Based in London; Formerly of New York, Buenos Aires, Fife, and the Western Cape. Saoránach d'Éirinn.
A writer, blogger, historian, and web designer born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, and now based in London. read more

The Situation at St Andrews

Or: A Lesson in Corroborating Your Sources

AS IF, WITH THE recent announcement that a certain St Andrean couple are getting engaged, there wasn’t enough for us to expend our idle chatter about, the University of St Andrews is thrust into the fore on an entirely separate matter. Damian Thompson, the provocative and informative Catholic Herald editor and indispensable Daily Telegraph blogger wrote a blog entry — Catholic students at St Andrews ‘can’t have the Latin Mass’ — relaying the claims of a student that he and a stable group of students have asked to have a monthly Mass in the Extraordinary Form, found a priest willing to say it, and have been denied. Fr. Z, the world’s most famous clerical blogger, soon picked up the story as well and made a few comments of his own.

The reality of the situation, it appears, is far removed from the one student’s claims. The venerable Fr. Halloran, parish priest of St. James and University Catholic Chaplain for decades, recently retired and is now, I believe, in Ghana. ‘Pelicanus’, a commenter on Fr. Z’s blog who is a current St Andrews student, offered the following insight:

Since September we have had a new parish priest and chaplain. He has had many issues to deal with on taking up office: the Chaplaincy building, Canmore, is falling down; £100,000 has just been spent on a new roof; the ordinary form parish liturgy requires an overhaul, not least to the times of Mass, as he has to serve two outlying parishes. The man has a lot on his plate.

A week ago I wrote father a letter asking him for the extraordinary form, which would be celebrated once a month by our local FSSP priest. I am aware that Damian’s source (whom I shall refer to as “X”) has been pursuing the matter and that X has very little patience. Yesterday, I took this item from Damian’s blog to Father as soon as I was made aware of it. Father explained to me that he had only received requests from me and from X (and not fifteen people), and that his response to X had been that while he had made enquiries at the diocesan level about this and that the question was not closed, he wasn’t in a position to take it forward for the next few months.

A new priest needs time to settle in to his parish and the chaplaincy that goes along with it. It’s clear that there’s a certain amount of adjustment the parish needs to make in terms of the regular Mass schedule, and there are pressing financial and maintenance concerns. All the priest apparently told X was that it would have to wait a few months. Pelicanus cautiously notes that X’s actions are a “tactless show of impatience”, and I can’t help but agree.

Meanwhile, there’s a splendid Mass in the Extraordinary Form being offered just an hour’s train ride away in Edinburgh at the Church of St. Andrew in Ravelston, easy walking distance from Haymarket rail station. An hour’s travel on a Sunday morning — I can easily remember — seems a lot to a student. If there’s as many as fifteen who would be willing to attend a monthly liturgy in the Extraordinary Form, I’d be pleased as punch, and obviously the parish-priest/chaplain should be accommodating. But likewise the students must accommodate the priest and be respectful of everything he’s got on his plate at the moment.

The most frustrating part of Damian Thompson’s blog is its opening line: “Why is Summorum Pontificum a dead letter in Scotland?” This is especially irritating because the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh is the one diocese in Scotland where the motu proprio has quite obviously not been a dead letter.

Cardinal O’Brien, our archbishop, has been effusively welcoming and, as Seraphic comments on Fr. Z’s blog, “has been a true friend and pastor to those in his diocese who love the Extraordinary Form”. Since graduating from St Andrews I’ve lived in two dioceses — New York and Cape Town — and still, after the local bishop is prayed for in the Mass, I always add “and our Keith Patrick, too!” We love our Cardinal and are very proud to have him.

It sounds like we have a case in which one student has been irrational and excitable and thought to play the media circus card. As usual, it will probably just blow up in his face. I hope that within a reasonable amount of time, after the new chaplain (whom most students are praising) has settled in, provision can be made for a monthly Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Until that point, it sounds like there’s at least one student at my alma mater who needs to learn the virtue of patience.

This post was published on Friday, November 19th, 2010 10:07 am. It has been categorised under Latin Mass St Andrews and been tagged under , , .
19 Nov 2010 1:00 pm

I obviously do not know the intricate detail here but to say that there is an EF Mass one hours’ train journey away is unacceptable.
No priest would ever say that to a request for an OF Mass, it would be unthinkable.
I am sorry to say that the Holy Father’s wishes for the EF Mass to be made more available have not been responded to by priests and Bishops the length of the country.
How much time does a new priest need to “settle in”. If he was a journalist new in post you would expect him to get cracking at once, not wait a few months.

Andrew Cusack
19 Nov 2010 1:20 pm

Just to make sure the record is straight, the priest never said that, I said that.

When priests and journalists have the same kind of responsibilities, then I’ll expect them to have the same reaction times. God willing that day will never come!

People commute between St Andrews and Edinburgh every single day for work. The request, which has not been denied, remember, is for one EF Mass a month. If someone can’t get to Edinburgh once a month, I’d be surprised.

Things take time. I think we need to think charitably when dealing with one priest who is responsible for three parishes plus a university chaplaincy.

Liz S.
19 Nov 2010 1:35 pm

Shepherd, if we want to use the flawed journalistic analogy – let’s say a journalist is responsible for three newspapers plus an academic journal.

If two people come up to him and ask him to start a monthly column, I think it’d be perfectly sensible for him to say he’d need to wait a few months before taking it up.

