Thompson gets out a machete: UK resistance to Pope Benedict and true ecumenism

Over a The Daily Telegraph, Damian Thompson has an article which is going to irritate not a few people there on the sceptr’d isle.

Here is a taste but you need to go read it yourself:

The 80-year-old Pontiff is planning a purification of the Roman liturgy in which decades of trendy innovations will be swept away. This recovery of the sacred is intended to draw Catholics closer to the Orthodox and ultimately to heal the 1,000 year Great Schism. But it is also designed to attract vast numbers of conservative Anglicans, who will be offered the protection of the Holy Father if they covert en masse.

The liberal cardinals don’t like the sound of it at all.

Ever since the shock of Benedict’s election, they have been waiting for him to show his hand. Now that he has, the resistance has begun in earnest – and the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, is in the thick of it.

Thompson gives his opinion about How Card. Murphy-O’Connor is actively fighting the Holy Father at the level of the liturgy. 

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor was most displeased. Last week, he hit back with a "commentary" on Summorum Pontificum.

A few years ago the ploy might have worked. But news travels fast in the traditionalist blogosphere, and these tactics have been brought to the attention of papal advisers.  [They cannot hide.]

Thompson then goes after the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, "which spends most of its time promoting the sort of ecumenical waffle that Benedict abhors."

Thompson got his machete out for this one and just about anyone involved in the issue of the return of Anglicans to communion with Rome get’s attention.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Nick says:

    Wow, that was very enjoyable. I cant remember the last time I have seen an article like that. The days of disrespect and fun and games are literally coming to and end.

  2. Gleb says:

    I just cannot believe the days we are witnessing. I have heard homilies (2!) in the past six months on the value of Tradition and how it has been lost and how we can regain it (in parish churches). I have been to two Masses in the Extraordinary rite in one week, in regular parish churches. I have read and heard things from sources official and unofficial that I thought impossible. It is like Pope Benedict has awakened a sleeping giant that has just been waiting for its opportunity to go about doing the work of God.

    I heard a speech by Msgr. Schmitz of the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest shortly after the Holy Father was elected. He described the Church as our literal mother, who has been dressed in rags for years, but suddenly the layers will be pulled off, and underneath will be revealed the same beautiful woman we remember from our own childhood, in glowing, elegant garments–the same as she ever was. I am starting to believe it. God grant Pope Benedict a long reign.

  3. Whew. That article certainly doesn’t hold back any punches.
    It is nice to see some honesty.
    Veeeerrry interesting.

  4. Sid Cundiff says:

    I sincerely pray that Thompson has good sources.

    The news about union with Anglicans is especially encouraging.

  5. Brian Day says:

    …the Catholic Church must rediscover the liturgical treasure of Christian history to perform its most important task: worshiping God.


  6. boeciana says:

    Ummm. I’m not sure about displaying our linen in the Daily Telegraph.

  7. Rudy B says:

    Jacta alea est!

  8. Garrett says:

    We should pray, as Gled said, for Benedict to reign for many more years.

    Who knows? He is only 80, and aside from a couple of past strokes, appears to be in good health.

    We could realistically have him around for another decade. Just IMAGINE how much would and could be done, if this is the Will of God.

  9. John says:

    “The 80-year-old Pontiff is planning a purification of the Roman liturgy in which decades of trendy innovations will be swept away.”

    Fiat, fiat!

    Great news if true, and let us pray for priests and bishops more than ever.

  10. Bill says:

    It will be interesting to see if the Pope can succeed in gradually but systematically replacing those bishops – and cardinals – who actively oppose his “renewal” of tradition. Long may he reign!

  11. Matthew Robinson says:

    I guess the Liberated Bishops are mad as hell that the Pope is getting in the way of true renewal based on “the movement of the Spirit”.

  12. RandyD says:

    Let’s not forget that what Pope Benedict is talking about is very simple. It’s the little things in life that most often trip us up.
    Pray the Rosary, Read Holy Scripture, Study the Catechism, and simple ask for God’s Blessing. Oh and earnestly seek to live a Sacramental life. PAX. Didnt Jesus talk about extents and not extremes?

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  14. Matt Q says:

    What a wonderful and refreshing article, and in a UK newspaper at that. I mean in that UK journalism isn’t too far behind US journalism which tends… not to be. Even Catholic papers haven’t risen to such articulation recently. God bless Mr. Thompson.

    I also pray and hope we will receiving an instant 400K believers in the very near future. The Roman Liturgy of Anglican Use is already available to them if they so desire.

    “derestriction” is not a word. UNrestricted, UNrestriction

  15. Father Anonymous says:

    “traditionalist blogosphere” ….sweeet

  16. Little Gal says:


    Perhaps father’s first vocation choice was to be a member of the Temptations?

  17. Henry Edwards says:

    “derestriction” is not a word.

    It is now!

