Liverpool: bad TLM news

Bad news from Damian Thompson:

Archbishop scraps plans for Latin Mass parish

Tuesday, July 22, 2008, 06:18 PM GMT [General]

Miserable news. Last month, it emerged that the Archbishop of Liverpool, Patrick Kelly, was preparing to turn the ailing church of St Vincent de Paul, Toxteth – designed by Pugin – into Britain’s first parish dedicated to the traditional Latin Mass. At last, we all thought, a bishop who understands the Pope’s programme of renewal.

Not so fast. Archbishop Kelly has now told parishioners: "On Tuesday, 15 July, the proposal was presented, as Canon Law requires, to the Council of Priests. I have decided not to go ahead with the change that I proposed. Thank you for your courtesy and understanding, Please pray for me."

And that’s it: the Archbishop’s full explanation of why an exciting and imaginative scheme has been scrapped.

St Vincent’s, the work of Britain’s greatest Catholic neo-Gothic architect, has yet to be butchered and was therefore ideal for the older form of Mass. The plan also met the request by the Vatican that centrally located churches should be found for people who have requested the ancient liturgy. But the "Council of Priests", apparently, thought differently.

What a fiasco.

It is not known what the discussion was in the meeting between Archbp. Kelly and the priests. 

I would remind pastors that, according to the provisions of Pope Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum, they don’t need the Archbishop’s permission to implement TLMs in their parishes.

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  1. Chironomo says:

    Isn’t it a little odd that this was announced before he brought it to the Council of Priests? If he were so enthusiastic about this plan that he just had to get it out there, why does he not just go ahead with it anyway?

  2. Jerry Boyd says:

    Why can’t so-called Church leaders exercise leadership and not, as I suspect, scrap a good idea because he might be “unpopular” with his Priests? Leadership, which includes obedience, is a subject not taught in semanaries I guess

  3. Jrbrown says:

    Keep in mind what message this sends to the SSPX. One moment a bishop is welcoming and accomodating, seemingly willing to make necessary changes for the good of souls. THe next minute he is retreating in an embarassing manner because the “Council of Priestys” does not want to allow traditionalists to have reliable and free diocesan-wide access to the traditional form of Sacraments. The SSPX will now claim that the bishops themselves are unable to enforce Summorum Pontificum, and the Pope seemingly does not do anything to correct these problems (we don’t know if and/or when a ‘clarification’ may occur on the motu proprio). Hence, SSPX will claim the only ‘safe’ way to provide full access of Sacraments without them being withdrawn when deemed inconvenient is with them. A very unfortunate event to occur.

  4. Fr. Angel says:

    I don’t understand why the Archbishop had to discuss the matter with the Council of Priests. Canon Law requires these consultations only when a parish is going to be erected, suppressed, alienated, etc.

    My impression is that the Archbishop was merely going to allow a priest to attend to the needs of traditional Catholics by offering the EF to everyone in the area. I thought that St. Vincent’s was already an established parish.

    Sadly, if these provisions to meet the needs of traditional Catholics are going to be submitted to Presbyteral Councils, then we are going to see more of the same stonewalling everywhere. I agree Fr. Z that this is terrible news.

  5. Flabellum says:

    I guess a clever Canon Lawyer got to the Archbishop after he had made the announcement and persuaded him that he had to seek the advice of his Council of Priests. Once he had sought their advice it would in practice take a very strong bishop to overrule them. In most dioceses the Council of Priests is heavily stacked with the ‘Spirit of Vatican II’ generation.

  6. FrGregACCA says:

    Speculation only, and that from a great distance geographically and ecclesiastically, less so theologically. Archbishop Kelly initially airs the proposal to see what kind of support it gets from within the Diocese, particularly from laity. In the States, we call this a “trial ballon” or we refer to the process as “running it up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes”. In any event, this proposal gets little or no support, and perhaps some opposition, thus paving the way for the presbyterium to scuttle it.

    That said, I completely agree with JrBrown.

  7. Paul Haley says:

    On Tuesday, 15 July, the proposal was presented, as Canon Law requires, to the Council of Priests.

    What portion of canon law requires a bishop to submit his plans to the Council of Priests?

  8. Sean McCarney says:

    I thought that a bishop was meant to be a leader of the faithful, a successor to the apostles. I wonder what would have happened if the Twelve had returned to Christ after he sent them out into the villages of Judea and said “Sorry, boss, they’re not really up for it, so we changed our minds”?

  9. Mark M says:


    I was going to ask the same question as Paul Haley: why must the Bishop consult the Council of Priests first?

  10. Patrick says:

    Canon law requires a bishop to consult the council of priests before erecting a new parish – canon 515.2. Of course, the bishop is free to ignore the advice of his council. But an easier route would be to establish a chaplaincy, as also envisaged by SP article 10, which could be a quasi-parish. Too late now, though.

