Monday, 18 November 2013

Protect the Pope: the publican or the pharisee?

It is some considerable time now since Protect the Pope appeared on my side bar; I took it off because, if I am quite honest, I got a bit fed up of the harping/antagonistic tenor of many, though not all, of its posts. I also felt that it was not trustworthy as a news source - not that it was deliberately dishonest, but that I felt I could never quite trust it enough not to want to check out what it said from other sources before relying on it. It had become very difficult to separate the blogger's spin from the news story itself. And that was quite a considerable time ago. I have never felt the need to put it back on my side bar.

One might benignly forgive the pontificating - that is, the desire to busily tell others, particularly those in ecclesial authority, how they should be living out their Christian vocations.  See here for a recent example, or perhaps reflect on the implications of the erstwhile excommunication of Enda Kennedy portrayed in the side bar. [In this latter case, one might want to suggest that Mr Kennedy might have better represented the Catholic point of view in the political sphere ... but that has a definite dose of humility about it rather than busily telling bishops how to live out their vocations.]

One is less forgiving of those posts where, essentially, Protect the Pope has just got it plain wrong. I think of his post on Philomena, upon which you will recognise my own comment. This was something I was familiar with because I had seen the film (my own post on it is here) and could comment on it - but I just wonder how many other posts at Protect the Pope, about which I do not know the background, are just as unreliable as this one was. And yet, it was all stated with such confidence (and considerable levels of what I remember being termed "glosses" - aside marginal additional comments - when many years ago I studied Nestle-Aland's critical apparatus to the New Testament Greek text). And with the support of commenters who appear to be a rather uncritical fan club and appeared to have not seen the film itself. I was tempted to comment again, to the effect that Protect the Pope and his commenters might want to ride the train of anti-Catholic media and attach all sorts of different carriages to that train, perhaps quite justifiably or perhaps not ... but that Philomena was a carriage that definitely would not belong on that train as it had the wrong gauge and would only derail the whole train by undermining its credibility.

One cannot forgive a post that is just plain cyberbullying,  I refer to the attack on Mike Conway. There is a hefty dose of getting it wrong again - just look at the spin put on Mike Conway's letter, which completely distorts its intention, and the complete failure to understand any idea of a dialogue as per the "Court of the Gentiles" that underpins the publication of the article about Peter Tatchell. Protect the Pope might not have published that article, and, if he had done so, might not have been as unqualified in the praise of Peter Tatchell as Mike Conway appears to have been. He is quite entitled to explain why, but to then turn that into pontificating about what Mike Conway and others should or should not be doing .... The advocacy among the comments of sending emails to Mike is clearly bullying. [Everything I know about Alive Publishing suggests that they are a positive apostolate in the Church - a couple of years ago they even published an article by me on Edith Stein, for heaven's sake!]

I would suggest that those who "like" Protect the Pope as a defender of the faith might like to consider more carefully how far he is actually reliable in this regard. The more thoughtful among us do not find him always credible - and that does matter as much as hits. And, of course, one takes one's life in one's hands (in blog/web terms at least) by offering criticism such as that in this post ....

Which leads me to ask of Protect the Pope: in the Gospel story, is he the publican or the Pharisee?


Wayne Kelland said...

Well said and very courageous of you. As well as factually incorrect Pope the Protect attempts to foster anger and conflict in the name of the Pope. I understand Nick Donnelly is a permanent deacon - I cannot understand why his bishop has not had discussions with him about his blog's uncharitable tone, if not the content as well. In my opinion, his blog caused scandal to the faithful.

W L Weber said...

You not-so-bravely attack Deacon Donnelly from behind a veil of anonymity. Where is the integrity of that?

Wake Up England.

Joe said...

This blog is not anonymous. I have maintained a consistent media identity ever since starting it. If you want to see the contours of that identity, just read back through the posts. It is not an unusual practice to not display one's full identity in electronic media - it is nowadays a standard part of e-safety advice. [There are plenty of people out there blogging who do actually know me, from personal contact, in any case.] If you follow the links in this post you can find my full name .. but I am not sure what that adds for you.

It is, of course, quite possible to reply to the points made in the post ....

Lynda said...

Disgraceful to attack the integrity of Deacon Donnelly who tells the truth without fear or favour. Everything he relates is of utmost importance to faith and morals, and he always upholds the unchangeable Deposit of Faith. Those who speak the truth, are always attacked with slurs and innuendo against their character.

Joe said...

That is, Lynda, unless the points that I made above (admittedly expressed in a particular genre), are true. In which case they have the character of rightful comment rather than attack on integrity.

1. Deacon Donnelly's post on Philomena accused the makers of the film of deliberately maligning the character of a particular sister. This was "gloss" added to the report from the Tablet and was not supported by the content of the film itself. See my comment to that effect, supported by another commenter, at Protect the Pope, to see why I believe this to be the case. I think it is fair to indicate that Deacon Donnelly's posts do regularly carry such not-always-accurate "glosses" - and particularly on those posts relating to bishops.
2. It is perfectly legitimate to question the appropriateness of repeatedly criticising how others, particularly those holding ecclesial office, live out their vocations in the Church. That does not preclude comment on it - but Deacon Donnelly is in reality about something other than the due comment.
3. The behaviour shown towards Mike Conway was/is a form of cyberbullying. It goes significantly beyond the "taking criticism" that it claims to be. (I think Fr Tim has posted on the Faith Today article in a way that does represent a legitimate way of offering criticism of it). Whatever one might think about the article that prompted this, the bullying is out of order.
4. I do think there is a real question to be considered about the appropriateness of having a kind of banner campaign in favour of the excommunication of another person. And yes, I am quite aware of all the background, and do not ignore it. Again, there is something other going on here than due comment.

I think those that see Deacon Donnelly's posts solely in terms of "fearlessly defending the faith" should pause and think about this.

William Weber said...

Are you supporting Enda Kenny, then?

Do you support his abortion bill in Ireland which is now law there?

Do you support his receiving Holy Communion?

Do you uphold the Canon Law on the subject of the excommunication of those who facilitate abortions?

Do you support Kenny's "excommunicating" Catholic members of his own party for voting AGAINST abortion?

I do not regularly read your blog and I find it difficult to sympathise with your desire for partial anonymity.

Why not just say who you are in the same way as Nick Donnelly does? What are you scared of?

Wake Up England.

Joe said...


1. I have answered the point on anonymity above.
2. Be careful not to make the assumptions you might want to make about the answers to your other questions ....

Tina Tristram said...

I find the comments on here by the supporters of the Protect the Pope blog to be offensive in their accusatory tone and a form of cyber-bullying. The criticisms made of the PtP blog were well mannered and reasoned (even if you don't agree with them). Responses should be similarly charitable. Since the PtP blog purports to act in the Holy Father's name, I think it would be well advised for all to mind their manners! Would Francis be favourable to such malignant comments? I doubt so very much.

Joe said...

Fr Tom:

Thank you for the comment received, which I wish to acknowledge. I can appreciate its contents.