THE CATHOLIC HERALD MARCH 14 2014
Bishop asks blogger to embark on ‘period of reflection’
BY MADELEINE TEAHAN
A LEADING Catholic blogger and deacon in the Diocese of Lancaster has been asked to take a break from writing in order to observe “a period of prayer and reflection”.
Deacon Nick Donnelly, who writes the Protect the Pope blog, will be taking an indefinite break from blogging, while his wife, Martina Donnelly, has taken on the running of the blog for the time being.
A statement released by the Diocese of Lancaster on Monday said: “After learning that a notice had been placed upon the Protect the Pope website on March 7
saying: ‘Deacon Nick stands down from Protect the Pope for a period of prayer and reflection’ the Bishop’s Office at the Diocese of Lancaster was able to confirm that Bishop Campbell had recently requested Deacon Nick Donnelly to voluntarily pause from placing new posts on the Protect the Pope site.
“Meanwhile, it was also confirmed that the bishop asked Deacon Nick to use this pause to enter into a period of prayer and reflection on the duties involved for ordained bloggers/website administrators to truth, charity and unity in the Church.
“Deacon Nick has agreed to the bishop’s request at this time.”
In a short statement on the Protect the Pope website last Friday Martina Donnelly wrote: “As Nick’s wife I am writing to thank you for all the kind messages, prayers and gifts that Nick has received. You may have noticed that he has not posted for a while and I did not want you to be worried, as although he is still far from better, this silence has not been caused by his illness. Rather Nick has been asked to observe a period of prayer and reflection.
“Please continue to pray for Nick during this time.” When asked by The Catholic Herald if he thought his blog had
Bishop Campbell, right, has asked Deacon Donnelly to enter a ‘period of reflection’
ever crossed the line, Deacon Donnelly replied: “No.”
He said: “I think blogging is an incredible tool for evangelisation, I started blogging in 2010 before the papal visit because I felt I
needed to answer lies and misrepresentations about the Catholic Church. When I launched Protect the Pope it received coverage all over the world. I even received coverage in Vietnam. When I finished Protect the Pope I was getting 100,000 views per month.”
He said that the aim of his blog was simply “to compare and contrast what’s being said and done in the Church with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That can never be wrong.”
He said that he would rather not continue blogging in the future if it meant that he would have to change this basic aim. He emphasised that the “period of reflection” was indefinite and added: “The past three days I’ve had so many messages of support from my readers, even people who don’t agree with me. I’ve found that really encouraging. That’s been a positive experience from all of this.” When asked if he thought that Catholic bishops understood the blogosphere, he said: “My feeling is that their a priori position is suspicion and they don’t understand blogging’s potential. They don’t react to it well.” Writing on the Protect the Pope website, Martina Donnelly wrote: “Over three and a half years Nick published 1,900 posts, received
36,000 comments, one million views per annum and Protect the Pope was read in 188 countries around the world. Everyone was welcome to engage in debate, including dissenters, homosexuals, secularists and atheists. Nick received critical comments, which he posted, from Peter Tatchell, Terry Sanderson, Clifford Longley and Fr Iggy Donovan, who became a frequent contributor.
“Nick believed that Protect the Pope was a forum through which traditional Catholics were safe to express their hopes and concerns about the Church and protest and challenge the advance of secularism and immorality in society.”
Keep an eye on bloggers, ordinariate leaders told
BY MADELEINE TEAHAN
THE PREFECT of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has told the leaders of the world’s ordinariates that “all eyes” are on them.
During a meeting in Rome last month Cardinal Gerhard Müller asked the three Ordinaries to exercise vigilance over blogs and, where necessary, to intervene, according to a statement from the ordinariate in Britain.
The cardinal said that while blogs could be a helpful tool of evangelisation, they could also “express unreflected speech lacking in charity”. The image of the ordinariate was not helped by this, he said.
Cardinal Müller reminded the Ordinaries of the delicacy and importance of their task in the next few years, saying: “You will come under scrutiny from many quarters. All eyes are upon you!”
The three ordinariate leaders – Mgr Keith Newton of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in Britain, Mgr Jeffrey Steenson of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter in the US and Mgr Harry Entwistle of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross in
Australia – visited Cardinal Müller last month. The visit, three years after the first of the three ordinariates was established, was the first time the leaders had all met together.
Cardinal Müller said: “Anglicans will be interested in how well you are able to make a home in the Catholic Church that is more than just assimilation, while Catholics will want to know that you are here to stay, strengthening our ecclesial cohesion rather than setting yourselves apart as another divisive grouping within the Church... it is your delicate, but allimportant task both to preserve the integrity and distinctiveness of your parish communities and, at the same time, help your people integrate into the larger Catholic community.”
Cardinal Müller said that the Ordinaries’ role in the liturgy was critical. “By ensuring that the sacred liturgy is celebrated worthily and well, you further the communion of the Church by drawing people into the worship of God who is communio.”
The cardinal also said he had spoken to Francis. “The Holy Father is following the development of the ordinariates with great interest,” he said.
Cardinal Müller poses with ordinariate leaders and their wives. He told them Pope Francis was following the development of the ordinariates ‘with great interest’
It’s a tricky balance: blog posts that please the hierarchy are likely to bore readers
Comment Fr Ed Tomlinson
LAST WEEK Cardinal Müller issued a rebuke to ordinariate bloggers, suggesting our image is occasionally tarnished by lack of charity online. As a blogging priest the rebuke was unsettling. Was it aimed at one person or offering general advice? Queue frenzied scrutiny of posts for anything controversial...
Cardinal Müller is not alone in finding blogs irksome. In all walks of life the leadership find them unsettling. Control of message is difficult when grassroots comment is immediate and global. It brings power to the people, not those in authority.
So Cardinal Müller can be forgiven a sense of frustration and we who blog must be grateful for a timely reminder of the need for online vigilance. Clearly frank views must be balanced with greater helpings of courtesy. But striking this balance is not easy and leaves me with two questions.
First, how “charitable” are blogs intended to be, given that nobody is compelled to read them and those who do delight in the spirited and avoid the predictable? What if the post that pleases the hierarchy is also the one that loses readers? Second, what is meant by charity – that which is nice and avoids all controversy and offence? Or that which speaks truth in love and dares confront? Fulton Sheen said Christ did not come to make nice people but new men, something I imagined was particularly true for those within an ordinariate erected, as Benedict XVI told us, to be prophetic. It is a tricky balance indeed then.
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