Latin Mass Society

Chairman's Blog

04/09/2020 - 18:06

Downside Abbey to be abandoned: letter of the week

2010 08 12_7298
The mighty Abbey Church at Downside, where Bishop Schneider celebrated the EF
for the Latin Mass Society's Priest Training Conference in 2010.
The news that the monks of Downside Abbey--all eight of them--have agreed that the community should leave their home of two centuries has come as a shock, though the logic of it is undeniable. Having severed ties with the school, their presence in the school grounds is an anomoly. With little prospect of young men applying to join the community, it is difficult to see any future for it elsewhere either. If I were a betting man, my money would be on them joining another community.
An interesting insight into the demise of this once-important community is given by this letter to The Tablet by Joseph Bevan, whose father's time as Director of Music at Downside covered the period of the liturgical reform. 

The news that the Benedictines are to leave Downside Abbey will fill most loyal Catholics with distress and foreboding. The laying low of one of the greatest bastions of English Catholicism leads us to wonder who will follow, for the meltdown is gathering pace. 

When I was a pupil at Downside in 1970, just after the introduction of the Novus Ordo Missae, the Giles Gilbert Scott abbey church was closed for two years to facilitate “reordering”. Downside had apparently been designated by the Diocese of Clifton as a centre for liturgical experiment. School Masses took place in the theatre and were almost farcical as the boys took great delight in banging the sprung seats.

On another occasion, after the church had reopened, the lights went out during benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and a loud cheer went up from the 500 boys present. I vividly remember the emerging sense of self-doubt exhibited by the monks; so much so that religious instruction classes came to be commonly regarded as a joke. There were one or two exceptions, of course, and honourable mention should be made of Dom Wulstan Phillipson, who refused to have anything to do with the monastic revolution and told us so. It is sad to note that this monk was sent into Coventry by the rest of the community. 

The arrival of the Novus Ordo at Downside precipitated the religious and moral decline of the monastery that culminated in the abuse scandals which have received widespread notoriety. 

The traditional monastic revival in Europe nowadays, however, proves that the monastic life is viable in our modern times but only if the Vatican II novelties are ditched and there is a return to the spiritual life. 

I have no doubt that the progressives will react to the end of monastic life at Downside with a shrug, muttering: “So what, who needs monks anyway?” This was a question on the lips of Downside pupils in the early 1970s and is one to which the modern monastic communities have failed to provide a convincing answer. This is why they are melting away. 

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02/09/2020 - 14:00

Interview in The Remnant

High Mass of Requiem for Colin Mawby, Patron of the Latin Mass Society,
in St Mary Moorfield, shortly before the Coronavirus epidemic.
A longish interview with me has been published in The Remnant. Read it there.

Some highlights.

Q. Isn't the intellectual conception behind this dedication to the Tridentine Mass just another form of "antiquarianism"?

Joseph Shaw: ...The question can be approached from a subjective or an objective perspective. Subjectively, it is legitimate to ask what forms of liturgy and what devotions are most helpful to souls. Some may be of particular benefit to some Catholics, and others to others. Some like the Divine Office, or the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady, but they are not compulsory, and to say one legitimate devotion or liturgical form is outdated or inappropriate for the current year is ridiculous. If it has been approved the Church, and someone finds it helpful, that is all that needs to be said.


In this way Pope Benedict XVI noted in his Letter to Bishops accompanying Summorum Pontificum, “it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them.” This should be a knock-down argument. Who could possibly object to young people deriving graces from one of the Church’s many liturgical forms?...

Nevertheless, there is an objective side to the question as well, and here Catholics attached to the ancient liturgical tradition face ceaseless attacks. ...

What is surprising is to be having these discussions within the Church, and not just with Protestants and non-believers. When Catholic opponents of the Traditional Mass say that ceremonies and prayers used for eight or a dozen centuries throughout the Latin Church are theologically misguided, they are not just criticizing of a small group of cranks found at the fringes of the Church today, but the Catholic Church as a whole. They are saying that the Church got it wrong: that in her most intimate inner life, she offered her children stones instead of bread, not in this or that place, not for some years or decades, but everywhere and for the great majority of her history. It is an argument for what Luther called the “Babylonish captivity of the Church”: that the Church went horribly wrong at a very early date, and needs to be turned upside down to correct it.


