Monday, September 16, 2013

Brighton Argus smear: parish reactions - fightback

Still no response from the Argus certainly no apology, or even an acknowledgement of fault, nothing. Ironically I am told the unscrupulous journalist Bill Gardner was on the BBC speaking about bullying, of all things.

Numbers at Mass were down noticeably, probably the weather, it could be the effect of the Argus' misrepresentation. One disturbing thing, I didn't hear it myself, but there was group of lads outside the church yesterday evening, probably a bit drunk, one shouted out, 'chuck a petrol bomb in there'. This was a first time we had something like this, drunks normally want to come in and light candles not make threatening remarks, no, nobody took it serious enough to ring the the police. It could be a result of the Argus' article, more probably just the madness of Brighton but it is perhaps an illustration of Brighton's anti-religious bullying culture, the same stable Bill Gardner and Michael Beard his editor inhabit.

Anyhow, most of my parishioners were sympathetic, some were extremely angry with Argus, one or two are getting together to approach some of the Argus advertisers, apparently there was a full colour page ad from a local private school, I think some of our people into 'social justice' intend to contact the head or bursar about the ethics of advertising with the Argus, the thing in Brighton everyone knows everyone.

A few others intend to go around the local newsagents who are mainly Coptic Christians and try an persuade them to stop stocking the Argus, it probably won't be that effective but many are sufficiently aware of Christian persecution abroad, some apparently have said they are willing to make available an issue of a little journal called 'The Eye of the Needle' produced by one of my parishioners and talks about my original post, its real purpose is to defend the homeless.

I have had some journalist ringing up, having been bitten I am shy. I did speak to one from a 'Catholic' paper which I and right thinking priests do not allow in their churches, to ask about my possibly closing my blog, when I insisted the story was not about that but about bad, unethical journalism and when I asked him to do a story on that he muttered something about 'libel laws' and was uninterested. I am afraid I got a little angry and suggest that it was precisely because Christian journalists are unwilling to to put their heads above the parapet that we have even after Leveson and the revelations about other unscrupulous and unethical journalists, journalists who are unwilling even to discuss, let alone report, the failings of their own industry.

On the fourth day of his Pontificate Pope Benedict spoke of the importance of "clear references of the ethical responsibilities" and to engage in a "sincere search for the truth and the safeguarding of the centrality and the dignity of the person." If only Catholic journalists would do that, if only they had a love for 'the indestructible truth and its eternal beauty', if only other journalists would even think about following the Editors Code of Practice of the Press Complaints Commission then Journalists might actually be regarded as champions of truth, with a holy vocation to search for truth, rather than something only marginally above pond life.

Journalists should have a noble role in society, uncovering 'lies and falsehood', my concern is when journalists  and the media are the source of such lies and falsehood. Some people making comments here suggest that I should ignore a gross distortion of the truth, that is merely 'co-operation with evil', giving into playground bullies.

People ask have I forgiven the Argus. The answer is I haven't any choice. I feel sorry for Bill and Mike working for a failing provincial paper, which few under 70 read, they get a pittance for their work and have to spice up their stories to get them in the National to make a living, otherwise they have to supplement their pay by working, as at least one does, as a chorus boys in the local theatre. It's Brighton!

Forgiveness is not too difficult, most victims forgive bullies but to simply allow a bully to continue without bringing him to repentance is condoning his evil. The only answer to bullying is to fight back. No good father will allow a naughty child to simply carry on his self destructive naughtiness.

Please continue with your help, even just clicking onto the blog means it moves up the Google page the Argus appears on and leave a comment on my blog, it helps. I think I might be getting a few more readers at the moment than they are, there are lots from Brighton, thanks.

I am happy to give an interview on this to any serious journalist, I said no last week, this week I am more open to sensible suggestions.

A montage prepared by one of my parishioners: Bill hasn't resigned, I don't want that, I just want him to be incredibly successful but I also what him to be a good ethical journalist first.
God can do that - pray!


