Bp. Moran of Aberdeen, Scotland, blocks an Extraordinary form Mass

From the blog Damian Thompson on a sad piece of news:

A historic Latin Mass in the cathedral of the Orkney Isles… blocked by the Catholic bishop
By Damian Thompson

How sad to hear that plans to celebrate Mass in the Extraordinary Form in St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall – parts of which date back to 1137 – were recently blocked by the Catholic Bishop of Aberdeen, the Rt Rev Peter Moran. Sad but not surprising, since the Bishops of Scotland seem united in their determination to throw up as many obstacles as possible to the implementation of Summorum Pontificum.

The traditionalist group Una Voce Scotland had planned what would have been a historic and very beautiful celebration of the older form of the Roman Rite in the cathedral of the Orkneys (the most northerly in Britain), apparently with the permission of the Church of Scotland, which has occupied it for centuries. Una Voce has its own schola, so the plainchant would have been magnificent. [to be clear… the Church of Scotland now has the church, but they were willing to host this Catholic TLM.  Then the local Catholic bishop hears about it and blocks it.  Some time ago, if memory serves, there was a fine Solemn TLM in the Cathedral of Winchester which had the permission of the Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth.  So, it isn’t as if there isn’t a precedent.]

Enter Bishop Moran. “It has come to my attention,” he told Una Voce in a letter from last autumn that I’ve just been sent, “that … you have been making enquiries about the availability of St Magnus Cathedral for a possible celebration of Mass in the forma extraordinaria.”

Well, forget it. He didn’t approve of the choice of two priests from the traditionalist community of Papa Stronsay, now reunited with the Holy See after years of separation. Said the bishop: “While Fathers Michael Mary and Anthony Mary … are now, happily, in good standing with the Church, they have as yet only limited faculties to celebrate Mass in this diocese. (Like all priests of the Church they are at liberty to celebrate the forma extraordinaria privately without specific permission, and to have some people with them when they do, but for public celebration the local bishop’s permission is needed.)”  [And I say they CAN’T.  Nice, huh?  What possible harm could it have done to anyone?  Why are there still so many closed hearts when it comes to this perfectly legitimate and laudable desire for the use of the Extraordinary Form?]

Excuse me? Bishop Moran must have read a different edition of the Pope’s Apostolic Letter from the one published by the Holy See, because it says no such thing. Sadly, Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow labours under the same misapprehension. What is wrong with these Scottish prelates?  [Actually Summorum Pontificum addresses mainly the situation of pastors when it comes to public celebration. But it is clearly not the case that the bishop’s permission is needed for a public celebration of Holy Mass in the older form.  Other circumstances do matter, however.  For example, if that Mass is going to be in a church of another ecclesial community with whom we do not share Communion.]

That’s what really bugs me. I can understand why Bishop Moran might have had problems with the choice of Papa Stronsay priests; I am sure he’s telling the truth when he says in the letter that he has considered celebration of the EF elsewhere in Aberdeen diocese but “those priests whom I have approached have not been enthusiastic”;  and it is too much to expect, I suppose, that his imagination might be captured by the possibility of the Latin Mass being celebrated again in a building once renowned for its “treasures and rich vestments” before the so-called reformers destroyed them and whitewashed the walls.

But the claim (and I quote Bishop Moran again) that “the bishop’s permission is needed for any public celebration of the forma extraordinaria” is one with which the Congregation for Divine Worship would – and, I hope, will – take issue. [No.  The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei has competence in this matter, not the CDW.]

Oh, and another thing that bugs me: not being told the truth. This morning I left a message with Bishop Moran’s secretary asking if I could talk to him about the plans for a Tridentine Mass at St Magnus. “We’ll get back to you,” she said, but no one did. So I rang again, the bishop picked up the phone and he said: “I’ve no knowledge at all of what you’re talking about. I’ll make inquiries and get back to you.” [HUH?]

No knowledge at all, he says, with his letter sitting in front of me.  Looking forward to your call, bishop.  [And I hope we hear more about this.]

It makes you think of the days just after the release of Summorum Pontificum when bishops finally started thinking about implementing Ecclesia Dei adflicta.

UPDATE: 16 May 1700 GMT:

Damian has more.  Be sure to read his update.


