Last month I launched a new book, The Latin Mass and the Intellectuals: Petitions to Save the Ancient Mass from 1966 to 2007. Many, if by no means all, readers will have heard of the “Agatha Christie Petition” which was presented to Pope Paul VI in 1971, stimulating him to given the first “indult” in favour of the Traditional Mass, for England and Wales. The story is much more complex and interesting than this, however.
For many years the main public source of information about the petitions was a 1999 article by Alfred Marnau, that had appeared in the Latin Mass Society’s Newsletter and was subsequently made available online. English-language references to the 1971 petition since then, up until now, have invariably used this as their sole source. It hasn’t helped that the UK Catholic press at the time of the petition and indult observed a substantial, if now quite complete, news blackout about them. The Latin Mass Society had to feed the news to The Times newspaper in order to get it into the public domain at all, and the text of the Indult was not made available to them by Cardinal Heenan for many months. Readers may remember the inability of the archivists at the Dicastery for Divine Worship to find the indult (we sent Cardinal Roche a copy).
Alfred Marnau was a hero of the early movement; after the petition he became the Chairman of the Latin Mass Society, and later founded Pro Ecclesiae et Pontifice to campaign on orthodox doctrine and Catholic education. However, in 1999 he was dying, and his article gives a rather incomplete picture of the petition, its organisation, and its wider context. He doesn’t claim to have written the text, for example, but does not explain that the original was in Italian, and that in addition to the
57 names that were published in The Times on 9th July 1971 there were another 48, non-UK based petitioners, whose names later appeared in Italian and French publications. The whole list of 105 was finally published in Una Voce Italia in their newsletter, that December.
Read the whole thing there.