By Edward Pentin
ROME, DEC. 20, 2012 (Zenit.org).- “The immensity of the man will only be fully appreciated in the years and decades to come,” said Leo Darroch at a recent Rome conference. “He will be recognized as a true son of Holy Mother Church and a giant among men in a period when the Church was in turmoil.”
Darroch, president of the International Una Voce Federation, a group supporting Mass in the Extraordinary Form, was referring to the relatively unknown Welsh author and primary school teacher, Dr. Michael Davies.
As a good friend of Davies (1936-2004), Darroch at a conference in November paid tribute to this highly respected, but little known, defender of the Church’s Tradition.
The meeting, held by the Centro Culturale Lepanto, marked the fifth anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio that further opened the way to celebration of the Extraordinary Form.
Davies, Darroch recalled, was a prolific author and a convert to Catholicism who, after only 10 years as a Catholic, “could see immediately the damaging effect” the liturgical abuses that ensued after the Council would have on the faith of young people.
“He was to be their champion and he threw himself entirely into the battle,” Darroch noted, adding that “his life’s work” was spent questioning and scrutinizing the new liturgical innovations that were not prescribed in the Council documents.
“He had discovered in his late teens and early 20s that the Truth existed in the Catholic Church and he was not prepared to allow anyone to take it away from him or his children,” he said. “For Michael, the truth was everything and he was appalled at the way the modernist pseudo-intellectuals and their fellow travelers had infiltrated the Catholic media, the seminaries, and the publishing houses, and were introducing a new religion to our churches and schools to the detriment of the faith.”
Furthermore, Darroch added, Davies was “equally appalled” not only that many bishops had allowed these abuses, but that many “actively supported them, while condemning as divisive those Catholics who were not prepared to abandon the faith of their parents and grandparents.”
Being a school teacher also made him acutely aware of the damage being caused. He “deeply resented” that the faith he taught his own pupils would later be usurped by a version of the Catholic faith that “had been adapted to the secular spirit of the age and was watered down to be acceptable to everyone, but in fact was rejected by most,” Darroch said.
A meticulous researcher, Davies ensured that all his defenses of Tradition were backed up with facts. Referring to an early example of his thoroughness, Darroch remembered how, in 1967, Davies questioned the veracity of a magazine article on the Vietnam War written by a priest, and discovered the article was groundless and based on Communist propaganda.
“This theme of checking information in the search for truth became the cornerstone, the constant thread, of everything he produced subsequently,” said Darroch. “It became a continual source of irritation, and more, to those ‘experts’ who wished to steamroller liturgical change upon a disbelieving laity, that their spurious claims were put under the microscope and found, in the most part, to be without foundation.”
Furthermore, his mastery of the subject was a consolation to those “ploughing a very lonely ‘traditional’ path in their parishes.” Davies’s work, Darroch said, was “like manna from heaven” and “shed a great deal of light” on matters many would have preferred to keep secret.
Moreover, according to Darroch, Davies’s writings encapsulated the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. “He was possessed of a wonderful faith that even in the darkest moments never wavered,” he said. “He never lost hope that tradition would be restored to our altars, and, though he criticized endlessly the disastrous reforms inflicted upon the Church, he never resorted to personal abuse of those who were responsible for them.”
Darroch further noted how Davies was not interested in earthly rewards, but regarded as a man of character. “One bishop commented to me that he had found Michael to be a man of the highest integrity, vision and commitment,” he recalled. “He was kindness and patience personified to everyone who wished to speak to him but was deeply uncomfortable when compliments were being paid to him.”
Davies supported Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, and wrote a pamphlet titled “Archbishop Lefebvre – The Truth,” correcting misrepresentations made by a Catholic publisher in England. He opposed the French archbishop’s illicit consecration of four bishops in 1988 against the wishes of Pope John Paul II, though he remained supportive of Lefebvre.
Some traditionalists noted in comments to ZENIT how Davies tended to omit Lefebvre’s occasional drifts into sedevacantism in an attempt to sanitize him. But they acknowledge it was a strategy that paid off as it gave Davies influence at the Vatican, and he was able to build up a rapport with Cardinal John Heenan, then archbishop of Westminster. As for liberal critics, Davies is said to have never appeared on their radar.
Darroch said that Davies, who was elected president of the International Una Voce Federation in 1995, became a welcome visitor to the Vatican in later years. “For many in the hierarchy, he was deeply unpopular but in this time of great change, his constant theme was loyalty to the Holy See and to the traditions of the Church,” he said. And on his death in 2004, the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger paid tribute to him, saying he had been “profoundly touched” by the news of his passing.
“I found him as a man of deep faith and ready to embrace suffering,” Cardinal Ratzinger wrote. “Ever since the Council, he put all his energy into the service of the Faith and left us important publications especially about the Sacred Liturgy. Even though he suffered from the Church in many ways in his time, he always truly remained a man of the Church. He knew that the Lord founded His Church on the rock of St. Peter and that the Faith can find its fullness and maturity only in union with the Successor of St. Peter. Therefore we can be confident that the Lord opened wide for him the gates of heaven. We commend his soul to the Lord’s mercy.'”
Davies was much in demand toward the end of his life — giving lectures, quotes, making foreign visits — and became “probably the foremost lay speaker” in the United States. “The Americans took him to their hearts and he was invited back time and time again,” said Darroch. “With his reputation growing worldwide, his tours took in many European countries, and further afield in India, Australia, New Zealand, and even Nigeria where he helped with the foundation of a traditional parish.”
It could be argued with some conviction, Darroch said, that Davies has been directly responsible for “perhaps hundreds of thousands of concerned Catholics around the world remaining faithful to Rome and the Holy See despite their disaffection with the direction the Catholic Church has taken since 1965.”
Yet Davies remained, and to a great extent still remains, unknown to the majority of Catholic faithful, despite many attributing his great body of work to a resurgence in support for the Old Mass and Tradition, and for the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. For this reason, many would like to see his works becoming more widely known.
For those who have not read any of his books, Darroch recommends beginning with his trilogy “Liturgical Revolution.” The three volumes’ titles are: “Cranmer’s Godly Order,” “Pope John’s Council,” and “Pope Paul’s New Mass.”
Davies’s 17 full-length books and several dozen booklets and pamphlets “provides a body of work of truly Catholic genius which will enlighten, educate and sustain Catholics in future generations,” Darroch said.
“The fact that the cause of tradition is now making a very effective return worldwide to our altars is due in great part to Michael and his scholarship and leadership,” he added.
“This may well be his lasting legacy to the Church; the provision of books and papers that rallied the faithful and educated them in a period of time that will truly be called one of the dark ages of the Church.”
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Edward Pentin can be reached at [email protected]