TLC: Traditional Anglican Communion Petitions Rome for Union

The College of Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) recently petitioned for “full, corporate, sacramental union” with the Roman Catholic Church recently.

The appeal for union was debated during a meeting of bishops in Portsmouth, England during the first week of October. It was delivered in a letter, which was signed by all the bishops present. The letter was delivered personally to the Holy See by the Most Rev. John Hepworth, Primate of TAC, and two other bishops selected by the college.

Read it all.


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34 comments on “TLC: Traditional Anglican Communion Petitions Rome for Union

  1. justinmartyr says:

    Was this?
    – a paradigm shift (I made a mistake, I see now how previously unacceptable doctrines of Rome are valid)
    – or itching ears (I want to be part of Rome, so I’ll see view unacceptable doctrines as acceptable)*
    (For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires)

    If it is the former, congratulations. And if so, I’d like to learn of the path that lead them to Rome.

  2. Rev Dr Mom says:

    Does this mean that my sister who is a member of ACA would be a Roman Catholic? Or what?
    ACA parishes have stricter rules about women’s participation than do RCs. Women are not allowed to even read the lessons in the ACA.

  3. DJH says:

    Being in full communion with Rome is different than being absorbed into the Latin Rite and becoming Roman Catholic. If they are accepted as in communion with Rome then they agree to the authority of the Pope and the Magisterium. They accept all dogmas of the Catholic Church. They may have variances in disciplines such as the role of women as readers, married priests, etc. Byzantine Catholics, Chaldean Catholics, Melkite Catholics, are all examples of rites that are in full communion with Rome but distinct Rites with their own disciplines. This is different than the current Anglican-Use provision of the Latin Rite. There the liturgy is based on the Anglican liturgy but the disciplines are still in accord with the Latin Rite. The Anglican-Use can be seen as a similar situation to the celebration of the Tridentine Mass. It is an extraordinary form of the Latin Mass.

  4. Watcher On The Wall says:

    [blockquote] If they are accepted as in communion with Rome then they agree to the authority of the Pope and the Magisterium. They accept all dogmas of the Catholic Church. [/blockquote]

    I do not believe this is a correct assessment. I believe what the TAC is attempting is a simple mutual recognition of communion. They will remain administratively and organizationally separate. Anglicans will still be Anglicans, under their own authority and not that of Rome. They will not become Roman Catholics. I have not seen or heard anything to indicate otherwise.


  5. trooper says:

    Watcher, Why in the world would the Vatican want to do that?
    What is it about TAC that would qualify them for such recognition. The Holy Father himself, when Cardinal Ratzinger, reiterated that the Vatican doesn’t recognize Anglican orders as valid. If they want in, they’ll have to accept Papal authority. And all that comes with it. (Though I really do wish them well)

  6. justinmartyr says:

    trooper, “want to do that” or “able to do that”?

  7. William Tighe says:

    The TAC began to talk with the Ecumenical Secretariat in Rome (then headed by Cardinal Cassidy) in 1995. That cardinal displayed great bonhommie, but (as it appeared) an almost total lack of interest in any substantial conversations with “Anglican splinter groups” (and a hostility toward former Catholic priests who married and came to serve as priests in these groups being allowed any ministerial roles whatsoever in an “Anglican Catholic” body in communion with Rome). When Cardinal Kasper became head of the Ecumenical Secretariat in 2000 the TAC tried to restart the discussions, but its letters were not answered until Cardinal Arinze, as a result of a chance encounter with Abp. Falk during a visit to the USA in 2001, “lent a helping hand” and discussions got under weigh. However, it soon became obvious that the Ecumenical Secretariat was not willing to take concrete actions or make definite statements that might imperil the “warm and friendly relations” with the Anglican Communion that are so dear to Cardinal Kasper’s heart (although the cardinal’s address to the House of Bishops of the Church of England in June 2006 on the subject of WO and women bishops seem to show that a “disillusioned awareness” has begun to dawn on the good cardinal).

    In the late Summer of 2003 (as near as I can determine) key figures in Rome became aware that the TAC was seeking not “discussions” or an “ecumenical dialogue” but “full, corporate, sacramental union.” As a result, responsibility on the Roman side for carrying out these talks was transferred from the Ecumenical Secretariat to the CDF (then headed by Cardinal Ratzinger) — but the late pope required the Ecumenical Secretariat to remain “informed and involved.” I have the impression that this “joint involvement” made for slow progress at best. I had the honor (together with Fr. Allan Hawkins, the parish priest of St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Use Church in Arlington, Texas) to be an invited guest at the ACA synod (at which Abp. Hepworth was also present) in Orlando, Florida, in February 2004, and so got a good impressions of the aspirations, achievements, perils and possibilities” incident to the dealings between the TAC and the Holy See.

