Monday, 28 January 2008


The first thing to explain is what is all this ultramontanity? Ultramontane is 'beyond the (alpine) mountains' and describes someone whose stance is favourable to the authority of the Pope in matters of faith and discipline.

It is based on respect for tradition and is more than an emotional attachment. As an example, we have all seen how this government (I can't award it a capital letter) is in the process of traducing all the traditions of this country (the United Kingdom) and we all see how society is reaping the whirlwind. Tradition demands that changes are carried out gradually - evolution not revolution. There is a so called law of unexpected consequences which comes into play when zestful and trendy decisions are made, for the applause of some pressure group, to receive the transient accolades of the BBC (you see that my slip is already beginning to show!), or the bien pensants in Hampstead or Islington.

The deleterious effects may not be felt for some time down the line, when the perpetrators have been promoted to the Lords, have become elder statesmen, so called 'National Treasures' . And it's left to society to pick up the pieces.

One particular change which I to my shame cheered on when it was happening in the 1960's was Vatican II. When John XXIII died, we were relieved when Montini became Pope and as Paul VI vowed to continue V2. I distinctly remember reading with shock horror about a certain Cardinal Guiseppe Siri (the bogeyman of the right) who had (apparently) said that it would take 100 years to heal the wounds to the church made by John. Cardinal Siri was a strong candidate in the conclave of 1963, and again in the two conclaves of 1978.

We thought it was a very good idea to have the Mass in the local languages, yet the first time I attended the new Mass, I remember coming out of Church wondering what had we done. It all sounded so banal. And this was before the more radical changes had taken place.

I lapsed in the 70's and 80's came back in the late 80's early 90's, lapsed again and returned again, this time for good I trust about 3 years ago.

The Church I have come back to is so much depleted from the one I left. In the sixties, on Ascension Day and other Holy Days of Obligation, so many Catholics attended Mass, that it was usually mentioned at 6 o'clock as a BBC news item. But no chance today.

Was there a cause and effect? Did the falling away of attendances at Mass, have anything to do with V2 or would it have happened anyway? It is hard to say. We note that other Christian churches have had falling attendances with the prevalence of secularism. As a scientist, it would be interesting to view the yearly statistics of Church attendance for the various denominations in England since WW2. I would look for changes in the slope of the curve after Vatican 2, or the pill controversy, or the scandal of paedophile priests. We could compare the graph with similar statistics from other Churches who have not had the same traumas.

I believe that post V2, Roman Catholic services became too trendy. There is no rigour, no sense of the Eternal. Cardinal Arinze, was told by a Moslem friend that if he believed that God himself came down on the Altar in the form of the Bread and Wine, he would be approaching the Altar in fear and on his knees'. Quite so. There used to be pin-drop silence during the canon of the Mass. But not today.

The pre-Vatican 2 liturgy was like a Swiss watch, beautifully balanced, fulfilling all its functions completely satisfactorily, the culmination of centuries of watch making. The liturgists thought that they should simplify this Swiss watch, taking it apart so that the faithful can relate more to the process. Unfortunately, once they took the watch apart they found it didn't work so well. But instead of putting it back together, (which could be done) they try to put it back in a different way, and cobble on extra parts. The kindest thing that can be said is that the new liturgy is still work in progress and will be so for a few more centuries. Perhaps Cardinal Siri was right.

And what did they do with Gregorian chant? They threw that away too. Sure it's still around in Monasteries and a few other places, but rarely is it heard on yer local Sunday mass. If you want to hear Gregorian chant go to Classic FM or Radio 3. Just as the Church ditched this pearl of great price, the secular world found it and cherishes it.

Also, to all intents and purposes the Church ditched Latin in services (OK Pope Benedict quite rightly says Latin Masses were never abolished but the Bishops went enthusiastically into the full monty of the trendy mass in English in this country, and similarly around the world. So at the stroke the Church has lost its universality of worship. Now we have Poles working in this country (and very welcome they are too). But they have to have their own Polish mass. In London, its a veritable tower of babel.

But there people in the Church who regret the changes and pray and work for a renaissance. We all welcomed the election of Joseph Ratzinger as Benedict XVI and we pray that God preserves him long enough to turn around the barque of Peter before she is driven onto the rocks.

So Viva Benedict XVI. Ad multos annos, Sancte Papa!


Thomas W. said...

I do not know where you reside, but you may be interested in the UK directory of Tridentine Masses (as the pre-Vatican II liturgy is commonly referred to).

ultramontane grumpy old catholic said...


Thanks for the tip. I'm a signed up member of the LMS but in the West Country the Latin Masses is few and far between. It usually means a hike up to London

North Northwester said...

If you can accept it from an overweight middle-aged heathen, I tip my hat to your for your crisp and well-exemplified accounts of conservatism; both clerical and political.

There should be more, but you may stick to the Catholic religion alone here.

As for the BBC doing something counter-revolutionary, I can only admire your sense of irony.

ultramontane grumpy old catholic said...

Thanks Nor-nor-westerner. Your hat tip is gratefully accepted! This is somewhat of an occasional blog, so I have only just picked up your comment.

The BBC are more interested these days in spinning history to suit their own agenda. One can only look on in impotent rage.

The rot probably started in Joan Littlewood's 'Oh what a lovely war' I enjoyed this a lot, but subsequently found that her picture of Douglas Haig could certainly be challenged.

North Northwester said...

You're welcome.

And 'Oh What A Lovely War' was indeed a massive and clever-clever desecration of the dead.

Can you imagine the furore following the musical 'Holiday in Heysel Stadium' if they ever made it?
I think you'll find the Left can only stand it being dished out in one direction.

I look forward to your next post.