Friday, January 23, 2015

Sic transit

In the 1960s there were four hundred students in the chapel for this Mass at Ushaw, today, a little over 50 years later the seminary is closed.
It is very easy to say it was the Council but the seeds of whatever was to happen were already there, walking into the chapel in the hearts of those priests and students.
The post-war period was one of great flourishing in the Church in England and Wales, seminaries doubled in size, there was massive building of schools and churches, by the 1970s it was over, the decline had begun.
A friend visit four Orthodox seminaries in Moscow recently, each had 700 plus students, in the 1960s these seminaries did not exist.
Christ is Lord of History, when the Church appears strong then it is weak, when it stands before the Cross then it is strong. Huge numbers lead to complacency an d self referentialism, the barren Cross is our only hope.
Thanks to Fr Andrew Wadsworth for the video. 


Pastor in Monte said...

Wonderful to hear the famed robust plainchant of Ushaw. I had heard it described (by Fr Michael Benjamin), and always wanted to hear it.

NBW said...

Very well said. It's not the quantity but the quality.

Pelerin said...

I found the TV documentary particularly fascinating. One of the students interviewed said he had another four years to ordination which means that he and his contempories will be celebrating their golden jubilees this year if they stayed the course.

It was mentioned that the library contained some 40,000 volumes described as mostly priceless. Now that the seminary is closed I am curious to know where the contents of the library (which included a letter from King Charles 1) has been rehoused.

One moment made me smile - when the non-Catholic interviewer entered the chapel with the Monsignor for Benediction the interviewer went straight into the pew whereas the Mgr stopped and did a double genuflexion. The interviewer did a double take as when he looked back the Mgr had disappeared having descended to his knees!

Savonarola said...

It is sad indeed to witness the demise of a once great institution, but how can we understand this sort of decline?
It would be easy to say that the Church itself post-Vatican II deliberately dismantled its own traditions, almost waged war on them, but even if this were true would traditional Catholicism have collapsed so quickly and comprehensively if it had been really soundly rooted? People usually stay with what they most value. Could it be that people's attachment to their religion lacked deep spiritual roots, was more a matter of habit and custom, so that when those no longer operated (in the 1960s turning away from all traditional institutions) there was just not enough there to keep them?
If this is so it is not bringing back Latin, old rituals and the penny catechism that we need, it is the reconnecting with the heart of our religion in the simply knowing of God - not merely as an object of worship, a focus for doctrinal orthodoxy or moral uprightness, but as a real presence in our human reality. This is sometimes known as the contemplative way, and there are plenty of people today who are engaging with it. In fact the whole programme of Vatican II centres on the rediscovery of the contemplative way. The main problem with Vatican II is that it has not yet been properly implemented.

1569 Rising said...

I had the privilege of being a student at Ushaw at the time of both televised Masses and the making of the documentary. I spotted myself twice in the documentary, and at the Christmas Midnight Mass, when I was a member of Fr Laurence Hollis' rightly famed choir.

Note the magnificent Perosi Gloria!

John Fisher said...

How the mighty have fallen. At least in the UK you have some vestiges of what was.
1/ The reason secularism triumphs is because we have self secularised. We were all told change was mandatory but change to what? As the Church was strong and had an identity we had to abandon everything.
2/ Rather than gradual change or improvement we had a destruction from within. This sort of thing, for very human reasons causes an internal external crisis.
3/ Our Church leadership did this and the laity followed. The cause is a loyalty to authority rather than the tradition. We were like a badly led army whose leaders set up an ambush and led us into it. All of us let ourselves be blinded by a sense of obedience. We were not able to measure our orders against tradition which is the only sure guide we have. Christ meets us in tradition for he is transmitted to us through it.

Robert said...

Not surprising Father. Check the seminary count at FSSPX seminaries. Similar to Orthodox seminaries. But are hierarchy ignores the facts and the problems. They will go to their graves, before they admit defeat. And will take thousands of souls with them. All in the name of the false "springtime". Ushaw a good example. Thanks for sharing the video. And God Bless!:).

Robert said...

May I also share a video recently conducted with Cardinal Burke. Came across it at Gloria TV.

Supertradmum said...

Father, we have to blame parents and the false idea that Catholic schools have to be run by the State and have State curriculum.

It is well-known in the States that private Catholic schools with real Catholic curriculum and real, orthodox Catholics produce vocations.

