Monday, 27 May 2013

Montague Summers' Holy Orders

Dear Bishop Manchester, you have always claimed that the Right Reverend Montague Summers has been a Bishop of the Old Catholic Church. I would like to know why in your opinion Wikipedia affirms that "He was never a member of any Catholic order or diocese. Whether he was ever actually ordained as a priest is a matter of dispute." I hope you will have the patience and the kindness to satisfy my curiosity. Thank you very much. Your friend — Alan (Italy).

That is an opinion expressed by someone called Robertson Davies nine years ago and repeated on Wikipedia, which I know from bitter experience gets an awful lot wrong; not least with its Highgate Vampire article which entry is written by Jacqueline Simpson, someone who relied entirely on flawed newspaper cuttings and an American colleague of hers by the name of Bill Ellis who is exceptionally biased and who, in turn, also relied on unsafe information. (See:

There is no dispute in my mind as to whether Montague Summers was ordained into the priesthood, none whatsoever, and, moreover, he was also consecrated as a bishop in the winter of his life.

Alphonsus Joseph-Mary Augustus Montague Summers, in whose memory I dedicated the second edition of The Highgate Vampire, entered the Old Catholic priesthood (having been diaconated in 1908 in the Church of England, and joining the diaconate in the Roman Catholic Church which he entered a year later).

Summers grew up in a wealthy family living in Clifton, near Bristol. Religion always played a large part in his life. He was raised as an evangelical Anglican, but his love of ceremonial and sacraments drew him to Anglo-Catholicism. After graduating in Theology at Oxford he took the first steps towards holy orders at Lichfield Theological College and entered his apprenticeship as a curate in the diocese of Bitton near Bristol. A year or so later he converted to Roman Catholicism. He had been made a deacon within the Church of England in 1908, and was diaconated again within the Roman Catholic Church, but it was not until he embraced the Old Catholic Church that he was ordained into the priesthood in 1913. He celebrated Mass publicly when travelling abroad, but at home in England he only performed this sacrament in private. This was probably due to the fact that he was ordained into the priesthood outside the regular procedures of the Church. Old Catholic holy orders, albeit valid, are irregular in the eyes of Rome and Canterbury.

He was episcopally consecrated for the Order of Corporate Reunion on 21 June 1927 by Dominic Albert Godwin. He was later consecrated sub conditione on 21 March 1946 by Roger Stephen Matthews and appointed Nuncio for Great Britain. Like myself, he wrote books about demonology whilst placing significant emphasis on exorcism.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this article; it makes plain a few things that continue to escape my memory. I saw a blog post several years ago featuring a picture of Summers's ordination papers, but I cannot seem to find it anymore.

    I have read Summers for years, and his work has always interested me. Now that I've seen this page, I'll be eagerly looking at your work too! My grandfather is an exorcist and missionary with an offshoot of the Anglican church, and he introduced me to Summers's work.