Geoffrey has set about smiting bishops in the best Baptist fashion, and in truth, it is hard not to conclude that whatever has gone on with “Protect the Pope” could hardly have been handled worse. The one person emerging from it with great credit is Deacon Donnelly, who, in the great tradition of Padre Pio and Newman himself, has assented obediently to a decision which to others appears to be unreasonable; the contrast with Fr Corapi is instructive. Obedience is of no use if one only obeys once one is happy with the decision of one’s superior. The blog was excellent, and Dean Donnelly’s parting from it is of a piece with the conduct of a Christian gentleman. But before anyone throws things at Bishop Campbell, I think it only fair to note that his ‘side’ of this has not been heard any more than the Deacon’s has; there is a lot of windmilling in the dark here.
I can understand, and sympathise with, Geoffrey’s crossness with some of the language used by the diocese; I do wish that the Catholic Church was uniformly better at the public presentation of its message. But I also think it grossly unfair to compare Cardinal Nichols with either Marshal Petain or Pontius Pilate. He is certainly unpopular in the quarters where Deacon Donnelly’s blog is popular, but I deprecate the importation into the Catholic Church of the idiom of America’s ‘culture wars’; it has not done much for the tone of debate across the pond, and its effect has not been positive. If one casts one’s opponents as knaves at worst and fools at best, it seldom conduces to Christian dialogue. I have had examples of it here, and when I hear any blogger compare himself with Athanasius casting aspersions at the Arians, I stifle a longing to say ‘get a grip and look at yourself man’ – you are not the Patriarch of Alexandria and your opponents are not Arians. I am not clear that even then, such a tone helped.
The facts are not fully known to any of us commenting here. I take the point that if it looks like censorship and smells like it, it is; that is, I think, ill-advised, but then I do not know the facts. I think it equally ill-advised to use this as an opportunity to play out another episode of the popular Catholic drama, ‘Vatican II wars”. Those who see it as the origin of everything ill need to explain how the Church would have been spared the effects of the way modern Western society has gone by its absence; those who bang on about its ‘spirit’ have usually not read its letter. Pope Benedict was correct, it needs explaining in an hermeneutic of continuity, and we should not panic because the current Pope makes off the cuff remarks which do not coincide with Catholic teaching. His obiter dicta are not Catholic doctrine.
So, whilst enjoying Geoffrey’s splendid Swiftian satire, and the sound and fury of the Baptist roused like the village Hampden, and whilst deploring censorship, I am tempted to cite Mr Attlee’s comment to Professor Laski: “a period of silence from you would be welcome”. Some of the comments and their tone are helpful neither to the Deacon nor to the Church.