Wednesday, February 18, 2015

People from the Peripheries

St Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church
At a clergy meeting yesterday I heard that we had reached a position in our diocese where one of our parishes, Rye, was without a priest. The Conventual Franciscan Friars who have been looking after it for almost a century have no one spare, and neither does the diocese.
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

Radclyffe Hall.jpgIn 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.

Lord Alfred Douglas by George Charles Beresford (1903).jpgI 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.

Evelyn Waugh by Cecil Beaton 1955.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?


Jacobi said...


Human nature doesn't change. Life has always been difficult with complex situations to resolve.

Personally, I think the single biggest factor that has so damaged the Western Catholic Church, complicated so much of Catholic life, is that The Sacrifice of the Mass has been turned in the post -Vatican II period, for whatever reasons, into a communions service at which all must receive and be seen to receive.

In the Church of Waugh, and Belloc and Wilde, people could attend Mass grappling with there problems but stay with the other 70% in the pews, while they sorted their lives out, and still remain good committed Catholics.

Now to do the “in “ thing and receive Holy Communion like everybody else in the church, you have to, for the most part, compromise or effectively deny your Catholic beliefs.

St Pius X who rightly wished that more Catholics should receive the Body and Blood of Christ, could never haver imagined the devastating effect of his quite proper desire.

The Law of Unintended Consequences!

Liam Ronan said...

Marvellous thoughts, Father, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to have read them.

I don't know where Rose is now, but I think one significant, if not all-important, change that may have affected matters is the abolition of the Mass of Pope St. Pius V and the substitution of that immemorial Mass with that of of Paul VI, a change which was protested directly to Paul VI in 1966 and 1971 by way of a petition which included but was not limited to the following:

W. H. Auden, Jacques Maritain,Evelyn Waugh, Harold Acton, Agatha Christie, Graham Greene, and the editor of the Times, William Rees-Mogg.

The sense of the sacred departed and with that, the 'feel' of the real Presence of God in the churches where one would pop-in to reflect and worship.

Liam Ronan said...

Just in passing, Father, I read a news report just moments ago which made me recall a line you'd written here:

"I am sure it is something about our attitude to sin that has changed."

Reuters has reportage published today in Yahoo News under the following headline (link below):

"Gay Catholic group gets VIP treatment at Vatican for first time"

Jesus wept.

Brennan said...

Good post Father,

It seems that with all the liturgical and other changes (I'm speaking from a U.S. perspective) that we now have a church culture with all the allure, interest, and exoticism of a suburban strip mall.

And it seems as if many American Catholics are perfectly fine with that.

Jane Booth said...

"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." Others have mentioned the more divine focus of the old liturgy (which i have never attended, though I have attended regularly Latin novus ordo) which draws people in from the peripheries. The other aspect (complementary) is that the focus of today's Mass on the people and the priest (who often plonks himself in the middle throughout, like a circus master) turns it into a social occasion from which people can be turned off unless they fit into that social group which makes up the majority of attendees. The quirky, the notorious, the anti-social, those who feel guilt, many of the young, etc do not feel they benefit from a social occasion based mainly on human interaction which (to be honest) does not compete on that level with a trip to the theatre, an evening out in the pub (or for the young who need to re-order their lives) a night out at one of the all-night night clubs. To use economic terminology, the Church is competing in a market in which she simply cannot win (though this will publish as Jane Booth because I don't have a google account, it is actually Philip Booth)

Recusant said...


You are very wrong about that:

Don't buy that groups own PR.

Chloe said...

Liam, it might be hype. Joanna Bogle has this on her blog. Don't know if it's accurate or not.

Jeremiah Methuselah said...

Liam Ronan,
Permit me to correct you. No, the Mass of St Pius V was never abolished, even though many priests and bishops alleged it had been. I tackled so many of them with two questions “Who abolished it?” and “Who annulled “Quo Primum?” Reply came there none, never once. So I began to realise those pastors and bishops were ignorant, stupid or liars. Take your pick.
Even wiki gets it right “In the bull Pope Pius V declared: "By this present Constitution, which will be valid henceforth, now, and forever, We order and enjoin that nothing must be added to Our recently published Missal, nothing omitted from it, nor anything whatsoever be changed within it." And he concluded: "No one whosoever is permitted to alter this notice of Our permission, statute, ordinance, command, precept, grant, indult, declaration, will, decree, and prohibition. Should anyone dare to contravene it, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul."
By this, he forbade alterations by other authorities, ecclesiastical or civil, or by private individuals. He gives a list of ecclesiastical dignitaries who, he says, may not alter his Missal, even of the level of cardinal ("each and every patriarch, administrator, and all other persons or whatever ecclesiastical dignity they may be, be they even cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, or possessed of any other rank or pre-eminence"), but does not include those of a higher level, that is popes.[2][3] He himself altered his Missal ***when, after the victory of Lepanto in the following year, he added to it the feast of Our Lady of Victory. In 1585, Pope Sixtus V restored the feast of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary, which Pope Pius V had removed from the Missal. Only 34 years after the publication of Quo primum, Pope Clement VIII made a general revision of the Roman Missal, as did Pope Urban VIII 30 years later. The custom of placing tabernacles on altars, introduced later, made it necessary to introduce new rituals not in the missal of Pius V.[2]
Is that not absolutely crystal clear ?
*** But only by adding Feast Days, the Mass itself was never substantially altered.

