How Agatha Christie (Sort of) Saved Civilisation

THIS weekend marks the fiftieth anniversary of one of the truly epochal events in the history of culture. On 30 November 1969 the Tridentine Mass – the usus antiquior – was set aside by Pope Paul VI (Giovanni Battista Montini) following decisions made at the Second Vatican Council. Rites that grew organically for a millennium and a half were replaced by a committee. Montini is said to have been so heartbroken when he first offered the “novus ordo” Mass himself that he wept. The world’s Catholics were not consulted.

The “1971 Statement by Scholars, Intellectuals, and Artists Living in England” – signed by Catholics and non-Catholics alike (including two Anglican bishops) – decried what was obviously seen as impetuous iconoclasm. They asked special permission for the traditional Mass to be permitted in England and Wales (alongside the newly invented vernacular version). The stellar signatories included Malcolm Muggeridge, Graham Greene, Kenneth Clark, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Robert Graves, Cecil Day-Lewis, Yehudi Menuhin, William Rees-Mogg, Joan Sutherland, Philip Toynbee and Agatha Christie. Always erratic on the subject, Paul VI consented to the request on reading the petition. This is still known as the “Agatha Christie Indult.” According to folklore, the pope commented on the crime writer’s name as he signed an authorisation – hers alone.


“The rite in question, in its magnificent Latin text, has also inspired a host of priceless achievements in the arts – not only mystical works, but works by poets, philosophers, musicians, architects, painters and sculptors in all countries and epochs. Thus, it belongs to universal culture as well as to churchmen and formal Christians.”

– From the 1971 Statement.


For many, the attempt to kill the old Mass is a mystery worthy of Hercule Poirot. What was Montini thinking? In a drawing room finale, the little Belgian would have to address liberals, crypto-Masons, foolhardy dilettantes and gullible weaklings. Most agree that Paul VI came to believe the liberal European proponents of change were reading the signs of the times more astutely than anyone else, himself included. They were, in reality, fighting the last war – and the one before that; and even the one before that – against the hardline anti-Modernism of Pope St Pius X and the maximalist school interpreters of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.

Officially, the revolution was meant to increase the participation of the laity and inspire a new evangelisation. What followed instead was catastrophe. Millions left the Church. The new dispensation’s diehards argue that erstwhile Catholics, like Westerners generally, were about to skive off, anyway. Possibly. But the so-called “New Order” didn’t bring them back. What is bringing them back is the old Mass. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI more or less took the Agatha Christie Indult global in Summorum Pontificum. This masterstroke ensures the reform of the ‘reform’ for centuries to come. It will be his most Benedictine and lasting legacy.

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46 Responses to How Agatha Christie (Sort of) Saved Civilisation

  1. pbw

    I went today, the First Sunday in Advent, to the 9am Missa Cantata of the Brisbane Oratory in Formation at the church of Mary Immaculate in Annerley. It followed the 7:30am Novus Ordo and preceded sung Vespers in Latin at 4pm and the N.O. ad orientum (which does wonders for the tired old N.O.) at 5pm. Plenty of parishioners, all up.

    You wouldn’t credit it, but the devotees of the Latin Mass tend to be socially conservative, as well.

  2. Nob

    Somehow the decline in church attendance (including me, maxima culpa) in the developed world affected all mainstream Christian religions.

    It can’t all be the fault of the non-Latin mass.

    Although the cloth eared idiots who wrote the English version should be burned at the stake.

  3. Herodotus

    Not to mention Evelyn Waugh …

  4. one old bruce

    Good stuff CL. However, having loved among the Catholics of Kerala and Tamil Nadu may I point out that they all seem to be strong fans of Vat II. One Mother Superior told me that it set nuns there free to have a personal vocation, instead of carrying the heavy weight of social and family obligation as before – and the result was nuns who were more conservative and devout (!) – opposite of western sisters. What’s more, ‘mass in the vernacular’ had the effect of increasing congregations there, again opposite of our side of the world. What’s more it brought them closer to Orthodox congregations like the Syro-Malankara who were already in communion with Rome.