  11. TJM says:

    I checked on Damian’s website and there is a contrary local view, supportive of the bishop which sounds reasonable. Tom

  12. Simon Platt says:

    What sad news this is!

    I have just returned from a business trip to Vancouver, where I was pleased to assist at the traditional mass and devotions at the Holy Family personal parish ( which seems to be doing very well and is certainly fulfilling a pastoral need there. Why can we not also have this need met in England?

  13. Great. It is true that as a priest, I don´t need the Archbishop´s permission to celebrate TLM in my parish, but he actually thinks “it is a piece of trivia”, (sic), what you have to do is to work in the archdiocese`s pastoral. O.K. Furthermore, he insisted on the need of providing a church for the parisioners interested on TLM. That is simply to deny the cityzenship of the old mass in the Holy Church today.A big number of priest in my archdiocese are very dissapointed with him. the reform of the church is not so easy. it requires more than a document from the holy see, I think. the history of the reformer saints it´s there. Just never surrender.

  14. We do not know the exact details, but it seems perfectly clear that this plan was scuppered. My guess is that the diocesan priests – who tend to be well to the Left in that part of the world – could live with traditionalists being allowed to *use* a church, but drew the line at them *having* a church whose entire spiritual life was built round the 1962 Missal. The Archbishop does not emerge well from his affair – his announcement to the people of St Vincent’s is terse to the point of rudeness.

  15. Kradcliffe says:

    I don’t know… he sounded very upset, to me. Perhaps he didn’t trust himself to say any more.

  16. “…Archbishop Kelly initially airs the proposal to see what kind of support it gets from within the Diocese, particularly from laity…”

    This is a weak argument, particularly in regards to a sacrament like Holy Communion. What the laity supports or wants is not important. Want is important is what the laity needs. If a bishop took a straw pole regarding the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the majority of Catholics would vote it down. So, should a bishop cancel confessions in his diocese because the laity do not support the sacrament? Giving the laity what they want is half of what got us into this mess.

    Most laity no nothing of the Summorum Pontificum, and the answer to this ignorance is simple. Pray the Mass and they will come! The arian heresy lasted decades. The struggle for the Tridentine Mass may take as long.

  17. pattif says:

    Never mind what message this sends to SSPX. What message does it send to the Holy Father? It is to him that bishops promise obedience, not to their Councils of Priests.

  18. Fr. Angel says:

    It appears now that the Archbishop was asking to suppress St. Vincent’s as a parish before proceeding with the plan to make it an EF parish combined with another parish nearby. Suppressing a parish does involve a process of consultation first. However, even if St. Vincent’s isn’t made an EF parish, there is still the future option of having an EF chaplaincy being administered from there, as Patrick mentioned.

    If the Archbishop had ignored the procedure for suppression, the present parishioners could have pursued a case of administrative recourse against him and, I believe, would have gained a sympathetic ear before a higher ecclesiastical court.

  19. Mitchell says:

    Sad indeed…….I support even more “Every Parish, Every Church” (A Gregorian Mass) and not just as a wish for the future but as a firm unequivocal mandate that will be done by such and such a date. At least one Extraordinary Form Mass in a varied schedule alongside the NO for people to make their choice and allow true drifting to occur. The Holy Father needs to show people he is not playing around with SP and in the end it will benefit countless souls. I feel sorry for all those people in the diocease who had their hopes up.

  20. cathguy says:


    I am with you. If there is a silver lining here it is this: many of us who love tradition also feel a strong attachment to our home parish. There ought to be no reason for our faith to balkanize. Every parish, every Church, ought to have ONE TLM. I mean, how hard is it? Some of our Churches have around 10 Masses that fulfill the Sunday obligation. One of them can’t be a TLM? How stingy are we that can’t do this?

  21. Has anyone heard when the official clarification from the Vatican regarding the implementation Summorum Pontificum is going to be published?

  22. Adam says:

    Please note, Archbishop Kelly and his former auxilliary Mgr Malone have both celebrated the EF Mass in recent years, prior to the motu proprio. A letter from Mgr Malone regarding the St Vincent project was published in the cathedral newsletter last week. I quote:

    ‘Ten years ago it seemed likely that St Vincent’s church might have to close; now perhaps it is on the brink of great new chapter in its long history. The Holy Father has asked bishops around the western world to make generous provision for the celebration of Mass in Latin – in what he calls the “Extraordinary Form” (the “Ordinary Form” being in English). Archbishop Kelly has been exploring the possibility of making St Vincent’s the Latin Mass church for central Liverpool, but certain consultations are necessary before that can happen.