Assertions such as “the ancient Offertory Prayers are erroneous because they treat the Host as if it had already been consecrated”, or “the silent Canon wrongfully excludes the people from participation in the Mass” cannot be right: they are ultimately incompatible with the Catholic Church being the true Church. They should prompt us to think again about these issues until we can understand the meaning and purpose of these aspects of the Mass correctly. ...

Q. For many apologists of the replacement of Tridentine Liturgy by the new mass, this is the main motivation: the modern man, whose mentality is totally influenced by “science”, can no longer understand complex rituals and sacred symbols. Consequently, the religious language must be completely changed, transformed, replaced by something self-explanatory.

Joseh Shaw: ... The problem then is not the question of change in itself, or the ultimate goal of changes. It is rather this idea that ‘modern man’ can’t understand complex rituals and symbols. We should notice right away that this claim, if accepted, has almost exactly the same results as the Protestant claim that Catholic ritual is idolatrous, and the Enlightenment claim that it is obscurantist, and indeed both these claims find echoes in the writings of Catholic liturgical progressives, though not in magisterial documents. In its practical results, it serves to align the liturgy with the ethos of the intellectual elite which emerged from Protestantism and the Enlightenment.

This is clearly not a coincidence, and it should make us suspicious of it as an empirical claim. The Protestant Reformers and the anti-clerical intellectuals of the Enlightenment did not imagine that the mere passage of time had made or would make people less receptive to ritual. They saw, to their frustration and grief, that people found it very attractive and were deeply formed by it; they found that frequently the only way to counter its appeal was through physical violence.

The same frustration can be seen in the writings of some members of the Liturgical Movement before the Second Vatican Council, and liturgical progressives after it, when they admit that ordinary Catholics had no wish for a liturgical reform, and continued to hanker after the old Mass when it had been taken from them. Even where the changes were accepted more readily, no one could claim that they has answered widespread demands. Even the bishops, whose views were sought in a survey in preparation for the Council, showed very limited interest in a root-and-branch reform of the liturgy (this is documented by Annibale Bugnini himself). Partisans of the reform simply say that the reform was good for the people, and if the peoople did not realize this, this demonstrated their ignorance. ...

Q. Pope Benedict: "For then the impression had to emerge that liturgy is something 'made', not something given in advance” (Peter Seewald, Benedict XVI. An Intimate Portrait,

Joseph Shaw: The liturgical tradition stretching from Pope Gelasius, and before him, to the Traditional Mass as we have it today, is a plausible candidate for a tradition which conveys to us God’s will about how he wishes to be worshipped. A liturgy put together in a few years by a set of committees orchestrated by Archbishop Bugnini is not a plausible candidate for this role: it would be ludicrous to suggest such a thing.

Clearly those who set up the Consilium and those who accepted its proposals were not thinking in the terms I have just used. They had been trained to think only in terms of Ecclesiastical authority and sacramental validity. This mindset remains widespread among conservative Catholics today. It undermines the idea of the liturgy as an act of worship, as opposed to a dignified and perhaps informative container for the sacraments. It is not surprising for Catholics with this attitude to fail to see the point of a formal act of worship without any sacraments: the public celebration of Vespers, for example, or the celebration of Mass when the Faithful cannot receive Holy Communion (as has happened during the present Coronavirus epidemic). They cannot see what is added to private prayer by the forms given to us by the Church for public prayer.

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31/08/2020 - 14:01

My weekend pilgrimage

Bust of St John Henry Newman in lay clothes in The College, Littlemore
Over the last weekend - Friday to Sunday - the Latin Mass Society hosted a series of online events and invited people to make local pilgrimages in lieu of the annual Walsingham Pilgrimage.
I am my little party--three of us, most of the time--took in two ruined Abbeys, two sites of martyrdom, the place St John Henry Newman was received into the Church, the place where he attended a public celebration of Mass for the first time, and several Catholic churches: all locked, sadly. We are fortunate in Oxfordshire, but not uniquely so: many places in England have an equally rich sacred geography, and Catholics should always make the effort to familiarise themselves with it.
Here's a little photographic essay.