  18. Bernard says:

    “Pope Benedict is isolated. So many people, even in the Vatican, oppose him and he feels the strain immensely”.

    Pray for our Holy Father, especially the Rosary. Attend Tridentine Mass, even if (especially if) it involves making sacrificies. Lets be SEEN to support the Pope’s agenda and policies.

  19. Patrick Rothwell says:

    I like Damian Thompson and his writing style, but it seems to be just a tad on the sensationalist side – The Telegraph has to sell papers, I know, I know. I was troubled, however, by his suggestion that the Pope simply replace all of the Bishops of England and Wales. I don’t believe that expelling bishops from their sees because they are crashing mediocrities or putting up ham-handed resistance to Summorum Pontificum gives sufficient respect for the office of bishop – and I believe Benedict respects the office of the episcopate. Now, if he replaced Cardinal Cormac with a man with more zip – which he can now that he is over the retirement age, that’s different.

    I’m also a skeptic of the Traditional Anglican Communion’s union gambit – that Church is not terribly substantial and can’t be trusted to play well with others. I hope, though, that any welcoming of Anglo-Catholics to the Catholic Church would be more robust than dealing with just a dinky little continuing church.

  20. Augustinus says:

    It is certainly painful being a Catholic in E&W these days, and we would do well without many of the current incumbents, but there is no liklihood of the pope replacing the bishops here (or anywhere else for that matter) en masse. He will wait till they reach retirement age and, hopefully, will then replace them with orthodox Catholics. we have many good, Catholic priests, loyal to the magisterium, who are well able to be shepherds of the flock. They just need to be given the chance to break into the closed shop of the current conference.

    We’ve been here before – 500 years ago – and survived, thanks to loyal priests and laity. We will do it again.

  21. RBrown says:

    Is the pope isolated? He has begun to assemble his team: Bertone, Filoni, Ruini, and Ranjith are all on his side. It will be interesting to see whether he makes a move soon to replace Arinze.

    Papa Ratzinger is a peaceful man with a small voice and very mild demeanor. But he is not by profession or temperatment a diplomat–he is more than a bit fiesty. And, as we are seeing now, it’s not just a matter of him not backing down from a fight–he has a history of actually starting them.

    In my first moral theology class at the Angelicum, the prof told the following story: The author of our morals book, a German, was called to Rome to explain certain doctrinal flaws in the text. According to the prof, the word was that the “discussion” between the author and Cardinal Ratzinger grew so heated that the two decided it would be better to continue in English.

    BTW, changes were made to the text.

  22. I have a few thoughts recorded on my blog about this article. Nothing much, but I would appreciate the hits to the page.

    Also, that priest/Msgr/Bishop dancing at the youth rally………Archbishop Sheen must be rolling in his grave. Didn’t he say priests shouldn’t do stuff like that?

  23. RBrown says:

    “derestriction” is not a word. UNrestricted, UNrestriction
    Comment by Matt Q

    Actually, that’s not correct.

    UN-restricted says nothing about any past possibility of there having been restrictions.

    DE-stricted means that there was once restriction, but now it has been lifted.

  24. Paul Murnane says:

    …I don’t believe that expelling bishops from their sees because they are crashing mediocrities or putting up ham-handed resistance to Summorum Pontificum gives sufficient respect for the office of bishop….
    Comment by Patrick Rothwell


    Sensationalism? Mr. Thompson wrote about “replacing bishops” which you translated as “expelling bishops from their sees.” It seems to me there’s a big difference. I must say the thought of “expelling” a few bishops does sound appealing. :) Seriously, I think Mr. Thompson is on-board with Pope Benedict’s Marshall Plan for the Church (see his “Catholic reformation” line) and he’s advocating dropping-the-hammer. Good for him. Will it happen? Probably not, but he’s putting the idea out there for folks to chew on. Combined with the tough talk from Archbishop Ranjith and others, it may help dampen overt resistance enough for the Holy Father to move his agenda forward.

    One last point regarding respecting the office of bishop. I think we all have respect for the office of the bishop. But that doesn’t put an individual bishop above either scrutiny or criticism. If a bishop refuses to lead or even is pulling the oars in the opposite direction, he should get called on it. If he’s publicly obstinate, perhaps he should be reassigned, but that’s not my decision, that’s the Holy Father’s. And I’m proud to say that I’m on his team.

  25. Wait, I thought that dancing skit was bad……….wait until you see this:

    I know the guys in this video (most of them anyway) from Steubenville.

    -Kevin Symonds

  26. Matt Q says:

    It’s not in our Merriam-Webster Dictionary, nor is it listed on its website I checked before posting the first time a few weeks ago. If there are other references indicating otherwise, so be it.

