Thursday 1 May 2014

The Apostle in Lancaster

Bishop Michael Campbell, the successor of the apostles in Lancaster, my home diocese, is coming in for a lot of criticism on the Catholic blogosphere at present.

That has been sparked by the controversy over the suspension of the Protect the Pope blog, about which I have blogged previously (here).

Deacon Nick has behaved in an exemplary fashion in his obedience to his bishop.  He has also made it clear both that the media reporting of the incident (eg in The Tablet) has been error-strewn, and also that he finds it very frustrating to read people's assumptions.

So my plea is this: let us not assume anything about this situation. Nick is clearly not able to say much about it; the bishop has said very little (and he may have good reasons for that).  Yet many on the Catholic blogosphere assume that they know the bishop's motives and that they were not good: he has been explicitly accused of injustice, and implicitly of much besides.

But I know that +Campbell is not some liberal time server.  He has done much that orthodox Catholics should applaud.  He encourages Confession actively with his "the Light is on for you" project.  He allows a monthly Sunday Mass in the EF in his Cathedral, and is attending a High Mass (EF) in the near future. He has invited two excellent nuns in to support the University Chaplaincy at Lancaster, which has recently hosted a Plainchant workshop for students...

Nor is he under the thumb of the CBCEW. Do you imagine he wins many plaudits there by inviting the Institute of Christ the King to run a parish in Preston?

I think it is unhealthy for Catholics to assume a bishop to be malign based on insubstantial information, and most unhelpful for them then to make a lot of noise to that effect.

We do not know what has happened behind the scenes with regard to the Protect the Pope blog. We may find out, in due course, and if +Campbell has behaved poorly I will shout as loudly as everyone.  But we don't know that he has, and it is both unjust and imprudent to assume that he has.  There are other possible explanations that reflect well on him, without denigrating the good work Deacon Nick has done.  I won't enumerate them, as Nick has made it clear he does not like reading such assumptions, and I think his reasonable wishes in that regard should be honoured.

For myself, I think my bishop deserves to be regarded as innocent until proven guilty; and moreover, honoured and supported for the good (and in some cases courageous) steps he has taken.


Ruari said...

I take your point Ben (MADE UP NAME!!!) and agree totally that traduci g should be avoided.

My emotion is puzzlement. I'm puzzled and have difficulty explaining why this has been done. PtP began at a time of hostility, with a growing apparent wave of protest likely to erupt when HH Bendict visited this country. It was a brave step to take and it became a valuable virtual meeting point and resource for Catholics looking to stand up for the Pope and to have the resources to enable them to do so.

As you say, no doubt the truth will out at some point. It would be helpful to all if it did so sooner rather than later - within reason, of course.

Misericordia said...

Are you sure that there is a weekly Traditional Mass in the cathedral? The LMS listings suggest the TLM is celebrated there once a month only.

Ben Trovato said...


Thanks: you are quite right and I have corrected the error. Thanks.

Maria said...

An orthodox deacon whose mission was to defend the teaching of the Catholic Church has been told by a Bishop to desist. Remarkable. I wonder how this would have appeared in the Screwtape letters? I think you are wrong about this Ben. By the way - why does your blog not take anon comments when you are anon??? I am not prepared to be identified because, as a Catholic teacher , I don't want the diocese to know I am supporting someone like Protect The Pope - you know how it is....

Deacon Augustine said...

You are right to say that assumptions of ill will should not be made against Bishop Campbell. He could easily have averted these, however, if a rationale had been given when the blog was banned.

On the face of it, this seems to be a draconian measure, especially in the apparent absence of any canonical process against Deacon Nick. This is the kind of canonical penalty that is meted out only to the very worst heretics these days.

The bishop could at least have made some statement to the effect that Deacon Nick's good standing is intact.

Ben Trovato said...


No idea why the blog won't accept anonymous comments: I imagine it's a default set by blogspot: I don't recall choosing that option (though I may have done).

I think the way you (and others) characterise what has happened is partial and therefore (albeit inadvertently) prejudicial. Partial because we do not know all the facts.

Deacon Augustine,

I can (quite easily) construct hypothetical scenarios in which the course of action you advocate would not be appropriate for the bishop, and which reflect well on him and Nick.

I don't know, obviously, if any of them apply: I only know that a negative judgement of the bishop is not the only possible one, and therefore I challenge it as the default position of the Catholic blogosphere.

Catholic Mission said...

Diocese of Lancaster is suppressing information about the Catholic Church and misrepresenting Vatican Council II

Bishop Michael Campbell of Lancaster closes Protect the Pope news service and forum

Maria said...

Thank you Ben. You are right that any views expressed on this are partial (including yours I think ) because we do not have the full facts. I don't think we need to know names etc but it would be helpful if the Bishop could let us know why Nick's blog is harmful for us ..... after all we do not want to be led astray by someone else doing the same thing . Our shepherds are supposed to lead us , guide us and protect us .If this blog was not good I want to know why so I can avoid similar blogs in the future .

Ben Trovato said...


I think your question begs another one. I do not know that the Bishop has asked Nick not to blog because his blog is harmful to us (indeed, I think that is quite an unlikely explanation). It could be for quite different reasons.

Maria said...

We are going round in circles now. We need some clarity . ( by the way - I don't believe Nick's blog is damaging to the Church but by supressing it without clarification the Bishop is implying that it is...)

Maria said...

Sorry Ben - it looks as though Bishop Campbell has answered my questions fully and clearly now .