Sad developments in D. of Leeds

Damian Thompson posted on a rather sad situation developing in the Diocese of Leeds and provides a link to a BBC radio piece on the closing of parishes in that diocese.

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  1. Dan Hunter says:

    I wonder if the new Archbishop, when he is intalled, will overturn some of these sad decisions?
    God bless.

  2. Lori says:

    I found this post on the Website for the Diocese of Leeds. The date is confusing however. Blessings, Lori (I was thinking that it appears that although a door or two will be shut a “great EF” window has been opened.)

    December 15th, 2008 – Church Closures In Castleford and Pontefract

    In light of recent media interest in changes taking place within the Diocese of Leeds, the Right Reverend Arthur Roche, Bishop of Leeds, has issued the following statement:

    “During the course of my absence from the diocese these last few weeks there has been some public interest in the alterations in the pastoral provision for the Pontefract and Wakefield deaneries of the diocese. These changes have come about in order to provide more effective pastoral care of Catholics both due to the shrinking Catholic population in West Yorkshire and the numbers of priests available in the diocese to provide for them.

    “The process that has lead to this decision began throughout the diocese in 2004, and was followed up with a more extensive period of consultation in the deaneries of Pontefract and Wakefield last Autumn. It is sad, but nonetheless a fact, that I am no longer able to provide the same number of Masses in the many churches of the diocese as in previous years. However, the level of provision being made for Pontefract and Wakefield is in line with the changes that are being made throughout the entire diocese.

    “In addition, I have received a request for the provision of Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite (i.e., according to the Latin Missal of the Venerable Pope John XXIII) in the Pontefract Deanery. I am more than happy to make this provision available, as indeed I have in other parts of the diocese, and have arranged for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass to be celebrated each Sunday at 3.0pm in St. Joseph’s Parish Church, Castleford.

    “I am aware of how difficult it is for people to leave familiar and much loved churches, and I am very conscious of the sadness being felt at this time. However, as the Church we need to look at the future which is being presented to us with prudence and courage and with an eye to providing realistically, and therefore as effectively as possible within our means, for present and future generations.”

  3. TomG says:

    Thanks, Lori. That sounds much more like the noble and wise Bishop Roche of the ICEL statements of a couple of years ago.

  4. Ronald Webber says:

    *I wonder if the new Archbishop, when he is intalled, will overturn some of these sad decisions?*


    Do you understand that the Archbishop of *Westminster* only has any real power in the Archdiocese of *Westminster*? Contrary to the assumptions of many Catholics, and to reports in the media, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster is not the diocesan Bishops’ boss. He is chair of the Bishops’ Conference, but while that roll carries a very large megaphone, it carries very little real power. Certainly an Archbishop has a very limited power within his province (which Leeds is not) but can only act in another diocese if it is impeded. He certainly won’t be getting into matters like this.

    Perhaps somebody can find a way hidden in a dark corner of Canon Law for the Archbishop to cure every ill in England & Wales, but in practice it’s not a real liklehood.

  5. Louis E. says:

    The Archbishop of Westminster is formally Primate of England and Wales,I believe,but as far as I know it is only tradition that he is elected to head the modern Bishops’ Conference.(When Cardinal Hume died,Archbishop Bowen of Southwark served out his unexpired term before Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor was elected).

  6. Ronald Webber says:

    Yes, he is formally primate and yes indeed it is only by tradition that the Archbishop of Westminster is made Cardinal and chair of the bishops’ conference. But what power do either of these roles actually give him? Virtually none. History has shown time and again that if the Archbishop of Westminster doesn’t like whats going on in another diocese, then there’s not a whole lot he can do. If he complains publicly he looks like a petulant child. The best we can hope for is for a good man who will be strong and clear in his own diocese and that he will set an example for others to follow.

    This is my first venture into posting on here. Long time reader, first time poster, one might say! I am in support of having strong leaders who will return the Church to its roots but we must be realistic about what we expect and about what we observe. Our tactic at the present time is to expect miracles from the wrong places and to lie about the impact that the liberalisation of the Tridentintine Mass is having. The myth that a new archbishop will come in and knock heads together all over the country in support of the massed ranks of traditional Catholics wanting the Tridentine Mass does not do our credibility much good. In fact its complete rubbish.

