Thursday, August 27, 2009

Future of the Tablet

The Tablet's editor and her deputy have been invited to resign by James MacMillan, because of their attempt to stir up trouble between Archbishop Nichols and the Holy See over the Traditional Mass and their suggestion that abortion was an issue that should be ignored by the US bishops in Obama's health care plan.
Someone else suggested that Damian Thompson's attacks on the Tablet were borne out of his being editor in chief of the Catholic Herald, which was described as "rival publication". I think that is a bit silly, the Herald is a newspaper, the Tablet is journal of "Catholic" opinion, the comparison is one of oranges and apples. I am told the Tablet now often has articles by mainstream Catholics, the last time I looked at it it had articles by younger commentators, one was a Fr Z style comparison of Latin versus ICEL translations of prayers. A friend of mine, has a Tablet reading group in his parish, his thinking being that Liberal fundamentalism exists and should be met head on and that The Tablet has good things which should be pointed and the dross should be criticised.
The sisters in my parish, who are good and orthodox, having passed through the 70s maintaining their Catholicism but loosing their habits get it, leave it on their common room table and file it. I am sure they read much of it but they regard it as journal of note, in that it has been the mouthpiece of English Catholicism. The other Catholic weeklies do not have the same kudos. Bishop Hopes letter criticising the journals take on Archbishop Nichols' Preface for the Westminster/LMS conference on the Traditional Mass was the first time I can remember where an English bishop criticised it. I hope this criticism will continue under the new regime. In the past I am told that "Rome" was often told that it is totally independent of the Bishops, and they even denied it was sold "officially" in Catholic churches here.
Recently I had a conversation with someone who suggested that it would be possible to set up rival journal, employing orthodox commentators only. There have been attempts to do this with journals like the StAR, the St Augustine Review, which really didn't come to much. Indeed I am not sure that there is much call for a new print journal, younger Catholics don't buy them, there is the net, but few blog or websites offer in depth commentary.
What is needed however is a Catholic journal that really does have something to say, the best way of having that is not to destroy it but to "convert" the Tablet. MacMillan's suggestion to replace the editor and her deputy is the best way of doing that. No-one wants the Tablet to become the journal of the Bishops Conference but most Catholics do want a journal that is actually "Catholic" that strives to explain what is happening in the Church, rather than like the Tablet's present Rome correspondent seems to have aversion to anything that comes from Christ's Vicar.
It the next few years as this journals liberal readership ages and dies off, the Tablet has to decide on its future. Is there a place for an ecumenical journal or does its future lie in embracing more deeply the mainstream of the Catholic faith? There is little future in Liberalism.
The Bishops of England an Wales, though they have no direct control of the Tablet have a great deal of moral influence. It is rumoured that the nature of the Catholicism of Catholic institutions will be high on the agenda of the ad limina bishops visit early next year, let us hope that this might encourage them to put pressure of the Tablet's board:
Chairman: John Adshead CBE, Robin Baird-Smith, Dr Tina Beattie, Angela Cunningham, Julian Filochowski CMG, Professor Peter Hennessy, Ignatius Kusiak, Keith Leslie, Susan Penswick, Catherine Pepinster and Paul Vallely
to make the necessary changes - looking at the board though, this might be a little difficult.


Delia said...

Well said. I quite agree about converting rather than destroying the Tablet. But I don't understand: if it is a private publication, then how come it can describe itself as 'Catholic'? Isn't that a kind of trademark?

Sorry to hear that the nuns in your parish have loose habits!

Patrick Sheridan said...

I like the idea of setting up a new Catholic journal. Who would read it I wonder? And who would contribute? And what?

Matthaeus said...

An interesting article, Father. I will be very keen to see what develops on this front, and also to read the comments of others in the blogsphere.

I agree there is definitely a niche for a journal (or journals?) that offer commentry and discussion about what is going on in the Church, as opposed simply reporting the stories and events.
We have suffered the effects of some thirty years of substandard catechesis, to the extent that many practicing Catholics do not fully understand the basics of the Faith and moral teaching of the Church. It is essential that this is remedied if Catholicism is to present a real and credible witness in today's world, and a good journal would be one way of contributing to this, for a particular section of the Faithful.