    Certainly, this formal statement from the TAC bishops comes at a key and (I hope) opportune time, as ever since November of last year proposals have been submitted, refined, resubmitted and discussed at the Vatican concerning the possible transformation of the “Pastoral Provision” and “Anglican Use” (presently available only in the USA and, as regards the former, only for clergy originally ordained in a church in communion with Canterbury) into a world-wide structure, perhaps along the lines of a “Personal Prelature” or “Apostolic Administration,” for Anglicans, and one in which men ordained in “extra mural” Anglican jurisdictions would be avail themselves. The Vatican does not seem to move quickly on these kind of matters, however, and I have no idea when a final version of these proposals are likely to see the light of day.

    More recently, early in the current year, I learned that another Continuing Anglican body, the “Anglican Catholic Church,” was interested in having its own “dialogue” with Rome, and had approached the appropriate Roman officials, but I do not know whether there has been any response to these approaches.

    Speaking for myself only, I rather doubt that “the TAC has any hopes of retaining its own hierarchy” — at least initially — if only because of the problematic backgrounds and marital circumstances of some of its bishops (and there is the matter of Anglican Orders, in the context of which there is the documentable participation of one of the bishops of the Polish National Catholic Church in the episcopal consecration of Albert R. Chambers [from whom the Continuing Anglican bodies derive their Orders] as Bishop of Springfield on October 1, 1962), but a the same time I both hope and suspect that the result would be something more than “a group of parishes and clergy seeking to join the Church under conditions similar to the Anglican Use.”

  8. William Tighe says:

    As long ago as 2003 all of the TAC bishops with “problematic marital pasts” submitted a full dossier to Rome on their personal circumstances, and that included in each case a statement that the bishop so concerned would be willing to “resign his Orders” if Rome deemed that to be necessary to forward the “reconciliation process.” I believe that, apart from +Hepworth there are three other TAC bishops (all Americans, one of them retired) who have been divorced-and-remarried. There are also two APCK bishops (Provence and Weygul) in the same circumstances, and, as the late Dr. Louis Tarsitano informed me around 2001, at that point every single one of the bishops of the APA had been divorced-and-remarried at least once—although since the 2002 union of most of the bishops of the “Anglican Rite Synod in the Americas” this is no longer the case. I do not think that the matter of the TAC bishops’ “personal circumstances” has yet been dealt with in the ongoing “reconciliation process.”

  9. William Tighe says:

    Re: #4,

    Surely you jest, or are thoroughly misinformed. Rome does not do “simple recognition of communion:” when you go to Rome you get “table d’hote” and not an “a la carte” selection. Take the case of the Polish National Catholic Church here in the USA (which began as a schism in the Polish-American Roman Catholic community in Scranton, PA in 1898): after nearly 25 years of dialogue beginning in 1968 between the PNCC and Rome both parties agreed that except on the issue of the papacy and the nature and extent of its authority there differences between them are disciplinary rather than doctrinal. Rome allows “sacramental hospitality” to PNCC members who find themselves in circumstances (for the most part of a geographical nature) in which they cannot confess or communicate in a PNCC church and will allow Roman Catholics on “special occasions” to receive communion in a PNCC church if they happen to have occasion to be present at a PNCC Mass — but “eucharistic hospitality” is not yet “intercommunion” and PNCC and RC clergy are not allowed to “concelebrate.” For the “relationship” to proceed to that stage there would have to be a complete agreement in matters of faith (i.e., regarding the papal ministry and its authority) and a worked-out structural/institutional relationship between the PNCC and Rome. Nothing less than this would be acceptable to bring the TAC into communion with Rome as well. In fact, when I was present at the ACA synod in Orlando in 2004 and there was an “open meeting” afterwards, Abps. Hepworth and Falk, responding to questions “from the floor” made this clear. To several questioners who asked “would this mean that we would have to accept the Catholic teaching on birth control” the reply was “the traditional Anglican teaching and the Catholic magisterial teaching are identical; Anglicans Communion bishops abandoned it at the 1930 Lambeth Conference, but we in the TAC hold to the prior position,” and to others who asked whether this meant that “we would have to accept papal infallibility” the answer was “we have made it clear to Rome that we reject none of the defined dogmatic teachings of the Magisterium; the question is how we would relate to papal authority in practice in an Anglican Catholic church in communion with Rome.” I was there, and with my own ears I heard it.

  10. justinmartyr says:

    William Tighe, thank you for the very enlightening set of posts.

