The end of August is still the Dog Days in terms of church news. There is no public news from the TAC other than the ACCC in Canada as reported by Fr Smuts in The Anglican Catholic Chronicle — ACCC Newsletter (Aug 2012):
The Anglican Catholic Chronicle newsletter of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada for the month of August is out. It has some good news as well!
I have nothing to add to the news per se except to congratulate the new priests. The habitual commenters are at work, in particular a lawyer by the name of Mourad who seems to be English rather than American. For him, the whole TAC signed up to the John Paul II Catechism in October 2007, so for it to fold up all operations that are not going over to the ordinariates! It is something I have heard before from others. The only purpose of the TAC was as a “convert tank”, and there is no justification for any continued existence as an independent or “schismatic” church. Therefore, those who stay out should be punished in one way or another until they “submit”. Funnily enough, the Roman authorities themselves never expressed such a notion.
One thing that interests me is some kind of “wiggle-out clause” that Mourad seems to endorse – the possibility that consent was given to Archbishop Hepworth’s agenda under conditions of manipulation and false promises. “If people signed up to anything on the basis of incorrect representations as to what might be on offer, then, of course, “thanks but no thanks” may have been an understandable reaction“.
Is there a justification for any continued existence of the TAC? Should we not be going to the Ordinariates or transferring to continuing Anglican Churches whose honest and constant position was “thanks but no thanks”? Mourad would seem to endorse some form of continuing Anglicanism if it is visibly distinct from Roman Catholicism in such a way as the faithful would be deceived by TAC bishops dressing up as Roman Catholic ones. The position colludes with “classical” Anglicans who base their notion of patrimony solidly on the Prayer Book, the 39 Articles and the Anglican theological tradition from the seventeenth century. This is something I noticed long ago. Some see a conspiracy in a collusion between Bishop Elliott and the American TAC bishops – which I think is nonsense. I merely see a collusion arising out of different human reactions to the same problem without there being any “cooperation” between the two sides.
Of course, I have advocated a third approach (one that is obvious to me but eccentric to others) as an alternative to aping post-Tridentine Roman Catholicism or being via media Episcopalian Protestants. But, I won’t go into that here.
I do so hate some of the analogies used like swimming over various rivers in the world and chickening out of weddings! But that is irrelevant. I have for a long time tried to grapple with what really happened to the TAC between October 2007 and very late 2011 when it became clear that Archbishop Hepworth was chopped liver.
EPMS, whoever that is, seems to be answering fairly and calmly. He, like many of us, have had enough of “reiterations of blame for those who signed on to something in Portsmouth or Surrey, BC and then had second thoughts. That happens, sometimes“. Both Deborah Gyapong and I have constantly called for a moderate position about Archbishop Hepworth in the face of those who wanted a scapegoat for all that went wrong. It is certain that, for whatever reason, we were all deceived by the former Archbishop’s narrative of how the TAC was to become almost a kind of Anglican rite uniate Church with himself keeping his position of primate, and that this would get him reinstated in the Roman Catholic clergy “through the back door”. The more critical of us knew that Rome just doesn’t do this kind of thing, but we entertained the notion that Benedict XVI was prepared to go in for creative solutions, and that this idea might just come off! The Pope has some great ideas, but his hands are tied by those who think in the box. He got a compromise, and a touch of propaganda made the round pegs go into the square holes.
What was the origin of the “Hepworth vision”? As I understand it, until a certain point, Archbishop Falk, with Archbishop Hepworth as his successor as TAC Primate, had been in a some kind of on-and-off ecumenical dialogue with Cardinal Kasper in Rome. Being in ecumenical dialogue with Rome gives a church respectability and gets it off the list of “vagante jurisdictions”. But that was not to last. The TAC was under the primacy of a former Roman Catholic priest. As happened with the Polish National Catholic Church, there could be polite chat but no organic union with canonically irregular clergy, together with several other bishops who were divorced and remarried. The file went to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – which no longer means ecumenism but dealing with canonically irregular former Roman Catholics wanting to reconcile with Rome and negotiate the conditions.
By about 2007, Fr John Fleming, an Australian married Anglican priest who was accepted for re-ordination in the Roman Catholic Church under the Pastoral Provision, and a long-standing friend of Archbishop Hepworth and Bishop Peter Elliott, seems to have been the driving force behind the decision to present the TAC as being in complete doctrinal agreement with the Roman Catholic Church. This would remove all reasons preventing the corporate union of the TAC with Rome. The only problem was that Rome would not overlook the canonical problems. Rome could have given the answer earlier, but was still not sure of getting the various official Anglican Communion prelates over to save face! That is only conjecture, but seems the most rational explanation.
