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An entry charge at York Minster is needed to maintain such a gigantic building

William Oddie claims the Minster was ‘purloined’ at the Reformation. But it belongs now, as always, to the people of England

By on Monday, 15 August 2011

York Minster is not subsidised by the state

York Minster is not subsidised by the state

The Very Rev Keith Jones, the Dean of York Minster, issued a response to William Oddie’s blog in the form of a Letter to the Editor. We publish it below.

SIR – William Oddie makes very hostile comments about York Minster in protest at the entry charge, and many other things. He does not say how otherwise we are to maintain this gigantic building, which is not subsidised by the state, and which employs (proudly) numerous skilled workers in stone and glass, and music and teaching, to maintain York Minster for the nation and the world at large. We are not profiteers, but a charity. We take pains to make our references to our constant worship and Christian witness such that non-Christians will not be put off, but his sneers fail to mention that we give free entry to acts of worship or the fact that hundreds attend Evensong each day.

Then there is his charge of the Minster being “purloined” at the Reformation. As an expression of hard-line opinion he is entitled to utter it, but for those Christians who hope and pray for better it is crude and hopeless. For the record, our Anglican view is that York Minster is the product and expression of English Christianity, and belongs now as always to the people of England under their lawful sovereign. The Dean and Chapter maintain and administer it for them by the same law of the land.

The relationship of the Church of England with the see of Rome has varied in form considerably over the centuries; however, we do not believe that the Church of this land is constituted by our recognition of the jurisdiction of the Pope and we hold to the hope of a union of the Churches in which we can belong together again, the honour (and even primacy) of the Roman see being appropriately recognised. Of course it is a difficult thing, but York Minster is a place where already many traditions of English Christianity meet often in friendship and hospitality, praying together and sharing many things we hold in common. Mr Oddie’s accusations of criminality hardly relate to what we believe to be the guidance, let alone the charitableness, of the Holy Spirit, but rather to the jeers of sectarian strife.

Yours faithfully,
Keith Jones

  • Lee

    Makes a few good points but it still does not mislay the fact that the cathedral was ‘purloined’ from the lawful and only Body of Christ and that such buildings are surely ‘those of the people of England’ but those who are of the Catholic Faith as it was their sweat, blood and Holy Faith that saw this House of Our Lord built and not the usurpers who now go by the name of the ‘Church of England’ with a secular head.

  • Anonymous

    So that’s alright then. Well, actually, no it isn’t. The points Dr. Oddie made were valid. If York Minster is now a place where ‘many traditions of English christianity’ meet, well, the LMS were ‘allowed’ back in to hear Holy Mass celebrated in the Extraordinary form. It was precisely because of a different sovereign that the people of England (who were predominantly Roman Catholic) were disposessed of York in the first place. I realise that the C of E will never relinquish their ill-gotten gains, but recognising the Roman origin and making such places available (free of charge) to the disposessed might be a start.

  • Recusant

    Funny how facts you don’t like become “hard line opinion”

  • Recusant

    Funny how facts you don’t like become “hard line opinion”

  • Anonymous

    “our Anglican view is that York Minster is the product and expression of
    English Christianity, and belongs now as always to the people of
    England under their lawful sovereign”

    Which Law do you revere? Man’s or God’s? It seems if you could go back in time you would back Henry VIII all over again because he is the ‘lawful sovereign’. Never mind that he broke God’s law first with his plunder, adulteries and executions, you still seem to stand by him admitting no guilt, you just spin it into an ‘expression of English Christianity’. You would still rather follow a King instead of the King of Kings and that is why your honeyed words to cover the historical crimes that formed your ‘English Christianity’ ring so hollow.

    Covering your self in the sheep’s clothing of Charity and peace fools no one with any sense of justice. There can never be any lasting reconciliation without humbly decrying the sins of the past. Your labelling of anyone that points out this obvious truth as a ‘jeering sectarian’ rabble-rouser will get you personally in exactly the position the Church of England is in now…on the brink of the abyss, facing annihilation. 

