New Archbishop of Liverpool!

I note with approval the appointment of a new Archbishop of Liverpool.

Most Rev. Malcolm McMahon, Bishop of Nottingham has been translated.

My English clerical friends are writing with their views and I am, so far, optimistic!   Yes, yes… some think he leans towards the Left on some points.  First, I don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and neither should you.  Second, I am not sure what those Left points might be.    The general consensus among my contacts is that he is “kind” and “holy”.

And he is favorable to traditional liturgy, which is a solid foundation for everything else he does.

Those of you will long memories will recall that my friend Fr. Tim Finigan wrote about his participation at one of the Merton College liturgical conferences. Here is his post from 2008. Fr. Finigan has also chimed in today HERE. In 2008, Fr. F wrote:

After dinner, Bishop McMahon was invited to speak. His address was warm, humorous, inspiring and – most significantly – a genuine, positive, generous affirmation of all that the conference was trying to achieve. Normally, I would hesitate to publish anything concerning an unscripted speech on a private occasion. Two things prompt me to do so. First, Bishop McMahon, in an aside, obviously intended to amuse those present, acknowledged the presence of a reporter from the Tablet. The reporter was a good chap and I am sure we will see a balanced report – but the point is that His Lordship’s remark in the context of an after dinner speech was obviously intended as a laugh with those who were present, most of whom, shall we say, do not entirely agree with all that the Tablet publishes.

My second reason for venturing to comment on Bishop McMahon’s speech is that when leaving the bar after spending a brief but not stinting time socially with the clergy after dinner, he encouraged me personally to “keep blogging” and jokingly said that he wanted his photo on my blog. (Happy to oblige, My Lord!)

Bishop McMahon unequivocally affirmed his support for Summorum Pontificum, for the liturgical “project” of Pope Benedict and for a conference at which priests were learning to celebrate the usus antiquior of the Roman Rite.

The comment that everybody remembered was when His Lordship referred to Pope Benedict’s desire that the two forms of the Roman rite should enrich each other. He said that the older form should enrich the celebration of the newer form and that the newer form should enrich the older form. In a light-hearted aside, he then said that it was hard to see how the newer form could enrich the older form. There was much banging of tables, laughs and applause at this remark. This morning, Dr Laurence Hemming dutifully reminded us that many people think that some more prefaces might be an enrichment of the older form (though he also made clear his opposition in principle to the idea of the “reform” of the liturgy which is a gift from God.)

What I think Bishop McMahon’s heartwarming speech did most of all was to convey to those gathered that he was not simply there as a token prelate but that he really enjoyed taking part actively, that he supported our work, and that he was prepared to crack some jokes that he knew we would enjoy, being entirely on our wavelength and, as they say, reading from the same page.

His address was met with a joyful and enthusiastic standing ovation by the priests present and some fellows started us off singing the Ad multos annos to His Lordship, followed by the first verses of “Faith of our Fathers” and “God bless our Pope.”

Bishop McMahon has certainly won the hearts of the priests who came to Merton. All of a sudden, there is someone that many priests loyal to Pope Benedict will be watching closely and including in their mementos at the Mass.

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus!

This appointment will have liberals in the English-speaking world, not just in England, involuntarily shivering.

First, it means that Pope Francis is not crushing clerics who are favorable toward Summorum Pontificum.  I am sure that what Bp. MacMahon thinks about the Motu Proprio was not the major factor in his appointment, but you can bet that it was a factor!  I have little… indeed, very little… doubt that his support of the Motu Proprio was used by certain circles as a way to ding him from the list.   FACT: It is possible to support the Extraordinary Form, as a bishop, under Francis.  (Pssssst…. I know no bishop out there is watching out for his career any longer, as of March 2013, but … I’m just sayin’….)

Also, this means that the influence of Archbp Mennini, the Apostolic Nuncio in Ol’ Blighty, has not waned.

