UK: Is a parish being supressed because Latin is used?

I picked up this disturbing story from Damian Thompson.  I don’t know all the details, but what I read was rather alarming.

My emphases and comments.

The suppression of a Latin-loving parish
Saturday, August 9, 2008, 12:45 PM GMT

I have been passed some correspondence which tells the shocking story of the apparent suppression of a traditionalist Catholic parish in the diocese of Leeds.

The New Mass being celebrated at St John the Evangelist

One hundred parishioners of St John the Evangelist, Allerton Bywater, have petitioned their bishop, the Rt Rev Arthur Roche, to allow the parish to celebrate Mass only in Latin, in both the old and new forms. [Priests don't need permission to use the Latin books of the Latin Rite in either the post-Conciliar form of the Mass and sacraments or the pre-Conciliar.]  Instead, he is closing the church this month and has told the parish priest, Fr Mark Lawler, that he will not be appointed to a new parish because his ministry is "divisive"[I must caution that we don't know the whole story here.   But it this is simply over the issue of language, this would be pretty shocking.]

Fr Lawler told me today: "This is a parish that does exactly what the Holy Father tells us to do, celebrating the Mass reverently in the old and new forms. The bishop is determined to squash it, and to destroy me because he doesn’t want me moving to another parish and doing the same thing."

The parish pastoral council has written to Bishop Roche asking why he has ignored its two formal petitions for the status of a "personal parish" celebrating Mass only in Latin, in accordance with Article 10 of Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict’s apostolic letter liberating the traditional Latin Mass.

It has now retained the services of a leading canon lawyer to challenge Bishop Roche’s decision to close the parish as part of a wider programme of closures[So, apparently this is not only about the use of Latin.]

Relations between Bishop Roche and Fr Lawler have been strained for years. The bishop told Fr Lawler some time ago that he wanted him to say Mass facing the people, and that because he had told him what to do it was therefore the will of the Holy Spirit[?]

Pope Benedict, in contrast, has written at length defending the ancient practice of celebrating the Eucharist facing east. He has also given priests the legal right to celebrate a public Mass in the traditional rite if they are approached by a stable group of the faithful, however small. [Even if they are not approached by a group.]  At St John’s, the vast majority of regular worshippers have asked for the old rite to be made available. ["vast majority"?  My!]  On August 17, their church will be closed by the diocese.

Fr Lawler says he asked for a meeting with Bishop Roche, but to no avail. Instead, the Vicar General, one Mgr McQuinn, has written to him, telling him: "The Bishop … believes your ministry to be divisive, is uncertain that ordinary pastoral care of parishioners is taking place and does not have confidence that you will celebrate the Ordinary Form of the Mass with a generous heart for the vast majority of parishioners who expect Sunday and weekday Masses to be in English and at an altar facing the people." [And if people wanted him to wear clown makeup and say Mass on a unicycle would he have to do that?  Saying Mass ad orientem is perfectly legitimate.  And I note the phrase "generous heart".]

In an open letter to his parishioners, Fr Lawler describes this claim as "a slur on my character, an attack upon my priesthood and totally without foundation."

Clearly, this matter must now go to Rome. Perhaps the pontifical commission Ecclesia Dei might be persuaded to take a closer look at the scandal unfolding in Allerton Bywater.

I don’t know all the details, as I mentioned above, and these situations are usually rather complicated.  However, this is an opportuity to remin everyone that according to Summorum Pontificum pastors are within their rights to celebrated the older form of Mass for their people.  According to the 1983 Code of Canon Law they can celebrate Holy Mass in Latin to any degree they think proper.  According to the rubrics in the Missale Romanum and the long tradition of the Church, not to mention sound theology and common sense, they can celebrate Mass ad orientem.  Of course we wouldn’t want priests simply imposing things on groups of people who, over a long period of time, simply don’t want it and resist it, thus leading to divisions and problems.  However, people who would resist such things are a) few and b) educable and c) … did I mention few?

However, at the same time as we all know about the Latin thing, the old Mass and ad orientem worship, we also know that priests can win this battle and that, and that bishops have a thousand ways to crucify a priest, for whatever reason it pleases them to do so.

