A couple of snippets…

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.

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8 Responses to A couple of snippets…

  1. Pingback: Fr Anthony Chadwick: A Couple of Snippets « Fr Stephen Smuts

  2. Pingback: Nothing has worked out as we expected but strangely enough . . . | Foolishness to the world

  3. Dr William Tighe sent me this message by e-mail. I see no reason why it should not be appended to this posting as a comment.

    * * *


    The other matter on which I don’t think I fully understand your position is why you so support those who what to see a “Continuing TAC.” There are so many Continuing Anglican jurisdictions, and “extra mural” Anglican churches, even if one speak only of “respectable” ones, which either embrace every possible version of “Anglican orthodoxy” from the Conservative Evangelical to the (almost) Anglo-Papalist, or else will genially tolerate advocates of all these Anglican points-of-view, that I fail to see any “vital role” that only the TAC can fill or fulfill. My own personal view is that the remnant TAC bodies, at least in America and Canada, should simply make the best terms that they can with “the Anglican Catholic Church” or “the Anglican Province of Christ the King” (both of them largely, but not exclusively, Anglo-Catholic bodies, with the former having tacitly disowned the 39 Articles in favor of “the King’s Book” of 1543 as its doctrinal standard) or, in some cases, with “the Anglican Province of America” (a more middle-of-the-road Anglican body, but with a moderately “high” liturgical ethos).

    Best greetings,
    … on the TAC, etc. FWIW:


    My only critique would be to note that he makes no mention at all of the covert (but not effectively secret) approach to Rome of a number of Church of England bishops, not all of them Anglo-Catholics, and including such as the former Bishop of Rochester (Michael Nazir-Ali) and the former Bishop of Chichester (John Hind), in 2007-09 — an approach which seemingly came to nothing, but which surely affected the genesis of AC, and on which, see:


    This somewhat related article, on the thread of which I have commented more than once, may also be of interest to some:



    • I think Dr Tighe has offered an extremely good criticism. I too believe the remnant TAC has nothing that isn’t offered by the ACC, the APCK and others. There is an ACC diocese in England that is obviously small, but appears to be stable and doing well. Their liturgical usage is the Anglican Missal with Roman trappings. Alternatively, there is the Polish National Catholic Church and its sister Church in the Union of Scranton, the Nordic Catholic Church under Bishop Roald Flemestad. This Bishop is presently giving consideration to groups of English Anglicans who might be interested in availing of this opportunity. He seems to be as open to continuers as clergy from the Church of England. I hope that could become a viable avenue.

      The only “justification” for separate continuing churches is the bishops of each remaining bishops. That is probably not the whole picture, but may be a good part of the picture in certain cases.

      I think Cardinal Kasper was sincere in saying that the TAC was late for the train, and that the real inspiration of AC was in the 1990’s and not the movements of the TAC in the 2000’s. That is logical, as it takes the Vatican 30 years to open a letter, let alone read it and one day get round to answering it!

      Indeed, we should be objective and open to the “big picture”.

  4. Michael Frost says:

    As regards the TAC, the ACA, and the Ordinariate in the USA, probably only time will tell where the Holy Spirit is leading people. Guess we’ll all have to see who ends up leaving, staying, or going somewhere else? Take Des Moines, Iowa, where I live. St. Aidan’s, where Archbishop Falk has been leading liturgy since April, decides not to join the Ordinariate. Their former priest left to join the Ordinariate. In the month since the vote was finalized, it doesn’t appear to my eyes or ears that St. Aidan’s has lost a single parishioner. Archbishop Falk, his lovely wife, and his congregation all appear to be in excellent spirits. (I enjoy talking with him each Sunday about various and sundry things.) Their former priest is now celebrating the Ordinariate liturgy acrss town but I haven’t heard from anyone who has attended. Only time will tell if it takes root and grows in this soil. I would be surprised if the Roman Catholics could afford to build a new Anglican Use church in Des Moines. I don’t pretend to know anything with certainty, but they might have a church eventually that isn’t being used and convert it to or share it with the Ordinariate’s use (they were kind to allow Orthodox (OCA) to use one of their little-used rural churches outside of Ames for a few years, just a few years back). Or if the prospects for the Ordinariate aren’t good or don’t pan out in a particular area, maybe priests start getting moved around by Msgr. Steenson once the dust settles and they know who joined their Ordinariate individually, en mass, and with any of their former churches intact for the Ordinariate. But like I said, only time will tell us where the Holy Spirit is leading us.

  5. Sandra McColl says:

    I have been reluctant to comment lately because of my position, but I have a few things that I believe need to be said.

    First, Father Chadwick, I would say that you adopt a reasoned and charitable position and this is welcomed.

    Second, it appears that many commentators (not Father Chadwick) appear to be taking an almost (for want of a better word, and naturally completely asexually) prurient interest in the motives, intentions, and internal mental processes of people, bishops especially, on the other side of the world from them, not in communion with them, who don’t belong to them and to whom they do not belong. I realise that those of whom these people seem to require this information are bishops and therefore public figures, but please, give them a break! The outbreak of new media and the blogosphere has carried many benefits in terms of dissemination of information that the mainstream media do not wish to carry, but the advent of the combox appears to have given rise to a sense of entitlement to information and explanations that does not always appear to be justified. Further, has it ever occurred to anyone that full explanations of decisions might require the disclosure of information that is confidential to someone else? It’s hard to explain when an obligation of confidence prevents the disclosure of information necessary to the explanation.

    Further, it would sometimes appear that those demanding an explanation sit in judgment on those from whom they demand it. Judge not. Speculate not. Practise custody of the curiosity for the good of your souls.

    • Thank you for this observation. I think this problem is like any other when there is a minority of persons who abuse and behave anti-socially or from motivations of some kind of psychological perversion.

      The tendency in civil life is to take more and more away from people because of the offending minority. I have often cited a Latin expression – abusus non tollit usum, abuse does not (or should not) take away the legitimate use of something. This is the double-edged sword of the combox. I have also noticed, and I am not alone, that discussing subjects like the ordinariates, the TAC, etc. attract many more times attention than educational or spiritual articles. It is a difficult one. Media scoops may attract a lot of attention, but are forgotten in days – and people do not learn from knowledge. That is what I find most discouraging.

      My policy about comments is one of banning only the most extreme “delinquents” and trying to reason with the more moderate degrees of the “armchair inquisition”.

      Further, it would sometimes appear that those demanding an explanation sit in judgment on those from whom they demand it. Judge not. Speculate not. Practise custody of the curiosity for the good of your souls.

      This is certainly a fine spiritual ideal, staying away from occasions of sin and all that. Unfortunately, many believing they are Christians or pretend to be such are the worst persecutors as happened in the French Revolution or under Communism. Some commentators would have us in concentration camps or on the torture table in less time than it takes to say “Jack Sprat”. There are also those who are not intentionally evil but sin through Pharisaism, other forms of self-righteousness and excessive curiosity. There are also those who “hog” and dominate comment threads as is often the case on Fr Smuts’ blog.

      On the other hand, if we suppress information, what do we have left? It’s a difficult one. The other possibility is a good classical web site or a blog without the possibility of comments. The English ACC’s web site is very well designed, though news is rare. They do seem to be concerned for the “diaspora” of faithful living beyond reasonable travelling distance to a parish. Web sites need to be dynamic and constantly evolving to retain interest.

      • Sandra McColl says:

        I’m not talking about suppressing information, just about people regaining the sense of what is, and what is not, their business, and for those who are curious beyond what is not their business to be a little less insistent in demanding to know and to stop trying to make up information that hasn’t been provided.

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