Moreover, I am beginning to think that Francis, like Benedict before him, is doing in England what John Paul II did in these USA.  I think he is consciously involved with the appointment of a certain kind of bishop.  In these USA, JP2 focuses for years on the midwestern sees and created, over many years, a kind of critical mass that would begin to perpetuate itself.  It may be that we are seeing that in the UK.  Time will tell.

In any event, with Bp. Davies on the Shrewsbury side of the Mersey and Archbp. MacMahon on the Liverpool side, there is some real potential.  Congratulations to the people of Liverpool.

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41 Responses to New Archbishop of Liverpool!

  1. ClavesCoelorum says:

    And no polyester to be seen!

  2. From Bishop McMahon’s foreword to an OF (Novus Ordo) Latin-English preface:

    When I was a boy most people went to Mass with a missal in their hands, or devotional books like The Treasury of the Sacred Heart, which helped them to follow the Mass and to participate in it. There was a general trend in those days, going back to Pope St Pius X (d. 1914), urging the faithful to ‘participate actively’ in the Mass. In the 1960s, the Second Vatican Council (or Vatican II) took up and continued the same theme.

    Back then, of course, Mass was in Latin. People used their missals to understand more deeply the prayers of the Mass, and they also knew how to sing in Latin. At the very least Latin is as important for our culture and worship as Hebrew is for the Jewish people. Since Vatican II, Mass in the vernacular language (English in our case) has become widespread, but it began as, and remains, a concession. Vatican II envisaged that the Mass would ordinarily be celebrated in Latin, and it stressed the need for the faithful to be able to say or sing together in Latin the parts of the Mass which pertain to them, and it commended the use of Gregorian chant, saying that it should be given pride of place in liturgical functions.

    Bishop McMahon also favors ad orientem celebration:

    The idea that the priest and people should stare at one another during prayer was born only in modern Christianity, and is completely alien to the ancient Church. The priest and people most certainly do not pray one to the other, but to the one Lord. Therefore, they stare in the same direction during prayer: either towards the east as a cosmic symbol of the Lord who comes . . .

    For the whole foreword:

    The whole beautiful preface (and more photos):

    http://offerimustibidomine.blogspot.com/2011/09/vatican-ii-envisaged-that-mass-would.html

  3. asperges says:

    Bishop Malcolm has been a great point of stability to us here in Nottingham and has been a good friend to the Latin Mass Society and its adherents and to clergy disposed to celebrate in the old form. In many respects the jewel in the crown has been with his own order (OP) where in Leicester the Dominican form of the old Roman liturgy is now celebrated daily. He will be sadly missed. We send him our prayers and thanks.

  4. PhilipNeri says:

    Fr. Z., I am very disappointed that you didn’t mention that Bishop McMahon is a Dominican! ;-)

    I was ordained a deacon by the Good Bishop at Blackfriars, Oxford in July of 2004. His homily and sense of liturgical beauty were spot on. Like a lot of the English OP’s “of a certain generation,” he has a moderately lefty lean on some things, but holds the line when it comes to liturgy. Even the much-disparaged fra. Timothy Radcliffe, OP always celebrated Mass by the book, and his conventual homilies were challenging but never narcissistic or goofy.

    Anyway, Bishop McMahon is a solid choice.

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

  5. Simon_GNR says:

    I’ve met Bishop Malcom McMahon (who, by the way, Fr Z, is “Right Reverend” (see here, for example: http://www.liverpoolcatholic.org.uk/) and won’t become “Most Reverend” until he is installed as Archbishop, “Most Reverend” being reserved for Archbishops in England) and he comes across as a very sound bloke – just the sort we need as bishops. He didn’t disagree with me when I described the Jerusalem Bible that we currently have to suffer in the liturgy as “rubbish”. I’m pleased with this appointment.

  6. “I described the Jerusalem Bible that we currently have to suffer in the liturgy as “rubbish”.”

    Because of its Latin-English ordinary and proper prayers for the OF, I use the (British) CTF daily missal at daily OF Mass. One might think it would be a disadvantage to see the reading and gospel in New Jerusalem while hearing them read in NABish. But this has given me a wholly new appreciation for the New American Bible that the USCCB requires, presumably because its royalties support the vast U.S. bishops bureaucracy. At least, the NAB is much superior to the Jerusalem Bible that the British are forced by their bishops to endure.