And so, I repeat one of the most important things about Summorum Pontificum.  It was one of the first documents we have seen in the modern era which stressed the rights of priests.  

And that, friends, is one reason why some will resist it.

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43 Responses to UK: Is a parish being supressed because Latin is used?

  1. Tom says:

    “Perhaps the pontifical commission Ecclesia Dei might be persuaded to take a closer look at the scandal unfolding in Allerton Bywater.”

    That’ll depend upon whether or not they think there’s good press in it…

  2. Penjing says:

    Perhaps this blog, in its current form, hasn’t run its course after all ;-)

  3. LCB says:

    Forgot to remove the name “penjing” from a previous good-humored comment. Taking credit for my own posts now ;-)

  4. Michael C. says:

    All the fish are not fried and all the trouble is not across the pond. Some ecclesiastics just don’t get it. If Pride could capture an angel of light just imagine where we are. The devil is not aobut to let this go without a fight of angelic/demonic proportions

  5. John Polhamus says:

    The situation in England is only marginally more tragic than it is ironic. The Engishmen presently in the Episcopate have been so thoroughly protestantized, and have been living in the hope of a convenient recognition of the reality of the Church of England for so long, that they would rather continue to persecute their own than admit that the argument has long ago moved on, continues to move away from convenient regocnigtion to a position of requiring formal conversion, and that that convenient recognition is as unreal as Anglican orders. It’s a harsh truth, but a reality check which they are unable to make. They have truly forgotten “what manner of men they were”, having long ago (starting in the pie-eyed 1960′s) walked away from the proverbial mirror in the letter of James.

    True, they still have one or two curial assistants in this persecution, but advancing age has written their names on the wall as surely as the hand of the Almighty at Belshazzar’s Feast.

    Lately I have been re-watching “The Barchester Chronicals” on DVD. Dear old Peterborough Cathedral. It makes one quite long for the days when the Church of England was as together as it appears not only in the splendidly costumed drama, but in the documentary featuring the Bishop, the Dean and assorted other male clerics. But that day is gone. It is only the Catholic Bishops of England who are continuing to live in the hope that fictitious Barchester and the purposeful clerics who inhabited it, remain what they at least thought they were.

  6. paul says:

    Interesting article, why such a lack of tolerance? Why so many restrictions on the EF of the mass? Has this sort of treatment been dished out to other priests who say the ordinary form of the Mass with blatant liturgical abuses? I just don’t understand the hostility toward the Extra-ordinary form of the Mass. Why don’t the Pastors of the church act more pastorally?

  7. B. says:

    Father I’m not sure, was it your intention to write we also know that priests can win this battle, or did you want to write can’t? That would fit better to the rest of the sentence (and to reality, IMO.

    It is very ironic that the Vicar General writes:
    The Bishop [...] is uncertain that ordinary pastoral care of parishioners is taking place.
    So he closes the parish so that he can be sure that no pastoral care is taking place?
    Nevertheless, this is standard practice all over the world. Even the vocabulary is the same. When priests who use latin or preach sound Catholic teaching are removed it is always because they are “divisive”. It’s exactly the same here in Germany.

  8. At St John’s, the vast majority of regular worshippers have asked for the old rite to be made available. ["vast majority"? My!] … “The Bishop … believes your ministry to be divisive

    Seems to me that in most parishes, the split is closer to the middle. If in Fr. Lawler’s parish the vast majority agrees on something — anything — then it sounds to me like he’s “a uniter, not a divider.”

  9. eric says:

    ordinary pastoral care….never extraordinary pastoral care. I love the words chosen for this.

  10. Derek James says:

    Bp Roche was one of the few English bishops who actually wrote a document abrogating to himself Papal authority and usurping the rights of Pastors after the publication of Sum Pont. You “fisked” that document, Father.

    One good thing, such a controversy over a key Benedictine issue will not serve the bishop’s rumoured advancement to Westminster well.