  7. Andrew hollingsworth says:

    I do not see anywhere in the National Directory that the Archbishop of Westminster is primate of England and Wales. If you think back to the 1970s it was sometime before Cardinal Hume became president of the bishops’ conference. He was vice president and the Archbishop of Birmingham was president. Is it not just custom rather than a formal primacy that Westminster is frequently president of the conference.

  8. Ronald Webber is right, alas – but just ONE really strong appointment (the name of a certain Fr Finigan comes to mind) to a diocese would show the rest of the Church just how a bishop can exercise his office in complete harmony with not just the wishes but also the vision of Pope Benedict. Such a bishop could create personal parishes for the classical liturgy and extend a warm welcome to orthodox ex-Anglican worshippers who submit to the Holy See and wish to keep worshipping together. He could strip away the bureaucracy, reorder churches in line with the traditions of the Church, employ professional musicians and commission settings of the Mass to replace the musical atrocities of the Magic Circle. As I say, all it takes is one determined shepherd…

  9. joy says:

    Pruned, it grows again…

  10. Mark says:

    Seems to me that there are at least two underlying problems in the Diocese of Leeds that are mentioned in this report – one is the shrinking population of Catholics, and the other the shrinking number of priests. Is the first problem driven by local economic conditions, i.e. is there a migration out of this region? Or is the Catholic population shrinking due to some other problems, such as people simply abandoning their faith? Likewise, is the shrinking number of priests simply an outcome of the first problem? Would someone knowledgeable about this situation shed some light on this?

  11. Ronald Webber says:

    Yes indeed Damian I agree wholeheartedly. Lets hope that all happens. But let us please, please, please be realistic and honest. Since the Popes decree of July 2007 there has been a fervant expectation that things will move very fast. Every act and movement is taken as a sign of revolution in the air. This is allied to a series of reports that each and every tridentine Mass is attracting huge crowds; reports that are wildly awry.

    My wife and I recently travelled across a fair stretch of England to a tridentine liturgy. We got there early to be sure we could park and get a seat, but it seemed that there was really no need. There were not more than about 45 people in the congregation which was a real shame for such a lovely liturgy. Remembering that this was one of only a few such events, the size of the congregation was a big disappointment, and not something I had been led to expect. On returning to my home parish, I discussed this with friends. The consensus was that the reports of high attendance that dominate the news are simply a lie. My friends noted that these reports are widespread, especially on blogging sites such as this. One friend also commented that the congregation at these Masses are normally quite advanced in years. This again contradicts the reports that the (large) congregations at tridentine Masses are quite young. At the age of 46 I was made to feel rather young, with only very few being any younger.

  12. steve joseph says:

    Damian ~ any news as to who the mysterious “Father Martin” is in Leeds? My understanding is that it is not too difficult to trace the IP address of the individual concerned. The issue will be whether the ISP agrees to release the data i.e. the mapping to the IP address.

    My own view is that his comments reflect the true mentality of the curia in most British dioceses and seminaries. What he wrote on the seminarians’ website: is signficant. If you read the terrified responses of the students, it demonstrates that “Fr Martin’s” intimidation has succeeded. That theses seminarians are blogging anonymously in the first instance is a further indication that there are elements within the British Roman Catholic Church who are forced to operate underground for fear of the authorities.

  13. Christabel says:

    Lori, I believe the date of Bishop Roche’s message is incorrect – it appeared on the website just yesterday. I think his absence was due to his attendance at the World Youth Day in Australia, but I could be wrong.

  14. Matt Q says:

    Seems to be a pattern here. There’s always this excuse about declining parishoners, dwindling money, etc., and yet always there are at least one or two Tridentine-Mass parishes included in the closings and those parishes have the better attendance and donations. …**?? ??**

  15. RichR says:

    Seems to be a pattern here. There’s always this excuse about declining parishoners, dwindling money, etc., and yet always there are at least one or two Tridentine-Mass parishes included in the closings and those parishes have the better attendance and donations. …**?? ??**
    Comment by Matt Q

