Our Society is constituted to provide the Mass to as many catholics as possible from all walks of life in churches and chapels the length and breadth of England and Wales, the majority of those who attend these Masses would not have understood anything of the splendour of Merton. It is wrong therefore for the favoured few to be able to indulge in the obvious luxury of the liturgy provided. Many people (laity) have worked for the LMS for many years for no more than their expenses and a good number of them have not claimed for anything at all. Look then at the tuition fees and the expenses paid from the figures provided for 29 first time and 15 second time delegates from England and Wales. The clergy were in awe at the generosity of the Society they must have been laughing all the way back to their presbyteries at the size of the party bags distributed as gifts. The whole concept of Merton (an Anglican institution) is privileged, the cost of Merton is obscene, continually asking our membership to subsidise elitist events is wrong. The direction the Society is taking is a cause for concern, high profile and elitism are the flavours of the day, committee must resist this, it must resist any thought of returning to Merton any proposal to do so must be overturned.
I found this very sad reading. David Lloyd is a man I like and respect; I have had dealings with him in the past and found him affable and kind. But I have to disagree profoundly with him on this matter which for me raises a ghost which I thought laid—I might add, laid with David's help (he being then in the chair). This ghost was the tendency which the LMS had a few years ago (and no doubt is not dead) to support only those clergy who were prepared to celebrate exclusively the traditional rites: their website then even proudly boasted it. It made me think of those priests, diocesan and religious, who for years had endured contempt and marginalization from their brothers and superiors for their willingness to keep celebrating the traditional rites for members of the LMS. That what we now call the Extraordinary Form was maintained in this country was due in no small measure to men like Mgr Macdonald, Fr Michael Ware and Fr Mark Taylor. They, like I, for so many years, also received only expenses, and very often not even that.
The Merton Conference was a most valuable resource in making it possible for ordinary diocesan and religious clergy to learn to be able to celebrate what is now entirely legitimate. It is firmly established that the traditional rites are not for an exclusive elite, but ordinary Catholics in the pew have a right to them. Of the seventy priests who attended last summer, most went home able to begin celebrating in the Extraordinary Form with some measure of confidence, which will grow as they get used to it. Yes, these men are unlikely exclusively to do so, but then they are men who do not believe that the vineyard of the Lord is confined to traditional Mass centres. They believe, as do I, that the people in ordinary parishes are Catholics too, with souls that need saving and sanctifying, and though the Ordinary Form is not such an efficient tool, nonetheless it is the only tool that many of our folk will accept at present and thus we must make the best of it. But now they have also recourse to the Extraordinary form, a better tool, which they can use as appropriate, both for their own sanctification and also for that of those who will come to appreciate it through their work.
Although Mr Lloyd thinks that the Merton conference was elitist, in reality it was quite the opposite, since the intent is to bring the Mass precisely back where it belongs—in the parishes.
Second, I feel personally very hurt at the suggestion that priests went laughing back to their presbyteries after the sybaritic extravaganza of the Merton conference, at the expense of the pennies of the LMS poor. The conference was not luxurious: all participants lived in student accommodation and ate (albeit very nice) student food. The liturgy was splendid, but the traditional rites are splendid, when done properly. Are the LMS suggesting that a large gathering of priests should have celebrated Low Mass every day and said the office in private? That would be ridiculous! Perhaps it was the presence of prelates they objected to, especially when they were treated properly. Then there was the goody-bag. Each participant was given a study edition (which is actually useable) of the 1962 Missale Romanum, costing about 50 Euros, a cheap set of unframed paper altar cards (with at least one mistake on them) and sets of bound photocopied notes for the courses. The one possible extravagance was a beautifully produced and bound liturgical book with the offices and masses for the week, which may have cost (judging by Lulu prices) about £10.
Though the participants were heavily subsidized, they did have to find expenses that other types of employees might not have to, such as paying for supply priests in their own parishes while they were away, and transport—three priests came from South Africa.
But the money was not the issue; I strongly suspect that many, if not most, of the participants would have paid for themselves entirely if that were required. I, as a member of the teaching team, was given an honorarium: I was grateful, but would have helped for nothing, quite happily.
Should the Merton Conference not operate this year, it will prove to have been a pyrrhic victory for those who oppose it. Yes, the LMS may well have more money in its bank account, but there will be fewer priests able to celebrate the rites which they love. And, please, what is the money for?
It is possible, I suppose, that another sponsor might be found, or perhaps priests might well be willing to pay for themselves. That would be great. But if the conference does not go ahead, then I would certainly be willing to take one or two priests (in good standing) at a time here for a few days to do the same thing, mutatis mutandis. No doubt others would be likewise willing.