Brian Brindley considers the plight of the orthodox faithful, and argues that they should adopt a less embittered tone.
The Word in the Desert by Barry Spurr. Lutterworth Press,
£17.50 WE ARE LIVING '111ROUGH one of those periods of liturgical change that from time to time overwhelm the whole western Church: since 1950, after some centuries of stagnation, everything has been in Upheaval, for Anglicans and all Protestants as well as for Catholics. Could anyone who attended Mass in an average Catholic church in 1960 have foreseen what Mass would be like in the same church in 1995?
Such change takes place in three fields. First in language: for Catholics, from Latin to English (of a kind); for Anglicans from Tudor to modern English. Secondly in ceremonial and music: for Catholics, from the mysteries of the "sacred dance" to guitarstrumming and Mass versus populum; for Anglicans, from a "quiet service" to handclapping and the Toronto Blessing. Thirdly and most importantly, in the underlying doctrine: despite official
insistence that no doctrinal change is involved, some suspect that Catholic rites have been protestantized; Anglican rites have certainly come closer to Catholicism. However unpalatable it may be some, it cannot be doubted that the Church of England Holy Communion Rite A is the "best" (in the sense of "most Catholic") rite for the Eucharist available since 1548. These changes in different fields have tended to happen simultaneously. They inter-act upon one another, and they confuse our perception of what precisely has happened.
Dr Barry Spurr is an Australian, and a teacher of English literature. His enjoyable but frightening book is an anthology of traditionalist complaints, copiously illustrated by horrible examples of what they are complaining about.
He writes with cool good humour as a stylist he eschews the exclamation mark, but one senses it hovering, unused, at the end of many of his wry sentences. If
only similar praise could be extended to those who have destroyed our language and hindered our devotion; they are not only vandals, but unkind vandals.
Likewise, and even more desirable, would that charity, good humour, and commonsense could be displayed by those who regret the loss of traditional liturgy: all too often they are bitter, sarcastic, resentful, and (I fear) inaccurate.
Dr Spurr makes it abundantly clear, however, that traditionalists both Catholic and Anglican have a legitimate grievance: services which are permitted by the legislation and which were promised by the authorities are not in fact available.
If they are to hope for success they must begin by agreeing among themselves what they are asking for (which may not be all that they would like to have.) Then they must find the means to ask in a more attractive and winning way. They could do no better than enlist Barry Spurr as their spokesman.