I have just been revising the fascinating article The Legal Status of the Sarum Use in the Catholic Church and the comments that followed it. In embarking on my own attempts to do something, I am eager to see what mistakes have been made in the past.
The Sarum liturgy was used in Merton College Oxford and celebrated by the Roman Catholic priest Fr Sean Finnegan. You can read the article to see how the whole thing was derailed through legalism and petty jealousies. Fr Finnegan inclined to authority and the Sarum masses were stopped. Sarum seems to be one of those cases of a custom which has not been forbidden, but for a Roman Catholic, the canonical status of Sarum is uncertain.
For me, it is clear that Sarum cannot be entrusted to the hierarchical authority of the Roman Catholic Church or the Church of England. It has to be kept out of institutional churches in order for it to flourish in freedom. I am a priest of the Anglican Catholic Church, and conform to its normal liturgical standards (Anglican Missal and 1549 Prayer Book) when serving existing parishes, but take the liberty to engage in initiatives outside the canonical confines of our Church. There are no Anglican Catholics here in France. I go further. Anything that will be successful in reviving Sarum would necessarily be lay and independent from institutional Churches. I will respect this neutrality and put my priesthood to its service.
I have seen so many wonderful inspirations, all nipped in the bud and crushed out of existence. I visited St George’s, Sudbury, a beautiful Arts & Crafts church – which apparently has been gutted. However, Fr Clement Russell did not use Sarum, but the Roman rite with Sarum usages, something like what Fr Montgomery-Wright was doing here in Normandy.
On re-reading this article, I discovered the existence of a Society of Saint Osmund. My own ideas are far from original. The difference with me is that I am not tied to Roman Catholic authority and my continuing Anglican Bishop has no problem with my doing Sarum, just as long as I don’t impose it elsewhere in our Diocese. In the Roman Catholic Church, there is a real problem with custom and legislation in canon law, and custom is just not respected by those authorities. Might is right! I am counting on a small number of people who are prepared to stick their middle finger up at such stuffiness and a very Pharisaic leaven that is choking the life-blood out of what little is left of Catholicism. We are just not interested in Quo primum or Summorum Pontificium. They are not our problem.
Thus is born the Guild of Saint Osmund to which members belong by invitation. Perhaps that sounds stuffy too, but it’s for our protection and neutrality in institutional terms. On this basis it will be possible to organise Sarum liturgies and conferences from next year – when we have had time to organise ourselves and do something of value.