An Anglican asks why Catholic bishops fear the Traditional Latin Mass

From The Telegraph comes this piece by a retired British diplomat who spent most of his career in China and Germany. He is an active member of the Labour Party.

My emphases and comments:

Tim Collard

As an Anglican, I can’t understand why Catholic bishops fear the Latin Mass

From what one hears, the Church of England should be shaking in its warm woolly socks by now. The Pope’s latest initiative, allowing ultra-traditionalist Anglicans [I think all the want is to stick to the Christian tradition.  Doesn’t that make the ultra traditionalists?] to go over to Rome en masse while being allowed to preserve their traditional liturgy, is being portrayed as a devious Papist attempt to split and undermine our national Church.

As a strong Anglican, I don’t buy into any of this. [Do I hear an "Amen!"?] Many people may not think that there’s much difference between the churches, but that’s not how they see it in Glasgow, and that’s not how the Pope sees it either. These things are important. But still, for me anything Pope Benedict does to break down the barriers is a Good Thing. If some Anglicans choose to go over to Rome as a result of this initiative, I’m not going to throw anything at them. Some of my best friends, etc.

But there’s a strange backstory here. As my colleague Damian Thompson chronicles in his blog, there are internecine disputes between British Catholics too. The Pope – and let me say at this point that I admire intellectual rigour even when I disagree with the man who wields it – wishes to reintroduce the old-style Latin Mass, not as compulsory, but as an option. Much of the British Catholic hierarchy, according to Damian, do not like this at all. They seem to fear that the Latin Mass is a) so 1950s, and b) only one step away from the thumbscrew and the stake. [And it gives the lie to decades of a liberal agenda.]

Now, the sort of traditional Anglicans the Pope is trying to attract are the sort who wouldn’t mind the Latin Mass in the slightest. I like it myself. When travelling abroad – most recently in Budapest and Copenhagen – I have attended Mass on a Sunday. While prepared for a completely unintelligible service, I was on both occasions gratified to sit in on a service which I understood (a lifetime of choral singing has left me well acquainted with the Latin Mass). This was the Catholic Church doing what it says on the tin.

[Read closely….] What I wonder is why the British Catholic Bishops are so frightened of a resurgence of the Latin Mass. It seems odd that Catholic liberals are so wedded to modernism in liturgy and music, whereas the hardcore traddies prefer Tridentine rites, Gregorian chant, etc. On the Anglican side it is the hardline evangelicals who are keenest on modern “choruses”, tambourines, clapping etc, while the liturgical traditionalists, who cherish the great tradition of English church music, are closer to the liberals.

So, will the Pope’s initiative lead to a large exodus of traditional Anglicans? I don’t think so somehow. Anyone who is at all susceptible to the ecclesiological arguments of Rome has surely gone over already. [It isn’t all about the arguments.  It is about having a "safe zone".] We’ll carry on making our sublime church music. (The Sistine Chapel Choir is terrible.)   We’ll live alongside you as we always have, and will listen to anything sensible you have to say, especially to HH the Pope, who is a great Christian theologian. And, while we’ll always accept in a brotherly spirit anyone who is honestly convinced to go over to Rome, we’ll also rejoice over any of yours who can’t cope with the intellectual tergiversations any more and come over to us. [Do I hear an "Amen!"?]

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  1. Dauphin says:

    I think he put it well: why do Catholic Bishops fear their own heritage?

    The Traditional Latin Mass is the liturgical patrimony of the Latin Rite. Could their be anything more disordered than to fear and revile what we’ve received from our ancestors?

  2. Sandy says:

    Yes, Amen to that! It is the $64,000 question! I must admit I can only think of a couple of answers and they do not reflect well on those Bishops.

  3. mpm says:

    “This was the Catholic Church doing what it says on the tin.”

    What a wonderful way to put it!

  4. thereseb says:

    Be careful what you give an amen to.

    tergiversate [?t??d??v??se?t]
    vb (intr)
    1. to change sides or loyalties; apostatize
    2. to be evasive or ambiguous; equivocate
    [from Latin tergivers?r? to turn one’s back, from tergum back + vertere to turn]

  5. Jason Keener says:


    That more than a few Catholic bishops and theologians show ambivalence, fear, and sometimes outright disdain for the Latin Church’s Ancient Liturgy proves what a sad state of confusion and rupture exists in Holy Mother Church today.

