10 January 2016

Mutually enriched corruption

My friend Professor William Tighe has very kindly sent me photocopies of letters including one written in 1985, from Fr Michael Moreton to himself.

Sadly, many Roman Catholics will not recognise the name Michael Moreton. He was one of our really great Anglican Catholic liturgical scholars; he wrote a paper Eis Anatolas Blepsate, one of the first (it was read at the Oxford Patristic Conference of 1982) academic papers to blow out of the water the old consensus that in the 'primitive Church' the celebrant faced the people. In fact, this letter enclosed a copy of that paper which Prebendary Moreton was sending to Professor Tighe.

I will give you just a snippet. [You may need to know that ASB means the Church of England's Alternative Service Book of 1980, in which the C of E slavishly followed the Latin Church in introducing a plurality of Eucharistic Prayers instead of the single Prayer to which worshippers were accustomed; and, moreover, included in that plurality ...Yes!! ... a Prayer based on the same dodgy pseudo-Hippolytan formula which Bouyer and Botte had used as the basis of the deplorable Prayer they confected on that infamous evening at a never-to-be-forgiven trattoria among the ... er ... distractions of the Trastevere.] This is what Fr Michael wrote:

"The liturgical situation in the Church of England gets worse and worse. The ASB is established everywhere, with [Anglican] Catholics not really wanting to know the evidence for doctrinal decline that is contained in the text, and solacing themselves with the westward facing altar, the kiss of peace and the offertory procession and lay readers of the lessons, as though these things validate all. Female servers are already there very often. Female deacons will come. There is a degree of plausibility at every stage. But collectively it all means a breach with tradition - and tradition is the ultimate authority in the Church."

(I hasten to explain that when the learned Prebendary wrote "established everywhere", he did not include the exquisite little medieval church of St Mary Steps in Exeter, which he continued to look after until he died at an advanced age in September a couple of years ago, and where the Roman Canon ... which he loved and considered to rest upon the same authoritative Patristic consensus as the Canon of Scripture, the Creeds, and the three-fold Ministry ... continued in invariable use. When my own erudite predecessor at S Thomas's Dr Trevor Jalland was buried in the Churchyard, Prebendary Moreton, who said the Requiem, used the Roman Canon and justified himself to critics thus: "He was a Patristics scholar, so I gave him a Patristic Prayer".)


I think I can leave it to you to dream up implications and to draw conclusions.

7 comments:

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

The revolution within the form of Catholicism was actualised and completed by "experts"whose narcissism rose higher than the Space Station but it is quite sad to read Pope Paul VI's reaction to Fr Bouyer quitting a Commission because the Pope considered him an expert every bit as accomplished as Bugnini (brought on board by Pope Pius XII).

It really was a wonder to behold how the Roman Rite was destroyed in that Tradition was eviscerated by the sharpened and enlightened intellects of the putatively smartest and holiest men the One True Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church has ever produced.

Now, that last remark may read as aught but an unsustainable charge by a cranky autodidact but that his what was claimed by Pope Paul VI during a speech at the Second Vatican Council.

Dear Father, thank you for all that you do.. You are a wonderful resource and a delight to read.

neilmac said...

Father, do you have a copy of Michael Moreton's paper which destroyed the argument that the celebrant faced the people in the primitive church? I should very much like to read it, and perhaps pass it on to our parish priest who seems to believe that such a westward position was usual in the primitive church. I do have Gamber's book.

Many thanks

Neil Mackenzie

Fr John Hunwicke said...

'Fraid I don't. I read it in Bodley. I didn't even make a photocopy. Sorry.

A man called Lara wrote an article on the subject in the Collegeville journal Worship, 1994, Vol 68, Number 3, pages 210-221. Your pastor might be all the more impressed, considering what a hotbed of liberalism Collegeville is!

William Tighe said...


Lara's article, which I recently had occasion to reread (before sending it on to a friend) for the first time since 1994, seems to reflect a desire on the part of its author to relativize the importance of the celebrant facing ad orientem, but the evidence which he adduces is rather much too weak effectively to support this aim (if aim it is), so in the end his article (which contains interesting information about early Spanish churches) seems to content itself with arguing that "other considerations than mere east-facing are important, too."

I have a vague recollection that Cyril Pocknee, in his *The Christian Altar,* published in 1963, expressed strong scepticism towards the contention that the celebrant faced the people in the "Early Church." (A few minutes later:) Indeed, he does; I just pulled down my copy from the bookshelves, and a quick perusal of its Ch. 5, "Orientation at Prayer and the Position of the Celebrant at the Altar" (pp. 88-100) demonstrates that I had forgotten the vehemence of Pocknee's rejection of this contention, and the amount of evidence, from Syria, North Africa, and Rome which he adduces (much as Prebendary Moreton later did) in support of his views.

Matthew said...

On the half dozen or so occasions I attended the Sunday Mass at St Mary Steps between the late 1960s and late 1980s the rite followed (including the eucharistic prayer) was that of "Series One". Of course Fr Moreton may have done something different on weekdays.

Robin said...

I believe the essay to which reference is made was called 'Orientation as a liturgical principle' and was published by the Studia Liturgica or similar. I have a copy somewhere. On a related point does anyone know what happened to the manuscript of Fr Moreton's book on the history of the eucharist and entitled something like 'From Jerusalem to Antioch' which was submitted to a well-known religious publisher but rejected?
Robin Davies

neilmac said...

Thank you, Robin