When I came away from the country church to which I went for Divine Service on Sunday morning I thought how fortunate it was that the church had fallen into the hands of the protestants in the 16th century. How much the ravages of the Tridentine and subsequent reforms were a direct response to the Reformation is hard to say. If the Reformation had never happened, would Roman churches be as degraded as they now are, or was the fall of Rome doomed from when first a pope uttered qui ex Patre Filioque procedit in the liturgical Creed long before the Council of Trent? But I'm not as silly as all that. One word can make a tremendous difference, but I do not personally attribute the liturgical apostasy of Rome to words in the Creed (or not in the Creed as the Orthodox would say). Rome was once a bastion of orthodoxy, so great and so wonderful; but you can see how degraded it has become. To come back to the country church, I thought how ignorant I was when I thought that the most prominent provincial cathedrals and country churches in England belonged to the Roman church, from which the Church of England had become separated by faith and a great expanse of years. But no one has any real ''claim'' to them anymore, except, perhaps, the Orthodox Church, and I would thrust them out if any of them attempted to Byzantinize them. The faith of the Romans is not the faith of our Catholic forebears anymore than the faith of most Anglicans nowadays, and even the Orthodox, which is a peasant's religion in this country, is too far gone.
An altar in St James' church, Spanish Place. It would look rather nice if they got rid of the bloody doll.
If the Romans were successful in their claim, the Church of England having died a hypothetical death, and notwithstanding English Heritage or whatever, what would the Sackville-Bagginses do with all those churches? Since Romans have virtually no taste, seem apt only to trivialise a Tradition they are demonstrably incapable of understanding, and in the process ruining the Christian faith, I expect they would ruin every church they got hold of, in the vile spirit of Popery. Gone would be sober names like St Mary, St John the Baptist and Christ Church, and ''Our Lady of Fatima'' and ''Sacred Heart'' would take their place. Banished would be the surplices and plain altar linens and net curtains would take their place. Away with the Rood Screens, since they block the view of the Chancel, and brass altar rails would be installed. The High Altars would be destroyed, the riddel curtains and frontals removed, and replaced with hideous sideboard-slabs, on top of which would be piled steps, upon which would stand tall candlesticks and flowers in hideous arrangement adjacent to out-of-place tabernacles, obscuring the view of the old reredos' expounding to the congregation the story of Our Lord's Passion (why not destroy that too? Why not destroy the central panel and make room for a space to put a monstrance?), mortifying the stained glass and distorting the scale and size of the Chancel - oh, and don't forget the brass crucifix! Along the walls of the nave would be placed the ''stations of the cross,'' and banners of Joseph the Worker confraternities reminiscent of the upholstery at Aer Lingus. Side chapels would be littered with tacky statues of crowned dolls, representing visions that never took place. Gone would be the glorious tongue of Cranmer and in its place some ungodly, turgid, incomprehensible language, uttering doctrines wholly alien to the them that built the church; or the Latin of the 1962 Missal, intruding sentiments and beliefs which our catholic ancestors would have repudiated. Everything designed to make a grand, religious statement and rubber stamp of popery.
Would such a thing really be welcomed by the martyrs, people like St Margaret Clitherow or St Thomas More? I am reminded of Gandalf's apposite words to Denethor: ''He would have stretched out his hand to this thing, and taking it he would have fallen. He would have kept it for his own, and when he returned you would not have known your son.'' In the same way that the Catholic faith, what was left, was banished from the realm, and yet remained in ways that on the Continent would have been impossible, so a ''return'' of the Roman faith to the churches of this land would be unthinkable -for an it returned we would not have known it, for it would have (and has) become evil.