I am convinced that vocations come from holy homes, where the rosary is being said, where daily Mass in encouraged and where there is virtue training started at a young age.

That there were holier families in the past is simply a given-no contraception, no absorption with consumerism and greed.

Once Catholics began to compromise or out and out reject Humanae Vitae, Catholic families began to look like all the rest of the disfunctional families in society.

In addition, the Church stopped preaching against mixed marriages in a false emphasis on ecumenism. So many problems come out of marriages where the couple is not becoming one spirituallly.

If England wants more vocations, England needs adult education and the renewal of real Catholic families.

Maybe Catholics were better off being poor....

Highland Cathedral said...

Meanwhile in Ukraine:
Before the fall of communism there were barely 300 priests in the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, with an average age of 70. Today, there are 3,000 priests, with an average age of 38.
Source: Aid to Church in Need.
I read the other day about a diocese in the USA which currently has no vocations to the priesthood whereas the seminary in Lincoln diocese, Nebraska has plenty. Somebody really needs to find out why there are these differences. Or, perhaps, we already know?

John Nolan said...

There is another video from Ushaw College chapel of the funeral Mass for Mgr McGreevy in 1990. There is now a coffee-table 'altar' plonked incongruously in the middle of the choir. Plainchant is limited to a small schola which sings the Offertorium but this is the only part of the traditional Requiem Mass which remains, and the only thing sung in Latin. Otherwise the music is 'modern parish congregational' style and the organ plays throughout.

It would have been unrecognizable to a seminarian of 1960 and yet was the liturgical norm a mere ten years later.

It's all very well for Savonarola to talk about rediscovering the 'contemplative way' but most of us lead busy active lives and the stability and formalized ritual of the Roman Rite gave people something to hold on to. No doubt there would have been a falling-off of religious observance in the 1960s but the destruction of the time-honoured liturgy accelerated the process.

Malcolm Muggeridge (before he became a Catholic) argued that the only sane strategy for the RC Church in a rapidly changing world would be to have stood four-square on her ancient liturgical tradition. Instead she opted for the shifting sands of a liturgical 'renewal' which has not proved a success.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Savonarola's contribution is brilliantly satirical.

Father Spike said...

What a beautiful film! And how are the mighty fallen!

I accept the point that the seeds of the soon-to-be-dissolution were already there among those very seminarians and priests who are so outwardly reverent and faithful.

However, I can't agree with the "sour grapes" response that large numbers and outward piety are necessarily a sign of inward hollowness, or that outward weakness and low numbers are necessarily an indication that we are clinging more closely to the Cross and that we now have better quality in spite of less quantity. I don't see much evidence for that. Much depends on the circumstances and persons involved.

To be a small and marginal Church may be the price of fidelity and a sign of humility and faith in difficult circumstances. However, decline in numbers can also indicate a loss of faith and hope and zeal. It's very possible for a Church in decline to become more complacent and self-referential (Ray Repp’s "Here we are all together as we sing our song," more recently "Gather Us In," etc.).

If numerical decline were a sign of deeper faith, then the most spiritually pure churches would be those facing extinction, and the collapse of vocations and institutions would be a sign of the victory of the Cross. That can't be right though the bearing of the present Cross may well be sowing the seeds of a future resurrection.

The history of the Tractarians and of the Anglo-Catholic revival shows that when the Church faces such a crisis of faith and many external enemies and threats that there needs to be a personal and communal re-consecration, of which the restoration of the sacredness of sacred worship is a necessary aspect and consequence.

It is clear that those priests and seminarians who wanted revolution in the Sixties saw the importance of deconstructing the sacred liturgical forms we see used at Ushaw in 1960. Since humans are embodied and social beings by nature, I think the revolutionaries were correct on that point.

As long as the traditional forms remained intact and shaped the sensibilities and praxis of the faithful, it would be hard to change anything at a profound level. Again, on that point, the revolutionaries had a more realistic (indeed, Catholic) understanding of human nature and of religious psychology/sociology than some people who retreat into personal piety and contemplation, and who dismiss outward forms as a distraction.

Ritual forms are not just a distraction, and they do matter, as the outward embodiment and enactment of the faith we profess.

Blessed John Henry Newman got it right in the Apologia: it is one thing to want fine churches and ceremonies (which Newman certainly did), and quite another to want these without the substance they signify.

Athelstane said...