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  1. Jack Hughes says:

    Grumble…………., gumble……………., pray for the Bishop

  2. Childermass says:

    And I’m sure His Excellency tolerates all sorts of liturgical abuses to continue in the parishes of his diocese.

    How “pastoral” of him.

  3. robtbrown says:

    Actually, I like the timing of this move. The bishop turned 75 in April, and so there can be emphasis on a replacement whose liturgical position is not anti-Catholic.

  4. Sixupman says:


    You can bet the mortgage on that!

  5. Craigmaddie says:

    There are horrendous abuses that take place in Scottish parishes* to which the Bishops close their eyes. However, when it involves the traditional liturgy of the Church they suddenly see themselves as the solemn guardians of the liturgy and are apt to quote canon law (usually wrongly!) against a priest who wants to offer the traditional Latin Mass. In one case, a priest in Glasgow offered parishioners to come and kneel for Holy Communion as Pope Benedict has been doing. When Archbishop Conti heard about this he sent around a Monsignor to doorstep the priest in question and force him to stop inviting parishioners to kneel at the altar rail. Luckily, the priest had help from a canon lawyer who showed the arguments of the Archdiocese up to be so much hot air.

    *I’ll never forget the priest in Glasgow who decanted the Precious Blood after the Consecration and then spilled it over the altar and the floor. He then proceeded to walk around the spilled species without making any effort to clear it up – not even after Mass had finished.

  6. sawdustmick says:

    I sit here thinking, shaking my head in disbelief.

    I have read Damiens blog AND all the comments that accompany it. First of all, I don’t think name calling will get us very far. Following on from that, the Bishop perhaps has valid reasons for not allowing the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (whether OF or EF) to be celebrated in that particular building.

    What I would suggest is that perhaps Bishop Moran would like to celebrate Mass himself in the Extraordinary Form. This may encourage some of the Priests in his Diocese to support him and be ‘enthusiastic’ about the celebration of the EF Mass.

    I don’t want to go off on too much of a tangent, but is the Catholic Church in meltdown over here in the British Isles ? Bishops claiming things that are not strictly true, appointments to Catholic Education bodies of people who have voted anti life in our parliament, and now The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children and the Pro Life Alliance split on a comment made by the new health secretary.

    Perhaps we need to undertake a lot more penance, but how much more penance can we Catholics do ?

  7. TrueLiturgy says:

    Wait, I’m confused. Is St. Magnus Cathedral Catholic? Also, I don’t understand why these priests continue with only limited faculties if they are fully in communion with Rome?!

  8. Theodorus says:

    Sometimes I have to wonder whether some of the bishops are really literate.

  9. AFAIK, all people from religious orders or outside of a diocese or parish, have to make nicey-nicey to the pastor to say Mass in places they’re not assigned; and if they’re saying Mass in some weird place like a Church of Scotland-controlled cathedral, they have to ask the bishop. If these folks were supposed to ask ahead and didn’t, the bishop’s got a legitimate beef. If they got approved by somebody at the chancery in the bishop’s name, and the bishop took it back, they didn’t do anything wrong but they’re still out of luck. I don’t know whether it being a private Mass changes anything; but I gather protocol is actually important in such things. Pastors and bishops are sorta sovereign in their own domains.

    Either way, I have to say that it’s a shame, because the hymns written in the Middle Ages to St. Magnus are very nice, and are important to Celtic music history too. And St. Magnus is a pretty important saint, and historically an important secular leader too.

    Earl Magnus (being a Scot and a Norseman both, and royal in both places) is not the martyr to mess around with. IIRC, you can read all about him in Orkneyinga Saga, and in various Scottish and Norse sources. So if anybody unexpectedly has their arm drop off or something, you’ll know who he’s warning. :)

  10. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnus_Erlendsson,_Earl_of_Orkney

    Wikipedia actually goes into this pretty thoroughly. I didn’t know the cathedral actually had his relics. In an interesting example of archeological literary criticism, it turns out that the Greater Magnus Saga’s account goes better with the skull’s condition than the Orkneyinga Saga.

  11. MichaelJ says:

    If this Mass is to take place in a building not owned by the Catholic Church, and the Mass is sponsored by a private organization and not in any way sponsored by the diocese, I do not see how that can be considered anything other than a Private Mass offered by a priest in good standing – no matter how many may attend.

