Of Soup, Pie And Fettuccine.
I have no objection to censorship, if it is done within a settled legal framework; that is, by a qualified Censor librorum who, if he withholds a Nihil obstat, gives and is required to give precise reasons for doing so. I would have no criticism if the system were not only restored, but extended to the blogosphere, and, of course, to clerics and laics who write columns and editorials in 'catholic' journals! But it has fallen into disuse. My apprehension is that a public and canonical process might have been replaced by something furtive; that a bishop (or whatever) might act resentfully but covertly because of views which are doctrinally orthodox but which don't suit his personal agenda. Or that censorship might function as an informal, unminuted, understanding within an Inner Circle that X is 'off-message'; with subsequent disadvantages for X. In other words, I fear that what, at first sight, looks like a libertarian advance (the disappearance of formal Censorship), might in reality be simply a Bullies' Charter. As I have written before, I regard Dogma and Law as the safeguard of ordinary Catholics, both lay and clerical, against Arbitrary Power.
Firstly, I understand Father's concerns: when official control is substituted for unofficial suggestions to shut up, a huge door is open to, well, episcopal bullying. It grates me no end, for example, that in the matter of “Protect the Pope” the bishop asked Deacon Nick to stop blogging, without any public explanation of why a bishop asks a very public blogger to stop his very public blogging activity. Basically, it simply cannot be excluded Deacon Nick was requested to, ahem, “pull a Werling” and just be silent, losing his face as the bishop saved his. Fortunately, when Deacon Nick informed his readers of the fact he did not just state that he had decided to, but that he had been requested by the Bishop to, well, shut up; which in turn caused the many mails to the bishop; which in turn caused the press release with the notorious words I have already mentioned on this blog, and which put bishop Campbell, erm, rather in the soup.
Father Hunwicke's fear that “a Bullies' Charter” might be advancing is, therefore, entirely justified. Imagine that: you are a blogger priest, or a blogger deacon, and the Bishop summons you and tells you to stop blogging and not to tell your readers who has asked you to do so, in order not to foment “division” and “disharmony”. What now, skipper? When you add to this that that particular blogger has been asked by the bishop to stop blogging (call it as you want: that's what it is) because he was being a brave Catholic blogger, you get the picture.
Having said that, Father Hunwicke's censorship proposal is in my eyes entirely unfeasible. The huge number of blogging priests out there would cause an unmanageable administrative work and cost only to control what is going on; it would obviously be completely unrealistic to think that every blog post receives a previous nihil obstat, but it is not realistic to think that every blogger with holy orders receives one before starting to blog, and is monitored afterwards. This as we write the year 2014; but what might happen in the year 2024 or 2034 makes the idea of either previous control or institutionalised monitoring even less viable. Besides, if a nihil obstat is necessary for a new priestly blog, it would be very easy to put sand in the mechanism by just “delaying” approvals for new priestly blogs; there's no urgency to give approval to your blog, Father X; there are enough already of those.
Moreover, many priestly blogs exist exactly to provide a voice outside of the mainstream Vatican PC information. Would an excellent priestly blog like Traditional Catholic Priest obtain the coveted nihil obstat? I doubt it. What about Father Rodriguez? Or Gloria TV? Would we ever know that such and such an initiative was proposed and rejected, and why? You wish. It would be covert bullying instead of overt one; but in the end, much of a muchness. I do not doubt the likes of Nicholson and the other chap with the sword would obtain the Nihil obstat, but as Nicholson and his ilk are part of the problem we would be on square one.
This, only considering the blogs run by priests or deacons. If we extend the policy to the immense world of blogging laymen, the idea becomes utterly outlandish; besides the fact that most lay bloggers would react to the request of the bishop to stop blogging with a smile; if they are in a good day, that is. Hey, the bishops – and now the Bishop of Rome – are the main reason why they are blogging in the first place, so it would be like asking a physician to stop curing bubonic plague because there's an epidemy going on.
What to do, then?
My idea would be – and this is also what is going to happen, volens nolens – that everything continues as it is; that blogger priests blog because they are priests who feel they should blog and this is perfectly in line with the new evangelisation mantra, and that bishops stop them if they feel the blogger priest should be stopped; which unavoidably will – unless the priest does not even want to say that he was requested to stop blogging – be subject to public scrutiny, possibly involving not only bishop Campbell, but bishop Heinz and bishop Baxter as well.
Obviously, a priest or deacon can blog anonymously, de facto if possibly not de iure. The old and lamented Kreuz.net blog – forced to close by the German Gaystapo – was certainly the work of priests, and of excellent ones at that. But again, those must have been priests who needed that their bishop does not know they are blogging, lest the V II thought police intervenes.
The fact is, though, that by the grace of God we live in a time of atomised information sources, and this seems destined to increase in the foreseeable future. No bishop, no censor librorum, no Pope, not even the US secret services will be able to shut down this flow of information. The control of this tsunami of ASCII characters will be left to the reader, who will pick among the bonanza of sources those he find most worthy of his time. The reader will decide if he finds, say, Campbell's soup or the Deacon's pie or Mundabor's fettuccine to his taste, and there is no way anyone else can change this.
In short, this means that the best way for the bishops to prevent the spreading of bad blogging is by encouraging the spreading of sound Catholic instruction. This will in turn automatically filter away the bad sources, and reward the good ones.
Unfortunately, the spreading of sound Catholic teaching is exactly what bishop Campbell wants to prevent; which in turn means what we already know from the start: to wit, that bishops who try to stop bloggers are embarrassed by the bloggers making the job they are supposed but refuse to do: feed the sheep with sound instruction, fight heresy and heterodoxy, and care for the salvation of souls.
I prefer Mundabor's (or Deacon Nick's, or Father Z's) healthy homemade fare, and thank you very much.
Posted on March 30, 2014, in Catholicism, Conservative Catholicism, Traditional Catholicism and tagged "Protect the Pope" blog, blogging priests, blogs from laymen, Catholic bloggers. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.