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A Guild of Catholic Bloggers is a terrific idea. Are we really too divided to form one?

At least we can be united on life issues

By on Thursday, 12 May 2011

Bloggers, including Hilary White, left, meet at an Irish bar in Rome (CNS/Paul Haring)

Bloggers, including Hilary White, left, meet at an Irish bar in Rome (CNS/Paul Haring)

Blogging can get to you. Last Friday at Mass I misread the entrance antiphon and started to pray, “By your blog, O Lord, you have redeemed us from every tribe and tongue, from every nation and people…” It took me a few seconds to realise there was something not quite right about this; I checked again and saw the actual wording, “By your blood, O Lord…” It did cause me a distracted moment of amusement: God doesn’t “blog” directly, obviously – but he can inspire what people write on their blogs, just as he can inspire them in every means of communication.

I was mulling over this when a friend asked me this week to join a “Guild of Catholic women bloggers”. This would be a separate enterprise from the “Guild of Catholic Bloggers” suggested recently by Dylan Parry, aka A Reluctant Sinner, whose idea was highlighted by William Oddie. I declined the invitation. Why? Well, I think the idea of a Guild is terrific but to separate men and women would be divisive – and a lot less fun. I asked my friend why she wanted this. “The men are so traditionalist!” she replied.

I hadn’t noticed this myself (and would argue that women can be just as “traditionalist” as the men). Dylan Parry’s original idea was simply that “Any Catholic who is, or who is resolved to be, faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church is more than welcome to join any proposed Guild. The intention in setting it up is to form a society where those who blog can meet up in person, share ideas, organise workshops and attend an annual Mass together.”

I can’t recall if he suggested this Mass should be in the Extraordinary Form or not. At any rate, to circumvent the “traditionalist” criticism, Masses could be celebrated in either form. The essential point is to have a reverent and holy liturgy: as a child in the 1950s I have been to Masses in Ireland, where the traditional Latin Mass was often gabbled by the priest at breakneck speed, with nothing reverent about it; we would be in and out in barely 20 minutes. And we all know the abuses that can attend the Novus Ordo.

Reading all the dismissive posts under William Oddie’s blog was a depressing business. Are we Catholics so divided that we cannot form such a Guild? But Caroline Farrow’s post was heartening: she felt the proposed Guild should be for fellowship and support, the mutual exchange of ideas and that, allowing for legitimate liturgical preferences, we could all at least be united over life issues – abortion, euthanasia and so on. I hope so. As the nature of the internet is to be global, so should the Guild be also. We can meet in the blogosphere if not in person and Masses could be offered in either form anywhere in the world where there is a sympathetic priest-member. St Francis de Sales or GK Chesterton were suggested as patrons: why not have both?

  • http://towertales.tumblr.com/ Londonistar

    Caroline Farrow is an absolute inspiration. She has been a pillar of reason, support and kindness to me through a difficult period, via Twitter over the past year – as have a good number of Catholic tweeters and bloggers I would dearly love to credit such as ‘RedMaria’, another inspiration. And yet I have never even met them! There were times when I was not sure how I would cope through ‘that’ year without them – they really have been SO supportive and wonderful. I cannot thank them enough. I think it is a terrific idea to bring this support network together into which we can weave our catholic fellowship and discussions of faith with opportunities to meet up at a yearly Mass. And I have so much more to learn about my faith! Please do consider how wonderful this network could be to no doubt many others out there who would find this support network so inspirational. It has, along with the Papal visit, also reinvigorated my faith from a rather relaxed and perplexed catholic to someone far more attached to my faith than ever before.

  • http://towertales.tumblr.com/ Londonistar

    Caroline Farrow is an absolute inspiration. She has been a pillar of reason, support and kindness to me through a difficult period, via Twitter over the past year – as have a good number of Catholic tweeters and bloggers I would dearly love to credit such as ‘RedMaria’, another inspiration. And yet I have never even met them! There were times when I was not sure how I would cope through ‘that’ year without them – they really have been SO supportive and wonderful. I cannot thank them enough. I think it is a terrific idea to bring this support network together into which we can weave our catholic fellowship and discussions of faith with opportunities to meet up at a yearly Mass. And I have so much more to learn about my faith! Please do consider how wonderful this network could be to no doubt many others out there who would find this support network so inspirational. It has, along with the Papal visit, also reinvigorated my faith from a rather relaxed and perplexed catholic to someone far more attached to my faith than ever before.

  • http://twitter.com/UKYoungCatholic Michael

    The intentions of the Guild to meet up in person, provide mutual support, share ideas, organise workshops and arrange an annual Mass seem great. I just don’t understand why a Guild is needed; it seems to introduce incremental cost and bureaucracy unnecessarily when these things can be acheived without an umbrella organisation.

