Thursday, November 11, 2021

Remembering the Agatha Christie Petition

High Mass in the Chapel of the Throne, St Peters, for the Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage 2021.
The celebrant was Mgr Patrick Descourtieux. Photo by Edward Pentin

My latest in the Voice of the Family bulletin. Here I address the objection that the beauty of the liturgy and the music and so on are irrelevant to the real value of the liturgy.


Almost exactly fifty years ago, 5th November 1971, the reformer of the Catholic liturgy, Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, wrote to John Cardinal Heenan, informing him of the terms of an “indult”, permission, for the continued public celebration of the older Catholic liturgy, the Traditional Latin Mass, with the agreement of the local bishop. The reformed Mass had been in place for less than a year, and Catholics had been warned that the older Missal would become illicit at the end of the calendar year, except for private celebrations by older priests. Although the indult was applicable only to England and Wales, Bugnini was denied the complete victory of the reform he had wanted to see. In 1984 another indult for the Old Mass was signed, by Pope John Paul II, which extended permission for the Vetus Ordo to the whole world.

Paul VI believed that the reformed Mass was theologically accurate and rich, and he had high hopes that it would be pastorally effective. One argument which retained the power to move him was historical and cultural. Pope Paul had indeed indicated that he understood such arguments, speaking of the “expressive sacrality” of Latin and the “regret” which faithful Catholics might feel in the change. Heenan, who had attended the canonisation of the Forty Martyrs just days before his meeting with the Pope – forty men and women who had literally died for the Mass – was able to show Pope Paul a petition showing an astounding number of figures of the highest culture begging him to preserve something which, as the petition text expressed it, “belongs to universal culture”.

Read it all there.

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