25 January 2015


A day or two ago, I received a card from Fr Stephen Morrison, of the Premonstratensian house in Chelmsford (within my natal county); I had had the great pleasure of getting to know him at the LMS Latin Summer School at Pantasaph last year (have you booked yet for 2015?). So I was very sorry not to have been at his Ordination to the Sacred Priesthood: but when the invitation to it arrived, I had already accepted an invitation to sing Mass and give a lecture at Brompton for CIEL on the ame morning the festival of S Nicolas. The card had a wonderful photograph of Father's First High Mass, of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God. And how that picture sent my memory hurtling back to the first High Mass I witnessed as a schoolby in 1959. I had accidentally strolled into the Church of S Mary 'Mags' in Oxford on the evening of December 8 - I was in Oxford for the Scholarship Examination. The celebrant was the 'legendary' Prebendary R John Hooper; little could I have known that the exquisite liturgy I witnessed was destined to to be 'abolished' within a decade.

The same day that I received Fr Stephen's beautiful card, I watched a video which Fr Ray kindly put on his superb blog: 400 seminarians at the now defunct seminary at Ushaw in 1960. High Mass on that wonderful Last Sunday before Advent ... also within a decade of its extinction. Yes ... I did say 400: 400-plus short-backs-and-sides.

About the same time, an acute reader put this question onto one of my threads: how did it all collapse so quickly? Is there an answer? You may have your answer. Here is my take on it: the very power of that liturgical culture was turned against it by the Evil One. It was so wonderful a rite that one accepted without thought the authority which guaranteed such a system. And when that same authority turned brutally against it ... "Forget all that: this is what the Church tells you to do now" ... there seemed no help for it, no defence.

Or ... with a little help from the convergent teachings of Pope Benedict XVI, Dom Gregory Dix, and Fr Michael Moreton ... a slightly fuller account might go like this.

Throughout Christian history, from the rising of the sun to its setting, the forms of the Liturgy rested on the auctoritas of Tradition; of the centuries which prescribed and graciously sanctified what was being done. That auctoritas was guaranteed, strongly backed up by, the (more transient) human structures of power within the Church, which preserved the Liturgy's integrity and guided its gradual and organic evolution. It was inconceivable that things could be different. Never had it been otherwise. But then, in an evil hour, those same structures did turn against the venerable and stately Roman rite. The inconceivable happened. Tradition, and ecclesiastical authority, seemed, for the very first time in two Catholic millennia, to be set against each other. Bewildered, not knowing where to turn but with great love for the Church and her authority, most of us succumbed, and submitted to one side of this terrible dichotomy.


Anonymous said...

Remember, Father, this was the 1960s-70s. An awful lot of babies were being thrown out with the bathwater in those years, secular as well as religious. We are only now counting the true cost.

You could also go back to the New English Bible, which at the beginning of the '60s, IIRC, replaced the exquisite prose of the KJV/AV with flat, mundane (in every sense of the word)sentences. I grew up with KJV, in school and in church, and I remember the resentment when we were forced to abandon it.

I won't say what I think of the translation presently in use in the Mass; that would be disrespectful. But its rapidly dating colloquialisms do give me a jolt at times.

And as for the years of circular church architecture....Alice Thomas Ellis has some trenchant comments on this.

Joshua said...

And, I fear, much the same is about to be attempted against marriage, not to mention the push to "allow" Communion to those living in sin (which, far from bringing them blessings, will expedite their eating and drinking damnation).

vetusta ecclesia said...

Paul vi told those who were worried or upset to be "docile" and, obedient children, we were. But less so now, having seen how hugely we were taken advantage of.

vetusta ecclesia said...

Paul vi told those who were worried or upset to be "docile" and, obedient children, we were. Less so now having seen how we were taken advantage of.

Unknown said...

The NEB is a more complicated matter. It was first produced - hence its informal style - as an NT for the bedside, better to understand what had been encountered in Church. So many clergy took to using it (illegally) in public worship that, somewhat panicked, the translators introduced a new, more sonorous tone to the OT. Clearly the NT had to be brought into line with the OT and we eventually got the REB. That version seems never to have taken off, though I was given a leather-bound copy of it when I was made a C of E bishop, and when I asked an Oxford Eng. Lit. don about the quality of modern bible prose, he thought the REB as good as any. It all suggests rapid, uncontrolled disintegration.

Catherina of Siena said...

Coming to the RCC from a Dutch Reformed African Church the current state of liturgical music in the NO was the greatest shock and sadness to my old intrinsically catholic soul. It is excruciatingly awful. From which secular dust bins of Protestant sects were these liturgical "songs" resurrected?

My first meeting with Catholicism was around Christmas 1961 in Notre Dame, Paris, during a school tour to the "fountain of civilization: Europe". Every single item of my pastor father's anti-Catholic rants vanished within 10 minutes from my young girl's Calvinist perception fed by Calvinist propaganda. I KNEW, attending that Mass, that my father and all the rest of Protestantism had it somehow very wrong. Why? because I experienced the overlapping and intersection of Heaven and Earth. The Glory of God, of Christ the King (a very Calvinist concept anyhow, but never experienced like THIS before.)