    The risk in the future is that the Guild would seek to be representative, which I’m not convinced is desirable – partly because it could be abused and partly because it might in fact serve to mute the blogs. The beauty of the bloggersphere that any individual can broadcast to the world and be heard (if people are willing to listen/read) without the need for further amplification.

    So, while I support unity in the message – particularly on life issues – I wonder if unifying the source of transmission might actually reduce its impact.

  • Juliebrown13

    How about St Teresa of Avila as PATRON….a brilliant pragmatist who travelled widely….

  • http://associationofcatholicwomenbloggers.blogspot.com/ Jackie Parkes

    Well then! I can’t access my blog Lead Kindly Light nor the new group the Association of Catholic Women Bloggers that is really taking off! When I saw the picture of the Westminster Guild, I thought it was a guild of Men Bloggers! So it was only fair & right to have a Womens! I also share some of Michael’s reservations & am concerned that a Guild might be used to advance a marginalised Catholicism that is over-represented on the Blogs. I obviously strive to follow the teachings of the magisterium..particularly Humanae Vitae & having TEN children. I find that there seems to be a lot of “talk” on the blogs rather than the “walk” ..probably many bloggers with young families wouldn’t have the time to attend “meetings” & as an ex Head of RE I am a bit reluctant to sit in Guild meetings! I would prefer as patron to anything remotely organised St Francis de Sales patron of writers & journalists..As I said at the beginning, I can’t even access the blogs at the moment & perhaps it’s a sign to get off the computer! However the calibre of women joining the association of Catholic Women Bloggers is outstanding & I hope it will continue in some form. Francis’s opening lines re the beginning of Mass were absolutely hilarious! Essentially I think bloggers are inclined to be over serious..so I love Francis’s post though I don’t agree about saving something for the women! Lastly I think the Liturgical wars are very divisive & I feel a split might even come in the Church..not between orthodox Catholics & liberal but between old riters & those prefering the traditional ordinary form…

  • cathvyse

    I don’t think that to separate women from men is always devisive. Monastic orders have always separated male from female, and quite apart from the obvious reasons for doing so, there is a wider advantage to an all-female group in particular. It has a particular “charism”, esp. wrt homemaking and children. I find women bloggers to be, in the main, less opinionated, less “black and white”, and while I dip in and out of few blogs written by males, I feel amongst friends on many blogs written by women.
    We have a little corner of blogland in the Association of Catholic Women Bloggers which will appeal to some, but not all, and I sincerely hope there is room for everyone ;)
    Autumn

  • Anonymous

    Michael please allow me to assuage any fears:

    a] The ‘Guild’ [no title has been officially either discussed or agreed upon] – membership accessible to any orthodox Catholic blogger/commentator – is to be like a guild – a loose association of individuals who neither delegate nor abrogate their independence. Every participant would speak solely for themselves – not as a representative/delegated/designated member of or spokesperson for the guild.

    b] Loyalty and obedience to His Holiness and the Magisterium is deemed mandatory and imperative.

    c] There is to be no governing body – no bureaucracy other than minor administration for finances[petty cash & mass stipends]/communications/events planning and those ‘techies/aesthetes’ assisting in the construction of an umbrella blog – a blog in which all members may participate and contribute – the main emphasis is to be evangelically informative, spiritually reflective, pastorally promotive – with an opportunity to recount/engage with personal life stories, the lives of the saints, events in Church history etc. It will provide major links to Catholic resources, blogs, media and news services, forthcoming events etc. There has been a suggestion of a possible Q&A section of the blog and maybe a daily spiritual bouguet [saint of the day, spiritual reflection, daily prayer , scripture reading etc]

    - but the sole moderating proviso in all of this is that although posts can challenge, prick consciences, be controversial in context or conclusion and bluntly [confrontationally] reinforce Catholic moral, doctrinal and praxic positions – they should be of a promotive positive nature – posts unsuitable/inappropriate for a central hub umbrella blog – i.e. of an overly-personal overly-negative, provocative political or inflammatory nature – should respectfully in all charity remain on the blogs of the respective individual blogger[s] – but the umbrella blog may include links, notifications or referrals to these – with the regular contents and comments disclaimer.

    i.e. no regulation, restriction, prohibition or relinquishing of personal blog independence – merely an understanding of the central blogs motives, direction and ethos – to support, share experiences, sustain, console, inform and inspire fellow Catholics with the underlying directive in all things to promote and defend the faith

    d] Both Fr Tim Finigan & Fr Samuel Medley have offered to celebrate the sacrifice of the mass for us [no form has been discussed] ; although the emphasis is strongly towards lay participation, the clerical blogosphere is freely welcome to participate – the loose association of the guild would in no way compromise or jeopardise a cleric’s obedience and loyalty to their Ordinary and his executive remit.