It would be easy to say that the Church itself post-Vatican II deliberately dismantled its own traditions, almost waged war on them,

Yes, it would be too easy. It would also be accurate!

... but even if this were true would traditional Catholicism have collapsed so quickly and comprehensively if it had been really soundly rooted?

That's a fair question. The answer, I suggest, is "no," but in a qualified way: The laity in much of the West was already under intense pressure to conform to a secularizing culture from the outset of the postwar era - this was certainly true in the English-speaking countries, where acceptance by a predominantly Protestant culture was greatly desired. Once the Church decided to abandon nearly all the customs that seemed most counter-cultural, many laypeople (and clergy) were more than happy to to take advantage.

But the qualification is this: while some of what existed may have been "cultural Catholicism," or "habit and custom," as you put it, not *all* of it was; it is too easy to find the evidence of vibrant faith in various parts of the Church in those days. Here I think Fr. Hunwicke, in his commentary on this video, is on to something: auctoritas and tradition had, until the 20th century, worked hand in hand to preserve intact the worship of the Church, to the point where it was hardly conceivable that it would ever be otherwise. But once auctoritas turned against it, Catholics with misgivings had a difficult choice - choose tradition, or auctoritas? Overwhelmingly, albeit sometimes reluctantly, they chose the latter. The authority of the Church finally ended up in the hands of a party hostile to much of its own tradition, and by the (ab)use of that authority, staged a veritable revolution, bringing along nearly all through obedience. Some bishops happily abandoned the Roman Rite, but for others, the response was common: "Well, the Pope wants this, we cannot refuse him."

And yes, they had some very willing lay and clerical accomplices for whom tradition was, alas, no more than habit and custom.

Savonarola said...

Athelstane, I can't help thinking that conspiracy theories are nearly always suspect. Do you really think that the Church deliberately waged war on its own traditions? I suspect that the relations between tradition and authority are a good more complex than you suggest.

Savonarola said...

My previous contribution was not intended to be satirical, brilliant or otherwise, Miss Sadie. Nobody ever seems to address the question of why religious practice declines except in an over simplified way, attributing bad faith and base motives to those whom they see as being the culprits. It is not sour grapes to say I still want to know why traditional Catholicism did decline so quickly if it really was what its adherents claim.
John Nolan may care to know that there any many many people leading busy active lives who now practise forms of contemplative prayer. It is not so difficult if you want to do it and does not need elaborate rituals: it is in fact the simplicity of it that appeals.

Nicolas Bellord said...

It was entirely the fault of the clergy.

Sean W. said...

A friend put it this way. Suppose I discover my washing machine has a dial controlling factory settings, labeled only "A" and "B." It's currently set on A, and my dishwasher has generally produced clean dishes without a problem. I switch it over to B and run it, whereupon my dishwasher melts my dishes and spews soapy water all over the kitchen. This, the reformers tell us, is evidence that the washing machine never really worked on "A," therefore we should just double down and try to make it work on "B."

But that's nonsense, obviously. There is a real impulse to destroy and disobey at the heart of Catholicism -- it's one we share with all the major religions -- and it's nothing more than the fruit of original sin. The preconciliar consensus, such as it was, did a better job of keeping that impulse in check than the postconciliar one has. And that's all.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Savonarola: The pre-VII church was very authoritarian. It administered the sacraments and taught the doctrine. It required a certain standard of behaviour and we were told our salvation depended upon it. It was all set out in the penny Catechism. We did whatever the clergy told us.

Gradually after VII we, the laity, were told, by the clergy, that how we behaved ourselves did not always matter, that Protestantism was really okay and the devotions we previously practised - rosary, adoration, benediction etc were no longer important and indeed ridiculed and belittled. Much of the beauty of the liturgy was dumped - the last gospel, prayers for the Queen and the conversion of Russia, tenebrae and much else. Feast days were no longer celebrated etc etc. Churches were desecrated with the removal of much beauty. Confession was no longer required and communion was for everyone regardless of the state of a person's soul. I could go on. The whole thing became unimportant and irrelevant. So the numbers fell away. Of course there were other influences - secularism and the sexual revolution of the sixties became more attractive and Catholics deprived of sanctifying grace fell for them. If you asked a priest for guidance all you got was a fool jumping from one foot to the other.

And who was responsible for all this? The clergy not the laity. May God have mercy on their souls and no doubt he will but I am not sure I would!

What other explanation is there?

Jacobi said...