    Seeing as they represent some of the biggest and most devout congregations now, you have to at least wonder . It’s funny how we in the anglo countries think Vat II was all about us. I was very surprised when I heard this over and over among Catholics over there. It’s a big complex world.

  5. JR

    The sooner the Novus Ordo is suppressed and the Tridentine Rite reinstated, universally, the very much better.

    The TLM is not the ‘Silver Bullet’ that will right the Church (and the world), but it is the firearm that will fire it.

    Holy Father St. Pius X, pray for us.
    Mother Mary, pray for us!

  6. FelixKruell

    What is bringing them back is the old Mass

    It is? Church attendances are going up? Hmmm

  7. dover_beach

    It is? Church attendances are going up? Hmmm

    It is in those churches conducting the old Mass, and they typically have younger congregations. The same is true of those religious orders that maintain orthodox positions and traditional dress, etc.

  8. FelixKruell

    Dover:

    It is in those churches conducting the old Mass, and they typically have younger congregations

    Interesting. Got any evidence of that?

  9. TheSenator

    Felix: “Interesting. Got any evidence of that?”

    Yes, here is an article from The Washington Examiner (02 Nov, 2019):

    https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/traditional-catholic-parishes-grow-even-as-us-catholicism-declines

  10. iain russell

    FWIW, a colleague of mine attended a Latin mass in Rangoon just two years back.

  11. George Gell

    It is a mistake to allow the congregation to actually understand the language that is being chanted in Church as then they might start thinking about it.They might even start reading the Bible and if they do that thoroughly they will end up convinced atheists unless they are mentally challenged the way Agatha Christie was.

  12. Tim Neilson

    George Gell
    #3249679, posted on December 2, 2019 at 9:07 am

    Just out of interest, have you ever actually read the Bible?

    I mean read it, not just quote mined from secondary sources.

  13. max

    The use of the New American Bible in Australia with its awkward gender-neutral phrasing is another recent adjustment in worship. Ugly vandalism like this is celebrated as a way of winning back the young, just like Catholic schools supporting gay marriage. The national plenary council coming up will be interesting. Some signs of resistance to the modernists though the media will emphasise the usual calls for ‘reform’.

  14. pbw

    max,

    Is it the NAB, or still the appalling NRSV?

  15. FelixKruell

    Thesenator:

    A self reported study over 12 months by a small denomination in a handful of cities? Hardly good evidence.

  16. pbw

    FK,

    Dover:

    It is in those churches conducting the old Mass, and they typically have younger congregations

    Interesting. Got any evidence of that?

    Yes. I frequently attend N.O. Masses at various parishes, and I attend the Latin Mass in two locations. The Latin Mass has many more young people, including many with young and expanding families. We have families with from one baby to eight children, and the young families show no signs of stopping, if only because they observe the Church’s teaching against contraception.

    I suggest reading Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae to see whether his predictions in 1968 about the effects of contraception have been borne out. He was, in fact, too optimistic in those assessments.

  17. pbw

    FK,

    My apologies, FK, I had not read your usual penetrating analysis before I posted. Mea culpa.

  18. P

    Much to think about already in this post and the comments here.
    After reading all the above I went across to theconservativetreeehouse-open thread to read something more relaxing and I thought more comfortable, when not long after clicking on there I was confronted with this link –
    “Embodied Souls”: Italian Novus Ordo Parish installs Horrid Artwork for Advent
    The following images show what is currently being displayed in this Novus Ordo church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. We had to censor one of the photos due to grave immodesty. Please proceed with caution. All the figures are indecent:

  19. Iampeter

    Felix, congregation sizes are not that important. It’s a superficial detail that those who don’t understand religion focus on. These people are not serious and not a threat to our freedoms. They will enable the more serious people though.

    The detail to look at is how mainstream are calls for political action based on religious belief becoming. Going by that you can see a pretty terrifying return to Dark Age ideas in the West.

    These “moderates” worrying about congregation sizes, etc, are going to be eaten alive by the more consistent versions of themselves.