  • amfortas

    Most of the comments display an amazing lack of charity, rather like Mr. Oddie’s original blog.

  • Anonymous

    The most charitable thing you could do for a someone who believes grave sins/crimes are just ‘expression’  is tell them the truth. We are called to save souls not save face.

  • GFFM

    It’s as if Reverend Jones cannot face what happened during the Reformation. Catholics have had to face it because they lost their patrimony. All of the great edifices of English Christianity were taken, yes taken. This is not mere opinion–it is a matter of history. Monasteries were utterly destroyed, libraries burned, many male religious and members of the clericy martyred, Catholic believers killed, most forced underground, many fled to the New World. Apparently, this was all the result of “a varying relationship between the Church of Rome and the Church of England.” Really? Is he serious? Well, that’s his story and he is sticking to it. It seems to me that charity can only begin in earnest when someone like Reverend Jones tried to grasp how a Catholic feels when walking into a sacred place like York Minster or Westminster Abbey. These churches were not built because of the faith of Henry VIII’s Church of England. This rejoinder is stunning in its insensitivity.

  • GFFM

    What do you think charity is exactly? Dr. Oddie’s blog  spoke for many Catholics who have exactly the same feelings when being asked to pay to enter places of their Catholic patrimony. The consequences of the Reformation were bitter, horrible, and still very much with us. To state this is not being uncharitable in the least.

  • AidanCoyle

    The Very Revd Keith Jones is to be commended for daring to enter into this debate and it is entirely to be expected that his views will attract the same hostility evidenced in William Oddie’s original piece and in many of the responses that it occasioned. Alongside his rationale for York Minster’s entry charge, he maintains an aspiration for Christianity to be united and it is this that we must keep always in mind. It’s not going to be achieved in our lifetime and the path is never going to be easy as it requires that we really listen to each other and enter into respectful dialogue, open to the idea that all participants have something to learn from one another rather than insisting that all others must come to ‘our’ position. The Dean’s contribution here usefully lays that aspiration before us again (and, of course, it’s a Divine aspiration) and reminds us of the Ultimate to which we all need to orient. 

  • Anonymous

    I hope nothing said here is in any way unchristian but though acknowledging the many valid points Reverend Jones makes it must be said that the beauty of York Cathedral is due to it’s Catholic heritage not the aesthetic barbarism of the reformation.

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    “under their lawful sovereign”

    We’ll see what he has to say then, shall we? Oh no hang on, we can’t, our “sovereign” is a low ranking foreign princess imported under Act of Parliament. She’s several thousand down in the real line of succession.

  • Aidan Coyle

    And the Dean made no mention of it in his reply to William Oddie, which speaks volumes for the quality of the man.

  • Anonymous

    The Dean has replied courteously to a very aggressive, discourteous columnist, who was once moreover a clerk in the dean’s own religious community, but who has since adopted a rather extreme view of history.  I would hate him to think that the attitude that he he has encountered here and will often encounter in dealing with certain extreme converts, in any way represents the attitude of those who currently speak on behalf of the Roman Catholic church.   In France, as a result of the extreme notion of separation of church and state it is the commune rather than the church which pays for the upkeep of the fabric of religious buildings.

  • Anonymous

    Keith Sweetheart – The Holy Spirit wants HIS Church back….

    You seem to forget what your religious community did to we Catholics – if we were to claim recompense for the grand larceny, genocide, ethnic cleansing etc I dare say the compensation would run into trillions.
    I notice there’s been neither apology nor ANY attempt to make amends for your past transgressions – rather you seem to be blaming us for feeling somewhat irked and perturbed that you’ve stolen Billions of pounds and Millions of acres and tens of millions of souls from their rightful owner – the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church – yet we’re being denounced as uncharitable and sectarian? Your desecration, despoiling, desacralising, dispossessing, disenfranchising and debasing Our Lady’s dowry? And amidst the desolation which you call peace you extend the hand of friendship for us to JOIN YOU???!!

    You desire a ‘union of the churches’ do you?
    Your contemptible renegade defiance offends us…There is but ONE Church – into which you and all you traitors were baptised.

