I was moved to start this blog by a comment made by the Editor of The Universe about something I'd written:
“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.”
The problem is that I find myself in exactly the same position as the people I had been criticising: I want to write what I really think about some of the people exercising authority both in the Church in England and Wales, and in broader Catholic life (the Tablet Trust, the Catholic Union, Catholic Voices etc), but find myself unable to publish some things that I know, and some that I think, because they would give scandal.
The scandalous private life of a very senior Catholic person is crying out for exposure, but it will not be done by me; my Bishop is in a position vis-à-vis the magisterium that would be easily characterised as schismatic, but it won't be by me; you can fairly easily obtain tickets for Papal ceremonies in September that were allocated in the expectation that they would be issued to parishioners, but it won't be me saying how. Three examples of something I know about: lots of you know about others. And none of us feel able to say anything.
Æstivation: I shall retreat from the blog for the summer and watch and wonder and brood about just how far the leadership of the Catholic Church in England and Wales can take the ... let's say the mickey, before people like me turn on them with the wrath that (I increasingly feel) they are going to be visited with.