    The idea is to associate St Vincent’s with the Cathedral, having a Cathedral priest living in St Vincent’s presbytery to provide regular Masses in Latin for those from quite a wide area who prefer it that way. St Vincent’s present parish would become part of the Cathedral parish, which will then embrace a variety of special ministries – the Cathedral ministry itself, the Royal Liverpool Hospital, the Universities Chaplaincy, the Blessed Sacrament Shrine, some outreach to the business community through the weekly Mass currently celebrated each Friday in the Parish Church, and the special ministry to be assigned to St Vincent’s Church.

    St Vincent’s present parishioners would come under the pastoral care of the Cathedral clergy, but of course would choose for themselves where to attend Mass; all the Masses in other churches such as St Patrick’s, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, St Bernard’s, and the Cathedral itself would continue to be in English.

    These are the developments under consideration which led to the postponement, two weeks ago, of the local consultation about Mass times in St Vincent’s, St Patrick’s and Mount Carmel. Other consultations are ongoing: next Tuesday the Council of Priests of the Archdiocese will have a meeting to consider the possibilities and the potential problems of these ideas. Only after that can any official decision and announcement be made. It is unfortunate that a totally unauthorised and inaccurate statement about the conclusion of these conversations has been circulating already. Many details would have to be talked through before a plan like this could be put into place, and your prayers are requested that wise counsels are heard and heeded.’ Quote ends. (Source: )

    The foundation of personal parish was never on the agenda. As Fr Angel has pointed out, what was put to the Council of Priests was the suppression of a parish, which is another matter. An interesting leaked account of the proposal can be found at Fr John Boyle’s blog( ).

    Critics of the Archbishop of Liverpool are barking up the wrong tree. Mgr Kelly was the sole English metropolitan who unreservedly and enthusiastically welcomed the election of Joseph Ratzinger to the Chair of Peter. As to the terse style of his announcement, evidently Mr Thompson doesn’t know that is the Archbishop’s normal style, which admittedly infuriates lots of people.

  23. Adam says:

    As Scouse Chappie ( a self-professed trad) noted on Mr Thompson’s blog, there is already a weekly EF Mass in Liverpool, which is celebrated in a historic pre-emancipation church, so it is not as though there is no provision whatsoever in the diocese. This Mass was apparently authorised by the late Archbishop, the allegedly ultra-liberal Derek Worlock (who established the cathedral orchestra so he could pontificate to the sounds of Mozart and Haydn, and allegedly owned more than twenty mitres, to the chagrin of his priests) after the SSPX opened their chapel in Liverpool.

  24. Lawyer says:

    It’s always difficult to carry out legal analysis based on newspaper reports, but let’s try.

    What we tend to forget is that “territory” is still important in the Church. For example you only have the right to be married in the parish to which you (or at least one of you) belong; a marriage elsewhere is invalid (unless special permission is granted by the Bishop).

    This is why the Personal Parish for the Extraordinary Form (EF) is important. You can have EF Masses said anywhere, and anyone can attend any Mass, but only a Personal Parish allows those living elsewhere in the Diocese who are attached to the EF to be members of the EF Parish, and hence (see above) have the right to receive other sacraments there.

    Of course you could build a new church for the EF Personal Parish, but that’s impractical (and the existing church in question is ideal for the EF). But if you create a Personal Parish in an existing parish church, what do you do with the existing territorial parish that it serves – and the people who live in it?

    The answer is to suppress the existing territorial parish and merge it into a neighbouring one. The building therefore ceases to be a parish church for a territorial parish, and is free to be used for a personal parish. It is that suppression, presumably, that the Archbishop took to the Council of Priests, as required by Canon Law.

    Was the suppression of the existing territorial parish necessary? In practice, I think it was.

    Legally it might be possible to have a single parish that is both territorial and personal. In other words those people who live in it would be members, and so would those living elsewhere who are attached to the EF. However it can’t then be an exclusively EF Parish (S.P. Art 5.2 – only one Mass in the EF on Sundays), because the territorial parishioners would be entitled to the Novus Ordo.

    Alternatively you could have a personal parish that simply uses the same building as the existing territorial parish. There would then be two “parish priests” serving two parallel congregations (and the same man could een be appointed to both posts). However that gives the same problem; the territorial parish cannot be exclusively EF, so the “territorial parish priest” would have to say at least some Novus Ordo Masses, which would not really look like the “parish dedicated to the traditional Latin Mass” that was proposed.

    Perhaps the best way forward is to wait for the implosion of the Anglicans, and erect Personal Parishes in their old buildings. They would not be existing Catholic parish churches so could be given to a non-territorial parish without any complication.

  25. Lawyer says:

    It took me so long to write and check the above post that Adam got two in while I wasn’t looking. Apologies. He seems to know the facts of this particular situation, but my legal points still stand.

