vows taken at our Episcopal consecration, and will continue to do all that is required of us to sustain those entrusted to our care. We will defend them against those who have chosen to reject those things to which we committed ourselves and our Communion at Portsmouth.
This rejection deeply saddens us as we are confronted with a breach of collegial trust, commitment and unity. We are committed to leading the people entrusted to us for as long as that might be necessary, understanding that our own future is not and must not be a consideration in our leadership.
We resist the temptation to form yet another church among the myriad and scandalous world of Continuing Anglicanism. Equally, we cannot in conscience allow those who now repudiate all that we have sought and achieved to go unchallenged.
We have formed ourselves into a sacramental fellowship, under the patronage of Saint Benedict, in order to minister to and sustain each other and those Anglicans who share our desire for the full, global implementation of the Apostolic Constitution.
We pledge to do only those ecclesial actions necessary to sustain our dioceses and communities, to strengthen, enrich and sustain the Anglican treasure that is our heritage and that is so warmly endorsed in the Apostolic Constitution, and to take council amongst ourselves and amongst those whom we lead.
We pledge to sustain the warmest bonds of Christian love for those who have already come into “the fullness of Catholic Communion” under the Apostolic Constitution.
To this end, the bishops, with representatives of their clergy and people, who seek to create this Fellowship will meet in the Northern Autumn. It is our intention to invite a mentor acceptable to us and to the Catholic Church to assist us in our deliberations. This first meeting will determine the minimal structures necessary for the faith, good order, sacramental life, communication and mutual support within the Fellowship.
Fr Anthony Chadwick - who is clearly involved – now laments: Loose Lips sink Ships.
Some weeks ago, Archbishop Hepworth called me and outlined an idea to me, of some way of “surviving” for those clergy who had received no response from Rome or a negative answer. I submitted some ideas, and above all something of a foundational purpose or reason for going about such a thing.
I kept all this to myself, but corresponded privately and confidentially with an English priest who had the same feelings, and he suggested this Saint Benedict Fellowship could be what I would term a kind of “palliative care unit” for former TAC clergy either in the “waiting room” or preparing for conversion to or reconciliation with the Roman Catholic Church (the spiritual Green Mile?). It seems to be in line with the entire Romeward drive of the TAC over the past few years.
My own attitude was to keep an open mind, wait and see – but someone sent a copy of this letter, a revision of 11th June 2012, to David Virtue. It is now published as Confidential: Fellowship: Former TAC Archbishop Hepworth Seeks to Regroup, and those who send comments will certainly have a feast day. I find it deeply regrettable that this idea has been made public before it had time to mature and define its purpose more precisely.
My own concern was that its only justification was as a kind of metaphorical lifeboat for shipwrecked bishops and priests. It protests the way a significant portion of the TAC episcopate held a meeting in South Africa and took advantage of the resignation of Archbishop Hepworth announced for Easter 2012, now effective. Certainly, the Archbishop has in mind the way those bishops proceeded with his suspension from office as a TAC bishop in Australia, and further, wrote of its intention to take further action. I quote Archbishop Prakash’s recent ad clerum letter, which is a public document – “It is with deep regret that I have to inform you that further steps against Bishop Hepworth are being considered in the light of a document sent out by Bishop Hepworth openly advocating schism within the TAC“.
It would seem understandable that Archbishop Hepworth would reject a portion of the TAC that has rejected him. I am not going to enter the polemics, and I am tired of the “You’re either for us or against us” of blog enthusiasts. Having lived through all this over the past few years, I can only express being happy to live in a country that has emancipated itself from clericalism!
What is at the bottom of all this is a complete misunderstanding of the way Rome responds to requests for intercommunion or corporate union. In the case of Anglicanorum coetibus, it involves a total filtering of the clergy through a simple mechanism of receiving the men as laymen considered not to be validly ordained and then their being considered according to Ordinariate norms for ordination. Those in Roman Catholic orders would simply be offered reconciliation with their Church on condition of laicisation. There are no mitigating circumstances for leaving the Roman Catholic clerical state. Once you’re out, you’re out. The Anglican Communion will at its discretion accept Roman Catholic priests, as was the case with Archbishop Hepworth, and many years ago, Archbishop Arnold Harris Mathew. There are hard cases, but all are equal in the eyes of Rome. As you see in Italian law courts – Le legge è uguale per tutti.
Archbishop Hepworth made allusions to sacrificing his episcopate for the interests of unity with Rome. He came public with his harrowing experience of sexual abuse at the hands of two or three Australian priests in the 1960′s and earlier. It didn’t wash, and the stories sickened most of us. We empathised with the Archbishop in his personal suffering but knew it would not save his priestly vocation. Rome does not deal with persons but with laws – they are applied every time.
I can understand the instinct of trying to form a group, as there are several priests and bishops in the “old” TAC who incurred canonical irregularities from having been Roman Catholic clerics. I am one of them. Whilst I have not received any communication from Rome, some have, and the letters were negative, as for a priest in Canada who had been a Roman Catholic seminarian. It is painfully simple, we can be Roman Catholic laymen (or laicised pariahs), join another mainstream Church or found something new. The “something new” is what is usually termed a pseudo-church consisting of its founding clergy, themselves termed episcopi vagantes. We sometimes come across the oxymoron Vagante Churches.
