31 December 2008

Brooding And Pondering (And A Bit Long)

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 .”
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 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.

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?


Pastor in Valle said...

No, it isn't just you. Priests, at least, feel an obligation to acknowledge their promises of respect and obedience, made at ordination, which is more concrete than that which is expected of laity. And other Catholics feel naturally respectful of, and reluctant to publicly criticize, bishops.
Ironically, it just those who would by rights be most critical of the hierarchy who are prevented by their own criteria from actually letting rip. This never worried a liberal……

Patrick said...

No - you are far from alone. We desperately need something to challenge the baleful grip that the Tablet-Heythrop-Bishops Conference axis has on English Catholicism. Why aren't we making more headway with disaffected Anglicans? Why aren't we doing better at challenging the ridiculously lightweight nonsense being mouthed by atheists such a Richard Dawkins and Polly Toynbee? Why is there such slow progress on the liturgical front - not just the sabotaging of the Motu Proprio, but very little in the way of reform to the OF of the type that Pope Benedict evidently wants to see?

Rita said...

I agree with your sentiment though I can't read Damian Thompson's blog at all, I've tried but it isn't for me.

The difficulty for the laity is that obedience is paramount and a sense that complete rupture from the faithful who sit next to you at Mass, who read none of the Catholic press and who mistakenly think that it will only be a matter of time before the Church is ordaining women is not the way forward.

The blueprint for most Catholic blogs seems to be a way of gentle evangelisation and self-help therapy for the bloggers themselves. The blogs help to formulate their best and most prayerful way to reach out to the rest of the Church. We may just perhaps be in the front line of the reform of the reform; reaching places many of the clergy and the press can't reach. Perhaps we need no other voice of authority and plan of action than that of the Holy Father himself.

Happy New Year!
May God bless you and your family and your blog.

leutgeb said...

I'm with Rita.

I am deliberately positive on my blog because I believe that that is the only way to make any difference at all in a positive direction. I heavily self-censure what I write because on the rare occasion I go a bit ranty it tends to open the flood gates of even worse comments and that just does no good.

At the Faith And Family Conference Fr Luiz Ruscillo was very hot on everyone doing what needs to be done at a grass roots level. So that's what I'm trying to do.

John L said...

It is partly that a statement of the actual way things are, without any ranting or handwringing, is so grim that many people are afraid to make it - because others will resent hearing it. Saying that the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton is not a Catholic and ought to be removed immediately, but that he will not be removed because there is an official policy to preted that bishops like him are really Catholics who are a bit extreme or disloyal in some of their views, is going to cause a lot of upset among people who do not share the Bishop's opinions but are themselves believers. It brings to thier attention unpleasant realities that they spend a good deal of psychological energy concealing from themselves.

Anonymous said...

I've chosen prayer on my blog. I'm loyal to our Bishop, of course, but think he could do with a few people praying regularly for him Because I'm very poor at keeping to any kind of prayer resolutions, I've committed myself to putting a prayer on the blog evey day from Epiphany to Easter, which I offer for the Bishop. You are welcome to join me in offering this prayer whenever you like.