In the UK: a conference for priests on the older form of Mass

There is an interesting bit of news from the UK via  

My emphases and comments.

Latin lessons for young priests

Fifty priests will be learning how to say the traditional Latin Mass at a conference at Merton College, Oxford, later this month. That’s 10 more than the organisers, the Latin Mass Society, had originally catered for. And, I should think, 50 more than the Bishops of England and Wales were hoping for.

Also, here’s some really bad news for the trendy old prelates: the average age of the priests at the conference is about 20 years younger than that of the clergy in general.  [This is exactly what I have been talking about for the last few weeks.  Younger clergy, without the 60’s-80’s baggage of their older brethren, are interested in the older form of Mass.  When they learn it, they will change the way they celebrate the Novus Ordo.  Thus, the older form of Mass will exert a gravitational pull on the newer form.]

The event is a response to Pope Benedict’s wonderful apostolic letter liberating the ancient form of Mass; priests can now say it whenever they want, without having to go biretta in hand to their bishop. But the multiple crossings and genuflections of the traditional Mass are difficult to master; [well… not that hard.  Think about it.  Back in the day, those priests who learned to say Mass weren’t all rocket scientists, were they?] hence the need for this initiative.

The Archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols, will open the conference by celebrating a Latin Mass on August 28.  Good for him. But WHY is he insisting on using the 1970 Missal, when the whole point of the conference is to deepen priests’ understanding of the ancient liturgy, codified in the 1962 Missal? It just seems rude. Can’t he change his mind?  [This is a little odd.  I suspect he doesn’t know the older form … yet.]

Fortunately, the Bishop of Tulsa, Oklahoma, is coming to the conference and, quite properly, closing proceedings with Mass according to the “extraordinary form” of the Roman Rite, as Catholics now know the 1962 missal. (The phrase “Tridentine Rite” was used until recently.)

I think the nylon chasuble-wearing bishops of England and Wales are still “in denial”, as they say, about the Pope’s apostolic letter. They should snap out of it.

The liberation of the ancient liturgy – which Benedict XVI made quite clear was a response to its popularity among young people – creates a pastoral need for priests who can celebrate it in every diocese.

Yet, until now, the two international priestly bodies who specialise in the old liturgy – the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter and the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest – have been discouraged, shall we say, from establishing a home in the English Church. The bishops usually fall over themselves to welcome immigrants to these shores – but not if they are priests commissioned by the Pope to celebrate the traditional Mass.  Whatever happened to “celebrating diversity”?


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  1. Dan Hunter says:

    Who is the author of this straight forward piece?
    Nice to see someone in the British media has his Bowler on straight.
    God bless you

  2. And groups of friends around the country are getting together to learn how to celebrate according to the Johannine Missal. There is an ad’ from one on my blog.

  3. Craigmaddie says:

    But as the Bishops here in Scotland keep insisting: there is little desire for the older form of the Mass, especially as the liturgical reforms of the early 1970’s were greeted with great joy by Scottish Catholics.


  4. Stephen Morgan says:

    All credit to Abp Nichols for being prepared to show up.

  5. Richard says:

    Dan, he is Damian Thompson, editor of the Catholic Herald (a weekly newspaper). The Herald is a good read, and Thompson’s “blog” on the Daily Telegraph’s website is splendid.

  6. mike says:

    “The Archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols, will open the conference… using the 1970 Missal… [This is a little odd. I suspect he doesn’t know the older form … yet.] ”

    I think it is a neat way to transition – makes sense to me.


  7. TJM says:

    Father Z, this is such splendid news. You and are in total
    agreement on this point – it’s the older priests, not
    the younger ones, who have a problem with the Catholic
    tradition and liturgy. Tom

  8. Dan says:

    I know that change is hard for those that refuse listen or see the writing on the wall. I am greatful for Archbishop Nichols to show up and embrace the “free air” coming in the church. Latin as far as I know is the language of the church and its richness should be embraced and not ran from like a rattlesnake in a desert. I feel that an article should be written on my is there such a fright about Latin, personaly I would like to hear more latin in my parish church, but I think that the pastor is going to introduce it to us piece by piece. However; the question I have is for the parishoners that did not grow up with the traditional mass, is there going to be a class or something like that for the traditional mass. I am buy myself a 1962 missal however I want to know more about it. That is the thing that the older bishops have forgotten change is a nature part of life and it is time to open the windows and see the fact that young people wanted and craved for this. Think about it as “free air”

  9. Philip James says:

    The report in today’s Catholic Herald reads:

    Archibishop Nichols said this week that he had become involved because the conference was taking place within his archdiocese.

