December 2011

Referring page



A word from Senator Xenophon

Senator Nick Xenophon :

01 Dec 2011 2:09:31pm

The thesis of this piece is fundamentally flawed. I had a number of discussions with John Hepworth before naming the priest in question. In these discussions, I made it clear to John that I felt it necessary to name the priest if the Adelaide Archdioces refused to stand the priest down pending a proper inquiry. John said he hoped it would not come to that, but understood my position. I did not name the priest against John’s wishes as this piece seems to suggest and as a number of media outlets have incorrectly reported. I also give little weight to the ‘inquiry’ the Adelaide Archdiocese conducted, given that it failed to take evidence from John, it refused to indemnify John’s witnesses and it would have required John to pay all the expenses of his witnesses. It was a whitewash.


“Hepworth abuse case flares out of control”–Christopher Pearson

It’s in an opinion piece by Christopher Pearson entitled: Hepworth abuse case flares out of control. It is behind a subscriber wall. Here are some excerpts:

“. . . the congregation sent the Australian Bishops Conference a letter in late October this year saying that no exception would be made for Hepworth and making no mention of the mitigating factor of serial sexual abuse, although it had been brought to their attention.

This was despite the Melbourne archdiocese ( where one of the abusers had been stationed) briskly ordering its own inquiry and finding that Hepworth was a witness of truth.

It concluded he had suffered abuse at Pickering’s hands and at the hands of other South Australian clergy and awarded him the maximum sum available in compensation.


Wilson, when criticised for inaction, unilaterally announced an inquiry of his own, by Michael Abbott, a prominent Adelaide silk. Abbott’s practice is diverse, but his experience of clerical sexual abuse cases is limited and would not bear comparison with that of the Melbourne Process’s Peter O’Callaghan QC. He’s a specialist in these matters, who Wilson should have invited to continue his inquiries in Adelaide concerning Hepworth’s allegations over his time as a seminarian and young priest.


With Wilson’s concurrence, Hepworth and any witnesses he might have named were refused any financial assistance. Nor were they offered indemnity against defamation proceedings, a necessity when a private inquiry is canvassing whether a sexual act between two adults took place and involved an element of impaired consent. As importantly, satisfactory replies were not given to questions about the terms of reference, the process of the inquiry or its scope before Abbott began interviewing witnesses and reviewing documents.

For all these reasons, Hepworth declined to testify and suggested a course of mediation. I’ve seen his proposal. It requested that, instead of engaging in “an unproductive legal confrontation”, the archdiocese accept it was his honest belief that his version of events regarding Dempsey was true and acknowledge the abuse of Stockdale and Pickering and that sexual abuse and blackmail had caused him to flee the archdiocese.

Abbott found, and Wilson announced, on Monday, that there was “no substance” to Hepworth’s allegations against Dempsey. Wilson said he would not release the report because it touched on personal matters best kept confidential — notwithstanding Hepworth’s obvious entitlement to know on what basis he had been judged — and there, I suppose, he expected the matter to end.

However, on Tuesday Hepworth described himself as having been “deeply betrayed by the archbishop and the process” and took the matter to the police. In doing so he has guaranteed that Dempsey’s role and Wilson’s handling of matters will linger in the minds of Vatican bureaucrats, the Australian Bishops Conference and the laity of the Catholic Church in Adelaide, probably for at least the next five years.


The Anglican Catholic Church of Canada creates new diocese

The ACCC, originally composed of one Province with only one Diocese (of Canada), has created a new diocese: the Pro-Diocese of Our Lady of Walsingham “whose mandate shall be to shepherd those parishes, clergy, and individuals who so wish, into full Communion with the Catholic Church.”

The Council also passed the following motion: “that this church (i.e. the Province, representing both dioceses) remains committed to seeking full and visible unity with the See of Peter, as confirmed at Synod 2010, and as articulated in the Affirmation of St Louis, which is part of our constitution”.

While remaining Metropolitan of the ACCC Province of Canada, Bishop Peter Wilkinson, with Bishop Carl Reid as his auxiliary, assumes the office of Diocesan Bishop of the new Pro-Diocese. Bishop Craig Botterill becomes diocesan administrator of the Diocese of Canada.

This is good news, both for those parishes like mine in Ottawa that are almost finished with our catechesis in preparation for entering the Catholic Church and for those parishes, mostly on the East Coast, that have indicated they are not ready yet.

It means we in the “first wave” will have a corporate way of moving into the Catholic Church without losing all our assets, and those who remain will still have a structure and spiritual oversight while they are in a period of discernment and perhaps form a “second wave” or more.

I am pasting a copy of the ad clerum and a follow-up email with my emphases below.


Dear Brothers,

Provincial / Diocesan Council met via teleconference on Saturday, November 26, and while these meetings usually only deal with housekeeping matters such as approval of financial statements etc., this meeting included the introduction and passing of a Bill. Said Bill comes into effect immediately. The wording follows:
A Provincial Bill for the Creation of the Pro-Diocese of Our Lady of Walsingham, and consequential amendments to the Constitution of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada.

Diocesan Council, by virtue of the authority delegated to it by General Synod to pass such legislation as may be necessary to facilitate the entry of ACCC parishes into full Communion with the Catholic Church, enacts as follows:

  • There is hereby created the Pro-Diocese of Our Lady of Walsingham to be a Diocese of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada, Province of Canada, whose mandate shall be to shepherd those parishes, clergy, and individuals who so wish, into full Communion with the Catholic Church.
  • The Rt. Rev. Peter. D. Wilkinson shall resign as Ordinary of the Diocese of Canada and is hereby appointed Bishop Ordinary of the Pro-Diocese of Our Lady of Walsingham.
  • The Rt. Rev. Carl Reid is hereby appointed Auxiliary bishop of the Pro-Diocese of Our Lady of Walsingham.
  • In Consequence of the Very Rev. Shane Janzen, having declined to accept appointment as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Canada, and in keeping with the order of succession set out in the Diocesan Ordinance of the Diocese of Canada, the Rt. Rev. Craig Botterill shall assume responsibility as Diocesan Administrator of the Diocese of Canada.
  • Provided always that the Rt. Rev. Peter D. Wilkinson shall continue in office as Metropolitan of the Province of Canada, of which the Pro-Diocese of our Lady of Walsingham and the Diocese of Canada are constituent parts.

What does this mean? In plain terms, we remain as one Province of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada, but now with two dioceses. These are not geographic dioceses, but rather based on whether a parish is intending to union with the Catholic Church under Anglicanorum Coetibus (the new Pro-Diocese of Our Lady of Walsingham under Bishops Wilkinson and Reid); or, whether parishes are not currently intending to travel that route (the Diocese of Canada under the Apostolic Administration of Bishop Botterill). Bishop Wilkinson remains as the Metropolitan of the Province, now comprised of two dioceses. We will still have one pot of money, one newsletter, one Province – which is to say, little will change until such time as those parishes and individuals in the Pro-Diocese of Our Lady of Walsingham achieve their goal under Anglicanorum Coetibus.

+Peter Wilkinson
+Craig Botterill
+Carl Reid

Dear Brothers,
We should have included an additional note (it was very late Saturday evening) with the ad clerum issued on the weekend, which might have helped, in terms of anticipating some questions that have surfaced.

There was a simple second motion passed that clarified how the Bill fit with our resolution at Synod last year. Said simple motion was ” that this church remains committed to seeking full and visible unity with the See of Peter, as confirmed at Synod 2010, and as articulated in the Affirmation of St Louis, which is part of our constitution”.

