13 June 2023

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus! (5)

If you browse through the Pontificale Romanum as it so admirably was before the post-Conciliar depravations, you will discover that the most solemn liturgical blessings and consecrations both of persons and of things had one constant feature. They began like the Preface of the Mass, with Dominus vobiscum; Sursum corda; Gratias agamus; Vere dignum et iustum est, aequum et salutare .... This is how Major Orders were conferred; how Palms/Olives for Palm Sunday, the Chrism and the Paschal Candle, were blessed; how Abbots, Abbesses, Virgins and Queens, Churches and Altars, were solemnly blessed. The custom was, admittedly, not 'primitive'; but it did express very beautifully the 'primitive' understanding that it is by Thanksgiving, Eucharistia, that things are blessed and made over to God.

But since the post-Conciliar disorders, nearly all of that has disappeared from the despoiled rites of the Latin Churches.  Nowadays, apart from the Mass itself, the blessing of the Paschal Candle appears to be the only survival in the Novus Ordo of this noble custom (apparently, in modern liturgical theology, candles are more sacral objects than Bishops or even Virgins!). 

Couratin had provided the Prayer for the Ordination of Priests remodelled with Vere dignum ... restored as its opening. Here we have something more than just an elegant literary embellishment; it is in itself a theological statement. Priests are something more than the merely functional. They are consecrated, changed, just as the Eucharistic Elements themselves are consecrated and changed.

How very ironic and jolly ... that in the century when the Anglo-Catholic Upper Clergy of Oxford were conscientiously leafing through their copies of Pontificale Romanum to discover ways of traditionalising the Prayer Book rites of Ordination, in a different corner of Europe Dom Botte and his associates were beginning to elaborate crafty methods of detraditionalising the Pontificale!


The Rite of Ordination which I have described was only used in one Anglican diocese (as far as I know) and possibly only during two episcopates, those of Kirk and Carpenter. But that Diocese was a rather special star in our Anglican firmament (fuit Troia, fuimus Troiani ...), and Kirk was a profoundly significant figure in that sparkling but now long-vanished Anglo-Catholic world of Dix and Mascall and Farrer and their associates. Surely, it cannot fail to be a matter of interest precisely how just such a bishop solemnly administered the Sacrament of Holy Order in his Cathedral Church of Christ in Oxford?

But I hope no-one will imagine that my narrative has anything to do with the old "question" of "the validity of Anglican Orders". On that front, the battle lines are even more strongly fortified than they were 130 years ago. There has been 'South India' ... then the British provinces of the Anglican Communion definitively repudiated the necessity of episcopal Ordination in the 'Porvoo' accord (1992) ... then came the complications of 'admitting' women to sacerdotal ministries ... in the last couple of decades we have had the 'baptismal' explanation of Ordination, which now, apparently, is 'official' in PECUSA (well dissected and analysed by Dr Colin Podmore; I plan to reprint some of my earlier thoughts on this over the next day or so).

No; despite all the silly froth of "Ecumenism", the gap between Tradition and Anglicanism, in the question of Ordination, gapes far wider than ever it did before 'the ARCIC Accords'. 

Suggestions sometimes emerge in Rome regarding ways of nuancing its ruling that Anglican Orders are invalid. Some five years ago, one Cardinal Coccopalmerio published an article ... 

At a time when Anglicans worldwide, in their theology and in their praxis, are moving more and more strongly and definitively away from Catholic teaching on priesthood, this seems a strangely perverse time to drop such hints.

It is not the Catholic Church which has been turning its back on Anglican 'partners in dialogue', and slamming all the doors shut. 

Remember: Anglicanism is the Boris Johnson of the Ecumenical landscape.

If you ever believe a word it says, more fool you.


No; what happened in Bishop Kirk's Oxford was a last brilliant efflorescence of Tradition within Anglicanism. It illustrates how fast the waters can come flooding in, once the military men have blown up the dam.

But there may be an exemplary function in my story. This is what can happen when you lack a Petrine Ministry, and Tradition is up for everyone to lunge at.  Here is the tragedy of Bergoglianity: its senile, bloated and pompous hyperpapalism has robbed us of the Papacy we are entitled to have; a doctrinal Rock; a reliable remora. There are lessons Catholics can learn from the long, still on-going, Anglican tragedy.

So how did matters conclude among these dreaming spires?