    “I have given the permissions necessary for Mass to be celebrated in Merton College, Oxford, and for the use of the extraordinary form of the Mass”, he said.

    “I am glad to open the conference with a celebration of Mass in the ordinary form in which all priests participating at the conference are invited to concelebrate.”

    Peter Jennings, spokesman for the archbishop, added: “Archbishop Vincent Nichols has never celebrated Mass using the 1962 Triedentine missal of Pope John XXIII and is not doing so at the LMS conference.”

  10. ben whitworth says:

    Archbishop Nichols is young – I don’t know off the top of my head when he was ordained a priest, but it
    would have been post-1970, I think. He has a large diocese, and I don’t think one can *expect* him to
    drop everything and learn the rubrics of Pontifical Mass just for this event. I’ve heard the Archbishop
    sing Mass twice – both East-facing Masses in Latin. And he sent one of his auxiliary bishops to sing the
    closing Mass at the CIEL conference last year. Damian Thompson does love getting stuck into the English
    bishops – usually with just cause – but Nichols is one of the good guys.

  11. flabellum says:

    Abp Nichols also wants to be the next Archbishop of Westminster. (Ordained Priest 21 Nov 1969 age 24) I wonder what rite he used for his first mass?

  12. joeeblogs says:

    It does seem a bit out of place for the Archbishop to turn up and expect all these priests who want to learn the Old Mass to have a big group concelebration with him. Some priests do not like to concelebrate, I’m sure there will be a few “late” arrivals to this conference!

  13. John says:

    Excellent news about the devotion of young priests. Let us pray for priests, and that the rising tide of Tradition become a Tsunami.

  14. Brian Sudlow says:

    Damian Thompson, being a typical metropolitan British journalist, thinks in terms of the London area and not much else (apart from outposts of civilization like Oxford). In fact, in the last few years, the Fraternity of St Peter have been able to establish a good foothold in the Diocese of Portsmouth where they celebrate Holy Mass in Reading at the parish of Christ the King (often more than once a week), organize catechism days, hold days of recollection at the cathedral, etc. etc. The parish priest at Christ the King – who does NOT celebrate the Old Mass – recently had a letter in The Tablet defending this initiative, and arguing in cogent and persuasive terms why it was about time Catholics practised a little bit of internal ecumenism. His meaning was clear. Now, unfortunately, this good man is being moved on and it remains to be seen if his sucessor will be as well disposed to FSSP as he was. It is to be hoped Bishop Crispian Hollis has appointed someone with Fr Flynn’s sense of charity and breadth of vision.

    Bad news about bishops makes good copy for Damian Thompson, and I’ve no doubt he is right more often than he is wrong. But if he really cares about the Old Mass works in Britain, why doesn’t he send one of his Herald reporters down to Christ the King to do a profile of what has been happening there in a living, working, diocesan parish these last few years. Wouldn’t that show the pragmatists in the Bishops’ Conference that this Old Mass-New Mass balance can work if people give it a proper go? I made this suggestion to Fr Francis Marsden, another paragon of British conservative Catholicism, a couple of years ago but he never did it. Perhaps the time has come.

  15. Chris Plumley says:

    There have been other really ‘extraordinary’ celebrations of Mass at Merton. I think it was 1997 when the Sarum Rite (‘Usage’) was celebrated for Candlemass. Archbishop Couve de Murville approved, but Rome did not. Archbishop Conti celebrated the Sarum Rite at Aberdeen in 2000. I suppose these were considered archeological forms.

  16. jaykay says:

    Flabellum said: “Abp Nichols also wants to be the next Archbishop of Westminster. (Ordained Priest 21 Nov 1969 age 24) I wonder what rite he used for his first mass?”

