Sunday, February 21, 2016

Deborah Gyapong on Abp Hepworth

I received the following e-mail from Ms Gyapong yesterday, which I am posting with her permission:
Dear Mr. Bruce,

Thank you for running that letter about Archbishop John Hepworth from a former TAC priest who traveled with him to Japan.

His description more closely matches my experience of the man: larger than life; a tremendously gifted speaker and writer; wickedly (in the Boston-sense of wicked, meaning great!) funny; an inspiring leader and serious about the need for our coming into unity with the Holy See. He was a tremendous evangelist for unity and for the Catholic Church.

Interestingly, from my position up here in Canada, the bishops who remained loyal to Hepworth to the end, who trusted him, are now Catholic priests, two of them monsignors. They, however, did not have impediments in becoming Catholic such as delict of schism or being in an irregular marriage.

Now that we are in the Ordinariates, I can see 90 per cent of what Hepworth was "selling " to us regarding what our new life in the Catholic Church would look like regarding our liturgy, our married priests, our property, our patrimony, turned out to be true. I also think if more bishops had been loyal, and "catholic" in their behavior vis a vis their archbishop, perhaps more parishes could have come in.

There were some significant things he got wrong, perhaps from wishful thinking on his part, but I do not think malice, or chicanery had anything to do with it.

Sadly, whatever flaws or blind spots or inconsistencies in his behavior can be explained by the abuse he suffered. For most of his adult life he had suppressed it and tried to move on, but, in the run up to the TAC's approach to Rome, he also began to face what had happened to him. Though he had a naive view, perhaps, of how his story would be received, and how that might mitigate the view of his leaving the Catholic priesthood,and so on, it saddens me greatly how terribly he was treated by some in the hierarchy when he first came forward. I remember encountering outright contempt towards the man in some quarters.

In a sense he was revictimized at the very same time he was trying to keep the TAC together so as to approach Rome in unity. I look at our small, but happy and holy little Ordinariate communities in Canada and am extremely grateful for what John Hepworth did for us and suffered for us.

And for those who think the sexual abuse claims were bogus, Archbishop Hepworth went through the special counsel the Melbourne diocese had set up to deal with sexual abuse claims since one of the abusive priests was from there. (This independent counsel was set up by Cardinal Pell when he was Melbourne archbishop). He was examined by experienced people who have assessed the credibility of hundreds of victims, and who knew evidence no one else would have known from any public record. They found Hepworth's accounts of abuse credible.

The ordeal of going public with the abuse claims, abuse that caused him tremendous agony and shame, eventually led to his being taken more seriously by the Catholic bishops who helped get the ordinariate off the ground. I think Hepworth played a key role in the fact there's an Ordinariate in Australia at all and that a former TAC priest, Msgr. Entwistle, heads it.

I suspect one of these days we'll hear John Hepworth has quietly reconciled with the Church he loves, but to me he is like the captain of a sinking ship, waiting until everyone's safe on the Barque of Peter. If it's only for the sake of St. Mary's in Hollywood, he'll do so. I'm delighted he has stepped forward out of his voluntary exile to help St. Mary's get justice after what looks like an unbelievably painful ordeal.

By their fruits ye will know them and I think the TAC parishes in Canada, the United States and Australia are John Hepworth's fruit in many ways---and I think most of my fellow Ordinariate members would agree.

You may publish this on your blog if you like,


Deborah Gyapong

I find it very difficult to disagree with Ms Gyapong's argument. The circumstances of St Mary Hollywood's case bear it out: there can be no question that Abp Hepworth opened up the opportunity for TAC parishes to take advantage of Anglicanorum coetibus. There can be no question that the ACA bishops took legal and canonical actions, in particular (and most severely) against St Mary Hollywood. Hepworth set up the Patrimony to protect it and other parishes from such actions. That protection has proven ultimately effective and was a key element in the parish's legal defense. His reemergence as the parish's legal situation becomes more favorable is an indication of his continued wish for the process begun in the TAC with the Portsmouth Letter to continue.

I'm very grateful to Ms Gyapong for her support for Abp Hepworth and by implication the parish's continued intent to join the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter.