Monday, 5 December 2011

AB Hepworth: a (real) bishop?

Christopher Pearson's piece in the Australian (if you hit the paywall, search for the article via google!) over the weekend provided another round up of the unfortunate Hepworth case. 

It contains one interesting piece of information that hasn't been mentioned previously as far as I know, and that is that the Archbishop's episcopal consecration may in fact be valid (albeit illicit).

Pearson on the Hepworth case

Most of the opinion piece is just another rehearsal of the reasons why the Adelaide process turned into a long-running farce, to the point that when, after three years, the archdiocese was finally shamed into actually doing something on the matter, they managed to set up the process that he had asked for in such a way that Hepworth felt unable to co-operate with it.  And if I understand Pearson correctly, Archbishop Wilson has apparently continued down this path by refusing to provide the report of the investigation to Hepworth (where's the outcry on denial of 'natural justice' from the liberals in this case!).

Some of the article attempts to make the argument that the notwithstanding the norms set up for the Ordinariate prohibiting Catholic priests who defected from returning to ministry, the Archbishop should be treated as a special case, and was led by some in Rome to believe that he would be.

But the interesting really interesting part of the article is the story that Hepworth had himself consecrated as a bishop by a bishop of the Polish National Church (*Fr Chadwick of the Anglo-Catholic Blog says this isn't so, but rather the TAC as a whole claims valid orders from that group), and thus he may (subject to investigaton and verification) really be a bishop in the eyes of the Church.

Does this really help?

To be honest, sympathetic as I am to the man, I'm not really sure that this information helps Archbishop Hepworth's cause at all! 

In fact it just adds one more canonical obstacle to his reconciliation, given that consecration as a bishop by a Catholic priest without the approval of the Pope merits automatic excommunication.

The bottom line is still that it is one thing to fly from your diocese in horror at sexual predation and blackmail.  Quite another to then go on and defect to another ecclesial community, attempt to marry, divorce, remarry and get oneself ordained as a bishop.

Mr Pearson suggests that the Vatican has historically been reluctant to laicize bishops. 

That's true, but only because of the fear that they might do exactly what Archbishop Hepworth has apparently already done, and set up alternative churches that then might have valid orders.

Moreover, there is still the problem of the Archbishop's purported marriage(s).  The special permission for married clergy for Anglicans entering the Church to be married does not extend to allowing them to be bishops.


Mr Pearson concludes in his article "that Dempsey's role and Wilson's handling of matters will linger in the minds of Vatican bureaucrats, the Australian Bishops Conference and the laity of the Catholic Church in Adelaide, probably for at least the next five years".

I'm not quite sure of the significance of five years is (Archbishop Wilson is only aged 61!).  Does he mean until the next ad limina?  If so, that seems an unduly optimistic assessment given that the decisions in question were clearly made at the recent one.

Still, we should be praying for Archbishop Hepworth, for the grace to be reconciled with the Church despite it all; for the members of the Traditional Anglican Communion, that the Australian Ordinariate might finally move forward; and for the relevant members of the Adelaide archdiocese.  On the face of it, there is a lot of repentance and conversion needed on all sides here...


A Canberra Observer said...

A cycnical view would be that the travails of Arbp Hepworth provide a convenient vehicle for Christopher Pearson to wage war on the Adelaide Archdiocese.

catholicusanglicanus said...

Please see

Fr Anthony Chadwick

Kate said...

CO - Don't you have any sympathy for AB Hepworth? As things stand, if he does reconcile he can't even technically be part of the Ordinariate I gather!

It would surely be nice to see our bishops showing some genuine ecumenical zeal and doing everything they can to reconcile these groups, rather than seemingly doing everything possible to keep them out!

A Canberra Observer said...

I'm sorry but my comment was not meant to say anything about Arbp Hepworth's position. The whole thing is a tragedy. I lived in Adelaide for some time and there was certainly a widely held view about how rotten the former seminary was. I also have views about the way the current Adelaide archdiocesan administration handles things - indeed perhaps 'administration' is an oxymoron. However that doesn't change my view that Mr Pearson has seems to have more than one agenda here.

Kate said...

It is not obvious to me what you are basing this on Canberra Observer.

The Adelaide Archdiocese has painted a large target on itself in recent years on a number of fronts (Msgr Cappo's dabbling in politics, interesting land deals with the State Government, suppression of parishes and much more), so I can see why many of the laity of that diocese might be upset. And why they might legitimately want to voice their concerns about what has been happening there.

But as far as I can see Mr Pearson's current series of articles has stuck entirely to the Hepworth case, which on the face of it is indeed a tragedy that warrants some exposure to scrutiny.

A Canberra Observer said...

my last commnet on this one ...

Neither did I say that the Adelaide archdiocese might not be getting what has been coming too it for many a long year. What is a shame in that case though is the Arbp Wilson's predecessors are not also be given a helping. Surely they have earned it.

Fr William E Bauer TFSC PhD said...

Jesus prayed that we might all be one. Satan does not like Jesus. The Pope asked that Anglicans be welcomed with generosity. Satan does not like generosity, nor does he like Benedict XVI. An old saying is that "the devil is in the details," and it rings true.