Vincent said...


I'm fairly convinced that it is the loss of reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament that is what has restricted the post-VII Church. People point to the Communion lines, and they're right. But that's because they don't perceive there to be anything special about the Blessed Sacrament.

Where that comes from is clear to me. You may not agree. I suspect there was an element of it in the pre-conciliar Church, but I suspect that the NO Mass is at least partially to blame. Along with, sadly, the priests, who have managed to make Catholicism a chore, and largely failed to teach people their faith properly. I suspect a lot of people don't actually know what the "rules" are. They mostly think that being religious is like being part of a political party. You're not bound to what you don't believe, and you just give them money because your family always has done, or because gran wants you to go this week...

Liam Ronan said...

@Recusant & Chloe,
It's a Reuters news-wire story as well as Yahoo News and many many other news services.

steve jones said...

To be an effective group or "community", said group requires an evolving group strategy. Without one, the group is unable to exercise influence typically within Western democracies where the role of the lobby is paramount. It seems we have abandoned all which once united us and we have become less effective in the modern World as a result.

Jacobi said...

J M is correct. I have several times openly challenged anyone to shown that Quo Primum has been negated and answer has come there none.

The Mass of St Pius V remains a fully valid, and arguably the prime Mass of the Western Catholic Church. But not of course the only one. Other Masses were always permitted,and could be added as has for instance the Ordinariate and the Pauline. Whether the innumerable unauthorised variations on that latter which have occurred since are valid, I very much doubt.

Pelerin said...

I was shocked to read on another blog recently that a Priest who was ordained before 1960 actually called the TLM 'plain evil.' I am at a loss to understand how something so holy can be described in this way and by a Priest who had been ordained before the major changes took place.

I agree with Vincent's comment on lack of reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament leading to lack of faith. I recently attended a Mass at a different parish where I was surprised to see the altar server sitting down all during the Consecration. Of course the server could have had a bad back ...However arriving early I could not help noticing that not one person genuflected or even bowed before entering their pew and the Tabernacle in this particular church is happily still in the centre. I find it hard to believe that all members present of this congregation suffer from bad backs or knees!

On the other side of the coin as someone who at present is unable to genuflect I would not like to think of people criticising me in this way. So I would always give them the benefit of the doubt if a member of the congregation cannot kneel - but a whole congregation?

Patricius said...

The Tridentine Mass hasn't been celebrated since it was abolished in 1604. Clement VIII's missal differs in more than just minor kalender and rubrical points.

Having said that, let's say, for the sake of argument, that the Tridentine Mass was being celebrated everywhere up until 1969. Why then do people ascribe to Pius V powers of constancy when they do not ascribe the very same to Paul VI? Surely, as Vicars of Christ, they share in the same fullness of apostolic powers? In other words, what Pius V could do, Paul VI could do also.

Paul VI used exactly the same style as previous popes in the conclusion of Missale Romanum in order to make the 1970 Missal definitive:

"We wish that these Our decrees and prescriptions may be firm and effective now and in the future, notwithstanding, to the extent necessary, the apostolic constitutions and ordinances issued by Our predecessors, and other prescriptions, even those deserving particular mention and derogation."

I don't know about you, but it doesn't look to me like Paul VI is presenting the Novus Ordo as an option for people who might find it agreeable!

Father Spike said...

It is clear that Paul VI intended the 1970 Missal to be the normative form of the Roman Rite. As Pope, he had the legal power to do this. It does not necessarily follow that he ought to have done so.

St. Pius V in using such language was authorizing a new normative edition of the Roman Missal; in doing so, he did not intend to suppress the various local uses of the Roman Rite (Dominican, Carthusian, Carmelite, Lyons, etc.) that had been in use for at least two centuries. It is perfectly reasonable to read Blessed Paul VI's words in an analogous way, as authorizing a revised Missal but not prohibiting already-established traditional liturgical forms. Paul VI's willingness to grant the Heenan Indult indicates that he intended no universal prohibition of the Usus Antiquior.

In 1983, Pope St. John Paul II appointed a commission of nineteen cardinals to look into the legal status of the old Mass. The committee concluded that the older form of Mass had never been prohibited, even by Paul VI. This eventually led to the 1984 Indult.

Benedict XVI concluded in Summorum Pontificum that Paul VI probably intended for pastoral concessions for the Traditional Latin Mass to be made on a case-by-case basis on the local level.

