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Unwanted Priest

Unwanted Priest

The Autobiography of a Latin Mass Exile

By Bryan Houghton

206 pp

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About the Book

Fr Bryan Houghton’s life was fraught with momentous transitions. As a Protestant child educated in a Catholic school, he gradually awakened to the truth of the Faith and eventually converted. He responded to the call to priesthood, which he understood in its traditional sense as an office of offering sacrifice, reconciling sinners, feeding the spiritually hungry, and preaching divinely revealed truths. When the Second Vatican Council hit, and even more the successive waves of liturgical reform in the 1960s, Fr Houghton was brought to a crisis of conscience: how was all this lust for change compatible with the rock-solid Faith to which he had given his life? Why must the Church’s noble, ample, orthodox rites of worship be hacked to pieces? A man who placed great store by the maxim lex orandi, lex credendi, Houghton watched the dismantling of liturgical tradition with growing dismay, and when the substance of the Mass was changed beyond recognition and he could not bring himself to say a rite that belied his faith, he resigned his curacy and drove to southern France, where he bought a house in which to live, pray, offer the Tridentine Mass—and, fortunately for us, compile his memoirs.

         The never-published English manuscript of the resulting book, unique in its blend of entertaining stories and precise critiques, was long thought to be lost, with only its authorized French translation still in print; but the recent discovery of the original manuscript allows us access to this masterpiece decades later, when the situation in the Church is eerily like the one that faced its author in his time. A stable priest contented with tradition in the midst of mandated modernizations, Fr Houghton offers us in his autobiography a moving and insightful account of why a priest would choose rather to be “unwanted” than to betray his innermost convictions.


“Finely observant, devastatingly honest, and wittily entertaining, Fr Houghton’s memoirs—the English manuscript of which had been finished in 1990 but went missing until its rediscovery in 2020—give us a whole new perspective on the sea-change in the Catholic Church before and after the Second Vatican Council. It is all the more poignant because we are right back in the midst of the ecclesiastical ‘cancel culture’ that he himself lived through, suffered from, and described with incomparable clarity. Unwanted Priest is the greatest find in traditionalist literature for decades.”


editor of From Benedict’s Peace to Francis’s War


“Fr Bryan Houghton was a convert Catholic priest whose principles never allowed him to celebrate the post-Conciliar edition of the Mass. At the end of his life he wrote an autobiography in which the reader will meet many key players of twentieth-century Church life in England and abroad. You will agonize with the confessor as he worries about penitents who use the Pill, and how a priest should respond to the liturgical calamities emerging from Rome. You will hear Fr Houghton weighing the difficult choices made by Archbishop Lefebvre and Dom Calvet. It is a book that will encourage priests and people of today to resist tyranny in the difficult times that undoubtedly lie ahead.”


moderator of “Fr Hunwicke’s Mutual Enrichment” blog


“Fr Houghton’s touching account of his personal journey in the Faith is accompanied by a spiritual insight of enormous value into the crisis of the modern Church. I recommend this book to everyone.”


President, International Una Voce Federation, and Chairman, Latin Mass Society of England & Wales


“Divine Providence and the old Mass! Abandonment to the former and adherence to the latter are the leitmotifs of the extraordinary life and work of ‘the unwanted priest,’ Fr Bryan Houghton. From his early Protestant years, through the joys and vicissitudes of his conversion, ordination, parish life, ecclesial controversies, and twenty years of self-imposed exile in France for the sake of the old Mass and the traditional Faith—all recounted with his trademark frankness, humor, wit, and erudition—Fr Houghton estimated that the major events of his life were imposed on him: that he had not had to choose, but only to accept; and consequently, that the principal character of his existence was that ineffable mystery, the grace of God.”


Editor of Christian Order


“Fr Bryan Houghton is one of the historic traditionalists from whose legacy the defenders of the traditional liturgy live today. His original and intelligent defense of the Tridentine Mass has left its mark on the field. The discovery of the original manuscript of Unwanted Priest and its publication in these difficult days is providential.”


Chaplain of the Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage

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 30, 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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