This applies to the entire Province (i.e. both dioceses), acknowledging that one part of the Province (the Pro-Diocese of Our Lady of Walsingham) is pursuing said unity in the “first wave”, while the other part (the Diocese of Canada) intends, prayerfully, to wait. Yes, of course, further details on splitting of assets etc. will have to be worked out at that time, and that was also discussed in Council with no suggestion that there will be any discord, but rather all will be accomplished in a spirit of charity.



Archdiocese inquiry a ‘whitewash’ says Xenophon

Archdiocese inquiry a ‘whitewash’ says Xenophon

“The inquiry makes the Spanish inquisition look fair in comparison”.


“It’s a whitewash and quite pathetic really,” says Xenophon, who named Hepworth’s alleged abuser Monsignor Ian Dempsey back in September under parliamentary privilege.


Xenophon rubbishes the notion that the church-commissioned investigation headed by Michael Abbott QC was an attempt at anything other a face-saving exercise.


With a police investigation now underway, Nick Xenophon is as convinced as ever that the Adelaide Archdiocese and John Hepworth’s alleged abusers will be held to account for their actions.


Scathing Article from Australia

The author of this piece seems to be taking care to avoid getting into trouble for libel when commenting on the Australian journalist Christopher Pearson, who has obviously done all he could to get Archbishop Hepworth seen in the most favourable light possible. On one hand he says that Mr Pearson is a [practicing?] homosexual, and then says this bit of useless information has nothing to do with the subject. Then why bring it up for any reason other than sliming a journalist he considers as “distinguished”? It seems to be an unpleasant piece of conservative Catholic bigotry coming through.

This fellow seems to revel in describing Archbishop Hepworth’s Episcopal consecration. I had always understood that he had been consecrated, not by the PNCC, but by Archbishop Louis Falk of the Anglican Church in America and at the time Primate of the TAC. Whether or not one of his co-consecrators (or of Archbishop Falk) had a line of succession from the PNCC, I have no idea. The PNCC is an established Old Catholic body which is no longer in the Union of Utrecht (because of women priests and same-sex unions), but is still a respected member of the World Council of Churches, and is generally considered as a mainstream Church in ecumenical dialogue with the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. I would need to do further research into the influx of PNCC lines of succession into the TAC in order to be able to make any intelligent comment.

This little old fellow seems to enjoy going into the Archbishop’s marital situation. I will not discuss it here because it has all been discussed repeatedly, and there is finally nothing to discuss.

However, the article does point out that in canonical terms, the Archbishop’s claim to attenuating circumstances for the crime of “apostasy” (and perhaps “schism” and “heresy” too) have not been taken into consideration. He will be laicised canonically as a condition of his returning to communion with Rome. I am unable to refute that statement in the absence of some dispensation coming from Rome. There is none.

The blog author maintains that the Adelaide enquiry was fair, but this is contested by Senator Xenophon and Mr Pearson among others who are informed about the affair as I am not. No doubt, light will now come from the Australian police investigation (I can’t imagine how long that will take). But, whatever happens, I find it difficult to imagine Rome doing a 180° volte-face and reversing its decision manifested to the Australian RC bishops. If the Police decide that there is nothing to go on, or that no laws have been broken, then that’s it.

There are two distinct issues: the Archbishop’s crime of apostasy as defined in Can. 1364 (CIC 1983) and the other canons it refers to (Can. 1336), and being a victim of sexual abuse. The connection between the two was establishing that the first could be excused by the second as a mitigating circumstance as defined in Can. 1345 (fear or necessity). The attenuating circumstance falls when it is established not to exist or is evoked in bad faith. Was that Rome’s argument? We will never know unless the letter mentioned here and there gets published. The Archbishop’s marital situation would be irrelevant since he was stricken by the diriment impediment of order as stipulated by Can. 1087.

This article is very hard, but I have the impression that the possibilities of such a hypothesis being refuted become increasingly remote, and that bishops, priests, deacons, ordinands and laity in the TAC have decisions to make for any kind of credible future – either by going forward to the emerging ordinariates (even though they are not going to be what we originally hoped) – or defining a new and positive identity independently from Rome. There too, we all have our task of metanoia, conversion and spiritual renewal if we are not to revolt from this apparent failure of our episcopal authority.

It is a very sad time for me, as he had accepted me into his clergy in spite of serious canonical irregularities from the point of view of Rome, simply because he believed that my particular errors could be forgiven and not be a perpetual bar to my priestly calling. Since he accepted me into the TAC, the other bishops and priests have seen me as a legitimate priest, since they referred to Archbishop Hepworth as their authority too. I don’t expect anyone to care about me, but I would like it known than Archbishop Hepworth is a man of mercy and kindness. I suspect that this was a pragmatic solution adopted by Rome – Get rid of Hepworth and we won’t have credibility problems with the Ordinariates. Who knows?

I suspect that Rome has said its last word, and we wait for the Australian Police to take up the investigation and decide in one or two ways, or simply reject it out of hand. It is not my concern whether he becomes a Roman Catholic layman or appeals to the TAC College of Bishops for a credible future. That will depend on the TAC bishops and I would not presume to anticipate any judgement from them.

We are a long way from the heady days of October 2007 in Portsmouth.


Communication with Archbishop Hepworth

The Archbishop is in good spirits and planning for the future. Above all, all the TAC bishops and clergy intending to make a move to the Roman Catholic Church, whether through the future ordinariates or other avenues, do so with his blessing and sincere prayers.

More at the right time…


A prognostic for the future of the TAC

Those who wrote Anglicanorum Coetibus know what it means. No further discussion or negotiation is possible. This outcome could have been made known sooner, but we have the blessing of no longer waiting, speculating, hitting our heads against the wall and wasting more time and energy. The outcome is simply that the Holy See and local Episcopal Conferences, with the help of specially appointed delegates have established or are establishing ordinariates in England, Australia and the United States. Each priest is invited to tender his application to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and if he receives a nulla osta, simply attesting that he has no canonical impediments like being a former RC cleric or divorced and remarried, he is then invited to resign from his church (whether TAC, Anglican Communion or anything) and become a Catholic layman with his flock. After a number of months of training, if criteria are satisfied, that former Anglican priest can expect to be ordained absolutely as a Roman Catholic priest. After this, there is a choice of two rites: the modern Roman rite and the American Anglican Use rite. Theoretically, the 1962 Roman rite in Latin could be used, but no Anglican cleric has been known to favour this possibility. The model for the Australian and American ordinariates is the English Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. That is the deal. If a priest does not receive his nulla osta letter or is turned down, then he does not proceed, neither does he resign from his former ecclesial affiliation.

The TAC is considered exactly like the Anglican Communion, a mere source of suitable clergy and laity to be chosen (or “cherry-picked”) by the Roman authorities and their delegates to establish the ordinariates. No corporate status is recognised in the TAC any more than groups leaving the Anglican Communion. Anyone who goes over does so voluntarily, and we do not have the right to hold them back.