    Cardinal Ratzinger (the Pope of Christian Unity) said this in 1997:

    “A community is calling its very being into question when it suddenly declares that what until now was its holiest and highest possession [The Traditional Latin Mass] is strictly forbidden and when it makes the longing for it seem downright indecent.” (Interview for “Salt of the Earth”)

    (All of the angst in the world and the Church over the SSPX talks with Rome, the Anglican situation, and “Summorum Pontificum” makes it seem as if things are finally coming to a head between Catholic Christian Orthodoxy and liberalism. If the liberals refuse to be converted to the truth about what it means to be a Catholic Christian, I hope they will just keep their failed project of liberalism to themselves and let Holy Mother Church go about Her business of feeding the poor, saving souls, and converting the world. When will liberals realize it is an utter waste of time trying to change the natural moral law and the Church’s definitive teachings?)

  6. Mitchell NY says:

    All the more reason why Our Holy Father should celebrate the Tridentine liturgy once in a while and move on with the program. All this build up is creating a one or the other mentality. If we saw use of both forms of the one Roman Rite perhaps all the rhetoric will calm down. I mean, it has to happen sooner or later at this point, no? By not celebrating it, it gives the appearance of caving in to liberals on something that has been cleared up officially since Sept. 7, 2007. The Anglicans can probably help with this.

  7. Henry Edwards says:

    They seem to fear that the Latin Mass is . . . . [And it gives the lie to decades of a liberal agenda.]

    I’m not so sure this is it. I’ve begun to wonder whether many of “them” don’t fear the TLM so much as they hate it.

    At any rate, not in the sense that they fear that it will catch on among Catholics at large. They may underestimate or even dismiss its potential.

    But they understand that it implies and supports a faith that condemns them, and therefore hate it for this reason.

    The problem (for us) is that “liberals” (“progressive”, whatever) are are so intolerant, have a compulsion to stamp out, to exterminate, those they hate.

    Does the hate model correspond better with observation of how “they” act than the fear model?

  8. Traductora says:

    The TLM and the entire rest of the rite that went with it is like holy water on a witch or a cross before a vampire. And it’s not just because of the Latin. Two years ago somebody on this site asked whether the important thing about the TLM was the Latin or the form itself. I think it’s the latter. There’s something about the old rite, in any language, that makes it impossible for these fruitcakes to carry on their charade and pretend they are faithful Catholics.

    Actually, now that I think of it, wasn’t there some evil creature – perhaps the vampire? – that couldn’t see itself in a mirror? The Old Mass is that mirror and they can’t see themselves in it. They hate it – and they fear it and will rage in its presence.

  9. Mike says:

    It’s not a hard call: the Latin Mass is more evocative of the transcendent “otherness” of the Lord. It’s really that simple. And when you are wedded to this world, to the new, the trendy, the easy, wide path of the acceptable, then THIS kind of ancient launch to the stratosphere of the ONE, the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, is…well, unnerving.

    Hence the reform of the reform, as Benedict is doing. He wants us to be unnerved by the plaintive beauty of the ancient rite. This is a sign that the Lord is present to us.

    “Gather us In” won’t cut it.

  10. ssoldie says:

    Loved the ‘Catholic liberals are so wedded to modernism in liturgy and music’ and where did that come from? To bad the fathers of the council did not remember the ‘Oath against Modernism’ that all had taken at their ordination, however we had been warned about it for many yrs and by the previous Popes up to Vatican II. Yes! Father, and it gives the lie to decades of a liberal agenda. Both at Vatican II and after.

  11. RR says:

    A well-written statement by this clergyman.

    He is correct that, quite often, it is the liberals in the Anglican Communion who are most wedded to traditional liturgy, and the more theologically conservative that are more typically evangelical. That is probably more true in the US than in England. In England, there remains a strong Anglo-Catholic and conservative community. There are also high church liberals that like to substitute the liturgical discipline for the more difficult (and, to them, distasteful) doctrinal discipline.

    In the US, there is not nearly the same Anglo-Catholic traditionalist vein. It is far more likely that a liturgically traditional congregation is also theologically liberal.

    This is totally different than the Catholic Church. Most Catholics do not see this. The Anglican experience is also instructive, because it shows that liturgical traditionalism can, if not viewed properly, become an intellectually elite substitute for doctrinal discipline. Having both is important, and the two do not automatically go hand in hand.