I was just a school kid but I kept longing for this liturgical reality for 50 years!

Then came Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, and I converted. He did not only open up the reasons why I felt as I did in 1961 (a child!) but also why I could really believe in the Christian narrative (which I have lost for 3 decades...)A great theologian and teacher. What a fantastic Christian Pope and Shepherd for anyone with a Protestant background who read too much historical-Jesus "studies" of the wrong kind and lost the Christian faith in the process.

The past 10 years had been the most joyful Christian years of my life because I watched Benedict's NO Masses and, while it was not the same thing I experienced in 1962, it still was wonderful for an old Calvinist.

Then came Pope Francis, and I cancelled my TV-subscription to RAI- International after the first two Masses. Something was wrong and missing, for me at least.

The parish situation is as banal, though actually mostly in terms of the music. Priest can't sing a note, everything is just spoken, as with the present Pope and I now have to go - again -to confession. Stopped going to Mass 8 months ago. No other possibility in the entire country, as far as I have heard. No TLM. Just greyness.

I keep my soul alive by watching videos of Pope Benedict's Papal Masses which I had the foresight (?) to record.

But, of course, this is no way to live as a Catholic. According to Fr Z, this is a mortal sin, not attending Sunday Mass, and I may just open my eyes in Hell if I die tonight.

I am 70 and I can NOT understand what happened in the RCC. The Evil One? It is beginning to sound like it, yes.

Thank you dear Fr Hunwicke for your inspiring and insightful blog. Wish I lived in England near your "abode"!

Schutz said...

Two observations:

1) I agree with Charlesdawson above that we cannot discount the enormous external factors that came to bear upon the Church. Rather than asking "how did it all collapse so quickly", perhaps we should ask "How did it survive at all?". We have no knowledge of whether or not, untouched by the post Vatican II reforms, the liturgical tradition would have survived the '60s any better than it did. We would like to think so, but we can't say for sure.

2) The "terrible dichotomy" of tradition and ecclesiastical authority has not gone away, nor has it been resolved in favour of one or the other. "Docility" was a concept still very much in the thesaurus of Pope Benedict XVI - although he would never have played the two sides of the dichotomy off against one another. 21st Century defenders of the faith must take great care that they find a way to balance commitment to the tradition with obedience and honour to Church authority. How to do that when the two appear to be opposed is a very tricky business. Remember that historically, heresy has been as likely to arise as a result of opposition to what was regarded as "innovation" as it was from innovation itself.

Delia said...

One can't dismiss the influence of Freud & Co. either. All those repressed young males ...

Would be interested on your take on Cardinal Mariaga's comments on the ambitions of this papacy, reported on Rorate Caeli blog. Tradition effectively abolished, it would seem, if I understand him correctly.

Catherine of Siena: sympathies, but please do stick in there! Earplugs and the Rosary?

Fr. Michael LaRue said...

SCEcclesia, may I venture a beginning of an answer, or perhaps a clarification of the question, to the apparent contradiction. One who speaks with authority does so because he knows, or is presumed to know, the truth. The bishops, the pope even, have no authority of their own, they possess only the authority of Christ. He "speaks with authority" because he is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life."

The means whereby authority is by the Deposit of Faith as passed on in the churches by Tradition. An essential element of Tradition is the Sacred Liturgy. When the organic development of the Liturgy is interrupted by the production of an artificial product, then the authority of those who created, enforced, use, or promote this artificial product is of necessity weakened, so it seems to me.

umblepie said...

Dear 'Catherine of Sienna', your comment is so sad, please do not give up. The devil surely tempts us all in different ways, and despair is surely one of the most insidious.
The Saints were all tempted in this way,the life of St Teresa of Avila is recommended to inspire, as are many others. Good books/biographies on the lives of the Saints can be a great help. Many Catholics endure the drastic liturgical changes of Vatican 2, out of necessity, not choice. But things are changing for the better, with the Traditional Mass and liturgy becoming better known and more available. "In human affairs we must be content to do the best we can and then abandon ourselves to Providence, which will heal our human faults and shortcomings"(Blessed Pope Pius IX) God bless.

Dad29 said...

The inconceivable happened.

Similarly, homosexuals are now legally "married" in the USA.


Matthew said...

The REALITY of Sunday Mass in many (most?) RC parish churches in this country on the eve of V2 was of course quite different from that impressive event in Ushaw chapel. Where I was brought up in rural SW England you would have had to travel 40+ miles to the nearest Benedictine monastery or 60+ to the cathedral to witness High Mass on an ordinary Sunday, and in our small-town church a simple Missa Cantata only occurred at Christmas and Easter. On other occasions the necessary formula was gabbled through as quickly as possible, the sole apparent object being to prevent the laity falling into sin by failing to be present at an event they neither understood nor enjoyed. It was known that the obligation could be satisified if you arrived in time for the Gospel and left when the celebrant had received Communion -- and that you didn't need to go at all if you lived more than three miles from the church.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Yes, Matthew: I said basically this (although I tried to be a bit more polite about it) myself on January 14 ... have look.