    Are visiting Priests (say, those on vacation in Scotland)required to obtain Bishop Moran’s permission before offering a private Mass?

  12. TJerome says:

    just another old lefty.

  13. Ttony says:

    I think this story might turn out to be much more complex than reported by DT. Bear in mind that the Bishop celebrated Mass in the Extraordinary Form on Papa Stronsay, and that it appears that Una Voce might have being putting carts before horses, before you condemn him for possibly being at cross purposes with Damian.

  14. Jack Hughes says:


    Apart from a few parishes here and there the Church here is to say the least in a crises, if not in actual meltdown then approching critical point, although I add the caveat that we do have the redoubtable Fr’s Finnegan and Blake in merry old England.

  15. Mark M says:


    He hardly has valid reasons at all! Except to use the letter of the law regarding the venue (which he is entitled to regulate) as an excuse to show his disdain for the Extraordinary Form.

    Further south, the Cardinal Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh seems absolutely willing to allow Masses in pre-Reformation sites, provided they are actually pre-Reformation and that we tell him. Why can’t Moran do the same?

    TrueLiturgy: Many ‘Cathedrals’ in Scotland are now in the hands of the Presbyterian (Protestant) Church of Scotland: Glasgow, and Edinburgh to name but a few. However, they were once consecrated as Catholic Churches.

    MichaelJ: it’s hardly ‘private’ is it? Father Z: what say you?

  16. Randii says:

    I don’t want to go off on too much of a tangent, but is the Catholic Church in meltdown over here in the British Isles ?

    An observation re: sawdustmick’s question posed above – what is happening in the UK church is no different than what is happening in the US church IMO.

    A friend gave me a copy of Extension magazine which is the US church’s magazine for mission areas in America.

    The issue is current and it is devoted to nuns.

    Only one or two of the many nuns shown in the photos were wearing a habits. The only real exception was a photo of nuns from the 1800s (this magazine was focusing on the history of nuns in the US) and all were wearing habits.

    There was little mention of bringing the Gospel of Jesus to the mission areas. – isn’t that the primary purpose of nuns?

    Instead it was was all about the “spirit” empowering women, fighting racism and protecting the environment.

    To top it off Network got a shout out. That is the group of nuns who came out in support of the health care bill and are credited for providing the final push that got it passed.

    As far as I know Extension is a semi-official organization of the US church and, if you read the current issue, you’d see that the UK situation is not unique.

  17. Mark M says:

    Jack: aye but this is Scotland, not England. Sadly things are worse here.

  18. Huxtaby says:

    Slightly down a rabbit-hole but in answer to sawdust mick.

    I attended a Confirmation Mass in my Sacramental parish on Wednesday evening (Liverpool Archdiocese).

    Liturgical absues abounded. Use of the word Yahweh in the Scripture reading, pottery chalice and a pottery ciborium that looked like a sugar bowl, Blessed Sacrament brought to the altar during the reciting of the Pater Noster. The concelebrant ‘air-kissed’ the altar, never made the sign of the cross or any other gestures that he should have done. The movement in and around the sanctuary was not slap dash but downright deliberatly clumsy. Anything to make the liturgy not look solemn – it is deliberate.

    Dreadful and dreary 1970’s hymns sung by a children’s choir – no-one joined in but listened to the children and looked back up into the gallery from where the children were singing – you could almost hear them saying “how cute” – actually they were truly awful – sorry!

    The same priest gives general absolution at Advent and Lent and preached last year on how he believed in women’s ordination.

    How long oh Lord! How long!

  19. now I’m not the fusiest of types, but the abuses I have seen in Aberdeen diocese are probably the worst I have ever seen. In one parish Eucharistic ministers gave communion in both forms while the priest stood by overlooking them by the altar looking pious with his hands clasped but doing absolutely nothing else. In another we had altar boys jiving down the aisle with the crozier, in what can only be described as a mass close to hip hop. “The lauud beee with YUUOU!” One diocese. Two different parishes. Two bad experiences. Thankfully the Cathedral seemed well run. Then there is Pluscarden Abbey….

  20. doanli says:

    What harm does it do???? Gee whiz!!!!!

    Can one email him?

