Stunning Response to Vatican II Changes from former Priest of St Mary Magdalen's

I've been having a sort out this week of St Mary Magdalen's office. The filing cabinet hasn't been sorted out seemingly for years. While digging through it I came across this astonishing and fascinating letter from a former Priest of the parish Church in Brighton. You can really get the sense of the tumultuous times for the Holy Church in which he wrote! I managed to make a photocopy of it and to copy it out onto my blog. Here it is:

From the V. Rev Canon Walter Smith, P.P
29th April, 1972
Dear Monsignor Mooney,
Since the front page of your questionnare destroys any hope of anonymity I have no hesitation in putting my name to this letter.
I very much regret that your schedule of questions has such a 'left wing' slant and seems to be directed at further sweeping changes in the structure of the Church and particularly to doing away with the well-tried parochial structure that has served so faithfully and well for hundreds of years. Your April 'Newsletter' confirms me in this belief since the only monotonous conclusion drawn therein to three disparate themes is - The parish is not the only means by which the Church can fulfil her mission. What other means are there? Are any such means at present being tried?
As a Curate I was happy to serve in several Parishes well provided with a Church, House and School - often through the self-sacrifice of former Priests and the people whom they had formed into loyal and devout family parish units. As a Parish Priest, I have been proud to inherit such well-organised and smooth running parishes and to try to maintain the high standards existing.
There is so much talk nowadays about consultation but there was no consultation with regard to the numerous changes in the Liturgy. For example, we were just told to put it into action and I think it is a credit to my generation that the changes have gone over as smoothly and easily as they have, despite the shoddy translations of the Canons and the dreadful 'so-called' English in which they are couched, the very poor selections of readings in the Lectionary, and the suppression, almost entirely, of the Saints days which were such an inspiration to priests and layfolk alike.
The Church was never a democracy, it was always, surely, from Apostolic times, ruled from above.  The surrender and whittling away of 'authority' is the cause of so much disturbance and uneasiness today. Coupled with this is the emphasis on material needs and social activity almost to the exclusion of the Church's primary spiritual work.
I am not a Latin Mass fanatic or a member of any right-wing pressure group but I am sick and tired of being more or less told, at least by implication, that nothing worth while was ever achieved in the Church until Vatican II and its outcomes arrived on the scene. Most of the so called 'new ideas' have all been tried before in some guise or other, and those putting forward new proposals would do themselves and the Church more service by being less arrogant in their attitude to what has gone before. Traditions have their worth and especially in the Church.
I do hope that the National Conference of Priests will bear in mind, in their deliberations, that there are other ideas to be considered beside the ultra-modern ones.
Yours sincerely
To The Rt Revd Monsignor G. Mooney, L.C.L
Cathedral House, Mount Pleasant, Liverpool. 3.

Interesting, eh? I believe that it was Archbishop Derek Worlock's Diocese that had sent Canon Smith the questionnaire that elicited that rather eloquent response!


Richard Collins said…
That strikes a chord! I served on the altar for a couple of Masses alongside the then Mgr Worlock.
He was not one of nature's chucklers!
pelerin said…
That is indeed interesting. And to think that Canon Smith mentioned the 'shoddy translations and the dreadful so-called English' way back in 1972 and we are still waiting for the official arrival of the new translation.

I do like his insistance that 'traditions have their worth and especially in the Church.' 'The surrender and whittling away of authority'being the cause of disturbance and unease is also a very apt phrase for today too.

It would be fascinating to see the reply if indeed he ever received one.
georgem said…
And Fr Smith was a stunningly good no-nonsense parish priest (with two curates).
He seemed a little intimidating to a child but my father thought he was the bees knees.
He was introduced to a friend of my father, a non-Catholic, on a train up to London and following the hour's conversation my father's friend remarked: "What a fine man."
One can only imagine the suffering of these good priests to see the Catholic faith wrecked in front of their eyes and I wonder how many similar letters are tucked away in other dusty parish files.
Adam said…
Please note, Mgr Derek Worlock did not become archbishop of Liverpool until 1976.

Reading the text of the letter, it appears that it may have something to do with the National Conference of Priests. I have the impression that Worlock never quite got on with the NCP.
Robin Croft said…
Does anyone know more about Canon Walter Smith? He is dedicated in a stained glass window at Holy Cross Priory near Heathfield.
Robin Croft said…
Here is a link to the stained glass window at Holy Cross:
Canon Smith was said to have been an accountant before joining the priesthood, and as a trustee helped to raise the finance for the nuns to buy Holy Cross in 1965.
Stella Wood said…
V. Rev Canon Walter Smith: He was my great-uncle (youngest brother of my maternal grandmother) and officiated at my wedding in 1969.

A kind, generous man, with a great sense of humour, he stood no nonsense. He visited every year, for his summer holiday. He was well-liked for his plain speaking..and the collections were always full after one of his sermons!

I remember once, when he turned to face the congregation, to give the final blessing, his little dog raced up the aisle and leapt into his arms. He hugged Gyp, put him down and blessed us all (apparently) without turning a hair..but how we laughed later on over lunch.

I am thrilled to have found this site and to read his letter from 1972. I can almost hear his voice as I read his words.