As the ordinariate for England, Wales and Scotland makes progress, the TAC's leader warns it could be the first and ony such structure for former Anglicans in the world

As the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham has been gaining deacons in the last few weeks and continues to take shape, expectant eyes begin to focus on the other side of the Atlantic. A decree establishing personal ordinariate for the United States is rumoured to be announced any day now. Things are looking good for the further implementation of the Pope’s 2009 Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus which reached out to Anglo-Catholics.

But this morning we learned that the leader of the Traditional Anglican Communion has thrown his toys out of the pram and warned that the British structure may well be the first and last ordinariate, as negotiations in Canada have come to a standstill.

Archbishop John Hepworth – a flamboyant and outspoken former Catholic turned Anglican who leads the TAC – wrote a letter to Bishop Peter Elliot, a former Anglican who is the Vatican’s appointed delegate for the Australian ordinariate, in which he accused the Vatican’s Canadian point man for the ordinariate of derailing the process. He said he would put talks with the Church on hold. He added that the Canadian development would have an effect on the potential establishment of ordinariates around the world, including in Australia. The TAC is the largest umbrella group for Anglo-Catholic continuing churches around the world who have broken with the Anglican Communion.

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He wrote: “I warned you last July that the English Ordinariate may well be the first and the last. That outcome is now more certain.”

The Canadian situation, like the States, is somewhat complicated. Not only is it an alphabet soup of different acronyms for various continuing churches, but there is also internal dissent over the decision to take up the ordinariate.

Added to this, the Church has decided to adopt the process that was used for the ordinariate in Britain, namely requiring the clergy submit to its dossiers for approval and having the people begin a Eucharistic fast while receiving formation and asking them to worship alongside local Catholics. One difference between Britain and Canada (and the United States) is that many of the groups own their buildings, which understandably makes the idea of worshipping in the neighbouring Catholic parish less appealing.

Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto, who was appointed to be the Vatican’s delegate to the ordinariate appointed mentor priests who were due to visit the parishes this month. Before Archbishop Hepworth’s letter was made public, the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada, a member of the TAC, asked for these visits to be put on hold.

The TAC’s chief gripes seem to be the idea that these Anglican parishes would be closed for the period preceding reception, that the clergy formation has been considered inadequate by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and that the TAC must cede its property to the ordinariate:

Archbishop Hepworth wrote:

“These priests are to announce, on behalf of Archbishop Collins, that the parishes will close forthwith, that the laity and clergy will attend a Catholic parish for from four to six months, that they will not receive the sacraments during this time, that they will be catechised adequately during this time since any catechesis from the Catechism of the Catholic Church done by the Traditional Anglican Communion is inadequate because only Catholics understand the Catechism, that the dossiers submitted by Traditional Anglican Communion clergy show an inadequate training since they have not attended Anglican Communion Theological Colleges, and therefore those selected by the Ordinary and approved by the CDF will have to attend a Catholic Seminary for an as yet unspecified time, at the end of this process, new parishes for Anglicans along the lines of the Anglican Use in the United States may be established, but not necessarily in the former Traditional Anglican Communion churches, and that during this process the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) must cede its property to the Ordinariate.”

Given the situation, there is some speculation that Canadian groups still wanting to take up the ordinariate despite the TAC grumblings may be included in a US ordinariate. Archbishop Hepworth’s railing seems unlikely to derail American progress. The new ordinariate does not appear to be dependent on the TAC’s good will as it is set to include already existing Anglican-use parishes which had taken advantage of the already existing pastoral provision as well as individual groups of continuing churches.

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