I am not sure about your claim that there were few Sung Masses. In the RC church in Clacton-on-Sea in Essex , which I knew very well in the 1950s, the main Sunday Mass was Sung, and began with the Asperges and ended with the Prayers for the Monarch.

Matthew said...

Just re-read your 14 Jan post -- well said. Clacton-on-sea is of course a long way from Cullompton; it's not impossible that the papist priest at the former realised that if he didn't keep his liturgical socks well pulled up the local Anglicans could have attracted aesthetically-inclined waverers away from his flock, a danger quite remote at the latter (though the Establishment there possesses a fine building).

Nicolas Bellord said...

Matthew: And how many Missa Cantata's and High Masses do you now enjoy in SW England?

Most Catholics did understand what was happening because they had missals with the Latin on one side and the English on the other. Even if they had not learnt Latin formally at school - and in my day Latin was a requirement for entry to a University so most schools taught it - they probably acquired a bit by following the Mass in their missals.

The fall from 400 to zero is surely the work of the devil but it is incredibly dramatic. I would have thought some sociologists would be only too eager to study such a phenomena.

The fault lies entirely with the clergy; we laity just obeyed. The attitude of the clergy was never explain, never apologise. Even now most of them will not bother to listen to even the most mild inquiry from a member of the laity.

B flat said...

@ Nicholas Bellord.
To blame the priests may be a too sweeping and rather harsh. Does anyone remember clearly what happened at Downham Market during the times of Liturgical change? I think a Parish priest could resist because he was at that time immovable except when convicted for crime. Now there is no security of tenure in any post in the church beyond that given by secular legislation.

I remember one priest in 1967, who himself was deeply troubled by all the changes, saying he felt that we had to endure the deprivations which these innovations entailed, for the sake of the upcoming generation of young people....
As in the Kasperite thesis, the focus of the Church when turned on contemporary man, rather than on God and what He gives us, is a confidence trick of the devil, using a falsification of Charity to destroy from within.

Stephen said...

The inconceivable happened. Why and how did it happen? Here's a theory: Because it was not the first time such an innovation occurred. People don't like to consider the entire filioque issue, but how much different is that innovation, led and orchestrated by the Papacy then, than what you are lamenting now, also led and orchestrated by the Papacy?

And westerners so often wonder why easterners are cautious regarding the Papacy.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

"Led and orchestrated by the Papacy"!!!!!

I enabled this comment for a utilitarian purpose: we Latins are very often sadly ignorant of Oriental realities. But the same can be true the other way round. Apparently there are Eastern Christians (or perhaps Stephen is a sympathiser rather than an Orthodox?) who have been taught, or led to believe, or allowed to assume, that the Filioque was "led and orchestrated by the Papacy".

Truly, the duty to do our very best to cleanse our memories of counter-factual historical myths falls upon all of us!

Nicolas Bellord said...

B Flat: Maybe I have been too harsh but it was certainly not the laity. Maybe the clergy were dupes of Satan but then to be duped by the Devil reveals a certain lack? Of course there have been exceptions and many clergy will express their doubts about what has happened privately. But publicly very few will stand up and be counted. Obedience is a good thing but at times it becomes blind loyalty to a bad cause.

Equally there are still some clergy who seem hell-bent on destroying the Church contemptuously ignoring any protests from the laity.

vetusta ecclesia said...

I agree with Nicolas Bellord - the introduction of the liturgical revolution was a "trahison des clercs" of some magnitude.

GOR said...

I’m always a bit leery when people go on about Solemn High Masses, accenting the provenance of the music (“Missa in X by Y…”), the expertise of the choir, organist, cantors, etc.

One is tempted to ask: “What did you come out to see…?”

Undoubtedly there are good reasons for celebrating Mass with all solemnity and especially on Major Feasts and Solemn Occasions. But the efficacy of the Mass – the Sacrifice of Calvary – is not any less when celebrated in the mud of a battlefield than in the soaring grandeur of a cathedral.

The difference lies in our reaction to it. We may be more ‘uplifted’ by the latter than the former, but is that what is important to us – the accidents rather than the essence? Should this be? For whom am I here?

The same can be said for the NO. Regardless of the rubrical transgressions and obnoxious distractions, if celebrated with valid Matter and Form, it is The Mass – no less efficacious than one celebrated with all solemnity and attention to detail.

The First Mass was celebrated on Calvary - a place of shame and degradation. Should we expect more than our Master?

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Well, Stephen, I think you have an odd view about "led and orchestrated" if it includes resisting something for four centuries and then accepting it with some reluctance.

I don't much like being told what I can't say. I do say that Rome forbids the addition of Filioque to the Creed in the Byzantine Rite Churches in Communion with her, and in the document Dominus Iesus, omits it from the Professio Fidei with which it begins. So claiming that Petrine authority was used to demand "Universal adherence" won't wash, either.

I commend to your attention the Roman document "The Greek and Latin Traditions about the procession of the Holy Spirit". 1995, which explains the radical differences between procedere and ekporeuesthai, which render filioque procedit orthodox in Latin, while kai tou huiou ekporeuesthai would be dubious in Greek because it would appear, at least, to question the monarchia of the Father as the pege theotetos.

I'm afraid I'm having the last word on this!