This is what St Francis de Sales - the patron saint of ... ahem ... journalists, says about slander in the Introduction to the Devout Life:

"He who unjustly takes away his neighbour's good name is guilty of sin, and is bound to make reparation, according to the nature of his evil speaking; since no man can enter into Heaven cumbered with stolen goods, and of all worldly possessions the most precious is a good name. Slander is a kind of murder; for we all have three lives--a spiritual life, which depends upon the Grace of God; a bodily life, depending on the soul; and a civil life, consisting in a good reputation. Sin deprives us of the first, death of the second, and slander of the third. But the slanderer commits three several murders with his idle tongue: he destroys his own soul and that of him who hearkens, as well as causing civil death to the object of his slander; for, as Saint Bernard says, the Devil has possession both of the slanderer and of those who listen to him, of the tongue of the one, the ear of the other. And David says of slanderers, "They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders' poison is under their lips." Aristotle says that, like the forked, two-edged tongue of the serpent, so is that of the slanderer, who at one dart pricks and poisons the ear of those who hear him, and the reputation of him who is slandered."


amaqula said...

Hilarious picture of the Argus newspaper headlines. Really made me laugh. And your comment that you have probably more readers now than the Argus. You probably have.

Keep up the good work Father.

The Bones said...

The show was on ITV

fraz1971 said...

I made a comment on one of your other blogs father. I posted a link to a film bout Cristo Rey. Some might think that I was being over the top. Reading about the petrol threats made me sure that I was not.

The Marxist BBC have the public primed. The English aren't very hard to sway against the Catholic church at the best of times.

All it takes is a dishonest reporter to cause a spark. History has had a few of them and the French Revolution and cake come to mind. Bigots don't need truth, they need the flimsiest of justifications.

The more I think about it, the more I agree with putting pressure on the Argus.

The prayer to the immaculate heart of Mary is a comfort in these times.

God Bless Father.

Father John Boyle said...

Stay safe! Is you bishop checking that you or ok?

mark said...

Dear Fr Ray,
A good quotation from St Frances de Sales. Like you, he was well-known and loved as a friend of the poor. I hope that the Argus journalist Mr Gardner takes note of it.
Shakespeare made the same point in 'Othello', but I don't know who got there first:- 'But he that filches from me my good name Robs me of that which not enriches him And makes me poor indeed'.
I am glad you have forgiven Mr Gardner. As for whether he now mends his ways, time will tell. But I do still think you should leave it there, rather than dwell on the matter. This is not to advocate allowing a bully to carry on. If he steps out of line again, you may be sure that he will receive a barrage of complaints - both immediately (via the newspapers' online comments) and separately via emails, phone calls and letters to him and his editor.
BTW, I did look at Mr Gardner's 'twitter feed' (if that's the right expression for it, I hope so) when you posted a link, but I did not find anything other than him calling you a Catholic Priest, which to me seems like a badge of honour? Was there more?

Anonymous said...

I hope you will not allow the Argus to go free on this matter. I has done much damage to souls - judging by some comments on your blog and elsewhere.
I strongly urge legal action.

Gadfly said...

The irony is that this debacle has lent more publicity to your blog and will give you a wider platform for your views in future: keep the flag flying, and fight the good fight!

mark said...

Oops - It looks as though I have taken away the good saint's ACTUAL name!
I meant, of course, St Francis de Sales, not St Frances de Sales. My apologies.

Zephyrinus said...

We're still with you, Fr.

You are doing a wonderful job.

The people in Brighton love you (except The Argus chappies).

Hang on in there.

in Domino

Michelle Therese said...

Dear Father,

So sorry that you have had to suffer this kind of public slander. My own social life (and to some extent it also reached into my married family and my parish) took a few nuclear blasts from unethical gossip that misconstrued exactly what I was saying on my own blog.

This seems to be the way of things these days, to openly lie, to gossip to everyone that will listen, until the object of your slander is destroyed. Then no one bothers to read the rebuttals, to find out the truth for themselves. I feel very sorry for you, Father, because you are a priest forced into hopeless damage control. At least I am just a housewife tucked away on a farm. God be with you, Father. May you find some kind of public justice, God willing. But either way just know that many of us Catholics do not buy the slander, not for one second!

Yours in the Sacred Heart,

Anagnostis said...

Prayers continue, Father; and if anybody wants to know, this non-Catholic considers you one of the finest men I've had the privilege of knowing. You can tell more about a person from the character of his enemies than from that of his friends.

Jeremiah Methuselah said...

Those newspaper banners are hilarious, loved them. Great sense of humour Father B.

Mother Effingby said...

I remember some 30 years ago, when I was working in a newsroom at a newspaper in Billings Montana. Just mentioning the name of Pope John Paul II would cause one front page editor to go into such a frothing rage of hate that I had to wonder what the pope ever had done to this man to cause such an outrage. My experience with these uber liberal types is that they are almost all atheists, near-commies, and completely disconnected from the readers they are serving. Which doesn't surprise me in the least.

B flat said...

