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11 - Conclusion: From St. Louis to Rome.

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

Coat of Arms of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham established , January 1, 2011

Chapter XVI


Seeking Communion

With The Roman Catholic Church

In 1991, the TAC leadership met with the “Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity,” [1] (PCPCU) in Rome. Prior to this meeting an Australian member of “the TAC contacted another Australian, Cardinal Edward Cassidy” [2] head of the PCPCU. The Cardinal’s office then proposed that Traditional Anglican Communion Bishop’s Robert Crawley, John Hepworth, Anthony Clavier, and Wellborn Hudson meet with Archbishop Pierre Dupres at a Pontifical conference in Rome. Dupres had been the Roman Catholic point man for the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) [3] talks with the Anglican Communion.

The Church leaders met informally all day. The meeting was friendly and the Council gave the fledgling TAC some “advice” [4] on how to improve its chances of obtaining “closer communion with the Holy See.” [5] The PCPCU suggested that the Traditional Anglican Communion should work on becoming a larger ecclesiastical community, as well as making its clergy education more compatible with that of the Roman Catholic Church.

Twenty-five years earlier, in 1966, the Archbishop of Canterbury “Michael Ramsey and Pope Paul VI” [6] began the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission by sharing in a document known as the Common Declaration, which launched discussions on the possibility of unity between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church. However, problems arose with ARCIC over the issue of women’s ordination. Pope Paul cautioned Archbishop Ramsey, telling him that this matter was an obstacle to unity. Anglo-Catholics from within the Anglican Communion had put a lot of energy and hope in the process which could lead to organic unity with the Catholic Church.

After the 1992 Church of England General Synod voted to institute women priests, Pope John Paul II (1920-2005) informed the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie (1911-2000) that he would consider looking at the validity of Anglican orders if the C of E halted its movement toward ordaining women. Canterbury never responded and it appeared to some that Runcie had “snubbed the pope.” [7]

So it is at this point that the Traditional Anglican Communion decided to continue pursuing the ARCIC process. Simply stated, the TAC took upon itself “the continuation of the relationship between Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism.” [8] For the TAC, the Congress of St. Louis was an essential part of the catholic ecclesiastical movement in the West and its desire “to discern truth in communion with the See of Peter.” [9] The Traditional Anglican Communion was determined to take up the baton which had been dropped by the Anglican Communion.

There were three reasons why the TAC was determined to continue the process. First, the impediment of women’s ordination does not exist within this Communion. Second, since the Anglican Communion is in a state of disintegration, the TAC does not want to be "a church on the loose." [10] And third, keeping the catholic faith requires people to be in communion with each other and not separated from the life of the Church.

“Unity is not an option. Jesus commanded it.” [11] This revived process was reinforced by the Traditional Anglican Communion’s foundational document, the ‘Affirmation of St. Louis,’ which was created “to affirm the catholic truths about the sacraments and other basic catholic doctrines.” [12]

After years of planning, preparation and following the advice of the PCPCU, the TAC College of Bishops were prepared to return to Rome. They kept contact with the Catholic hierarchy and, coincidentally, at the time of Pope John Paul II death in 2005, they were in Rome meeting with Monsignor Charles Brown of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF). The CDF is the Catholic Church’s dicastery or department which is assigned to receive applications for ‘corporate reunion’ from churches that are not in communion with the Holy See. In April of 2007, Traditional Anglican Communion Primate, Archbishop John Hepworth personally wrote to Pope Benedict XVI “indicating that the TAC planned a meeting of its world bishops, where it was anticipated they would unanimously agree to sign the Catechism of the Catholic Church and to seek full union with the Catholic Church.” [13]

The Traditional Anglican Communion held their plenary session October 6-8, 2007 in Portsmouth, England and, as promised, agreed to send a letter to Rome “seeking full, corporate and sacramental union” [14] with the Holy See. During a votive Mass for unity, in the “Church of St. Agatha,” [15] where the plenary meeting had concluded, the letter was “solemnly signed by the Bishops and Vicars General of the Traditional Anglican Communion.” [16] Each signatory walked up to the altar and signed the letter, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its compendium.

On Tuesday, October 9th, 2007, Archbishop John Hepworth, Bishop’s “Robert Mercer and Peter Wilkinson” [17] went directly to the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in Rome with the letter. They gave it “personally to Fr Augustine Di Noia OP, the CDF's senior ecumenical theologian, on October 11, 2007, in a meeting organised by CDF secretary Archbishop Angelo Amato.” [18] Within the letter, the Traditional Anglican Communion offered no pre-conditions for unity. They simply wanted to know how to “proceed.” [19] As mentioned, in an act of fidelity, the bishops all signed the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). For the TAC, the CCC is the “most complete and authentic expression and application of the Catholic Faith.” [20] They also signed the compendium of the CCC to show that it is the catholic faith that they “desire to hold and teach.” [21]

The reason for unity talks with the Holy See is because the Traditional Anglican Communion accepts the “ministry” [22] of the Bishop of Rome as the “successor of Peter...who is both a “perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity.” [23] The TAC reasoned that in Pope Benedict XVI, a known friend of traditional Anglicanism, they could request “communion with the Holy See without losing (their) Anglican heritage and identity.” [24]


The Holy See’s Response

On October 20th, 2009, the Vatican responded when Cardinal William Joseph Levada (1936-2019), prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia O.P. (1943-), secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, met at the Holy See Press Office with journalists and presented a note on a new measure concerning Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans entering the Catholic Church. The English-language note, published by the CDF, explained that an ‘Apostolic Constitution’ or ‘Papal Decree’ was being prepared as a response to the many requests being submitted to the Holy See from Anglican groups throughout the world wishing to enter into full visible communion.

