In a move that could help bring hundreds of thousands of Anglicans into the Catholic Church, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has recommended that the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) be given a personal prelature if talks between the TAC and the Vatican succeed.
An announcement could be made after Easter this year, according to the northwest Australian Catholic newspaper The Record. Pope Benedict XVI reportedly has taken a personal interest in the matter and has linked the effort at ecclesial union to the Year of St. Paul.
In 2007 the TAC, a global community of about 400,000 members, began to seek full corporate and sacramental communion with the Catholic Church. Its members had split from the Anglican Communion over theological and moral issues such as the ordination of women priests and the episcopal consecrations of women and active homosexuals.
In October 2008 it is believed that the CDF decided not to recommend the creation of an Anglican rite within the Catholic Church similar to the Eastern Catholic Churches.
Rather, any such union would take the juridical form of a personal prelature, which resembles a global diocese headed by its own bishop and possessing its own membership and clergy, The Record reports.
Opus Dei was the first personal prelature in the Church, a development that took decades to achieve.
TAC Primate Archbishop John Hepworth, who is based in Adelaide, Australia, told The Record he has informed the Vatican that he wants to bring all TAC bishops to Rome for the beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman, an Anglican convert to the Catholic Church. The visit would be a show of Anglican-Catholic unity.
There has been no announcement of Cardinal Newman’s beatification, though many consider it likely.
When TAC bishops agreed to seek full union with the Catholic Church in 2007, they signed a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and placed it on the altar of the historic National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk, England.
On October 11, 2007 Archbishop Hepworth and fellow TAC bishops Robert Mercer and Peter Wilkinson presented the signed items to Fr. Augustine Di Noia, OP, the senior ecumenical theologian at the CDF. The meeting had been organized by CDF secretary Archbishop Angelo Amato.
A week prior to the meeting, the TAC bishops also signed a declaration which The Record reports as partly saying:
“We accept that the most complete and authentic expression and application of the Catholic faith in this moment of time is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its Compendium, which we have signed, together with this letter as attesting to the faith we aspire to teach and hold.”One obstacle to the union: most of the TAC bishops are married, but neither the Roman Catholic nor Eastern Catholic churches permit married bishops.