My latest for the Catholic Herald, on my book on the petitions to save the Traditional Mass: The Latin Mass and the Intellectuals.
Strange bedfellows: Unlikely figures who rallied around the Traditional Latin Mass in the 60s and 70s
When the post-Vatican II liturgical reform was getting underway in 1966, and again when the reformed Mass had been unveiled in 1971, petitions signed by intellectuals and cultural figures – poets, writers, artists, musicians – called for the preservation of the older liturgy, alongside the new. These voices were heard by Pope Paul VI, who tried to insist on the preservation of the sung Latin Office in Sacrificium laudis in 1966, and granted England and Wales permission for continuing celebrations of the older Mass in 1971. This was extended to the whole world by Pope John Paul II in 1984.
It is not surprising to find among the 1966 petitioners the reactionary convert novelist Evelyn Waugh, or the 1971 petitioner Agatha Christie, with her appreciation for the reassuring and nostalgic alongside the sinister and murderous. It is more surprising to find the non-Catholic, homosexual artistic modernists Benjamin Britten and WH Auden, both signatories in 1966. Auden, who by then had returned to the High Anglicanism of his upbringing, went on to criticise Anglican liturgical reform in the strongest terms. Before his death, TS Eliot also turned out to have archly traditional opinions on Anglican worship.