Without having seen the request from the Traditional Anglican Communion for full communion with the Catholic Church, or the request from three Irish parishes for full communion, I am not completely sure whether they are actually all seeking to become Catholic or whether they are just requesting to be admitted to the Eucharist in Catholic parishes, with Catholics to be admitted to the Eucharist in theirs. Several groups of traditional Anglicans have recently begun admitting each other to the Eucharist, declaring themselves to be in full communion with each other, while still maintaining their separate dioceses and separate hierarchical structures. Their hope is that it will lead to full unity in the future.
The requests have attracted attention from first rate Catholic news media and bloggers, so here is a round-up of articles and posts about the requests, together with links to some possibly related web pages to set it all in an Anglican context. I think the Irish petitions may well be straightforward petitions to be accepted as Catholic parishes, while I am less sure how to construe the TAC request.
The Irish Parishes' Petition:
Updated 10/29: An article in the Belfast Telegraph questions who the three parishes are, mentions that there are only a total of about 30 people in 3 traditional rite parishes in Ireland, and a spokesman denies any knowledge of a petition for union with Rome.
On a related note, an Irish Anglican Bishop's Wife recently converted to Roman Catholic with the support of her family:
The Traditional Anglican Communion's Petition:
Living Church Foundation (Conservative Anglican news) with comments at Anglican blog TitusOneNine -- Of particular importance at TitusOneNine are the comments by William Tighe, who is a very knowledgeable traditional Anglican priest, and also the comment by Larry Morse. The history of the "TAC" (Traditional Anglican Communion) efforts to dialogue with Rome go back to 1995, as he mentions. William Tighe also mentions efforts earlier this year by the Anglican Catholic Church (another traditional Anglican body) to approach Catholic officials about dialogue. There is more on the Anglican Catholic Church below.
The Traditional Anglican Context:
TitusOneNine 9/27/05 post about an effort two years ago by the "TAC" to obtain full communion with Rome. The original article linked in the post is no longer online, but the Anglican blog post portion of it is there with 20 comments, including one by William Tighe similar to one of his comments on the recent article.
Timesonline article from 4/24/05 quotes the TAC's Archbishop Hepworth as saying:
“We are looking at a church which would retain an Anglican liturgy, Anglican spirituality and a married clergy,” said Hepworth, a serving Anglican bishop in Adelaide, Australia. “We dream of this happening soon.” One such community exists in America but so far there are only 14 parishes."
The U.S. "community" he mentions is the group of Anglican Use parishes that are former Anglican parishes that have become Roman Catholic. I am not sure if Anglican parishes elsewhere have the opportunity to become Anglican Use parishes with an Anglican Rite within the Catholic Church. In any event, although married Anglican clergy can become Catholic clergy through the Pastoral Provision, either as Anglican Use clergy or as regular diocesan priests, that does not allow the ordination of married clergy other than converts to the Catholic faith who were previously ordained as Anglicans. Not all Anglican priests who have become Catholic have become Anglican Use priests. Others have gone into academic work or have become Catholic priests at parishes with no Anglican background.
Aidan Nichols, OP, wrote a paper "On an Anglican Uniate," partly quoted and linked for download at TitusOneNine (May 2005) about the possibility of the Catholic Church setting up a somewhat independent body for Anglicans returning to the Catholic Church which would allow them to keep some of their Anglican identity and heirarchy while becoming fully a part of the Catholic Church in full communion with the Pope and accepting papal authority.
A pact for full communion between the Anglican Catholic Church ("ACC") and another traditional Anglican body called the United Episcopal Church is discussed in this article from May 2007. There have been several similar agreements among traditional Anglican bodies. A statement about the importance of church unity from ACC primate Archbishop Mark Haverland is posted on its website.
Mark Haverland's predecessor as primate of the Anglican Catholic Church is the highly respected Brother John-Charles Vockler, who has also issued a statement on church unity. Archbishop/Brother John-Charles was an Anglican bishop who long ago resigned his Anglican Communion bishopric to become an Anglican Franciscan brother. His autobiography from that era was published and can be found readily in used copies. He later left the Anglican Communion for the Anglican Catholic Church ("ACC"), remaining head of an Anglican Franciscan order. He eventually became the ACC's primate, retiring when health and age made it impossible for him to continue the duties. He continued to teach on meditation and contemplative prayer as long as he was able, and he still encourages traditional Anglicans toward unity with each other.
Archbishop Hepworth and the TAC sought full communion with the ACC earlier this year, and the ACC's Archbishop Haverland's response of 8/22/07 is posted on the ACC website. Haverland's letter will set in context the concept of "full communion" among traditional Anglican bodies. That letter also mentions full communion between the ACC and another traditional Anglican body called the Province of Christ the King, and mentions other traditional Anglican bodies with which the ACC is not in full communion. As to the TAC's discussions with, and about, the Catholic Church, Archbishop Haverland's response reflects the history of several years leading up to the recent TAC announcement:
"A great deal of confusing information and many doubtful claims have circulated within the last three years concerning the TAC and the Roman Catholic Church. Careful attention to all press reports and official statements on the matter have not resolved the confusion in our minds. We do not understand if the TAC seeks to become a part of the Roman Catholic Church, whether as a Uniate Church or merely a personal prelature, if it seeks a relationship of full communio in sacris with Rome without any organic and organizational unity, or if it seeks some other goal.
"Again, this matter has important ecclesiology implications which need to be clarified if fruitful dialogue with the ACC is to occur. It is not for the ACC to dictate the TAC’s policy towards Rome. But there is little point in the ACC talking to the TAC if the TAC merely seeks to become absorbed into the Roman Catholic Church."
The uncertainty mentioned in that August 2007 response still remains, as the content of the recent TAC letter to the CDF was not disclosed. There is hope always for true unity, which would mean that the people involved would all become fully Catholic, and would accept whatever changes in their lives that may entail. The natural fear is that the TAC may gain credibility in opposition to the Anglican Communion, and in opposition to its fellow traditional Anglican bodies, for its statements that it is in dialogue with the Catholic Church, possibly without any intention of truly becoming Roman Catholic. It just isn't clear.
In the U.K., there have been Anglican parishes in the past that have become Catholic. The Irish parishes mentioned here may simply be 3 parishes seeking that. Thus, it may not be correct to lump them together with the TAC petition. However, the article in the Belfast Telegraph suggests that the two are related and that we know too little about the intention to judge whether anyone involved really wants to be in full communion with the Pope. However, only time will tell.