I am glad that the effects of the lies on your spirit was only temporary, father. God bless you and keep your mind clear and your message of salvation full of the Theological virtues. Praying for you and your work.
Ad multos annos!

blondpidge said...

Mark - take a look at my most recent blog post on this.

I believe that the Argus are setting Fr Ray up as some sort of 'comedy' priest figure, Brighton's equivalent of Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church.

It's highly irresponsible to say the least.

This is about Fr Ray, not me, but I've had some experience of attempts made to trash my reputation and affect my income as a freelance writer, as well as attempted interference in my husband's vocation.

This not mere trolling, but a concerted campaign to remove someone from the public square, or negate their influence, as it is with Fr Ray. Sadly because its private individuals there's very little I can do, a libel suite not being a realistic option, but where a professional organisation such as the Argus is behind such treatment, it is only right and proper for Fr Ray to defend his good name and the vital work that he does.

johnf said...

My blood ran cold when you mentioned the petrol remark, Father. We need prayers and lots of them .

God Bless and keep you.

Unknown said...

Something to cheer you up father.

Unknown said...

Fr Blake,

I was not aware of your blog and the problem you are encountering with the Argus of Brighton until it was drawn to my attention by a cousin of mine who is a regular reader of yours. He speaks highly of you and thought I would be interested, as a recently retired lawyer who has worked on libel cases.

Yours is indeed an interesting case. It has several unusual features, especially as I see that the same journalist has written up two entirely unrelated stories about you on consecutive days, and I understand that you are misrepresented and treated as an object of abuse in each of them. As I recall Oscar Wilde expressed it a little more pithily, but one misrepresentation of you is unfortunate but two is somewhat careless, i.e., careless of the journalist and newspaper.

In this post-Leveson period,I suspect that many of my former colleagues will be interested in seeing how this case is resolved. I hope that the newspaper will have the decency to settle it to your satisfaction as early as possible, but I am sure justice will prevail even if it takes some time.

Do you have an email address so that I can contact you privately?

Anonymous said...


I am a frequent reader of your blog. I can not understand how the " journalist' who wrote the smear campaign article against you , could have even come to such a conclusion after reading said blog post.
Yes reading it did make me feel a bit uncomfortable, but it was in a good way. In that it made me check my own perspective on such things .

God Bless you.

Anonymous said...


I am a frequent reader of your blog. I can not understand how the " journalist' who wrote the smear campaign article against you , could have even come to such a conclusion after reading said blog post.
Yes reading it did make me feel a bit uncomfortable, but it was in a good way. In that it made me check my own perspective on such things .

God Bless you.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Martin F,

Gratias said...

Father Blake, let's go back to the year of faith and what the mass can do for it. There is not so much time left.

Luvya, ;-)

Fr Ray Blake said...

Restoring my good name and putting an end this systematic bullying is actually very important at the moment.

Lola said...


I am sure that all of us echo Father John's advise to you: please stay safe. I will add, please diarise everything you find above the usual i.e. comments/conduct made similar to that petrol remark.

Keeping you in thoughts and prayer.

God bless.

Roses and Jessamine said...

Ban on Brighton Builders' Bums, hohoho. Quality journalism. BG probably wrote that one too.

I am greatly encouraged and heartened by the interest of Martin F, the lawyer with experience in libel cases. Thank you Martin.

I'm concerned about the bomb threat. It could be unrelated, "just" part of the general darkness of Brighton, as you say, Father. It might not. It wouldn't hurt to get a police incident report number. Just for the record.

Excellent post, Father. Thank you for blogging and for keeping all of us grounded. Where would we be without our priests?

Roses and Jessamine said...

PS, they might look into street CCTV footage as well.

St Wilfrid's, Coalville said...

God bless you, Father. Thank you for the care of the poor.

Sonia Gable said...

I read your blog occasionally and have no particular knowledge of the various matters you discuss, and often do not follow your posts on aspects of doctrine, but understood exactly what you meant in your blog about the poor. Bill Gardner might have been too dumb to understand, or was trying to be controversial to win readers and enhance his own standing, but it does seem that there is a lot of anti-Catholicism about. It's not something I noticed until I became a Catholic myself.

However I don't think boycotting the Argus or putting pressure on advertisers works. I don't live in Brighton and don't know the paper, but local advertisers and readers might not have an equivalent alternative. Boycotting a paper over one article is an excessive reaction. It would be different if the paper were consistently malicious. Free speech and a free press is something we should value, even if sometimes journalists misuse it or at best are guilty of poor judgement.