    Yes, please pray for him.

  21. sawdustmick says:

    Thanks everyone. Perhaps I had missed that Bishop Moran had celebrated Mass in the EF on Papa Stronsay.

    Liturgical abuses – Hmmmm. At least where I am in Westminster Diocese, we do seem to have a number of priests who celebrate the OF BY THE BOOK, so I guess I am quite fortunate in that I don’t do much cringing when I go to Mass.

    I look forward to some strong leadership in England and Wales (and I hope for the same in Scotland and Ireland) that will bring us back to the ‘orthodox’ Catholic faith in these Isles.

    Our Lady of Walsingham Pray for us.

  22. MichaelJ says:

    Mark M.

    I was under the impression that there are a specific set of requirements that must be met in order for a Mass to be identified as a “public” Mass. As far as I know, this does not conform to the colloquial definition of the term “public”, and that the Mass described in this post does not fit that definition.

    I may very well be mistaken, which is why I asked the question. If you could, I would greatly appreciate it if you could provide an actual Ecclesiastical (?) definition of a “Public Mass”

  23. jonvilas says:

    Sadly enough, but similar situation is in Lithuania, where the requirements of the faithful for classical Roman rite has been blocked by bishops as well. Their explanation is very simple — that there is no need for extraordinary form in Lithuania, since the old generation has practically died out and the remainder has accepted the new rite. They do not wish to acknowledge that the younger generation actually wants and asks for the traditional form, as well as the fact that many older people still remember and want it.

  24. The Astronomer says:

    Methinks Bishop Moran is keenly and willfully aware of what non serviam means…

  25. Henry Edwards says:


    Although I know of nothing “official” about the Catholic Church Extension Society, I know it has for a century done wonderful work helping to establish Catholic parishes in mission areas of the U.S., including several such parishes I have been a member of.

    I can hardly think of anything more irrelevant to pointing to a picture of aging nuns whose salad days were in the silly season of the Church here and everywhere.

    But it may be relevant that the U.S. (in contrast to the U.K.?) abounds with dynamic and flourishing new orders of orthodox young nuns who are both cloistered and out in the world in full habits. For instance, one that’s frequently seen in my particular mission area:


    Their biggest problem is that, build new facilities as they may, they can hardly accommodate the flood of dynamic young women wanting to get in (including some I know).

    At this and similar Catholic blogs, we tend to accentuate the negative. But in the U.S. we have lots of fine bishops, lots and lots of fine young priests and religious, lots of fine parishes, dioceses filled with perpetual adoration chapels and huge numbers of devoted and faithful Catholics who frequent them.

  26. Oneros says:

    The bishop is technically correct, though he phrased it misleadingly. Priests need faculties from the local bishop to say ANY public Masses licitly, Ordinary or Extraordinary.

    If the priests of Papa Stronsay have limited faculties (for example, only to say Mass on the island, etc)…he can limit them outside that for any reason or no reason, though it’s a jerky thing to do. We can’t judge until we know what he means by “have only limited faculties in this diocese”

  27. LouiseA says:

    The monks on Papa Stronsay reconciled with Rome, but now they only have “limited faculties” and had to give up their Redemptorist identity?!

    Bishop Fellay is wise to hammer out differences first, then reconcile.

  28. iudicame says:

    The bishop here is a liar?


  29. YadaYada says:

    The three years for bishops to comment on Summorum Pontificum are up on 7.7.2010.

    Then it is time for the response from Benedict XVI.

    Propose much, but not impose.

    More derestricting?

    Then, having gotten our heads screwed on right about the Holy Sacrifice, our own hour to witness will come.

    The Lord is good.

  30. Athelstan says:

    Well…I can see why Bishop Moran would have a problem with:

    1) This mass being celebrated in a Church of Scotland controlled church (even if it was stolen from us centuries ago),

    2) without checking with him first.

    But having said that, a faithful implementation of Summorum Pontificum would suggest proactive steps by the bishop to try to work out some alternate arrangement for the mass – how hard would that be? And perhaps also not to dissemble to reporters or bloggers who simply want to know if he knows about it.