  11. David says:

    Dear Folks, Please do not be too hasty to judge Bishop Roche, who has a fine liturgical reputation. There may be more to this case than meets the eye. Perhaps we should trust our bishops a little more. They are, after all, successors of the Apostles around whom we should gather – or do we not believe that? God Bless.

  12. Dear John Polhamus,

    I thought the point of Barchester Towers was to show that the Anglicans in the nineteenth century were already well divided, in that case between the evangelical (and ambitious) Slopes and established powers like Dr Grantly.

    This case in Leeds, as the case of the church in Liverpool where the priest council was against a TLM parish, is bound to have more to it than meets the eye.

    Let’s pray for the English bishops. The likes of McMahon in Nottingham and Doyle in Northampton might yet help change the complexion of this particular bishops’ conference

  13. Mitch says:

    Even if there is more than meets the eye, what a long battle these parishoners will have..I can not imagine having to go to Mass with bitterness in my heart over such a thing. I hope the Holy See acts as openly and decisively about this particular case to give people confidence to resist if deemed unfair..Many of us out there will wonder about this case and if we hear nothing about its’ outcome that discouragement can lead to paralysis. People won’t act for fear and Priests who know all too well about bishop’s “revenge policies” will remain as silent as the Mass they will be afraid to offer.

  14. Bob K. says:

    This is a scandal that affects not only Britian but the US and Canada as well!. Maybe the Pope should have a kind of Lambeth with all the Western Bishops and NO LAITY or MEDIA ALLOWED, and no contact with the outside world for at least one month!. And that every Bishop will sign an agreement with regards to implementing Summorum Pontificum in front of the Pope. With only the Orthodox as witnesses.

  15. Derek James says:

    Bob K.,
    The Pope is very holy but I don’t think even he could bear spending a whole month with the Bishops of E&W.

  16. Bob K. says:

    True. But it would keep them away from those who are corrupting their minds with secularistic ideas,trends, and Masses. They would have no way of asking Mrs Peabody for advice.

  17. NC says:

    I had heard that the original, rather ill thought-out, post-Summorum Pontificum directive from +Arthur was mainly directed at some of the goings-on in Fr Lawler’s parish.
    There is obviously some history here, and I don’t think it is just about the Sacred Liturgy. Roche does, in fact, display generosity of heart when it comes to the use of the Extraordinary Form in his diocese.
    A rather nasty can of worms may well be on the verge of being opened.

  18. Sean says:

    They are, after all, successors of the Apostles around whom we should gather – or do we not believe that?

    One can be critical without being judgemental and criticism does not necessarily imply denial of one’s authority or respect for their position. However, it also wise to be a little prudent when history shows our shepherds have not infrequently led their flocks astray. How many souls might be in Hell today because they followed their bishops, who followed Henry, right out of the Church?

  19. Bob K. says:

    I would be interested in knowing how many parishioners St Johns has. If only one hundred petitioned and their are let say five hundred. But they were all forced to hear (god forbid) both Masses in Latin. Yes that could be a problem. But if a seperate Mass was said for those one hundred and that was being suppressed, that could be another story.

  20. CK says:

    It has now retained the services of a leading canon lawyer to challenge Bishop Roche’s decision to close the parish as part of a wider programme of closures.

    Could it possibly be then that the parish is attempting to halt its closure by requesting it to have a different personality than the others to be closed and be a Latin only parish? Could it also be then that the bishop believes that the pastor is encouraging this rather than working with the bishop and thus with the parish for what may be to him a necessity to close the parishes as in so many other dioceses these days?

    And what is going to happen to Fr. Lawler if he won’t be posted at another parish??

  21. B Knotts says:

    While I wish for the SSPX to be reconciled, it is hard to realistically expect that to occur when this sort of thing is still going on.

    There may be other issues here, but I cannot imagine a situation in which the legitimate rights of the people must be supressed.