  12. Gail F says:

    An excellent article, until the last sentence. I don’t know what he was getting at about Catholics — I understand the welcoming unhappy Catholics part, but not what they are supposed to be unhappy about.

    I have noticed the hatred of the Latin mass too, which is different from the people who are simply baffled by why anyone would like it. Some people actually HATE it. And that makes no sense to me, because that’s like hating all the Catholics who lived for the last 1000 years or so.

    RR is right too, although a lot of Episcopalians I know really love the churches and the music and the liturgies, but don’t care much about what anyone actually believes.

  13. Agnes says:

    RR, this is exactly what I encountered growing up at the Episcopalian cathedral – beautiful architecture, music, and liturgy and absolutely horrible doctrine. The small town low church my grandmother attended was more evangelical and therefore a touch more sound – at least biblically.

    I found the liberalism and funky music in the Catholic Church grating. When I found the Church of St. Agnes, I discovered I could have my cake and eat it too… The fullness of faith!

  14. TGarloch says:

    I can’t Thank you enough father for this and your recent posts. You are providing a great service to those of us on the road. I’ve added you a month ago to my morning prayers.


  15. And if I may add…

    Filipino Catholic bishops fear the TLM too! Just visit the CBCP website and no news whatsoever about the Anglican Personal Ordinariate nor about Summorum Pontificum. You cannot even find Summorum Pontificum in ANY St. Paul bookshop!

  16. Dave N. says:

    The article, RR, and Gail F. highlight excellent points that need to be continually underscored. Don’t assume that traditional liturgy = orthodox theology within the multitude of Anglican groups. This may or may not be the case.

    For example, one of the local Anglo-Catholic parishes here features daily Mass in Latin, weekly Benediction, extensive attention to traditional feast days, etc. and is lead by a priest who is openly gay (very liberal on sexual issues) who has a female associate. And honestly, I think this parish would be part of the Catholic church if they could–but I DON’T think that’s going to work out…. :)

    On another note, there was an interesting report on BBC4 this morning about the potential absorption of traditionally-minded Church of England Anglicans:

    The very Catholic-friendly Anglican clergyman in the interview was challenged by Roger Bolton on the issue of the validity of Anglican ordinations. The cleric said “Well, I think that Rome’s got that wrong.” Hmmm, the more I think about this, the more I think this is not going to be very easy. But again, this guy was CofE, not TAC or ECUSA. I don’t want to mix my alphabet soups.

  17. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    As an Orthodox Christian I can identify more with the Latin Mass because it resembles the liturgy of the byzantine rite in its traditional chant, style, and reverence. If we look to the various eastern divine liturgies as a whole the Latin Mass has a similarity with all of them in the aforementioned ways. When we look at the novus ordo it is a liturgy which stands almost independent of the greater liturgical tradition of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. It would behoove the Latin rite to bring its liturgy back into harmony with the totality of the Catholic Church in my opinion.This would be an enormous step, I believe, in helping to usher in the eventual communion of east and west.

  18. dominic says:

    Subdeacon Joseph – excellent point. Let us pray for all of these things.

    Dave N,
    that is absolutely true (at least: in England. I have no idea about elsewhere – even in Scotland or Northern Ireland or Ireland itself the situation may well be rather different).

    One point that much media coverage has overlooked perhaps, is that at present there are two main, organized, and quite distinct, groups of “Anglo-Catholics” within the CofE; the one that has rightly been to the fore in the reports this week is “Forwards in Faith”: and in many regards that may be regarded as the group that is most likely to have a larger number of members “poping”, as they say.

    The other big “Anglo-Catholic” group, “Affirming Catholicism”….well….are very big on being what they term as “inclusive” (which in an Anglican ecclesiastical context nowadays seems, at least in a significant proportion of cases, to be code, for “we approve of, perhaps bless, perhaps conduct, or at any rate facilitate or somehow take part in `gay weddings’). What will happen to them after the establishment of the Catholic Anglican Ordinariate…is anyone’s guess. I can’t see them going to Rome (I can’t see Rome letting them in as they stand, in any case).

    But even more generally it is often the case that “Anglo-Catholic” parishes, for all their love of traditional liturgy, are not necessarily particularly orthodox theologically.

    At present I am somewhat sceptical that, at least in England, large numbers of laity will swim the Tiber. Unfortunately.

  19. Andy F. says:

    He was right about one thing at least, the Sistine Chapel choir IS terrible. At least it was at John Paul II’s funeral.