    If “derestriction” is allowed elsewhere, I suppose our former Dan Quayle was in the right to spell “p-o-t-a-t-o-e.” :-)

  27. Patrick Rothwell says:

    Paul, one could interpret “replacing bishops” in a miminalistic sense, like replacing bishops as they reach the age limit or something much more radical like what happened to that crazy French bishop back in the 90s – I forget his name. Damian seemed to be suggesting something closer to the latter than the former – at least that is how I read him. I don’t think sacking Roche or Conti (in Scotland) or even Trautperson is a particularly positive way of dealing with the recalcitrants – and by positive I mean respecting authentic Catholic ecclesiology.

    I certainly do NOT believe that bishops are above criticism, though some of the criticism by bloggers and comment box denizens are OTT. Other than the replacing of the bishops, I don’t think Thompson is all that OTT. Actually, I’m quite grateful for him taking on lousy church music and hymns.

  28. Matt Q:

    I now declare this a rabbit hole, a topic for another entry, and now eligible here for deletion.

  29. RBrown says:

    From the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary:

    derestrict /di:rI”strIkt/ v.t.M20. [f. DE- 3 + RESTRICT v.] Remove restrictions from. derestricted ppl a. free from restrictions; spec. (of a road) not subject to a special speed limit on traffic: M20.derestriction n. M20.

  30. Davvero? says:

    Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes… It’s all very well giving Thompson all this publicity. But does he subscribe to all the Church’s teaching? Especially those concerning gay lifestyles? Some people wonder why his Cathold Herald has become known as the Gay Times…

  31. Francis Brennan says:

    Fr. Z.,

    All in all, Damian Thompson is a force for good and very good news for pro-magisterial Catholics, for lovers of liturgical beauty and solemnity, and for traditionalists. Very occasionally, I find Damian to be slightly off-message doctrinally, but his newspaper articles and blog perform an extremely useful complementary function to the priest-run blogs for the simple reason that, as a layman, he can cross the line of decorum and obedience which priest-bloggers are reluctant to do — partly out of deference to authority, partly to avoid scandal and the sin of detraction, and partly for fear that they may be ordered to close down if they voice strong criticism.

    If something outrageous is happening in the Church — and I would include in that category the blatant subversion of Summorum Pontificum by many in the hierarchy — a blog post by Damian Thompson is sometimes the only viable way of exposing it and shaming the culprits.

    Damian Thompson is like Heineken — reaching the parts the priest bloggers cannot reach. He is loathed by the liberal bishops in the UK, but he should take that as a compliment of the highest order.

  32. Matt Q says:

    Well, replace these bishops as a company would replace any exec who does tow the line. Isn’t that the way it works in all other spheres of existence? Why should the Church be any different? Souls are at stake. If any of the bishops knew they could be replaced, much of these problems we’ve been facing for the past forty years would have disappeared long ago.

  33. Matt Q says:

    Edit: I meant to write “does NOT tow the line.”

  34. RC says:

    decades of trendy innovations will be swept away

    Perhaps it would be worthwhile to consider what really can be repaired and how.

    * A forceful restoration of sacred music?
    * A restoration of church architecture?
    * A phase-out of girl altar boys?
    * Implementing the ministries of lector and acolyte (reserved to men; restrict use of EMHCs)?
    * Mandating some use of Latin in the Ordinary Form?
    * An end to indults permitting communion in the hand?
    * A ban on various invented rites (candle ceremonies at weddings, improper practices in penance services, mass hand-holding during prayers)?
    * Abolition of the “children’s” Eucharistic Prayers and national EPs?
    * A warning against changes to the rite’s text and against secular greetings/dismissals?

  35. Matt Q says:

    We might also add to the list the elimination of clapping after the choir or the cantor has finished the Recessional.

  36. Guy Power says:

    From the Oxford English Dictionary (on-line compact OED)


    • verb remove restrictions from.

    — DERIVATIVES derestriction noun.

    If a word is in the OED …. it’s a word!

  37. John says:

    It is depressing to see some of the illusions about bishops in the above comments. The \’liberalism\’ of the bishops in England and Wales (as in France, Germany, and much of the US) isn\’t a sort of foot-dragging with respect to papal decrees, or an enthusiasm for trendy ideas and progressive posturing; it is a fundamental rejection of the Catholic faith. These men are not Catholics, and that is why they are opposed to Summorum Pontificium; they don\’t want the faithful exposed to a Catholic liturgy. This fact is clear for anyone who is willing to see it – by e.g. examining the catechetical materials published by such bishops, or the theological education given their seminarians. That is why the Holy Father should remove them from office if he possibly can. Unfortunately, judging by his episcopal appointments, he is not himself willing to face this fact – he is appointing men who are as \’liberal\’ as their predecessors. The contradiction between this policy and his liturgical policies is going to lead to a lot of conflict in the future.

  38. Jordan Potter says:

    Matt Q said: Edit: I meant to write “does NOT tow the line.”

    Actually, I think you meant to write “does not TOE the line.” The expression refers to a roll call in the military, when all members of a unit are called to step forward to the line.

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