    We’re already seeing it start with the groyper attack on conservatism inc.

    This is going to be entertaining for a while but ultimately those of us who actually understand and support Western civilization, as the rational, secular and individualist culture that it is, are going to be left to face these insane mystics alone.

    Which is how it’s always being, so no big deal.

  20. Gab

    Listen to the truth of what happened at Vatican II by a very holy priest who was actually there. Father Gommar A De Pauw, Professor of Theology and Doctor of Canon Law. A Lecture given in Chicago, 1967.

  21. JC

    These people are not serious and not a threat to our freedoms. They will enable the more serious people though.

    And like the true leftist you are, you’re concerned with the reaction from the religious. Not a single thought or an opinion about the harms done by such enslaving laws as 18C.
    You dishonest, dissembling piece of shit, implodes. You, personally, make abortion advocacy worthwhile for the simple reason that we may have got you hoovered at the right time.

  22. Tim Neilson

    those of us who actually understand and support Western civilization, as the rational, secular and individualist culture that it is

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

  23. Zatara

    “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us …. that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

    – A. Lincoln.
    Gettysburg, PA.
    November 19, 1863
    “Insane Mystic”

  24. JC

    But, but, Abraham Lincoln was a leftist according to Implodes.

  25. Chris M

    Yes we’ve seen how that Roman Catholicism works in Mexico. Rather astounding.

  26. Zatara

    Yes we’ve seen how that Roman Catholicism works in Mexico. Rather astounding.

    The percentage of Catholics in Mexico is almost exactly the same as the percentage of Catholics in Poland. In neither case is Catholicism the national religion and it has nothing to do with the functions of government.

    Is that equally astounding?

  27. C.L.

    Thanks for that lecture, Gab!

    Bookmarked for future inspiration.

  28. Chris M

    Yes, 81% are Roman Catholic.

    As with Columbia, Venezuela, Brazil, Philippines etc what characterizes these Roman Catholic dominant countries is corruption, violence, instability and immorality. What language there services are held in really is of about equal importance to what colour the church walls are painted.

  29. Zatara

    You forgot to talk about Poland Chris.

    But then it wasn’t a cut and paste hate thing so you’d have to work at it.

  30. Iampeter

    And like the true leftist you are, you’re concerned with the reaction from the religious. Not a single thought or an opinion about the harms done by such enslaving laws as 18C.

    This is a description of you, not me. Leftists like you support 18C and it’s type of laws as we see with your positions on tech companies, Folau, James Cook Uni, etc.
    You really are absolutely clueless.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

    Yea, that’s a pretty secular and rational comment from men using reason and moving away from religious beliefs.
    A religious comment would’ve been all about commandments and obedience and so forth. Not about your rights to life and happiness.

    Conservatives really don’t understand American founding documents. Your focus on one word, while missing the actual point, is good evidence of the total superficiality with which you approach these topics.

  31. Mark A

    Gab
    #3250033, posted on December 2, 2019 at 5:57 pm

    Many thanks for the link.

  32. JC

    This is a description of you, not me.

    Nope, it all you. Go to the nearest mirror and look at it. That’s you and you’re a hardcore leftist.

    Leftists like you support 18C and it’s type of laws as we see with your positions on tech companies, Folau, James Cook Uni, etc.
    You really are absolutely clueless.

    It was 18C that gave rise to everything else we’ve seen since. However, being a leftist twat, you can’t bring yourself to openly admit you support 18c, which is why you criticize responses against it.

    Conservatives really don’t understand American founding documents. Your focus on one word, while missing the actual point, is good evidence of the total superficiality with which you approach these topics.

    You’re a leftist. You don’t agree with constitutional government.

  33. Iampeter

    It was 18C that gave rise to everything else we’ve seen since.

    Sure but you don’t really understand the issue at all and don’t realise you’ve supported all of it.

    You’re a leftist. You don’t agree with constitutional government.

    But it’s YOU who opposes constitutional government. You don’t even know what that means.
    You are a politically illiterate leftist.
    These posts from you are some kind of sad attempts at wishful thinking and projection.