    Cynical old me wonders why, if TAC really believes Roman Dogma (e.g., Papal Infallibility) it doesn’t see a mandate to just submit to Rome? And if it doesn’t see Rome that way, what in the world is it trying to accomplish? It seems to me that both sides are acting not altogether honestly and transparently. TAC is willing to believe what it is told if it receives recognition. And Rome is willing to dull the sharp edges of its unchangeable doctrines if the pie is big enough (e.g., Orthodoxy). TAC, being relatively small fry, is unable to negotiate with the same clout.

    Am I wrong?

    Thanks again for the history lesson.

  11. William Tighe says:

    Re: #10,

    “Cynical old me wonders why, if TAC really believes Roman Dogma (e.g., Papal Infallibility) it doesn’t see a mandate to just submit to Rome? And if it doesn’t see Rome that way, what in the world is it trying to accomplish? It seems to me that both sides are acting not altogether honestly and transparently.”

    Back in 1966, when Pope Paul VI had a long friendly meeting with Archbishop Ramsey of Canterbury (at the end of which the pope took his episcopal ring from his finger and gave it to the archbishop; a ring which I was able to kiss on Ramsey’s hand in 1985 and which Ramsey on his death in 1988 bequeathed to future archbishops as an “heirloom” of the see) he said at the end that when Rome and Canterbury are reconclled (like two estranged sisters) nothing of worth in “the respected Anglican patrimony” would be lost. From my own perspective, with WO and now SS and the now general doctrinal and moral levity of “first world” Anglican churches the “Anglican sister” has irremediably “played the harlot” and the “reconciliation” of which the pope and the archbishop spoke has receded to the realm of hopeless hopes. However, Catholics like myself regard the “respected patrimony” of Anglicanism as being continued today more robustly by the principal Continuing Anglican bodies (those that adhere unconditionally to the “Affirmation of St. Louis”) than by the Anglican Communion (which seems increasingly split between Liberal/Modernists and Evangelical/Protestants, neither of which groups would view the “Anglican patrimony” as Anglicans like Ramsey, Mascall, Dix at alios did and neither of which would share the concrete and particular aspirations of these men) and that by dealing tenderly with Continuing Anglican bodies Rome would be effectively offering to a small “remnant of Israel” the realization of the aspirations that moved Ramsey and Montini alike. Of course, “cynical old me” rather suspects that Paul VI identified “essential Anglicanism” with the High-Church-to-Anglo-Catholic side of Anglicanism and was unaware of the strength of Liberal latitudinarianism and Evangelical Protestantism in Anglican Churches, and so may have been excessively optimistic in any case about the likelihood of realizing in any concrete way the “vision” (“dream” or “mirage”) which he and Ramsey shared — just as were those Orthodox theologians and even churches that between the 1920s and 1950s seemed disposed to accept the “thesis” that Anglican Churches were “essentially Catholic” rather than “Protestant” — a pleasant reverie from which they awakened rather suddenly and even angrily in the 1970s. If you are able to peruse *The Panther and the Hind: A Theological History of Anglicanism* by Aidan Nichols, OP (Edinburgh, 1993: T & T Clark) you will see that Fr. Nichols ends his book precisely on such a “gathering in of the Remnant of Israel” line, and that the book itself is dedicated to the Anglo-Catholic theologian Eric Mascall (1905-1993), characterized in the dedication as “Ecclesiae Catholicae Doctor.”

    “Am I wrong?”

    I wouldn’t say you’re wrong if you want to look at the situation and circumstances in that way, but I would say as well that it’s nopt necessarily the only, or the best, way to look at it.

  12. deaconjohn25 says:

    If over 100 Anglican parishes of very “conservative” or orthodox beliefs in any way join or affiliate with Rome it is good news for those of us in the Roman Communion fighting the demonic influence of “liberal” relgion.

  13. Larry Morse says:

    I listened to ++ Hepworth a couple of years ago at the internatinal synod in Portland, Me. This was all he talked about. No, this is not union with the RC’s. The Anglicans would remain an entirely separate body, but each could participate in the communion of the other, and priests could exchange churches.
    Actually, this is infuriating. The Anglican world is embroiled in what amounts to a life or death struggle and this is the best Hepworth can do? I wrote top him and to the Bishop who is the head of the ACA HoB and asked them how they could stick their heads in the sand and pay no attention to what was going on in the larger Anglican world. They refuse to speak on the current battle, they refuse to take a stand anywhere and declare themselves in any way whatsoever. They can say what they want, this is cowardice. They are simply too nice to dirty their hands in the present bloodshed; they plan to stand above the battle and let others do their dirty work for them. I told my deacon what I thought and he replied that his sole job was to preach the good news and tend his flock.
    OK. That’s fine. But there are parishes and dioceses out there on the battle field and I am really weary of the aloofness.