Our Lady of St Abingdon and St Edmund's Catholic Church houses a modest shrine to Our Lady of Abingdon. With this as our starting point, we went through site of the nearby Abingdon Abbey, to the Thames Path which (after wandering off it a bit and then back again) duly took us to Sandford. 
This was a distance of over seven miles, a bit more than it should have been, and mostly in the rain! We gratefully stopped for lunch at the King's Arms, which is right on the river.


We left there in even heavier rain, and went away from the river to take in Littlemore, famous for its association with Cardinal Newman--lots of streets are named after him and the place he lived a sort of monastic life with some friends while he and they discerned the way forward: for him, and many of them, reception into the Catholic church. Sadly, the Anglican Church which was his last institutional connection with Anglicanism has just ripped out the pews he installed, and work continues...


The Italian priest who received Newman was himself a man of heroic virtue: Blessed Dominic Barberi. The local Catholic church is dedicated to him--not a building of great architectural distinction, cough cough.


But Newman's College is well worth a visit. It is pretty small so big groups aren't ideal, but it is charming and well-looked after. We were able to get into the garden, though not the chapel, and sheltered from the downpour long enough to sing Newman's 'Lead Kindly Light'.


From there we walked into Oxford on the Ifley Road, the rain easing as we passed Greyfriars, the Church of St Edmund and St Frideswide and the community of Capuchin Franciscans attached to it. We crossed over to the London Road where St Ignatius' Church once stood: the building is still there, and I was pleased to see it now has a memorial plaque on it.


This was the first Catholic Church built in Oxford after the Reformation and is where Newman first attended public Masses, walking in from Littlemore. We continued into Oxford via the site of the martyrdoms of four Catholics in 1589, at the end of Holywell Street.

And thence to the Oxford Oratory, home of Our Lady of Oxford, our official destination, 5 1/2 miles from our lunch stop.



 We concluded the day's devotions with tea at Brown's.


The following day we started a bit further south, at Osney Abbey. Like Abingdon Abbey practically nothing remains, but we sang the De Profundis for the monks at both places. Much of it is now a graveyard, with a lichgate.


 We walked past St Thomas the Martyr, a famous High Anglican church, established by the Abbey to look after the parish, and consecrated by St Hugh of Lincoln.


We popped into Oxford Castle to see our other local site of martyrdom, this time the site of the Castle Gallows where Bl George Napier had his heavenly nativity in 1610: also marked with a plaque.


From there we got onto the canal path at Hythe Bridge. This day we had no rain and it was delightfully cool: perfect weather for walking.


The canal path carried us, very pleasantly, to our lunch stop, the Jolly Boatman at Thrupp, north of Kidlington: this was slightly longer than the previous morning's leg, at just over 7 1/2 miles. If I do it again, I might take the break sooner.


From there we shortly left the canal and went across country to Woodstock, our goal being the Catholic Church of St Hugh of Lincoln, and then my home.


The afternoon leg turned out to be just under four miles.
Over the two days three of walked 24 miles: a total of 72 miles between us, as our contribution to the grand total. 

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28/08/2020 - 09:16

'Work hard, be nice' is not racist

Children doing the Stations of the Cross at the St Catherine's Trust
Summer School in 2019.

My latest on LifeSite

One of my favorite Twitter accounts is that of Katherine Birbalsingh (@Miss_Snuffy), the Headteacher of an experimental school in a deprived part of London, Michaela Community School. The experiment involves conveying knowledge to the children in an environment in which teachers and pupils do not live in constant fear of being assaulted. Naturally, this is an almost unique experiment, and she is constantly attacked by the progressive teaching establishment. There are precedents for her approach, however, and she expressed her dismay when one of these, the American Charter School chain KIPP, explained that in light of the Black Lives Matter movement that it had decided to change its motto and discipline policy. It explained:

We are retiring “Work hard. Be nice.” as KIPP’s national slogan; it ignores the significant effort required to dismantle systemic racism, places value on being compliant and submissive, supports the illusion of meritocracy, and does not align with our vision of students being free to create the future they want.

The obvious response to this statement is that if children cling to an attitude of angry non-cooperation toward their teachers, they are not going to learn anything or do well in any exams, and if they start off in deprivation, then they will stay there. KIPP, like Miss Birbalsingh’s school, has as its mission lifting children out of poverty and desperation, and if the school is giving up on that, this is a tragedy.

