Two recent events have shaken me a bit: the first was the dispute in the Latim Mass Society: nothing much has been vouchsafed to us pewfodder yet, but it is clear that behind the scenes, at the top, not just of the LMS, but of the trad movement in England and Wales, there has been a rift, precisely when we needed both to have and to show a united front. The second was the extraordinary interview given by the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton to the Catholic Herald, and what can only be described as a set of bizarrely heterodox comments on the practice of the Faith.
When I started this blog a couple of years ago I raised something I had raised with the Editor of the Universe on his forum a couple of months earlier:
“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 .”I had thought that the Catholic blogosphere might be the answer to what I saw as something lacking, but, to my knowledge, with the exception of Damian Thompson the bloggers I most read share the self-censorship - well, self-restraint - of the Catholic press, whether from duty, obedience, propriety or whatever.
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.”
I'm not asking for a Catholic version of the News of the World, but something authoritative because of those who contribute to it, with a standpoint that is prepared to provide critical solidarity - challenge, but also support - might not come amiss, and might give Damian a break and a feeling that he is not alone.
Is this just me?