    Stop lying: Stop sinning: Give in: Come home!


  • Anonymous

    Aidan I fail to see how you can dare to mention words such as respect when you can’t even have the decency to address the reality of the situation.

  • Anonymous

    Charity is what amfortas?

    St Paul does remind us it’s always ready to excuse – but I don’t think the Martyrs would appreciate our dismissing the apostasy, genocide and endemic schism as ‘no big deal’.

  • Aidan Coyle

    …and therein lies one of the problems routinely faced by inter-denominational and inter-faith dialogue. We can readily engage those who come to the table with a stance of openness but the challenge is to find meaningful ways of engaging stances like that of our brother, paulpriest.

  • GFFM

    This is most definitely promising and necessary. Thanks for reminding us all.

  • Isaac

    1. Keith Jones’ claim that “York Minster [...] belongs […] to the people of England under their lawful sovereign” is dubious, at best. Does he really think that mosques in England belong, not to the muslims in England, but to “the people of England under their lawful sovereign”? That synagogues in England belong not to English Jews but to “the people of England under their lawful sovereign”?

    And, if this claim is true, then surely the people of England have a right to enter their own property without charge? Entry to the British Museum is free, precisely because it belongs to the British people. How then does York Minster charge for entry?

    And exactly what is the role of “their lawful sovereign” in this? I notice that he did not stop with saying “York Minster […] belongs […] to the people of England” but qualified it by adding “under their lawful sovereign”. Why? 

    2. Keith Jones’s claim that “The relationship of the Church of England with the see of Rome has varied in form considerably over the centuries” is trivially true (it changed considerably the moment Henry VIII started “Henry-anity”!) but he neglects to ask which of these forms is in conformity with the truth of this relationship. One sees here the ecclesiastical equivalent of moral relativism. 

    Moreover even those who do “not believe that the Church of this land is constituted by our recognition of the jurisdiction of the Pope” ought to be able to see that it is not constituted by a recognition of the jurisdiction (over the church) of the English sovereign either. (Or do they believe that English Christianity started with Henry VIII?) If so, then, in rejecting Catholic ecclesiology they have also rejected Anglican ecclesiology. Why is Keith Jones an Anglican?

    3. If Keith Jones genuinely “hold[s] to the hope of a union of the Churches in which we can belong together again” then I have very good news from him: Far from being “a difficult thing” it is in fact exceedingly easy. All one has to do is to investigate the specifically-Anglican truth claims of the Church of England, especially as they relate to ecclesiology. Then it he would almost effortlessly see that there is no evidence whatsoever for these claims and, in comparison, overwhelming evidence for the corresponding Catholic claims.

  • GFFM

    He dared to enter into the debate by what is tantamount to defending the gains of tyranny. What about countenancing how these churches and sacred places were “gained” by the Tudor Church of England? And by the way, major disagreement does not necessarily mean hostility or lack of charity. I do not wish you and Rev. Jones ill. However, I believe he is in a major state of denial or at the very least an ideological bubble which needs bursting.

  • GFFM

    “Extreme converts” is it? Just because we remember the quite real fall-out of the English Reformation? Save the condescension.

  • amfortas

    Why has this blog attracted so many so many loons?

  • W Oddie

    This simply doesn’t address any of my substantive arguments. I can see why the Dean takes exception to my saying that the Minster was “purloined” at the reformation: but he knows perfectly well that Catholics feel strongly that our whole Church was purloined at the reformation, not just its buildings. There’s no getting away from that. But it wasn’t why i wrote my piece, which was about the spiritual power and meaning of a building like the Minster, which I believe that he us betraying by his fundraising methods. 

    This isn’t about ownership. The comments below concentrate on answering  the Dean’s comments on this narrow topic. Please, before you answer him, READ MY ARTICLE, to which a link is provided in the first sentence.