  14. justinmartyr says:

    Thanks William Tighe for erudite, straight-forward answers.

  15. William Tighe says:

    “I listened to ++ Hepworth a couple of years ago at the internatinal synod in Portland, Me. This was all he talked about. No, this is not union with the RC’s. The Anglicans would remain an entirely separate body, but each could participate in the communion of the other, and priests could exchange churches.”

    You are not the first person from whom I have heard this, and at the time I was sent from Maine a couple of newspaper clippings which reported much the same thing. On the other hand, I have personally witnessed and heard, or verified, or at least very strong reasons and sources for crediting, what I have related above. So I can reply only, “Draw your own conclusions.”

  16. Dale Rye says:

    The bottom line is that the TAC and other Continuing Bodies (present or future) will be offered full communion with Rome on the same basis as the official Anglican Communion itself… full submission to Roman doctrine, including but not limited to the personal and immediate ordinary jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome over all other sees. They might be offered a special status, whether the current Anglican Use within the Roman Rite or a distinct Anglican Rite with its own prelates, but only after full submission.

    Rome cannot recognize Anglican Orders within the continuing bodies without also acknowledging their validity within the Anglican Communion, which seems an unlikely move at this point. I don’t think the participation of a single PNCC bishop in 1962 is going to tip the balance towards the TAC, when so many other Anglican bishops have an Old Catholic somewhere back in their apostolic lineage.

    Again, bottom line is that the TAC can come back to Rome when it submits to plenary Roman authority and acknowledges that any of its clergy who wish to function within an Anglican Rite or Use must submit to reordination, which will be granted on a case-by-case basis at Rome’s sole discretion. Since that is already the case for individual (official or continuing) Anglican clergy, I don’t see that the TAC petition changes anything.

  17. Merrilyonhigh says:

    #16 wrote: “…Rome cannot recognize Anglican Orders within the continuing bodies without also acknowledging their validity within the Anglican Communion,…”

    Actually, this is not a true statement. The issue is not wholesale recognition of a group, but rather the ability to set criteria whereby a decision may be made as to the validity of the orders in certain cases.

    The issue of women’s ordination precludes any wholesale, across the board acceptance of Anglican Orders.

    Those bodies who refrain from such innovative practices; bodies where the intent of the Bishops who ordain is not in question, and where there is complete doctrinal agreement on the faith, are the ones who would likely benefit from any such arrangements.


  18. alfonso says:

    I learned here, that whatever the past, TAC sent, or rather, petitioned to have present at the recent Common Cause meeting, a representative bishop. Common Cause in this case excluded TAC and said, “kindly stay home.” Too bad. I don’t know much of the history here, but this is a case where TAC was reaching out.

  19. Dale Rye says:

    Re #17: The problem is that the “bodies who refrain from such innovative practices” all derive their Holy Orders through an Apostolic Succession that is only complete by acknowledging the validity of Anglican Orders in 1896 when they were declared invalid. The Vatican can’t recognize any current Anglican (except RC or Orthodox clergy who converted) as being validly ordained without reversing [i]Apostolicae Curae[/i], which is based on the notion that Anglicans do not intend to do the same thing when they ordain someone as Roman Catholics do. The “innovative practices” would seem to make the defect of intention rather more likely than less. Could a church that intended in 1896 to ordain valid Catholic priests (as Rome understands the term) have subsequently violated what Rome sees as a fundamental contradiction between femininity and Catholic priesthood?

  20. Merrilyonhigh says:

    #19 – You are painting with too broad a brush. If, since 1896 there was a valid strain of the apostolic succession injected, and coming from that was proper intent to do what the church does in ordination – the problem for those subsequently receiving the sacrament of Holy Orders does not exist.

    As to your second question, the answer would be yes, heresy has long been a sin that can afflict the ordained and non-ordained alike.


  21. Navorser says:

    +Hepworth spoke at our church once and we had the greatest difficulty in deciding whether there was more prominence for him in opening new churches in Africa or worrying about our problems. +Hepworth just did not make it clear. His excursions into union with Catholicism reek of “I will lead you as I am the Primate but don’t bother to ask where I’m taking you!” This is a great pity as my family would like to have a church that is in a far more stable situation.

  22. Navorser says:

    Your Commentator, Justinmartyr, referred to the possibility of union with St Peter’s as a paradigm. To be finicky about definitions I would prefer to think of it as a conundrum with the usual acceptance of two possible solutions – either of which will get us into trouble with a large section of our community. I have a feeling that the world wide congregation will think of all this as “Damned if I do and damned if I don’t!”