  22. Does anyone doubt that the devil has been in a stew ever since Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope? Those who have followed the history of his emminence, the Cardinal, know of his love for the antiquor form of the mass.
    As a member of SSPX, I can recall the joy we, in the budding parish of St. Andrew the Apostle mission in Portland, Ore. when he ruled from his authority as Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of The Faith, that attending an SSPX mass fulfilled one’s obligation to attend Sunday Mass.
    Having been raised in the pre-Vatican II church, this meant, to me, that the Novus Ordo mass was, somehow, being declared as the invalid mass it is.
    His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI has chosen not to make such a declaration, for reasons which only he and the Lord know.
    Did anyone think for a moment that the deceiver was going to stand idle while the Church finally blew out “his smoke” from an, otherwise attempt to ruin the Catholic faith? Christ promised St. Peter that His church would never be overcome by the forces of evil.
    In my humble opinion, the great liar came close with the rulings of Vatican II. Thank God for His promises!

  23. David says:

    Dear Friends, We are getting terribly carried away with our intemperate, and therefore unchristian, language. The idea that the Novus Ordo Mass is “invalid” is, simply, uncatholic.
    Divine Providence has given us the Church we have at the present time, and the Papacy we have at the present time, for a reason.
    Let us be humble!
    It seems to me that those who to proclaim themselves to be most “catholic” are in fact most “protestant” since they set themselves up as the supreme authority (above that of the Pope and the Church gathered in Council). This is heretical nonsense. Let us serve the Church and the Pope, not least by prayer and participation in the liturgy, that we may “save the world”, as Father Z says. God Bless.

  24. Jim Dorchak says:

    This all sounds like “SOUR GRAPES” to me, but hey what do I know?

    (for those who do not know I mentioned a similar scenario last week and got the “SOUR GRAPES AWARD”).

    Sorry I could not resist the attempt at humor.

    Oh by the way, I suggest that we take bets on whether Rome goes to bat for these poor people.

    $50.00 american says no.

    Jim Dorchak

  25. Tzard says:

    In the spirit of charity – I’ve seen in the past where “latin” or “tridentine” masses are relegated to a parish with a dwindling population. Perhaps this closure is a result of this ghettoizing of latin masses (of either form) and then a separate faceless bureaucracy closing such a parish because it happens to be small (without regard to the richness of it’s liturgical life).

    Just a thought.

    I cannot speak for the supposed words of the clerics involved. They do sound amazing, but at the same time with the hallmarks of being out of context.

    I do wonder, however, if the push to make it a latin-only parish was made a bit too strongly. Why can not a reverent NO mass be scheduled on Sunday afternoons or 7:00 in the mornings. OR even more magnanimously, at 9 a.m. with other more traditional masses at all other times (including daily).

  26. SARK says:

    Dear Michael C

    “Some ecclesiastics just don’t get it.”

    By IT I assume you mean the reform of the reform etc.

    The truth is that the ecclesiastics in question just don’t want IT.

    After 40 years of modernism is anyone surprised about that!

    They will not get IT until they are told absoltely, explicitly, in words on one syllable what IT is, and then are taken by the hand and shown how to implement IT.

    The Holy Father, for whatever reason seems unwilling to do this, despite the dire state of the Faith in the UK and elsewhere. I doubt Rome will intervene in this matter, or the Liverpool TLM parish matter or any of these matters.

    Crisis what crisis!

    JMJ

  27. Fr. A.M. says:

    This is a very sad situation indeed. I know Fr. Lawler personally and Bishop Roche is a fine man. Instead of proposing ‘conspiracy theories’ – there is nothing in the public eye to warrant this and individuals who propose them ought to be cautious – let us hope for a just solution, if necessary the arbitration of the Holy See. Perhaps this present situation will bring a number of ‘Summorum Pontificum’ issues and the English bishops to the surface : this is not to say that all the bishops should be seen in the same light. But, as Fr. Z has pointed out more than once, priests in good standing etc. do not need episcopal permission to celebrate the ‘usus antiquior’. The text of Summorum Pontificum is not rocket science.

  28. Christabel says:

    Father Z, I know that this question sounds very ignorant, but may I ask it anyway?

    Is a priests’s first duty of obedience to his Bishop or to the Holy Father?

    I ask this only because it can surely be the case that an individual priest may be very devoted and holy, but not aware of many issues that his Bishop maybe aware of. Is it the priest’s duty to assume that his Bishop is correct and authorised to ask for his obedience?

