Thursday 28 February 2008

The Legal Status of the Sarum Mass

Following my postings of the Sarum celebration, quite a number of questions have been posed, mostly on other blogs, concerning the legality of celebration according to Sarum: not in a negative way; rather asking 'can we all do it'? I haven't seen a negative comment about the rite itself; all seem to be in agreement that it is a splendid and beautiful way to honour God, but its propriety is something that one or two seem to be curious about. I'm not any sort of a canon lawyer, so I'll try and take a historical approach.
The Sarum Use was the form that Mass was celebrated in throughout the British Isles from the high middle ages (or even earlier) until the Reformation. There were some local variants, such as at Hereford, York, Aberdeen, Bangor, and slight tweaks at Lincoln and Westminster Abbey. Once he seized control of the Church in England, Henry VIII made the Sarum Use standard throughout the kingdom. We presume that Mary simply continued this policy—at least the only missal to be reprinted during her reign was the Sarum one, in 1555. Thus when Mary died, Sarum was the Catholic standard in England and Wales, only Aberdeen in Scotland holding out until 1566 when the Mass was abolished tout court. There would have been other rites and uses in some of the religious orders; the Franciscans used the Roman Use, for instance; the Dominicans, the Dominican &c.
On the eve of Pentecost 1559, presumably the whole Sarum thing would have been celebrated much as you have seen it in these clips plus the blessing of the font &c—and then the following morning the minister would have got into the pulpit and said 'Dearly beloved brethren &c'. It is hard to imagine what must have been the distress of many who had already gone through this before in the reign of Edward VI.
Not all priests conformed, of course. Many fled to the continent. William Allen of Oxford University got seminaries going in France and Rome, and was made Cardinal. Others carried on in their parishes, celebrating the official Book of Common Prayer in the church, and Mass in the vicarage, sometimes distributing consecrated Hosts at the Communion Service in the church to those of Catholic sympathies.
At any rate, these priests may be presumed with reasonable certainty to have used the Sarum Mass (how might they have come by Roman Missals when even the Sarum ones were contraband?), and so in 1570 the practice could not reasonably be said to have died out.
This was the year that Pope St Pius V approved the 'Tridentine' Missal, where Quo Primum states that all liturgies with more than 200 years' continuous usage might continue to be used.
There is little doubt that after this time the Sarum Mass dwindled; there was never a conscious effort to wipe it out, I think; it is just that printing the missal would have been difficult; the seminaries, run by Jesuits, used the Roman Mass—the Church had bigger problems to contend with than keeping Sarum running. So, there was never any act of abrogation of the Use. It continued as the native Use, though everyone used the Roman, by privilege of Quo Primum, which said they might.
Now we spool forwards to the nineteenth century. There was a certain enthusiasm for the revival of the Sarum Rite. It began when Canon Daniel Rock wrote his ground-breaking liturgical studies of the early English period The Church of our Fathers and Hierurgia, being spurred on by Pugin and the Gothic Revival. I read somewhere recently that St Chad's, Birmingham was specifically designed for the Sarum liturgy. However, this was also the period of Ultramontanism. France was still stamping out her local rites (their enthusiam benefitted also from the fact that many of these uses were tinged—or more than tinged—with Jansenism) and the atmosphere of the restoration of the English and Welsh Hierarchy in 1850 made links with Rome all the more desireable.
I have often heard (as have many others) that there was a serious proposal to use the Sarum Use in St Edmund's Ware, and Westminster Cathedral. Never have I seen any watertight evidence for either of these assumptions. The person best placed to make such an investigation (hint, hint) would be Fr Nicholas Schofield, he of the Roman Miscellany, and himself an admirer of the Sarum Use. He is the Westminster Diocesan Archivist, and if there is any evidence to be had, it will be in his hands already. But it might be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
In the Church of England, the early twentieth century saw the turning of the tide away from a Roman liturgical direction towards the Sarum. The 'Ornaments Rubric', stating that churches should look like they did before the reformers really got their hands on them was used to justify the re-re-re-reordering of parish churches in the style we have come to associate with the dear old CofE—which is to say, Sarum-ish. And groups like the Alcuin Club produced book after book demonstrating how one could take the Book of Common Prayer Communion Service and make it look quite like a Sarum Mass (as long as you stuck your fingers in your ears).