  • W Oddie

    I should have added what my article only implies: that to turn people away from the House of God because they can’t pay is almost blasphemous, whatever their motive for entering it. It isn’t enough to say that those who already pray and know how to pray may enter free; even that IS NOT MADE CLEAR. But what about those who would enter out of curiosity but might be drawn into prayer by the power of the building? WHAT ABOUT THEM, MR DEAN? What about your mission to them? 

  • Edwards-j18

    Quite right. The lawful line of succession was broken when the Convention (it was not a Parliament,since it had not been summoned by King James II) conferred the Crown jointly on William and Mary. James never abdicated (whatever his opponents might have claimed),and so his Stuart descendants have been the lawful sovereigns ever since.

  • Anonymous

    Aidan that’s a somewhat pathetic response.

    a] These things happened. Where a protestant revolution had somewhat regrettable but understandable excuses for its actuation on the continent; where the scandalous deplorable activity of a corrupt Catholic hierarchy fomented dissent; in the British Isles there was no justification whatsoever. The ‘Church’ of England was built on lies and in blood and driven by the sins of the rich and powerful.
    b] Anglicans are historically and culturally culpable for their ongoing schism, heresy and scandal.
    c] The only acceptable solution is for their return to the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
    d] No sin – private or public – personal or collective – cannot be forgiven once acknowledged and repented.
    e] The only way ANY meaningful resolution to this deplorable situation is for ANY dialogue to state the Truth to Anglicans that they are in the wrong [even if only via cultural indoctrination and the false counsel of others] and it is their solemn baptismal duty to return to the fold of Holy Mother Church. That they are NOT a Church with valid orders and their communion services are a mockery and affront which scandalises the True Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass. There will be NO accommodation to their deceit, self-delusion and perpetuation of their scandal and [more than likely inadvertent and of benign intent] apostasy.
    f] There will be NO accommodation of anything which scandalises Holy Mother Church in matters of Doctrine, Morals, Worship or Praxis.

    g] In no way does this diminish or limit a Catholic’s solemn evangelical duty to Preach the Gospel and Love Our Neighbour – to strive to convert, counsel, console, guide and lead by good example.

    h] We abjectly REFUSE to either lie or remain in silent conspiracy with any deceit, delusion or mendacity in regards to the nature of Anglicanism in order to assimilate, accommodate or compromise with it in regards to its inherent sinful and scandalous character. We MUST use every means within our Sacramental power and doctinal ,moral and spiritual authority to counter, repudiate and dissolve their error and likewise expound and promote the inherent Truth – The Person of Christ – within the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church into which they were baptised, which they scandalously repudiate [even if through ignorance do they perform this inadvertently or benignly] and we must constantly reiterate that it is to This One, True Church that they are called to return.

    THAT’S THE DEAL: There is no other available option.

  • Mr Grumpy

    I’ve not much time for the Dean’s theology, but can we at least agree with him that we don’t want the Minster to fall down, and offer him some credible alternative proposals for raising the money? You say you would pay £9 or more voluntarily, Dr Oddie, which only shows that you are far from being a typical tourist of the year 2011. For most visiting York Minster is, whether we like it or not, a secular activity; most also would, like your son, consider themselves “a bit hard up” and therefore entitled to save a few quid when the opportunity presents itself. I hate the charges too, but what’s to be done?

    By the way, York is full of beautiful and historic churches where you can pray as long as you like without paying a penny.

  • Uillidh

    Well, I’m sure that fit of hysterical screeching will really encourage Keith Sweetheart (are you sure that’s really his name?) to “come home”.

    That kind of tirade only succeeds in making what may (debatably) be the better cause appear very much the worse.

  • Uillidh

    Entry to the British Museum can be free, not because of any supposed “right to enter” due to its status as national property, but because it is funded by the Government. York Minster isn’t.

  • Anonymous

    @ Aidan Coyle…As it was the worship the Church was built for, you would have thought he would have mentioned it. But then some Anglicans tend to want to airbrush the fact that, some of their Churches were once Roman, out of history.

  • Ed Tomlinson

    Given that it is claimed :

    For the record, our Anglican view is that York Minster is the product
    and expression of English Christianity, and belongs now as always to the
    people of England

    On what grounds are Ordinariate groups being forced from their buildings and banned from worshipping in any Anglican place? Are we not English?

