Fr. Hunwicke Takes Brentwood's Liturgy Expert to School



Further to what is widely being referred to as "The Butler Affair", where the Chairman of Brentwood Diocese Liturgy Commission wrote a letter to The Tablet in an official capacity attacking the New Translation and then, because said letter was considerably edited, sent a full version to every priest in the diocese, the excellent and erudite Fr. John Hunwicke has taken him to school here.

Fr. Hunwicke has built up quite a reputation on the blogasphere for sound judgement and intellectual excellence. He was for nearly three decades at Lancing College; where he taught Latin and Greek language and literature, was Head of Theology, and Assistant Chaplain. He has served three curacies, been a Parish Priest, and Senior Research Fellow at Pusey House in Oxford. He is now incardinated into the Personal Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham.

Fr. Hunwicke writes:

A big Thank You to Fr M J Butler, liturgical supremo in the diocese of Brentwood, for a Tablet letter which he then sent to all the clergy of the diocese, and to a Denis Archdeacon, writing on the Tablet website, for demonstrating that everything we thought was wrong with the liturgical culture of the post-Conciliar Church, as it developed in Anglophone countries, was wrong. (I think it is worth adding that Butler wrote his letter, not as a private individual, but as from the Brentwood Liturgical Commission.)

We thought that there was a self-supporting, self-validating network of so-called 'experts' or 'liturgists' who were determined to impose their own very narrow group agenda upon the Church. Fr Butler confirms this. He tells us that the Roman document Liturgiam authenticam is "a laughing stock among academics and scholarly linguists". Clearly, that last phrase means, in the Vernacular, 'me and my chums and people who agree with us'. So Butler is not a lone, ridiculous, figure. His own claim is that he represents a significant group. These are, presumably, the same jokers who, when Joseph Ratzinger started to write about Liturgy, threw up their hands in outrage and cried "But he's not a liturgist!" The ones with regard to whom somebody coined the good old witticism about what the difference is between a terrorist and a liturgist ("You can negotiate with a terrorist").

And it is an apparently illiterate group. Specimens of its illiteracy are Butler's absurd discussion of the word 'vernacular' and Archdeacon's bizarre statement that "there is nothing sacred about Latin". Clearly, despite the lofty manner which each of them adopts in putting us lesser mortals straight, they do not have at their finger-tips ... to take but one example ... any of the many works of the great linguist and liturgist Christine Mohrmann, who dominated her field for decades. Writing in English, French, German, and Dutch, she demonstrated how Christian Latin emerged, was consciously developed, in order to fill the needs and instinct of the worshipping community for a deliberately sacral language. She felt that the time was not ripe for vernacular liturgies in the late twentieth century, because modern European languages had not developed their sacred vernaculars. Liturgiam authenticam, interestingly, echoed her words in its call for the development of such vernaculars, even if this meant the possible use of archaisms. In other words, 'vernacular' does not possess anything like the univocal, simplistic sense which Butler claims. Now: I'm not saying that everybody has got to share my own views about Mohrmann (I think she's Mega) or the questions her work raised, or about Liturgiam authenticam (which I happen to regard as a particularly fine document); I am only saying that these particular people are either ill-informed illiterates for not being aware of such matters; or else dishonest charlatans for concealing them from the readership of the Tablet (and from the diocesan clergy of Brentwood).

Like many slippery operators, Butler mentions Sacrosanctum concilium of Vatican II. But SC 22 (3) (the sub-section which lays down that nobody is to do things by their own authority) does not deter him from informing his readers that "it is legitimate to use our previous Missal". And it is clear from his letter that, in his official capacity, he has been going round the clergy of his diocese with an agenda which does not noticeably include encouraging them to behave legally, or helping them by explaining to them things they do not understand. By listing dissentient malpractices with such cheerful relish, he is either naive or he is encouraging others to join in breaking the Law. Perhaps the most amusing of his absurdities is his characterisation of the current translation of the Missal as 'illegitimate'. I simply love that: is the poor Bu**er aware that this precisely echoes the rhetoric of Archbishop Lefebvre, who often remarked that the post-Conciliar rites were "illegitimate" (sometimes translated as 'bastard')?

I am not a natural persecutor. I would never grass on a brother priest for his illegalities to his Bishop. But I have to say that I do wonder how appropriate it is that a Catholic diocese should have its Liturgy directed by somebody who is so alienated from the mind of the Church. Presumably he has been given a ticking-off; but even if, in future, he stays ... just about ... within the Law, it is the mentality of the man that makes his presence (and that of all his similar chums whose existence he confirms for us) in this sort of job, something of a scandal.

Perhaps the tone of what I have written has, too flippantly, suggested that the Butlers are merely a joke. They are not. They represent a very evil (I use the word advisedly) threat to the hopes of recovery in the Latin Church. I plan to deal with this at greater length.

But they are a joke too, and we are entitled to our laughs.


I am somewhat shocked to see how widely Fr. Butler's letter has been reported on, Protect the Pope, Fr. Hunwicke, CC Father, are all UK bloggers, but to see that Father Z is running with this was a bit of a shock. Well done Fr. Butler, I hope you're pleased with yourself!

As Father Z notes, Bishop Thomas has been quick to clamp down on this, thank God.




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