Forgiveness is right and commendable. Gardner and the editor should apologise but if they refuse, it is they who look bad in the minds of good people.

The petrol bomb threat is disturbing indeed, not something we are used to in the UK though Christians in some parts of the world have to live with threats and actual violence all the time. Keep vigilant.

I am curious about which 'Catholic' paper you do not allow in your church. I read an article in last week's Catholic Herald about the Argus story and it seemed fair and accurate to me, so I guess it's a different paper that contacted you.

Fr Ray Blake said...

We have discovered they have been consistently malicious, they have been unresponsive to any requests to act justly. My parishioners are free to act as they feel is appropriate, some are quite outraged.
To do nothing merely means they continue to act without scruple.

Unknown said...

Petrol bombs? Whatever will the next threat to the Church be? Air to ground missiles? I really didn't think that the poisonous and contemptible piece by Bill Gardner had the power to turn the citizens of Brighton into raging anti-Catholic revolutionaries. But I suppose even the Argus, read by so few, could inflame the anti Christian and anti-CAtholic feelings that abound in this city. We know that there are plenty of mad people about, some of whom may believe the disgraceful things that were said about you, Father, and although I think that the threat probably came from drunken youths behaving badly, please do take care.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Living in "the States" I hadn't heard anything about this, until I came across an op-ed (week old) column at Catholic Herald.
Complete madness, and clearly anti-Catholic bullying.
You and your parish will be in our prayers. I have 10 kids and they are armed with rosaries! :)
Stay safe, Father.

PS: Your comments on ethics in journalism are spot-on. And situations like this illustrate the need for "alternative media." Like your blog, for example. Thank you for your witness.

Sonia Gable said...

Sorry about appearing as "Unknown": now worked out how to get my name to appear. No, you should not do nothing but I think you have attracted a lot of support with your response. Keep on blogging, don't be intimidated.

Sandy Grounder said...

Fr Ray

Keep up all the good work Father. I will keep you and your parish in my prayers.

Deacon Augustine said...

Fr. Ray, I'm glad to see that you are still in the fray.

Don't be deterred by those who say you should forgive them. Until there is an admission on the offenders' part that they have need of your forgiveness, then you cannot be charged with denying them forgiveness. Even God doesn't force His forgiveness on people who don't ask for it.

To offer forgiveness gratuitously with not even a hint of repentance by the offenders, would be to deny justice. It would only encourage that stupid boy to go and victimise somebody else with his internet bullying campaigns. His next victim might not have the strength of character or level of support that you do.

God bless you, and many prayers for all your work.

mark said...

To Deacon Augustine:- We are asked to forgive others regardless of whether they want it. We are asked to forgive our enemies.
This is not being passive in the face of evil. Those who have offended us will still need God's mercy. But we are not to put ourselves in God's place.
See our Lord's Prayer, and also Mark 11:25: 'And when you stand in prayer, forgive whatever you have against anybody, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your failings too'.
I think Fr Ray has written that he has forgiven the journalist.
God bless.

Roses and Jessamine said...

@ Mark

Are you a Catholic priest, deacon, monsignor, bishop, cardinal, or former pope? No. Then stop giving our clergy cod-spiritual advice on matters that they have been PUTTING INTO PRACTICE since the time when you were in nappies. And stop quoting the Word of God out of context; the Devil can read Scripture too.

After you've given up decades of your life studying in a seminary, offering the most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass daily, helping the poor, feeding the hungry, listening to people's heartaches and sins, doing penance for others, living in chastity, getting up in the middle of night to go and see a dying person, even when you're sick, burying the dead, consoling the sorrowful, talking to convicted criminals in prison, visiting the sick, going on spiritual retreat, fasting, meditating, contemplating and praying to God daily, then might you (stress might) be qualified to say what our clergy are called upon to do by God.

Until then, butt out and leave our priests alone. Unless you've got something worthy to say.

I'm sure Fr. Ray has forgiven that toilet paper rag press. He can still choose to sue their raggedy little arses to kingdom come. It's called God's justice.

Since you seem to like reading, see 'The Crusades', 'Papal Zouaves', and 'Jesuit soldiers'.

mark said...

To 'Roses and Jessamine',
I am a Catholic layman.
If there is anything in my reply to Deacon Augustine which is counter to the teachings of our Lord and Saviour, then I would be most grateful if you would point it out to me. Thank you. God bless you.

Roses and Jessamine said...

