Another perspective on what happened at St. Agatha’s in Portsmouth

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.

Father Anthony Chadwick has written his impressions of what happened in 2007 at St. Agatha’s here.  (with my emphases)

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!

-snip-

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.

And!   Mourad writes a most interesting long comment over at Fr. Smut’s blog, which he includes this (my emphases):

(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.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Another perspective on what happened at St. Agatha’s in Portsmouth

  1. Everything is getting clearer and clearer. As far as I can see, all the remaining TAC bishops should resign and leave their priests and laity to make their own decisions, the bishops having the choice of going RC or whatever they want individually. Parishes and individuals should be able to have the choice of whether to join the ordinariates, another Anglican jurisdiction or take a long time reflecting on their Christian commitment.

    This problem is all about bishops.

  2. Rev22:17 says:

    Deborah,

    Your correspondent quoted Professor Tighe as saying: ” 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.”

    In fairness, this issue is not quite so simple. Although firmly committed to moving the entire Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) into the Catholic Church, Archbishop John Hepworth clearly stated, in his pastoral letters to the TAC promulgated after Anglicanorum coetibus, that the bishops of the TAC recognized that some of its members would not be able to move into the Catholic Church for various reasons ranging from irregular marriage situations that could not be resolved to issues of personal conscience, and that the bishops of the TAC were committed to continuing pastoral services to such individuals for as long as the need would persist. The immediate implication here was obviously that some bishops would remain in the TAC as long as there were members who could not enter the Catholic Church and had not found another church home.

    That said, we witnessed the best and the worst of episcopal behavior right here in North America. North of the border, Bishops Wilkinson, Reid, and Botterill led an exemplary realignment of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada that allowed each member of the TAC to reach his or her decision as those who came into the Catholic Church to become part of an ordinariate and those who remain in the ACCC parted ways amicably, wishing each other well. That stands in very stark contrast to the situation here in the States and also in the United Kingdom, where the animosity of those who elected not to join the respective ordinariates toward those who elected to come into the ordinariates, led respectively by Bishops Marsh and Strawn and Vicar General Ian Grey, was not so exemplary. I believe that Bishop Botterill acted sincerely to implement what was pastorally necesary, whereas Bishops March and Srawn did not.

    Norm.

  3. Foolishness says:

    I do not take the black and white approach Fr Anthony is taking above. I believe there can be good conscientious reasons for waiting, whether they are pastoral for the sake of a confused or recalcitant flock, or a response to injustice on the part of Roman and/or ordinariate authorities, or for remaining with one’s flock in a holding pattern an communion of desire in places where there are no ordinariates on offer as yet. I agree with Norm that Bishop Botterill did work in a serene fashion with the departing bishops to oversee as fair a distrubtion of ACCC assets as the law allowed in terms of trusts etc. But it seems after the TAC meeting in South Africa, the remaining bishops have turned against unity, have cast Anglicaorum coetibus as absorption and becominng a Roman Catholic —horror of horrors—and have decided to remain Anglican, whatever that means. I have not heard a convincing hermeneutic for their rejection of unity with the Catholic Church that shows they understood what their signatures should have meant.

  4. Fr. David Marriott says:

    Norm wrote, ‘North of the border, Bishops Wilkinson, Reid, and Botterill led an exemplary realignment of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada that allowed each member of the TAC to reach his or her decision as those who came into the Catholic Church to become part of an ordinariate and those who remain in the ACCC parted ways amicably, wishing each other well.’

    This might have been true for the remnant who stayed after some had been removed: these latter being clergy, laity, and some parishes who voted to leave the ACCC. It was only when others realized that the grass was not greener on the other side of the fence that any shadow of ‘exemplary realignement’ was achieved.

    I agree with ‘Foolishness’ that there have been a multiplicity of reasons for a valid inability to accept the terms on offer from Rome: none of these reasons warranted the actions promulgated, with no opportunity for discussion or pastoral care, by the then ACCC leadership. What will be required as time goes by is something of the nature of a truth and reconciliation commission: albeit on a small scale: it is not enough to say ‘we must move forward’: this forward effort can only be completed after due recognition of errors made, and contrition expressed: both by those who have gone to Rome, those who remain in the ACCC/TAC, and also by those who have elected a new pathway. Pray for all of us who are making the attempt.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s