Interestingly enough, I got a private response as a result of my post in which I say about the bishops who have gone on to become Catholic: “I would imagine they remain thankful for Hepworth for having the vision and the willingness to sacrifice himself for the sake of unity and I would bet you they think he’s a hero not a charlatan and thief.
“Exactly,” writes someone who was there in Portsmouth in 2007 for the signing of the Portsmouth petition. “John may have been over enthusiastic at times, but he was a visionary who got the best advice from the best men that he could, and he acted on it.”
The experts consulted were theologians and canon lawyers, my correspondent said. “At Portsmouth there were no rousing speeches or rallying of the troops.”
Hepworth simply read the letter and there were some corrections of grammar and spelling and questions about whether the text was clear.
He also asked “did it say what we want to say,” the eyewitness said.
Each local bishop was invited to give their advice. My correspondent recalls possibly two votes. “Not bishop was opposed.”
He describes “tears of joy” as a result, the singing of the Doxology, Newman’s hymn “Firmly I believe and truly.”
Then the College of Bishops celebrated the Votive Mass for Christian Unity and signed Catechism and the Compendium of the Catechism on the altar of St. Agatha’s in Portsmouth.
Apparently the thing was videotaped. I wish someone would upload it to YouTube so we could see it!
My correspondent said “the letter spoke for itself,” and that Hepworth “was calm and answered questions.”
“He never let me down, and when I learned of his personal agony I was all the more in awe of him and of the huge struggle he had to do all this.”
Interesting, because this account contrasts a bit with Fr. Anthony’s below, though the facts are apparently the same concerning what happened.
I was present at the meeting in Portsmouth, and one thing I noticed is that most of the TAC bishops were spellbound. I saw very little in the way of critical reflection, but rather the phenomenon of jumping onto a bandwagon. Most of those bishops had elected Archbishop Hepworth to be Primate of the TAC in the first place, and had no objection to his having been a Roman Catholic priest and in such a matrimonial situation as Rome would never accept him as a priest. Of course, the Pope can dispense any law of ecclesiastical institution, but he would only ever do so for the good of the Church.
There are about 150,000 men in the world in similar canonical situations to that of Archbishop Hepworth – or myself having been a convert and ordained a deacon.
The only way Rome could proceed was the old-fashioned way – individual conversions, albeit with the persons remaining socially connected and being allowed to continue their old customs with very little modification. Certainly, Archbishop Hepworth knew this, but being up-front about it in October 2007 – with the cold shower of reality – would have killed the whole Rome-bound project in the bud. The myth of intercommunion or some kind of uniatism came about – give the bishops hope that the church would be received rather than individual persons. The TAC bishops just went along with it without any open criticism or insistence that the project should be submitted to consultations and lengthy paper-shuffling. Bureaucracy and committees are frustrating, but they are necessary. All that happened was that Archbishop Hepworth produced a document and offered it for discussion. What then happened was surreal – there were just some suggestions for amendments and rewording, just a correction or two but no substantial discussion. OK? Approved? Let’s get on with it!
Privately, some bishops were against and said they wanted no part of it until they had the consent of their own people – but they all traipsed up to the altar. “That faith we aspire to hold”, rather than actually being prepared to make an immediate commitment. Oh yes, plenty of wiggling room, so that you could sign the bloody thing without it being an oath according to which you believe the Roman Catholic Church to be the true Church and unconditional surrender was to become an absolute moral obligation! So they signed the letter and the two books that were taken to Rome by Messrs Hepworth, Mercer and Wilkinson.
I see a measure of collective weakness and shirking of responsibility. If Archbishop Hepworth was manipulating and loading the dice, the other bishops were going along with it and abdicating their own responsibility. I also blame ignorance of Roman Catholic canon law and custom. Rome doesn’t “do” intercommunion, and the existence of Eastern Rite uniate Churches in history hasn’t entirely been without problems, a thorn in the side of ecumenism with the Orthodox. Another thing we took for granted was that Rome was going to stick two fingers up at Canterbury, finish with ecumenism and go the whole hog with Anglican uniatism. Pope Benedict XVI may be many things, but he is not a fool. Ecumenism is here to stay. Rome does business with official state Churches – and others are told they can stay where they are and dialogue more or less marginally, or convert.
(i) the formation of a Catholic Priest generally takes longer than is usual for those taking Anglican Orders;
(ii) the teaching of theology in protestant/anglican houses of formation is nowadays rather unfocused – not least because there is in reality no common theological position among Anglicans on what the core beliefs of Anglicanism might be;
I can do no better than to pick up and adopt the observation of William Tiighe on the other thread where this issue was floated:-
” I am amused by the constant attempts to exculpate the TAC bishops who signed NOT ONLY a petition asking for Rome to come up with a means for reunion (which is in effect accepting in advance whatever terms Rome might offer) BUT ALSO the CCC which indicates that they committed themselves to accepting as true all those things taught authoritatively by the Roman Magisterium.
That they reneged when the terms offered were not to their liking after having signed both the Petition and the CCC is a commentary on either their common sense or theological integrity, or both.”
You might care to reflect on the precise words of the document. in particular the numbered paragraphs of the operative part of the document. It’s on-line here: Text of TAC Petition to the Holy See
It wasn’t something scribbled on the back of an envelope. It wasn’t another piece of “Anglican Fudge”. It was clear and precise and subscribed to on the Altar with the signatories in full pontificals. It was the clearest possible commitment to the fullness of the teaching of the Catholic Church. It was intended as a statement of faith.
Obviously, I rejoice in the fact that so many have followed through and honoured the commitment they gave and that the processes for the reception of others is in course.