  23. justinmartyr says:

    Fair enough, Navorser. Thanks.

  24. Navorser says:

    To close our discussion, Justinmartyr: an unofficial round up of the congregation in our church showed 80% did not want union with Rome in any way, about 10% including the priest said they would accept or want it and the remaining 10% would plod on without being steered from their church attendance regardless of who ruled the roost. Best wishes.

  25. Merrilyonhigh says:

    #24 –

    I would find it rather scary to think that 80% of a congregation would take the position you indicate they did.

    That seems to be more indicative of prejudice towards “catholics” than to the theologically reality of our common belief.

    The TAC is working toward the unity of the Body of Christ and has taken a significant step toward that goal.


  26. justinmartyr says:

    Thank you for the info, Navorser. The statistics make a lot of sense. Very much appreciated.

    MerrilyOnHigh, but it wouldn’t be prejudiced if 80% of the RC body voted against unequivocal unity with the Anglican Communion. I think you’re a little biased, don’t you?

  27. Merrilyonhigh says:

    #26 –

    I suppose I have a real problem when any Christian opposes unity that does not involve change in doctrinal positions.

    Also, to be specific, this does not involve unity with the Anglican Communion, this process involves “full, corporate, sacramental union” with Catholic Christians in the Anglican tradition who share the church’s teaching and belief.

  28. Navorser says:

    Merrilyon High Item 26
    I take your point about it not being a full union but in this matter the church leaders have much to answer for in that they have not clarified such a matter for their congregations.

  29. Navorser says:

    Larry Morse 13
    Larry I do not know where you live but what you said in No.13 is very nearly the feelings of our congregation. They resent very greatly the actions of the so called leaders of the church and wish that the system would change more to a congregational one.

  30. William Tighe says:

    Re: #13, 29,

    Well, this would seem to betoken a “theological schizophrenia” within the TEC/ACA that is almost as great as that between “reasserters” and “reappraisers” within TE”C,” wouldn’t it? Whatever else one may say about the bishops of the TAC/ACA, they all profess a strongly “Catholic” ecclesiology and think of Anglican churches as “Catholic” in the sense of Rome, Orthodoxy and pre-Reformation churches generally, and not in any substantial sense “Protestant.” Any “congregational system” of ecclesiology, by contrast, is about as purely Protestant a system as one can get (whether we are speaking of Congregationalism with a capital C, or the Church Order of those Lutheran churches which have “bishops” but whose bishops are simply local administrators and do not claim to have either the “apostolic succession” or the “apostolic authority” that Catholic bishops claim and exercise). If these folks want to be congregationalists, why don’t they join (or found) a “denomination” that reflects their beliefs, rather than remain part of one which has repudiated any such “congregationalism” ever since the St. Louis Conference of 1977 and the “Affirmation” that it produced.

  31. Navorser says:

    William Tighe
    Very good argument when it comes to a general discussion and my congratulations on presenting it. One small detail I would prefer to put at your disposal: whilst our congregation contains a number of very careful thinkers, the average age is far too high for us and our religious requirements are now refined into the one place. I wish that you had suggested moving to us about forty years ago. What we are left with in our older years is a sense of hope and par of the hope engendered in our congregation is that the leaders consider the fact that all of us were brought up to be Protestants and that the word Catholic has two very distinct meanings.
    Best wishes……………………..Navorser

  32. William Tighe says:

    Re: #31,

    Well, it’s a pity, Navorser, that (if I understand you correctly) your congregation or its members or some of them, seem to be in such a cul-de-sac, in which their own individual “religious identities” seem in such a disconnect with that of the larger body of which they are a part. But have you, or they, not heard of the “Affirmation of St. Louis” — or read it? It is the fundamental bedrock document of all the Continuing Anglican churches or jurisdictions, except for the APA, which seems to take parts of it “with its fingers crossed” — and if you (or those of whom you write) had read it carefully, you would see that it embraces a clearly and preseciptively “Catholic vision” of Anglicanism and its nature.

  33. Navorser says:

    William tight 32: Thank you for your comments. Yes the congregation has heard of the Affirmation you mention. It does not feel that it is in a state of ‘disconnect’ with the greater majority. Let me assure you that our people have read matters as carefully as do the others around the world. We strive to reach the future. Best wishes…….Navorser

  34. Navorser says:

    The Christmastide is here and, through me, our congregation offers to you, your congregations and your families the hope of a wonderful Yule which will take you into the future you wish.