Just as there is today, at the beginning of the 20 th century, there was a massive row going on between Catholic “conservatives” and Catholic “liberals”

It was a dispute involving the ULTRAMONTAINS versus the MODERNISTS.

Ultramontanism is a clerical political conception within the Catholic Church that places strong emphasis on the prerogatives and powers of the Pope. (Wikipedia)

Modernism in the Catholic Church attempts to reconcile Catholicism with modern culture,  specifically an understanding of the Bible and Catholic tradition in light of the historical-critical method and new philosophical and political developments of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (Wikipedia)

The Ultramontanists were stressing the traditional position of the pope and traditional doctrines.

The Modernists were stressing the importance of taking modern theological, philosophical and scientific developments into account.

George Tyrrell, a Dublin native and convert became a very prominent modernist.

He suffered wicked resistance and attack that ended with the Jesuits expelling him and his retirement to acountry cottage with his nun friend Maud Petres.

Tyrrell was refused the Last Rites abd a Requiem Mass by Bishop Amigo of Southwark.


So George Tyrrell was buried in the Anglican graveyard at Storrington in West Sussex.

I hah always been a long term admirer of George Tyrrell.

On the 15 th of July 2003 I went to Storrington and celebrated a Requiem Mass at his graveside to make up for the Mass he had been deprived of.



Less than a century ago, a dissident Dublin priest was refused a funeral Mass and not allowed to be buried in consecrated ground, writes Bishop Pat Buckley

Tomorrow is the 94th anniversary of the death of the Dublin-born Jesuit priest George Tyrrell. He had been expelled from the Jesuit Order, suspended from the priesthood and excommunicated by Rome at the time of his death.

Father Tyrrell was born into a Church of Ireland family at 91 Dorset Street, in February 1861. He was drawn to the Anglican “high church” tradition and worshipped at All Saints, Grangegorman. In 1879 he converted to Roman Catholicism and spent a probationary year at the Jesuit College, Malta.

In 1891 he was ordained a priest. He joined the staff at Farm Street, London but, in 1899, he was forced to retire. He had become identified with the “modernist” movement, which was later condemned by Pope Pius X in his 1907 encyclical Pascendi.

In his 1908 Lenten pastoral, Cardinal Joseph Mercier, Archbishop Primate of Belgium, took the highly unusual step of naming Tyrrell as “the most penetrating observer of the present Modernist movement – the one most alive to its tendencies, who has best defined its spirit and is perhaps more deeply imbued with it than any other. Little wonder, for Tyrrell is a convert whose early education was Protestant.”


Cardinal Mercier said modernism was the child of Protestantism with its emphasis on individualism while Catholicism was based upon the acceptance of the authority of the Catholic episcopate through whom the Christian faith is communicated to the faithful.

Tyrrell replied to Cardinal Mercier with a masterful treatise entitled Medievalism, in which he reprimanded Mercier for naming him, reminding him that the Pope had named no one in Pascendi.

He accused Mercier and Rome of promoting a “sterilising uniformity” which, to Tyrrell, was far worse that the “divisions of Protestantism”. He berated Mercier for confusing “faith with theology, unity of faith with theological uniformity”.

Then Tyrrell tackled Mercier about the gradual evolution of the thinking that “the Pope is the Church”! Tyrrell said that the true tradition of the Church was of the Pope teaching the deposit of faith with and from within the college of bishops. He rejected Mercier’s term for the Pope as “the bishop of bishops”.

Now, said Tyrrell, the bishops have begun to refer to the Pope as “Father”, for “they are no longer his brethren but his sons or, rather, his servants”. And Tyrrell spelled out the consequences for the whole Church. “We have a sort of a double episcopate in each diocese, the Bishop of Rome and the local bishop, the latter being merely the delegate or vicar-general of the former.”

Tyrrell told Mercier that he was once shocked to see crosses being sold in Rome on which the figure of Christ was replaced by that of the Pope. “Have we yet to hear of the immaculate conception of the Pope or of his real presence in the Sacrament of the Altar.”

Tyrrell ended up living at Storrington in west Sussex. For years he had suffered severe migraine but he was then afflicted with Bright’s Disease and died in 1909, aged 48.

A non-judgemental priest friend heard his last Confession, for Tyrrell had said “if I decline the ministrations of a Roman Catholic priest at my death-bed, it is solely because I wish to give no basis for the rumour that I made any sort of retraction of those Catholic principles which I have defended against the Vatican heresies”.

Bishop Amigo of Southwark declared that Tyrrell was not to be given a funeral Mass or be buried in consecrated ground. So he was buried in the Protestant graveyard and his grave lies, rather prophetically, half way between the Catholic and Anglican churches at Storrington. Tyrrell’s great friend Abbé Brémond was later suspended from the priesthood for praying over the deceased priest.


Tomorrow I will be in Storrington and, alone, I am going to celebrate Mass at his graveside as a gesture of regret for the vicious persecution he suffered at the hands of Rome, the Jesuits and the Catholic hierarchy. I have written to the Father General of the Jesuits at Rome asking him and his Order to engage in a posthumous reconciliation with a man they “martyred” because he wanted to reform the misguided Church.

The Tyrrell story is a great inspiration to all Catholics today – clerical and lay – who long for Church renewal. Tyrrell also stands pointing the prophetic finger at today’s Vatican with its Emperor Pope, its ruthless Ratzinger Inquisition, and its world college of bishops who are simply the Pope’s curates.