  7. wmeyer says:

    At least, the NAB is much superior to the Jerusalem Bible that the British are forced by their bishops to endure.

    It would be well to consistently distinguish clearly between the Jerusalem Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible, which indulged in inclusive language, and other detrimental changes.

  8. Chuck Ludd says:

    And don’t forget that earlier this week there was the jaw-droppingly good pick of Fr. Robert Byrne, of the Oxford Oratory, to be auxiliary bishop of Birmingham. Two in one week in England!

  9. OrthodoxChick says:

    I love my Confraternity Bible that I inherited from an aunt. I wish they’d bring that one back. For some reason, I don’t find too many of them around anymore. But I also have a Jersualem Bible (not the “new” one) and sometimes that translation can be a little too oversimplified, even for me. My NAB is a paperback from high school. That’s my scribbler Bible. It was one of my textbooks for religion class so it’s the one I write all over as I’m reading. But the Confraternity is still the most beaufitful IMHO.

  10. SimonDodd says:

    By contrast, Whispers in the Loggia reports that he is a “moderate progressive in the mould of most of the Brit bench … fresh off his annual trip to last weekend’s Los Angeles Religious Education Congress” who is at very least scandalizing if not openly in dissent on the ordination of women. I somehow doubt that “liberals in the English-speaking world … [are] involuntarily shivering” at the appointment.

  11. SimonDodd says:

    Henry Edwards says: “Bishop McMahon also favors ad orientem celebration.” Does he actually celebrate the OF Mass ad orientem, or does he “favor ad orientem celebration” in an abstract sense? Talk is cheap. (Cheaper yet given Liverpool Cathedral’s in-the-round configuration.)

  12. The_Scott says:

    SimonDodd, the quote that Whispers in the Loggia quote about ordination of women is incorrect. The entire quote is: “I look forward to the day when women play a greater role in ministry and take up more of a place in the Church, but not in sacred orders.” Hardly a unorthodox statement.

  13. I am cloudowl says:

    I was confirmed by +Malcolm and he preached very sagely, “Do not believe that you will leave a mark upon this earth.”

  14. SimonDodd says:

    The_Scott, that is false. That is not the quote given by Palmo, and it is not the quote given by the source that Palmo cites, to wit http://www.christianorder.com/features/features_2003/features_feb03_bonus.html. The source says that McMahon was asked “What do you think of women as priests?” The full quote is “Ah, you’ll get me into trouble over this one! I think in other Churches, in other denominations, women have made very good priests and ministers. There is no doubt about that! In the Catholic Church we would want to be sure that this is the will of the Holy Spirit before we ordained women as priests. You see, vocation is a two-way thing. It’s not just the person saying I want to do it, but it is also the Church saying we want you to do it as well. We believe the Holy Spirit speaks through the Church and I agree with that, so I look forward to the day when we will have women priests. But it will not be our decision, we will realise God wants us to have women priests. At the moment we don’t see it like that at all.”

  15. kpoterack says:

    “The_Scott, that is false. That is not the quote given by Palmo, and it is not the quote given by the source that Palmo cites, to wit . . .”

    KP: Well, the quote given by The__Scott is from Wikipedia which cites a 2008 article from the Telegraph, four years after the interview Palmo cites. You will notice (in Wikipedia) Bp. Malcolm does the same thing with a married priesthood. First he is in favor of allowing it then, in a later pastoral letter, seems to reverse himself. He either changes his mind on things or is – gosh I don’t know what!

    So, he isn’t the great white hope for the English Episcopate, but he seems to be fine on liturgy. I suspect that this is just par for the course and that the “magic circle” still has more control than we would like.

