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February 17, 2015

A Catholic Vicar of Bray

The Vicar of Bray, lampooning the conformist, wind-trimming tendencies of many Anglican clergy, was one of the most incisive songs of the 18th century. It is ironic that many 21st century Catholic clergy qualify for similar satirical treatment.  An Australian priest of traditional leanings came up with The Parish Priest of Bray. It is interesting to compare the two songs.



In good King Charles’s golden days,

When loyalty no harm meant,

A zealous High Churchman was I,

And so I got preferment;

To teach my flock I never miss’d,

Kings were by God appointed,

And damn’d are those that do resist,

Or touch the Lord’s anointed.



And this is law, I will maintain,

Until my dying day, Sir,

That whatsoever King may reign,

Still I’ll be the Vicar of Bray, Sir.


When royal James obtain’d the crown,

And Pop’ry came in fashion,

The penal laws I hooted down,

And read the Declaration;

The Church of Rome I found would fit

Full well my constitution;

And I’d have been a Jesuit

But for the Revolution.


When William was our King declar’d,

To ease a nation’s grievance,

With this new wind about I stirr’d,

And swore to him allegiance;

Old principles I did revoke,

Set conscience at a distance;

Passive obedience as a joke,

A jest was non-resistance.


When gracious Anne became our Queen,

The Church of England’s glory,

Another face of things was seen,

And I became a Tory,

Occasional Conformists base,

I damn’d their moderation,

And thought the Church in danger was,

By such prevarication.


When George in pudding time came o’er,

And mod’rate men look’d big, Sir,

I turn’d a cat-in-pan once more,

And so became a Whig, Sir;

And thus preferment I procur’d,

From our new faith’s defender,

And almost ev’ry day abjur’d

The Pope and the Pretender.


Th’ illustrious house of Hanover,

And Protestant succession,

To these I do allegiance swear,

While they can keep possession;

For in my faith and loyalty

I never more will falter

And George my lawful King shall be,

Until the times do alter.




In great Pope Pius’ golden days

Before the revolution

I swung my censer every week

I gave swift absolution.

My music was Gregorian,

On Holy day and High day.

I knew my rubrics inside out,

I ate no meat on Friday.


REFRAIN: (between each verse)

And this is law, I will maintain,

Until my dying day, Sir,

That whatsoever pope may reign,

I still shall lead the way, Sir!


When good Pope John assumed the throne

And called his famous Council,

As wise peritus I did serve,

But took the middle ground, Sir.

Old principles I would uphold

But change their application

And thus acquire a much desired

But fleeting reputation.


I took the lone heroic path

That all the world was taking.

For mediaeval night was done,

Enlightened dawn was breaking.

Denunciations old and stale,

I said we should withdraw ’em

Of Rousseau, Marx and those who fill

the Syllabus Errorum


In the Paul the Sixth’s betroubled  reign,

An Age of  Contradiction,

The all-renewing Council was

A cause of constant friction.

All its decrees were pastoral,

it made no definition:

But he who dared to question it

was fated to perdition.


And now that all in chaos lies

And churches are forsaken,

My curate is to Cuba gone,

And I a wife have taken.

I deck my flat with disused tat,

By way of quaint memento.

And trust the reigning pontiff won’t

Reverse aggiornamento!




One comment

  1. Of course, this could not possibly refer to Fr John O’Connell, the retired ‘pastor emeritus’ of Holy Redeemer parish in Bray, Co Wicklow, who is noted for his loyalty to the Church

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