Given this fact, which was certainly not made clear to Archbishop Hepworth from the outset, we laboured under illusory hopes that the TAC would be granted dispensations and favours making it possible for Anglicanorum Coetibus to apply to it as a body. Some claim that this illusion was maintained by Archbishop Hepworth either through some emotional handicap or inability to face reality, and others went so far as to say he was deliberately deceiving his clergy and faithful or had lost his sanity to some degree. Knowing the Archbishop, it was an illusion maintained by unofficial encouragements from various Roman Curial officials and the idea that his having suffered sexual abuse at the hands of priests would constitute mitigating circumstances to take away the culpability of having left his priestly ministry in the Archdiocese of Adelaide in the 1970’s. Everything has been flung back in his face either in the interest of truth or a pragmatic step to finish with the TAC and enforce the definitive implementation of the Apostolic Constitution. Or simply, Rome wanted to “clear away the rubble” to conclude the Ordinariate process before the upcoming retirement of Cardinal Levada.

There was a clue right at the beginning from Cardinal Walter Kasper speaking in November 2009. Those who “jumped onto the moving train” would be allowed consideration when individually converting. We discounted this because the Apostolic Constitution was clearly issued without consulting either the Archbishop of Canterbury or Cardinal Kasper. Whatever happened, Cardinal Kasper’s take on the matter finally prevailed.

It is my belief that the Bishops Brian R. Marsh, Stephen D. Strawn and Daren K. Williams of the ACA, and Bishop Michael Gill of South Africa dissented from the ordinariate-bound “line” because it involved institutional dissolution and the individual reception of physical persons only. Archbishop Hepworth gave assurances that provision would be made for those not ready at a given time to go over to the ordinariate once it was founded. This fact of the possibility of a Plan B for all has been forgotten. Maybe some of these bishops had doctrinal issues, which seems specious since they signed the Catechism of the Catholic Church in Portsmouth (October 2007) or agreed to be in communion of faith with bishops having made such a commitment when they were consecrated. The commitment was not that of accepting all and any conditions from Rome, but simply that those who signed believe the doctrines of the Catholic Church.

Something can save the honour of those of the TAC who do not go along with the present conditions Rome is offering, that of resigning and becoming Catholic laymen with the possibility of being considered for the priesthood. That is the fact that the letter of 2007 asked:

Driven by these realizations [accepting the doctrine contained in the Catholic catechism], which we must now in good conscience bring to the attention of the Holy See, we seek a communal and ecclesial way of being Anglican Catholics in communion with the Holy See, at once treasuring the full expression of catholic faith and treasuring our tradition within which we have come to this moment. We seek the guidance of the Holy See as to the fulfilment of these our desires and those of the churches in which we have been called to serve.

This request has not been accepted in the conditions being offered, so the ordinariate process is open to those going by individual conversion, albeit collectively in small parish-scaled groups. The TAC may therefore still claim to be Catholic in desire, even if it as an ecclesial body refuses the conditions offered. That is at least my opinion as is without doubt that of a number of clergy who either have been turned down or have decided that they do not wish to accept the current conditions.

Whether other conditions are offered in the future or not is a good question. They may well not be. We have many questions to ask ourselves about our “patrimony” or simply our identity as an ethnical group of Christians. To be coherent, Archbishop Hepworth cannot renege on the line that the purpose of the TAC and decades of dialogue were for the purpose of unity with Rome. Our identity is therefore Catholic, but separated from Rome like other ecclesial bodies, like the Old Catholics for example. The category Catholic contains a whole diversity of different ethnical and spiritual identities and patrimonies and not only the post-Tridentine Latin rite model. This would certainly be the basis of any resumption of dialogue with Rome in the future.

Several things have come to light in two letters written by Archbishop Hepworth – to his clergy (to which I belong as a priest) and to the College of Bishops. He firstly announces his intention to resign as Primate of the TAC when it is known which bishops will resign and become Roman Catholics and which will remain to constitute the TAC College of Bishops. Those who will resign and become Roman Catholics do so with the Archbishop’s blessing and encouragement. Secondly, Archbishop Hepworth recognises, in the absence of dispensations of his canonical irregularities, that he cannot even become a lay member of the future Australian Ordinariate. His only avenue to becoming a Roman Catholic layman is through the Archdiocese of Adelaide. He might as well wear a cassock and pectoral cross in Saudi Arabia!

He informs us that he intends to remain the Bishop Ordinary of the Anglican Catholic Church in Australia. He will also assume the small Nippon Kirisuto Sei Ko Kai in Japan under his jurisdiction. We have as yet little idea of the number of Australian clergy and faithful wishing to follow him. “I remain the Bishop Ordinary in Australia and Japan, and under legislation of the Canadian General Synod, Primate of the ACCC. Those positions will be untouched by the forthcoming resignation”. He has told me personally that I would remain licensed as a priest under his jurisdiction. Whether that would be the Patrimony of the Primate or some kind of new “personal” jurisdiction, I do not know.

What about the future? I am no prophet, so I can only make a few conjectures. There seem to be three main groupings of the present TAC which have the potential of renewing their unity or dividing from each other.

  1. To be headed by Archbishop (Bishop) Hepworth as Bishop Ordinary of the ACCA and with “personal jurisdiction” over the “diaspora” in Japan, Canada, perhaps England and other countries where the priests and laity are not under any other jurisdiction.
  2. Headed by Bishops Marsh, Strawn and Williams of the ACA in intercommunion with other American Continuing Anglican bodies.
  3. Archbishop Prakash of India, Bishop Gill of South Africa (other local African communities) and Bishop Rodriguez in Guatemala representing communities in Latin America.

We therefore have three centres, assuming that the Church of Torres Strait and those following the other two Australian bishops who have received nulla ostas are ordinariate-bound. One is a kind of tutti-frutti of communities and individuals in western countries, the second is a part of the American Continuing Anglican scene and the third is Third World. The third is by far the largest, and would seem to have the potential for being preponderant in a future election of a Primate and possible reforms to the TAC’s foundational document, the Concordat. I fear that those representing these three “poles” would have to backpedal or show a considerable degree of forgiveness in regard to those who were judging them for not being ordinariate-bound.

The future of the TTAC in England is up for grabs. Bishop Robert Mercer intends to join the Ordinariate, and is the only TAC cleric in England to have received a nulla osta. Bishop Moyer has also received a nulla osta and is shepherding a group towards the American ordinariate to be established in less than a month. That leaves the Vicar General who has clearly manifested the fact of not being ordinariate-bound. Will he side with Archbishop Hepworth, the Americans or the Third World TAC? I suspect the Americans. Some clergy might favour some more “Catholic-in-desire” line, which would mean Archbishop Hepworth or a non-Roman Church outside the Continuing Anglican world. Who knows?

Whatever happens, I hope and pray that the Holy Spirit will inspire these three groups with a capacity for forgiveness and looking each other in the eye. It is possible. There are serious problems like Bishop Marsh being a high-ranking Freemason, which is generally considered as incompatible with Catholicism. Would there be a viable TAC composed of the Third World and Australia-Diaspora groups? Would Archbishop Hepworth, having retired or resigned as Primate, have a basis for being accepted as a local TAC bishop by the other bishops in the TAC who never were ordinariate-bound. To what extent is this going to be seen as hypocrisy and backpedalling?

I have only ever been a very humble chaplain (since 2005) in this entity called the TAC since its foundation in 1991 to unite a number of older Continuing Anglican Churches, mostly going back to the Affirmation of Saint Louis of 1977 via various divisions and vicissitudes. All the same, I would advocate a change in the role of the Primate, making his authority more constitutional and increasing the authority of the College of Bishop to act something like the Synods of most historical Orthodox Churches. I cannot avoiding expressing my intimate conviction by saying that much heartache could have been saved by the question of Anglicanorum Coetibus being subject to acceptance by the entire College of Bishops during a meeting like that of October 2007. There is no need to point fingers, or cry over spilt milk, but rather to face the fact squarely and learn from the past and present to prepare the future.

