Monday 17 March 2014

Over Reactions

I have refrained from joining in the conversation about the Protect The Pope furore until now, as I wanted to reflect further on it.

I have followed Deacon Nick's posts for a long time, and as I said here, I think he is doing an important job, even if I don't always agree with him, or with the tone of some of his posts.

However, I do think that the reaction to the story by many of his supporters has been an over-reaction.

Many are talking as though he is 'being silenced' for his defence of orthodoxy. 

However, he is not 'being silenced.' Rather he has been asked to take a break from his blog, voluntarily, to reflect and pray about his work.

We do not know the context, in terms of any previous conversations, nor the reasons for the bishop's request. It seems at least as likely, to me, that the bishop is concerned about the tone, as much as the content, of some posts.  

Whilst Nick is doughty in his defence of Orthodoxy, for which I admire him greatly, he does also seem to me sometimes to interpret things in a particular way that is not necessarily the most obvious or likely, and also sometimes to be intemperate and over-personal in his criticisms.

It does not seem unreasonable to me to expect bloggers in Holy Orders to be held to particularly high standards when they blog.  Indeed, I would like to see more bishops taking more steps to maintain the high standards of public pronouncement by those under their authority.

But the reaction has been extraordinarily strong, and the criticisms of the bishop very wide-ranging.  He is the bishop of my diocese, and I think much of the criticism is unfair. His remains, for example, the only Cathedral (addendum: other than Portsmouth - see below) in the country with a Traditional Mass said in it every Sunday - hardly the mark of the raving anti-traditional liberal some paint him as.

As I say, I think much of the wider criticism is unfair and uncharitable.

For example, people are citing as evidence of the bishop's 'inconsistency' the fact that the diocesan blog linked to a particularly Tabletish Tablet article. I would dare wager the bishop did not know about that. It was, I understand, an automated feed, and indeed has now been removed.

I worried myself that the ACTA crowd were allowed to hold a meeting in Bishop's House. However, on reflection, it seems more likely that was a decision by a secretary rather than the bishop himself.

Another charge laid at the door of +Campbell seems to be that he hasn't taken action against those undermining Church teaching, such as the Tablet. But that really is outside his jurisdiction.  I have blogged before about what I see as the problems of collegiality amongst our bishops, but that is a problem that any one bishop would be hard-pressed to sort on his own.

My point is this: whilst (as Deacon Nick has often pointed out, just as I have myself) there are real causes for concern in the Church in this country at the moment, it helps nobody if people who want to uphold orthodoxy take up any stick to beat any bishop.

Our first instinct should be loyalty to our bishops, and respect for their office.  That does not mean blind obedience, or obsequious acquiescence if they are on the wrong track.  But it does mean we should pause, at least, before we criticise (and Heaven knows, I am talking as much to myself here, as to anyone else...)

And in this particular case, I think such a pause, and some sober reflection (and even prayer) might have led people to view this a little differently - or indeed to recognise they did not really have enough information to form a fair view at all.

The alternative may be very gratifying, but we risk making things worse rather than better.  +Campbell's predecessor, +O'Donoghue took a remarkable course towards the end of his time as active Diocesan Bishop.  But if he had been harried by the well-meaning but mis-guided, I wonder if he would have done so.  Attacking +Campbell unjustly is hardly likely to win him over to the views of those who attack him.

I think a period of prayer and reflection all round would be a good idea.


I am informed that there is also a weekly Usus Antiquior Mass in Portsmouth Cathedral. My researches suggest that this is a Low Mass at 8.00 am every Sunday. Deo gratias.


Patricius said...

Phew! At last a post on this topic with which I can heartily agree! I, too, have valued Deacon Nick's posts- especially, the early ones but found myself wondering if he had "lost the plot" somewhat in mid-December. There is a particular danger in the world of the internet to respond to every little tremor as if were an undoubted earthquake. Indeed, it MAY be such, but then, again, it may not. A sense of perspective demands an ability to stand back. In other words- a little time given over to prayer and reflection. Which of us wouldn't benefit from those?

Trisagion said...

Sorry to nitpick, but it is not the only Cathedral to have a Mass in the usus antiquior every a Sunday. Portsmouth does too.

Ben Trovato said...


Thanks for your comments - and I agree with your analysis. I think if one spends one's time as a heresy-hunter, one may start to see them in any shadow... It is a risk inherent in the role.


Thanks for your correction. Nits like that should certainly be picked, and I am pleased to learn of the Sunday morning Mass in Portsmouth Cathedral.

In this, and every, post, I am always keen for correction when I get something wrong: it is how I learn.