What a wonderful resource The Tablet's on-line archive is proving to be. There is no better guide to what educated, middle class, Catholics in England were interested in, what they thought, and what they believed.
It is interesting at all periods, but is particularly useful to those like me who want to measure the way the mood changed from the 1950s on.
I have been absolutely thrown, though, by a manifesto in the 18 April 1970 edition signed by 18 parish priests in the Liverpool Archdiocese. I copy it below, along with the Tablet's introduction. There were three follow-up letters (that I have found) criticising the bizarre collection of points.
A note from The Tablet some weeks afterwards explains that the manifesto was prepared by a layman (as though, as you will see, that makes any difference).
I was surprised that priests ordained before the 1960s in what is described as a conservative diocese, could have put their names to something so foreign to the way they had been formed. It suggests that the changes already had deeper roots in England and Wales than I would have guessed.
(It isn't all ridiculous, just mainly so.)
Despite some official public statements to the contrary, there is unrest amongst the English priesthood and a growing demand for some radical changes in disciplinary matters. Many of these will be discussed at a national meeting of secular priests to be held at Wood Hall, Wetherby, Yorkshire, from 1 to 6 June. (For the agenda see The Tablet, 28 March.) Priests in every diocese were invited to send in suggestions for discussion and to elect delegates in four age groups. The conference is an original, courageous and constructive enterprise which should be allowed to follow its course and set its own precedents without interference from pressure groups at this stage.
Fears that it may not come to grips with real problems are suggested, however, by the publication this week of a manifesto ,signed by 18 parish, priests from the Liverpool archdiocese who wish to remain anonymous until the conference opens. A shortened version of this manifesto was published on the front page. of the Guardian on 13 April. The full text is given below. We understand that many of the demands were not in fact included in the majority of submissions made to the conference secretariat. There are 465 priests working in the Liverpool archdiocese, so the 18 signatories represent about 4 per cent of the whole, a not insignificant minority in a reputedly "conservative" diocese. It is reported that most of the Liverpool priests have more than twelve years' experience in the ministry, and many are aged over forty.
CONSCIOUS of the urgent need for more open communication between all sections of the Catholic community in this country, we propose that the conference recommend that the hierarchy of England and Wales, this year, establish :
1. A national Council of Clergy.
2. A Pastoral Council of clergy and laity. We further propose :
3. That a national referendum based on the propositions submitted to the Wood Hall Conference be sent to all priests in the form of a questionnaire.
4. That celibacy be optional for all secular clergy.
5. That those who have left the priesthood and married should, in special circumstances and under certain conditions, be allowed to resume the full priestly ministry.
6. That religious priests, who wish to marry, be given the opportunity of joining the secular clergy.
7. That a man need not commit himself to the priesthood "for ever according to the order of Melchisedech ": that is, that the priesthood need not be a lifelong commitment-e.g., a man may offer five or ten years' service to the missions.
8. That the early Christian ideal of priesthood was one of service to people rather than sacrifice at the altar-and that we rediscover this emphasis.
9. That the traditional disqualification of women from the priesthood be removed as having no theological basis.
TRAINING FOR THE PRIESTHOOD
10. That every clerical student receive a fully-recognised vocational training e.g., as teacher, social worker, etc.
11. That the divinity training of the priest follow a course recognised by the education authorities (at training college or university level).
12. That all junior seminaries be closed. The buildings to be sold or used as training colleges, schools, hospitals, old people's homes, etc.
13. That all appointments to positions of pastoral care be subject to renewal every five years-e.g., parochial priests and bishops.
14. That when a parish becomes vacant the clergy be notified. Any priest to be able to apply for the position of parish priest.
15. That the above should apply in the case of any diocesan or national clerical post.
16. That parish priests be urged to set up parish councils according to Vatican II.
17. That a consultative body or board of clergy and laity (at parochial, diocesan or national level) should consider the application and make recommendations to an appointments board.
18. That an appointments board, representative of clergy and laity, make the actual appointments.
19. That those priests should not be left in pastoral care who are no longer able adequately to discharge their functions by reason of age, infirmity, or a record of unhappy personal relationships.
SALARIES, LIVING CONDITIONS
20. That assistant priests be appointed to a parish under a proper contract of service dealing with salary structure, rights of accomodation, co-responsibility and function.
21. That experimentation regarding clerical dress be recognised as personal and permissible.
22. That in the planning of new areas the traditional presbytery be no longer built.
23. That existing large .presbyteries be fully utilised-e.g., as rooms for students, homes for the old-aged, etc.
24. That all diocesan priests, working within the diocese, should have a fixed and equal salary as long as present structures exist.
25. That Mass-stipends and stole-fees be abolished eventually.
26. To ensure equality of incomes within a diocese, all other revenues from hospitals, convents, cemeteries, etc., be paid (into a central fund.
27. That a priest should never be forced to appear to condone what he conscientiously condemns, e.g., excessive fund-raising by bingo and beer.
MASS, SACRAMENTS AND PRAYER
28. That all sanctions attached to the Sunday Mass obligation be removed.
29. That the parochial priest be no longer obliged to provide a daily Mass unless numbers and pastoral need so dictate.
30. That all pact Masses from clergy benefit funds--e.g., of the Lancashire Infirm Secular Clergy Fund-be discontinued with as untheological.
31. That priests, recognise that it is possible to administer the sacraments even to those legally disqualified (cf. Clergy Review, February 1970).
32. That all sanctions attached to the saying of the Office be removed.
CO-RESPONSIBILITY AND ECUMENISM
33. That a method be devised now for consulting all the clergy of the diocese for the choosing of diocesan bishops.
34. That a method be 'devised now for consulting all the laity of the diocese for the choosing of diocesan bishops.
35. That more thought be given to the planning of multi-purpose buildings.
36. That more thought be given to the sharing of existing churches and the building of multi-denominational churches in new areas.
37. That priests should begin to give more lip service to the priority of the parental role in the education of children.
38. That individual dioceses permit initiative in those matters where agreement is lacking at national or international level.