In the Catholic Church during the early years of the twentieth century, the centralizing force of the liturgy began to recede. Certain of the religious orders, such as the Cistercians and Carmelites, with Rome's encouragement, began to edit and purify their own liturgies, reinforcing their practice. And Braga, in Portugal, which used a variant form of the Sarum liturgy, completely revived its own rite, quoting, I understand, Quo Primum as its justification for doing so. Rome agreed that it had the right to do so.
I don't know whether any celebrations of the Sarum Rite took place in England before the Second Vatican Council. The first I heard of was in Englefield Green, Surrey, where in the mid-1980s the inappropriately baroque Catholic parish church was the setting for a Mass as part of the celebrations commemorating Runnymede, the nearby setting for the signing of Magna Carta in 1215. Deacon and Subdeacon wore fancy baroque dalmatics stiff with gold braid, while the celebrant wore a 70s striped Slabbinck creation with a high collar and overlay stole. And yet it was still beautiful.
The next celebration that I am aware of was in Merton College Oxford, 11th February 1996, the feast of the Translation of St Frideswide. This was the initiative of the undergraduate Newman Society who worked very hard with the celebrant to get it as right as possible. Well beforehand, the Archbishop, the late Maurice Couve de Murville, was consulted, with reasons for belief that there need be no scruples about celebrating; he concurred, and the celebration went ahead, being repeated enthusiastically a year later for the feast of Candlemas—the video has been posted here.
And here the Sarum Use ran into its first official roadblock in all its long history. Somebody, let us call him X, wrote to Cardinal Hume, to Fr Allen Morris, the chair of the Liturgical Commission of England and Wales and to the Congregation of Rites in Rome, informing them of the celebration and enquiring into its legality, implying that the celebration had taken place without the knowledge of the Archbishop. Cardinal Hume and Fr Morris wrote back in measured words, saying that they didn't really know the situation, but thought that really the decision was Rome's. They didn't seem particularly worried by it either way. The Congregation, though, replied in a letter by a junior official to the Archbishop and to X in the most shocked maiden-auntly terms. It makes me wonder whether the bishops of those who celebrate clown Masses in the US get such dressings-down. I think I know the answer.
I do not think that the official in the Congregation even reached for his code of Canon Law; still less did he make any attempt to find out why and how the celebration took place—he was not even aware whether it had been celebrated in Latin or English. Alcuin Reid, one of the more eminent of the up-and-coming liturgists has said that he is sure that we were on firm ground, and even written about this very matter in his book The Organic Development of the Liturgy (St Michael's Abbey Press 2004, pp118-9). Mgr Schmitz, US superior of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest has in a private conversation said the same.
What is sad is that I have not felt able to continue celebrating the Sarum Use. I am a Catholic, after all, and though I think that the Roman decision was badly made—I must quote one line from it: 'in fact the Roman Missal promulgated by the late Pope Paul VI is of superior quality to previous editions from all points of view'—nonetheless if we are not obedient, if we do not cleave to the rock, then the Church would disintegrate. It will not suffer for the loss of the Sarum Liturgy—I would not say the same for the Traditional Rite generally.
What is sad is that I have heard subsequently that X wrote these letters deliberately in order to make trouble. Let us hope that this is not true; he is supposed to have been of the opinion that one should celebrate Mass traditionally despite official discouragement or even forbidding, and, having seen our enthusiasm for the Sarum, he sought to force us onto his side. If this is true, he miscalculated, and something moving and beautiful has been allowed to fall away as a consequence. I am told, again, that subsequently he joined some Old Catholic sect and received minor orders; later on, he migrated to the Church of England. I repeat that this is hearsay.
Back to Sarum. It was not the end. The then Bishop of Aberdeen, Mario Conti, celebrated a Sarum Mass in 2000 in Aberdeen for the University. Quite apart from the fact that the Sarum Mass was never celebrated in Aberdeen before this (as I mentioned above, it had its own rite before the Reformation), it was an interesting thing to do. Alcuin Reid quotes a letter from now-Archbishop Conti in the book mentioned above, thus:
Permission of the Holy See was not sought, and I judged that it was not needed, since the Mass is substantially that of the so-called Tridentine Rite, the central eucharistic prayer, or canon, being almost word for word that of the Roman canon still in use throughout the Latin rite.

