This comment thread over at Fr. Stephen Smuts’ blog is interesting because it gives some insight into the thinking of Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) bishops and lay people who feel betrayed by Archbishop Hepworth and who are trying to justify in their minds why they did not accept the Apostolic Constitution by seemingly scapegoating the former primate.
“If you sign up to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, then there is no moral case for remaining in schism.”
This is true. I am sure one of our readers will supply the salient section which talks about the imperative of being in Communion with the Successor of Peter once one understands the nature of the Holy Catholic Church. Uh, it isn’t Branch Ecclesiology, folks.
So, either the bishops did not know what they were signing when they signed the CCC and the Compendium of the Catechism, or they knew but are now back-tracking. Or perhaps there is a good argument for a third option, which I have not seen.
Now, I do have some sympathy for those bishops who found they did not have flocks ready or willing to follow them over into Ordinariates or those in countries where no Ordinariates exist to remain in a holding pattern until one is on offer—-but I would hope there would be on the part of those bishops who signed the CCC a clear statement of Catholic doctrine and clear teaching and preparation, not a sudden abandonment of the faith they signed onto as, basically, the doctrines of the Traditional Anglican Communion as of 2007. The TAC was set up so that bishops determined faith and morals, not votes from lay people and clergy.
Out of the Frying pan writes: “Mourad, you have entirely dodged the point I was making and just gone on with the tired old meme that somehow what was offered by Rome was what the bishops all thought they were asking for. It took Hepworth two years to work out that what was offered wasn’t corporate reunion–if indeed he’s worked it out yet.
Yet if one reads the 2007 letter the TAC bishops signed, along with the catechism, it does not spell out exactly what corporate reunion would look like, leaving it to the Holy See to determine, which Hepworth repeatedly stated in public talks. Out of the Frying Pan is right—-Hepworth did think the reunion would be more corporate on the front end of the process than it has proven to be. That is not entirely Hepworth’s fault. I blame the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for cutting him out of the loop in early 2010 and dealing only with the Church of England Bishops, leaving him to try to sell the idea to the synods of the TAC while he was basically hung out to dry with little to go on in terms of nuts and bolts implementation information.
The behavior of the Catholic Church towards the TAC was extremely destabilizing. I could go on and on. But to blame Hepworth for everything that has gone wrong is kind of weird. Sort of makes me think of a man and a woman and a snake, with the man blaming the woman, the woman blaming the snake, if you get my drift. And no, I am not extending my analogy to say Hepworth is in the snake’s role, just to remark on the blame-shifting that seems to be routine when people are doing something wrong.
Now, as we are looking forward to the first ordinations of former TAC bishops in Canada—December 8 in Victoria and Ottawa if all the paper work gets back from Rome in time (the churches are booked) with ordinations of other TAC clergy to follow after a formation program that ends next Easter, I can look back and say, hmmm, Hepworth had a lot right about what would happen, more right than wrong.
The other thing. The bishops who understood what they were signing in Portsmouth are for the most part now Catholic. (There are some other cases where some unfortunate circumstances intervened and I hope those will be rectified). I haven’t polled these former bishops lately but I would hazard a guess that none believes Hepworth “lied, cheated, spun a yarn, call it what you may, just so he could achieve his personal ambition.”
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.
As others have expressed on this blog, I would like to see a good theological and rational explanation for why the present TAC bishops have decided to reject the Apostolic Constitution that goes beyond the ad hominem attacks against Hepworth. How do they explain their actions in light of what the CCC says?
And I wonder, too, if the TAC bishops will stop wearing Roman Catholic ecclesial attire? Maybe Fr. Anthony can do a post on his blog about what Anglican priestly and episcopal attire should look like.