  16. REV.JAV says:

    I don’t know the man so I have no idea, but I suppose it is also possible that he, at one point, did believe that women might be able to be ordained and that married priests would be a good idea, but later honestly repented of those ideas. I am sure that I have said many erroneous things in my past which I would now severely denounce.
    My point is, it is entirely possible for someone to hold an incorrect opinion, be corrected, and then, by the grace of God, hold the correct belief (otherwise, there is no point in correcting someone and no possibility of repentance). I suggest giving him the benefit of the doubt until we see for sure that he actually believes what he seemed to in a ten year old interview and not his most recent statements.

  17. robtbrown says:

    PhilipNeri says:

    I was ordained a deacon by the Good Bishop at Blackfriars, Oxford in July of 2004. His homily and sense of liturgical beauty were spot on. Like a lot of the English OP’s “of a certain generation,” he has a moderately lefty lean on some things, but holds the line when it comes to liturgy. Even the much-disparaged fra. Timothy Radcliffe, OP always celebrated Mass by the book, and his conventual homilies were challenging but never narcissistic or goofy.

    It’s good that Abp McMahon is favorable to SP, especially considering that doctrine is the Dominican schtick.

  18. kbf says:

    As Fr says, let not perfection become the enemy of good, especially after the previous 2 incumbents of the see of Liverpool. A rapid shift to the orthodoxy would send a shockwave through the diocese that would all but destroy it. I had to endure many of +arcbp Warlock’s numerous liturgical experiments and crazy ideas as a boy chorister at Paddy’s wigwam so a gradual move in the right direction is no bad thing.

    Now if only he would buy UpHolland College back……….

  19. frjim4321 says:

    Setting aside any discussion of his aptness for this appointment, I must remark that he’s taking possession of an outstanding cathedral. Stunning!

    [LOL! Everyone, this is a good example of how a discussion can be derailed by a casually tossed comment. Meanwhile, two photos...]

  20. The_Scott says:

    SimonDodd, I apologize, you are correct. He appears he said both statements (one, I got the impression, as a clarification of the other).

  21. acardnal says:

    Contrast the ugly photos above of the Catholic cathedral in Liverpool with that of the Anglican cathedral in the same city. Hmmmmm. . . .

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liverpool_Cathedral

  22. Siculum says:

    @acardnal Yes, those particular Anglicans have held onto a lot more Popery than many of us have!

  23. Siculum says:

    The above Cathedral is a great visual example of what Mother Angelica called the Electric Church. “Every time you go, you get a shock!”

  24. SimonDodd says:

    kpoterack says: “[T]he quote given by The__Scott is from Wikipedia which cites a 2008 article from the Telegraph, four years after the interview Palmo cites.”

    The_Scott says: “He appears he said both statements (one, I got the impression, as a clarification of the other).”

    The only source that Wikipedia gives for its version of the quote is that Telegraph article—but the link given is broken, taking one to a “Sorry we cannot find the page for which you are looking” warning. If one googles the name of the article, however, one can find that article, and here is what it says:

    “Concerns had been raised that [McMahon's] chances had been damaged by an interview he gave in 2001 when he was reported to have personally supported women priests. He was quoted as saying: ‘We believe the Holy Spirit speaks through the Church and I agree with that, so I look forward to the day when we will have women priests.’ However, Bishop McMahon said that the following year he had met the Pope – then Cardinal Ratzinger – to explain that he had been misquoted. ‘I look forward to the day when women play a greater role in ministry and take up more of a place in the Church, but not in sacred orders,’ he said.”

    So, we can read what McMahon originally said, in context, and we can read what the Telegraph article says, in context. Given what he originally said, is it really plausible that he was “misquoted”? Again, the original quote:

    “Ah, you’ll get me into trouble over this one! I think in other Churches, in other denominations, women have made very good priests and ministers. There is no doubt about that! In the Catholic Church we would want to be sure that this is the will of the Holy Spirit before we ordained women as priests. You see, vocation is a two-way thing. It’s not just the person saying I want to do it, but it is also the Church saying we want you to do it as well. We believe the Holy Spirit speaks through the Church and I agree with that, so I look forward to the day when we will have women priests. But it will not be our decision, we will realise God wants us to have women priests. At the moment we don’t see it like that at all.”

