According to Blogger's stats, this is the thousandth post on this blog in the nine years I have been running it, so I thought it might be worth a drop of introspection.
Like a few others, I came to Blogger from the forum which was maintained by The Universe. I think I was probably active on it from 2002-2006, and it was there that I met the power of the Internet for the propagation of the Faith, and of matters related to the propagation of the Faith.
It was a heady time: before Summorum Pontificum, while CMO'C was still Archbishop in Westminster, before those infused with the Spirit of Vatican II had learned that the Internet could be ignored. Here, in this anarchic counter-cultural medium, the forces of Reaction were gathering: meeting, arguing, discussing, grouping. The forum wasn't enough, however: it was, well, a forum: a forum with an immense range of subjects, and that meant that the channels for discussion were often clogged and real debate was difficult. It is a matter of great credit to the Editor, Joe Kelly, that he allowed his paper to host the first gathering point for what would become the Catholic Blogosphere in England and Wales, and that, even if he was not totally comfortable with what those using his forum were using it for, he didn't close it down, at least not until it had outlived its usefulness to the community which used it.
I often wonder where Carlo-who coined the wonderfully useful catch-all phrase "ladies in green cardigans"-ended up on the Internet: I wanted to start a rumour that when The Universe's Forum changed he was so disgruntled that he turned into Mundabor, but decided not to. The gathering point for Catholics of a more traditionalist bent was a lifeline, and those who didn't, or couldn't, hang on are people to pray for, to worry about, not to joke about.
So a few of us graduated to the new marvel: blogs. We were a small community and (sort of) knew each other in a way that wouldn't be possible now. Fr Ray Blake and I, for example, both watched after Moretben, later Anagnostis, who had been MTV on the Universe's forum, but who wrote, here, possibly the most moving tribute from one Catholic to another I have ever seen on the Internet. What a pity (for us, not for him) that this was midway through what both Fr Ray and I had understood as a swimming of the Bosphorus: Ben was a Greek Orthodox in a Catholic body, and was one of the last to realise it.
Fr Tim and the Pastor in Valle (both sporting variants on the same surname) electrified us by starting from a position that traditional was normal. The 1962 Mass, for them, wasn't something hole-in-corner which they did in spite of their Bishops: it was a natural part of their priesthood. Pope Benedict's Motu Proprio met an audience which had been educated by priests like these to view the Mass not as a place of discord but as a place where we could meet 2000 years of History.
So I decided to blog. I had to go to Australia and New Zealand for my work and spent the flights out and back drafting out ideas for five posts: if I could do five, I would be in, I decided. My manifesto, on starting out was as follows:
So, another Catholic blog. Why?
I think that there is a gap in the market.
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.
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
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:
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.”
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
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.)
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.
I'm pretty confident that that gap is still there. The world has seen what I have prattled about in a thousand posts and has moved on to look for somebody who might have something more useful to say: I'm not actually convinced that anybody can plug it.
We've learned subsequently that for a period the Bishops' Conference, or perhaps better, its staffers, were worried about Catholic bloggers: there was a period in which bloggers were something to be worried about, just as tweeters are sometimes worried about now, as though they were people who were powerful because they commanded a strong position. What it really shows is that the Bishops' Conference was a generation behind the bloggers, and once it had been reassured by one or two more tech-savvy people, it realised that it could ignore bloggers in exactly the same way as it had ignored all orthodox Catholic lay people and priests since the end of the 1960s.
(They still worry a bit about the potential of the Internet, though, and there are two stories I could tell, and will one day, about how we did cause real commotion; the only reason for not doing so is that the techniques we used will probably work again. If they do, it will probably be a sign that Richard Collins is smiling down on us.)
This is, of course, about England and Wales: things are different elsewhere, but we can learn from how bloggers blog elsewhere.
There is still a vibrancy in the Blogosphere: Father Hunwicke, for example, is using his blog as part of a teaching ministry that is introducing cradle Catholics to a world of truth and tradition they never knew existed. There is a massive list of British Catholic bloggers, and look at my sidebar to see the blogs I read every time they are updated. It is unfair to mention just a few names, but there you go: Ben, Mark, James, Rita, Mac, Mary and Lazarus are just a few of the names I look out for. Eccles never fails to make me laugh. Damian Thompson speaks truth to power and, perhaps uniquely, is listened to: we need to make sure he knows what's going on. A whole set of priests are using this medium for evangelisation: not just sermonising, though for those of us whose Sunday experience is a bit rocky, a prperly prepared sermon posted online is a great support, but the authentic voice of consecrated men bringing their faith, our faith, into the world.
Many of us have moved to Twitter to complement our blogging, and I think it's self-evident that traditional Catholicism (perhaps defined as Catholicism which is wholly sceptical of the Spirit of Vatican II) has a voice in England and Wales. Ultimately, we
have come to understand that the blogs are here for us to confirm each
other. We use Twitter to chat, but we blog when we have something to
say; and we don't blog, when, for example consule Pope Francis, we feel that we oughtn't blog.
These blogs are the voice of a group of people who stay together in spite of the structures of the Church, not because of them. We are as welcome in them as we were nine years ago: grudgingly, and only at certain times. We are disheartened as we see ourselves ignored and traduced, as organisations like ACTA try to represent themselves as our spokesmen, as our Bishops say things that sound like a surrender to the world, as we endure terrible liturgies, but we don't give up. We are Catholics and we are proud enough of being Catholics that we will continue to proclaim our Catholicism.
And we have fun, and I'm not completely convinced that they do.