@ Mark

I am a Catholic layperson too and it is not for me to decide whether you have contravened the teachings of The Church, only a priest can do that. I was not suggesting that you had anyway. My point was that the clergy do not need to be advised by the laity on scriptural and spiritual matters.

If I came across strong it is because I feel strongly about things to do with justice. Catechism no. 381: "What is justice? Justice consists in the firm and constant will to give to others their due. Justice towards God is called 'the virtue of religion'."

mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mark said...

To Roses and Jessamine,
Thank you. You write that the clergy do not need my advice on scriptural and spiritual matters, and of course I agree that this should certainly be the case, since I have no formal training in theology or exegesis. However, I had been writing to Deacon Augustine, and to be honest I have little idea what formation a Deacon undergoes either? I will try to inform myself on that point.
But in the event, I have had no reply from the Deacon, and so must assume that he has taken no offence to my comment. And nor has Fr Ray, with whom I raised this matter separately.
Yes, you did 'come across strong', but fortunately I am strong too (albeit in a different meaning of the word) and so no harm was done.
With regard to the Catechism:- I think you may perhaps be using an older version than me? I am using the 1994 version, the Catechism of the Catholic Church - where your number 381 is numbered 1807. There, Justice is described as one of the four cardinal virtues. However, it seems to me that justice as explained in number 1807 is more to do with the respect and fairness which we owe to our neighbours, than with what you are writing about?
Be that as it may, I had been writing about forgiveness (or mercy) rather than justice - and for these (that is, forgiveness, mercy) the relevant Catechism numbers are:- 2447 (where 'forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently' is described as one of the works of mercy); and numbers 2838 to 2845 (being the interpretation of the relevant section of The Lord's Prayer). Number 2840 includes this: "Now - and this is daunting - this outpouring of mercy cannot penetrate our hearts as long as we have not forgiven those who have trespassed against us". Number 2843 states (in part) that "It is not in our power not to feel, or to forget, an offence; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession". And number 2844 is about our forgiveness of our enemies, which "bears witness that love is stronger than sin". I do not wish to go on too long here, but it was you who raised the matter of the Catechism and so I feel obliged to respond in some way.
My point, then, had been to query, with Deacon Augustine, why he had suggested that we should not "gratuitously" forgive others, when all my life I have been taught that this is precisely what we are called to do as Christians?
Happy to leave it there, unless you wish to have the last word. God bless.

mark said...

To Roses and Jessamine,
To clarify:- I deleted my first attempt at a reply to you, because it did not seem to have 'gone through' properly. But then, after re-typing the whole thing (Doh!), I found that it HAD gone through after all. And so I then deleted one of two comments, both of which said the same thing (ie, what my latest one says).

Roses and Jessamine said...

I have the 2006 edition. ISBN 1-86082-376-9.

Nobody is questioning the doctrine on forgiveness and mercy. There not need be a dichotomy between forgiving offences and simultaneous respect for the rule of law which contributes to the realisation of the common good.

If an aggressor inflicts suffering on others that is lasting, grave and certain, and if other peaceful means of reconciliation have been shown to be ineffective, then it is morally permissible to fight back, for our good and the good of all The Church.

I'm not an expert (best to ask a deacon or a priest) but I think the formation period for Catholic deacons varies from diocese to diocese. It usually entails an initial year of discernment and prayerful preparation, then 4-5 years of formal studies in philosophy, theology, Scriptural studies, homiletics, sacramental studies, evangelisation, ecclesiology, counselling, pastoral care, and pastoral ministry. After Ordination, there is another year of formation and practical work in a parish. There is a lifelong commitment to continuing education, and to reciting the Liturgy of the Hours every day. Not an easy task.

All I'm saying is: our preachers do need to be preached to by the laity. To do is to try and laicise the clergy, remove or secularise their priestly functions, which is dangerous. Our clergy are quite capable of making their own wise decisions.

And that is my final word on this topic.

MrOptimism said...

I am very sorry to have read of your reputation being damaged like this. It is so easy to destroy and much more challenging to build up. I wonder if journalists consider this?
I'd hope that your faith can sustain you. How much better it is that you are the victim and not the perpetrator. It's not you that will have to account for this incident, only that you reacted as you should have.

Guerrilla Democracy News said...

What the Argus did to you is unacceptable and you have every right to be angry.

On the strength of your story I have written my own opinion on the Argus.

I wish you all the best in getting an apology from the Argus. And isn't it cruel, that Bill Gardner has gone on to receive an award for his journalism.

This is a disgrace...

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