    Are we really to believe that this was a misquote? That would stretch credulity past breaking point had the quote appeared in the secular press, but this quote was originally reported in his own diocesan newspaper. I find that a far less convincing explanation than that he said what he thinks, was summoned to Rome for a knuckle-wrapping, and has given a face-saving excuse about misquotation. I don’t believe it, and I can’t actually believe that anyone believes it because it is so obviously and profoundly at odds with the record.

  25. John Nolan says:

    One of the advantages of ‘churches in the round’ like Liverpool Met, aka the Mersey Funnel, is that the priest has to have his back to someone!

  26. Athelstan says:

    1. When Right Rev. Captain McMahon takes command of his starship, I hope he can do something about the decoration of the bridge, at least. Or better yet, try exercising command from Engineering.

    2. No matter how long ago that quote was about women’s ordination, it does suggest something troubling about His Excellency’s theological mind. We hope he has had a change of heart, but it is just as likely that he’s merely learned to keep his thoughts to himself more effectively – a necessary skill for most bishops. It seems unlikely that he’s really a bishop in the mold of, say, Bishops Egan or Davies.

    But that doesn’t mean he isn’t a step forward, or one that traditionalists can’t work with. If I were resident there, I would “love bomb” him with enthusiastic support, and see how he can be worked with to extend the availability of the traditional Mass and sacraments, and give a louder and more effective pronouncement to the Church’s moral teachings.

  27. Andkaras says:

    Yikes! If they took the pews out they could have roller derby.

  28. TomD says:

    Klaatu barada nikto

    From which portal in the mother ship does Gort then emerge?

  29. frjim4321 says:

    If you haven’t been in it, don’t knock it.

    I’m glad there weren’t Visigoths in the Thirteen Century who thought that anything good had to be 300 years old … we would have never had Chartres.

  30. marpoliv says:

    One thinks he has gotten to the bottom of the Fr. Jim barrel of inanity.
    Then, he compares that industrial furnace to Chartres.

    Marcelo.

  31. frjim4321 says:

    Marc, no, two entirely different architectural styles.

    Though I think it is safe to say that each of these is a particularly pure expression of the style in which they were conceived.

    BTW, I do love Chartres, and given the choice I would go to mass with the lace makers.

  32. Sword40 says:

    I’m getting mixed signals on the Bishop. Over on Whispers in the Loggia, they are claiming he is a “moderate progressive”. So which is he?

  33. kbf says:

    As frjim says, if you haven’t been there, don’t knock it! I actually have quite a soft spot for the building itself . The musical quality of the choir is very high, but the liturgical style is…… well poor to say the least and has been for years. The only direction that can change in is for the better and the layout “in the round” could suit ad oriented as well as versus populum.

  34. robtbrown says:

    frjim4321 says:
    If you haven’t been in it, don’t knock it.

    I haven’t been in it, but I have been in similar buildings, e.g., the washing machine agitator design of the SF cathedral. The churches I’ve seen, however, don’t use Space Mountain as a model and have the lighting of an Andrew Lloyd Webber production.

    I’m glad there weren’t Visigoths in the Thirteen Century who thought that anything good had to be 300 years old … we would have never had Chartres.

    Actually, the pejorative “Gothic” was applied during the Renaissance, hundreds of years after the use of the rib groin vault and flying buttress. And Gothic churches have much in common with Romanesque, much more than the Liverpool design has with Renaissance Classical design.

    And just because the Liverpool cathedral can be considered ugly by some doesn’t mean that all contemporary church architecture is. I am much taken with the USAFA Cadet chapel, which is as modern as it comes. Unfortunately, Catholics are relegated to the basement.

  35. robtbrown says:

    TomD says:
    Klaatu barada nikto

    From which portal in the mother ship does Gort then emerge?

    There was only one portal in the ship (I own the movie).

