Monday, April 26, 2010

A Break Down in Charity

There is a curious thing going on over a Mulier Fortis' Blog.
James Preece visited Blackfen with his wife and children, originally he had been invited to attend a training session for Catholic Voices in London, he then emailed Austen Ivereigh a few days before asking for details only then did he get a message from Mr Ivereigh saying that he was no longer required.
Mulier Fortis posted this two line email on her blog, then Mr Ivereigh posted this comment

I'm astonished that you should publish private correspondence between myself and James Preece; and that you should do so partially and incompletely. The fact that his email ends up on your site is precisely why he wasn't invited.
That would have been fair enough, one might be a little amazed at Mr Ivereigh's inability to comprehend why James might be upset and share the email with someone, one might fault his logic and wonder why James' sharing of this email meant he was dropped, has James a history of lacking confidentiality, if so why did Mr Ivereigh not explain that to James in his email? But Mr Ivereigh's comment continues in a very personal attack on Mac
Among your private vows, where there any that included respect, confidentiality, privacy or charity?
It really does concern me that any body in the Church should treat people with such contempt, such a lack of charity. I don't know if James received a fuller explanation of why he was picked up and then dropped by Catholic Voices, I would hope he was, but the way in which Mac is addressed is shocking and high handed, unfortunately it is all too often part of church culture, more often nowadays amongst lay apparatchiki than clerics.

At the heart of the present crisis in the Church is a break down of basic Christianity; this is what the world finds so distasteful in us, our failure in charity. Those who ignore complaints about child abuse share the same mentality as those who close parishes by DVD, those who are responsible for cover up and despise transparency demand respect, confidentiality and privacy under the guise of charity and lack charity themselves. This is vision of the Church which everyone should seek to consign to the past, it is the cause of problems, it can never be a resolution of them.
What was it St Paul said about gongs booming and a cymbals crashing?


Dom said...

Yes it is just insulting!
Does Ivereigh Have form?

Unknown said...

It's important to understand what's going on here - +Vincent was coming to speak to the Catholic Voices team and it's very important for the project to work that people are free to speak and probe without having to worry about anything being 'leaked.' This isn't about cover-ups or secrecy, but about having the freedom to plan properly without various parties raising constant objections.

The Catholic Voices project and team is thoroughly orthodox and accountable, but it needs the freedom to formulate itself fully before it can be judged.

Pedant said...

Mr Ivereigh states: "Among your private vows, where there any that included respect, confidentiality, privacy or charity?"

Am I nitpicking in thinking that a high profile media spokesman should know the difference between 'where' and 'were'? i.e. "...where there any...." should surely read "..were there any.."

a Barrister said...

"The fact that his email ends up on your site is precisely why he wasn't invited."

Ivereigh is saying Preece was known to be untrustworthy, I hope he can prove that, otherwise there is very case for an action for defamation.

Unknown said...

Is this the same Mr Ivereigh who wrote “Building civil society” at ?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Sadie, 1st comment was rude, the 2nd uncharitable.

Jim C said...

Then did he explain?

Are you too suggesting James is a known source of leaks?

As you are in the know, I presume you are Chris Serpell "a research scientist in supramolecular chemistry at the University of Oxford. A former Catholic Society President, who has also spent time living in community and working with the disadvantaged."

p.s. are you also Opus Dei?

Unknown said...

I've no idea if he explained, and I've also no idea about James. It might well merit an explanation, but the degree of indignation being expressed in response to the initial rejection is disproportionate. There should be a degree of respect for personal communication. Why not politely ask Austen for the reason?

Yes, that's me. And no, I'm not in Opus Dei.

Mulier Fortis said...

Pedant - I'm pretty sure that was just a typo... and all of us make those

Thanks for the post, Father Ray.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Apologies Father.

I also find Chris' comment unpleasantly ambiguous. The implication is that James Preece is a snitch.

Austen Ivereigh said...

Fr Ray, I agree: it was uncharitable. I let my fury at being used in this way get the better of me; I shall apologise to "Mulier Fortis". Austen.

