Thursday, 30 July 2015


There are two questions that are never far from my mind. One is why did the Roman empire become Christian and the second is what did they think they were doing at Vatican II? I`m always interested to talk to priests who lived through the late fifties onwards to ask them what they thought was going on and whether they are happy with the results given the state of the Church today. I don`t always understand the answers. So I`m looking forward to getting a copy of Abbot Cuthbert Johnson`s new book which is a compilation of the memories of Mgr McReavy, a peritus at the council. He was still at Ushaw during my time and his allocutios to the college`s Legion of Mary presidium were much appreciated. In case anyone doesn`t know Mgr McReavy was a noted canonist who had a page answering canonical queries in the Clergy Review in the 1950`s.

Here`s the blurb:

Fifty years after the Second Vatican Council, fascinating accounts of its progress have come to light in the diaries, letters, and journals of Monsignor Lawrence Leslie McReavy, held in the Archive of Ushaw College.

Sent as a 'peritus' or expert, McReavy found that this duty quickly became a joy as he witnessed the optimism and enthusiasm of the Pope and the Council Fathers gathered in Rome. Students, priests and staff at Ushaw College, Durham, were kept abreast of progress in regular letters which dealt not only with matters doctrinal and liturgical, but even culinary and sartorial, as the Council unfolded. The McReavy archive is a precious resource for anyone who wants to know the Council, presenting an eyewitness account just as eye-witnesses are becoming something of an endangered species. It is the Council, literally, as he saw it.

Dom Cuthbert Johnson's academic work along with his knowledge and experience of life in ecclesiastical Rome, make him uniquely-placed to unlock this important resource. He is to be congratulated for his service to the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle and to the whole Church in his careful preparation of this book.
And the biographical notes:
Monsignor Lawrence Leslie McReavy influenced generations of priests trained at Ushaw College where he taught for forty-five years and was nicknamed 'Bomb'. In addition to his work for the Preparatory Commission of the Second Vatican Council and as a peritus, he was a highly-respected Canon Lawyer who worked on the 1983 revision of the Code of Canon Law. For his monumental service to the local and wider Church, he was, in 1989, appointed a Protonotary Apostolic. He died the following year aged eighty-seven.

Abbot Cuthbert Johnson OSB retired as abbot in 2008 after twelve years of abbatial service at Quarr Abbey in England. A Benedictine monk of the Solesmes Congregation, Abbot Cuthbert gained his doctorate in Sacred Liturgy from the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of Sant Anselmo, Rome, before being called from his monastic duties in 1983 to serve as an Official of the Congregation for Divine Worship before being elected abbot in August 1996 upon the sudden death of Dom Leo Avery. Abbot Cuthbert is a Consultor of the Congregation for Divine Worship and an Advisor to the Vox Clara Committee. He was elected President of the Henry Bradshaw Society in April 2007.  Saint Michael's Abbey Press, 2015. Sewn hardcover, 464 pp


  1. Terry Middleton30 July 2015 at 17:08

    Father, Whilst I never had the benefit of the teaching of Dr McC, since I left the hallowed walls before reaching the exalted state of Phils, I do remember 3 occasions when he lectured to we lesser mortals in Big Lads. It must have been c.1963. The first I remember well. It was on the immorality of nuclear weapons, a hot topic at the time, he was against them. The second gave us the startling news that it was impossible for a Catholic to commit a mortal sin, since to do so, one had to be fully aware that the sin was mortal, and then one had to decide to do the deed deliberately to offend God, and for no other reason.

    Maybe I got the wrong end of the stick, but that lecture has stuck in my mind down 45 years. He didn't go into any detail as to what constituted a mortal sin, leaving that, I assume, to our imagination. The third lecture - I have totally forgotten.

  2. Thanks Terry. Well he seemed a somewhat conservative figure when I was there but I only had the Legion of Mary talks to go on. Maybe the book will tell us more.


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