    e] There is no proscription on membership/participation for anyone who might hold divergent , irregular or non-normative views or opinions in regard to ecclesiastical practice – i.e. clerical celibacy, conciliarity and diocesan democracy, parish structure,personal pieties, liturgical and musical praxis etc. Orthodoxy in faith and morals and obedience/loyalty to the Successor to Peter and the Magisterium is however – non-negotiable and contravention would be automatically dissociative from publishing on that issue [e.g. moderators might allow the contributor's poems, spiritual reflections, academic analyses etc - but not heterodox positions.]. But such progressivist/regressivist calls for institutional reform would more-than-likely be considered more appropriate for the individual’s personal blog – but it would not compromise an individual’s membership/participation.

    f] There was some vociferous opposition from some quarters in regard to the formation of a guild – Their understandable concerns were given due consideration but most worries were automatically negated with the composition of bloggers who turned up for the meeting [i.e. there was no hijacking of the initiative by Conference, the CCN, Westminster, the elitist metropolitan in-crowd , or a couple of Catholic charity trustees [I think we all know who I mean] – Rather it was ordinary long-term Catholic bloggers [and an aspiring convert] with their own personal accreditation and shibboleths..

  • Anonymous

    Jackie – did you for one second consider asking me in regard to the nature of the meeting?

    Yes only one lady managed to attend the meeting – in Westminster I might add – NOT by people from Westminster – most people were from much farther afield]

    Mrs Elizabeth McKernan from St Mary Magdalen parish Brighton was asked to represent Jane Mossendew Fulthorpe [of Thoughts from a Catholic Oasis blog]

    …subsequent to the main meeting we met up with two prominent Catholic women bloggers – Mulier Fortis and Dolphinarium…[Caroline Farrow also expressed her enthusiasm for the initiative but only gave birth a fortnight ago so was understandably unable to attend]

    Might I suggest that your over-reaction to a perceived dearth of female participation was inadvertently divisive and maybe you should get back to your ‘members’ before you go any farther, and discuss the whole thing with Dylan Parry – or maybe Mac or RedMaria too?

    It’s commendable to be so enthusiastic – but you could have sent me a quick e-mail !

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for your excellent post.

    I can totally assure your friend that all Catholic bloggers, male and female, would be welcome to join this group / guild that was set up last Saturday. In fact, many women bloggers have already joined, and I doubt very much that they would want to join a group that was divided by gender. In fact, I concur with St Paul who told the Christians of Galatia that the division of “male and female” no longer existed in Christ (cf Gal 3:28).

    As for men being more conservative or traditionalist, then I really have to say that this is plain nonsense. It might even be sexist! lol. Maybe some women feel uncomfortable with men, though, as some men feel ill at ease with women? Maybe this is the real reason behind your friend’s desire to create a “break-away” or “divided” group?

    On Saturday, all those who met in the Hinsley Room were convinced of the need for the Guild to be open to all Catholics, or those faithful to the Magisterium at least. In fact, it was even said by a few that so-called liberals and others should be welcomed.

    As for the form in which Mass would be offered. My guess is that, on the whole, they would be celebrated in the Ordinary Form, but with dignity and solemnity. Of course, the Extraordinary Form might also be celebrated from time to time. Although I have attended EF Masses, I always attend OF Mass on Sundays and normal weekdays ( in English and / or Latin).

    Maybe it might have been more constructive for your friend to have got in touch with me if she had any concerns about the issue of men and / or Mass styles?

    I will still follow her blog, and wish her every blessing in her venture. As Gamaliel said, if something is of God, it shall surely last” (cf Acts 5:39).

    Thank you again…

    God bless,

    Dylan

  • http://twitter.com/UKYoungCatholic Michael

    If we accept that there is no intention for the ‘Guild’ to be representative, and that it will never happen in the future, then it seems the primary collaborative output is the blog.

    The question is, shouldn’t the apparent mission of the ‘Guild’ blog – to be evangelically informative, spiritually reflective, pastorally promotive etc. – really extend to all Catholic blogs? We should welcome their justifiably critical and provocative elements too, but isn’t there always a case for some degree of balance? It is a choice for the individual blogger, of course, but I would worry that, if all the positive messages are channelled through the ‘Guild’, then the individual blogs will be left looking aggressive and extreme, to their detriment.

    We know there our those that seek to marginalise Catholic bloggers, whom they seek to portray as disproportionately traditionalist and excessively influential, and the ‘Guild’ may in fact play into their hands by concentrating the positive output into a single source.

