New Academic Work on Sarum

My attention has been drawn to a Master’s thesis by James R. Joseph, M.A. of the University of Dayton: Sarum Use And Disuse: A Study In Social And Liturgical History. This thesis seems to be particularly of interest to those who would like to see Sarum recognized by the Roman Catholic Church.

I have only had a cursory glance at present, and I need to print out this interesting piece of work. I have the impression that this author seems to want to pull the Use away from any form of Anglicanism and appropriate it for conservative Roman Catholicism, in which Sarum is a totally lost cause. Perhaps I am being too hard before having read the thesis fully. I base my suspicion on the very first sentence, where the author nails his colours to the mast.

Academic study of the Sarum Use, or the Use of Salisbury, the dominant liturgical tradition of medieval England, has long been overshadowed by a perception of triviality and eccentric antiquarianism inherited from the nineteenth century.

Therefore, if anything can be done or asserted, the Romantic worldview has to be pushed aside, and I can therefore ask myself on which cultural basis the Use of Sarum could be remotely of interest to anyone. I can understand his silence about my articles on the internet, which are quite unoriginal in academic terms but more practically oriented. Also, his tutors may have discouraged him from using internet sources and to rely more on printed books. I was at university in the 1980’s, and we didn’t have the internet! We should not presume that Mr Joseph is anti-Anglican. In his conclusion, he writes:

What I have sought to show in this study is the historical pedigree of the Sarum Use, its intrinsic Englishness and its intrinsic Catholicity as a liturgical use of the Roman Rite. Given the tumultuous and difficult history of the English Catholics, and the historical,continuity – devotional, liturgical, and doctrinal – between the continuing English Catholic community (particularly those interested in Sarum) and the medieval English Church, I have made a case for the legitimacy of the aspiration for a revival and renewal of Sarum. Far from being a symptom of eccentric and ‘esoteric’ liturgical whimsy, a revival of Sarum represents profound historical and ecclesiological trends in the English Catholic Church, ones which are deserving of cultivation, respect, and better understanding. It remains my hope that these considerations may in the future be brought again to the attention of the CDW and permission sought from the Church on these grounds for a renewed and enthusiastic permission for the recovery of the Sarum tradition.

I wish him luck, and perhaps in a very different cultural and ideological influence in Rome and local dioceses in English-speaking countries, something might come about. The cynical side of me makes me suspect the opposite. It has also to be said that Sarum is only in occasional use in the Anglican Communion, and what I do as a priest in the Anglican Catholic Church is exceptional and tolerated. My Bishop justifies it on the basis of its being an Anglican rite, having been used during the period of the Henrican schism from Rome, quite apart from the fact that the word Anglican can be applied to the pre-Reformation Church in the same way as Gallicanism in France. I really know of no Church that would be a fertile breeding ground for reviving Sarum. It seems a lost cause.

He seems to have an interesting appreciation of the Romantic elements of the nineteenth century, and the divergence between them and the continental-inspired adepts of the Counter Reformation. A few years later, we would find the same divergences in Anglicanism.

The Romantic Catholics were inspired by a ‘recovered’ notion of the medieval, and had a highly Romantic, i.e., melancholy, personal, and solitary spirituality and notion of faith, a religion which was at once too medieval and too modern to be immediately acceptable to most Roman clergy or laity of the time. Though many of this small but influential ‘Shrewsbury set’ were enthusiastic converts or born Catholic themselves, they had little knowledge of or opinion in common with most English Catholics, who looked not to the medieval world but to the Counter-Reformation for inspiration and guidance, anchoring themselves not in what they perceived to be their protestant surroundings but in the style and aesthetic of Rome.

I have always seen the early Oxford Movement as anchored in this mindset. It seems to be the central contention of this piece of work. Separate Sarum from Romanticism and you recover its credibility. Unfortunately, no one in the nineteenth century or now in another mindset would be remotely interested. The local French uses were disappearing at the same time, and were almost entirely gone by about 1870, give or take a few lingering variations that priests like Fr Montgomery-Wright kept going. He only did so because he was a former Anglican and eccentric to the Scottish scarf and the monocle.

The notion of Romanticism, like freedom or spirit or anything else, is strictly personal and dependent on some original way of thinking. What seems to be in the dock here is not so much Anglicanism or Romanticism but individualism. Churches are by definition corporate, especially the Roman Catholic Church. Eccentrics had easier access to Holy Orders in the Anglican world than the Roman Catholic Church. A few get through the net thanks to a sympathetic Bishop, seminary rector and parish priest. Most don’t, and are expected to be little more than drones in a vast machine. They why bother with Sarum or even anything other than the Novus Ordo? I have had to examine my own life to understand something about this eccentricity. Psychologists rationalise it as a collection of symptoms that are characteristic of high-functioning autism or Aspergers Syndrome. Perhaps… Some of us break away from the system for the sake of our souls and to be creative and spiritual. But, is liturgy anything to do with individuals rather than the parish community? Is the Sarum liturgy of any interest to corporate-minded “neurotypicals”? I see no sign of it.

I will print out and read the thesis fully and try to understand what makes its author tick, why he would have been remotely interested in such a subject. It beats me for now, but I look forward to my “aha” moment when reading it.

