26 February 2017

Ultra-Catholics and moustachioed Jesuit 'generals'

The Reverend Professor Canon Dr Eric Mascall, a distinguished theologian (and mathematician), was for some years the unofficial House Theologian of 'Anglo-Catholicism'. In these comic verses he portrays the extremest of the extreme in that movement. But don't be too deceived; when Mascall was not on the Christ Church Cathedral weekday Mass rota, he himself said a private Tridentine Mass in Mags. Unlike a certain sort of High Churchman, who tinkered with both Western and Eastern practices or Dearmerised with Sarumidippity, Mascall was in no doubt that he was a Latin Catholic. He was a Thomist, too, so they would have liked him at Econe. They would have liked him anyway.

This post originally appeared in 2014; I draw Mascall to your attention again as an important theological figure whose time has now come: for three reasons:
(1) Bishop Schneider has recently drawn attention to the significance of (the sometimes long) Papal Interregna. Mascall wrote incisively about the theological implications of this phenomenon.
(2) Mascall also faced up to the possibility of popes acting ultra vires ... a highly topical question during this pontificate.
(3) When Mascall wrote the following verses, Evangelical clergy very commonly wore moustaches. The new "General" of the "Society of Jesus" has delightfully revived this dear old Anglican badge of heterodoxy and heteropraxis and rabid Anti-Catholicism. God bless him for his honest sincerity!

I am an Ultra-Catholic - No 'Anglo-'*, I beseech you!
You'll find no heresy in anything I teach you.
The clergyman across the road has whiskers and a bowler,
But I wear buckles on my shoes and sport a Feriola.

My alb is edged with deepest lace, spread over rich black satin;
The psalms of Dahvid I recite in heaven's own native Latin,
And, though I don't quite understand those awkward moods and tenses,
My ordo recitandi's strict Westmonasteriensis.

I teach the children in my school the Penny Catechism,
Explaining how the C of E's in heresy and schism.
The truths of Trent and Vatican I bate not one iota.
I have not met the rural Dean. I do not pay my quota.

The Bishop's put me under his 'profoundest disapproval'
And, though he cannot bring about my actual removal,
He will not come and visit me or take my confirmations.
Colonial prelates I employ from far-off mission-stations.

The music we perform at Mass is Verdi and Scarlatti.
Assorted females form the choir; I wish they weren't so catty.
Two flutes, a fiddle and a harp assist them in the gallery.
The organist left years ago, and so we save his salary.

We've started a 'Sodality of John of San Fagondez,'
Consisting of the five young men who serve High Mass on Sundays;
And though they simply will not come to weekday Mass at seven,
They turn out looking wonderful on Sundays at eleven.

The Holy Father I extol in fervid perorations,
The Cardinals in curia, the Sacred Congregations;
And, though I've not submitted yet, as all my friends expected,
I should have gone last Tuesday week, had not my wife objected.
*Such clerics did not in fact describe themselves as Ultra-Catholics; simply as Catholics. They did eschew 'Anglo-' because, rightly, they saw it as implying a modified form of Catholicism. (Outsiders, missing these nuances, did speak of them as 'Anglo-Catholic'.) They hated being called High Churchmen; historically they were again right, because this term preceded the Oxford Movement and didn't necessarily at all imply 'advanced' ceremonial or an addiction to the Bishop of Rome (but often a 'high' view of the C of E over against all forms of Dissent or Whiggery). Laypeople, however, generally used 'High' to describe any usage with which they were themselves unfamiliar. ( I was once accused of being 'High Church' because, for State Mattins, I wore 'preaching bands' with my surplice, scarf and MA hood ... their usual officiant didn't wear bands.)


Faithful Crocker said...

I once had a copy of Mascall's 'Pi in the High', in which this appeared. Another went, I think:
The common
or domestic cat
Is sometimes thin
and sometimes fat
And though the fat ones are quite nice
The thin ones are the best for mice

√Čamonn said...

I read somewhere that Mascall once penned a limerick that began "An acolyte there was of Dun Leary..." Is there any truth to this? I'd be delighted if my home town had been so honoured...

Fr John Hunwicke said...

There was an old priest of Dun Laoghaire,
Who stood on his head for the Kaoghaire.
When people asked why,
He explained it all by
The latest liturgical thaoghaire

Sue Sims said...

One is reminded of the young curate of Salisbury
Whose manners were quite halisbury-scalisbury:
He ran around Hampshire
Without any pampshire
Till his vicar compelled him to walisbury.

Jacobi said...

I like the bit about the "Penny Cathechism".

Increasingly, I think that is the answer to all our problems.

ps, and I have a certain sympathy with him regarding the last line!

John Lamb said...

Well of course Anglo-Catholicism IS a modified form of Catholicism, one where, just as the poem says, submission to the wife is higher than submission to the Vicar of Christ.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Dear Ms Lash

I should clarify: When I said that Mascall celebrated the Tridentine Rite, I meant that, in Mags, he celebrated it in its English Missal form, not that he said it in Latin. I'm sorry that I was unclear. In the Cathedral, I presume he said 1662; I never witnessed it. Whether he interpolated the Latin Canon silently when he said 1662, as Henry Liddon did entirely from memory, I wouldn't know. I never saw him celebrate in Bourne Street.

About the interim rite he said that 'under many conditions it is probably as good an expedient as can be found ... but I think one need only compare the interim rite with the classical canons of Christendom to see how very inadequate it is. For, where they are concerned with making eucharist to God, it is almost entirely preoccupied with the worshippers."

Little Black Sambo said...

Not higher, but prior.

Fr Ray Blake said...

You might be amused.

Auriel Ragmon said...

Not many of those old angloes left now. I'm 81 and can still remember a few in the left coast of the US. Those were the days!
Rdr. James Morgan, now Orthodox in
Olympia WA