fredag 17 maj 2013

England's second Reformation - on the ground

This was originally a response to a posting on Fr Blake's blog. Eamon Duffy's "The Stripping of the Altars", dealing with the sixteenth century Reformers in England, has a resonance with events within the Catholic church in the 1980s.

Following the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, there was little change in the sound of Catholic liturgy. Organisations such as the Association for Latin Liturgy were established to encourage the continuing use of Latin within the Novus Ordo Mass. During the mid-1980s, however, the use of Latin dwindled, mostly on the initiative of a new generation of priests.

This was largely against the wishes of the laity, since the abolition of Latin in the liturgy would normally result in the immediate loss of about one-third of the congregation, who would then migrate to neighbouring parishes. The process was then repeated when these neighbouring parishes in turn lost their Latin liturgy with the arrival of a new incumbent.

Eventually there was usually nowhere left for them to go unless they lived in one of the large cities and could travel to one of the few remaining parishes where Novus Ordo Masses were celebrated in Latin. Thus, in the end, the characteristic Latin Rite Catholic sound was rarely to be heard.

Locally in the Brighton and Hove area, this is exactly what happened, first at St Peter's Hove when Fr Dickerson retired in 1983, then at St Mary Magdalen's when Fr Flanaghan died in 1990, and finally at Sacred Heart, where Monsignor Stonehill and then Fr Mario had held the fort for so long.

All this was under pressure from the bishop. The principle of "Lex orandi, lex credendi" ie the signifier becomes the signified, means that this amounts to a determined attempt at destruction of faith. From within.

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