    This is a very sad case. Hitherto here in England I had heard some good things about Bishop Roche (although he is not a notable supported of the MP) and he is one of the men hotly tipped to be our next Cardinal Archbishop.

    I cannot help but think that without knowing all the facts, we should not make a judgement. All we can do is pray for everyone involved.

  29. Michael UK says:

    The issue is simple, if the church is closed at Allerton Bywater, the congregation can go to their local CofE church ot Non-Conformist chapel. Who says so: The E&W Bisops’ Conference in a document still in issue.

    The U.K. hierarchies have, until very recently, a track record of persecution and coercion upon tradionally leaning clergy – starting, of course, with the late Fr. Oswald Baker. But many unnamed also.

    We also now have the situation of Modernist laity [self-interest] to protect their status in the parish [on the altar] I fear – reporting clergy for traditional expression. Yet my own parish priest can utter complete nonsense with impugnity and the parish run on Cof E lines.

  30. Mark says:

    The claim that the introduction of the TLM to a formerly NO parish may be “divisive” to the parishioners has also been made by some (but not all) Polish bishops. This is part of a strategy to contain the TLM to as few isolated parishes as possible, and deny the average NO Catholic any experience of it.

    My diocese (East Coast USA) is following this approach as well. So far it has successfully contained the TLM to two locations, and the diocesan paper is producing a steady stream of articles criticizing the pre Vatican Two Church. At the same time, while this diocese is experiencing a critical and worsening shortage of priests, it has managed to raise a small army of married deacons and another large group of lay men and women certified to conduct “Priestless Sunday” celebrations. As this trajectory continues, the NO mass itself will become rarer, and the new “Priestless Sunday” celebrations will become accepted as the new norm. An efficient local solution to a priest shortage, which avoids closing any parishes and introduces female led celebrations, all at the same time.

  31. Gladiatrix says:

    His Holiness the Pope needs to set up an email address where the laity and the clergy can contact him directly. I seem to remember reading on Damian Thompson’s blog that the reason complaints to the Vatican never seemed to go anwhere was because of the way the secretariat was set up. I doubt that this Pope or previous Popes saw even a fraction of the requests for help that were sent.

  32. Paul Waddington says:

    I know a little bit about the situation in Allerton Bywater because I live only a few miles away.

    The church of St John the Evangelist is very small (only holds about 60 people) and serves the community of Allerton Bywater which is a mining area. The mines have closed and one might have expected the church to close several years ago because the congregation dwindled. However, Fr Lawler came along and revived the spirit of the parish. Apart from rebuilding the congregation, there is a good social atmosphere. Fr Lawler is also a good preacher.

    Fr Lawler first introduced the novus ordo in Latin and this proved to be popular. Then he introduced the usus antiquior as a second Mass and that is popular too. I think that his success is partly due to his preaching. He gives the sort of sermon that that you remember for the rest of the week, if not longer. He is also not afraid to preach solid Catholic doctrine, which one rarely hears these days.

    If judged purely by numbers, perhaps the parish should be closed because it is so small and there are other churches not too far away. However, should a parish which is vibrant, growing and successful be closed?

    If Fr Lawler is removed. the loss will be to the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Leeds.

  33. Northern Catholic says:

    “At St John’s, the vast majority of regular worshippers have asked for the old rite to be made available. ["vast majority"? My!]”

    As somebody who has assisted at Holy Mass at Allerton Bywater I think sounds right.

    Around 50 people from the parish went together to the Mass celebrated Cardinal Hoyos in Westminster Cathedral. Now Leeds and London are not next door!

    That suggests that both Fr Lawler and his parishioners are committed to the programme of liturgical renewal become by Pope Benedict XVI.

  34. Paul: So here we apparently have a pastor who revived the spirit of a dwindling parish and rebuilt its congregation, introduced solid liturgy and homiletics, promoted a good social atmosphere and seeming harmony, with “the vast majority” of his parishioners supporting him. In short, turned a failing parish in to a vibrant growing parish.