If the justification of the Saint Benedict Fellowship is to continue as a priest or a bishop in spite of having failed to be accepted into the Ordinariate or wider Roman Catholic clergy, then the foundational purpose has no more credibility than any vagante group. Some vagante groups, however, are committed to extraordinary forms of pastoral ministry and are worthy of praise. The tree is judged by its fruits. But, if we read of men full of their self-importance as major primates, metropolitans, cardinals, or even popes in a few cases – and they just dress up and have fancy web sites, then I have other things to do in life! I am not remotely suggesting that Archbishop Hepworth fits into this category, but I doubt that a clear idea has yet emerged, whether it involves some form of contemplative life, educational apostolate or pastoral ministry.
The harrowing reality now faced by Archbishop Hepworth is that of a Zweifrontenkrieg, a war on two fronts. Rejection by Rome of his aspiration to return to the Catholic priesthood and rejection by a significant part or even a majority of his own college of bishops. Setting up anything resembling a new jurisdiction would only make things worse, whether it is called a communion, a church or a fellowship. Distinctions will not be made.
The Archbishop wisely says – We resist the temptation to form yet another church among the myriad and scandalous world of Continuing Anglicanism.
There is a seed of a foundational purpose in the words – in order to minister to and sustain each other and those Anglicans who share our desire for the full, global implementation of the Apostolic Constitution. Is this a kind of temporary clearing house in the hope that Rome will come up with dispensations from the rigour of the law and allow some “fallen” Catholic priests to be reactivated in spite of having married after ordination and joined another Church at some time? My big question now would be – What is left after the exodus to the ordinariates of many of our bishops, priests and laity and the formation of the significant part of the TAC that re-formed around Archbishop Prakash and Bishop Gill in South Africa?
One thing that has occurred to me, with my experience of Rome and being a product of the Institute of Christ the King’s seminary at Gricigliano – the Anglicanorum coetibus process was precisely designed to prevent irregulars from finding their way back in along with the thousands of laicised and non-laicised married ex-priests in the world. It must have been a headache for Rome, but the Pope is no spring chicken. As Prefect of the CDF, he had long experience of dealing with “ratlines” coming in from the cold of the former Soviet Bloc. Could it be that the ordinariate process is not Roman fiddling or fumbling, but a precise and clever plan for giving exactly what was asked for with generosity and pastoral care? But, for genuine cradle Anglicans who have never been Roman Catholics – no false-flag “ratlines”!
If you read the Declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Bishops and Priests Ordained Secretly in the Czech Republic of February 2000, many things will become clear. I find it tragic that for some, there is no solution, and the drama is essentially the issue of clerical celibacy and the problem of priests who left their ministries and got married. Rome has gone a long way by granting case-by-case dispensations from celibacy – as long as marriage precedes ordination. Open the flood gates at this point, and you have all the other “inclusive” agendas following behind. So you keep the flood gates tightly closed and allow the occasional leak. The Roman Catholic Church is in a position of having to justify its clerical monarchy in the face of a world that would sweep both it and faith itself from the world. The problem for the Pope and Roman diplomacy is terrible and unenviable. That is the real issue.
The now publicised letter speaks of a meeting this coming autumn. I would hope that it can be kept quiet and private, and not be surrounded by a hubbub of screaming polemics. I could see a legitimate little fellowship for the purpose of education and contemplative life, and pastoral ministry where priests have a handful of lay faithful, engage in “niche” ministry or visit hospitals, etc. Will it happen like that?
Still, a lot can happen in only a few months. Only recently, I come across a contradiction in the case of Bishop Robarts in Australia who writes in support of the Ordinariate, yet who is claimed by Archbishop Prakash to be a bishop in the service of the TAC. Many things can only be verified by the crucible of passing time. I don’t want to make accusations, but there are still smoke and mirrors here and there, and face-saving…
I find it unjust to accuse Archbishop Hepworth of fomenting schism, as he simply seeks to gather the elements of the TAC who can neither join the ordinariates and be priests and who disagree with the Archbishop Prakash college of bishops in their decision to reject Anglicanorum coetibus and continue as a continuing Anglican church.
There are too many square pegs in round holes, and this project having been made public hardly helps matters. I have personally had to try to find my way in this morass, and find that I become increasingly alienated and detached. The ordinariate process continues, but I am not part of it. I am nominally under the Traditional Anglican Church in the UK – but I haven’t the foggiest idea of what is left of it. The website had been abandoned, and the priest who kept it has himself left the TTAC. I could be part of this Fellowship. But, to what end? There are still a few things to be waited out – the completion of the ordinariate process to see who will be on the beach after the 15th June, just three days from now. There is then the final Synod decision in England about women bishops which will define groups staying in the Church of England or leaving it to form alliances with the Polish National Catholic Church and the Union of Scranton. That option is up in the air. Becoming Orthodox has only been something extremely marginal and has become something of a stale joke except with a few American zealots.
Indeed, the dust has to settle, which it is doing. Lacking subjects for discussion, blogs and forums debate whether laymen should be using the Anglican Office as in the BDW or the Roman liturgy of the hours! It all floats in as I receive e-mails during my day of doing my translation work.
Well, something good will come out of this or it won’t. Time is the judge, and what happens will be plain for all to see. I live through an alternation of wrenched gut and hope in the future. And I make a few explorations of my own. We will see…
Rome elected to have nothing to do with Hepworth (lest he become a layman) and of these his factious minions. After this foiled and unsuccessful attempted act of rebellion, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s decision has been more than justified. Now Hepworth lives to sow and create nothing but confusion and havoc amongst the faithful!
I see everything that they do. They can’t hide anything from me. Their wickedness can’t be hidden; I can see it – Jer 16:17.
So let’s see if we can summarise this. A segment of an Anglican group falls out with the leadership over, not least, allegations of financial irregularities. Rather than reconciling they seek to set up their own mission body in their own right. For some reason it sounds hauntingly familiar…