9 July 2022

We didn't do it because it was fun, but, when we did it, it WAS fun!

The first generation of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England emphasised the continuity of the C of E with the medieval English Church. Taking the Prayer Book 'Ornaments Rubric' literally, it strove to make churches - and clergy - look as they would have done in 1548. But in the twentieth century, a new aestheticism led the way to a new self-understanding - and a new appetite for Unity. The baroque could express the assertion that the Church of England was not a survival of the second year of Edward VI but a living part of the Catholic Church of Italy, Spain, and France. Medievalism was left (as Ronald Knox explained) to the 'comparatively moderate party' who asserted 'loyalty' to the C of E by fulminating against 'Roman innovations'. (This was the period when Sir Ninian 'Patrimony' Comper grabbed the best of both those worlds with his motto of 'Unity by inclusion'.)

The Society of SS Peter and Paul was founded in 1911 to articulate this aesthetic and this programme. The mysterious and exotic Fr Maurice Child was its begetter, aided by Mr Samuel Gurney ... that name sounds familiar to you? ... yes ... Sir John Betjeman's verses about the hopes of the triumphalist Anglo-Catholicism of the inter-war years - and its anxieties - "And has Sam Gurney poped?" (He never did.)

Its provocative humour was that of the young curates who multiplied like rabbits in the clergy-houses of Anglo-Catholic England. So the SSPP announced itself as "Publishers to the Church of England". It sold "Lambeth Frankincense" and, never inclined to take prisoners, advertised "Latimer and Ridley Votive-candle stands". Child borrowed a church near Regent Street for High Mass on the Feast of SS Peter and Paul, and publicised it widely: "members of the Order need not wear their insignia". A large and inquisitive congregation turned up.

There was, and still is, a distinctive genre of Anglo-Catholic humour very different from the jocosity of RC presbyteries. One thinks of the cutting satiric wit of S John Henry Newman; the comic verse of Betjeman, Farmer, Mascall, Stephenson. 

Come to think of it, that humour, with its bite and irreverence, is what made us so disliked by other Anglicans. They wouldn't have cared what we said if we had been sad, grumpy and moribund; that would just have inclined them to condescend to us. What they found hard to take was that we laughed; and that we laughed at them, the high Protestants, the Lords of the Earth (as S John Henry Newman's irony described them). One could almost hear them murmuring in their episcopal palaces, and in their London clubs "It's the tone that is so objectionable".

As I've written before, if anyone criticises your tone, you know you've got something right.

Ah, the tone of the Patrimony. 

It is my working assumption that this is ... again ... how repetitive Clio seems to be getting ... the basic and gut feeling why the old grumps who flourish in high places in this Bergoglian era, so hate traddidom.

Any good bits above are plagiarised from Waugh's biography of Knox.


Deimater said...

This is drawn from the Wikipedia entry on the mysterious and exotic Fr Child: « A well known socialite, he was nicknamed by clerical colleagues the "Playboy of the Western Church". He died in 1950 after falling down the stairs at a friend's dinner party. »

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

Speaking of Pius XII, I was looking for Letters by Tolkien the other day.

I only found 2013 edition, French Translation, Lettres, 2013, and in it I was unable to localise even Letter 89 in which he wrote on a Lourdes Miracle. It was on pages 99 - 100 in Letters, when it was available in English in the libraries of Paris.

But even worse, I was unable to localise the letter in which he expressed some "soulagement" at having the papacy sort things out, like giving the permission and limit to accept Adam's body evolved and God created, obviously de novo, a spiritual soul which did not evolve.

I was looking into this as part of the reception of Humani Generis - would you be able to localise and give the actual quote?

J N said...

There is also the humorous verse of Fr S J Forrest. He produced short volumes of verse such as "The Parson's Play-pen" and "Our Man at St Withits". He published in the 1960s.

Here is an example of his wit.

"Cast out utterly the image of the Anglo-Catholic Coelacanth. Let us instead emulate the axolotl." - preacher at Church Union Congress

The doughty Father Coelacanth
Who sleeps in his biretta,
Still follows ancient Fortescue
Precisely to the letter;
He stands amid the storms of change
Which round him surge and jostle,
Rejoicing in his stubborn pride ,
To be a living fossil.

"The sticks and stones of ancient foes,
Of protestant and prelate,
Have immunized my toughened hide
To bullet, dart and pellet;
Thus, having beaten enemies
Who sought to choke or throttle,
Why should I strive to emulate
The stupid axolotl?

"This larval, salamander-thing,
With features quite atrocious,
Is noted by biologists
As sexually precocious;
And yet, I cannot really think,
Within the Church's borders,
This overrated attribute
Is what the doctor orders!

"May be the creature's trend to change,
And drastic transformation,
Should rouse the turgid mind to life
And claim our imitation;
Yet, having shed excrescences,
Without undue resistance,
The axolotl settles down
To unrelieved existence.

"And though of metamorphosis
You'll find me no apostle
At least I make an honest claim
To be a living fossil;
Mid ammonites and trilobites
The cryptogams and corals,
I manifest vitality,
Theology and morals.

"Though isolated I may be,
My inward soul is merry,
To shelter neath the kindly shade
Of Coelacanterbury;
I stand unbowed and unabashed,
Upon my age-old mettle,
And may all axolotls fry
In Popocatapetl!"


Old Mrs. G., a lady of benevolent design,
Believing that the vicar's wife with loneliness would pine,
Attended at the parsonage, intending to convey
Some words of kind encouragement to help her on the way.

"It must be very difficult, your husband being new,
Parishioners are critical and often misconstrue;
So, now I would assure you that you have a willing friend,
Who'll always try to sympathise, and even to defend.

"I've been in angry argument with people who deplore
Your husband doesn't measure to the men who went before;
But speedily I championed the vicar's cause with zest,
Explaining that a parish cannot always have the best.

"They murmured that he doesn't work more than a single day,
A quite outrageous charge that I was quick to slay:
The vicar is exceptional as anyone can tell,
He works not merely Sundays but on festivals as well.

"Your house, they say, is upside down and filthy dirty too.
I tell them that a vicar's wife has better work to do;
For, if we have a vicar's wife with higher things to learn,
We know domestic science isn't really her concern.

The vicarage, they gossip, is a scene of daily strife;
The parson's always bickering and badly treats his wife.
I parry with the confidence of one who really knows,
And tell them that I hardly ever see you come to blows.

"Oh yes, I shall support you and your hubby to the end,
And you will then appreciate a truly loyal friend.
They say, these village malcontents, who criticize and quiz,
'He isn't even half a man,' but I affirm he is!"