  • http://twitter.com/blondpidge Caroline Farrow

    I was very disappointed not to be able to attend however it wasn’t advisable. The feedback has been very encouraging and I would like to thank Dylan and Paul for their candid accounts. I will definitely attend the next one.

    It seems to me there is an inherent danger in forming separate sub-groups, given the aims are inclusivity, fellowship and support. It may be these develop informally without needing structure.

  • Anonymous

    “The essential point is to have a reverent and holy liturgy:”
    Amen. Well said.

  • http://associationofcatholicwomenbloggers.blogspot.com/ Jackie Parkes

    Well Dylan I certainly have no problem with men I can assure you! Err Paul please excuse me for not contacting you!! I had no idea you needed to be consulted before us women set up a blog in which many of us are wives & mothers where we can discuss parenting issues, cooking & family affairs.The association for Women Bloggers is really taking off! 

  • R Collinsassoc

    I think that both St Francis de Sales and GKC were traditionalists; the Catholic Church is imbued with tradition…what is wrong with that? 

  • Joseph Shaw

    Sorry Paul this doesn’t make sense.

    1. The Guild is to be faithful to the Magisterium.

    2. The Guild is never to do anything to cold-shoulder or put pressure on unorthodox members, nor is there to be any bar to non-orthodox people joining.

    This isn’t logically impossible, but I can’t see it working in practice. If moderation is going to be limited to a central blog, is that going to be the test of orthodoxy: the views which can be expressed on the central blog? And who is to police that? Is everything going to be referred to the CDF?

    In my view Catholic organisations should not be embarassed about doing the best they can in keeping their Catholic identity by ejecting clearly unorthodox members. This is not easy, but it is necessary; the place is littered with organisations which failed to do this and which are now not Catholic at all. But it wouldn’t work for bloggers because of the nature of blogging and the nature of orthodox Catholics today.

    Let’s have blognics, let’s have Masses – why have a list of members? What purpose does that serve?

  • http://towertales.tumblr.com/ Londonistar

    I’d like to join. How does someone go about it? 

  • Anonymous

    Michael please don’t think this would be a watering down – it’s merely a cautious approach.

    There are already enough people out there who don’t want Catholic blogs interfering with their business – we might not be ones to back down from a confrontation – but neither should we deliberately go looking for fights with a centralised blog [where in such a case a disclaimer wouldn't really mean much - allowing the post to be printed would be partisan in itself ]

    If the set-up is too ‘wimpish’ I’m sure it will be repeated enough for members to reconsider policy – but for the time being let’s get the thing up-and-running.

  • Anonymous

    What has made blogging such a threat to traditional media is that it is individual free-expression, rather than something tailored to a specific publication.

    I think that any blogging ‘guilds’ will only serve to destroy the autonomy of blogging and create the groupthink that will be to its detrement. 

  • Anonymous

     Joseph : I was referring to members posting ‘orthodox’ contributions written by people of uncertain or questionable orthodoxy/heterodoxy.
    As stated: The heterodox need not apply.

    membership is for forming links and relationships and sharing beyond one’s usual close intimates –

  • Anonymous

     Jackie: Hope your move has gone/is going successfully…

    Now I don’t want to make a big issue out of this but you reacted to a single photo and a peripheral view of the blogs – and presumed the worst – that it was going to be suffocatingly male and ultra-tridentinist. You were very wrong on both counts which is why I’m irked that you didn’t bother to ask me either what happened and what’s planned.
    The fact that I gave you a load of reasons why this needed to be a successful endeavour seems to have vanished from your memory – instead of trying to help you rush off and form your own little band – well fine – hopefully despite the wrong-footed motives for its formation, this will be forgotten and maybe a great deal of good will arise from it?
    Why did Mrs Phillips have to ask ‘why are we divided’?
    I didn’t know we were until I turned up here…and who caused this ridiculous artificial division? And for what reasons?
    This was unnecessary – you caused it – you sort it!

  • Anonymous

     If it were up to me I’d have every possible patron going – but I think the main patron should be All Saints – all those in the Church Triumphant who were hidden aspects of the Church Militant – and made us what we are today….

  • http://adifferentperspective1.blogspot.com/ Jack Quirk

    I have a political blog, so I don’t know if I would qualify.  Also, although I am ardently pro-life, and hold to everything in the Catechism, that might not be enough to pass muster as faithful to the magisterium here in the United States where many supplement the Catechism with the Republican Platform, the latter winning out when the two conflict.  Too many Catholics in the U.S. justify abortion when they’re Democrats, and support denying medical care to the children who don’t get aborted if they’re Republicans.  The U.S. is a polarized country politically, and the division has affected and infected the Church here.  Over here, it might be impossible to get Catholic bloggers to get along even if everyone had to sign on to the pro-life position.