Dangerous Sarum

It reminds me of a moment in The Name of the Rose, when Fr William explains to the Abbot the cause of all the skulduggery going on. Books! Forbidden books! Spiritually dangerous books!

Two interesting reflections about the Use of Sarum, which I see in the context of local uses all over Europe and the Gallican / Conciliar ecclesiology as what there was everywhere before the Reformation and Counter Reformation.

It really is a question of ecclesiology and not details of rites. It really is amazing to see how some people need to be “protected from error” so that the ideology continues to stick rather than be recognised for the nonsense it is.

There seems to be a nice little movement brewing up…

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10 Responses to Dangerous Sarum

  1. Rubricarius says:

    Nonsense indeed. I find the very idea of needing permission amusing – as though some minor official in the Vatican knows anything whatsoever about Sarum or even knows what it is!

    • And that minor official most likely won’t be English and therefore have either the knowledge or sympathy to make provision for what is clearly a legitimate, catholic need. I am very much of the opinion that authority, manifestly of the bureaucratic and totalitarian Roman kind, should be abolished and replaced with strong, but sympathetic episcopal authority at the local level.

      • That won’t make any difference for as long as diocesan bishops are nominated by Rome.

      • edmond says:

        The problem is not simply Rome. Bishops are the problem. We cannot get rid of them, they are necessary, but they are the problem. If the English bishops of the Roman Catholic communion were chosen by the English hierarchy and not Rome, they would still be a problem. People forget that when the whole WO issue started, the English RC bishops were not welcoming to Anglican clergy converting, they had to make sure they were converting for the right reasons. Tony Blair, of course, we don’t question his conversion. Now the RC bishops see the converting priests are almost using the NO liturgy and helping them with their priest shortage, they are better about them, but they are still not sympathetic to English liturgical traditions. Of course, ask the Polish Catholics in England how wonderful those bishops are. The problem is that bishops will not look after the spiritual needs of anyone different then themselves, and definitely not of people they look down on. The only solution is for each group to have it’s own hierarchy. The current English RC bishops are no better than the Irish clergy that dominated the RC communion in the USA a century ago. They are cut from the same cloth. Simply removing Rome from the process won’t change that. That strong, but sympathetic hierarchy will be sympathetic to those that think exactly like they do and stomp on everyone else. If every group has it’s own hierarchy, the bishops can’t steamroll the laity because there is always somewhere else that they can go. I must admit Lefebvre had a wonderful sermon in which he talked about something being an adulterous union, which can only result in bastards, bastard liturgy, bastard priesthood, bastard sacraments, bastard faith. Yes, we’ll have unity- unity in bastardy. Michal Davies said it doesn’t sound as bad in French. Au contraire, it sounds wonderful in English. I’ve been calling the RC bishops that for years! 😉

  2. Precisely. Which is why I just gave up. It is absolutely and eternally true, demonstrably so, that Rome is completely aliturgical. If she can so cheaply discard her own patrimony by legislation, neglect and incompetence then there’s no use petitioning for “permission” to use some alternative liturgical form, however legitimate the desire. Rome won’t change, ever.

  3. Linus Magister says:


    “The current English RC bishops are no better than the Irish clergy that dominated the RC communion in the USA a century ago.”

    That is so true, and add Scotland, where for a few exceptions, most Bishops were chosen from among Irish Glaswegians. Irish catholicism is the worst, as tribal and as ignorant as all the phyletism of the Greeks, Arabs and others put together. No chance of ever seeing the Sarum and Aberdonian rites ever implemented here.

  4. Stephen K says:

    I’m a little taken aback by the plaintive nature of the comments. I’ve taken advantage of reading some of the text of Dickinson’s Sarum Missal. The Ordinary isn’t, to my mind, materially different from the Roman rite, although I appreciate that the Propers may present significant distinctions to a liturgical connoisseur. I have to say though, I think that differences between liturgical forms seems very much a priest’s matter: for the average person in the pew, even where the prayers are very different, one rite will be very much like another, unless the difference is in the delivery, e.g. a silent ritual versus a dialogue and declamatory one.

    Now we all have our different tastes, and our different predilections. But with respect I think that that is all the question can be about, in the main; it seems hardly sufficient to justify thinking one form rather than another a kind of evil bastardy. The suppression of different rites is to be expected wherever religion claims to rule, or impose an orthodoxy, penally, on its members, which is why I think that rather than nurse a grievance over it, a priest should, without prejudice to any mandatory pastoral duty he has, simply proceed to celebrate his Masses in whatever rite takes his fancy or arouses his devotion. A layperson doesn’t have that luxury, but there is nothing stopping people of like mind gathering together and in private so to speak celebrating their religion in whatever way they choose. This is in fact more or less the genesis of most religious orders.

    The issue is to cut one’s religious coat according to one’s cloth. I think part of the problem of liturgical dissatisfaction derives from a subliminal if not explicit desire that one’s own religious ideal world be populated with a cast of thousands, whether they agree or not. Thus are religious empires – masquerading as the kingdom of heaven – born! They never quite achieve it – witness the history of religious strife.

    I fully support the idea that priests should use the Sarum rite, or any other rite, without failing any pastoral duties that may be otherwise required of them; I don’t support either priests or laypeople complaining about the lack of permission or encouragement from above or outside.

  5. Stephen K says:

    On the subject of the Sarum rite, or use, or both, I happened this morning upon an article “Sarum, Use of” by the Rev James Orr DD, in Wright and Neil’s “The Protestant Dictionary” (1904, H&S). After drawing the reader’s attention to the Prayer Book’s reminder of the diversity of rites – Hereford, York, etc – up to the 1500s, he writes that the use of Sarum referred to “local customs and traditions which had gathered round their ministrations” (i.e. of the liturgical collection of books). He cites another author, Frere :“ceremonial and ritual matters were hotly debated in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries; liturgical punctiliousness was strong in Wyclif’s day, and was strongly denounced by him…”. Then, after criticising what he calls “these rabbinical disputes” he cites Percy Dearmer’s “Parson’s Handbook” who makes an interesting distinction – “…the Prayer Book does not refer us to the diocese of Salisbury of the thirteenth and fourteenth century, but to England of the sixteenth; and we know that though the Sarum books were adopted very generally in other dioceses, the Sarum ceremonial was not” – between books (which I take to mean the actual prayers) and “the ceremonial”, which I take to refer to the overlay of rubrical rules and gestures. Dearmer goes on, after stating that no knows what the Sarum colour use was, that “the so-called Sarum uses are really one-half made up from the fancy of the nineteenth century Ritualists”.

    Finally, Dr Orr cites a Mr Burbidge’s “Liturgies and Offices of the Church” who writes that the other English uses did not contain, or gave less prominence to, “novelties of faith and practice” and the “most peculiar features of the Sarum use”. Mr Burbidge, presses his point further, saying “…it is evident that the Sarum use was the popular form of service in England. And consequently it must be understood that previous to the Reformation, our forefathers had been accustomed to a service which was farther removed from the simplicity of the ancient liturgies than any other service of ancient or modern times”.

    I found this all very interesting, but knowing next to nothing about the relevant liturgical intricacies, thought it might elicit some comment from those more researched (i) clarifying this distinction (if I have understood it correctly) between prayers and “ceremonial”, (ii) opining why there appears to persist a general reluctance to look favourably on the “Sarum use” or at least, the “Sarum Mass”, and further, (iii) venturing a view on why other pre-Reformational English usages such as the ones cited – Hereford, York, Bangor etc – are not generally considered or discussed in the same vein as Sarum. Would they be more appealing?

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