Page 10, 9th April 1993

9th April 1993
Page 10
Page 10, 9th April 1993 — Murmurings from Manchester

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Murmurings from Manchester

Charterhouse Chronicle by Peter Hebblethwaite

THOUGH 1 was a from 1942 to 1948. 1 had schoolboy in Manchester never been inside the cathedral. It simply wasn't done. Last month I was in the chapterhouse. giving an extra-mural "day" for Manchester University on: "Is the papacy an obstacle to Christian Unity?" I was thinking of Pope Paul VI's remark in 1967: We recognise that our office is itself an obstacle to Christian unity."

Pope Paul didn't of course mean that he was about to abandon the papal office. He meant that he would exercise it in a style that would commend it to other Christians. He would not insist on prerogatives. privileges or precedence.

However. the poster outside changed my title to: "Is the Vatican an obstacle to Christian Faith?' — a proposition I could not defend. The Protestant Truth Society would have loved it. In Ashton-under-Lyne, my native town, stands a statue to Will Murphy, a rabid Ulster Protestant, who incited the mob to attack my parish church, St Ann's. The "Murphy riots" figure in Matthew Arnold's Culture and Anarchy.

The Christian Israelites, who appeared in the TV series Mr Wroe's Virgins, started life in Ashton-under-Lyne. But nothing in the decor suggested the place or the social setting — except for the cholera epidemic in episode two. One can await the New Jerusalem anywhere.

MANCHESTER used to belong to the Diocese of Lichfield, and only became an independent See in 1847. The first bishop. James Prince Lee, built 110 churches in 20 years. They are still there. in prime sites. like beached and stranded whales.

Manchester has just got a new bishop, Christopher Mayfield.

previously suffragan of Wolverhampton — the first bishop to be named since the II November vote in favour of the ordination of women. AngloCatholics complain that no-one opposed to women's ordination will henceforth be appointed bishop. and that their cause is therefore doomed to lingering extinction. Bishop Mayfield is an evangelical — at least he read theology at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. In the Manchester Cathedral News the Dean remarks that the cathedral chapter was due to meet to "elect" their bishop. although he had already been named. A "Letter Recommendatory" from the Queen commands them to elect him.

Even more Alice in Wonderland is the fact that the Queen didn't elect him either. and that the Prime Minister did; or might have done. 1 give up: the Roman system of pontifical appointment seems simple in ctriparison.

However, the Dean of Manchester sees some merit in this process: "It is about the only ceremony, apart from our oaths. in which we acknowledge the Sovereign as Head of the Church of England. The unanimous vote represents our corporate acknowledgement of the Queen's action in appointing the bishop; it is a loyal endorsement on our part of her right in the matter."

It makes you appreciate the Establishment, says the Dean. You could have fooled me.

MANCHESTER Cathedral was a

collegiate church, founded in 1421 in the reign of King Henry V and endowed for a warden. eight fellow chaplains, four clerks and six choristers. It is dedicated to the Blessed Mary of Manchester, to whom were later added Ss Denys and George.

In 1500 a side chapel was decorated with screens by the Master. Wardens and Yeomen of the Guild of St Saviour and of the Name of Jesus. I found this evocation of Lancashire medieval Catholicism deeply touching. The college and the guilds were swept away in 1535.

The sense of "we were robbed" has never entirely departed. The Reformation was not a popular movement, but was imposed from above. It is not just Eamon Duffy who says this in The Stripping of the Altars, but that impeccably Anglican historian, Gareth Bennett.

f-fe says: "The Mass with its mystery, movement, colour and song was abolished. A quarterly communion service took its place. However sound we may think the new Protestant theology of justification by faith alone, no one can deny the cultural shock; nor the tradition of resentment which remained ."

Gareth Bennett — a pity he had to kill himself — maintained that the most important change was that the priest among his people, Chaucer's "pauvre parsoun of the town", was replaced by a university-educated preacher. He traces the tradition of the inept comic vicar to this source.

S0 I suppose that the Manchester Catholics, when they began to build their first post-Reformation church in 1794, dedicated to Our Lady's Assumption, had in mind the medieval tradition. "As we were saying, two and a half centuries ago...".

Its first historian reported that the vicinity of Mulberry Street was vile in every way, and the idea of it being a place of worship was to the last degree a glaring and nauseous incongruity".

Forty years later this was typical of the area studied by Friedrich Engels in The Condition of the English Working Classes. But a better guide to the period was Mrs Gaskell in her novel. North and South.

She has the mill-owner break a strike by importing a boatload of Irish families to live above Can't because the locals are so hostile to them. After two weeks they are restive and want to go home. The mill-owner calls in Fr O'Grady to tell them they must accept their lot as the will of God.

That is exactly what Marx meant by religion as "alienation".

Mrs Gaskell observed better than Engels, who spent his leisure time hunting the fox with the Cheshire set. He justified this on the grounds that, come the revolution. he would need to be able to handle a horse.

St Mary's Mulberry Street, invariably known as "the hidden gem". celebrates its centenary next year. There is only one thing wrong with the handsome volume written to mark it. It suffers from an over-estimation of all things Mancunian.

The most famous parishioner of Sc Mary's, Ned Hutton, born in Clock Alley in 1836, is contrasted with Engels and praised for being "a reticent Lancashire lad who lived in poverty and lived and died in his native north of England".

There follows a delightful sentence: "He studied racing form and became an expert on the anatomy of the horse." This skill led him to found The Sporting Chronicle which lasted until 1983. He also founded the Daily Dispatch, the paper with which I learned to spell as a child. I was astonished to discover it was "directed at the Northern middle class".

The giveaway line is this: "Ned took no part in public life. cared nothing for the social whirl, and scorned Fleet Street as much as Fleet Street scorned the North." It sounds as though he was that wellbalanced type — a man with a chip on both shoulders.

You wouldn't think that his daughter. Mabel. became Lady Strickland and owned The Times of Malta: or that his grandson founded Picture Post. I'm sure they didn't disdain the social whirl.

But they were the ones that got away.

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