Kate said...

"+Vincent was coming to speak to the Catholic Voices team and it's very important for the project to work that people are free to speak and probe without having to worry about anything being 'leaked."-
Surely it would have been a simple matter of requesting the participants to maintain confidentiality about the meeting?

"This isn't about cover-ups or secrecy, but about having the freedom to plan properly without various parties raising constant objections."-
According to Austen's email, James Preece was dropped as a candidate before the meeting. It looks as if Mr. Preece was prejudged to be someone incapable of maintaining confidentiality when asked, and you are now implying that he would only raise constant objections!

Dominic Mary said...

Chris says that it's very important for the project to work that people are free to speak and probe without having to worry about anything being 'leaked.' '

What on earth are they doing that they are concerned might be leaked ? Surely this is meant to be about providing reliable and accurate Catholic information to the media and the Nation : that sort of remark makes it sound like some sort of gnosticism !

(He continues that the 'Catholic Voices' project is 'thoroughly orthodox and accountable'; but I'm not entirely sure how anything involving the Suppository, even at one remove - or which expresses concerns about its discussions being 'leaked' - can make such a claim !)

sadly, I fear that any comment from that source would probably be dismissed by a Judge as 'mere vulgar abuse' !

universal doctor said...

Mr Ivereigh? Wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him. If we thik of the amorphous grey mass which now masquerades as EBCEW, a fair degee of blame must be levelled I think at the leadership of the past few years. Mr Ivereigh does not strike me as one whose judgements and motives are sound.

Chris #2 [well I can play too!] said...

No Jim - James wasn't wanted on Catholic Voices because he was already a popular blogger and had had some media exposure.

How can I say he wasn't wanted ?

Because I personally recommended him to Jack Valero twice in early January [who declared 'James is Brilliant!!']

...but later this avid enthusiasm to have him as part of the team turned into:
"I didn't say anything to him because he lives in Hull"
and then
"I thought it would be too far for him to come to the meetings"

..and when James did apply he was informed he was "Too Late!";
and couldn't be considered for the interview stage.

What changed?
An enthusiastic Jack Valero wanting to have him as part of the team at the beginning of January turns into Catholic Voices telling him to get lost!

Might one be allowed to surmise that the thing that changed was somebody else NOT wanting him ?

...and one must ask why ?
there can only be one reason can't there?

Nevertheless after some mediatory string-pulling and pleading ; James was finally allowed to attend the media training sessions ; but not to be considered as an official CV member.

Chris : I told you I was an INFJ; had you bothered to do any research on me you'd discover I was also promethean super-genius IQ who didn't come down in the last shower.
Might I also call your attention to the 'last man standing' fallacy whereby a person's policy, position , principles or argument is presumed to be correct merely because they're in a position of authority!

...and no - I tell you what I told your mate - you're not orthodox!

Lucy said...

I don't really understand the ins and outs of the politics of this. The comment does seem rather hasty and harsh, but I would be shocked and unhappy to see emails of mine used on a public blog without permission too.

What I am a bit amazed by is the people who are involved in the Catholic Voices team. As I read through the list, my husband and I were wondering if any were "ordinary" people - not with multiple degrees and connections and not middle class and young. Where are the Polish catholics and Portugese Catholics who are so obvious in our diocese, not to mention the Asian catholics who seem to be at least half our congregation. Or the elderly? Or the working class?

On the side of the angels said...

USED ????!!!

Austen - enough's enough!
You were downright thoughtless, irresponsible and negligent in your dealings with James last week.

A single sentence is not on - do you deliberately go out of your way to make enemies ?

You don't expect him to be upset at his treatment?
It's no use apologising for being offensive to Mac when you should be apologising for being a git to James!

James at least deserved a letter explaining your position and the present and future situations ; but no, yet again you just cast the irrelevant aside dismissively; as if it proves you've got a bigger or better 'something'...when actually it reveals there is part of you that is very very small and insignificant - your consideration of others.

God bless you - but please have the sincerity to apologise for being in the wrong before you apologise for doing something wrong...

