Roman Catholic bishop *did* silence 'Protect the Pope' blog
A few months ago, His Grace reported on the sorry plight of Deacon Nick Donnelly, founder of the robustly orthodox Protect the Pope blog, who had been muted (temporarily) by the Roman Catholic hierarchy (ie Bishop Michael Campbell in the Diocese of Lancaster). Essentially, Deacon Nick is just a bit too Catholic for the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, who clearly leaned on Bishop Michael to encourage the blogging Deacon to tone down his criticisms of certain bishops, archbishops and cardinals who are not (in the Deacon's judgment) being wholly faithful to the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church, especially with regard to an apparent increasingly permissive stance on abortion, contraception, same-sex partnerships and divorce.
And so Deacon Nick was "requested..to voluntarily pause" by the Bishop, and made to feel (if not appear to his irate readership) that he was somehow in the wrong. We were led to believe that this enforced "period of reflection" was confined to the Lenten season, so the Deacon's wife, Martina, kept things faithfully ticking over for 40 days and 40 nights while her husband was voluntarily pausing and freely reflecting in the wilderness. The whole Roman Catholic Blogosphere (along with His Grace) was looking forward to his return for Holy Week, if not soon afterwards.
But then, out of the blue, came the announcement: "Bishop Michael Campbell effectively closes Protect the Pope." And we were informed by Mrs Donnelly:
Bishop of Lancaster, has refused Nick’s request to resume news posting on Protect the Pope. Bishop Campbell has also stated that he does not want anyone posting on Protect the Pope on Nick’s behalf.This met with a swift and firm rebuttal from the Diocese of Lancaster: "Bishop Campbell did not close down Protect the Pope", they snarled.
Although I have been news posting on my own behalf on the site, I now feel unable to continue.
Protect the Pope will close as a news service on Sunday 4th May, the Feast of the English Martyrs to allow a short period for readers of Protect the Pope to say goodbye to each other.
Now, much may hang on Mrs Donnelly's use of the word 'effectively', for, while the Bishop robustly denies that he has not closed down the blog, Mrs Donnelly is clearly of the opinion that that is precisely the effect of his censorious directions.
Consider the Bishop’s latest account of events and compare that with posts on 'Protect the Pope', in particular the original post which Mrs Donnelly wrote and the first press release issued by the Bishop. The latest statement from the Diocese explains (emphasis added):
Consequently, as a last resort, on 3 March 2014 and in a personal meeting with Deacon Nick Donnelly, I requested, as his Diocesan Ordinary, that Deacon Nick ‘pause’ all posting on the Protect the Pope website so as to allow for a period of prayer and reflection upon his position as an ordained cleric with regards to Protect the Pope and his own duties towards unity, truth and charity. The fact that this decision and our personal dialogue was made public on the Protect the Pope site and then misinterpreted by third parties is a matter of great regret. In fact, new posts continued on the site after this date – the site being handed over and administered/moderated in this period by Deacon Nick’s wife Martina.But the post on 'Protect the Pope' announcing Deacon Nick's standing down for a period of prayer and reflection does not mention the Bishop at all, and discloses no details whatsoever of their private dialogue. Deacon Nick has rather too much spiritual integrity and respect for authority to blurt out what passes in confidence between a deacon and his bishop.
Sadly, the same cannot be said of Bishop Michael. From the Diocese’s first statement issued to the press (subsequently posted on 'Protect the Pope'), it is manifestly evident that it was the Bishop who first disclosed details of their personal dialogue. And nowhere does he request a cessation of all posting.
The Bishop also states:
On 13 April 2014 Deacon Nick requested in writing that he be allowed to resume posting again from the date: Monday 21 April 2014. I did not accept this request as the period of discernment had not yet concluded. Again,(?) the fact that this decision was forced, misinterpreted and then released publicly on the site – and miscommunicated by certain media outlets and blogs – claiming that I had effectively ‘closed’, ‘supressed’ (sic) or ‘gagged’ Protect the Pope was regrettable and does not represent the truth of this situation. To be clear: I have not closed down Protect the Pope.The post on 'Protect the Pope' announcing the Bishop’s effective closure of the blog refers to the fact that the Bishop stated that he did not now want anyone posting on behalf of Deacon Nick. Note that the Bishop’s statement does not refer to his apparently new direction that not only is Deacon Nick prohibited (voluntarily) from posting on the blog, but now no one at all may do so.
His Grace is not known for his mental fatuity, injudiciousness or spiritual nescience, but if Bishop Michael Campbell permits neither Deacon Nick nor anyone else to post new material on the 'Protect the Pope' blog, has the Bishop not effectively shut it down?
The Bishop ends his refutation with a swift slap to Deacon Nick and a cruel swipe at Mrs Donnelly: "I am, of course, also conscious, that no bishop can ever ‘close down’ or supress (sic) blogs and websites – such a claim would be absurd."
Absurd? So the Deacon is a bit wacky and the Deacon's wife is being somewhat hysterical.
Yet it has been seen time and again that not only diocesan bishops but also archbishops and cardinals can go to great efforts to muzzle troublesome journalists. What Time observed of the Pope may be said of the whole hierarchy: "..behind his self-effacing facade..(lies) a very canny operator." The reality is that while Pope Benedict XVI reigned, Deacon Nick was secure in his corrective admonishments. Now that Pope Francis occupies the Throne of St Peter, the progressive Catholic Bishops of England and Wales sense the winds of change and feel emboldened to clamp down on the troublesome traditionalist.
The Bishop rebukes his Deacon for making "ad hominem and personal challenges" which, aside from being a manifest tautology, amounts to an ad hominem attack on the Deacon himself, instead of reasoned engagement with the doctrinal issues he raises; for 'Protect the Pope' was concerned with matters of theological orthodoxy, spiritual truth and doctrinal rectitude, and a 21st-century Roman Catholic deacon may be as burdened with these as a 16th-century Roman Catholic monk.
The great irony is that by issuing his damning statement, Bishop Michael Campbell has not only trashed the spiritual integrity and reputation of his Deacon; he has committed the very mortal sin of which he asserts the Deacon is culpable - that of fomenting internal dissent and fracturing the internal unity of the Holy Mother Church by slandering certain members of its leadership. The Bishop is being blatantly duplicitous if not purposely deceitful by pretending that a prohibition on Deacon Nick or anyone else posting on 'Protect the Pope' does not amount to the blog's enforced closure.
Now that 'Protect the Pope' has been effectively closed down, someone needs urgently to establish 'Defend the Deacon'. Either that, or 'Beseech the Bishop'.