28 October 2017

Dear Bishop Roche

My dear Lord Bishop

There are credible report on the Internet that you are chairing a group commissioned by our Holy Father to draft a form of the Holy Eucharist which could be used by Catholics and Protestants (and Orthodox and Copts etc. etc. etc., I take it?). Accordingly, I thought you might find it helpful if I shared with you the experience of the Church of England, which I witnessed for more than fifty years. As you will know, that body is an uneasy coalition of every known version of Christianity from the Tridentine to the Zwinglian, and so it has had much experience in the last century of attempting to square this particular circle.

The game started, substantially, in 1927/8. A form of Eucharist was devised which was intended to be acceptable to nearly all tendencies within the Provinces of Canterbury and York. It was turned down by Parliament, but the bishops made it clear that since it had been given the approval of the Church, they would permit its use, and would make to cease all liturgical practices which "went beyond 1928" (they meant the liturgical life of papalist Anglo-Catholics who used the full Roman Rite in either Latin or English). Notwithstanding this episcopal encouragement, "1928" attracted very little use, and after 1945, the situation had dramatically changed. In particular, a Dom Gregory Dix had published an enormously influential book, The Shape of the Liturgy, which transformed our attitudes to Liturgy. If "1928" enjoyed a fitful and spluttering half-life in a few 1930s churches, for, let us say, about 15 years, it was certainly a dead letter after the War.

My dear lord Bishop: we both know that Liturgy is a subject in which fashions, both academic and cultural, do change with some rapidity. Like me, you have only one life on this planet; are you really sure you wish to devote very much of it to confecting a Liturgy which in a couple of decades will be a laughing stock, as "1928" was in the 1940s? Surely there are more useful ways an intelligent man can spend his time ... fly-fishing ... the Times Crossword ...

Since the late 1960s, English Anglicans have resumed the game of composing liturgies. The process has been bedevilled by the unwillingness of Conservative Evangelicals to allow any texts to be authorised which they consider unbiblical. It is not that anybody has ever wished to force them to use any liturgical forms to which they themselves objected; it was a matter of other people having the permission to use various alternatives. Your lordship could peruse the lengthy published debates of the English General Synod. Or perhaps there is a less time-consuming process you could use. Let me ... I hope, helpfully ... explain the background.

Evangelicals used to claim to be the authentic voice of the Church of England as set forth in its official formularies. But during the latter part of the twentieth century, a new fashion arose. Some Evangelicals gave up relying on the Anglican formularies; instead they began to call for something much more radical: "the Completion of the Reformation". In the context of world-wide Anglicanism, this newer policy is particularly associated with the Anglican Metropolitan See of Sidney in Australia.

My suggestion to you would be that, once your committee has created a first working draft, you should not waste time going through it with a fine-toothcomb. Instead, send it immediately to the Archbishop of Sidney and ask for his wise guidance. You will find that Conservative Anglican Evangelicals are immensely knowledgable with regard to which liturgical words and phrases currently lie under the Divine Veto, and every bit as generous about sharing that knowledge.

Your lordship's obt servt and child

John Hunwicke

PS follows tomorrow.


David Todd said...

Just a minor point but the so-called Anglican Diocese of the capital of NSW is spelt "Sydney".

Anonymous said...

In the light of this and your other recent posts, Father, I don't know whether you have seen the video message sent by Pope Francis to an international conference of evangelical charismatics. It can be found on Youtube at:


The claim of the main speaker is that the Catholic Church has now agreed with Luther and "the protest is over", citing the 1999 joint statement between the Vatican and the Lutherans.

Also very apposite is an analytical response from a conservative protestant commentator, also on Youtube at:


aussie_aussie_oi_oi said...

Please note the correct spelling is Sydney (the largest city in Australia and the centre of evangelical Anglicanism down under).

Lepanto said...

I see that the Archbishop's motto translates as 'Head into the deep'. How apt!

Highland Cathedral said...

I thought that the post-Vatican changes to the liturgy were deemed to be irreversible. Or is that 'irreversible to you 'rigid traditionalists' but open to all sorts of adaptation by those who are more pastorally-oriented? Or is this craving for a liturgy which can be used by both Catholics and Protestants just a sad, nostalgic desire to return to the heady days of ecumenism in the 1960s and 1970s? Taize for the twenty-first century? No doubt this new liturgy will heavily feature such classics as Kumbayha. And will it also incorporate liturgical dance with elements brought from different Christian 'traditions'?

Mike Smith said...

Dear Fr

if Archbishop Roche has been asked to do this by Pope Francis, surely he will try to do it unless he wants his head to roll! It may take many years to complete during which time there may be a change at the top and the exercise will have been futile anyway.

The Archlaic said...

But wasn't that the intention behind the Novus Ordo?

Bugnini: "We must strip from our Catholic prayers and from the Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren—that is, for the Protestants."

Jean Guitton, who was a close friend of Paul VI, certainly ascribes that motive to the pope: "The intention of Paul VI with regard to what is commonly called the [Novus Ordo] Mass, was to reform the Catholic liturgy in such a way that it should almost coincide with the Protestant liturgy — but what is curious is that Paul VI did that to get as close as possible to the Protestant Lord’s Supper … there was with Paul VI an ecumenical intention to remove, or least to correct, or at least to relax, what was too Catholic, in the traditional sense, in the Mass and, I repeat, to get the Catholic Mass closer to the Calvinist Mass [sic]."

Poor 'ol Novus Ordo - almost seemas as though it's too prot for Lefebvre et al, but (if there's anything to the rumors) too Catholic for the current Holy Father!

Oy, what a mess! Or am I supposed to say 'lio'?

D.E. Meikle said...

Many readers may be familiar with the prophetic 1973 movie "The Catholics":


john said...

The N.O. Mass, itself, is illicit; designed by Protestants-Freemasons, it will eventually be tossed to the scrap heap alongside the failed, Faith destroying Second Vatican Council. VII was hijacked by Communists-Freemasons to bring forth the disastrous situation we currently face today.

Anonymous said...

Dear Father:

I have found since my conversion that many orthodox Catholics take little notice in the developments of liturgy or doctrine as they have manifested themselves in Protestantism. Indeed, they seem to think that what happens in the Church is unique, somehow not to be compared with developments elsewhere. As if what has happened in the Protestant groups cannot in any way be compared with developments in the Church. "We" are the Church, and "they" aren't, so there can be no need to observe what "they" do for it has no bearing on "us".

In my opinion, this lack of interest has blinded them from seeing the bare fact; creeping modernism in the Church follows a pattern that can be observed in the ecclesial groups and especially in Anglicanism.

Indeed, in the Church we should be fighting it with discipline, for that is exactly what has been lacking among the Protestants...and..."us"!

Then, of course, there are the progressive Catholics, who celebrate the collapse of universal teaching on faith and morals and seek to make the Protestant methodology of capitulation to modernism an integral feature of Catholic life. Thus, any attempt to educate them using events that have occurred in Protestantism is merely giving them more ideas...

I suspect the fellow to which you are addressing your piece here falls in the latter camp.