Bishop Malcolm McMahon, Bishop of Nottingham, has been named the new Archbishop of Liverpool, confirming rumors heard since the beginning of this week. What this appointment means for the Catholic Church in England and for further appointments under Pope Francis remains to be seen. Bishop McMahon has on several occasions celebrated the Mass in the Extraordinary Form: Pontifical Mass in Ratcliffe College, Pontifical Mass at Knights of Malta Chapel, and LMS Summer School at Merton College. In a forward to a people’s edition of the Latin Missal of Paul VI, Bishop McMahon wrote:
Since Vatican II, Mass in the vernacular language (English in our case) has become widespread, but it began as, and remains, a concession. Vatican II envisaged that the Mass would ordinarily be celebrated in Latin, and it stressed the need for the faithful to be able to say or sing together in Latin the parts of the Mass which pertain to them, and it commended the use of Gregorian chant, saying that it should be given pride of place in liturgical functions.
It is a mistake to assume that the Mass should be translated into simple English, because the Mass never is and never can be fully understood. Even a translation should give us a glimpse of the unsearchable beauty of God.
For the faithful to participate actively at Mass, as has been mandated by successive popes as well as the Second Vatican Council, they must be familiar with the texts and chants. It is for this end that this book has been produced, and I warmly commend it.
Bishops McMahon’s appointment does raise some eyebrows amongst those who see Pope Francis charting for the Church a new course immersed in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council. Perhaps the guiding principles for the appointment of bishops is still, a year after Pope Francis’ election, highly influenced by his predecessor. At the same time, I have heard him described as being down to earth and Damian Thompson called him “a Left-wing Dominican with a taste for traddie liturgy.” Bishop McMahon has also had some interesting things to say about the possibilities of married clergy. Jonathan Wynne-Jones in his 2008 article on the bishop’s comments on married clergy wrote that Bishop McMahon was a “leading candidate to become the next head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.” Additionally, Wynne-Jones said that
Bishop McMahon has emerged as one of the favourites to succeed Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, who is due to stand down early next year. It is understood that the cardinal has been personally pushing for the bishop as his successor and he is also popular with the traditionalists because of his support for the Latin Mass.
What all this means for the Church and how it reflects on Pope Francis remains to be seen. It might just be that in the person of Bishop McMahon there is something everyone is drawn to.