The “correspondent” speaks of his uneasiness about being under Hepworth’s oversight on account of his no longer being the primate of an institutional ecclesial body. St Mary’s is not my problem. Even lovely ships like the Titanic had to be abandoned when they were sinking. A building, however beautiful, is not worth that amount of litigation.My correspondent had this comment on Chadwick's view:
I concur in seeing no long-term benefit from being associated with Hepworth, someone regarded, and not just by the "RC bureaucracy", as a "toxic apostate priest." . . . What does maintaining a connection with him say about St Mary's view of its way forward?I think the comparison with the Titanic is apt. From Fr Kelley's informal comments, I believe he is in a process of discernment, but exactly where this will lead him, we don't know. But that someone would use the example of the Titanic also has serious implications. The souls aboard the Titanic were in a desperate situation. While lives aren't threatened at Hillhurst and Finley, people are at least having to make serious decisions about their way forward, and for some, becoming Catholic may be an extended and difficult journey.
But let's keep in mind that a laicized Catholic priest is still a priest and may hear the confessions of those in danger of death, e.g., on the Titanic. Abp Hepworth has apparently not been formally laicized, and St Mary's parishioners are not in literal danger of death, but we're still in a spiritually desperate situation. Certainly several people, including my wife and me, underwent spiritual crises after the events of 2012 and saw the need to cut their losses and become Catholic outside the very dodgy OCSP process of acceptance. That would be a sign of the spiritual desperation still occurring there.
Let's consider too that a number of former Catholic priests have become Anglican bishops -- the move isn't unidirectional. This includes ACA Bishop of the Eastern US John Vaughan. It's not unusual for former Catholic priests to become TEC priests, including Alberto Cutié, "Father Oprah". None of these has presumably been properly laicized, since a laicized Catholic priest is not entitled to wear clericals or call himself a priest in any denomination, to avoid misleading the faithful. But in the case of Abp Hepworth, we're in for a penny, in for a pound.
St Mary of the Angels is currently an Anglican parish. It is probably even more correct to call it an Anglican Papalist parish, since it has aspirations, however unrealistic, of one day resolving litigation in its favor and going into the OCSP. We may exercise our own judgment on eventual outcomes, but given its current circumstances, it has a bishop, who as far as I can see is no more and no less legitimate in Roman Catholic eyes than any other "continuing Anglican" bishop. Let's keep in mind that Louis Falk was deposed as a TEC priest for apparently good reasons -- nobody's without sin here.
If, as at least some observers seem to concur, the St Mary of the Angels parish doesn't have much of a long term, I'm not sure why my correspondent questions the "long term benefit from being associated with Hepworth". My view as consistently expressed here is an Aristotelian argument from circumstance, which as R M Weaver puts it, is the most desperate argument. If the sea is on three sides, and we can’t swim for it, but the enemy is bottling us up on the fourth, we have no choice but to fight our way out. St Mary’s is a sinking Titanic, I generally agree. Even a laicized Catholic priest can hear confessions from those in danger of death. Given the much more flexible circumstances that apply among Anglicans, I'm not sure what the problems are in seeing Abp Hepworth functioning as a bishop.
Let's say, for instance, that everyone at St Mary's wakes up tomorrow and decides the best step is to close things out and turn the keys over to the ACA. How long would that take? Months? Years? Who knows? Wouldn't this small group of people be entitled to the best leadership and spiritual counsel they could find under the circumstances? Recognize that they would have a number of options -- renew an application to the OCSP as a different entity, go individually into the Church via RCIA at other parishes, return to TEC, find another "continuing" parish, or none of the above.
Wouldn't it be best for them to have someone who can give them spiritual comfort and assistance with discernment? How many others would be willing to apply for that job?