Nobody now can sing the old song about 

How happy are those Oxford flocks
How free from heretics;
Their clergy all so orthodox
Their Bishop orthoDix. 

Bishop Harry Carpenter was succeeded by Kenneth Woolcombe, an enthusiast for the the ordination of women who was put in despite scant experience of the parochial ministry, because he was regarded as a high-flyer who would almost certainly go on to Canterbury.

In today's Oxford's immensely troubled Anglican church life, OrthoDixy is not even a fragrant memory.




Expeditus said...

Ah, those Pontifical Masses at the throne in Christ Church (oddly with everything bar incense!). I cannot speak for Ordinations but Woolcombe certainly continued with the festal masses. Michael Watts, the precentor, as the AP in cope with Gilling, the college chaplain, as one of the SM's and a seminarian from Staggers the other (sometimes 'Blanche' Leechman, later of Nashdom and Ealing). A nice touch was the bishop being accompanied by the dean in choir dress on entering and leaving the cathedral. Perhaps the combination Simpson/Chadwick/Cross was too strong for Woolcombe to make any changes.

El Codo said...

Beautifully expressed Father. So Oxford, so hopeless.

Ian said...

Talk of bishops in their cathedrals reminds me of the rather low church train spotting BIshop of Wakefield Eric Treacy who had to put up with the very anglo catholic goings on in his Cathedral, which could put inn a claim to be the highest in the land under Provost Hopkins.
The tale goes that when the bishop was presented with the incense to bless, instead of the traditional words of blessing, he would mutter ' it'l do you no harm if it does you no good'
That is what you call good Yorkshire common sense in my judgement. Of course the prese t regime in the C of E has abolished Wakefield as Diocese , but thats another story.

scotchlil said...

I was once restrained, during Mass at Bourne Street some decades ago, from lobbing a hymn-book at Woolcombe as he stood in the pulpit. He had already wrought havoc at Coates Hall, and was recently retired from the see of Oxford. He began his sermon that, although he had practically no parochial experience, he was now curate of half a dozen Worcestershire parishes as assistant to his wife, the 'Vicar'. I cannot imagine what Bourne Street were thinking of when they invited him to preach - his views were not exactly unknown. I wish I had thrown the book at him. He and his like have so much to answer for. A dear (now departed )priest friend of mine made two points over the years when discussing the liturgical abysm in the modern world, which, let us say, he did not care for, though he observed the rites of VII. For him the problem was that the things which Anglo-catholics had previously done in church they had only done because Rome did them, and consequently when Rome stopped doing them, there was no authority for AC's to continue. Hence, for him, the acceptance - reluctant - of the modern rites. His second point was that in many parts of the C of E, 'catholic' liturgy - vestments. incense. etc - were thought to be 'nice', but there was little or no connection with the catholic faith. What you have often observed, Father, about the nature of 'authority' not being the same as dictatorship certainly rings true. Our forebears fought so hard to re-catholicize Anglicanism, and our generation gave it all away so unthinkingly... I entertain some fading hope that Rome will learn from the collapse of Anglicanism and begin to restore that which was always and everywhere believed and practised.

coradcorloquitur said...

I lament, Scotchlil, to observe that short of a miracle, "restoring that which was always and everywhere believed and practised" (that hollowed and pithy summary of Catholicism) stands little or no chance of being implemented under Francis or the candidate chosen pope by the stacked college of cardinals he has so carefully prepared for the future. Ah, the children of this world being wiser than the children of light! Our dear Pope Benedict was not as assiduous (or perhaps petrified with fear, which is what I suspect) in nominations to the College of Cardinals who would select his successor. Same goes for John Paul II, although in his case I believe firmly that he was happy with the Modernist program, although perhaps not totally envisioning its obscene aberrations we witness almost daily under Francis. No, the venomous attack on catholicity predates Francis, as any objective observer would note, and those who should have protected the flock did not do so---or at least not efficaciously. Kyrie eleison!

Expeditus said...

Wakefield was High Church rather than Anglo-Catholic. Indeed, Hopkins undermined the advanced development that had been going under his predecessor Canon McLeod. McCleod (uncle, I think, of the Iona man) had been going to introduce the English Missal but this was thwarted by his premature death. Hopkins was more of a St Paul's/Westminster Abbey type.
As for Treacy, he was a great disappointment after Wilson and Ramsbotham. Rambo especially was a good catholic and a lovely man. His premature retirement was a blow similar to that of BXVI.