Reid adds:
In the author's opinion, in the light of the principles operative in the reinvigoration of the traditional rite of Braga, both the Archbishop of Birmingham [in our case] and the Bishop of Aberdeen acted within their competence, in harmony with liturgical Tradition, and in accordance with the precedent of the Holy See by allowing, and in the case of the latter, by personally celebrating Mass according to the Sarum rite.

Since then, I have heard rumours of Archbishop Peter Smith allowing a celebration in the Cardiff Diocese last year, but nothing very definite.

So there we have it. I am of the opinion that the Sarum Use is morally available to clergy of the British Isles, though it is now subject to a legal dubium which really needs clearing up. It needs somebody with more leisure than I have to pursue it.

A long post—if you've struggled through, congratulations.

St Osmund, pray for us.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting all the Sarum Use stuff.

(1) According to Prof. Robert Wright at General Theological Seminary, NYC, after the wreckage of the Mary Rose was discovered, a public requiem for the souls of the sailors who perished was said according to the Sarum Use. It wasn't clear, however, whether the mass was celebrated by a Catholic or C of E priest.

(2) What is your opinion on whether the other more obscure uses, such as York, Westminster, Hereford, etc, were canonically abrogated? On the one hand, surely Henry's abolition of all uses but the Sarum was uncanonical. On the other hand, these Uses were no longer used.

Pastor in Monte said...

1) The Mary Rose Requiem was an Anglican do; I remember it. They were very careful to provide the same choreography as the drowned sailors would have expected in the year they died.
There was also a 'liturgical reconstruction' done in the Chapel Royal of Hampton Court palace in 1997, the same year as the Merton Candlemas do. Andrew Carwood was involved for the music, and I understand they used actors for the sacred ministers.
2) I wouldn't really care to venture an opinion: I suppose they come under the same banner as Sarum, especially if it can be demonstrated that they were used in the reign of Mary. I really don't know anything about it, though I have a copy of a Hereford missal.

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

Thank you, father, for a fascinating series of videos of the Sarum Mass at Oxford.

Your most recent post on the history of the Sarum Rite is likewise fascinating.

I full agree with what has been said.

Notwithstanding the dubium from the Congregation of Rites, it is not clear that the use of the Sarum Missal had truly died out at the time of "Quo Primum", and therefore it was not abrogated by it.

Fr Nicholas said...

On the archives front - I haven't come across anything relating to the Sarum Use in the Wiseman papers, though as we continue to catalogue and digitalise our documents we may find something.

It is often said that the re-introduction of the Sarum Usage was considered at the time of the Restoration of Hierarchy, but I've found no evidence at all to support this.

Another diocesan 'myth' is that St George's, Sudbury (near Harrow) was designed for the Sarum liturgy - this would have been around 1924 - but, although the church is medieval in style, I've found no evidence to back this up. Unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

No struggling necessary Father - it was very interesting.

Anonymous said...

A note for Fr. Gregory: Whilst Fr. Clement Russell did not use the Sarum rite at Sudbury he did 'sarumise' the Roman rite. I understand from those who attended his liturgy that it was very fine indeed: acolytes in tunicle, coped cantors etc. and his Mass without sacred ministers was considered, by my source at least, better than any High Mass in the Diocese.

Anonymous said...

"I am a Catholic, after all, and though I think that the Roman decision was badly made—I must quote one line from it: 'in fact the Roman Missal promulgated by the late Pope Paul VI is of superior quality to previous editions from all points of view'—nonetheless if we are not obedient, if we do not cleave to the rock, then the Church would disintegrate. It will not suffer for the loss of the Sarum Liturgy—I would not say the same for the Traditional Rite generally."

Father, blind obedience is never catholic.

Besides, obedience is never the only principle operative in a situation where one has reasonable doubts as to the goodness of a superior's command. Prudence, for example, is always a virtue that takes precedence.

The church WILL suffer from the loss of the Sarum, just as it has suffered from a lot of other abuses, exaggerations and extravagances in the name of ultramontanism. The present crises in the church is partly the result of the consistent, and unconscionable abuse of power by many a superior in pre-conciliar novitiates, religious houses, seminaries, etc, etc.

Anonymous said...

Having mentioned the late, and much lamented Fr. Clement Russell may I add (albeit off topic) that he was quite a remarkable man. He had sung Mass, along with first and second vespers for all feasts double of the second class and above (and, I think, also mattins and lauds for some feasts).

Apart from the Cathedral I understand St. George's Sudbury was the only church in the Westminster Archdiocese where one could find solemn three cope vespers on Saturday afternoons. A freind of mine told me how he had been in Walsigham many years ago and had lamented not being able to get solemn vespers that particular Saturday afternoon. My friend said "Before you could say Deus, in adjutorium a coach drew up and Fr. Clement disembarked along with three green copes..."

Fr. Clement had some argument with a Vicar General, I understand, about his use of only two candlesticks on the altar (very Sarum). The VG wanted him to have six. Apparently Fr. Clement agreed to have six candlesticks if the VG would ensure that all other churches removed two and four candlesticks on the appropriate days as required by the Caeremoniale. Fr.Clement never changed his arrangement. Sadly he was run over by a motorcycle in the mid 1960s. His wonderful church survived intact, except for a 'kitchen table' being added until the mid-1990s: sadly it was then completely re-ordered (aka destroyed).

