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Mitre & Crook

Mitre & Crook

By Bryan Houghton

222 pp

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About the Book

Bishop Edmund Forester, looking out over his little diocese of Stamford, was distressed at what he saw. The renewal promised from the Second Vatican Council had produced… disaster. Father Sludge was putting on “Eucharists” with nuns in slacks reading porn from Beardsley and revolution from Marx. Pastors were gutting their sanctuaries and selling off church heirlooms. A cabal of modernist priests was purging diocesan schools of traditional Catholics. It was time, decided the bishop, for his Bomb: a letter to the clergy of the diocese, in which he authorizes the Old Mass to be celebrated regularly, corrects the worst abuses of the New Mass, mandates kneeling for the reception of Communion, and bans Communion in the hand. The Bomb sets off blast and counterblast—all the way to Rome. Opposing forces maneuver for the confrontation.

How the issue gets resolved provides the theme of a novel unique in the annals of Catholic literature. It takes the form of letters from the bishop himself: a tough infighter—and a saint; a man of humility and charity—with a nose for humbug and an eye for the absurd. What emerges from these remarkable letters is a bishop for the ages—not the sort we meet these days. But along with this extraordinary man we are treated to what may be the most incisive analyses of the crisis in the Catholic Church ever to see print. What duller writers take chapters and books to say, Bishop Forester declaims in a few pages. And unforgettably.


“Fr. Bryan Houghton’s book is both hugely informative about the crisis in the Church that followed the Second Vatican Council and a deeply moving psychological study of the central character, Bishop Forester, in his struggle to respond to it.”


President, Latin Mass Society of England & Wales

“Published in 1979 by an English convert priest of ‘gentry’ family, Mitre and Crook has the sort of elegance people associate with a Waugh or a Knox, the deft humor of the satirist, and at times the helpless mirth of slapstick.”


“I read Mitre and Crook on a lark years ago and instantly fell in love: it is the best traditionalist fiction ever penned. Bryan Houghton was the Robert Hugh Benson of the postconciliar crisis.”


author of Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness

“An imaginative, boldly original novel about the crisis in the Church. Unlike so many explorations on this theme, Fr. Houghton’s is a work of style and verve, more than a touch of wit, and deep feeling.”


founder of Conservative Book Club and Arlington House Publishers

“All the erudition, wisdom, experience, and understated British humor of Fr. Bryan Houghton finds full expression in Mitre and Crook. Ingenious and absorbing, it proved invaluable to an earlier generation reeling from postconciliar chaos. Kudos to Angelico Press for making this inspirational testimony available to a new audience.”


Editor of Christian Order

“This book meant the world to me as a seminarian. We need this book in 2019 as much as we did in 1979.”


FSSP, author of Nothing Superfluous

About the Author

Bryan Houghton (1911–1992), of Anglican background, was received into the Catholic Church in Paris in 1934 and ordained a priest on March 30, 1940. Throughout the 1960s he found himself increasingly at odds with the self-styled “reformers” who, in the name of Vatican II, were wreaking havoc in the Church. On the day the Novus Ordo Missae went into effect—November 29, 1969, the first Sunday of Advent—he resigned from his pastorship at Bury St Edmunds, refusing to celebrate with the new missal. Drawing on his inheritance, he purchased a property with a chapel in the region of Viviers in the south of France and, with his bishop’s consent, continued to offer the Tridentine Mass for a small congregation until his death on November 19, 1992. He wrote two novels, Mitre and Crook and Judith’s Marriage, a collection of essays, Unwanted Priest, and a children’s book, Saint Edmund, King and Martyr.

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