Friday, February 20, 2009
Tablet Attack Backfires
Over the last few days the blogosphere has been full of the news of the nasty hatchet piece on Father Tim Finigan, one of England's finest parish priests, and the writer of the much-viewed blog "The Hermeneutic of Continuity." The particular piece of gutter journalism was produced in 'The Tablet,' the leading liberal Catholic weekly in England, or perhaps the dying voice of an aging and defeated generation in the Church. The essence of the piece was that a small vocal minority in Fr. Tim's parish objected to the liturgical changes he had made over a good number of years. The fact that these changes are precisely the sort of things that Pope Benedict has been calling for is the real 'agenda' of 'The Tablet' piece. However, if the aim of the bitter rag's piece was to squash the reform of the reform, in Blackfen or any other parish, the opposite seems to have happened. Fr. Tim's blog, visited over a million times, has been overwhelmed with messages of support, from all over the world. In reality, 'The Tablet' is not read by many ordinary English Catholics, it is, however, read by many English bishops - that should tell you everything! To my eternal shame, many years ago, I wrote a couple of pieces for the bitter rag; luckily even in my silly and naive days in the priesthood, I wrote nothing heterodox, in fact, the last piece, written about six or seven years ago, was about the return of the sacred to a parish; as I recall, it was heavily edited! Every priest - and God - knows the hidden suffering which attempting to be faithful to the Magisterium can cause a faithful pastor. My non-Catholic friends are often astonished and truly scandalized when they hear of the cruelty of certain "faithful Catholics" towards their parish priests. I know of one priest who was viciously attacked for allegedly spending parish money on vestments and decorations when, in fact, he had not taken his salary for six months to try to help his struggling parish; he never spoke - but those people will be judged for their calumny. I hope Fr. Tim is not suffering too much; the support he has received should be a tremendous boost but, if he is, here are a few words from Francois Mauriac, in his wonderful book 'Holy Thursday:'
"The grace of Holy Thursday will be transmitted unto the end of time, unto the last of the priests who will celebrate the last Mass in a shattered universe. Holy Thursday created these men; a mark was stamped on them; a sign was given to them. They are like to us and yet so different - a fact never more surprising than in this pagan age. People say that there is a scarcity of priests. In truth, what an adorable mystery it is that there are still any priests. They no longer have any human advantage. Celibacy, solitude, hatred very often, derision and, above all, the indifference of a world in which there seems to be no longer room for them - such is the portion they have chosen. They seem to have no apparent power; their task sometimes seems to be centered about material things, identifying them, in the eyes of the masses, with the staffs of town halls and of funeral parlors. A pagan atmosphere prevails all around them. The people would laugh at their virtue if they believed in it, but they do not. They are spied upon. A thousand voices accuse those who fall. As for the others, the greater number, no one is surprised to see them toiling without any sort of recognition, without appreciable salary, bending over the bodies of the dying or ambling about the parish schoolyards. Who can describe the solitude of the priest in the country, in the midst of peasants so often indifferent, if not hostile, to the spirit of Christ? We enter a village church; we find only an old priest kneeling in the sanctuary, keeping a solitary watch with his Master. The words of Christ concerning priests are proven every day; 'I am sending you forth like sheep in the midst of wolves....You will be hated by all for my name's sake."