John Hepworth, the Archbishop of the Adelaide-based Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), will be received back into the Roman Catholic Church, but only as a layman.
Sources say Hepworth was given a letter from Rome by the hand of Melbourne Archbishop Denis J. Hart. This was to have been kept quiet to allow the Archbishop a reflection period of several weeks.
VOL broke the news Tuesday in a story “PRIMATE PLUMMETS” saying that he had been denied a return to the Roman Catholic fold as a bishop or priest.
Hepworth has been the Anglican/Episcopal world’s loosest cannon, from an institutional standpoint at least, for a long time. He’s accused Catholic priests he grew up under of sexually molesting him, and that’s certainly something that needs to be looked into. But it doesn’t justify the years of manoeuvring that he’s engaged in to try to get the RCC to swallow the TAC whole with him as its head. That last point is a major sticky wicket: not only did he take orders from the RCC to start with, but also he is divorced:
However, the Complementary Norms attached to Anglicanorum Coetibus are clear in (Article 6 §2): “Those who have been previously ordained in the Catholic Church and subsequently have become Anglicans may not exercise sacred ministry in the Ordinariate. Anglican clergy who are in irregular marriage situations may not be accepted for Holy Orders in the Ordinariate.”
That almost sounds like they wrote the Norms with him in mind. Now Rome has signalled that it has had enough. So have the people in the TAC; they’re calling for a new primate, one perhaps (or perhaps not) that could get the TAC into the Ordinariate without him being the chief obstacle.
I suspect that the RCC is trying to make Hepworth an offer he can’t refuse so they can get him out of circulation. My advice to Hepworth: take it. There’s life after ministerial credentials, to use the broad term. These days it’s not hard to make an impact on the Christian world without credentials/ordination, just look at the Anglican blogosphere. More importantly, though, your relationship with God is more important than the position you hold in the church or the colour of the shirt you wear. Don’t blow the former for the sake of the latter, for you or anyone else.