Cardinal seeks to silence journalist
As may be gleaned from Mr Thompson’s latest book – Counterknowledge – he is not too keen on conspiracies, and yet according to Father Ray Blake of St Mary Magdalene Church in Brighton, the hierarchy is indeed conspiring to silence Mr Thompson. If private words are being had and secret meetings are being held between Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Papal Nuncio, the Barclay brothers (who are Roman Catholic), the owner and chairman of the Catholic Herald and the editors of two national newspapers, Mr Thompson would do well to re-appraise his aversion to the phenomenon.
The principal contention is that Damian Thompson is using his position(s) to undermine the authority of the Cardinal and other bishops who are not fully supportive of the direction in which Pope Benedict XVI is leading his church – in particular on his decision to reintroduce the Latin Mass – the Extraordinary Rite – and his more than direct challenge the ‘liberal’ consensus which has permeated since Vatican II.
Mr Thompson – whom The Church Times once called a ‘blood-crazed ferret’ (an insult which he appears to sport with pride) - is simply being loyal to his Holy Father. He wants proper liturgy and a Catholic theology which resonates with history, and it is his considered opinion that the English hierarchy are obstructing the Pope at every turn. And by injecting a little democracy into the theocracy, he is accused of dabbling with Protestantism (i.e., supping with the Devil) and derided for doing so. He has not quite nailed his 95 theses to the door of Westminster Cathedral, but he has done the internet virtual equivalent.
The Catholic Herald is invariably forthright in its views (readers of The Tablet may put it less politely) and, as Fr Blake observes, Damian Thompson ‘can be outrageous at times’, but that is indeed the function of a journalist in a free, open and democratic society. It is unacceptably manipulative of the Cardinal to try to gag The Catholic Herald and treat The Tablet as though it were the ‘tolerant’ and ‘enlightened’ voice of ‘authentic Catholicism’ in England, and attempts to do so confirm the suspicion that there is an undeniable epistemic distance between the hierarchy and laity.
For many, The Catholic Herald is the church’s Daily Telegraph: it is real, traditional theological meat. But The Tablet is the voice of the Guardianistas: it is nothing more than diluted milk; insipid, obsessed with 60’s hippy compromises and the trendy innovations of Vatican II. Cranmer finds these positions as mutually exclusive as many frequently accuse the Church of England of possessing, yet the Church of England genuinely attempts to be as broad as the Roman Catholic Church attempts to be catholic. But one thing is certain: the Archbishop of Canterbury has never sought to silence his journalistic critics (and they are legion), and neither has he attempted to gag the free press.
The accusations being levelled against Mr Thompson include all the usual labels which are invariably hurled when Christians disagree: thus he is being ‘un-Christian’, ‘hurtful’, ‘uncharitable’, ‘insensitive’, ‘intolerant’, ‘bigoted’ and so on. But such terms are the last refuge of the ignorant; those who possess neither the emotional strength nor the intellectual capacity to conduct an argument by rational and reasonable means, and so they close it down, resolving nothing, thereby further dividing the already fragmented and imperfect communion.
Whether Damian Thompson is a ‘blood-crazed’, self-obsessed, self-appointed defender of Catholic orthodoxy, or an intelligent and enlightened commentator with conviction and integrity, Cranmer would like to remind the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster that this is England in the 21st century, not Spain of the 16th, and Damian Thompson has every right to comment freely without interference from either Church or the State. And if the owners or editors of national newspapers succumb to such bullying, then that is newsworthy in itself, and Cranmer fully expects The Catholic Herald, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, the BBC and The Sun to take the matter up vehemently and vociferously.
Failing that, Father Ray appears to be a useful and reliable source of intelligence, despite his rather dim and patronising view of Protestants.