  26. Simon Platt says:

    Pace Adam and “Scouse Chappie”, a weekly traditional mass celebrated by a visiting priest, although a much better provision than most have had for many years, is hardly a substitute for a full parish life. This is why this news is such a disappointment to me. It seems as though the Liverpool clergy have scuppered it for some reason. I feel very sad for Fr. Henry, who has been waiting without a parish for what seems like a long time now, and for the people of the south of Liverpool archdiocese whom he would have served.

    More selflishly, I regret the loss of the example which I believe this initiative would have provided for other English dioceses.

  27. Mitch says:

    And where precisely is the Holy See in all this? This is along the lines with the Implementation of SP. There should be some comment, even if of only regret so that the word is out officially how unfortunate this is and perhaps, just maybe, a few of the members on the council of priests would find another way to Make This Happen, if for no other reason than to set precedent.

  28. Sadly, I’ve seen a bishop pull this tease and take away nearby me as well.

  29. Limbo says:

    This situation is our worst nightmare, some of us live with it daily.

    Please Holy Father bring us the instruction on Summorum Pontificum soon.

  30. Adam says:

    Mr Platt,
    According to the leaks on Fr Boyle’s blog a “full parish life” was never envisionaged. Fr Henry was to be an assistant priest at the Metropolitan cathedral, not parish priest of a personal parish. From what I have heard about some of the Liverpool clergy, opposition to a personal parish was inevitable, hence it was never an option in the first place. Some of the clergy are opposed not only to the EF, but even ethnic chaplaincies are unacceptable to them (neither are they happy to accept priests from overseas). The Archbishop devised an ingenious scheme which has been scuppered, not least because of the fervent and inaccurate speculation on the internet.

  31. Mark says:

    These kinds of “meanderings” make it hard for some of us to take the people involved in these decisions seriously. Actually, the whole thing comes off as rather amateurish attempts at leadership.
    Of course we’ll pray for those who have found themselves in leadership positions.

  32. leo says:

    why not simply appoint fr henry to be parish priest of st anthonys the present church used for the old mass , the parish contains two other churchs where the new mass could be said

  33. TJM says:

    I guess the Novus Ordo priests are worried about a little competition. They must not have much confidence in their “product.” Tom

  34. You guys are right. I think most of the priest of the ecclesiastical star system still are tend to be on the Left. At least, those who are in my Archdiocese´s staff. It is sad but they get in trouble: they are not going to live forever.

  35. Simon Platt says:


    I think you’re wrong, or at least missing the point. Even if he had not been parish priest, my understanding, which is consistent with “Fr. Paul’s” comment to which you link, was that Fr. Henry would have been resident in the parish where he served, celebrating exclusively the traditional rites, and that he would have been in a position to work day-to-day as a priest in a parish serving the needs of his people. I think that that is Fr. Henry’s wish. I am sorry for him and for the people of Liverpool that it won’t happen, at least for now (although Leo’s alternative solution might be a good one).

    For myself, although I am enormously grateful to the priests, including Fr. Henry, who go to a lot of trouble to travel to Preston to serve the traditional community here once a week, and although I am similarly grateful to those, including Archbishop Kelly, who have supported this apostolate, I long for the day when we can have the service of a resident priest providing catechesis, devotions and a sacramental life seven days a week in the traditional form which the Holy Father has so strongly encouraged – in short, a normal parish life based on a traditional spirituality. And the people of Liverpool deserve the same.

  36. John says:

    Leo, you say that St. anthony’s parish contains two other churches, can you please tell me where they are?

  37. Adam says:

    I don’t think I have missed the point. When I say “full parish life” I am thinking of a canonically erected parish. To all intents and purposes Fr Henry might have assumed a role similar to that a parish priest, but he would not possess the canonical title. Some might argue it is just a question of semantics, but I beg to differ. The opponents of the scheme will latch on to anything that can be construed as remotely “divisive”. As I noted previously, even ethnic chaplaincies are considered by some to be “divisive” I don’t think the opponents will accept a personal parish, period (the archbishop had devised a scheme where he could work round this objection). For this same reason, Leo’s proposal is unlikely in my opinion. In any case, a personal parish is but one option proposed in the MP. As I wrote elsewhere on this blog, some of the more militant clergy would rather raze St Vincent’s than hand it over to a traditionalist group.

    I am confused by your reference to three churches. St Anthony’s (a pre-emancipation church) is about three miles from St Vincent’s, in another (very run-down) part of the city. It is not part of the Archbishop’s proposed city centre re-organisation plan.

  38. leo says:

    at the moment the old mass is said in our lady of la salette which is a short walk from st anthony’s and is served by the same parish priest there is another church tthat is also his responsibility but ive forgotten the dedication st vincents is the other side of the city and without any parking , please God there will be soon a regular sunday morning mass in the diocese of shrewsbury cenetered on the wirral

  39. John says:

    Leo, are you thinking of St. Sylvester’s which is only a few hundred yards from St. anthony’s?
    I always thought that was an seperate parish.

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