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27/08/2020 - 09:19

Sacramental validity matters

The Sacrament of Confirmation. It won't be valid if your Baptism isn't valid,
and Holy Orders won't be valid if your Confirmation isn't valid.
My latest on LifeSite

The big story of the weekend came from the Archdiocese of Detroit. A certain Matthew Hood watched a video of his own baptism and realized that the officiant, a permanent deacon, had used an invalid formula: he had said ‘We baptize you’, not ‘I baptize you’. This was of special concern since Hood, now an adult, had been under the impression that he had been ordained a priest in 2017.

In some ways, the story is reassuring. It was a letter from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, under Pope Francis, insisting on the importance of these things, which set this chain of events into motion. The Archdiocese acted swiftly to have Hood properly baptized, confirmed, and ordained, and has done its best to reach other people baptized by the rogue deacon. 

Two things remain worrying, however. One is that it is impossible to know how many other people are affected by invalid sacraments. The other is that many Catholic commentators seem not to care.

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26/08/2020 - 09:15

Take part in the LMS Walking Pilgrimage online this weekend!


Every year since 2010 the Latin Mass Society has had a walking pilgrimage from Ely to Walsingham, which is about 60 miles, for the conversion of England. This year we can't do it because of the Coronavirus: it would have taken place this weekend. Instead we are doing an online version, which you can take part in not only as a participant in live-streamed Masses and devotions, spanning the Shrine of Our Lady of Willesden, Our Lady of the English Margyrs in Cambridge, and the Slipper Chapel in Walsingham, the restored Catholic shrine to Our Lady of Walsingham.

Futhermore, you can join our prayer and penance by actually walking - whereever you are.

How will it work?

After the success of our July Digital Conference we will be bringing Pilgrims a daily schedule of Live-streamed Masses, Meditations, Online Rosary and prayer sessions live streamed on YouTube, Facebook and Zoom as we travel along our virtual route from Willesden in London to Walsingham over the three days. Pilgrims are invited to join in not just online but to get out if they are able and join the walk in their own locations. 

Willesden to Walsingham is 118 miles. We need Pilgrims to pledge to walk a distance during the Pilgrimage which can be anything from half a mile to 100 miles! You can do your own pilgrimage in your back garden, in your street or even the local countryside, wherever you are in the world and whatever feels safe and suits you. You can even sign up to the Latin Mass Society Team on the Strava App and log your daily walks. With pilgrims signed up to the virtual pilgrimage walking and praying together we can add up the total of miles walked, along with the number of decades of the rosary said and even the number of songs sung as we pray this August to Our Lady of Walsingham.


How can l sign up?

On the Latin Mass Society website we are asking pilgrims to sign up as an individual or as a group and to pledge how many miles they intend to walk during the Pilgrimage.

See also the LMS YouTube channel:


The Facebook event:


Walkers can join the LMS Strava Group:



Friday, 28 August 2020

10:30 Mass from the Shrine of Our Lady of Willesden (courtesy of Fr Stephen Willis, Shrine Rector)

11:00 Introductory talk about the history of Walsingham and the meaning and importance of England being ‘Our Lady’s Dowry

11:15 Meditation from Fr John Cahill on the Meaning of Pilgrimage

11:30 Meditation - Fr James Mawdsley FSSP

11:45 Rosary and Reflection led by Fr Tim Finigan

12:05 Pilgrims' Walk

19:00 Compline


Saturday, 29 August 2020

11:45 Live-streamed Mass from Our Lady of the Assumption & English Martyrs, Cambridge

12:30 Meditations on the Feast of the Beheading of St John the Baptist from the Community of Our Lady of Glastonbury

13:00 Rosary and reflection led by Fr Tim Finigan

13:15 Pilgrims' Walk

19:00 Compline


Sunday, 30 August 2020

14:00 Live Streamed Mass from Walsingham


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25/08/2020 - 09:18

Bishops' onerous obligation

My latest on LifeSite

Bishops are discouraged by all sorts of things from performing their duties with the fidelity and vigor that the nature of their job enjoins. I don’t envy them. It is often said that many priests decline the offer of episcopal promotion, and it is not difficult to see why. But there is a big difference between saying that doing the right thing is very difficult and saying it is impossible. We can be obliged to do what is very difficult. We can’t be obliged to do the impossible: that is, really impossible.