Patricius said...

I think Lucy is asking a very pertinent question here. Where, indeed, are the ordinary Catholics in all this? Talented people are necessary but all Oxbridge/metropolitan types?

Volpius Leonius said...

I have never heard of this Mr Ivereigh however based on this incident he seems to be a public relations disaster and therefore I cannot help but question the judgement of whoever it was who thought a person given to such disgracefully petulant and insulting outbursts was a good choice to teach others how to behave correctly.

Anonymous said...

I do hate elitism. Catholic Voices seems to me to be such an organisation. If they are going to speak for ordinary catholics, and that means me, I want to know who they are and if they are qualified to speak for me. They should not assume they know best. What this incident showed was a lack of humility. "We are the people" stuff So let them at one of their meetings work out how to keep in touch with ordinary folk. John Kearney

A priest said...

I'm afraid that nice ordinary Catholics would be cut to shreds by the likes of Jeremy Paxman, Jon Snow or John Humphries.

In addition most of the general public in the UK judge by first impressions and sound bites.

If you were on trial in the Old Bailey you would need to get a top barrister to defend you.

Well the Catholic Church is on trial today in "the court of public opinion".

On the side of the angels said...

Patricius - Austen is on the record saying that HE chose the candidates based on intelligence; which is as good a criteria as any I suppose....

The 'official' Catholic Voices position is that their scrutiny and discernment deliberations were to be 'Pauline in Nature' i.e. choosing sympathetic and complementary people to create an holistic structure.

It's supposed to be a macro-anthropic organism which reflects a microcosmic ontological noetic reality ; representative of Catholic life-paradigms in today's diverse socio-cultural milieux.

i.e. it's supposed to be filled with a bunch of ; and I quote:
"Ordinary Catholics".

....and Mickey Mouse wears an Austen Ivereigh watch!

berenike said...

I know one of the people who's been asked to do this, and apart from his doctorate etc, he really is a very ordinary chap who is also a (completely unostentatiously pious) Catholic. "A priest" is right - you need someone sharp and with a good head to face interviewers (cf. poor Mrs Bogle's experience). The rest of us should bone up on things for those pub/FB/bus stop conversations, but let's not let chips on shoulders overcome common sense. A native-English-speaking barrister is more likely to be quick and clever in a UK telly discussion than a Polish nurse. (I write as a Polish "lady's companion").

On the side of the angels said...

dear 'a priest'

Bless you but you really don't understand people do you ?

Faith - Devotion - Truth - Wisdom

These are found in simplicity, sincerity, humility - when one speaks from the heart...devoid of obfuscatory complexities and sesquipedalian mystagogic frippery....
"lest ye be like little children"?

If I were going into battle against a Dawkins, Hitchens, Grayling or Tatchell - the first person I'd consult would be the little old lady kneeling in the back of the church reciting her rosary - who's not merely closer to God ; but as a consequence understands the human condition more than any clinical psychologist.
...and you'd be amazed at their graced insight - their ability to blow away the fog and cobwebs from the reality of intellectual arguments - for they understand the Truth - the Person of Christ - behind it all...

Had this crowd wanted True Catholic Voices ? They'd have placed everyone through intensive interviewing over a weekend and got to know a little of their lovable 'pilgrim soul within them'....

Arthur said...

On the Side,
Were turned down by them?

Newminster said...

Thankyou for that lucid analysis, OTSOTA. I didn't need to look up more than half the words!
To extend what Father said in his original post, this situation is symbolic of much that is wrong in life - in the Church and outside it.
The elite will consider themselves to be "ordinary", which they are by their own standards. The rest of us - the great unwashed - must remember to keep to our places. Shades of the Webbs and GB Shaw.
The climate change mindset is similar. No-one is to argue; we are right; we will exclude anyone who we think may challenge the truth - our truth, that is.

Patricius said...