  34. A couple of random points. Make of them what you will. (1) Was it Hillaire Belloc who noted that the Latin mass enabled a Roman Catholic from any part of the world to join in and enjoy a 9mass celebrated in any other part, and thereby underpin the church’s claim to universality? (2) Thomas Jefferson cut and pasted the New Testament to create a secularised basis for Christianity.

  35. ‘Non-mystical’ is better than secularised. Jefferson’s title is ‘The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth – Extracted textually from the Gospels’. For example, he deleted stories of the virgin birth, resurrection and the like. A text that can be read by atheists for indruction.

  36. Arggh! ‘instruction’. My copy was published in 1989 by Beacon Press, Boston.

  37. dover_beach

    Interesting. Got any evidence of that?

    As the Senator provided, the FSSP is evidence of that, as are other priestly fraternities like Institute of Christ the King and Institute of the Good Shepard. So are traditional religious orders like the Sisters of Life.

  38. Iampeter

    For example, he deleted stories of the virgin birth, resurrection and the like. A text that can be read by atheists for indruction.

    Yep. He secularized it. Next step would be to then learn that the teachings of Christ are profoundly immoral, but the direction the Founders were moving in was very clear. It was away from mysticism and religion.

  39. dover_beach

    Washington’s National Thanksgiving Day proclamation:

    Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness. Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks, for His kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of His providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us. And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best. Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

    — George Washington

  40. Iampeter

    Ah yes. Violating the Constitution before the ink was even dry.

    Like I said, religious Conservatives don’t understand America’s founding ideals.
    Out of context quotes is all you have.

    This is why Conservatives are the West’s greatest enemy and enablers of our secular collectivist foes too.

  41. dover_beach

    Take it up with the Founders.

  42. dover_beach

    BTW, that isn’t an ‘out of context quote’. That is the entire letter.

  43. Iampeter

    Take it up with the Founders.

    Take what up with the Founders?

    BTW, that isn’t an ‘out of context quote’. That is the entire letter

    The full context is that the issuing of this proclamation was hotly contested because it violates the Constitution and the First Amendment of the new Bill of Rights which had just being ratified.
    YOU should have an issue with this quote if you understand and support American founding ideas.

    It’s also out of context because it says very little about politics anyway, or America’s founding ideals, which is what we were discussing. It makes no sense for you to quote this other than you not understanding those founding ideas so not knowing how to discuss the subject and what quotes are even relevant.

    Bottom line is, you’re trying to use this quote to suggest that America’s founding ideas were not rational and secular, but it does no such thing. You don’t know where to even begin on such a subject, which was my point.

  44. dover_beach

    No, no, the point of the quote is that the founding ideals contain a dissonance on the place of religion in America. Nothing about the letter is ‘unconstitutional’. The Constitution rules out a confessional state, not references to God. The former glances, though, at religion as a private matter, but references to God both in this letter and in the Declaration (and elsewhere) refer to God or Nature’s God as the foundation of our rights and duties as human beings and of the moral order itself, and pray that the US would continue to receive God’s providence.

  45. Iampeter

    No, no, the point of the quote is that the founding ideals contain a dissonance on the place of religion in America.

    What does that mean?

    Nothing about the letter is ‘unconstitutional’. The Constitution rules out a confessional state, not references to God.

    The Constitution rules out things like the President telling people to have a religious holiday.

    The former glances, though, at religion as a private matter, but references to God both in this letter and in the Declaration (and elsewhere) refer to God or Nature’s God as the foundation of our rights and duties as human beings and of the moral order itself, and pray that the US would continue to receive God’s providence.

    If you’re “obeying the will of god” as Washington claims is a duty in his proclamation, then you don’t have rights. These are the glaring contradictions that the Founders weren’t able to resolve. They were still giants and heading in the right direction, but their mistakes are not the basis for suggesting anything about America’s founding is religious.
    It would be like progressives claiming America’s founding is based on slavery.
    Both things were present, but neither was fundamental to the ideas that led to the Constitution.

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