    So from a continent apart, I wonder whether you can tell us what it is about the Diocese of Leeds that such a solid and successful pastor is not qualified to be appointed to another parish in the diocese.

  35. Northern Catholic says:

    PS

    Bishop Roche is Ecumenical Canon at the local Anglican Cathedral.

    http://www.dioceseofleeds.org.uk/d_news/fullstory.php?newsid=701

  36. RBrown says:

    As a member of SSPX, I can recall the joy we, in the budding parish of St. Andrew the Apostle mission in Portland, Ore. when he ruled from his authority as Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of The Faith, that attending an SSPX mass fulfilled one’s obligation to attend Sunday Mass.
    Having been raised in the pre-Vatican II church, this meant, to me, that the Novus Ordo mass was, somehow, being declared as the invalid mass it is.

    If that was your conclusion, then your thinking was every bit as illogical as that of those liberals who have done so much damage to the Church in the past 40 years.

    His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI has chosen not to make such a declaration, for reasons which only he and the Lord know.

    It’s also known to others. Despite its deficiencies the Novus Ordo has what it needs to be valid–we know this by the TRADITIONAL theological principles handed down to us.

    Did anyone think for a moment that the deceiver was going to stand idle while the Church finally blew out “his smoke” from an, otherwise attempt to ruin the Catholic faith? Christ promised St. Peter that His church would never be overcome by the forces of evil.
    In my humble opinion, the great liar came close with the rulings of Vatican II. Thank God for His promises!
    Comment by David Vandemore —

    Your attitude does little except harm the Pope’s efforts to make mass acc to the 1962 Missal more available.

  37. Garrett says:

    We have GOT to get the word out that priests do NOT need a bishop’s okay to say Mass in Latin or ad orientem. Asking for permission only makes it seem like permission is necessary!

  38. RBrown says:

    They will not get IT until they are told absoltely, explicitly, in words on one syllable what IT is, and then are taken by the hand and shown how to implement IT.

    The Holy Father, for whatever reason seems unwilling to do this, despite the dire state of the Faith in the UK and elsewhere. I doubt Rome will intervene in this matter, or the Liverpool TLM parish matter or any of these matters.
    Comment by SARK

    Rome is very smart about these matters, knowing that it’s not like turning on a light switch. It takes time–the MP needs to steep like tea, even among the bishops.

  39. Jim Dorchak says:

    “I suggest that we take bets on whether Rome goes to bat for these poor people.

    $50.00 american says no.”

    What no takers on the $50.00?

    Come on there must be someone out there who wants to win an easy $50?

    Maybe someone in Rome????

    I will even make up the difference on the conversion of $$ to Euro?

    No takers?

    Jim Dorchak

  40. Tecumseh says:

    Following what Northern Catholic and Pail Wddington have said. I read about this yesterday on Damians Blog, I have never heard of Allerton Bywater or Fr Lawler, what I read infuriated me , so I called the church of St John the Evangelist leaving a message of support for Fr Lawler. Later on I called again and talked to Fr Lawler. A friendly and clued up guy, aged 44. No names and no pack drill as they say, but I wonder where Shyster, Shyster and Loophole along with the legendary Messrs Sue, Grabbit and Runne are these days, are they on holiday or are they beavering away over some steaming hot legal tomes. Can anyone answer that one. I will not comment further, except to say that a cheque will shortly be winging its way to Fr Lawler, Shysters don’t come cheap.

  41. Chris says:

    Two facts may help: Bishop Roche has closed a large number of parishes so it is very unlikely this one is being picked on for liturgical reasons. The same Bishop is chair of ICEL, the man behind the new translation so many posters on here can’t wait to start using, so he is hardly a friend to liberals!

  42. James A says:

    What a betrayal of Bishop Roche’s sacred duty of pastoral care if even one precious soul was driven away from the Church in disillusionment at this seemingly very clumsy and ill-judged act. Britain is in the grip of rampant and increasingly hostile secularism, so to close a thriving, dedicated and orthodox parish seems to me to be madness or worse. That said, I have counted to ten and written in very measured terms to the Leeds diocesan email address asking them to reconsider, and would encourage others to do so.

  43. Time to close the combox.