Ian said...

I'm not sure I agree with expeditus. My uncle sang alto in the choir. When he died I came across a number of anglo catholic manuals ( St. Swithuns prayer book, Catholic prayers for church of england people etc.) They were scribbled in pencil notes, how to serve at mass and so forth. My eldest brother was head boy in the choir. He would sing at High Mass at 6.30 in the morning on a feast day follwed by full english breakfast at Hagenbachs cafe. My aged grandmother received communion at home, being nearly blind and totally deaf , it was the first time I ever saw a priest wearing a biretta. I
think it was clearly anglo catholic and not just high church. As far as Treacy was concerned I don't necessarily disagree with you, though I suspect my anecdote suggests he had a sense of humour, in any case when he preached at founders day at QEGS we boys thought him better than most who would bore us to tears. Being only 72 I am unable to comment on Bishop Ramsbotham, except to say my brother was invited to his daughters birthday party.

Expeditus said...

The best Founders' Day preacher I can remember was Fr John Barton (whose father had been Headmaster of QEGS) who took as his text: Keep innocency and do the things that is right for that shall bring a man peace at the last.
My parents knew Treacy socially and thought he was wonderfully 'down to earth'. That says it all!

Expeditus said...

Reflecting further on the complexities of Anglican life in the fifties and sixties, I cannot accept that Wakefield Cathedral was Anglo-Catholic. If so, then what must we call the full-faith churches like St Alban's Holborn or St Mary's Graham Street - or, indeed, the parishes of Barnsley's 'biretta belt'? Consider the rite of the 'Solemn Eucharist' - never 'High Mass'. No Asperges, no Propers, Gloria and Pater Noster in the 'wrong' place, no Tarping. Prayer of Oblation said silently after the Consecration while the choir sang the Agnus Dei (almost always in English). Not a biretta in sight. One of the curate-precentors, Fr Ronald Carter owned an altar edition of the English Missal but had to keep it under wraps. The Triduum was hardly catholic. The main service on Good Friday was the Three Hours and Holy Saturday saw the lighting of the Paschal Candle without further rituals. I think the smoke from the incense blinded people to the reality. This was 1928 at best not catholic. I too had (and still have) many Anglo-Catholic books, including my old English Missal, but they originated from Fr Plumbridge and the set-up at the convent in Horbury not from the cathedral. One wonders how many of the clergy of those days would have happily accepted women's ordinaggers!

Paulus Babylonis said...

Fr. Hunwicke, this series of posts on the "Tridentinized" ordinal service was extremely interesting to read. Is there by any chance you could share the texts with us? I would love to study its details.

Shaun Davies said...

I am late with my question-comment. Does anyone know how these Pontifical rites in Oxford compare with the Robert Mortimer/Patrick Ferguson Davie regime in Exeter [see The Bishop In Church] I did meet ex-servers who told me about their splendour and the vesting in the lady Chapel and the use of the salver for the Episcopal ring - but I wish I had asked more. That world is dead,gone and buried.

cosmas and damien said...

Thank you Expeditus, I bow to your greater knowledge. I only discovered anglo catholicism in 1970, worshipping at St. Peters Horbury whilst at home and St Lukes Derby whilst at college. Certainly then at least one of the Cathedral clergy, Fr John Hudson was the fullworks. One last comment refering back to bishops. My late mother,very middle of the road establishment ( St Johns ) ,who disapproved greatly of my 'romanism' adored Bishop Hope because he was so down to earth.
I've enjoyed this to and frow.

cosmas and damien said...

Thank you Expeditus, and I bow to your greater knowledge. I only came to anglo catholicism in 1970. Worshipping at College at St Lukes Derby, and at home at St.Peters Horbury. Certainly then one of the Cathedral clergy, Fr John Hudson was the full works. One last word on Bishops. My late other, very middle of the road ( St Johns Wakefield ) who deeply disapproved of my 'romanism' absolutely adored Bishop David Hope because he was so 'down to earth'. I ha e enjoyed this to and frow.

Expeditus said...

Very interesting. David Hope's down to earthness was/is of a different order from Treacy's. John Hudson was another of the curate precentors who had to keep his light under a bushel. I think when all is said and done, Wakefield as, at best, what they used to call 'Prayer Book Catholic'. Can you imagine full-faith churches substituting the Ten Commandments for the Kyries during Lent? Still, it helped a lot of us on our way!