Anonymous said...

I was at the earlier Oxford mass, and enjoyed it very much. I knew 'X' slightly, and considered him a slighly unstable young man (if we have the same X in mind - like you I only heard rumour). Clearly it would be good if we could clear up the canonical position. I wonder what the best way would be to go about it?


Anonymous said...

Regarding the legal status - have you asked Fr.Z?!

Anonymous said...

A great read, Father. Thank you so much for taking the trouble to write it. I have a particular interest in the Church's liturgy and this detail about the Sarum Use is valuable. It would be wonderful if a dubium could be resolved.

Fr Nicholas said...

Thanks for the notes about Fr Clement Russell.

I'm currently creating a database on the clergy of Westminster with short biographies, so any other information or anecdotes about him would be appreciated (you can always post them as comments on Roman Miscellany). Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Some random observations:

I'm sure you're right about the moral and canonical issues.

There is a fine, succinct chapter on the Sarum Use in Martin D. Stringer's recent 'Sociological History of Christian Worship'. Not sure I agree with all of his conclusions, but his descriptions of liturgical life in high medieval Salisbury are mouth-watering! Why can't we have it all back?

I have been told that the Sarum Use was mentioned in the famous correspondence in the 'Rambler' at the time of the Restoration of the Hierarchy, but I have never taken the trouble to follow up the reference.

Re. Sarum in the dear old C of E: I am not sure when Anglicans got interested in adapting the Sarum rubrics for the communion service, but there was great interest in the Sarum breviary as early as the 1830s - Newman was even involved in an abortive scheme to translate it for Anglican use.

I have heard reports of presbytery cupboards stuffed with vestments at Sudbury. Could it be that Fr Russell's green copes survive? Some vestments from there found their way into the sacristy at Ealing Abbey, and though they were fine (I recall, I think, a rose low Mass set) they did not strike me as particularly Sarum-ish.

Paulinus said...

Fascinating, Father , and good to have you back blogging.

Anonymous said...

Could the other anonymous, or someone else link to or provide a photo of St. George's as it used to be?

Anonymous said...

I do not have a photograph of St. George's Sudbury but I will be having dinner soon with someone who used to be part of the serving team under Fr. Clement. I will certainly find out whether he has some photographs.

It really was quite exquisite. If I recall correctly apart from the choir there was a Lady Chapel, Mortuary Chapel and Blessed Sacrament Chapel. In the latter there was a silver pyx in the form of a galleon although I am unsure whether Fr. Clement got away with using that.

Anonymous said...

A little hint to all of those who are interested in the Sarum Use and the liturgy in general:

There is a possibility that the Sarum Use may be celebrated in an Oxford college in the not-so-very-distant-at-all future.

I may, possibly be involved, and am very anxious to gather academic and rubrical materials that pertain to the Sarum Use. I'm also very keen to contact people who perhaps ministered at the previous Masses at Merton.

Concerning the legal status, contact with the Congregation for Divine Worship has yielded positive results, insofar as Archbishop Ranjith has indicated that the Congregation is perfectly comfortable that the Sarum Use be celebrated, and that no formal permission is needed (though out of common courtesy one should request, or even inform, the Ordinary of the Mass's occurence).

If you may be able to assist on the rubrics side, please contact me at:

+ The blessings of the Risen Lord to all

Mitch said...

Since the PCED has now stated that Summorum Pontificum applied to the Ambrosian Rite (since it was a legitimate rite in 1962) would this mean that the Sarum Use can now be said under the provisions of SP? I would think that it could be since although the Sarum Use was not being used in 1962 it was still a valid rite of the Church at that time never having been abolished and also because it was a protected use according to Quo Primum. Am I off base in assuming this?

Jim said...

I think that Summorum Pontificum has provided the needed clarification: no special permission is necessary to celebrate according to the Sarum Use. In my opinion this also applies to other British uses (e.g. York, Bangor).

The Sibyl said...

I have been reading the entries on your blog about the Usus Salisburiensis with keen interest.

Some years ago I was consoled to hear of your activities when staying in Oxford with Uwe Lang, and somewhat dissappointed to hear of your eventual difficulties.

I am pleased to have found your blog and further information about the events which occured.

The more recent comments on this subject would seem to revive hope in the possibility for the celebration of the various English Uses, No?