Like Cusack said, we need to be charitable. The priest didn’t say no, and he’s got a lot “on his plate” at the mo. Does the monthly mass NEED to start in November instead of say February? Obv. the earlier the better but it seems ridiculously stubborn to start complaining about this priest.

Sharon Dever
19 Nov 2010 7:15 pm

I read this blog entry with great relief. My family, regular Latin Massgoers here in Texas, stayed over in St. Andrews from May through July this year, and had the immense pleasure of meeting Fr. Halloran and assisting at the entirely reverent Masses at St. James on The Scores. Additionally, Fr. Halloran kindly agreed (at the request of our rector) to confirm my oldest daughter, as our diocese only permits Confirmations at Pentecost, and she would have had to wait another year for having been out of the country. The Confirmation was simple and dignified. Never did I hear a word from the pulpit that caused me to raise my eyebrows, and Fr. Halloran’s erudition and genuine desire to enrich the minds and hearts of his parishioners made me wish we had a dozen of him back home. I wasn’t able to speak with him much, as he was crazy busy with multiple parishes (not to mention we were mutually stymied by the other’s accent), but every word I did hear from him was gentle and pastoral.

It surprised and angered me to read the ignorant accusations being made against Fr. Halloran. I am so glad you have cleared up this issue. But I’m distressed to learn that he’s now in Ghana, as our family had wanted to send him a gift this Christmas. If it were sent to St. James, would he receive it? Or is there some better address? Please feel free to contact me by e-mail if you know.

S. Petersen
20 Nov 2010 10:50 am

There are those Priests who, celebrating the NO (OF) Mass, do so with such reverence and dignity that the transcendent character of the liturgy is clear. Other Priests, unfortunately, a majority, have been seduced by vain worldly philosophies so that the liturgy is a means of bluff fellowship and self-affirmation for its participants. For those of us tired of back-slapping-buddy Priests, altar girls, and leisure-suited extraordinary ministers, finding even an orderly NO Mass, absent some turn of fortune, involves a commute.
(This is not, of course, to attempt to comment on the character of the Mass at St. Andrews of which I know nothing.) However, an FSSP Priest who offers himself as a celebrant for an EF Mass should not have to jump through Parish and Diocesan hoops to do so–Sum. Pont. must mean at least that.
In a nearby (to me, here in the land of the frozen swamp) Diocese, the new Bishop, with a reputation, like H. E. Patrick, for supporting celebration of the EF, waited a year before setting up a single, Sunday celebration at an inconvenient time in the crypt of the Cathedral.
Most Priests that don’t know it could learn the EF in a few weeks–we’re not talking Pontifical Masses here. There’s no reason that daily EF Masses cannot be celebrated rotating throughout a diocese and in every parish–at a reasonable time of day–on Sunday.
There’s always excuses forthcoming for the paucity of and delay in instituting EF Mass and for the continually increasingly Protestant style of the OF. Milan is only more open and notorious.
I want to be charitable (and otherwise virtuous) but can’t help but sympathize with the impatience of the complaining youngster who has probably heard these excuses made as many times as I have.

21 Nov 2010 7:48 am

I made some enquiries and I received this clarification from a source in the Parish.

‘One of the students asked Fr Andrew about having Mass in the extraordinary form. His response was “not yet”. He has not closed the door, and he is determined to minister to the pastoral needs of the parish in any way that he can. He of course has to prioritise. As far as I can see, the students who made the request did basically understand that. You have probably seen the piece in the Telegraph, however, that was most unfortunate. One young man spoke to a journalist and he did not represent the others at all. I understand from another student that he is now saying that he merely asked the journalist (Damian Thompson) for advice – a surprising concept, but there it is. The young man in question is very young, and possibly not well tuned into the realities of the wide world.’

Let’s not malign the new Parish Priest and Chaplain as Damien Thompson has. He has a much to deal with in addition to the Parish of St James and the Catholic Chaplaincy, such as the Parishes of Pittenweem and Crail along with Catholic Primary School of Greyfriars.

I’ve been to Canmore recently and quite frankly the building could be condemned. I am going to be writing to Fr Andrew to offer him alumni support in his task to repair the Chaplaincy building. It would be better to support the work of the Chaplain than to make his life harder.

Seraphic Spouse
22 Nov 2010 9:03 am

Hear, hear!

22 Nov 2010 2:27 pm

I am not being uncharitable, merely practical. If, in my career, I was asked to do something over and above my normal duties (taking less than one hour) I would fit it in. That was what my employers were paying me for.
Now what is so hard about incorporating a monthly or, even weekly TLM into your schedule?
Also, students are by nature hard up and travel on a Sunday is not easy. Therefore, one hour into Edinburgh is not as straightforward as it sounds.

23 Nov 2010 9:15 am

Further to my comment above, today happens to be the feast of Bl Miguel Pro, Mexican Priest and Martyr. In the months leading up to his capture, Fr Pro was on the move continuously in an effort to avoid President Calles’ forces. During these times he distributed Holy Communion to upwards of 300 souls each day and, on the first Friday before he was executed, he gave the Eucharist to 3 groups comprising 900, 1300 and 1500 souls.This was over and above his duties in the confessional which was, invariably, in a backyard or garage.
It does give the St Andrews situation something of a perspective.

7 Mar 2011 10:46 am

Good news!

Missa Cantata will be offered in the chapel next Sunday at 5pm by Fr John Emerson FSSP.

Deo gratias!

17 Mar 2011 2:40 pm

Photo’s of Fr Emerson’s first Mass at Canmore can be viewed here:

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