Until now, I have kept silence on this subject as brought up by Fr Smuts in Statement from the The Traditional Anglican Communion College of Bishops Re: John Hepworth, with the exception of writing a comment on that blog asking about the possibility of having the exact wording of the charges of which the Archbishop was accused.
The comments attached to this posting in Fr Smuts blog are of particular interest, especially from the Roman Catholics like Joshua and Mourad. Mourad is a lawyer and wrote this in his comment:
After all, it is not every day in the life of a Church that a Primate or an Archbishop is deprived of office in formal ecclesiastical judicial proceedings. In Anglican terms, it’s a cataclysmic event. How often has a Primate been deposed in the last 500 years? Still, one expects Anglicans to know how these things ought to be done.Not least in this case because the tribunal was composed of (1) The Most Reverend Samuel P. Prakash, Acting Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion, Metropolitan of the Anglican Church of India, (2) The Rt Reverend Brian D. Marsh, President of the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church in America and (3) the Rt. Rev. Craig R.G. Botterill, Q.C, Acting Metropolitan, Apostolic Administrator (and Lord High Everything Else) of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada.
Not everyone may know the significance of the letters “Q.C.” after Bishop Botterill’s name. They stand for “Queen’s Counsel” – technically “one of Her Majesty’s Counsel learned in the law”. The then Attorney-General and Justice Minister of Nova Scotia recommended Craig Botterill for the appointment in the 1980′s when Botterill was serving as Senior Crown Attorney in the Public Prosecution Service of Nova Scotia. So with such a distinguished lawyer among its number, this particular Tribunal must be taken to have had the ability to proceed with entire propriety – if it wished to. Perhaps it did. But not visibly so.
The statement on the web site does not exactly fill one with any confidence that it did. There is no mention of who were the 8 episcopal complainants. There are no details of where the Tribunal sat or when. There is no publication of a reasoned decision, still less any publication of the evidence put before the Tribunal.
It seems to me that a canonical trial should be a public procedure. There should at least be a publication of the charges and a reasoned conclusion leading to the court’s sentence. All we read is that the Archbishop was found guilty, with a vague reference to the TAC Concordat, and the sentence. Several have made the same observation that the charges leading to the conviction are missing.
Now, I am not going to take a position in all this or express any personal feelings. I have spent a sufficient time without contact with the Archbishop to verify my own independence from any influence he might have had on me. This was important to me as my intuition told me that many things he said to me just didn’t ring right or were actually false, for example the assurances that Rome was going to grant special dispensations for some canonical irregularities or whether Anglicanorum coetibus was about whole churches or just cherry-picked clergy and communities. The facts as they stand are now clear and there is no further discussion. Only time would verify things, since a priest tends to trust his ordinary – a part of ecclesiastical obedience, I principle I believe in. Yet my critical faculties were unimpaired – but I just had to keep quiet and wait. In a way, he did lead us up the garden path. The only question was why and whether he had a mitigating circumstance for telling untruths and lies.
I don’t know why he wasn’t truthful. Bad personality? Psychological problems because of the sex abuse and / or other reasons? Ambition? Being a common crook? I have my theories, but they will probably never be verified. He was kind to me, gave me something like a canonical mission as a priest, a kind of “regularisation” and appeared to be heading a credible church on two counts: he was in dialogue with Rome and some good serious bishops were following him and trusted him as I did.
The events of September 2011 and the Australian press did not impress me, nor has the Peter Slipper affair. If the Archbishop was in good faith, his judgement was appalling. His appearance in a recent video is bizarre and incongruous. On these counts, I am unable to defend him in any way.
The bishops who have now condemned him once trusted him. Perhaps the Archbishop betrayed that trust by not effectively ensuring a “third way” between the growing anti-Roman Catholic tendency and the Ordinariates. I understand bitterness, but it is a passion to overcome to avoid falling into sin. We are Christians!
Now what has happened is unclear. Some are talking of a kangaroo court, a lynching. I have some knowledge of canon law, and the procedures for penal and contentious processes resemble those of the civil law of most western countries. Firstly, a trial – especially a penal one – is public and the charges are made public. Evidence is weighed and reasoned out, and there is a debate between the prosecution and the defence or at least some kind of “devil’s advocate” to verify the honesty and rigour of the reasoning on the basis of evidence. I suppose the trial was in fact a secret one, something like the medieval Inquisition, and this in my mind makes the whole thing suspect. Perhaps more justifying information is on its way. I hope so.
It now looks to me that the TAC bishops and those responsible for this procedure are going to attract adverse public opinion. Like Mourad, I await clarifications about the charges and correct procedure of this trial together with the evidence on which it arrived at its conclusions.