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What follows is the full text of a letter from Archbishop (later Cardinal) Thomas J Winning of the Archdiocese of Glasgow to the Scottish Catholic Observer of Friday, May 26, 1978, about the celebration of Mass in the Tridentine Rite in a church in the city without his permission. It's also signed by Bishops Renfrew and Devine of the Dioceses of Motherwell and Paisley.

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The full text of the letter from Archbishop Winning on the present Tridentine debate

Dear Rev. Father and my dear people,

Recently a church was opened in Glasgow city centre, at John Street, under the title of the Church of the Holy Ghost and claiming to be a Roman Catholic Church.

The group responsible for this new congregation sa ythey love the Catholic Church but they are in fact seriously misguided.

I have decided to clarify the situation in the light of requests for guidance (which I have received from Catholics in the Archdiocese).

By speaking I may be accused of being harsh towards a small group of well-meaning but misguided people, but to stay silent now could be interpreted as an avoidance of responsible leadership.

First of all, the facts

Those responsible for opening this church and worshipping in it say they are followers of a Catholic Traditionalist movement headed by Archbishop Lefebvre, who was suspended from all excercise of his priesthood by Pope Paul on July 22, 1976.

Archbishop Lefebvre claims that the old Latin form of Mass, which was used until 1970, is the only lawful way to celebrate Mass and that is why only this Latin form is used in the John Street church. Archbishop Lefebvre and his followers claim that the Pope does not have the authority to change the way which Mass is celebrated. Such a claim is patently untenable and no Catholic can seriously maintain this position.

Further, this claim about Mass is only a symbol of a much more serious assertion made by the Archbishop, that following the Second Vatican Council, the Church has abandoned her genuine traditions. This, too, is false and untenable.

In May, 1976, Pope Paul named Archbishop Lefebvre as leader of a divisive faction in the Church. In the words of the Holy Father, that faction "by its presence draws the faithful away from the bonds of obedience to the See of Peter and to their rightful bishops".

This faction has now decided to create a presence in Glasgow; that presence in John Street is therefore to be seen as an act of open defiance of the authority of Pope and Bishop, striking at the unity of the Body of Christ which is the Church.

Several crucial points arise.

The only person who may authorise a place of Catholic worship is the local bishop. The church in John Street has been opened without any reference to me and does not have my approval.

The only person who may authorise a priest to serve a Catholic community by celebrating Mass, hearing confessions, presiding at marriages and other rites is the local bishop. The priest who celebrates in the John Street Church does not have my approval to exercise such a ministry in this diocese. The fact is that he was a priest of the Diocese of Wellington, New Zealand, and is here without authority.

I wish to make it clear, therefore, that anyone who forms part of this congregation is in danger of being at total odds with the Holy Father and the lawful authority of the of the Church in Glasgow.

Because the priest in charge does not have the lawful approval of the Church authorities, his hearing of confessions is null and void, as are any marriages witnessed by him.

I will inevitably be asked if I am formally banning Catholics from attending this church. I prefer to ask you to examine the facts: the defiance of the Pope, the Bishops, the legitimate authority of the Church, the committing of serious acts of disunity and the activities of a pastor with no official credentials. Catholics who form part of that congregation are gravely misguided and they bear a heavy responsibility. What they are doing is wrong.

Above all they are in need of prayer and I ask your prayers for their return to the faith and practice of the Catholic Church.

With a blessing, Yours devotedly,




Return to Tales from a Draughty Old Fen

Go to The Holy See's announcement of Archbishop Winning's elevation to Cardinal

Go to the Archdiocese of Glasgow website

Click to go to the Scottish Catholic Observer