    It would unbdoubtedly have been the final version of the 1965 format, as used in the UK and Ireland, in which everything was now in English and the current wording of EPI (except for the consecration formulas) had been introduced. The ordinary was still very “reverent” in tone and used very sacral language: thee/thou/-est/-eth etc (the current Our Father is the last survivor). Versus populum celebrtion was practically universal at that stage, although communion was always received kneeling and never in the hand which apparently had come in in some areas of Europe – the usual suspects, of course! The Novus Ordo was introduced on the first Sunday of 1970 (or the first Sunday in Advent in some places, which that year was 30th November).

  17. Rod Pead says:

    “Nichols is one of the good guys.” – Ben Whitworth

    Dear oh dear. This is why we continue to get the bishops we deserve and why the Church here is racing to exinction. Just to refresh memories about Vin Nichols here is an extract from my recent June-July CO editorial, for what it’s worth. (…Heavy sigh…)

    “… consider the intellectual, spiritual, doctrinal and moral
    chasm that separates Archbishop Burke and our two senior
    Recently, the Cardinal proclaimed that “the quarrels of the
    Reformation period are theologically at an end” (which must be
    news to the Protestants); told listeners of the BBC “Sunday AM”
    programme that praying for the conversion of the Jews is wrong
    and should be taken out of the prayers of the Old Mass; informed
    The Spectator’s readership that he simply doesn’t have time (15
    minutes!) to say a daily Rosary.
    His probable successor, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, has
    actively and tacitly undermined teaching on contraception
    down the years (even inviting the notorious Charles Curran to
    conduct Summer Schools at Upholland Northern Institute);
    accepts only that the Church cannot ordain women priests “at
    the moment”; directed the arch-Modernist Education Service
    (a secularising juggernaut); has explicit sex ed taught to infants
    in his Birmingham primary schools; allows radical homosexual
    group ADVENT to operate on his cathedral premises; would not
    concur when it was once put to him that Truth is more important than episcopal unity; declared on national television that “God is
    not a Catholic!” (surely news to St Paul [Acts 22:7-8]); praised
    the work of egregious pro-abort ‘Catholic’ MP Clare Short. (In
    sum, his recent orthodox posturing on moral issues is just another
    cynical career move: like the one-off anti-contraception talk he
    gave years ago in Liverpool Cathedral, at the instigation of his
    sponsor Archbishop Worlock, to boost his episcopal stocks.)….”

  18. Didymus says:

    Any idea how many of the priests signing up are immigrants? On BBC World Service they’ve been carrying reports from English RCs complaining about Polish RCs invading and transforming the Church into, into . . . I dunno — they aren’t specific but it’s very BAD.
    They are very unyielding that the Poles must be more “flexible”.

  19. Mark says:

    I’m a member of England’s Latin Mass Society, and so heard about this conference a couple of months ago via the Society’s magazine, Mass of Ages. Apparently, the original aim was to deliberately invite younger priests – those who have been ordained for 10 years and below – and seminarians. I’m not sure why these groups were specified, unless it was felt thety were more receptive to learning the 1962 form of Mass. I’m not sure why Arcbishop Nichols is celebrating Mas according to the 1970 Missal, if that really is the case. Also, I’m surprised at the high numbers, unless the initial thing of being ordained less than 10 years was dropped.

  20. berenike says:

    I’d be pleasantly surprised if many Polish priests signed up for it, and am pleasantly relieved to hear that the Polish priests in Britain are not simply going with the flow!

    Perhaps some bishops in the UK are keen on immigrant priests, but rumour has it that the Cardinal Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh turned down an offer of Polish priests on the grounds of cultural incompatibility.

  21. Az says:

    Mgr Vincent Nichols is an enigma, much like his mentor, Mgr Worlock, the former archbishop of Liverpool. Many of Mgr Nichols’ public pronouncements in recent years sound out of character – at least to those who know him from his days in Liverpool – though of course, he might have undergone a conversion experience since then!

    Mr Pead refers to the notorious “one-off anti-contraception talk”, which was not a talk as such, but a homily, delivered at the Metropolitan cathedral in Liverpool (this was before Mgr Nichols was appointed bishop, while he was still general secretary of the bishop’s conference of E&W). Somehow, this homily made headlines in the British Catholic Press. Many in the congregation were astounded (and disappointed) by his sudden and emphatic support for Humanae Vitae.

  22. RBrown says:

    Rod Pead,

    Who are the Roman oriented bishops in England?

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