The key point, however, is that St. Pius V never created a whole new Missal but simply produced a normative and uniform edition of the Roman Missal used by the Curia.

The distinguished English Benedictine, Fr. David Knowles, wrote in The Tablet in 1971:

“The Missal of 1570 was indeed the result of instructions given at Trent, but it was, in fact, as regards the Ordinary, Canon, Proper of the time and much else a replica of the Roman Missal of 1474, which in its turn repeated in all essentials the practice of the Roman Church of the epoch of Innocent III [1198-1216], which itself derived from the usage of Gregory the Great [590-604] and his successors in the seventh century. In short, the Missal of 1570 was, in all essentials, the usage of the mainstream of medieval European liturgy, which included England and all its rites” (from his letter to The Tablet, 24 July 1971).

Vincent said...

For your consideration, Fathers and commenters:

There are a number of documents I found concerning historical missals whilst researching for my degree: - a Roman Missal from 1474 - a number of different Missals, including that recorded by St Augustine of Hippo - the Sarum Use.

It is interesting to compare those historic forms with your Tridentine missal and the Mass of Paul VI. Astonishingly, Canon II is nowhere to be seen for the first 1900 years of Church History!

Father Spike said...

About the Second Eucharistic Prayer: Fr. Louis Bouyer in his recently (and posthumously) published Memoirs gives this account of the way he and Dom Bernard Botte put Canon II together, apparently at the last minute at a Roman trattoria:

"You will have some idea of the deplorable conditions in which this hasty reform was expedited when I recount how the Second Eucharistic Prayer was cobbled together. Between the indiscriminately archeologizing fanatics who wanted the banish the Sanctus and the intercessions from the Eucharistic Prayer by taking Hippolytus's Eucharist as is, and those who could not have cared less about his alleged 'Apostolic Tradition'and wanted a slapdash Mass, Dom Botte and I were commissioned to patch up its text with a view to inserting these elements, which are certainly quite ancient--BY THE NEXT MORNING! Luckily I discovered, if not in a text of Hippolytus himself, certainly in one in his style, a felicitous formula on the Holy Spirit that could provide a transition of the 'Vere sanctus' type to the short epiclesis. For his part Botte produced an intercession rather worthy of Paul Reboux's [a pastiche writer] 'In the manner of...' than of his actual scholarship. Still, I cannot re-read the improbably composition without recalling the Trastevere café terrace where we had to put the finishing touches to our assignment in order to show up with it at the Bronze Gate by the time our schoolmasters had set!"

About the 1970 Missal that he helped produce, Fr Bouyer had this to say in retrospect:

"After all of this, it is not much surprise if, because of its unbelievable weaknesses, the pathetic creature we produced [literal text in French: 'l'avorton que nous produisimes') was to provoke laughter or indignation... so much so that it makes one forget any number of excellent elements it nevertheless contains, and that it would be a shame not to salvage as so many scattered pearls, in the revision that will inevitably be called for."

David C said...


The issue isn't whether Liam is wrong or not. It wasn't Joanna Bogle's version of events at the Vatican that got plastered all over the media. It was New Ways Ministry's version of events that got all the air time.

We can comfort ourselves that this pro-homosexual lobbying group did indeed get snubbed.....and that church teaching on the subject cannot change......but I am extremely bothered by the insidious, evil, deceitful campaign being waged by these groups and the mainstream media. Especially in the current atmosphere where many church leaders seem to think that "popular decree" is reason enough to depart demonstrably from the dogma of the church.

gemoftheocean said...

If I might suggest an experiment:

Until about the mid 70s, it was fairly common for confession to be available before and DURING the Mass. i.e. there'd frequently be a priest "in the box" with a line of "customers." People were courteous went in and "dumped" their sins for 5 minutes or so, and then left so the next person could also go, rather than monopolize and turn it into a "counseling session." Just seeing people go reminds you that "hey, I have sins too." And seeing *other* people go, is a gentle reminder to more frequently avail yourself of the practice. Because if you don't go with some frequency more than twice a year, one is apt to forgive yourself the "little stuff" which means you start brushing off the "big stuff" - and if you're subconsciously "not sinning" then you are not reaching to get right with God and improve your soul.

When I had started to attend an FFSP church, besides itself was the really striking thing of there being a "priest in the box" an a steady flow of customers. At that time there was only one priest in the parish (more now) but the pastor used to get a retired priest who was "solid in the faith" to come and do confessions while he was doing the mass. Given so many churches are down to one priest (if they're "lucky" these days) I know this might be hard, but can an attempt be made to try this more often? I notice at Brompton Oratory, before the evening mass there is always a "priest in the box" a half hour or so before the mass starts.

dcs said...

I am not sure [Lord Alfred Douglas] would have felt so comfortable in today's Church.

I think that is putting things mildly.