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Mgr John Broadhurst writes about Fr John Hepworth
Father John Hepworth
I have known John for many years. My original encounter with him was when the very small continuing church in England elected a priest and petitioned for his consecration to the Episcopate. Archbishop Louis Falk of the Traditional Anglican Communion phoned me as he was very concerned about the election and asked my opinion. He sent Fr. Hepworth to England to investigate and report. He came to see me as chairman of Forward in Faith to ask my opinion. As a consequence the TAC never ordained a bishop for England but rather used overseas bishops to manage here. John himself was soon to be consecrated as a bishop for Australia and eventually followed Archbishop Falk as the Primate of the TAC. What is not known publicly is that the TAC always collaborated with Forward in Faith and our own Fr. Brian Gill, who became vicar general for the TAC in England, was co-opted to FIF’s governing Council.
John Hepworth was a regular visitor to the FIF National Assembly and frequently spoke on the first day at the international synod. He was a very talented and intelligent man but not without his faults and flaws. When Australia had a referendum on becoming a republic John was very high profile campaigner for the monarchy and regularly appeared on Australian television. As a priest he was a visionary, though as an administrator he certainly got into several financial and structural problems. He has been to my home on several occasions and I certainly enjoyed chatting to him. I’ve also been to his house in Adelaide on one occasion when Judi and I had a very pleasant afternoon in his garden. Recently he has phoned me on several occasions to see how things were developing.
Continuing Anglicanism has always been very fractious and there are a large number of jurisdictions mainly in the United States. Louis Falk tried to bring together some of these and this led to the creation of the Traditional Anglican Communion. In North America many of the TAC priests were ex-Anglican Communion clergy. I have led to summer schools for two continuing groups in the USA and on both occasions have thought that rather like our clergy they are a mixed lot. Many are of real ability and impressive formation and quite capable of holding their own. John’s great contribution was that he realised that factionalism was the opposite of Catholicism. The divisions amongst continuers were a denial of Catholicism. As a consequence he realised that it was only united with the Holy See that Anglicans of any kind could make sense of their present situation.
The bishops of the TAC met together at St Agatha Portsmouth in 2007 to discuss unity with Rome. As chairman of FIF I was invited and so were two of our regional deans. All the active TAC bishops were present. They accepted the catechism of the Catholic Church as “the most complete and authentic expression and application of the catholic faith at this moment”. In spite of later claims to the contrary there was a serious discussion, and every delegate voted in favour. All the bishops signed a copy of the catechism. Bishop Hepworth, Bishop Robert Mercer (now Mgr.), and Bishop Peter Wilkinson (now Mgr.) then went to Rome to deliver the petition to the CDF.
In March 2010 John invited me to come to a conference with the American bishops which was being held at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Orlando Florida. That significant church and parish are now members of the Ordinariate. All the American bishops were present but foolishly the American church had consecrated two new bishops who didn’t want to surrender their newfound power or hats! One of them was a Freemason and the situation with others was compounded by personal marital complications. There were also two representatives of the 1980 pastoral provision (Anglican use) parishes of the Catholic Church present at this conference. It became obvious that it would not be possible to deliver all of the TAC parishes in the USA.
It was also obvious that some of those who most loudly proclaimed their Catholicism would be the last to become Catholics. We have seen this in England where it’s been apparent that many of those who call themselves Anglican Papalists are the least likely to be reconciled with the Holy See! They are also the most likely to attack those who do become Catholics!
Continuing Anglicanism has never been very large in England and I think I’m right that only five of our clergy (including Msgr Mercer) have come from the TAC. That is not so in America or Australia. I am personally aware of at least 13 continuing congregations and many priests that joined the Ordinariate in the USA, and in Canada there are a number of significant ex-TAC Ordinariate churches. In England we have struggled without our own buildings so is interesting that in North America most communities have managed to establish their own. There are also interesting individuals. For example a Japanese ex Anglican Communion Bishop who had joined the TAC. In Australia the first ordinary, Harry Entwistle had been an Anglican Archdeacon who then became a TAC Bishop. Several of their clergy are ex-TAC as are a considerable number in the USA and Canada.
There is an interesting article on the Anglicanorum Coetibus society website - click here to read it. John was an ex-RC priest. Though I have no means of ascertaining the details it looks as if Fr. John was reconciled to the Catholic Church as a priest on his deathbed. If so I am very grateful and happy for him. May he rest in peace.
Mgr John Broadhurst