Could someone in Rome have given reassurances of some kind of “amnesty” which would cause Archbishop Hepworth to believe that the door was open to the entire TAC, and not merely to carefully filtered individuals and small groups? What happened would indicate that Archbishop Hepworth was either manipulated by someone in Rome, he did the manipulating as someone unconcerned for the “fallout” and various people left high and dry, or that he was deluded for reasons of poor judgement or of psychological problems caused presumably by his experience as a young seminarian and a priest being sexually abused by priests. There too, I have conjectures which I am not prepared at this time to express publicly. Those seem to be the three possibilities at present.
EPMS‘s final comment is most eloquent:
A number of bloggers and posters, even ones who are still personally supportive of Hepworth, have agreed that he told them things that turned out to be inaccurate; for example, that those who had incurred the “delict of schism” would receive dispensations enabling them to be ordained. The only issue in dispute about this is whether he in turn was misled by someone in the Vatican, or whether he was making it up out of whole cloth as part of a larger promotional campaign. Fr Marriott has given an account of the Portsmouth signing, I think on this blog, which sounded like a classic exercise in achieving false consensus: last item on the agenda, no time for discussion, photo opportunity, etc. Accounts of the 2010 ACCC synod, still up on the AngloCatholic, suggest an atmosphere literally of smoke and mirrors, with many accounts of Hepworth speaking for hours, without notes, creating a compelling vision of a church which, “if not sui juris, looks a lot like it”. The technique was AngloCatholic Elmer Gantry, and the outcome was probably predictable.
I have to admit that I was surprised to see the entire TAC episcopate swept into the fervour of the Archbishop’s agenda. The letter to Rome was offered for amendments, and amazingly, it was treated like a lawyer’s letter and just rephrased a little here and there. No bishop seemed to show any critical attitude other than in private. It all reminded me of the historical accounts of how Pope Pius IX got Papal infallibility through in 1870 and struck dumbness into the opposing minority. It was a classical show of peer pressure and going with the bandwagon.
Was Archbishop Hepworth the bully or Rome’s lackey? I was too involved in the whole thing as a priest observer and as one who participated at some small-group discussions on entirely unrelated matters. The agenda was just not gone over critically.
My feelings are mixed about the remainder of the TAC. The conduct of the American bishops has not impressed me, but they seem to be legitimately concerned about salvaging the wreckage. Bishop Botterill’s position and agenda seem reasonable, coherent and well-intentioned. Why should he and his clergy be coerced into closing down their operation and becoming Roman Catholics when everyone is told that Anglicanorum Coetibus is open-ended and without time limits? No institution in the Roman Catholic Church is without limit, since Benedict XVI’s legislation can simply be abrogated by a future Pope under any convenient pretext. The analogies about being welcomed by Rome with a Prayerbook in your napsack is complete nonsense. It is time people stopped using these asinine analogies of rivers and warm swimming water – and started to talk about real issues.
There is more manipulation going on than ever happened with Archbishop Hepworth! In my estimation, supporting a continuation of a part of the TAC does not denigrate the ordinariates and those who have decided to join them. The big question now is knowing what is left. It is time for the Australian and English TACs to get good-quality websites up with lists of parishes, clergy and something tangible for us all. The new English website is promised for the beginning of September. The Messenger has been gone for a long time, yet its webmaster, Fr Owen Buckton, is now the Australian Vicar General. There needs to be more visibility. The Canadians are giving news each month, but India and the US are sporadic. In the twenty-first century communication is vital, as something like the TAC is so thin on the ground that its only social and communications link is by Internet. Locally-distributed printed media alone is just not good enough. Something not visible on the Internet doesn’t exist for our contemporaries. We might not like the advance of technology, but we keep up with it or go by the wayside.
The TAC may yet crumble through lack of critical mass and a credible foundational myth. That would be a pity, and those who are left would be unlikely to accept being whipped into the ordinariates. Many will lose their faith in churches even if they keep their faith in God. The way things have been done by all those responsible, whether on the Roman Catholic or TAC side, has been a pastoral disaster. Archbishop Hepworth has been deceived or deceived us. To what end, other than to destroy himself? When will we find constant and rational explanations and learn from them?
Personally, I keep waiting. For some of us, nothing more is expected from Rome, but everything is expected from the bishops who obviously regretted jumping on the bandwagons and took a more critical attitude a posteriori. It takes time to reculer pour mieux sauter. Those who believe the Roman Catholic Church is the one true church (no salvation outside it) should go that way. Others of us take a more critical attitude and events have caused us to re-examine the notion of the Church and churches. Every criticism of present-day Anglicanism can also be levelled at the Roman Catholic institution. There are no winners or losers.
At the same time, it is all over – yet we are at the doorway of a new beginning… There is yet something to look forward to.