On the side of the angels-
Gosh! Macro-anthropic... right...yeah!
The really important thing is that whoever does it is good at it. I'd just like to see candidates chosen from a broad social and cultural spectrum- unlike the professional "Catholic Commentators" we frequently see in the media like the Peter Stanfords and Christina Oddones who are definitely elite and, as often as not, dodgy.

Dom said...

A little background here

Peter said...

I think that A Priest is right about the media.
Another thought, just a guess, is that they need people who are "on message" and not too independent.
If so there is still a case for briefing those who are widely read such as bloggers so that they can be supportive. And there seems little reason to be impolite. We may sing out of tune but at least we are trying to sing the good song. It would help to see the words and music.
Now if the laity can set a good example perhaps some "off-message" bishops might take note. Just a thought.
Many thanks Father

Richard White said...

Well Catholic Voices just sounds like a Blarite, Spin-Doctors association. It's going to take more than quips and sound bites to restore faith in the Catholic Church. It all seems far too political and nasty for my taste.

Angelo said...

"dear 'a priest'

Bless you but you really don't understand people do you ? "

How pompous!

Richard White said...

The lawyers in the team are hardly well known - If they had Baroness Scotland, a Catholic and the Attorney General, then it would have been a coup. To be honest looking at their CV's and pictures they all appear a bit too geeky!

Fr Ray Blake said...

Your rambling!
750+ words of comment is too mych in this format!

Dom said...

Orthodox? Ivereigh is acc to Wikipedia deputy editor of The Tablet, hardly the most pro-Pope publication.

Frere J said...

Dear Father,
And? You're surprised at the behaviour of Austin Ivereigh??!
Father, where've you been during the Cardinal Comic/Blair years??

On the side of the angels said...

ok father...he asked a question - I responded; trying to's an irrelevance anyway...

Fr Ray Blake said...

Arthurs's question required either a "yes" or a "no".

Sadie Vacantist said...

One of the backers was part of a Cambridge University boy band who descended upon London 30 years ago. Now he is made loads of money he is looking to fund an operation to do what he and his fellow "chanteurs" failed to do back then.

When I look at the person he has tasked to organize this initaitive and the resumés of said person's "co-workers", it's beyond parody.

Anonymous said...


Surely the damages for such an instance of defamation would be no more than nominal/contemptuous??

Hardly worth pursuing, with the successful plaintiff having to pay solicitor/client or indemnity costs for wasting the court's time over a triviality?

A solicitor

Pat Phillips said...

This whole 'Catholic Voices' thing stinks to high heaven. Forget it.

Lucy said...

You don't need a degree or experience in the courts to be a voice for God as the history of the church shows us and even "ordinary" people can be intelligent and coherant. Jesus promised us that we would be given the words we need when questioned and persecuted, and that applies to people with multiple degrees and media training as much as to illiterate peasants, so I'll trust in that. If we (the Church) are "on trial", the best thing I can do is pray like billy-o for all involved in CV and the Pope's visit.

Volpius Leonius said...

The problem isn't elitism, all societies need an elite to go up against the elite of their opponents.

The problem is Catholics don't train our own elite, we let the secular universities cream off our best students and twist them to their way of thinking.

Even those who manage to pass through the crucible of faith, that are the modern universities in the UK, still identifying as Catholic have generally succumbed to relativism in some form or another.

A lack of Catholic universities in this country was not such a handicap when only 5% of the population went to university and the UK was still a semi-Christian society.

But now when something like 50% of children go to university to be indoctrinated into the ideology of secular humanism at best and godless hedonism at worst this failure to provide Catholic children with a complete Catholic education is proving utterly catastrophic.

This is, in my opinion largely why the situation in the US is a lot better than in the UK as far as the number of educated, orthodox apologists they have available to them, the lack of which we find ourselves needing to desperately compensate for by this Catholic Voices initiative.

It is not enough to just come up with stop gap measures for the present, we must as a society of English Catholics also make provision for the future by founding at least one Catholic university in this country if we want to see any real improvement.

And the utmost care must be taken concerning the orthodoxy of the people involved.

Until this is done I advise any Catholic parent who is able to send their children to a Catholic university in the US if at all possible.

