Bishop in UK orders deacon to stop blogging

An interesting turn of events across the pond, via London’s The Tablet: 

A deacon who runs a Catholic website that criticised bishops, theologians and lay groups for being out of step with church teaching has been asked to stop posting material.

Deacon Nick Donnelly has been asked by the Bishop of Lancaster to stop posting on his Protect the Pope site and undergo a “period of prayer and reflection”.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Lancaster said that Bishop Campbell had asked Mr Donnelly to “voluntarily pause” from publishing in order to reflect “on the duties involved for ordained bloggers/website administrators to truth, charity and unity in the Church.”

The site, however, is being operated by his wife, with the latest posting encouraging readers to submit their own articles. Mr Donnelly, who has agreed to his bishop’s request, told The Tablet that his wife was running the site on her own and he has “no say” over what is posted.

Protect the Pope, which received 100,000 hits a month, regularly criticised groups and individual bishops and took issue with several Tablet articles for being at odds with church teaching.

At his site, the deacon described the purpose of his blog:

This website was set up in the run up to Pope Benedict’s state visit to the UK in September 2010 as a direct response to the unprecedented level of hostility, ridicule and ill-will from certain public figures,  sections of the press and blogs against the Holy Father and the Catholic Church. Simply put, Protect the Pope was set up to counter the lies, half-truths and misrepresentations of a coalition of aggressive secularists, atheists and homosexual activists going by the name, Protest the Pope.

After centuries of institutionalised anti-Catholicism one thing Catholics in this country are sensitive about is religious hate, and there are plenty of signs that this is rearing its ugly head again.

One of the purposes of this website is to provide Catholics with information about the law concerning incitement of religious hatred.  The more of us that know about the protection the Law offers our Faith the better.  Its important to know that we no longer have to suffer religious hate in silence as we did in the past but can now call on the Law to protect us as believers.

Meantime, his wife is continuing to post items, recently explaining her husband’s silence this way: 

Can we know the full truth please?

This is the question that Amanda asks in her post and it is one that particularly resonates with me.  Especially in this time of Lent we consider Christ who was silent before his accusers and the CCC tells us.  “The right to the communication of the truth is not unconditional.  Everyone must conform his life to the Gospel precept of fraternal love.  This requires us in concrete situations to judge whether or not it is appropriate to reveal the truth to someone who asks for it.  Charity and respect for the truth should dictate the response to every request for information or communication”. (CCC2488-9)

However, at the same time I wonder if I am just being cowardly because I do not like conflict and normally stay private – you may have noticed I never posted or commented on Protect the Pope before yesterday.  But St Paul tells us “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.  So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner.  Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:6-8).

Over three and half years Nick published 1,900 posts, received 36,000 comments, 1 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 Tatchel, 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.

In Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis advises bishops that in order to foster the ‘missionary communion of the Church’ that they should ‘listen to everyone and not simply to those who would tell him what he would like to hear’.  I know that Protect the Pope, helped enable ordinary Catholics to speak and enter into dialogue.

St Bridget prayed: “O Jesus, Son of God, You Who were silent in the presence of Your accusers, restrain my tongue until I find what I should say and how to say it.”  I pray too that we may find this right balance between loving silence and speaking the truth in love.

I think there’s a lot more going on here that we just don’t know about. Keep all concerned in your prayers.


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