Personally, I see more of a future in adopting an Old Catholic (as in the Declaration of Utrecht in 1889) or Western Orthodox kind of theology and liturgical practice, and lay aside the various Protestant formularies that have formed Anglicanism and introduced a kind of intellectual scepticism since the Oxford Movement. That is something that has to be reflected upon in common, in serenity and prayer, and clearly detached from all political and institutional considerations. That would be difficult and demand a considerable degree of simplicity from all concerned.

Could any kind of ecumenical dialogue resume at any stage with Rome? I hardly see any prospect of it in the present circumstances and while those presently involved are still alive. But we should be open-minded. The rest by the grace of God – if we haven’t squandered it…


Historical Document, a Pastoral Letter from Archbishop Louis Falk

Make of it what you will.

* * *

Pastoral Letter from Archbishop Falk

22 November 2009 – Sunday Next Before Advent

To all the Faithful of the Anglican Church in America


The great Orthodox theologian John Meyendorff has been quoted as remarking that genuine Christian unity would require humility on the part of many, and charity on the part of all. I suggest that to those two paramount Christian virtues we must add the more workaday quality of patience. It took 450 years to raise all the questions posed by the possibility of real and corporate unity between Roman Catholics and Anglicans. We will not have all the answers in 450 minutes.

Yet with the publication of Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum coetibus we do now have the possibility of addressing those issues directly and in cooperation with each other. As most everyone knows by now, the Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion, meeting in October of 2007 in Portsmouth, England, addressed a petition to the Holy See seeking to explore what would need to be done to achieve full, visible unity while maintaining the best characteristics of our beloved Anglican heritage. The Apostolic Constitution is meant to provide an approach to just that question. It is an extremely generous and pastoral document. Indeed, it explicitly address the desirability of preserving our Anglican “…spiritual and liturgical patrimony …” intact and undamaged after the ravages of such as Jenkings, Spong, Robinson and Schori.

An initial set of Complementary Norms has been issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which will be discussed in detail by representatives of that body and of the TAC College of Bishops within the near future. We are now asking members of the ACA (and other TAC provinces) to study the Norms and then pose such questions as may occur. (Some already have, such as: Question: Will we be able to continue to have married priests indefinitely? Answer: Yes. Question: Will those of us who were formerly Roman Catholics be excluded from the Anglican Ordinariates? Answer No. Question: Will we lose control over our Church finances and property? Answer: No.) There will be more. These can be sent to your own Bishop, and he will see that they get to the appropriate TAC representatives. Your concerns, as well as your thoughts and prayers, are an essential element and a vital part of this process.

Bishop Langberg has remarked that library shelves around the world are packed with books and papers on the topic of ‘ecumenism.’ Up to now it’s all been theory; but with respect to the world’s largest Communion of Christians, there has been no “test case” or anything like it, trying to work out “how it will work” on the ground. That opportunity has now been presented to us. In view of our Lord’s prayer (John 17) that all his followers might be one, the fact places upon us, and upon our Roman Catholic counterparts, a very great responsibility along with the opportunity. The real-world answer to that practical question will be worked out in real life and in real time as we move forward.

This will require genuine good faith on all sides. That we come in good faith can be seen from the “Portsmouth Letter.” That our Roman Catholic counterparts come likewise can be seen from Pope Benedict’s unprecedented offer of a parallel structure for Anglican Catholics, a “House of our own” (as it were) within the “compound of Catholicity.” Ecclesiastical life within the colony will evolve over time as adjustments are made. We trusted each other enough to begin our ecclesiastical journey together in the ACA with an original canonical structure based on what we had known in the past. We have adjusted that structure more than once as circumstances has show the wisdom of doing so. Christians of good will can and must continue that process together in unity as Jesus commanded us to do. He promised us the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and his promise remains true.

Yours in Christ Jesus,

+Louis W. Falk
President: House of Bishops.


Could it have been any different?

I have given some conjectures based on known facts and premises about how things might go in the TAC in the next year or so once those joining ordinariates have resigned and gone their way. I am certain that if we knew it would turn out the way it did, we would in October 2007 have decided to go to our local Catholic parish and go by ranks of the hierarchy from the parish priest to the diocesan bishop and the Apostolic Nuncio to whatever dicastery was competent to deal with our particular cases. For most people, it would be between the parish priest and a standard stamp of approval from the diocesan vicar general.

So far, the Ordinariate amounts to about sixty former Anglican clergy, mostly married, having been dispensed from celibacy and having been fast-tracked into the priesthood with an accelerated training time to replace the usual four years at the Beda in Rome for convert Anglican clergy. There are no Ordinariate parishes in England. Whether or not there are plans for any, I haven’t a clue. I’m just stating fact, and no polemics are intended.

Would anything in the past have changed the fortunes of the TAC as a whole (as a whole, not small groups prepared to go through a splitting-up and reconstructing process)? I think I have fairly well described what went wrong. We read into the Apostolic Constitution things that weren’t there. Did Archbishop Hepworth (or all of us) make them up? I doubt it. I believe the ideas were given to us by individual Roman Catholic clergy, and perhaps the Holy Father entertained such ideas, but they would not wash without a major reform of the RC Episcopate, for which the Holy See manifestly does not have the means or resources. They have to go on with the men bequeathed by the Paul VI and John Paul II eras. I compare our time with something like the 1520’s and it may take years before someone puts Rome’s house in order for it.

Many fanciful conjectures of what kind of TAC would have convinced Rome are possible. The most recent I have been sent is the ideal notion of “a de facto uniate church with a united liturgy” which would have petitioned Rome again and again from a position of force until they said “come on in”. One is brought to think of the Society of St Pius X which does not claim “ordinary” jurisdiction but rather jurisdiction that is “supplied” by a general situation of necessaity. If Rome goes back to the Syllabus, Quanta Cura and Boniface VIII’s Unam Sanctam, it might work!

Were the TAC a kind of clone in miniature of mid nineteenth century English Catholicism with the Use of Sarum, I hardly imagine it meeting with the approval of Cardinal Bertone and his employees or Cardinal Levada, his employees and sub-contractors to use modern industrial terminology. The original plan of Archbishop Hepworth, following the advice given to him, was to eliminate doctrinal and disciplinary differences as much as possible and ask for dispensation from the sticking points, like having once been a Roman Catholic priest and having contracted (or “attempted”) marriage. But, being open to the modern Roman rite and the three-year lectionary did no good either.

Archbishop Lefebvre began with a group of clerics and got help from benefactors to establish a seminary. The plan was simple: train and ordain priests and have them help and then replace the old priests soldiering on with the old Mass for their former parishioners having been marginalised by their diocesan bishop. Should the Continuing Churches have concentrated on being clerical groups with elites of highly-trained clergy? Such a concept depends on a celibate clergy – young and totally available men like in the Armed Forces. Anglican clergy are generally married, established and of riper years. There is less of a tendency for the laity to give money in sufficient quantities for full-time seminary training for five to six years and their total support as priests. The Church of England falls somewhere between the “jury-rigged” TAC and the Roman Catholic Church, in that it has clergy having undergone full-time training and financial support before ordination and marriage. The Ordinariate in England was founded as a clerical organisation containing some laity, and then it became what it is now. That is a hypothesis that might fit.

