One of the problems is Rye is on a limb, it is on the furthest border of the diocese, beyond it is Romney Marsh. The church, St Anthony's, is a little gem but quite tiny. Say a prayer for its people
In the past its parishioners included Spike Milligan, as well as Radclyffe Hall, who was also associated with Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane. She was 'the' proto-Lesbian, and also a devout Catholic. She gave the rood to St Anthony's, though like many of her generation delved into spiritualism. I think Clare Sheridan who carved one of my favourite possessions, triptych in cherry wood and silver, was also a parishioner there. She became a Catholic after having been a posh Communist, she had gone to Russia after the Revolution, carved busts of Lenin and the Bolshevik leadership, she was rumoured to have had an affair with Lenin, she was also a relative of Winston Churchill. After her conversion she spent her time carving religious subjects, though she too seemed to have some eccentric spiritualistic leanings.
I am sure that both these women, and Milligan too, fitted quite happily into a pre-VII model of the Church, I'm not sure they would today. There is something in Pope Francis' words, "Who am I to judge, if someone is seeking God", which takes us back to a previous age. One of our own former parishioners was Oscar Wilde's friend Bosie, Lord Alfred Douglas, who died in 1945. I am not sure he would have felt so comfortable in today's Church. I discussed this with one of my parishioners, she said it was a class thing, I don't think it is, because not only have we lost the 'notorious' and wealthy but also the poor.
I am sure it is something about our attitude to sin that has changed. Celebrating both forms of the Roman Rite, and perhaps the Ordinary Form in a way that is not too dissimilar from the older form what seems to be the greatest difference is the lectionary, the older lections are generally some hard hitting section of the Epistles dealing with sin, often condemning fornication or sexual license. Sermons from the pre-Concilliar period tended not to touch much on sex but on integrity and honesty, fulfilling one's duties both religious and secular or on the tender mercy of God. I think what has changed, perhaps, is that apart from the morality set forth in the catechisms and the teaching of the Epistles and of the Gospels, we have tended to make simple and personal right and wrong more and more complicated. It is not something to be gleaned from the the plain teaching of scripture and prayerful meditation, now it needs to be interpreted by moral theologians, or even Popes. It seems to be handed down by specialists, rather than discovered in the strange mess of ordinary life. In the area of sexual morality this is true in another of the great inter-war literary converts; Evelyn Waugh both in his own personal life, in his Catholic novels he presents us with characters who are in search of what is right but in a murk of confusion, weakness and ambiguity, some of them continue to be lost but others find their way from the peripheries to the Church who is there as a tender Mother but also as an unambiguous Mistress.
At the end of Brighton Rock Rose returns to be consoled before the Blessed Sacrament, Greene another literary convert, was a frequent visitor to our church, I suspect he had St Mary Magdalen's in mind, when he has her returning to the presence of God not unstained or undamaged by the liason with Pinkie. I like to think that perhaps a character like her had sat near him on our uncomfortable pews, perhaps he had seen a good Catholic girl being met at our church door by a Brighton spiv. Where is Rose now?