A tribute to Frederick McManus

SimplyFredThis will be a very important and very interesting book: “Simply Fred. A Tribute to Frederick R. McManus” by Jack Shea, with Jerry Sigler, John Page, and Larry Madden. Msgr. McManus was active at Vatican II, ICEL, and the BCL (now the Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship) of the US bishops’ conference.

I’ve been given a sneak peak, and I can’t resist sharing an excerpt from Horace Allen’s piece, “Msgr. Frederick R. McManus: An Ecumenical Remembrance.” Presbyterian Horace Allen labored much with Msgr. McManus on many ecumenical liturgical initiatives – back in the goldens days of increasing ecumenical collaboration and convergence, before Liturgiam authenticam. Allen shares this delightful anecdote:

There was a national liturgical gathering in Boston and a number of mutual friends were in town. Everyone wanted to take Fred to dinner – a far greater number of eager guests than there were days on which to dine – and so “a great supper” was planned, and I suggested one of Boston’s premier “vintage” restaurants – and a popular clerical venue, I might add – Anthony’s Pier 4 on Boston’s renowned waterfront. This classic establishment, whose owner, Anthony Athanas, was patriarch of one of Boston’s most prominent Greek families, features walls that are a veritable iconostasis of celebrities, including Boston’s clerical celebrities, most prominent among them the late Richard Cardinal Cushing whose gatherings at Anthony’s are still the stuff of legend – and about whom Fred had many wonderful anecdotes to share.
Knowing that a large table at Anthony’s on a Saturday night with short notice was as unlikely a find as “the pearl of great price,” I decided to be creative. Our party arrived – at least a dozen strong – and, just as we had anticipated, the multitude of those waiting for a table suggested that our chances of eating before closing time were slim indeed. Only one person among us was dressed in clerics: and, as always, Fred’s crisp black suit was crowned with that wide Roman collar. “Put our names in right away,” one of our party pleaded, “but we’re going to be waiting forever!”
Not quite! For someone on the restaurant’s staff had spied Fred’s Roman collar and had hurried into the kitchen, from which, momentarily, a beaming Mr. Anthony Athanas himself emerged. He came right over to our gathering, everyone but me stunned by this personal attention on the part of no less an authority than the restaurant’s owner. “And this must be the party from His Eminence, the Cardinal’s Residence,” Mr. Athanas exclaimed. Then, spying Fred’s collar, “And you must be Monsignor McManus of the Cardinal’s staff! Come right this way, Monsignor! You and your guests! Your table is ready! Monsignor, do give His Eminence my best regards and the greetings of all of us here at Anthony’s. Enjoy your meal!” After Fred thanked Mr. Athanas and assured him that his best wishes would be conveyed to the Cardinal (whom Fred was not likely to see anytime soon, by the way!), he turned to me and shook his head at me with mock indignation, “Horace, you are incorrigible!” And he smiled!
But not long after that enjoyable evening together, darker days dawned both for Fred’s health and for the future of what had been, for a quarter century or more, our life’s common work and our ministry’s shared endeavor. …

I wouldn’t want to divulge the name of the cardinal. But his initials are Bernard Francis Law.

From: Horace T. Allen, “Msgr. Frederick R. McManus: An Ecumenical Remembrance.”



  1. Story sent to me a while ago about Fr. McManus & the liturgy wars:

    “Monsignor Frederick McManus, a priest of Boston who served on the faculty of CUA for 40 years, was named at age 37 by the Holy See (Secretariat of State) a peritus to the liturgical commission of the Central Preparatory Commission for the coming Council. He was actually present in the room during the drafting of the Constitution on the Liturgy, which would be presented to the Fathers of the Council at the first session in 1962. When the work of the preparatory commission was finished, Fred McManus was appointed, again by the Holy See, as a peritus to the Council. He participated then both in the preparatory phase and the conciliar phase and actually had a role in drafting for the consideration of the bishops of the conciliair liturgical commission various articles of the constitution, especially those dealing with the sacraments and sacramentals. These remain in the text with some amendments made in the debate before passage of SC in December 1963. Another American, also appointed directly by the Holy See, Father Godfrey Diekmann, OSB, had a large role in the drafting of the important articles (37-41) that deal with inculturation. So in fact the periti nominated by Rome didn’t just have good seats in the basilica.
    An aside, during the Council, Fred’s bishop, Cardinal Cushing, named him a monsignor and sent the nomination along with a fuller list to the then Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Egidio Vagnozzi, a determined opponent of the conciliar reforms, including the liturgical reforms. Abp. Vagnozzi crossed Fred McManus’s name off the list before sending it on to Rome. The Delegate informed Cardinal Cushing of this in a kind of by-the-way when he was visiting Boston. Fred was eventually named a monsignor in 1980. Delegate, Abp. Jadot, invited him to lunch and at that time gave him his official scroll from Rome. Fred never had an investiture and never wore a monsignor’s cassock in the twenty-five years before his death in 2005.

  2. I shall be forever grateful for the McManus archive, which documents so much of what went on during the reform of the liturgy. I’ve used those documents often in research. They have been invaluable. In fact, I only met Fred once, but I have seen his handwriting innumerable times in brief marginal notes.

    Another contribution of Fred McManus I’d like to mention is an excellent little book he wrote in the 1950s, a canonical and liturgical commentary on the rites for Holy Week. I don’t know if the book Simply Fred will contain only reminiscences of a personal nature, as in the story posted here, or if it will give a bibliography and account of his contributions to scholarship and so on, but I hope it may contain both.

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