The issue of a single liturgy in the TAC is a difficult one, unless one refers to a medieval standard like the Use of Sarum. The Prayer Book (the Eucharist, not the Office) is too much of an obstacle to Anglican Catholicism. It made sense in the English Establishment when conformity was a condition for not getting into trouble with the law and risking imprisonment. The recent grip by the Bishop of London shows that many Anglican clergy dissent from the official rites. It would therefore be better to have a rite that all are able in conscience to accept. Many of us would object to having to use the modern Roman rite, so the alternative is the old Roman rite in Cranmerian English (as in the English Missal and the Anglican Missal) but which is associated with “Anglo-Papalism”. The other alternative is the Use of Sarum to be used not in a “antiquarian” or “precious” spirit but in the same way as some Dominican priests celebrate the old Dominican rite and a few Milanese priests use the old Ambrosian rite.

The drawback is that most lay people do not see beyond having the service they have always known and that things should be like in the “old days”. Such visceral conservatism is understandable, but no problems are solved. The 1662 Prayer Book Eucharist is Protestant, and there is no way to get around it. The Scottish, 1928 English and 1928 American books are good compromises, but they are still compromises. I fear that the problem is without solution, and that Catholic Anglicanism can only be a euphemism for non-Papal Catholicism, which – when it becomes Papal – is simply Roman Catholicism, or when it is not Papal, is Old Catholicism or Western Rite Orthodoxy depending on which Church is referred to as the ecclesial authority of that particular group.

The liturgy is essentially the “shop window” of the patrimony of any particular group. All other characteristics can be found in Roman Catholicism – and the Use of Sarum too – at one period or another or in one place or another. The argument is essentially resistance to total uniformity and the totalitarian spirit than entered from the 12th century thereabouts and was reinforced in the nineteenth century and the present day. The common instinct is the ecclesial equivalent of democracy, civil freedom and human rights.

I have urged the revival of the Use of Sarum for a number of years, but have had the prudence not to push it too hard. Perhaps we need to have liturgical diversity and a parish-based or diocesan-based Church rather than the universal and global vision of the Roman Catholic Church. That is more or less what I have seen in London in the 1970’s where there were as many liturgical usages as churches. Some common elements remained, enough for us laity to recognise when the Gloria and Sanctus were to be sung, and that we would get two or three readings from the Scripture. I have informed the world that Sarum books are available in Latin and English. Beyond that, there is nothing I can do.

It is a good question whether our whole purpose should be uniting with Rome, either as a uniate structure or shutting down our communities and going in “caravans” of individuals to be received into someone else’s parish or diocese. That is a question of conscience, and whether we believe that the totality of Christ’s Church is contained within the canonical confines of the Roman Catholic Church, following the classical teaching from Boniface VIII to the Council of Trent to Pius IX, or whether we believe in the “branch theory” or a “gnostic” / “sacramental” / “universal communion” ecclesiology as expounded by a number of Eastern Orthodox thinkers. That is for each of us to decide away from any “marketing” pressure from over-zealous apologists. This whole experience brings us to realise that much energy and spiritual vitality have been expended in this exercise to the detriment of our ordinary spiritual and priestly duties and Christian way of life. Much has been squandered, and things won’t be like they were before, like a city after an earthquake or a hurricane. The destruction takes but a few minutes, and the rebuilding can take years. Even then, things won’t be as before, but might not be as good or might be better. That is human life and the passage of time.

If we want corporate union, then we need to be united on the essentials. That is something to be painfully rebuilt. We can’t go back “into business” now. We would just be laughed at.

Another dream has been shattered, like in the 1890’s and the heady years before the Great War. Our western world faces a secular and increasingly bleak future for the religious man. Our contemporaries are increasingly ignorant of the basics of Christianity. Even the “new evangelisation” plans of the Pope have little effect on the general population. One thing that is a block to evangelisation is the culture of clericalism, secrecy and a form of totalitarianism – so people say “to hell with it”. There is too much of a difference between that and the Christ in the Gospels who has precious little sympathy for the “leaven of the Pharisees”. That has to be addressed, and it seems only to be addressed by communities that are too small not to have the vested interests of global totalitarian ecclesial concerns.

Perhaps the future is in small ragged and jury-rigged communities. Then why do we need to ask the establishment for what we already have? We worry about viability, but we are not ourselves viable, having but a short time to live. We try to become immortal in our patrimony and what we would leave to posterity. But, is that what matters? Jesus would tell us to forget all that and live for the present moment. That is wisdom.

Most who read this blog know the way I think. I am European, not American. The “optimism” is on The Anglo-Catholic, because it is American. I also feel very close to the Slavic spirit that can take decades of suffering and persecution without becoming bitter or losing the last spark of faith. I couldn’t get rid of it even if I wanted to. What we have is grounded in our faith and our hope, but we are realistic enough to face losing any public Christian culture and returning to the Catacombs.

Spring will come, or the new dawn if you prefer, but not now. I don’t think Archbishop Hepworth or anyone else could have done better. A bird that tries to fly through a window breaks its skull and kills itself. The trick is knowing whether the apparently open door is protected by a pane of glass. If it is, you don’t walk into it. You either break it or wait for someone else (the owner of the building) to remove it. Just know whether what is transparent is air or glass!


Archbishop Hepworth to the TAC College of Bishops

* * *

5th December 2011

To the Archbishops and Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion

My Dear Brothers,

There has been considerable dissension in our midst in the past year. This has been partly caused by very different reactions to Anglicanorum Coetibus. Also, it has been driven by a serious conflict (that has included many beyond our own ranks) about the proper interpretation of the terms for unity offered by that Apostolic Constitution. Likewise, it has been propelled by very different expectations of the purposes for which our Communion exists, our relationship to other Anglicans, and the faith we profess.

Profound doctrinal and moral differences have grown between us. Matters that were not thought of sufficient significance to disclose in the documentation prepared for consecrations to the episcopate have suddenly taken on new and public significance.

I would have thought that we would follow the constant example of Christians of all ages, and seek to settle these doctrinal divisions before hastening to change our policy, for it in the way we behave as a church and in our relationships to other Christian communities that we proclaim our faith.

In the meantime, some of our number have begun the first steps towards serving as clergy in the Ordinariates that are now being established. I expect to shortly begin to receive resignations from members of our College as they advance towards this goal. It will be some months before the membership of the College, and the presiding bishops of the member provinces, will be clear.

In the meantime, I remind you that those who hold the Catholic Faith as set forth in the Catechism of the Catholic Church hold the faith of this Communion, and those clergy and laity who are making their way into the fullness of Catholic Communion, are observing the policies of this Communion, and proceed with our joyful best wishes. These thoughts are much in our minds this week, as we celebrate the Prayer Book feast of the Conception of the Virgin, a feast Cranmer insisted remain in the Calendar for profound reasons of Christology. I will be observing the Feast with Bishop Mercer and the clergy and people of Saint Agatha’s in Portsmouth before having several weeks of quietness before Christmas.

It is my intention, provided the membership of our College is substantially clarified in the next few months, to tender my resignation as Primate at Pentecost. I have achieved what I was requested to do by those who elected me, and the proclamation of Anglicanorum Coetibus remains for me a cherished moment. Its significance is as yet almost entirely in the future. That future is for others to create. I remain the Bishop Ordinary in Australia and Japan, and under legislation of the Canadian General Synod, Primate of the ACCC. Those positions will be unchanged by the forthcoming resignation.