At the very same time in London, England, Catholic Archbishop Vincent Gerard Nichols (1945-) of Westminster and Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams (1950-) of Canterbury affirmed the Apostolic Constitution and declared that the establishment of Personal Ordinariates would bring “to an end a period of uncertainty for such groups who have nurtured hopes of new ways of embracing unity with the Catholic Church.” [25] Through the Personal Ordinariates, the Anglican rite will join the Roman rite and become one of over “twenty rites in communion with the Holy See.” [26]

The Apostolic Constitution, released on November 9th, 2009, introduced a canonical structure which would provide corporate reunion through the establishment of entities known as ‘Personal Ordinariates’. These Ordinariates are “personal” because they do not have geographic boundaries as in the case of dioceses. Personal Ordinariates would “allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony. Under the terms of the Apostolic Constitution, pastoral oversight and guidance will be provided for groups of former Anglicans through a Personal Ordinariate, whose Ordinary will usually be appointed from among former Anglican clergy.” [27]

The Ordinariate will have married former Anglican clergy conditionally ordained as Catholic clergy. In line with Catholic and Orthodox tradition and for historical and ecumenical reasons, the ordination of married men as bishops would be prohibited. The Ordinary can be either a priest or an unmarried bishop and the seminarians are to be prepared alongside other Catholic seminarians, “though the Ordinariate may establish a house of formation to address the particular needs of formation in the Anglican patrimony.” [28]

After a “period of discernment” [29] and a promise to discuss the Holy See’s response to “all the general synods of the national churches around the world,”[30]the TAC is prepared to enter into full sacramental communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

The Traditional Anglican Communion picked up where the Canterbury Communion left off with regard to inter-communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Fortunately, personal relationships had developed with the Roman Catholic leadership. One of them was between the then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and Bishops Peter Wilkinson and Robert Mercer. Because of this personal trust and the weight of the ‘Affirmation of St. Louis,’ today, internationally, Anglican Catholics have a voice and a place within the Catholic milieu.

Through the Traditional Anglican Communion, Anglican Catholics found fellowship worldwide. They discovered Anglican-minded Catholics who shared a love for their Anglican tradition, especially in the way they expressed their faith through the Book of Common Prayer and the Anglican Missal. The importance of what the Traditional Anglican Communion is doing cannot be understated. The TAC is attempting to keep the ‘Anglican expression of the Catholic faith’ alive for generations to come. The alternative is continued fragmentation amongst Anglican-minded Catholics.

Coat of Arms of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter established , January 1, 2012

[1] Virtue Online, Traditional Anglican Communion Primate Seeks Union with Rome. Interview by David Virtue with the Most Reverend John Hepworth, Philadelphia, PA, August 12th, 2008. [2] Falk [3] * The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) is an organization which seeks to make ecumenical progress between the Catholic Church and Anglican Communion. The sponsors are the Anglican Consultative Council and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (formerly the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity). [4] Virtue [5] The Right Reverend Peter D. Wilkinson, Anglican Catholic Church of Canada Ad Clerum RE: - Ad Clerum re: Introduction to a letter of the Primate regarding unity with Rome (including Primate's Letter), November 29th, 2005, [6] The Right Reverend Peter D. Wilkinson, Anglican Catholic Church of Canada Ad Clerum Re: TAC Letter to Rome October 10th, 2007, [7] Falk [8] ibid [9] Virtue [10] Wilkinson November 29th, 2005 [11] ibid [12] Virtue [13] Damian Thompson The Telegraph, Traditional Anglicans 'to be offered personal prelature by Pope',, London, UK, January 29th, 2009 [14] Hepworth [15] Thompson * Church of St. Agatha is one of the most historical Anglican and Catholic Marian shrines in the UK. [16] Hepworth [17] ibid * Bishop Robert Mercer is a monk of the famous Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield, England. He was also Anglican Bishop of Matabeleland in Zimbabwe. Pope John Paul II once attended Evensong in his Cathedral. He was also the third Diocesan Bishop of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada from 1989 until 2005. Bishop Peter Wilkinson is the current and fourth Diocesan Bishop of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada. As mentioned, he established the first Continuing Anglican church in Canada. Bishop Wilkinson has corresponded with then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI about the content of a revived Anglican Divine Office. [18] Thompson [19] Anglican Church in America, House of Bishops, Facts Regarding the TAC’s Request for “Unity with Rome,” June, 2008, index.htm [20] Hepworth [21] Virtue [22] ibid [23] Hepworth [24] Anglican Church in America, House of Bishops, Facts Regarding the TAC’s Request for “Unity with Rome,” June, 2008, index.htm [25] Joint statement: Archbishops of Westminster and Canterbury, London, October 20th, 2009. [26] Anglican Church in America, House of Bishops, Facts Regarding the TAC’s Request for “Unity with Rome,” June, 2008, index.htm * There are many catholic traditions and cultures, such as Maronite Catholics, Greek Catholics, etc, etc; so why not Anglo-Catholics? [27] Note of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans entering the Catholic Church. [28] ibid [29]Anglican Church in America, House of Bishops, Facts Regarding the TAC’s Request for “Unity with Rome,” June, 2008, index.htm [30] ibid

This article was taken from the Doctoral thesis Recognizing Anglican Catholic Identity: An Historical Review of the Anglican Catholic Movement, the Affirmation of St. Louis and the Traditional Anglican Communion, which has been added to the database for scholarly works by Acadia University. For anyone interested in the complete thesis, it can be found at:

© Dr. Charles Warner 2010

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