Traditional Anglican bishop moots Rite possibility

12 Mar 2009

By The Record

TAC head clarifies church’s thinking.

By Anthony Barich

The Traditional Anglican Communion’s ideal structure to be received into the Catholic Church is a rite rather than a personal prelature, its leader has declared.
Internal speculation on how a group of over 400,000 Anglicans could join the Catholic Church has forced Adelaide-based TAC Primate Archbishop John Hepworth to issue a clarification in the organisation’s Messenger Journal on February 25.
Archbishop Hepworth told Traditional Anglican readers it is possible for a church to come into union with the Bishop of Rome as a Rite, in which case it is known usually as “a ritual church sui iuris – that is, a church with its own rite and canonical regulation.”
There are some 28 of these churches, who appoint their own bishops by synodical processes, and seek confirmation of the election from the Bishop of Rome, the Pope.
The Record reported on January 28 that it was understood that the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had decided to recommend the TAC be accorded the status of a personal prelature if talks between the group’s leaders and the Vatican aimed at unity succeed.
However, Archbishop Hepworth said that much of the TAC’s Concordat – the agreement made 20 years ago that binds all its bishops operating as a college of bishops – was designed to mirror the processes of a ritual church, “a point noted by some Vatican officials”. 
“We have not anticipated that our present application would lead to this sort of structure (a Rite) – most of these rites are descended from ancient churches that have never been part of the Roman or Western rite,” he said. “Of modern origin, however, are the Personal Prelatures and Apostolic Administrations that are essentially vehicles for specific groups to coalesce around their own episcopate for a particular pastoral reason.”
“We have simply asked, in the words of our letter (to the Holy See requesting unification), to ‘seek a communal and ecclesial way of being Anglican Catholics in communion with the Holy See, at once treasuring the full expression of Catholic faith and treasuring our tradition within which we have come to this moment.”
“We have not sought to design something for ourselves.  We have asked for the guidance of the Holy See, given the reality of our position and the mind of our episcopate.”
Since The Record broke the news on January 28 that the Holy See could receive the TAC as a Personal Prelature, Catholic, Anglican and secular news websites and blogs have been awash with speculation.
“Since the publication of a report on TAC and unity in the semi-official Vatican publication La Civilta Catholica, published in Italian in October last year and in English in December, there has been speculation about precisely what structure might be considered appropriate for the TAC,” Archbishop Hepworth said. “This speculation reached new heights in early February with a major feature in The Catholic Record.”
Bishop Harry Entwistle, TAC’s prelate in charge of its West Australian diocese, told The Record that TAC had made no demands or set any preconditions when asking for full corporate and sacramental union with Rome.
“When we asked we didn’t make any suggestions; we just asked for advice from the Holy See what the next stage ought to be in our move and desire for unity, and everyone else seems to have filled in the gaps. We sit and wait,” Bishop Entwistle said.