28 November 2006


So, another Catholic blog. Why?

I think that there is a gap in the market.

There is a wonderful variety of Traditionalist thought in the blogosphere: we can learn about the structure of the Liturgy through the ages; we can discuss the pros and cons of Pius XII’s reform of the Triduum; we can learn about the Pope’s gentle nudges of praxis in the Roman Rite towards what would have been for 1500 years or so both normative and normal.

But, at least in England and Wales, we have no mechanism for discussing what all of this means for our local Church. The Bishops’ Conference seems to think that the Church (quite possibly “Church”) is mainly about supporting CAFOD and its social agenda. At least one of its Bishops thinks he is (and describes himself as) generous in allowing Sunday Mass in the Old Rite in one parish his diocese and will not permit any extension.

And the Catholic press refuses to address any question which cannot be answered within its perception of what the Bishops might consider orthodox. In August, on the Universe’s forum, I posted a comment:

“What we don't have is a Catholic organ, loyal to the hierarchy, which feels able to question the direction of the Church in England and Wales ... because if any of these issues are ever aired, they are raised and answered in the same article, and according to the current orthodoxy.”

The Universe’s editor answered as follows:

“I was about to bash out yet another indignant reply pointing out that The Universe is a loyal organ that is constantly questioning and analysing general policies through its feature writers, then I came to the second part of your comment, and actually you’ve right, and you’ve hit on something really important here – how does one write a loyal but at the same time questioning article that doesn’t end up like a soggy pastry? I must admit we’ve tended to steer our writers (and they’ve steered themselves) towards a formula just such as Ttony has described – the message tends to end up the same whatever the subject – “doing great but could do better”. I must admit this has become so commonplace that I’ve all but banned headlines that include statements of the blindingly obvious like “Church could do more to ….” And “Our duty to ….” The real difficulty here is that natural journalistic instinct says that contributors and commentators should just be allowed to sound off (within reason) on any topic they feel very strongly about. The danger is a) that your Catholic paper ends up being a shooting gallery, and that b) we must never forget that Catholic papers have a dual role – to inform the faithful, but also as tools of positive evangelisation for non-Catholics that might pick them up. Critical comment can be indicative of a vibrant, open and developing Church, but right now ours isn’t and – most importantly – I don’t think everyone has the confidence or maturity to engage some of these contentious debates, though that’s changing through the unavoidable reality of decline, and the consequences that brings. When I was formulating the loyalty policy of The Universe, my own bishop, Edwin Regan, summed up what was needed from the Catholic press perfectly – the phrase he used was ‘critical solidarity’, which sounds to me exactly what Ttony is asking for.”

This is my problem. I think that “critical solidarity" would be great! But how does the average Catholic in England and Wales deepen his understanding of the major issue facing the Church today: the impoverishment of the Liturgy leading to the impoverishment of Catholic life; when there are no fora available to all in which such issues can be addressed?

Hence this blog. It’s not about the theology underpinning orthopraxis: that’s available all over the place. It’s not about the aetiology of the current crisis: there are thousands of sites on the Internet which can give blow by blow accounts of how we have got to where we are.

(I’m sure these issues will seep in: I’m only describing the gap the blog is aiming to fill.)

I want to offer a space for people to look at practicalities: what options does the Pope have? How do we reach the hierarchy in England and Wales? What chips do we have? How much worse will it get? Let’s stop considering the problem of traditional Catholicism as one of philosophical difference and instead start thinking about the steps we need to take to force our hierarchy to treat us: first as ordinary Catholics with a valid point of view; and then as a vanguard of change, the first fruits of a realisation that what happened in the 70s and 80s was a disastrous change in the Church’s relationship with its faithful and with the world.

My next post will look at the problems traditionalists have when trying to counter the modern view that the Liturgy should be adapted to suit the situation of modern man in the world. There are no easy answers.