Paulinus said...

Until this is done I advise any Catholic parent who is able to send their children to a Catholic university in the US if at all possible.

What? Like Notre Dame?

No thanks.

Patrick Sheridan said...

This whole thing is decidedly anti-Evangelical, on ALL sides. I received many abusive comments on my (now defunct) blog, and I felt no need to complain about them. Perhaps certain "Traditionalists" think thwy're more important than they are...? What happened to turn the other cheek or do good and disappear?

Richard said...

There are a lot of very able lay Catholics, and it's about time something like Catholic Voices was set up to use their talents to help the Church.

Yes their group of speakers contains PhDs and lawyers. But many of the challenges to the Church come from medical ethics (the field most of the higher degrees seem to be in) and new legislation, so it is important that we have people who can talk knowledgeably and authoritatively about these subjects.

In case this sounds suspiciously supportive, I know nothing about Catholic Voices (other than from reading their website), I am not involved with them (I don't think my field of knowledge would be much use to them) and I don't even know any of the people involved.

Richard said...

I appreciate the points about "normal people" (whatever a normal person is), but there's no point in having a group of speakers unless you can actually get them in front of the cameras and the microphones.

The BBC and other big media organisations mainly want people who they can introduce as experts, so unless you have a reasonable claim to knowledge you won't get on air.

You may disagree with the media's approach, but if we want airtime we have to play by those rules.

Indeed my worry from looking at the Catholic Voices list of speakers is that they aren't qualified enough. Where are the Professors, the headmasters, the senior hospital doctors, the charity directors, the MPs? Are there none prepared to speak out for the Faith (some may be worried about their jobs), or has this initiative just not found them yet?

(And why so many commercial lawyers? Lawyers can help with legal controversies, but a commercial lawyer isn't much help in discussing the effect of equalities legislation on foster parents, for example.)

Volpius Leonius said...

"What? Like Notre Dame?"


Places like the Franciscan University of Steubenville which has three masses a day for students and mass in the Extraordinary form once a week.

Or Ave Maria University which again has 3 masses a day for their students and 4 masses a week in the extraordinary form as well as confession available daily, perpetual adoration of the blessed sacrament and daily Rosary recitation by the students combined with an active promotion of chastity and possible vocation to the religious life among its students.

Then there are places like Christendom College, Thomas Aquinas College, Wyoming Catholic College and many more I'm sure given that there are hundreds of them.

My wife went to the Catholic University of Dallas while I went to a secular university in England. She was actively encouraged at that university to live a catholic life, I was bombarded with free condom's and encouraged to have a "good" time during freshers week in England.

Our experiences of university life could not have been more different.

Clare@ BattlementsOfRubies said...

This is an old post now, but I must say that I find the criticism of Catholic Voices disappointing.
When Peter Tatchell wanted a catholic response for his programme about the Pope he couldn't get a comment from any official church people ( who knows whether this was smart, perhaps it was because they knew that he would try to stitch them up. Or maybe it was ecclesiastical pusillanimity who can tell) However, they were able to direct him to Catholic Voices instead.

Dear old ladies fingering their rosary beads would be eaten alive by the media savvy Tatchell. Delivering them to him would be a gift. Much as I love them I do NOT want to be represented by them when they are in the hands of a hostile media.
We need smart, attractive, well informed and faithful Catholics who can explain our faith and defend the Holy Father without playing into the hands of our critics who would love an opportunity to make us look like quaintly superstitious simpletons.

On another note, as time has gone on, and James blog has unravelled into a watering hole for pseudonymous gossips to peddle speculation, impugn reputations and make hysterical denunciations of various priests and others, I think Catholic Voices probably made the right decision in not including him.
As a fairly new and very enthusiastic revert to the church I have been so thrilled to discover the British catholic blogosphere.
That excitement has soured somewhat lately as I have observed the dispiriting lack of charity and the enthusiastic tearing of reputations to shreds.
I think it is quite scandalous to see this played out in such a shamelessly public manner.

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