  20. Kimberly says:

    Of course they fear the TLM. Just read the old missal! We are all sinners in need of God’s deep, awesome mercy. Heavens! can you imagine how long the confession lines will be?

  21. lofstrr says:

    Why is it that liberal leaders, often though stealth and manipulation, work to convince us that a modern, stripped down liturgy is better? Yet, so often, the people some how know they are missing something. They might not even be sure what, but they know something is not right. It is almost as if the Church is aware that something is off. As if she is becoming aware that she is not appropriately clothed. She is not naked, not yet anyway, but at this point simply under clothed, too short a skirt, too brief a top, embarrassed but unsure why. She knows that this is not the way to go about but she has yet to rediscover the beautiful gowns she once wore so gracefully. Perhaps the traditional Anglicans will find a tactful way to let her know that, while she is a lovely woman, how she dresses currently is a bit unseemly.

  22. mpm says:

    Comment by thereseb — 25 October 2009 @ 5:09 pm

    I think he is referring to the tergiversations of those who try to explain away what the Catholic Church really teaches, especially in matters moral.

    “On the tin” it says what we believe in plain English. No tergiversations necessary or desirable.

  23. David2 says:

    dominic, you are right about “Affirming Catholicism” – Rowan Williams is their patron – and – to my mind – they seem to be all about “playing dress-ups” and radical ecclesial politics. One marked difference between the Church and the Anglicans is that for Catholics, traditional liturgy seems to go hand-in-hand with with orthodoxy and fidelity to the magisterium. My local Anglo-Catholic parish seems to combine a large number of LGBT parishioners and a lot of talk about peace n justice n love n inclusiveness, with a love of ritual – that combination – and the lack of large families that one sees at our TLMs, makes the ACs seem, well, somewhat effete.

  24. catholicmidwest says:

    “Tergiversation” is a rude way to put it, but there is certainly enough truth in it to understand why he said it. Pope Benedict isn’t involved in so much ambiguity and two-faced dealing as many of the bishops and others on down the line, some of whom are wallowing in it. The truth is that the Catholic Church often doesn’t perform “as it says on the tin.” At. All. To wit, we’re still waiting for a decent translation of the N.O. Mass which should have happened years ago but for our interminable battles about language and politics. It took how long to admit publicly that the Latin Mass was even acceptable worship??? Many copies of the NAB in present circulation have sections not approved by Rome, yet it is the preferred version in the USA (the one used in mass is even worse; an enormous peeve for converts; surprise, huh? It’s not even on cradle catholic radar). And one has only to walk to the parking lot right after mass to “see how we love one another.”

    As a convert, Anglican/Episcopalians are going to be hit with a series of surprises and shocks. All converts are. Coming into the Catholic church is a revelation in more than one way. It’s not an easy road, and I’m 100% sure that cradle Catholics, particularly those who are in charge of anything don’t comprehend any of what we go through. Many of them are too busy trying to “build a new church” on our backs, thanks to the BS that occurs in many RCIA programs. And a lot of people have no idea what we’ve had to go through, in a very elementary (and somewhat bovine) way.

    Many, many, many people walk in the front door, only to leave months or years later in disgust and confusion. The numbers are not accounted honestly at all since those who just walk through are never dropped from the rolls. There are far fewer Catholics (and more ex-Catholics) in the US than most Catholics think.

    On the other hand, many Anglican/Episcopalians have seen a different but equally distressing scenario: the public collapse of their childhood religious homes to dust or worse, and the touting of the likes of Katherine Jefferts Shori (who is btw an ex-Roman Catholic who finally made it to “clergi-hood,” panty hose and all) and Genie Robinson, who exceeds every perjorative adjective I can think of right now for depravity. Can you imagine the pain of that? So maybe a fair number of them will be able to roll with the punches. I hope so.

    At least, the Catholic Church is standing firm at the center where it counts. I’m counting on that and I don’t think I will be disappointed, in the long term or the short.

  25. David2 says:

    mpm; you’re right, I think – most TLM-attending Catholics call a sin a sin, and don’t sugar coat the hard truths of the faith for the sake of “human respect”. Whereas in many parishes these days, priests and others skate around the four last things, “extra ecclesia nulla salus” and anything that might possibly upset almost anyone.

  26. catholicmidwest says:

    Don’t get me wrong: I could never be anything else after being Catholic. I love the Church, but it doesn’t serve any purpose to engage in fond lying about her practical problems, of which she has many.

