Catholics are being deceived into attending non-Catholic services

Definitely a Roman Catholic Mass Photo: CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters

The Church Times has reported the Bishop of London’s recent pastoral letter about Anglicans using the Roman rite in its new translation, and you can read the article here.

I have already commented on this matter, so forgive me if I return to it. What I find particularly interesting about this report is the contrasting reactions to the bishop’s letter. One vicar, the Rev Paul Bagott, of Holy Redeemer, Clerkenwell, and St Mark’s, Myddleton Square, has decided to do exactly what the Bishop has asked of him, namely switch to Common Worship, which he says will involve very little substantial change for his congregation.

But then there is this:

The priest of another Anglo-Catholic parish in the London diocese, however, who asked not to be named, said that it would adopt the new Roman rite. “The PCC feel we have always done this [used the Roman rite] and it is part of the church’s tradition; in that sense we are being very Anglican. . . The Bishop occasionally has to speak ex cathedra, and there is a formality to that, but on the ground we don’t operate always within rigid protocol.”

He might well think that, but I could not possibly comment, and being a non-Anglican, it is probably best that I say nothing at all on this. But then he goes on:

The priest said that many Roman Catholics worshipped at his church, some of whom were from Continental Europe, “and they recognise it [the Roman rite] immediately.”

This last statement does require comment. If a Roman Catholic from France or Italy visits this unidentified church and sees that the Roman rite is seemingly in progress, they would not unnaturally assume that the church was a Roman Catholic Church, in communion with the Holy Father, wouldn’t they? But they would be mistaken. Such a church uses the Roman Missal, but is not a Roman Catholic church, and is not authorised to use the Roman Missal by the Bishop of the diocese (the Catholic bishop, I mean; the Anglican bishop has also forbidden it). Moreover the persons attempting to celebrate Mass are not recognised as priests by the Roman Catholic Church. In short, the visitor from France or Italy may see what looks like the Mass, but what is in fact not the Mass.

Now, a question: they would clearly be deceived in thinking that what is going on before them is a Roman Catholic Mass. But is this because they have deceived themselves, or is it because the vicar has deceived them? Does the vicar tell them that they are in an Anglican church? Or does he leave them to assume that the church is, somehow or another, “Catholic”?

Let us be clear about this: when we Roman Catholics in communion with the Pope use the word Catholic, we intend something very specific; when Anglicans use the word “Catholic” they are not using the word in the same sense. The Anglo-Catholic vicar in the Church Times report may claim to be “Catholic”, but from the point of view of the Roman Catholic Church, he is not.

I realise that suggesting that people are practising deception is a serious matter, but the fact is that the Ordinariate is now in existence, and if you want to live the Anglican Patrimony and be in communion with the Pope, you can. I welcome that. The vicar of the unidentified church has received the offer to enter the Ordinariate and he has declined it. He has refused the offer of communion from the Pope. Ergo, he cannot and must not claim to be in communion with the Pope in any sense whatever. His claim to be “Catholic” strikes me as bogus. Or am I wrong about this?

Incidentally, I have seen churches in America which call themselves “Protestant Episcopal” on their notice boards, but which also carry notices in Spanish that proclaim themselves to be “ Iglesia Episcopal Catolica”. If that isn’t deception, what is? Visiting the website of one of the churches in question, I see that they are having “Misa” (that is, Mass) on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Spanish. Are the Spanish-speakers who are warmly invited to such a service aware that it is not the Mass?