A couple of things have occured to me in recent times with regard to the newer rite "in the light of tradition" often refered to as "the hermaneutic of continuity" (perhaps the 1st is a little broader)when reading Sacrosanctum Concilium.

The notion of "inculturation" is open to interpretation but it must surely exlude incompatible pagan practices, but why could it not include aspects of English pratice such as:

1)The Veni Creator and prepatory prayers in the Sacristy
2)The Sarum Tropes in place of "Lord you where sent to heal the contrite" in the penitential formula
3)Preces in place of the Prayers of faithful
4) an offertory procession form the Lady Chapel.

Etc. etc. etc. I think you see where I am going with this.

It would be streching the friendship, but not impossible, for us in Australia to claim such "inculturation" despite our settlement by English, Irish Scottish and Welsh immigrants.

I do recall some 5 years ago using the Sarum Propers (the text being the same as the Roman)and a Byrd setting of the Ordinary at the Usus Antiquior - It was this that gave me the idea about the Usus Recentior. No doubt, you have already thought of all this.

I suppose in these days of discussion on matters patrimonial, some of these observations may be a way of Anglisising the liturgy in a truly Catholic and tradtional way - the Sarum Use and it's other cousins are strangley a common patrimonial ground for Anglicans (of the Anglorum Ceotibus variety)and English Latin Cathoilcs.

Surely the sarum rite is a bridge of unity with those who where seperated providing an authenically catholic rite which both can claim.

It's restoration and rehabilitation would a significant sign healing of the terrible wounds of the English reformation. Am I preaching to the choir...?

The Sibyl

Anonymous said...

I am surprised at the viciousness and inaccuracy of this article's references to "X". I would have thought that a priest, talking of an event almost 15 years ago would have had in mind the expression "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us".
I assume that I am "X" and can assure everyone that my motives were entirely honourable: I did not intend to cause trouble, nor to try to influence the Society of St Osmund to open rebellion. It was purely out of curiosity that I wrote to Cardinal Hume, it was the Cardinal who told me to write to the Liturgical Commission and they told me to write to Rome. I was as appalled as everyone else at Rome's misinterpretation of my purely academic query as a complaint - and at the way they used my name in the letters they sent out. he uncharitable treatment which I received from various individuals in the aftermath of this affair contributed to a breakdown and reflects very poorly on those individuals. With hindsight, I should never have asked, but I do not think that it is I who comes worst out of this sorry affair. You then go on in this article to make incorrect statements about my subsequent spiritual journey which you acknowledge to be "hearsay" - so why set a bad example by repeating it, Father? As for the person calling themselves Tom (I have no idea who they are, the only possible candidate I can think of being someone whom I last had contact with in 1994): if it is "unstable" to follow one's conscience, to seek always to act with integrity, to see the contradictions in a theological position which exalts the powers of the Papacy whilst going against the entire thrust of their liturgical teachings, then I am happy to accept that label.
I'm sure you will not allow this comment to appear and I am only offering my thoughts in this way because there does not seem to be any other way of contacting you on the blog - please prayerfully consider what I have said and let go of this particular grudge if you can.

Bernard Brandt said...

Dear Father,

Thank you for this informative article on the Sarum Rite, and on the dubium placed on the practice of that Rite by the Roman Congregation of Rites. I am in the process of writing a response to that dubium, in which I conclude the following:

1. The Sarum Rite was practiced continuously from the late Eleventh Century A.D. and at least until 1577, seven years after the promulgation of Quo Primum;

2. The Sarum Rite therefore fully qualifies for the permission granted in Quo Primum for its continued liturgical use;

3. The decision of English Catholic Bishops in the 19th Century to use the Tridentine Rite in preference to the Sarum Rite by no means abrogates the permission delineated in #2 for its continued use;

4. The canonical concept of desuetude is inapplicable to the Sarum Rite, as Canon 2 of both the Pian/Benedictine Canon Law and the 1983 edition state clearly that Canon Law is inapplicable to Roman Catholic Liturgical practice;

5. Therefore, the Sarum Rite is of equal dignity with such other rites as the Gallican, the Mozarabic, and the Ambrosian, and is therefore invested with the plenary permission of use granted by Sacrosanctum Concilium.

If the text of the dubium is still extant and in your possession, I would therefore greatly appreciate it if you were either to publish it in your weblog, or to give me the opportunity of reading it privately.

In order to help you, should you wish to e-mail me privately, my e-mail address is bfbrandtAThotmailDOTCOM. (Please forgive me for altering the sections capitalized, but I wish to avoid being inundated with spam e-mail.

Thanking you in advance for the courtesy of a reply, I am

Very truly yours,

Bernard Brandt