|TAC Archbishop John Hepworth|
Sunday, September 11, 2011
"I do not seek retribution"
Or so he says. Indeed, the news (here) recently broke in The Australian. But, anyone following the news of recent months can trace a story line in which Abp. Hepworth began to complain that the Roman Catholic Church was backtracking on the promises in Anglicanorum Coetibus, first in Canada and then beyond. And, what promises, exactly, was Rome backtracking on? Frankly, they refused to alter their new constitution and the Canon Law it was based on, and to which it referred consistently in its Article VI (the one most often misquoted and distorted). That means, of course, that they did not live by Hepworth's own spin on the meaning of Anglicanorum Coetibus, essentially his own promises to anyone in the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) who would listen, that if they would follow him to the Tiber they could have their cake and eat it too.
Hepworth's own fantasy island in the Tiber promised that every TAC priest could expect to be received in his orders, and that he himself would still be their Archbishop. He came right out with that line in Canada, essentially no different from his insistence to me, face to face in Timonium, Maryland three years ago, before the new constitution but well along in the TAC-Rome adventure. He objected to anyone writing that he would not be the one to lead his people into the Roman land of promise. He told me I had been wrong to say he could not minister as a man in holy orders if he went back to the Roman Catholic Church, even though at the time I thought I was praising his apparent humility and sincerity, even though not agreeing with his Roman bias.
The problem is, Anglicanorum Coetibus carefully, consistently and unmistakably offered nothing more than what existing Canon Law and Pastoral Provisions already provided, except to make those provisions internationally available. Therefore, in no uncertain terms, it was clear on reasserting that no former Roman Catholic could expect to be ordained if he had left the Roman Catholic Church as an adult, no former Roman Catholic clergyman who left could resume ordained ministry after returning from an Anglican (or any Protestant) body, and that no man could practice ordained ministry if he had in his life impediments to the same. For Hepworth, twice married with a divorce and Anglican annulment, that meant he had no chance. He denied however, to me sitting across a small hotel lobby table, and later to larger audiences, that to return to Rome he would have to lay down his archiepiscopal office.
But, when the time for truth came, the Church of Rome stuck to its Canon Law. The TAC priests who were interested in becoming Roman Catholic priests under the terms of the new constitution, discovered that their education, unlike former Church of England clergy (where Oxford and Cambridge set the standard), did not qualify them for a fast track to "ordination" in the Roman Church. And, men with impediments were not going to get around the problem. That was when Hepworth fired back at the Church of Rome. He was not getting his way, meaning, they were not keeping his promises, but only their own.
But, he is a big man, not seeking retribution, ready to forgive, not grinding an ax. Or so he assures us.
Personal problems and sexual abuse
Now, we have Abp. Hepworth telling the world that he had been repeatedly abused sexually from the age of 15 by Australian Roman Catholic priests, into early manhood. This serial abuse even exceeded the shocking story he told me back in 2008. He has now used the word "rape," saying the abuse followed into his early adult years. These homosexual rapist priests must have been very large and powerful men, able to force themselves on the muscular Hepworth, who stands more than six feet tall and looks every bit a truck driver.
The article says:
"In an attitude of extraordinary forgiveness and atonement, his prime concern, set out in a letter to Archbishop Wilson in November 2008, was that his relationship with the Catholic Church be healed before he died.
"'I do not seek retribution,' he wrote but he felt 'deeply cheated of a priestly life that I have been exercising as it were by subterfuge, outside the communion of the Catholic Church'."
A long time reader of this blog, Millo Shaw, made this observation and asked a hypothetical question:
"So all his time as an Anglican priest and Archbishop of the TAC was merely a 'subterfuge, outside the communion of the Catholic Church.' I wonder if he truly understands that he is in effect saying that his time as a cleric in the Anglican Church was nothing ever more than a lie and deception and that Anglicanism never was, is, or shall be, even in its TAC format, part of the Catholic Church? I wonder how the people whom he has led feel about this? What did he really think he was doing when he was carrying out the sacraments?"
The article in The Australian also says:
"In his March 2008 statement, he wrote: 'Perhaps I have been too driven in my search for redemption, for acceptance by a church that I did not know how to approach. I ran away from that church, but I have never lost my love for it.'
"Despite the fact that he has been married, divorced and remarried and has three children, he also wrote: 'Perhaps it is the only real love that I have ever known, and it is a love distorted and beyond my reach over all of my adult life.' "
It is obvious, at this point, that Abp. John Hepworth is a very troubled man who has lived a sad and tragic life. We should pray for him, and hope for God's healing hand to be manifest. At the same time, others need to be liberated from the oppressive manner in which this troubled man has exercised leadership.
Also, despite the lazy manner of "journalists" and "reporters" who have replaced journalism and reporting with copying and pasting, the TAC was, at its strongest point (before the Anglicanorum Coetibus circus) never more than about 50,000 strong - nowhere near the oft pasted 400,000 figure (or, 700,000 according to Orlando - what's 300,000 or so? Six of one, and all that). But, 50,000 is a lot of people; two or three count infinitely, as does one soul - more than a pearl of great price.
It is a travesty that so many people were subjected to one man's psychological problems. For years the entire TAC was being torn up one side and down the other, distracted from evangelism and prevented from recovering unity with the rest of the Continuing Anglican churches, focused almost entirely on Roman Catholicism and losing sight of anything remotely Anglican. They have suffered great loss, and a waste of years and resources. All this time the Roaming Romeward emphasis, in what people joined and contributed to as an Anglican church, was really about one man and his personal trauma.
The old line about "unity" looked silly all along, since leaving one denomination for another is not unity. Now, we see it was always more of a subterfuge than we could say - openly.