TLM Parished Closed in Britain Despite Strong Attendance

Sanctuary of St John the Evangelist, Allerton Bywater

It seems this little charmer of a Church with strong attendance will be permanently close a week from today. Tragic.

Next Sunday, a thriving little Catholic church in Yorkshire mining country which just happens to offer the traditional Latin Mass will be shut by the Bishop of Leeds, Arthur Roche (who, I learn, is a patron of an organisation called STOP – Start Treating Others Positively).

After I posted about this yesterday, parishioners of St John the Evangelist, Allerton Bywater, have contacted me with heartbreaking messages of support for their priest and their church. The more I learn, the more cruel the decision of the diocese appears.

A report in the Yorkshire Evening Post reveals that parishioners, some of them in their 80s, chained themselves to railings in protest at the closure. Here are some quotes from the story:

Mary Bellwood, 86, of Swillington, said: “My grandfather collected for years to see this church built. At the time in 1916 this was a poor mining village but everyone gave something. I have been a member of this church all my life. I was born into the parish and I never thought I would live to see the day when this church closed.”

Mary Flanagan, 81, said: “I think it’s disgusting. We have a strong congregation and an excellent priest. We are self-sufficient. There is no need to close us down.”

Ann Fox added: “My dad was buried here, me and my sister were married here and our children were baptised here. They are splitting up a family by closing this church. We’re all devastated.”

There are several baffling aspects to this story. St John’s is remarkably well attended, not least because traditionalists travel long distances to experience the Mass of the Ages, still such a rarity despite Pope Benedict’s amendment to church law to remove the power of the local bishop to ban it. Well, Bishop Roche has not banned the Old Mass at St John’s, as such; but there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Here is a message I received from a Facebook friend of mine whose opinions I greatly respect:


Thought you might find it interesting that none of the priests whose churches are being closed in the Pontefract Deanery where Fr Mark’s church is were actually told about about this in person, either by the bishop, Vicar General or anyone else in the diocesan curia. No, instead they were called to an area Deanery meeting and given a DVD, featuring the bishop as presenter, announcing the closures.

So much for pastoral care and communication with his priests!

Since then, as you’re now well aware, the people of the parish have contacted the bishop several times, without even a sniff of a reply. Whatever issues he may have with Fr Mark, to completely ignore a united parish is absolutely scandalous.

I’ve known Fr Mark and the parish for about five years or so now, and go there regularly from York to provide music for the Extraordinary  and Ordinary Form Masses. The congregational participation is outstanding – there isn’t another parish like this for miles around! Indeed, people travel from outside the diocese because of the reverent forms of Mass and sound Catholic teaching – the latter actually convinced a friend of mine also from York,  to convert to the church a few years ago.

What has got into Bishop Roche? Last year he issued a set of guidelines on Summorum Pontificum that seriously misrepresented it. And now this. Can he really be in the running for Westminster?

Originally published Aug. 10, 2008 by Damian Thompson.

2 Responses to TLM Parished Closed in Britain Despite Strong Attendance

  1. Andrew says:

    Dear Fr. J.

    Well, we pretty much have the same people with the same mindset running the Church where I come from. The MP SP is dead in the water. And so is Latin, Chant, et al. It’s not taught in the seminary, so generations of priests are opposed to it having imbibed the modernist mindset during their time time.
    I do what I can personally, but it’s tough.

    Check these out to see what we have done with our limited resources.

  2. […] in the Diocese of Leeds, Britain in this his latest article. In an earlier article which we also reproduced here, it was clear that one of the parishes is a well attended parishes where all the masses are said in […]

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