    BTW, Patricia Neal was a friend of Mother Dolores Hart and spent some time at the Abbey of Regina Laudis. Before she died, she became a Catholic and is buried at the Abbey.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/maryclairekendall/2013/08/08/patricia-neals-dramatic-journey-of-love-healing-forgiveness/

  36. janeway529 says:

    Bishop McMahon is one of the very few bishops with a fondness for the 1962 Missal AND is a yearly attendee at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress.

  37. robtbrown says:

    Should be: I own the DVD

  38. Per Signum Crucis says:

    Yes, Bp.McMahon is one of the few here in England & Wales to have publicly celebrated an EF Mass but, if you look at the TLM listings, the current provision in Nottingham is relatively sparse and it is even more so in Liverpool. So I would not read too much into this or necessarily concur that it was one of the plus points for his translation; I would suggest that, in this respect, he is more pragmatic than evangelical.

  39. asperges says:

    .. the current provision in Nottingham is relatively sparse …

    The Nottingham diocese is large. In Nottingham city there are 4 EF Masses, including one at the Cathedral and in Leicester there are DAILY masses at Holy Cross in the Dominican rite. Derbys and Lincs are less well served. In Liverpool, there are six parishes with the EF rite weekly and just across the way in Birkenhead there is an EF parish set up by Bp Davies. This is not “relatively sparse” by our standards.

    Perhaps the writer is unaware how much of a battle over decades it has been to work for these masses here and elsewhere in an atmosphere sometimes of outright resistance: until the last Holy Father’s Motu Proprio and in particular, in this diocese, the helpfulness and refreshing approach of the outgoing bishop, who will be missed.

  40. SimonDodd says:

    Sword40 says: “I’m getting mixed signals on the Bishop. Over on Whispers in the Loggia, they are claiming he is a ‘moderate progressive.’ So which is he?”

    He is most likely to be whatever his record shows him to be. There is an argument that is being made in sundry places that we should ignore his record and give him a pass because he has celebrated Mass in the Extraordinary Form: “He must, therefore,” the argument goes, “be one of ours.” Well, it’s a theory, but it mistakes a necessary condition for a sufficient one; there is no reason on Earth to suppose that celebrating Mass in the extraordinary form underwrites a man’s orthodoxy and prevents him from being a “moderate progressive” (i.e. a progressive). For pete’s sake, Annibale Bugnini himself spent most of his life celebrating what we now call the Extraordinary Form! Latin isn’t a vaccine.

    We have spent a number of years in a period in which celebration of the usus antiquior could sere as a proxy insofar as an “identity statement” because the celebrants were self-selecting. (For the same reason, the usus antiquior, which is not inherently more reverent than the novus ordo, came to be seen as invariably more reverent because the liturgical clowns self-selected out of its celebration.) That time is gone. Today, it may mean nothing more than that a priest or bishop is faithful to the call of Summorum Pontificum. Inevitably, someone will say that such fidelity is itself a proxy, but it’s not a good enough one. That McMahon has celebrated the extraordinary form is a good thing, but it doesn’t get him out from the suspicions that arise from things such as his comments about ordaining women, his proximity to the LAREC, and, quite frankly, the fact that he appealed as an episcopal candidate to this Bishop of Rome.

  41. Per Signum Crucis says:

    Nottingham is indeed a large diocese which is why one of the reasons I used the term “relatively” in my original post. However, I did not intend to denigrate the hard work of those who have enabled the current level of provision of the EF in the Diocese; in fact Holy Cross is ten minutes further down the road from the NO parish I usually attend. As Bp.McMahon himself writes in his final Pastoral Letter as Bishop of Nottingham, “If I have offended, angered or saddened anyone by anything I have said or done, I am sorry and ask your forgiveness”.

    That said, the tenor of Fr.Z’s post was that this is good news for supporters of the EF in Liverpool. Yes, it is, in that the Abp-Elect also supports the EF and thus it is unlikely that he will do undo what has already been established there. But I stick by my suggestion that his approach in his new diocese will remain much as it was in Nottingham: relatively (that word again) low-key rather than active proponent.