TAC tittle-tattle

portsmouth-bishops-07I occasionally call in at St Mary’s Hollywood: The Cold Case File and found a series on the Anglican Church in America led by Bishop Brian Marsh. Mr Bruce’s latest mentions me in Who Is Brian Marsh? — III.

Indeed it is a cold case. Fr Smuts hasn’t posted anything since September 2014. Bishop Gill publishes an ad clerum which gives us a good impression of his work in South Africa. Coming to the new article, I should point out that my Christian name is Anthony and not Andrew [this detail has been corrected]. My title is Reverend or Father, but I will forgive him extending that courtesy only to Roman Catholic clergy (the Vatican always uses proper titles even when they don’t “recognise” the cleric in question).

It is the old question of whether the TAC bishops at the College of Bishops meeting in October 2007 vowed to accept any deal that might come from Rome unconditionally. I was there, and I heard Archbishop Hepworth sell the idea. I didn’t get the impression of insincerity or rash promises. I had the impression that the bishops were going along with Archbishop Hepworth because it seemed a good idea, and signs seemed to suggest the impossible: some kind of “uniate” arrangement with Rome. Benedict XVI and his men would take the whole package, wave an absolving hand over all the canonical irregularities like being divorced and remarried or having been at some time in one’s life a Roman Catholic and therefore having “apostasized”. Archbishop Hepworth was a past master of the art of spinning yarns in the great Irish tradition and giving different people what they wanted to hear. We all got different versions! It all sounded so convincing – his “friends in high places” (there were none) who would get a special deal – and all the bishops were following and trusting their Primate. I never heard of “murmurings” until the first half of 2010 when the American bishops were beginning to let the light through the cracks.

Probably more light on the situation would come from The Anglo-Catholic which is now a dead blog but still contains its archives. Try looking up articles from 2010 to 2011. I was kicked off that blog in August 2010 for being too supportive of Archbishop Hepworth and setting up another blog. Since then, Christian Campbell has had some pretty tattoos done (OK, I’ve grown my hair!) and seems to have lost interest also in his personal blog. It doesn’t matter – we are all free to do what we want with our lives, but we can thank him for not deep-sixing the blog as I did with my English Catholic effort with Deborah Gyapong as co-pilot. The info is there and I have recovered some of my English Catholic material of historical interest in The TAC Archive.

Quite frankly, I didn’t think most of the bishops took this thing very seriously. No one believed Rome would give any response to the Anglican question in our lifetimes. They did, but to the Forward in Faith clergy from the Church of England and the American Episcopal Church who had been secretly discussing things with Rome since about 1994. The TAC had the most canonically irregular Archbishop John Hepworth as Primate, and some of its clergy might be worthy of being considered on a piecemeal basis. This “interpretation” was beginning to become clear in 2010 to 2011. Archbishop Hepworth had an explanation for everything, but it was wearing thin each time.

I have only had the scantiest correspondence with the ACA bishops, and I have published everything I know, unless someone asked me to keep something confidential. I had a long conversation not very long ago with a former TAC bishop, and he confirmed many of these intuitions and conjectures.

I haven’t read Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum for a long time, but I am brought to think of the anti-climax after reading of people getting exciting with conspiracy theories and tangled webs of deception. The simplest explanation, as in The Name of the Rose, is the most likely one. Simply, the request to Rome was just not taken seriously, but at the same time it was sincere on the basis of believing that Rome would do what Rome would never do. Such is human foolishness! That just about caps it.

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5 Responses to TAC tittle-tattle

  1. Ah, St. Mary of the Angels. That takes me back about thirty years, when the world was young and I was still a Roman Catholic. I had been a member of a rather good choir there, and was hopeful that that Church would come into corporate union with Rome. Alas, it was not to be, due to the strenuous opposition of first the late Cardinal Manning, and then later, that of Archbishop (later Cardinal) Mahony. Those machinations were much of the reason for my lack of enthusiasm for most RC churches, and for my eventual departure from that particular part of the Catholic Church.

  2. Martin Hartley says:

    Dear Fr Anthony, I am slightly sad at reading your latest blogpost. I do not disagree with it, it merely confirms that, in the path to Unity, which our Lord prayed for, many souls will be shipwrecked on rocky shores. Having remained single and celibate, I have never had problems such as so many do, including clergy when exploring a closer relationship with the Catholic Church (or indeed Orthodoxy). It is unfortunate that canonical impediments have created barriers to so many, however I think that Benedict must have been aware when he issued his decree. Maybe he considered other special arrangements, but did not have the time to enable them.

    The Ordinariate seems to be quietly growing and attracting Christians from a variety of backgrounds, with the Ordinary himself being a holy and humble man, well experienced.

    Although having spent years as a priest in a small jurisdiction, I have chosen to return to the lay status and not seek further ministerial responsibilities, partially due to health reasons.

    I wish you well in your observance of Holy Week and Easter in the Sarum tradition and will continue to pray for all separated brethren that God will reward them in His own way. A happy and Holy Pascal feast to all.


    • Indeed, many souls have been shipwrecked or simply brushed aside when they didn’t fit the mould. That is not to say that there isn’t good in the Ordinariate, but it is totally irrelevant to me and many others. Benedict XVI was unable to remain in office, let alone finish his many admirable projects.

      I understand your choice about your vocation, perhaps better than you think. Seek the Kingdom within and a whole new world will open as a certain “literalist” kind of Christianity becomes too absurd to be credible – and withers away, leaving the sad and decayed remains of beautiful church buildings. We must go on, each in our own way and in our own dark tunnels. I wish you an improvement in your health, and will include you in my intercessions.

      I don’t ask you which Church, if any, you have embraced. We are all in communion with fallible and frail human beings, and live with sin and imperfection. Heaven is found within and far beyond. I’m sure the Lord will show us ways to communion if not to institutional unity. I also wish you a holy Passiontide and a joyful Easter.

  3. James Morgan, Olympia WA USA says:

    Father, don’t worry too much over Christian Campbell. He lives in Florida and probably in a short while he and all his kith will be swimming to higher ground as the ocean rises. I hope he is a good swimmer or has a little boat somewhere (like you!).

  4. James Morgan, Olympia WA USA says:

    PS I was a member of St. Mary of the Angels, being baptized there as a teenager in 1953 by the ever-memorable Fr. James Jordan, and remained a member for a number of years. No talk of reunion with Rome then,but sound theology all the time. Later, they went a bit beserk, I think.

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