11 February 2022

Adrian Fortescue ... after 99 years ...

"You know, we have stuck out for our position all our lives ... unity, authority. etc., Peter the Rock and so on. I have, too, and believe it. I am always preaching that sort of thing, and yet is it now getting to a reductio ad absurdum? Centralisation grows and goes madder every century. Even at Trent they hardly foresaw this kind of thing. Does it really mean that one cannot be a member of the Church of Christ without being, as we are, absolutely at the mercy of an Italian lunatic? ... 

"We must pull through even this beastliness somehow. After all, it is still the Church of the Fathers that we stand by and spend our lives defending. However bad as things are, nothing else is possible. I think that when I look at Rome, I see powerful arguments against us, but when I look at the Church of England ... I see still more powerful arguments for us. But of course, saving a total collapse, things are as bad as they can be. Give us back the tenth century Johns and Stephens, or a Borgia! 

"They were less disastrous than this deplorable person. ...

Today is the obit, the Year's Mind of Fr Adrian Fortescue, who died in 1923. Fr Aidan Nichols' book about him, The Latin Clerk, revealed him to be a great deal more than a precise rubricist. The quotations above are from letters Fortescue wrote to recipients including Fr Thurston.

Mgr Ronald Knox wrote about Fortescue "Perhaps he had too much sense of humour to be altogether a great man: he lacked pomposity." (And, of course, Knox has himself tucked away a sweet little barb in those few words.)

Perhaps one should not  be too hard on popes. The current crisis arising from their embarrassing overmagnification of their office (one has to exclude Benedict XVI from this stricture) is, surely, the product of faster media communications and the temptations which they can place in the way of natural windbags. 

Reading Opus Publicum, Dr DeVille, and Professor Tighe has reminded me of Fortescue.


Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. If an occupant of the office of the Papacy concludes he and his supporters are the holiest men who have ever lived and love Jesus more than any other Catholic ever, then there was a reason the sixties synod spun out of control:

...The Church wished to grow in her consciousness and understanding of herself. See how, on the very level of her pastors and teachers, she has begun a profound meditation on that mystery from which she draws her origin and form. The meditation is not finished, but the very difficulty of concluding it reminds us of the depth and breadth of this doctrine, and stimulates each of us to strive to understand and to express the doctrine in a way which, on the one hand, cannot fail to lead our minds, and certainly those of the faithful who are attentively following our labors, to Christ Himself from whom all gifts come to us and to whom we wish to return all, “reconciling everything in Him” (Col. 1, 20).

On the other hand, our efforts cannot fail to increase both our happiness in being personally called to form part of this holy Mystical Body of Christ, and our mutual charity, the principle and law of the life of the Church.

Let us rejoice, my brothers, for when was the Church ever so aware of herself, so in love with Christ, so blessed, so united, so willing to imitate Him, so ready to fulfill His mission? Let us rejoice, my brothers, for we have learned to understand one another and to deal with one another, and, though we were almost strangers, through the process of union we have become friends. Have we not profoundly experienced here the words of St. Paul which accurately define the Church: “Now you are no longer strangers and newcomers, but rather fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God, built, as you are, upon the foundations laid by the Apostles and the prophets, where the very cornerstone is Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2, 19-20)?

The holiest Catholic clerics ever were humble enough to understand they had just cause to institute massive change and insist novelties be accepted but, not to worry, remember then motto of the modernists in Rome:

Everything is different, nothing has changed.

Michael said...

Of which Pope was Fortescue speaking?

Jon said...

Fortescue wrote the letter to Herbert Thurston Nov. 5, 1910.

He was writing of Pius X (who died in 1914), of whose gestures toward centralization he was none too fond.

Fortescue wasn't a liberal, but a student of the Early and Eastern Church. I'm sure an 8th century pontificate would've suited him just fine.

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

Fortescue may not have been a liberal, but he was clearly not a philosopher, either.


armyarty said...

Adrian Fortescue was most eloquent giving his very last sermon, while he was dying of cancer, which he ended, saying: "That is all I have to say."

Hearing his name always evokes for me, not only Blessed Adrian Fortescue, but also the meaning of their last name, and how it came to be.

Albertus said...

I tend to agree with Father Fortescue on the evil of overcentralisation. Regarding the overmagnified papal personality cult, when i worked at Radio Vaticana in the late seventies and early eighties, our programme chef - a saintly monsignore - was berated by the jesuits then in command for transmitting ''too much catechism'' and ''too many stories about the persecution of the Church in the Soviet Union and other communist lands''. He was ordered to speak ''more of the Pope, his speaches, activities, and travels''. Our programme chef, quite upset and dismayed, said that the ever growing papal personality cult reminded him of stalinism, from which he had fled in 1945.

Henricus Minor said...

Such an amazing and reassuring statement!

For the sceptics among us, may we have the reference please.

Henricus Minor said...

Such a comforting assurance!

But, for the sceptics among us, might we please have the specific reference.

Henricus Minor said...

Could we have the reference please.

armyarty said...

Papal Personality cults?

Pius XII was a shameless self-promoter,and loved to be photographed in dramatic poses.
Paul VI had a carefully cultivated image.
John Paul II, however, put him completely to shame. JP the Great, anyone?

I still find it annoying to hear of "St." Paul VI! He was in no way a good example to the faithful, or heroic, or anything else! So, his sainthood boils down to a declaration that he made it to heaven.

Canonization is supposed to be a bottom-up process, where someone who actually has a cult, and is being venerated by the faithful in some locality already has that status ratified and made official throughout the universal church. Now, it is an administrative decision by the Vatican, which cheapens it enormously.

All that the canonization of G.B. Montini has done is to spark a debate as to whether or not canonizations are infallible. I take the position that they are not declarations on either faith, nor morals, and so they are not. I am met with the frequent objection that, surely, the church could not do such violence to the sacred liturgy, as to declare a dubious person a saint. To which I reply, they have frequently done much worse.

Is he in heaven, gloriously adoring God in magnificent triumph? Probably. After all, the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom says God has not stopped doing everything to save us! Who? God. Is still- has not stopped. Doing? Everything! To? Save US! Yes- he and JPII might both be there. With all those people who were praying for them, they probably are.

But the quickie honorifics are scandalous,and must cause doubt for people who can remember how shabby Pual VI, and JPII could often be in real life.

Catholic said...


Brief article (1968) on conditional Ordination of Fr.John Jay Hughes which was conferred before the form of Holy Orders were altered.

My question is,when Fr.Hughes received his Anglican Ordination,did the valid Utrecht Old Catholic Bishop use Leonine Roman Rite or the Anglican Rite.(1960)

God bless and consider praying for Bishop Francis Arinze(or one of the 25 remaining pre-August 1968 Bishops)to old Rite Consecrate a few pre-1968 Priests or former SSPX turned Diocesan Priests.

If this offends you I apologize sincerely and 100% understand and agree with not printing the last paragraph.

God bless - Kyrie Elesion

Bill Murphy said...

Thanks so much for mentioning Fr Fortescue. He was a prodigy of scholarship (triple doctorate), generosity and pastoral devotion. I read that his annual donations sometimes outstripped his annual income and that his door was always open to anyone in need.

What particularly sticks in my memory is the account of his cancer diagnosis, a few days before Christmas 1922. He stepped out of the doctor's office into the brightly lit London streets full of excited people looking forward to the big day. He knew that this would be his last Christmas, followed by terrible suffering.