An election will then be conducted strictly according to the Concordat, and it will be for the newly elected Primate to arrange for a Plenary Meeting of our College and the Primatial Installation.

In the meantime, I remain a little whimsical at the fury with which some in our ranks seek to distance themselves from their signatures on the Portsmouth Petition. Instead, I wish each of you, and your families, the richest blessings of Christmas.


Boom! – from South Africa

I have read this article by Fr Stephen Smuts and I can understand it. Now it is not merely a problem of American bishops, but the TAC has rules for the deposition of the Primate. I haven’t had time to re-read the Concordat and look at the precise rules.

It is possible that tempers are frayed at this time with the Archbishop’s sex abuse issue and the Archbishop having gone “all hell for leather” Rome-wards. There is a credibility problem, and it is probably too late for the rest of us. We all followed the Archbishop, and if he was wrong, we were all wrong. What would be wrong with waiting half a year so that loose ends can be tied up and the TAC Episcopate can be precisely identified after the resignations of those joining ordinariates? Why the hurry. In my humble opinion, a little recul is needed to choose a new Primate wisely. Wisdom is never found in haste. Taking more time could recover more credibility for the TAC as a whole and show the Churches with which we have been in dialogue that we can do things seriously and professionally.

It seems to me that it would take six months to organise a College of Bishops meeting presided over by Archbishop Prakash and raise the necessary funds. That would be the price of a new Primate we could all recognise as our father in God and symbol of the TAC’s unity. What now seems important is for tempers to calm down and for serenity and prayer to take over. In those conditions, the transition from a Hepworth Primacy to a new era of the TAC (for the better or the worse) would be guided wisely and with discernment. Archbishop Hepworth has devoted his life to serving the TAC, even if he may be considered misguided from certain points of view. He should be allowed to withdraw with dignity and the blessing of all his brother bishops.

Besides, the sex abuse affair in Australia is not over until it gets rejected by the police. It is not yet a foregone conclusion that Archbishop Hepworth lied to deceive Rome into dispensing him from his canonical irregularities and letting him run or join an ordinariate as a priest. Deposing him at this point as a “clear and present danger” would be premature.

If wrath and fury (if these are the feelings of those involved) are allowed to prevail at this stage, I am very afraid it would spell the end of the TAC as a united body outside India and the African Continent, leaving many Christians in the western world marginalised and ridiculed.

I may be completely wrong. May God forgive me! But I can face God and say I worked bloody hard to serve my Church with integrity from my isolated little village near the sea in Normandy!


Virtue article that needs to be cross-checked

I have had more information by e-mail.

Wherever this story came from, Bishop Marsh is not to blame. The story is thoroughly scurrilous. I am told that the resignation of Archbishop Hepworth as Primate will be a question for the College of Bishops, and would be dealt with properly according to the rules. It would not be a kind of “kangaroo” procedure in absentia and with immediate effect as described in VOL.

In my opinion the only possible objective of such action would be a vindictive attempt to destroy the Archbishop as a person. If I saw such a thing happen, I would leave the TAC immediately. But I have more confidence in our good bishops than that.

As things are, I am concerned for the future of a decapitated and eviscerated TAC, but no doubt something will survive, the most solid being in the “third-world”. Indeed, we western Christians have behaved so badly that all we deserve is the wilderness, pain and grief!

Update 9th December 12.30 pm European time

This comes from “mainstream” news sources:

‘Resign now’ Adelaide Archbishop John Hepworth should quit his post immediately, say US Anglican bishops.

My emphasis in bold red.

That says it all. This would seem to be a unanimity of TAC bishops – American ones, three in number and one of them reported to be a “broken man” about to retire. Since when was the College of Bishops of the TAC represented by only two active bishops?

I am open to answers and evidence. I should have got the cue from Mr Virtue’s choice of words, not College of Bishops but House of Bishops. The former is used for the bishops of a local constituent Church, in this case the Anglican Church in America, and the latter for all the bishops and vicars general of the TAC worldwide.

Revised as from 9th December 12 noon European time

David Virtue, who is not an exactly unbiased reporter, has published TAC House of Bishops Calls for Archbishop John Hepworth’s Immediate Removal.

He says this:

A vote in the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) College of Bishops called for the immediate removal of Archbishop John Hepworth from office. Apart from a few abstentions, the vote was nearly unanimous for his removal, sources tell VOL. Two thirds of all eligible voters voted for him to go. There were no votes in support of his staying as Primate. The results have been sent to the Primate.

The rest of the article seems to refer to my articles and the letter to the Bishops’ College that Archbishop Hepworth published dated from 5th December 2011. Nothing new.

In the light of comments (see below) and private e-mails, I do not believe this story to be true of as many as twenty bishops and vicars general outside the USA and not themselves ordinariate-bound. There are more or less thirty bishops and vicars general in the TAC, of whom about six are ordinariate-bound.

I am told it looks like an American “leak” to make everything look sleazy.

It is my belief that the vast majority of non-ordinariate-bound TAC bishops will follow the procedure laid down by the Concordat and the instructions Archbishop Hepworth expressed in his letter to the College of Bishops. No premature removal or resignation of the Primate would be required.


The Train Wreck

* * *

And how deeply wounded people are dealing with the train wreck of the Traditional Anglican Communion, the disappointment over our hopes for corporate reunion with the Catholic Church, and the ongoing scandal of Archbishop Hepworth’s claims of clerical sexual abuse, then check out The English Catholic. (…)


Reaction from Australia to “resign now” pressure

To the call by the “TAC House of Bishops”, possibly meaning no more than two ACA bishops (Marsh and Strawn), for the Archbishop to be removed from office with immediate effect, Lay Canon Cheryl Woodman has responded that this vote has no validity in the TAC.

This is an illegitimate act and seems to be some sort of plot by people seeking power for themselves. They have included people who are not members of the college and have not informed the secretariat.

Ms Woodman is going to or has written to the College of Bishops this week “to seek clarification on the vote“.


Press Release from Bishop Michael Gill

As a simple priest and chaplain, I have no independent position on these matters. The fact I am under the Archbishop’s jurisdiction makes this all the harder for me.

The document is authentic.

The same text has been sent independently to Virtue Online, and it has been reproduced faithfully as per Bishop Gill’s instructions.

Please comment carefully, because I have become less scrupulous about deleting offending comments and banning the e-mail addresses concerned. So, keep it polite and rational – no emotional attacks, and above all no proselytism.

* * *



mandated by the signatories of the petition to Archbishop John Hepworth

December 14, 2011

There has been undue speculation, comment and deliberate misinformation in the press with regard to a recent vote taken after much prayer and deliberation by the Bishops with jurisdiction serving the Traditional Anglican Communion. The indiscretion of this exposé is regrettable.

In order that the facts be placed before you, the following sets out the details:

A ballot paper was sent to all (32) Bishops and Vicars General eligible to vote in the College of Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion. Retired Bishops and Bishops outside of the TAC were not included in the process. The afore mentioned poll was conducted in response to the Archbishop’s press release when he intimated the intention to resign only at Pentecost 2012. The relevant correspondence had also been sent to Archbishop John Hepworth in his capacity as Bishop Ordinary for Australia. Those participating included serving Bishops who have submitted dossiers to Rome under the provisions of the document known as Anglicanorum Coetibus.

In addition a subsequent private and personal letter had been forwarded to the Archbishop informing him of the outcome of the poll for his consideration and reply thereto. There was no need to involve the Secretariat.