  31. Pelicanus says:

    Allow me to clarify something:

    There is absolutely no question of Una Voce Scotland organising a Mass in the Cathedral without first asking the bishop. It will have been at the asking-of-permission stage that this will have been refused by the bishop. I know the people involved and can be assure everyone that they always ensure that the utmost courtesy is extended to the bishops, even if they don’t always reply as cordially.

    It had been the plan of Una Voce to organise something along the lines of a weekend in Orkney, with Mass on one day in the Italian Chapel on Lambholm and on another in St Magnus’. This would have continued the policy which Mark M describes of having Mass in pre-reformation sites – they have had about five in Cardinal O’Brien’s archdiocese to date. However, it looks like the group have made enquiries and that it isn’t going to be possible.

  32. catholicmidwest says:

    That church is breathtaking.

  33. hkgck says:

    LIAR! If he had no knowledge about the Traditional Mass, he would not have written the letter replied to this gentleman. Moreover, if he really didn’t have any knowledge about the Traditional Mass, that’s his fault! Our Holy Father wants every priest to celebrate the Traditional Mass in order to spread it to every faithful(as stated by Cardinal Hoyos)!

  34. Mitchell NY says:

    40 years of “benefit of the doubt” IMHO in this case seems to gracious for this Bishop. The fact that he does not return the reader’s call or respond when on the phone to his inquiry is insulting. The one who needs the prayers is the Holy Father, that he can stop this obstruction which goes on all over the place. Haven’t the faithful shown they love the Tridentine Mass as well. Beating them down further is downright indecent.

  35. tzard says:

    Just thinking out loud here – is a pastor’s authority limited ONLY to his parish church? I would expect it would extend to the parish geographical boundaries. So if the pastor of the local parish where this old cathedral is located were to sponsor this, then the Bishop could not as easily block this.

    Of course there are a number of practical problems which could still be roadblocks, but it might be a way to start.

    (post, postscript: In other parts of the world, traditionally-minded Catholics have had to “make do” with perfectly acceptable but probably less magnificent surroundings. Babysteps, or baby bricks might be a way to go.).

  36. Maltese says:

    My great-grandmother was from Aberdeen, this pompous ass, Bishop Peter Moran, needs a wet glove slapped in his face: as the Catholic Church and faith in Scotland is faltering, he’s going to get all modernistic against a rite, that, most likely, his parents were formed in, and formed him in. What a prig.

  37. o.h. says:

    I’m shocked to hear about the liturgical abuses in Scotland. We’re vacationing in St. Andrews right now, and the priest of the parish church, Canon Halloran, says beautiful NO Masses with no abuses or informalities that I can detect. My oldest child, for boring technical reasons, needed to be confirmed while we’re away from the States, and Father Halloran graciously welcomed her and confirmed her at last Sunday’s Mass with dignity and beauty far beyond anything I’ve seen at a Confirmation in the U.S. She would not have been kneeling at the altar steps in our home diocese.

  38. Mark M says:

    MichaelJ: I don’t know, hence I was asking!

    LouiseA: the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer are a side issue. His Grace is rather cleverly splintering this issue into a number so that he can says lots of “no”s, instead of one yes.

    Athelstan: understood why you think His Grace would have a problem, but it’s normal to see if the venue is actually possible before asking permission, surely? That’s what I’ve done before now before asking the Cardinal. (St Andrew’s & Edinburgh – who, incidentally, is completely okay, provided they are pre-Reformation sites.)

    tzard: nice try, but that’s not quite right canonically (because the Bishop does have that authority), but also apparently the local Pastor ratted on us. But top marks for trying! :D

  39. bened1ct2s says:

    Before further mud is slung, may I please fill in some blanks.

    The initial exploratory letter seeking permission to use the Cathedral was sent to Orkney Council who actually own the building on behalf of the Orkney community. This was done prior to either informing the Community at Papa Stronsay or the Bishop Moran as without appproval of the Orkney council there would be no need to progress the project further, or contact anyone else. That the initial, and again I emphasise, “exploratory” letter was passed onto the Bishop was unfortunate and his response though far from encouraging was within his remit.

    It is with regret that DT did not carry out more research, for example contacting me (my name and address are on the letter from the Bishop), before he spread muck. Similarly any professional journalist would have had the courtesy to seek permission from Una Voce Scotland before using “private” correspondence.

    Not impressed.