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9 Responses to New Academic Work on Sarum

  1. T Graham says:

    Fr A: I happened upon this thesis a month or two ago and was puzzled by the section on the 19th C. On a cursory reading I wondered if the author was naively unaware of the Sarum rite Anglican communities from the 1850s onwards, which would be a big lacuna in an academic piece of work on this area. Peter Anson for example doesn’t feature in his bibliography. But I can’t quite believe this as he does nod to the Anglican influence sideways, and notes the spat between “Baroque” Oratorian Newman and “Sarum” Pugin. I would have thought that even if one wished to tell the recusant side of the Sarum story, and give an account of the Catholic side of the Sarum revival, to do it properly one would need to give some idea of the cross-currents between the 19th C Sarum revival in Anglicanism and English Catholicism. But perhaps you are right in that the “political” end in sight – edging towards some kind of Vatican approval – is the animating force here & therefore only the politically relevant details are included. There are forces within conservative American Catholicism that are interested in a culturally deeper practice of the faith, a more total participation of life in the liturgy – but are still very much working within the rules of the corporation. I am not too sure that there is any mileage in this approach in the diocesan church. It might have a chance if a religious community took it on with a strong lay following, something that seems a less remote possibility in the States where people have a more independent attitude than in Europe from what I can see.

  2. David Llewellyn Dodds, A.M. says:

    Thank you (also T Graham) – this is very interesting!

    A lot of what gets called ‘eccentric’ seems to me very ‘centric’, if approaching the ‘Centre’ from another part of the circumference. (I wonder if anyone has ever coined a ‘-centric’ word for that?)

    And C.S. Lewis has an interesting discussion in his new 1944 preface to his 1933 fiction, Pilgrim’s Regress, as to unexpected problematical aspects (for various readers) of his self-identification as ‘Romantic’, there, and of his subtitle, “An Allegorical Apology for Christianity, Reason and Romanticism”.

    So, that one quotation from Magister Joseph invites a lot of consideration and discussion. “Romantic, i.e., melancholy, personal, and solitary spirituality and notion of faith, a religion which was at once too medieval and too modern”, for instance. ‘Personal’ as opposed to ‘individual’? – with reference to fine thinking about Christian anthropology and ‘the concrete theological human person’? ‘Solitary’ as in eremitical, with a full, rich awareness of how the ‘solitary’ (lay or priestly) is vitally, vibrantly part of the Body of Christ, even if (as layman) unable to celebrate the Eucharist?

    I wonder where, e.g., R.H. Benson fits in this picture, or Tolkien as child of the Birmingham Oratory, Classicist, and Mediaevalist?

    • Many thanks for this reflection. You will see some of my more philosophical thoughts in Individualism and Selfishness. Romanticism isn’t sentimentalism, nor is it pseudo-medieval trappings. It is a world view of those who have seen through the absurdities of collectivism and everything else that calls us selfish if we insist of being ourselves before God and the universal Church. We do need to eke out a distinction between person and individual, insofar as the individual might truly sin by selfishness and the refusal of any relationship with God or man. I too appreciate the quotation from Magister Joseph about the introverted characteristics, showing that he understands the issues between the Romantic and the Renaissance / Classical rationalist and “social engineer”.

      Plus ça change… As so many things repeat themselves from the early nineteenth century at this beginning of an uncertain period, we are again melancholic, solitary, looking for something RC parish life will never give us.

      Down from the gardens of Asia descending radiating,
      Adam and Eve appear, then their myriad progeny after them,
      Wandering, yearning, curious, with restless explorations,
      With questionings, baffled, formless, feverish, with never-happy hearts,
      With that sad incessant refrain, Wherefore unsatisfied soul? and Whither O mocking life?

      In other words: Fac nos terrena despicere, et amare coelestia…

  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Where does – or variously might – the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) enter this picture? With any luck, they will tomorrow come into a secure new relationship with this Church in Utrecht:

    Would that not be a place for a Sarum Use celebration?

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      My mistake: on Thursday, 29 June!

    • You must be kidding! They won’t even use the Lyons Rite in Lyons from missals printed in the 1950’s.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Alas, no, I just don’t have any sense of their (possible?) variety, liturgically! Wouldn’t anything like what Pope St. Pius V says in “Quo primum” ever apply: “vel consuetudine, quae, vel ipsa institutio super ducentos annos Missarum celebrandarum in eisdem Ecclesiis assidue observata sit: a quibus, ut praefatam celebrandi constitutionem vel consuetudinem nequaquam auferimus”?

      • I have no contact with the SSPX for more than 30 years, but their concern is not liturgy but the governance of the world either by restoring the old monarchies or through dictators like Pinochet or Franco. Their ideology is resolutely collectivist and based on total conformity. Many of the traditionalists in the “official” RC Church have retained the same fundamental ideology. The liturgy is subservient to the ideology. Some of the Continuing Anglican Churches seem to be just about the only “gardens” in which the Romantic world view can flourish, and with it a more liturgical “way”.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Whew, sounds (liturgically) rather like the late-16th-c. ‘Latinists’ who went around the Lebanon and the Levant buying up liturgical manuscripts of Churches which had come into communion with the Pope – and destroying them!

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