  16. DocJim says:

    Attendance at EF in some quarters within the USA is better. In a small church that was not remodeled in the 1960s here, regular Sunday mass brings out 100+ people (Old St. John’s, now Our Lady Queen of Poland in Silver Spring, Maryland). On August 15, I would guess no more than 60 present.
    There is also a weekly Sunday EF mass (roughly 200+ attendance) in a larger church about 15 miles away (downtown Washington, D.C.) from this old church.
    Furthermore, there are two other weekly EF masses within another 50-60 miles. Having never attended those (Baltimore and Front Royal, VIrginia), I cannot comment on attendance. I believe there is another in the greater Washington, D.C. area each Sunday, but I am hazy on that one in Springfield/Alexandria, Virginia.
    Finally, there is an ‘independent chapel” that has three EF masses each Sunday and all are well attended, though the church is small and quasi-SSPX.
    I think I can count somewhere between 600 and 800 people at Sunday EF masses in a metropolitan area of roughly 4 million. That is certainly a small fraction of the whole population, but it gives a comparison of sorts.

  17. Tom says:

    On what Ronald Webber said about attendance. I don’t think people are lying. In relation to the UK, the reports of large attendances and large numbers of young people at EF masses that I have read are true – but apply to London. There really is in London a sizable number of people, including young people, able and willing to attend such liturgies, and near equivalents, such as the EF-like sung High Mass at 11 on Sundays at the Oratory (which not a few attending understandably, given the liturgical style, anyway confuse with the EF.) In the provinces it might well be otherwise. But then outside London, except in areas of heavy immigration, I find many Catholic congregations even at the OF to be elderly and sparse. And if the nearest EF to me involved driving across ‘a fair stretch of England’, I’m not sure, enthusiast though I am, I would necessarily bother. Again one-off Masses permitted only at strange times and at odd places are not going to attract new interest. In London, by contrast, the EF masses are fairly plentiful, easy to get to for many people, and therefore are also now increasingly familiar to people – and so attract healthy congregations.

    The US has I suspect a different culture, and in many ways more devoutly religious one – so perhaps it will be easier for the EF to put down roots under adverse circumstances. But in England outside London the circumstances certainly are often adverse – and there’s a bunch of bishops and diocesan administrators clearly intent on keeping them that way. It’s a shame.

  18. Richard says:

    “The consensus was that the reports of high attendance that dominate the news are simply a lie. My friends noted that these reports are widespread, especially on blogging sites such as this. One friend also commented that the congregation at these Masses are normally quite advanced in years. This again contradicts the reports that the (large) congregations at tridentine Masses are quite young.”

    I am inclined to second Tom’s comments on this point: This may well be true of England (I’ve heard similar reports before, alas), or much of it, at any rate; but there does seem to be a good deal more interest in the EF in America and France. Especially by young families. At the ICK oratory in St. Louis (admittedly one of the strongest traditional communities), for example, they were pulling over a thousand on Sunday last year – I’m not sure what they’re up to now.

    I actually attend the St. John’s EF mentioned above by DocJim – and even that happens to be the oldest demographic I’ve ever attended for a TLM/EF parish in the US, and even that one has more than a few young families.

  19. Jackie says:

    DocJim- You are correct about there being another Mass in the Metro area. It is at St Lawrence the Martyr in Springfield, off of Franconia road. The TLM is at 1230 and is decently attended. About 100 people come a week, at least on the weeks I go…I live about an hour away so I don’t get there very often.

  20. Ronald Webber says:

    I have talked to a number of friends about the issue of tridentine attendance since engaging with this discussion and the picture seems to be that there are always stories of well attended Masses SOMEWHERE ELSE but nobody I know has seen it in the flesh with the exception of a special Mass held in London this last June. There seem to be many answers like “Oh well, you are looking in the wrong place”, “Oh well, you are in the wrong part of the country”, ‘Oh well, not in THAT diocese. The Bishop is an obstacle”, “If you were to look in such-and-such a place you would see big Masses with lots of youth.”

    I do not doubt anybodys integrity or honesty but I will believe it when I see it.

    Come to think of it, can anyone point to photos on the web of well attended regular tridentine services?

  21. steve joseph says:

    Ronald ~ I agree but I suspect that you could introduce the EF tomorrow en masse and it would make no difference to Mass attendance. People are too busy paying mortgages, losing jobs, looking for jobs, putting their kids through college or simply worrying about their children to really care. Within 6 weeks the old rite (NO in English) would be forgotten. Within 6 months are children (the ones we worry about) would want to become priests. Within 6 years, the converts would start coming again. It is quite a simple pastoral plan: it has worked in the past and will work again.

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