The results were as follows:

1. 3 Bishops / Vicars General (three) did not respond at all.

2. 6 Bishops / Vicars General (six) indicated that they wished to abstain, but nonetheless condoned in private the necessity for Archbishop Hepworth to relinquish control of the TAC.

3. 2 (two) E-mails were returned as undelivered.

4. 21 Bishops / Vicars General (twenty one) voted in favour of the necessary steps being taken by Archbishop Prakash, in his capacity as senior serving member of the College of Bishops, to call an extraordinary meeting of the College of Bishops with the objective to, inter alia, remove Archbishop John Hepworth as the Primate of the TAC, should he not voluntarily and unconditionally step down from Office on or before midnight (EST) on 13 December 2011.

It needs to be placed on record that no votes (0) were recorded in favour of Archbishop Hepworth remaining in Office as Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion.

It must be noted that this action is not attributable to any individual Bishop(s). This has come from a collective concern to minimise and contain the damage to the global Traditional Anglican Communion emanating from the perceived animosity between the Archbishop and the CDF.

It is also imperative that personal issues Archbishop John Hepworth has with the Holy See are not to be conflated with the matters that are being addressed by the individual member churches of the TAC with regard to acceptance into Ordinariate(s) already erected or to be formed at any time in the future.

Those negotiations should be allowed to continue and be concluded without prejudice.

Not all the Bishops, Priests and faithful of TAC member churches in Africa, India, South America, and the USA will proceed into an Ordinariate, and sections of Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom have also indicated their reluctance to be absorbed into the Roman Catholic faith by individual conversion.

The serving Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion sincerely regret that this delicate matter had been unwrapped in the blogosphere. The intention was, and is, to keep all correspondence with Archbishop John Hepworth as Private and Confidential, and to deal with this matter only in the appropriate forum.

Archbishop John Hepworth and his family remain in our prayers.


Archbishop Hepworth’s resignation as Primate and a response from a TAC Bishop

I post this in the interest of fairness, and I ask you not to shoot the messenger. Frankly, this subject should now be between Bishops and off the blog. That is my opinion. I will allow responses at that level if it will serve the Church of Christ and the TAC, but I don’t like it!

Again, concerning comments, this developing situation is a matter for men who are well-versed in the principles of canon law. If this procedure is conducted unfairly or in violation of the accepted principles of law, I have to say frankly that I would find it difficult in conscience to remain in the TAC beyond the removal of the Archbishop – if that is what is intended to happen.

* * *

I’m certain that you’ve seen +Michael Gill’s latest on The English Catholic.

It grieves me to say so, but he is not being truthful.

- the call for vote was NOT sent to all TAC bishops. It seems that +Gill (perhaps with Marsh and Strawn behind him) has unilaterally decided that the several American bishops who are under the Patrimony of the Primate are no longer TAC bishops – one suspects they would all have voted No;

- Vicars General are not members of the College of Bishops, yet +Gill persists in including them in the voting process; and, there again, I have just received an email from the South American Vicar General who was also excluded from the process. The term vicar general does not even appear in the TAC Concordat, our governing document, so they have no vote in any course;

- the Concordat does say, “The College of Bishops of this Communion shall meet in conference upon the summons of the Primate, but in any case not less often than once every five years, and not twice consecutively within the geographical borders of any one member Church or Province. The College shall meet also within six months of any petition to meet signed by a majority of its members being served upon the Primate.” But then it also states, “6.6 In order to provide for mutual support and confidence in and amongst the episcopal collegium it shall be competent for the College of Bishops to consider any credible allegation of dereliction of consecration vows in the life or teaching of one of its members where such dereliction, if proved, could constitute a threat of impairment to the relationship of communio in sacris amongst the members of this Communion.

(A) Any such accusation must be presented first within and according to the canonical or other procedures of the national Church or Province of the Bishop accused. If that Church or Province fails or refuses to hear the matter, any Bishop who is a member of this College of Bishops may bring the accusation before the College.

(B) The Primate shall then appoint a Tribunal consisting of seven members of the College of Bishops (other than the accused). Three shall be Bishops chosen by the accused; three shall be Bishops of three member Churches of this Communion other than that of the accused Bishop. The seventh shall be the Primate, who shall preside. The Tribunal shall examine the charges and recommend appropriate disposition to the full College. Final disposition of the matter shall be made by the Primate with the Advice and Consent of not less than two-thirds of the College of Bishops.

(C) The Tribunal shall proceed according to recognized and customary procedures of ecclesiastical tribunals in the Anglican tradition. Should the Primate be the accused, the next senior Bishop in order of consecration who is a Metropolitan (or equivalent) in his own Church or Province shall fulfil his duties under this provision.

(D) Any Bishop of this Communion who is charged and tried by a Tribunal of his own Church or Province, having exhausted all available procedures of appeal within that Church or Province, may appeal a decision of such Tribunal to the College of Bishops of this Communion. The College, functioning according to the provisions of this Section, shall act as an Appellate Tribunal in such cases.

- of course, ++John is not guilty of said dereliction, so it is not surprising that they simply skip this altogether, and only pay attention to the fact that the next most senior Metropolitan would fulfil the duties.

- we ([Such-and-such Church within the TAC] House of Bishops) pointed this out to +Gill when he called for the vote, suggesting that due process and our regulations were being ignored; therefore, we could not, according to the rules under which we serve as TAC bishops, participate in such a process. We were ignored until the day before the votes were due, and then we were indicated as “abstaining”, so that +Gill can now say that none of the TAC bishops voted No.

The process is so severely flawed that the word “sham” comes to mind. I fear that they fully intend to proceed, fully in delict of the Concordat, continuing to call themselves the TAC, when they have broken the laws of that body.


Christmas message to the Bishops of the TAC

* * *

December 16, 2011

To the Bishops of the TAC

My intention was to send only greetings and best wishes for the Feast of the Nativity, as I have annually since I was elected as Secretary to the COB in 2002.

However, some members of the College, and other members of TAC have requested me, to voice international concern about the recent approach to remove the Primate from office. Documents canvassing his removal were sent to a select group of bishops (and others who are not voting members of the College) whilst excluding many bishops who are voting members. This process was not in accordance with the Concordat.

Other serious concerns were raised such as the use of International Anglican Fellowship funds without consulting the directors (elected at the 2007 COB).

In the interests of remaining apolitical and impartial to all the members of the College, I ask that we manage this matter in a pastoral, empathic and Christian manner by working together in love and support to seek a satisfactory end to this dilemma. It is barely five months to the Feast of Pentecost when the Primate has stated, in his letter of December 5, 2011, that he will tend his resignation. Why cause further harm and destruction to the TAC in the meantime?

May Christmas be a time of peace, prayer and filled with the Holy Spirit.

Lay Canon Cheryl Woodman


No Confidence?

From the point of view of one side, we would be in some kind of an “emergency situation” that involves removing Archbishop Hepworth forthwith even if no new Primate is elected until the next College of Bishops meeting. From the other side, there is no reason to be in any hurry, since the Archbishop has announced his resignation and presumably his intention to go in June 2012 leaving the College of Bishops to elect his successor. Nothing would be gained by precipitation.

I was particularly struck by this part of a comment:

And would all the bush lawyers please stop using words like ‘illegal’ and ‘going against the laws’ of the TAC. Nobody would appear to be putting the Primate on trial, but a majority of those who voted (and query whether, even on the maximum assessment of those who did not get a chance, anything but the size of the majority would have changed) have expressed no confidence in the Primate’s primacy and thus an emergency situation has arisen.