    Loving the Church is like loving your own mother who you know too well to consider perfect. So what if she has warts and flirts a bit even though deeply she knows better and won’t admit any of it. Well, you understand….she’s still your mother and you have to love the old gal. And she can be counted on in a pinch; history bears that out.

    All of THIS, however, takes some getting used to, coming into the church–after the hype, after RCIA or whatever, after the shock of your family finding out, etc etc. It’s always interesting.

  27. CarleighS says:

    As an ex-Episcopalian and ex-candidate for seminary who finally listened to the persistent, still small (okay, booming) voice of God to GET OUT and STOP THAT, I have great interest in how these proceedings go.

    My greatest grief upon conversion was music.

    That’s not to say that RCIA wasn’t a test of my will and heart. Having been a lifelong Episcopalian who believed for decades that Eucharist WAS the body of Christ, due to lousy priests who liked to be ambiguous on the Epsicopal Church’s ACTUAL beliefs on the subject of transubstantiation (the 16th ct. documents are quite clear on the matter, btw), I had to (from my perspective) go without communion for a year while I sat around in what was essentially an encounter group being told to express with my life my conversion as proof of my committment…blah blah RCIA blah…

    But back to my point about music. Liturgy and music were at the core of how I experienced God. When I converted, I had to just give that up wholesale as the price of conversion. I got authentic Eucharist, but I got it to the tune of a watered-down camp song.

    Jarring? To say the least. Since then I have worked as hard as I could possibly work to help re-introduce the great works of art that is the Catholic music heritage back into the parish I work and live in. Slowly, I have built a small choir, and learned very quickly that Latin made the words right. When you see “ego sum panis vivus” translated in a gorgeous anthem as “Word From Above” you realize that translation is interpretation and that the persistent avoidance in Anglican-translated texts refering to bread and wine BECOMING Christ is doctrinal, you find yourself in the position of advocating Latin to clean it all up.

    So, ever onward, I presume. Hopefully there are traddy Anglican’s who will be joining us in the decade to come that will bring our music home and re-evaluate the translations they have come to know in light of their new doctrinal understandings.

    As to the whole decade of my life I spent pursuing seminary and ordination, God was right all along, and I am deeply grateful to the Bishop of New Mexico who did not, in the end, think sending women to seminary was a good idea. Maybe he’ll join us somewhere down the line. That would make me smile.

  28. Malta says:

    “Could their be anything more disordered than to fear and revile what we’ve received from our ancestors?”

    Yes, to the modernist prelate that there is a deep-down rot in their modernist strasw-house,
    built on the demon-Spirit of Vatican II (or their modernist desire to invent a new churh based on Vat II

  29. Mark R says:

    Maybe a tentative Amen.
    It is about faith more than liturgy. Most seriously Catholic-leaning Anglicans will have already become Catholic. (I am neither gung-ho for the Tridentine rite nor for the Novus Ordo.) It is also a bit paradoxical that most former Anglicans who are now Catholic, especially those who are now Catholic priests in England, prefer the Novus Ordo (which until recently was quite reverently offered, frequently in Latin on Sundays). There is virtually no Anglican Use movement in the U.K. It’s the Faith.

  30. CarleighS,

    Do you by any chance mean former Episcopalian bishop, now Catholic priest Father Jeffrey Steenson? If you do, then as you can see, he did. :)

  31. CarleighS says:

    Sorry, wasn’t clear…Bishop Kelshaw, and I’d have to go google him to see where he is now. It’s been a good sixteen years since I left New Mexico and 15 since I became Catholic. Wow. Fifteen years. Seems like a lifetime.

  32. lome says:

    Tim Collard

    As an Anglican, I can’t understand why Catholic bishops fear the Latin Mass?
    They fear that the Latin Mass gives the lie to decades of a liberal agenda.

    Funny,what made you raised the question?
    Surprised how you accurately nailed it!
    Being Catholic,I was wondering myself.

    They may tear at the walls of the church,but just the same,victory
    is assured for we have Jesus Christ for a foundation.Where the gates of Hell will not prevail.The Children of the light is really in the offensive And the enemies of the Church truly understand the power behind…Traditional Latin worship.

  33. Hidden One says:

    Googling indicates that now-retired Bishop Kelshaw recently defected to the Anglican Province of Uganda.

    Maybe he’ll get here eventually…

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