Breaking Blackfen

Alternatively, and somewhat bewilderdly entitled Why is the EF so Hated?

Look at this flagrant display of Catholic worship- how awful! Tear it down!! (Picture by Mulier Fortis).
Looking at CC Father's restrained and thoughtful breakdown of the recent sad events at Blackfen, it really is hard to see what exactly is behind what has happened. Is Fr. Steven acting unilaterally or is this a strategy from above? If so, what on earth are the powers that be thinking?

One things is for sure, Fr. Steven's actions are very, very odd. Just a few years ago Fr Steven Fisher was the hero of the Latin Mass Society. And he denounced the cowardice of his Diocese in changing the terms of reference of the Catholic Children's Society to accommodate gay/lesbian adoptions.
It was also reported on Forest Murmers that he argued against the censorship of priest-bloggers on his own blog.

But now his blog has closed.

He was in his previous parish for just two years and has not been replaced (It is now served by a priest from a neighbouring parish.).

If one was unaware of this background and history, one could possibly assume that Fr. Steven's actions have been motivated by a perception that there is a need to get back all the parishioners that Tim Finnigan purportedly alienated, perhaps it is considered that many of them were so upset about Fr. Tim's introduction of one EF Mass on Sunday that they have stopped going to mass anywhere? Obviously this consideration takes precedence over the small (?) number of people who have been attracted to the EF from miles around? Of course, this is not the case. The EF was packed at Blackfen.

Still, this must have been part of a plan surely? Will the bishops be delighted? Well, Fr. Tim's initiative was not the Nuchurch Big Tent Catholicism 'lite' policy of extinction that seems so in vogue. But it is hard to see a deliberate plan at work here.

Fr. Tim had worked hard for more than ten years and part of his work was to facilitate a deeper spiritual engagement for those that wanted it. He did this by a limited introduction of the EF, something that many Catholics seem to absolutely hate for some inexplicable reason, just as they hate the fact that, notwithstanding forty plus years of poor liturgy, and all their best efforts frankly, the EF has not been stamped out and young people flock to it wherever it is allowed to proliferate. 

However, I doubt that Fr. Fisher was actually sent there with a mandate to stop it: Father Tim was moved to a larger parish with two churches and a full scale hospital. That would very much appear to be a promotion rather than exile, and is the sort of move that would be expected for a priest of his age and experience. Many would consider such a move as a sign of respect from the Archbishop. Moreover, his replacement was known to say the EF. I honestly don't think Archbishop Smith could have done more. However, everyone seems to be surprised that Fr. Fisher has stopped the EF totally.

Looking at this from a business perspective, you have to try to objectively assess what the motivation could possibly be. Someone has spent more than ten years building up something which has become a beacon for the surrounding area, a success in what it does, attracting people from miles around to take part in something authentic and legitimate. This venture is so successful that it has achieved international acclaim. You inherit this success story and your first move is to dismantle the very principle that made it a success. Objectively? I really can't see that the strategy makes any sense whatsoever. In fact it seems to be complete madness. Surely there would be some middle ground that would better serve Christ and His flock at Blackfen?

As I have said before, I am not fanatical about the EF, but I do recognise its power to inform and increase the sense of reverence and awe which is lacking from much of our liturgical praxis. In discussions with young people throughout my diocese, this idea comes up again and again. They all find that attending the EF informs the way they attend the ordinary form. They speak to me about the explanations in the missal teaching them things about how to pray the Mass which they had no idea of, the incredible depth of the prayers, the meaning of every sign and word and how knowing these details make the Mass something potent, something important, something real and relevant. So if they love it so much, if it is serving to inform them about what the Mass is and what it does, if it facilitates a deepening of faith, a deepening of commitment, an increase in their love of Christ and their love of the Church, why on earth would you stifle it?

Seriously, this sort of thing creates stumbling blocks for devout anglo-catholics who seek to join with us in full communion. They see that our hierarchy persecutes and shuns good liturgy and they hesitate. You have to wonder with them why on earth anyone would do that?

I think what is clear is that this is not a conspiracy or a directive from the bishops. I think that looking in that direction will not help anyone, although as a manager, I think Archbishop Smith would be well advised to step in sooner rather than later from a pastoral perspective and find out what is going on. I am sure that this is Fr. Fisher. I think, that being the case, those who are concerned would be best to approach the situation with caritas and most importantly, with prayer.


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