  40. eulogos says:

    What I am gathering is that the bishop feels he should have been asked first. As in, if we could get Orkney council to agree, would you permit us to … etc

    And since I gather from this thread that the bishop himself celebrated mass in the extraordinary form, he probably would have liked to have been asked to celebrate mass in this cathedral himself!
    Although maybe that would have made the Orkney council more nervous about it?

    I think the lesson here is, ask the bishop first, even if you don’t think there is any point in doing so unless all the other parts line up.

    Even now, perhaps this might be salvaged if someone goes to see the bishop, apologizes for not asking him first, and asks him to celebrate with perhaps the assistance of the priests from Stronsay.

    Susan Peterson

  41. Mark M says:


    I’m not sure that’s a fair criticism… After all, he could have still said yes. There is no provision (with the except of Papa Stronsay itself) for the TLM in Aberdeen Diocese, and the Bishop only celebrated the EF on the island. Methinks he simply isn’t keen!

    As I’ve said already, compare that to the situation in St Andrews & Edinburgh, where the Cardinal says yes, even if the details are ironed out first. But I doubt this can be salvaged now, because something Damian fails to point out is that this is simply old news. I had certainly forgotten all about it, until Damian dredged this up yesterday.

  42. catholicmidwest says:

    Theodorus, re bishops not being literate……

    I’m pretty sure ours in the US aren’t. Maybe they can read, but their reading comprehension is zero. Less than 1st grade, can’t put two words together and comprehend them at the same time. I’m not kidding.

  43. catholicmidwest says:

    I don’t know where you get your information but Extension is NOT a semi-official arm of anything. It’s just another so-called Catholic group, of which there are many.

    Some groups *who affiliate themselves* with the Catholic church by using the word Catholic are nuts. If you want to comment on anything Catholic with any credibility you need to come up to speed on this.

  44. Oleksander says:

    My understanding is the monastery on the island has yet to be recognized by the Holy See (whatever dept. dose it) officially as a monastery, which is why they probably have limited faculties, plus in their constitution it might explicitly state their activities be limited to the Island. As the other person said the bishop is in his right, although a jerky thing to do. (on the other hand he may have reservations of them, they use to freely celebrate the Byzantine Rite while affiliated with the SSPX which I cant understand, then again none of the SSPX bishops have diocese [real or titular] so whatever.)

    “The monks on Papa Stronsay reconciled with Rome, but now they only have “limited faculties” and had to give up their Redemptorist identity?!

    Bishop Fellay is wise to hammer out differences first, then reconcile.
    Comment by LouiseA”

    1. they were never part of the redemptoorists.
    2. hammer out differences with the Holy See, why not submit? Like everyone else in history has done?

  45. UPDATE: 16 May 1700 GMT:

    Damian has more.  Be sure to read his update.

  46. Mark M says:

    What more is that, Father? Damian fails to accede to requests from the recipient of the letters. I fail to see the new news…

    As a member of Una Voce Scotland I certainly don’t remember the letters being circulated at the time. But that’s another point to be made: why does this have to be made into a story now, so many months down the line. It would be kinder of Damian to simply have not bothered!

  47. chcrix says:

    For the various UVS members:

    Why the seeming reluctance to discuss this little event? Clearly the bishop may have been within his rights to object to the priests coming on to his turf, but just as clearly he appears to be overreaching with respect to his authority vis a vis Summorum Pontificum. A little bit of light (and heat) might help things instead of hindering them. Has the bishop attempted to negate the Pope’s instructions in his diocese?

    I agree that approaching the Bishop with external respect and internal charity is desirable, but between the comments here and the UVS comments on the Thompson blog it almost appears that people are in fear of reprisals.

  48. Mark M says:

    chcrix: Because it was old news. And yes, who wants to rock the boat? Think of some notable cases south of the Border; wouldn’t you be fearful of reprisals?

  49. kradcliffe says:

    If all the Rad Trad nutters (not all Traditionalists, I’m talking only about the screwballs) in the Anglophone blogosphere have read DT’s article and this blog, and then emailed the Bishop with the sort of language I see above, I can see why UVS may be upset.

  50. MichaelJ says:


    How does one distinguish between a “Rad Trad nutter” and a “Traditionalist”?

Comments are closed.