Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Mass: No Way Back

I am sitting now in the library reading John Jay Hughes' book Stewards of the Lord which is a response to Francis Clark's work Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Reformation. Hughes converted to Rome and his story is below that is taken from the June edition of the Tablet. His book against Clark's interpretation of the Mass as Sacrifice and Anglican Order in particular was published in 1970. Does anyone know how he defended what he did in this work concerning Anglican Orders and yet was a Roman Catholic priest?

As an undergraduate, seminarian, and Anglican priest I often attended Mass in Roman Catholic churches on both sides of the Atlantic. It was not remotely like the “Rolls-Royce Mass” described last week by Elena Curti in her excellent article. Mostly silent, the few Latin parts which could be heard were so gabbled and garbled that they might have as well have been in Mandarin Chinese. The vernacular prayers at the end, “For the conversion of Russia”, were so rushed that the priest was often well into them before one realised he had switched to English.

The Mass itself was often taken at breakneck speed. A local lawyer with six years of Latin in the St Louis secondary school founded by Ampleforth Benedictines recalls being scolded by priests for not saying the Latin responses fast enough. His experience was not unusual. The man at the “Rolls-Royce Mass” who professed himself scandalised (as he should have been) at 10-minute new-rite Masses is too young to recall members of his grandfather’s generation boasting about priests who could get through the considerably longer Tridentine rite in a quarter of an hour or less. And as for the woman interviewed by your reporter who found a new-rite Mass “a shambles”, that is exactly what I witnessed many times over in Catholic parish churches five decades ago. “Such little reverence”, she said, “I was scandalised and distressed.” My sentiments exactly. Only at the conventual Mass in Benedictine and Trappist monasteries did I find the dignity, reverence, and beauty I craved. And such liturgies were available, of course, to few.

As a newly ordained curate in an inner-city Anglo-Catholic parish I had an experience which I recognise, in retrospect, as a milestone in my spiritual journey. Most of my afternoons were spent visiting members of the parish in suburbs so distant that few of them still attended the church I served. Calling one day on an elderly lady, I heard, for the umpteenth time, “I don’t go to Grace Church any more, Father. It’s too far away.” Then came the shocker: “I go to Sacred Heart across the street. It’s just about the same.” I gasped. I knew only too well what went on in Sacred Heart Church. To call the hurried, slapdash, mostly silent Masses there “just about the same” as the stately liturgy we celebrated – with beautiful music (three-manual organ, a choir of boys and men), gorgeous vestments, flowers and incense – took my breath away.

It also set me thinking. I realised that the liturgy I loved required for its appreciation a level of culture and education which was available to few. For every one like me, there were easily a thousand like that good soul who found the silent Latin Masses at Sacred Heart “just about the same” as the reverent and beautiful liturgies at Grace Church. Anglican worship of my sort, I had to acknowledge, was for the few, not for the many.

I entered the Catholic Church in 1960. After a year-long period of agonising reappraisal, I had come to believe that my Anglican faith was not so much false as incomplete; and that the claims and teaching of the Catholic Church were true. My decision to enter that Church, like that of Cardinal Dulles, was an affair of the head, not the heart. It was, for me, an enormous step backward liturgically. Within months I fled to the German-speaking world, where I remained for a decade. There, in part because of the decades-old liturgical movement, in part because Germans have sung hymns at Mass ever since the Reformation – but also because Germans take everything, especially their religion, in deadly earnest – I found a spiritual home where I could worship as I had been trained to do since childhood. When I returned to my own country in 1970 it was as a priest of a German diocese. I became a St Louis priest only in 1983.

The “Rolls-Royce Mass” witnessed by your correspondent is beautiful. But it is a show piece. It also fosters an elitist mentality which undermines the unity of those who, “though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (1 Cor. 10:17). I encountered this elitism myself when I preached some years ago in the local Catholic parish which celebrates the Tridentine Mass once every Sunday. In the sacristy I found an army of men and boys making snide remarks about their fellow Catholics (easily 99 per cent) who used the new rite; a kind of gnosticism (possession of special knowledge available only to the initiated) which I thought I had abandoned for ever when I left the Anglican Church. The triumphalistic tone in some reports of the recent internationally publicised Tridentine Mass in Rome suggests that Pope Paul VI was prescient to foresee the damage to Catholic unity which could arise from the simultaneous use of two different rites in the Church, and right to forbid this.


Blogger J. Gordon Anderson said...


Do you mean, how could JJH defend Anglican orders and eucharist and still be an RC priest? If so, easy: private opinion. Here's my understanding: a priest can hold something as a "private opinion" that may disagree with what the church officially teaches; he is not supposed to teach his private opinion, though. He is only supposed to teach what the church teaches. Likewise, he is not supposed to play "thought police" with what parishioners believe or don't believe. Again, he is only supposed to teach what the church teaches. JJH obviously was of the private opinion that, based on research, Anglican orders were not "invalid".

Now, I don't think JJH's books count as "publically" teaching something against what the churches, because, in the end, he still believed that, as an Anglican, he didn't have the fullness of the faith, and so he had to go to Rome. If he had started some sort of society, or movement, to try to get the church to revoke Leo XIII's statement, then that would be another story, and then he might have gotten in trouble. One or two obscure books doesn't seem to count as "publically teaching" an opinion against Rome's. It is a consistent, organized effort that eventually provokes Rome.

So, JJH believed that the whole investigation was flawed and not done right, and in an ecumenical climate, when relations between the churches were good, and the Anglicans were more visibly catholic than today, he wrote a couple books on the subject. There have been many Anglicans, and Romans, who believe that Anglican orders are valid in the catholic sense, but still would argue that they do not have the fullness of the faith being seperated from Rome. So I guess as long as that's granted, one could say, "Sure, your orders are 'valid' in some sense, but you're not the true Church, and you still need to come home to Rome." Doing that, which I guess is what JJH was doing, certainly undoes any stepping on toes that he might have done in arguing for Anglican orders.

2:11 pm  
Anonymous William Tighe said...

Have you read Hughes' *Absolutely Null and Utterly Void* (1968), his book on the 1896 papal condemnation of Anglican Orders of which *Stewards of the Lord* (1970) was a sequel? You should, if you have not done so.

Btw, when I was in St. Louis for a historical convention in 1996 I arranged to meet and have lunch with Hughes. He told me in the course of our conversation that he had "lost interest" in the question of Anglican Orders; not on account of women's ordination (which he told me he was inclined to favor until the appearance in 1994 of the papal document *Ordinatio Sacerdotalis* which ruled it out of bounds), but rather on account of the Anglicans' increasing indifference to, and even favor of, abortion, and on account of Anglicans' increasing moral antinomianism.

10:36 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...


That is very interesting. I would love to know what he still thinks about Clark's approach of Eucharistic Sacrifice and if he still has the same opinions now. Once I finish this diss (hopefully sooner rather than later) I have a huge stack waiting to be read and I'm quite looking forward to reading about something besides the Eucharist for a bit. I really enjoy the topic but I do have other interest that I would like to explore but I simply do not have the time now. Where is Fr. Hughes now?

11:12 pm  
Anonymous William Tighe said...

Still residing in the RC St. Louis archdiocese, but now retired. I don't have his address an dother contact information, but you could get it from the Archdiocese, I should think.

5:00 pm  
Anonymous William Tighe said...

Here it is:

Christ the King Parish
7316 Balson Avenue
University City, MO
tel. (314) 862-4338

10:30 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...

Thanks Bill! I contacted the Archdiocese and they said they are forwarding my request to him and he will be in contact. I will save the one here in case he doesn't use e-mail.

all the very best!


7:33 am  

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