Spare a prayer today for the Rt Revd (William) Gordon Wheeler, quondam Bishop of Theudalis in partibus infidelium and then of Leeds. Today, 20 February, is the obit of his death (aetatis 87) in 1998.
I feel comfortably disposed towards his Lordship. Like me, he had his priesthood 'formed' at "Staggers". Like me, he was at one point Assistant Chaplain at Lancing College. He was a product of the fine, robust, triumphalist Anglo-Catholicism of the 1930s; if you desire to verify that observation, go and look ... first, at the belle epoque glories of S Bartholomew's Church in Brighton not far from the Railway Station, where he served as a curate ... then at the high gothic glory of Lancing Chapel perched on its South Downs hilltop.
After entering into full communion, he was ordained by Cardinal Hinsley on 31 March 1940 in the Crypt of Westminster Cathedral "for fear of the bombs", as Fr Brian Houghton, one of the four other ordinands, recalls. [Have you acquired and read Unwanted Priest, the autobiography of Fr Bryan Houghton, a priest who refused to say the New Mass and led a diverting and diverse life ... just published by Angelico Press in its Catholic Traditionalist Classics series.]
[Fr Houghton records that, at the Beda, where he and the future Bishop Wheeler studied together, about a dozen of the seminarians had been Anglican clergymen, and "the Anglican clergy saw to it that the liturgy was performed precisely according to the rubrics ... it gave a very good training".]
Wheeler had "Anglican Previous" and a Staggers training: so it's not surprising that he was the last English Catholic Bishop to wear the cappa magna; and that throughout his life, his personal liturgical preference was for the 'Tridentine Rite'. [Fr Houghton summarised him as "a good bishop".] If vernacular had to be used, he favoured English of the "Thou/Thee" variety ... which must make him a sort of Forerunner of the Ordinariate Liturgy!
Not all Catholic Bishops of Leeds have had such sound instincts! Wheeler was one of the Fathers of Vatican II; so he knew it from the inside ... from the inside of the Bar-Jonah as well as the inside of the Conciliar aula. He was in favour of the Council but strongly opposed to the misappropriation of the Council in later years.
Should you ever hear talk of any later Bishop of Leeds who was not a Father of the Council, but who blathers on about Vatican II, beware. As far as Liturgy is concerned, the conciliar decree Sacrosanctum Concilium did, indeed, allow some (mainly optional) modifications, but its cautious and sensible suggestions bore no connexion with the wholesale slaughter that followed when, after the Council, gangs of crooks got their hands on 'implementation' and treated this as a carte blanche to make whatever faddish liturgical alterations appealed to them.
Cardinal Heenan was to be terribly embarrassed by the fact that the reassurances he had given about the Council were made to seem untruthful. Archbishop McQuaid, Primas Hiberniae, was never more wrong than when he guaranteed to his people that "No change will worry the tranquillity of your Christian lives".
Decent men deceived. An episcopate manipulated.
"Only four bishops voted against Sacrosanctum Concilium". Dishonest commentators glibly use this fact to imply that all the changes which were introduced after the Council were enthusiastically mandated by the Council. Not in a million years. The point is that the vote for SC would not have been anything like so overwhelming if the Fathers had realised that, as far as the radicals were concerned, they were being dishonestly tricked into signing a blank cheque.
Do you really, seriously, think that in any known world Marcel Lefebvre would have contentedly signed SC if he had known that, within a decade, the Canon Romanus would be almost entirely and universally discarded?
This is a good moment to remind you of Dom Hugh Knapman's edition of the limericks composed at the Council by the English Bishops, including a number by Wheeler himself, and comments about Wheeler by other bishops. Bishop Wall translated them into Latin. A Limerickal Commentary on the Second Vatican Council * (Arouca Press) provides an amusing sidelight on the Council. And a revealing one. When the Barbarians shouted Ottaviani down, it was not in the name of the Anglophone Bishops ... or, indeed, of many of the un-Rhineish prelates.
*"Of Rahner and Congar and Kung /The praises are everywhere sung; /But one bello domani /Lord Ottaviani /Will see the three of 'em hung."
O utinam ...
From Heenan downwards, the Anglophone hierarchies were generally dubious about the unscrupulous tricks being played upon them. But, like the rest of us, they did not foresee the half of it.
REMEMBER: IF SOME SUBSEQUENT BISHOP OF LEEDS OR OF ROME OR OF ANYWHERE ELSE TRIES TO PULL A FAST ONE BY IMPLYING THAT "THE COUNCIL" AUTHORISED THE NOVUS ORDO AS IT SUBSEQUENTLY EMERGED, HE SHOULD BE SHOUTED DOWN WITH CRIES OF "WOTTA NAUGHTIE PORKIE" AND PELTED WITH SCREWED-UP COPIES OF TRADITIONIS CUSTODES.
*"What John Carmel, Westminster's Archbish, /Dislikes most intensely is fish. /He's not slow in declaring /He can't stand red Haerring, /It just simply isn't his dish."
Fish, indeed! They come in so many shapes and sizes!! 153 or perhaps even more!!!