If I have understood this rightly, the Archbishop should be removed by a principle other than law? This is preposterous, when you consider the fundamental notion of law that it is a better protector of rights, justice and equity than the rule of the arbitrary. Hitler and his henchmen put themselves above the law, and then violated every principle of God and man, turning Europe into one big concentration camp! Canon law is no exception, it is made not to oppress or make the Church legalistic, but to protect rights – our rights. Now there can be abuses like a perverted understanding of the notion of law, but abusus non tollit usum – abuse does not take away the legitimate use of something.

So, without the use of law to determine what is right and what is wrong, the Primate is to be removed by a principle of “no confidence”. Ecclesiastical authority is not governed by the rules of secular governments. The Prime Minister of England can be made to call a General Election by a vote of no confidence. It happened in 1979 with Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan. The result was a Conservative victory and the election of Margaret Thatcher. This way of doing things doesn’t happen in the Church. Whether in the Roman Catholic Church or the Anglican tradition, we don’t have political parties or the maintenance of authority by votes and continued majorities. A bishop or a priest is removed from office when he has committed a serious canonical offence and bad faith is established by an ecclesiastical court.

There is a good reason for Archbishop Hepworth to resign, which he has done. Namely, he drove the TAC into an “all-or-nothing” collision course with Rome. He did this as a former Roman Catholic priest with serious canonical impediments against his ever being readmitted into ministry. He was not vindicated as a victim of sexual abuse by a priest of the Archdiocese of Adelaide, and his only avenue of appeal was through the Police. I do not presume to judge in the place of Australian law, but I doubt even a legal judgement against the alleged aggressor would change Rome’s decision not to reinstate Archbishop Hepworth into the Roman Catholic priesthood. There are serious credibility issues, but none of these things (former RC priest, history of having been sexually abused, etc.) was unknown to the bishops who elected him to replace Archbishop Falk as Primate in 2003. If Archbishop Hepworth is a bad man, then we are all complicit for having elected him or joined the TAC at any point since then. Ignorance is never an excuse. We share in his guilt. But I don’t think he is a bad or wicked man.

If there is no legal provision to remove Archbishop Hepworth before his date of voluntary resignation, then he plainly cannot be removed without committing an act amounting to some kind of ecclesiastical equivalent of a coup d’état or mutiny. Any attempt to replace the Archbishop in these would not be legitimate, and is just not necessary.

I understand the instinct and desire to turn over the page and get on with life. That is human, and we are all getting old and the clock is ticking. It must have been like that with the ailing Pope John Paul II and the feeling of stagnation in the last years before 2005. Much as John Paul II had spoken of abdication through ill health, he went on to the bitter end. He waited, and his Church waited. There are times in life when we simply have to wait and be patient. We occupy ourselves in different ways. I have every admiration for Bishop Gill in his ministry that would exhaust ten of him in other parts of the world! I am more doubtful about the motivations of Bishops Marsh and Strawn in America. What would they gain by an instant sacking of the Archbishop? Wisdom is never found in haste and precipitation.

Personally, I owe a debt of gratitude to Archbishop Hepworth. He took me under his jurisdiction, an “apostate” RC deacon and vagante priest, and gave me a mission, my vocation as a priest. He allowed me what Rome would have forbade – a new life, a chance. That was six and a half years ago. He came to France and solemnised my marriage with my wife, and he was seen by my family and in-laws as a profoundly human cleric. In spite of this, I have been shocked by his lack of judgement in leading the TAC since the meeting of October 2007 in Portsmouth, misjudging Anglicanorum Coetibus (in spite of evidence at the time that corporate reception of the TAC was intended by Rome), bringing us along an “all-or-nothing” trajectory like so many Kamikaze pilots. Then he fails to convince Rome. He played cards and lost. Should I banish him and blot out even the good memories? I would be inhuman to do so.

In a way, Sandra is right. It isn’t all about law. It is about human solidarity and loyalty, priestly loyalty to the authority one promised to serve. That loyalty is of course with limits, and does not excuse from everything. If a superior commits crimes against God and man – or falls away from the faith, then we have a duty not to follow, a duty to resist even if it costs us dearly. But that breach may not be absolute. I don’t believe the Archbishop has erred through wickedness, but through misguided love of the Church, a lack of prudence and human reserve – which however he is exercising by having decided to work for those TAC priests who for one reason or another are not welcome in the future Ordinariates. In spite of everything, Archbishop Hepworth has an acute sense of duty. Some would take that away from him and cast him into the outer darkness! They want to cut his head off instead of allowing him an effort to work for the future of the TAC. Just as what happened to Louis XVI!

I will not collaborate in a strategy of destruction or denial of the Archbishop’s fragile dignity. I may not be under his jurisdiction for very long, but whilst I am, I will be loyal. This means seeing things in the most positive light as possible, assuming his good faith and devout intentions, however mistaken he has been proven to be.

If the future TAC is built on an act of inhumanity and injustice, then I doubt whether I could in conscience be any part of it. The more I have read of certain opinions braying for blood, the more I advocate patience and a longer and slower approach to the future TAC and the Anglican patrimony. The wait will be worth it, and for a man in his fifties or more, six months go by like a flash!


Letter from Bishop Mercer

* * *


December 16, O Sapientia

Dear Brother,

On December 8 while en route to Vienna, Archbishop Hepworth made a 24 hour stop over in England. He lunched with me in Worthing and then went on to celebrate the holy communion at St Agatha’s, Portsmouth, in the evening. In his sermon he reminded us that the BCP of 1662 remembers three conceptions, of the Lord, of the Lady, of the cousin. St Stephen’s College, the fine ACA school in Coomera, Queensland, of which he is President, has an orchestra and a choir which were due to perform in St Stephen’s cathedral, Vienna, a place we associate with the music of Haydn, Mozart and the Vienna Boys Choir. Naturally enough, the President wanted to be present for that. Since he would already be in Europe, he would stay on for some holiday, mostly travelling on trains through the mountain passes of Austria and Italy. His Grace was in excellent spirits and health.

The Archbishop has already written a letter to all bishops of the TAC, a copy of which I shall send you. He also undertakes to write a further letter to the TAC clergy in the UK. You will appreciate that it will be some days before he is home in Adelaide in the state of South Australia. Between them these two letters may make clear his thoughts about the TAC, yourself, himself.

Some of you do not take New Directions, the monthly magazine of Forward in Faith, UK. I therefore enclose a photocopy of an article which appeared in the December issue. Make of it what you will. So far the Polish National Catholic Church of the USA, formerly an autocephalous part of the Union of Utrecht or Old Catholic Communion, has not had a concordat of inter communion with the TAC, of the kind we have had with FinF.

I am just back from a quarterly residence at Mirfield. I desire and hope to remain a member of CR until I die.

Monsignor Newton intends to chrismate me in St Agatha’s, Portsmouth, on Saturday January 7 @ 15 minutes past noon. The rite will take place with in the context of the monthly Eucharist which the Isle of Wight group of the Ordinariate celebrates in St Agatha’s. The rite is not private. Enclosed is the text of a letter of “resignation” which I was required to send to our Episcopal Visitor. In preparation for chrismation I am required to refrain from receiving communion at Anglican altars. If and when I am to be ordained I shall give you the dates.

Yours fraternally,

+Robert Mercer CR