The Tablet was, I understand, once a very good publication which did exactly what I have just said, before it became the voice of liberals intent on provocation and sowing dissent. Perhaps, as you say it can once again be 'converted'.


Independent said...

"The Tablet" has changed before. In the 19th century it was an extreme unltamontanist journal rather disliked by traditionalist English Catholics. It moved from that position and no doubt it can move again.

On the side of the angels said...

sorry fr Ray - have stolen this article and reprinted it on Holy Smoke [well Damian Thompson as it's now forced to be called]. Felt what you said had to be said out loud to as many people as possible ; and I apologise for my forthright theft.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Take what you like, this isn't The Tablet.

The Bones said...

OTSOTA & Patricius

How about we three try working on a new publication? We could make it orthodox, svelt, chic, unswervingly Catholic and savvy, even funny.

Laurence England (AKA The Bones)

gemoftheocean said...

re: the Tablet -- you must rip it out from its roots and cast it from the surface of the earth like a malignant growth.

Francis Pimentel-Pinto said...

I wonder whether these attacks on The Tablet have anything to do with the fact that both the editor and the deputy-editor are women.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I hadn't noticed they were, The Tablet that is, not just P & C, Bobby Mickens, for example, is I suspect male.

What a strange comment, I am more concerned by their ideology than their gender. What makes you so conscious of gender here?

Ches said...

Sorry to lower the tone but we're having a good old sing-song over at The Sensible Bond about The Tablet.

And, while I'm at it, no, Francis Pimentel Pinto, it's got nothing to do with the gender of the editors. If Joanna Bogle or Anna Arco or anybody truly orthodox edited The Tablet, nobody would care.

Dilly said...


I note that on another blog you made a pertinent comment (with which I would wholly concur):
This is the page ref.

The first commenter (Sr Maureen Paul Turlish) said the following re the Irish clerical abuse scandal

"The two nuns who brokered the arrangement with the Irish government to limit the institutional Roman Catholic Church’s accountability and transparency should be ashamed of themselves, I know I am.

They are Sisters Elizabeth Maxwell who was then the secretary general of the Conference of Religious of Ireland (CORI) and currently heads the northern province of the Presentation Sisters, and Helena O’Donoghue the leader of the Sisters of Mercy, south central province. Sadly, they personify the worst of the church’s clericalism and patriarchial system, just in the female variation."

Your later comment does not point out any perception of unfairness of Sr Maureen in singling out two women, when arguably there are documented cases of convicted male pederasts (and complacent bishops) with much more to answer for.

Have you had a damascene conversion to feminism since May 2009, or does positive discrimination only apply to employees of The Tablet?

Patrick Sheridan said...

Laurence, it's a nice idea, but even had I up-to-date and a thorough knowledge of contemporary issues, I wouldn't have the time for such an interesting endeavour.

Francis said...

Fr. Ray,

There is another way of looking at this. First of all, the Catholic blogosphere has created a potent and doctrinally sound alternative to the Tablet and is much more widely read. I doubt the utility of trying to re-fashion the Tablet into an orthodox, high-brow magazine -- it would struggle for circulation in the new world of the internet where pro-magisterial Catholics just go online and read the blogs.

It is ironic that the Tablet has become a veritable teaching aid in the fight against liberalism. Every time it publishes some heterodox nonsense, the offending article is fisked, critiqued, challenged, blogged about and shot down in flames by 1,001 commentators around the world.

Because of this, the Tablet is now drawing serious international attention to the state of the English Catholic Church and its leadership which allows the nonsense to continue unchallenged (well, until Bishop Hopes' recent intervention). Cardinal Pell has criticized the Tablet, and now Archbishop Chaput has slammed it. This is not just about a rogue magazine. The complaints from abroad are clear signs of a growing pressure on Rome from the international episcopate to make radical changes in the English church.

I don't want the Tablet to replace Ms. Pepinster with someone like Anne Arco and follow a more pro-magisterial line -- yet. The unreformed Tablet is doing a grand job of pulling the rug from under the Magic Circle. And I don't think the Tablet has even begun to understand that. Let it continue to up the ante!

Petrel789 said...

