England and Always: Coming Home is a must-read article by Charles A. Coulombe at Catholicism.org on the history of Anglican requests to come into the Catholic Church, culminating in the offer Pope Benedict made in Anglicanorum coetibus that led to the establishment of three Anglican Ordinariates.
While all this was going on, however, another development was in the wind. In 2007, the Traditional Anglican Communion, under its then Primate, Archbishop John Hepworth, petitioned to be admitted en masse into the Catholic Church. Hepworth had been a Catholic priest, left the Church, and been married twice; but it appeared that he was willing to sacrifice his own career for the sake of unity. Two years went by, fraught with negotiations between Hepworth and the Holy See. At last, in 2009, Pope Benedict XVI promulgated Anglicanorum Coetibus, an Apostolic Constitution establishing a method whereby Anglicans could be received into union with the Holy See as groups. This document foresaw the erection of “Personal Ordinariates” — similar to Military Ordinariates— which could encompass communities of Catholic Anglicans in one or more entire countries. The clergy and parishes within such an Ordinariate would not be subject to the local Catholic bishops, and the Ordinary would be a member of the Conference of Bishops of the country (or countries) to which his territory extended. Unlike the Pastoral Provision, converts make their entrance as groups, and erection of a local parish would not depend upon the local bishop. Married men could be ordained — but not as bishops — and an Ordinary could himself be a bishop or not.
When first issued, Anglicanorum Coetibus was received joyfully by the TAC and Archbishop Hepworth — although it took the Archbishop of Canterbury by surprise, and was not received joyfully by him or his prelates. The Anglican Bishop Chartres of London declared that communities taking advantage of the scheme would not be allowed to keep their church buildings — and this would prevail throughout the country. Again, time passed, without much appearing to happen, save that a number of constituent churches of the TAC applied to join the Ordinariates — which had not yet been formed. But in September 2010, Pope Benedict made a State Visit to Great Britain, during which he beatified Cardinal Newman.
Shortly after the visit, the first members of the future Ordinariate in Britain began entering the Church. On January 15, 2011, the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, covering all of Great Britain, was formally erected. At its head was former “flying bishop,” Msgr. Keith Newton. Another year would pass before anything similar happened in the United States, over which time it became apparent that TAC clergy would not simply be automatically accepted. Those who had been Catholic priests (as some had, including Hepworth) could only enter as laymen; married bishops could not hope for anything higher than priestly ordination; and those with marital irregularities (unhappily, far from unheard of among the TAC clergy — to include, as we have seen, Archbishop Hepworth himself) would have to have them sorted out before they could hope for any kind of ordination. A number of the bishops who had signed on in 2007 decided against it. Moreover, the years of waiting took their toll on the laity — as did slights real or imagined on the part of members of the Catholic Church hierarchy.