So how did I come to know Michael Moreton? When I retired from teaching, I succumbed to the entreaties of 'JR', Bishop John Richards, to accept a part-time post ('House for Duty') in the Anglican Diocese of Exeter, in the same village to which he had himself retired. John had been an Archdeacon in that same diocese, before being consecrated first Bishop of Ebbsfleet with a remit to look after 'Traditionalist' parishes; that is, parishes which "were as yet unable to accept the ministry" of "women priests". With characteristic missionary energy, JR soon put together a collection of nearly a hundred parishes.
Having moved into the Rectory a hundred yards from JR's retirement home, I found myself soon being taken along to a learned clerical group called the Society of S Boniface. After lunch, we listened to one of our number reading a paper, and then discussed it. But the leading light was Prebendary [in the diocese of Exeter, honorary canons were known as Prebendaries] Michael Moreton. He, before lunch, led us in study of a passage in the Greek New Testament.
This came at a time when I myself had completely lost my faith ... my faith, that is, in the whole ridiculous creaky irrational superstitious pseudo-subect calling itself Modern New Testament Studies. But Michael still accepted many of its quaint old dogmas, such as Q, and regaled us with the opinions of 'scholars' to whom, I am sorry to confess, I sometimes referred with dismissive irreverence as "Dead Germans".
But in Liturgy, Father Michael was as sound as it is possible to be. He regarded the Canon of the Mass, the 'Roman Canon', as part of the Apostolic inheritance committed to which the Church had emerged from the Apostolic period: an inheritance including, of course the Scriptures and their Canon; the Creeds; the threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons. Michael refused to use any other 'Eucharistic Prayer'.
He was dead right about this. His strong conviction, which I imbibed from him, is a truth which the whole Latin Church sorely needs today. Happily, the the liturgy of the Ordinariates bears firm witness to the centrality, the normativeness, of that Great Prayer.
Michael was perhaps the last survivor of a notable and erudite group of Anglican liturgists who bore strong witness to the Roman Canon. Dom Gregory Dix concluded his monumental mystagogia, The Shape of the Liturgy, with the words "This very morning I did this with a set of texts which has not changed by more than a few syllables since Augustine used those very words at Canterbury on the third Sunday of Easter in the summer after he landed Yet 'this' can still take hold of a man's life and work with it." At the popularising level, there was Hugh Ross Williamson, whose commentary on the Canon was reprinted not long ago by Gracewing. And there was the meticulous schoarship of Craddock Radcliffe ... and Dr G G Willis, who kept up a murderously acerbic commentary on the crass new 'Eucharistic Prayers' which began to emerge in the 1960s from nasty little committee rooms in Rome and Lambeth.
May all these great men, with Michael, rest in peace. The Ordinariates render incarnate their learning and their devotion to the Great Prayer of the Western Church.
The Roman Canon is right at the heart of our Patrimony.