What should bishops be doing? They have an obligation to safeguard the salvation of all the Catholics in their dioceses, so they must act against spiritual dangers to their flock. Thus, they are under an obligation to denounce ideas or individuals who present an urgent threat to their people’s spiritual welfare, and remove people from roles in the diocese, including schools, where they threaten people’s spiritual welfare. 

This kind of thing must be done in an intelligent and strategic way, and there is nothing wrong in itself in a bishop minimizing bad publicity and observing his obligations as an employer and things like that. But it is difficult to avoid the impression that even many bishops who have a reputation for orthodoxy are not doing this intelligently and strategically: they are just not doing it.

Read the whole thing.

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21/08/2020 - 10:00

LMS Virtual Walsingham Pilgrimage 28-30th August

LMS WALSINGHAM VIRTUAL PILGRIMAGE Friday 28th to Sunday 30th August

Our Lady of Walsingham small

Every year for the last 10 years the Latin Mass Society has held an annual Pilgrimage to Walsingham, walking from Ely in Cambridgeshire to Walsingham in Norfolk over three days during the August Bank Holiday weekend. This year, because of the Covid-19 Pandemic, we have decided to continue this tradition but this year it is to be a virtual pilgrimage from Willesden in north London to Walsingham, and we invite you to get involved.

Willesden small

How will it work?
After the success of our July Digital Conference, we will be bringing pilgrims a daily schedule of Live-streamed Masses, Meditations, Online Rosary and prayer sessions as we travel along our virtual route from Willesden to Walsingham.

We invite you to join the walk in your own locations; Willesden to Walsingham is 118 miles. We need pilgrims to pledge to walk a distance during the Pilgrimage, which can be anything from half a mile to 100 miles! You can do your own pilgrimage in your back garden, in your street or even the local countryside, wherever you are in the world and whatever feels safe and suits you. With as many pilgrims as possible signed up to the virtual pilgrimage, and all praying together, we can add up the total of the miles walked, along with rosaries said and songs sung, as we pray this August to Our Lady of Walsingham.

The three day event will be streamed live on our Facebook page and Youtube channel.

How can l sign up?
To register your interest in the pilgrimage, sign-up from our website and you will receive reminders and updates about the pilgrimage.

How do I participate as a walker?
If you would like to take part as a walker, you need to download the Starva app to your mobile phone. Once in the app, you should join our ‘LMS Walsingham Club’, details of how to do this are on our website.

We would then like to share your experiences during the Pilgrimage online and amongst our other pilgrims. If you are unable to join in with our walk then we hope you will pray for the pilgrims.

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20/08/2020 - 18:20

New webite for the Catholic Medical Association, and their annual Requiem 14th November


The CMA has a cool new website here:
With sponsorship from the Latin Mass Society, they are holding their annual Requiem in the traditional Domincan Rite at St Dominic's, Haverstock Hill, on Saturday 14th November at 11:30am.
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15/08/2020 - 09:47

It is time to admit that French Catholic Churches are under attack

My latest on LifeSite.

A Rwandan refugee who had been employed as a caretaker has confessed to starting the July fire at Nantes Cathedral, for reasons that remain obscure. The causes of the terrible 2019 fire that severely damaged Notre Dame in Paris may never be known. Fires can start for all kinds of reasons, but there is sadly a pattern of Catholic churches in France being deliberately burned down by people with a hatred for the Church and the Faith. There are, indeed, about 1,000 attacks a year.

The British weekly The Tablet recently reported:

“Something is happening in French society that's long been neglected but is  becoming evident with these fires”, said Stefan Lunte, secretary-general of Justice and Peace Europe. “The country is becoming de-Christianized, and there are people who wish, for whatever reason, to vandalize and destroy Christian symbols ... The long-held strategy of keeping this under wraps simply does not work”.

The Justice and Peace movement is not normally associated with wild claims about culture wars, and as an adviser to the Commission of Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, Lunte must be familiar with the safe and stodgy institutional mainstream of the Catholic Church in Europe. He is clearly fed up with it.

Read the whole thing.
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