  • Anonymous

    I think 500 years should be long enough for us to get over the Reformation. If as Keith Jones says, at times of worship entrance is free – then I feel it is understandable in order to preserve a historic British and Christian building. 

  • JonnyB

    I read (& responded to) your article, a few weeks ago, pointing out the clear misrepresentation in the way you adopt this sanctimonious & bitter attack. Your own words (& personal experience, as recounted by you) agree with the statement made by Rev Jones with regards to free entry for the purposes of worship.

    He, validly, responds by explaining that the suggested entry fee, for tourism, is (one of) the means by which the Minster is maintained & points out that you make no suggestion on how the Minster be maintained otherwise. What is *your* alternative suggestion for raising these necessary substantial funds?

    As for your, more recent, sidestep suggesting that the implication of your article was that *no* church buildings should have any sort of entry fee (suggested fee aimed at tourists, particularly), based on the principle of welcoming the previously unenlightened, I’d suggest the heading for your original piece was decidedly misleading, at best. At worst, it suggests you are now changing tack with a view to seeking a reason, any reason, to attack your “enemy”.

    Finally, and conversely, if the House of God should be free & open to any/all for the purposes of enlightenment, why are all churches not open 24/7?
    I regularly visit a country which is, for want of a better phrase, *very* Catholic. There are many beautiful places of worship, but all of them have certain times/days when you can, or cannot, enter & they all have very visible methods of collecting (visibly implied) donations. Are these places wrong, too? Are they not, in varying ways, also stopping “those whould enter out of curiosity…”?
    The answer to the questions I raised is that there is, simply, a valid reason for not being open 24/7 & suggesting donations. Whilst I made the point about a specific Catholic country, the same applies to pretty much all countries (certainly England) and, thus, the same valid reasons apply here, too.

    Unless, as Rev Jones intimated, you have an alternative suggestion which would facilitate the free & ready access to any/all Houses of God?

  • Anonymous

    Agreed — at least a small gesture toward the many victims of what historian Eamon Duffy called “the stripping of the altars” would have been appropriate. The hope for unity is nice, but he might have acknowledged that the blame for disunity lies almost entirely on the Anglican Church.

  • A Thomas Miller

    Mr Oddie’s last name is quite appropriate.

  • Anglican Catholic

    A group of Catholics were visiting Gloucester Cathedral and one was heard to say, “Of course this once belonged to us.” A guide who heard the remark replied, “It still would if you had behaved yourselves.”

    The Reformation happened for identifiable historical reasons, not all of which are creditable to the Catholic Church. Those who say we need to move on are surely right. Given that it happened how can we now grow into a new unity – if that really is what we want to do? Not by keeping on fighting old battles and insisting that only one side must be totally right. Pope Benedict for one seems to recognise that the Church of England has preserved valuable aspects of Christian truth which need to be brought into that new unity.

  • Fr Ian

    For eighteen months I had the privilege as a Catholic priest of being a regular visitor and celebrant during many liturgies in York Minster.  The Minster, as Revd Jones has said, is a focal point for the celebration of Christian Faith in York and as such has been able to support and encourage this without any compromise to any other church’s denominational integrity.  The Dean and Chapter extended to me every hospitality and courtesy, almost on a weekly basis, and I felt very much at home in this beautiful building.

    Now, returning to the issue about the family fiscal restraint which led the father of the family to believe that he could not avail of the opportunity to visit the interior of the Cathedral; I am sure that a quiet word with one of the attendants, or even the Chancellor through one of the Vestry staff, could very easily and without fuss, facilitated their access on that occasion. 

    I find myself rather embarrassed for the Dean and Chapter in light of Mr Oddie’s unfortunate article.  I hope Revd Jones will be assured of the many sentiments of gratitude owed to him and the Chapter in response to the Minster’s response to the needs of the Christian communities of the city and surrounding environs.

    Ian Evans.

  • paul smith uk