Sufficient time has elapsed since the Second Vatican Council for an objective assessment to be made. It was called at exactly the wrong time by St John XXIII, a holy man but exceedingly naïve and without much between his ears.

The result some fifty years on is that the Church is in an unmitigated Mess.

More than ever I am reminded of the Protestant Reformation. The parallels are extraordinary. The Council did not cause this “Reformation” but provided the ideal opportunity to the “enemy within” who seized it, filling he documents with innuendo and ambiguity so that almost any meaning could subsequently be drawn. This was used to Relatvise the teaching of the Magisterium.

This technique will be tried again at the second session of the Synod on the Family - so watch out for it!

The laity complied, or collapsed, or just walked away, after the Council, because of the failure of our bishops to lead combined with the enormous trust we placed in them. The degree of secularisation then and now is frightening but again this is the responsibility of the Hierarchy who have just let it go.

As for the answer to this mess, well the contemplative way has been suggested but we can forget that. Alright for monks and OAP s with time on their hands but not much use to the lorry driver or teacher with difficult kids, or a salesman wit a contract to conclude, or else.

Last Sundays Gospel was about discipleship and the rejection of sin. Both need rules but rules are exactly what the Relativists phased out post-Vat II. Sadly, if anyone wants to know their Catholic religion these days, Michael Voris is your best bet, not your average parish priest

But Father, cheer up. The present crash in mass attendance and priests, and now churches (my diocese is just beginning to grapple with this) has its own solution. In about 10/15 years the traditional orders and traditional priests will again be the majority in an admittedly much smaller Church - and the you can all start again!

Monica said...

A wonderful video, Father, as indeed are the other two featuring the High Masses.

As an ex-pat from Co Durham, I have always had a fascination for Ushaw. The interview with the first of the three senior students particularly interested me. He was an ex-Anglican convert and was indeed ordained and curate at my then-parish. Sadly, he left the priesthood and returned to the C of E in 1968. He rose up the ranks of the Anglican clergy.

Ushaw was a very fine institution and it is a sad reflection on the state of the Church in the UK today that it is now closed as a seminary.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Sav - "I still want to know why traditional Catholicism did decline so quickly if it really was what its adherents claim".

That is not what was rejected post-65 which many contributors are explaining here. In addition to their comments, I would add WWII, the post-war settlements and the emergence of a WWII cult which is still going strong. Where "trads" go wrong (read the moronic Mundabor blog for proof) is wanting the war cult AND tradition. Yet the Holy Spirit has told us for 50 years now that you can't have them. They are mutually exclusive.

Cardinal Heenan's autobiography is a starting point when he is evidently baffled by Karl Rahner's performance during the Council. Yet post-war German theology was the result of occupation, allied attrocities, denazification programming orchestrated by the CIA and British security services, war guilt and unceasing public humiliation notably by academia and Hollywood and so on.

Then Heenan wondered why it was all going wrong? The Church was simply not prepared for the above and still isn't. I was at Mass last Sunday where the celebrant read from an article by Timothy Radcliffe in The Times. The whole piece was filled with cognitive dissonance. As Radcliffe refused to make any connection between the role played by Anglo-Saxon neo-cons and the subsequent violence against Christians in the Middle East. Neo-conservatism is in essence a WWII cult and is therefore accorded special protection which Fr. Radcliffe provides in his failed analysis.

Sean W. said...

"But Father, cheer up. The present crash in mass attendance and priests, and now churches (my diocese is just beginning to grapple with this) has its own solution. In about 10/15 years the traditional orders and traditional priests will again be the majority in an admittedly much smaller Church - and the you can all start again!"

That seems an exaggerated analysis. In France, where the situation is most extreme, the SSPX will account for something like a quarter of French priests in about 50 years, and TLM-celebrating priests will maybe account for a third of the priesthood overall. This is impressive since it's happening in the teeth of resistance by the French episcopate, but it also assumes that ordination rates for both parties will remain stable. They won't. The modernists are not dumb, they will not roll over and let us outbreed them, they will do what leftists always do: they will see the writing on the wall and they will come after us (though they will have to do it without the aid of black bags and gas chambers). In some sense they are already trying to come after us.

A crisis point will be reached, probably in our lifetimes, when bishops have to start making tough decisions. I don't know when that day will come, and I don't know what will happen on it, but I don't see much reason to believe that things will work out well for us when it does.

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