I had read the Tablet regularly for a very long time, and had an annual subscription for something like 30 years, but this year I gave up in disgust. There are some first-rate things in the paper: the 'Church in the World' sections are genuinely news rather than comment, and there are some good regular cotributors, e.g. the American Benedictine who comments weekly on the Latin text of one of the prayers from the following Sunday's proper.

But there has been a very serious decline since the present editor took over. She seems to me to turned the journal into one of disloyal opposition to the Pope.
Criticism seems to be destructive rather than constructive, and no good whatever is to be seen in any point of view that is not precisely aligned with the journal's own liberal wavelength.
For me, the final straw was the hatchet job on Fr Finigan's parish.
So I did not renew my subscription, and sent the money to Blackfen instead.

I realise that this contribution is something of a ramble, and contains nothing original: but it would be interesting to know if any others have recently given up on the journal.

santoeusebio said...

I can remember the days when Douglas Woodruff was the editor of The Tablet. It has gone down hill ever since. Some years ago I had correspondence with John Wilkins which showed he could not accept the orthodox line on abortion and more recently one of their journalists told me a more nuanced line on abortion should be taken in connection with the Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth where referrals for abortion are now allowed with the blessing of the hierarchy.

Personnally I switched to the Catholic Herald some time ago. The format is different but it offers much of what I expected to get from the Tablet (but didn't!) and it is generally at a higher intellectual level.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I decided in conscience I could no longer allow it to be sold at the back of the Church for similar reasons and with similar regrets.

Adulio said...

Or why not jusy read Christian Order?

Red Maria said...


Because Christian Order has fascist contributors.

Extremists Vennari, Ferrara, Horvat, the race-baiting E. Michael Jones and antisemitic conspiracist Robert Sungenis are also frequent contributors to the London Traditionalist Catholic monthly, Christian Order ...

Fr Tom said...

I am old enough to remember in the late 1970 s when The Tablet lost so much readership that they nearly went broke and asked readers for loans to shore them up.m Their liberal line did not please the taditional reaers but now it is the in house journal of liberal left. I cvannt read it anymore because it is bad for my bp so I am glad you are closing in on the Bitter Pill. Fr Tom

Michael Clifton said...

You wont get any luck with those trustees getting the Editor to resign. Most of them show signs of extreme leftism. Angela Cunningham for instance is the almost the last remaining remnant of the original dissenters who published a magazine entitled "Slant" in the 1960's. You can still read the back numbers at the Catholic National Library at Farnborough.

Red Maria said...

Er, um di dum, The Tablet. Difficult for me to be too critical because I'm a hack and have written news stories and the odd feature for the magazine. And sometimes they're kind enough to publish my letters.

The most recent one was published in December and went like this:

Dear Editor

Loyal Dissent

In his letter criticising Bishop Patrick O'Donohue's recent pronouncements, Peter Clifton declares his belief that there is nothing wrong with family limitation. He goes on to bemoan the fact that "loyal dissenters" are dying out. Might I suggest that these two things are not unconnected?

For Communism!

Yours etc,

Red Maria.

Speaking of which, in this week's issue, Catherine Pepinster wrote a column about Eastern Europe and the wall coming down in 1989. The sub's headline - "Marx was wrong, it wasn't communism but its downfall, that proved inevitable" - and a sentence in the column saying that East Germany was suffused with Marxist Leninist propaganda, seemed to me equally obtuse.

How many times does one have to say it? The post war regimes in Eastern Europe were state capitalist, not communist. They were Stalinist tyrannies, not Marxist dialectics in action.

This brings me to my next point. I disagree with Father Clifton and others who describe The Tablet as leftwing. It is no such thing. It is a bourgeois liberal publication.

In my view, it would be a lot better if it were genuinely leftwing and carried articles of interest to the working class and left the dreary childish kicking against Magisterial authority alone.

Banging on about Humanae Vitae and what have you is an irrelevance in today's world. There's a mega recession on, workers have struck in Lindsey, fascists are on the rise, troops are still in Afghanistan and it's likely that there will be enormous cuts in public services come the next government. That's what's important. Not kicking up a fuss about papal teaching.

Sadie Vacantist said...

I see no name on the board that offers encouragement to Catholics.

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