Guardian Reports on “The War Aganst the Pope”

The Guardian has today published what it describes a “Long Read” entitled “The War Against the Pope.” This is by Andrew Brown and describes the opposition to some of the new Pope’s interpretations of Roman Catholic doctrine, especially relating to sex and the family. Inevitably it seeems, in an article of this length about this topic, the question of the Vatican II reforms of the 1960s comes up and, with it, the opposition of Evelyn Waugh to some of those reforms, especially those relating to the liturgy:

The [Vatican II] council renounced antisemitism, embraced democracy, proclaimed universal human rights and largely abolished the Latin Mass. That last act, in particular, stunned the introverts. The author Evelyn Waugh, for example, never once went to an English Mass after the decision. For men like him, the solemn rituals of a service performed by a priest with his back to the congregation, speaking entirely in Latin, facing God on the altar, were the very heart of the church – a window into eternity enacted at every performance. The ritual had been central to the church in one form or another since its foundation.

The symbolic change brought about by the new liturgy – replacing the introverted priest facing God at the altar with the extroverted figure facing his congregation – was immense. Some conservatives still have not reconciled themselves to the reorientation…The current crisis, in the words of the English Catholic journalist Margaret Hebblethwaite – a passionate partisan of Francis – is nothing less than “Vatican II coming back again”.

It seems unlikely that Waugh was able to avoid ever even once having participated in an English Mass after the Vatican II reforms were adopted, given their widespread application in England, but I suppose that is possible. He certainly avoided English languages services whenever there was a Latin alternative available. See, e.g.. letter dated 15 April 1965 to Msgr. McReavy asking the scope of his obligation to attend Mass on appointed days (Letters, p. 630).

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