16 July 2010


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. 

09 July 2010

A New Blog

Here's a rather good idea.

Somebody who is receiving CTS pamphlets for review, when the paper which commissioned him to review them no longer wants to review them, is casting his reviews on to the tides of the Catholic blogosphere.

The CTS is one of the quiet success stories of the last few years: I expect that during the Very Bad Times it was expected that they would wither and die and so were left alone, but with a foundation, a back catalogue, and an understanding of what the market for pamphets really wants.

The column of pamphlets at the back of Church seems much more up to date than it used to, and these reviews will help point me to the ones I need to read, so that I can have a bit of foundation myself.

03 July 2010

Something I Hadn't Noticed

Edited to take account of Madame Evangelista's comment.

I've been trying to work out what it is about the Bishops' Conference that makes them so, well, different.  They seem to march to a different drum from many of us; they don't seem to like to make decisions on their own; they're just not what one expects of Bishops.  I might have hit on something.  If, like me, you remember the time when you went to University as a defining moment in growing up, you might find it strange that so few of our Bishops had that experience in that way.  Being 18 and suddenly being on your own, having to manage finances, make new friends, learn how to hold your drink, make outrageous mistakes and get away with it: in short, having to grow up.  Of course, you don't have to go to University to do this - you just have to leave home and set up shop somewhere.  But the University analogy is apt for people who are going away to study for a qualification; and the leaving home analogy isn't apt for people who leave their parents' home for a sort of religious boarding school where board and lodging is provided at somebody else's expense.  Of course all of the Bishops eventually were left to their own devices and had to sort of make do by themselves, but at a much later age, and when they were different people.

If you don't count being at a Seminary like Ushaw or Valladolid where you attend University classes (much less Rome), how many of our Bishops have had that experience?
  • Bishop Arnold – yes: a barrister
  • Bishop Brain - no
  • Bishop Budd - no
  • Bishop Burns - no
  • Bishop Campbell - no
  • Bishop Conry – no
  • Bishop Cunningham – no
  • Bishop Davies - no
  • Bishop Doyle – no
  • Bishop Drainey - no
  • Bishop Evans - no
  • Bishop Paul Hendricks - yes: a physicist who worked for two years for GEC
  • Bishop Hine (I can't find out about his education)
  • Bishop Hollis - yes read Modern History at Balliol
  • Bishop Hopes – trained as an Anglican priest
  • Archbishop Kelly – no
  • Bishop Kenney - no (though his experience in Sweden mark him out as differently formed)
  • Bishop Lang - no
  • Bishop Longley - yes: studied music at the  RNCM in Manchester and New College, Oxford
  • Bishop Lynch - no
  • Bishop McGough - no
  • Bishop Malcolm McMahon - yes Mechanical Engineering and worked for Daimler and London Transport
  • Bishop Thomas McMahon - no (though he trained in France, which is different)
  • Bishop Moth - no
  • Archbishop Nichols - no
  • Bishop Noble (I can't find out about his education)
  • Bishop Rawsthorne - no
  • Bishop Regan - no
  • Bishop Roche - no
  • Archbishop Smith - yes: Law degree from Exeter
  • Bishop Stack - no
  • Bishop Williams - no (in fact entered Junior Seminary aged 13 years old in 1961)

Now, there's nothing wrong with the formation any of them has had, nor is there any reason to expect that a Bishop should have gone to University.  But their background sets them apart from many of the people they have to deal with.
Is this why they have come to depend on the Tabletistas?

Incidentally the page here where they have published their CVs is illuminating in many respects.