I have before me, beautifully bound in black leather, with the edges of the pages in gold, a small book, with these words written inside:
Fratri in Christo dilecto
Die Dominica Sanctissimae Trinitatis MCMLIX
It is a precious memento of Bishop John Richards; of his Ordination to the Diaconate in 1959, on May 24.
Today is his Year's Mind.
I wonder how many Anglican bishops think and write naturally in Latin today ... or, for that matter, how many Catholic Bishops can do so. Bishop Robert Mortimer was a distinguished Moral Theologian (he had held the Oxford Chair); a close friend of the Prebendary John Hooper who was my spiritual director half a century ago whose guidance led me to the Sacred Priesthood. My own friendship with Bishop John Richards dates from the turn of this century, when I was approaching retirement, and he prevailed upon me to accept a 'House for Duty' in the same Devon village where he was spending his own working retirement. Once we had moved in, he saw to it that I got to know the Society of S Boniface, which met monthly to study the Greek Testament together and to read Papers to each other. It was run by Prebendary Michael Moreton, from whom I learned a great deal.
It was he who had read a paper, at one of Betsy Livingstone's Oxford Patristic Conferences, in which he demonstrated, long before this became a commonplace in Catholic scholarship, how totally spurious was the universal assumption that in 'the Primitive Church', the celebrant of the Eucharist faced the people. The other mighty truth I learned from him concerned the dogmatic status of the Roman Canon.
My own background in the Church of England before the mid-sixties had indeed left me with a profound love for the Roman Canon. When I was ordained to the Sacred Priesthood in 1968, and we neopresbyteri concelebrated the Ordination Mass with our ordaining Pontiff, it was the Roman Canon that I murmured secreto! But Michael was to teach me an even more weighty truth.
Just as the early Christian centuries are normative in as far as they conveyed to us the Apostolic Faith and Order through structures such as the Creeds and the Old and New Testament Canons of Scripture and the threefold Sacred Ministry, so also they conveyed to us that Apostolic depositum in and through the Roman Canon of the Mass. Which, therefore, stood and stands amid the wreckage of Time as an unalterable part of the givenness of the Faith.
This perception stood me in good stead when finally I entered into Full Communion, because I did so fortified in my adherence to that great Prayer. By then, of course, it had been miserably tampered with in the Latin Church and, soon, was all but eliminated de facto from most Catholic parochial worship. What a wickedness all that was! What a success for the Enemy: that the Prayer for which the English Catholic Martyrs died and the clergy of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England suffered such persecution, should be killed off in the 1960s with crooked Roman connivance!
Like S John Henry Newman, I can say that it was within the Church of England that I learned the Catholic Faith: how merciful the Lord's dispositions are. And that little Greek Testament which Robert Mortimer gave to John Richards was ... let me reveal ... the Edition done by Professor George Kilpatrick, who taught me NT textcrit. In his editorial activity, his textcrit eclecticism had led him to respect the textus receptus. I have conducted no statistical survey, but I suspect that George's NT could be shown to be more Tradition-friendly than the proddy 'United Bible Societies' NT which, under S John Paul II, was made the basis of the Neovulgate NT.
What magnificent use God made of the Church of England, back in the days when it was still a plausible organisation! Joseph Ratzinger's Ordinariate Initiative was a recognition of that truth. And so is the fine Altar picture Fr Maunder has put into S Agatha's Church in Portsmouth, showing our blessed Lady handing Anglicanorum coetibus to Pope Benedict!
There is a story, I believe American, of somebody asking a liberal Jesuit why he wasn't very keen about the influx of Anglicans under Anglicanorum coetibus. Twitching his elderly and ragged jeans, the poor old gentleman squealed "But they're the wrong kind of Anglicans!".
The old question is: "What did they bring into the Catholic Church?"
Here is my reply: "We brought in the 'Wrong' kind of Anglicanism"!!!