- Battle lines drawn
This week produced the clearest evidence yet that the Synod Fathers are sharply divided between those who are supporting Pope Francis in his efforts to present a more pastoral vision of the Church and those determined first and foremost to emphasise its moral teaching
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The controversial blog “Protect the Pope”, written by a deacon who attacked church figures over issues such as sexuality and abortion, has closed down.
In March Deacon Nick Donnelly had been asked by his bishop to “voluntary pause” from posting in order to reflect “on the duties involved for ordained bloggers … to truth, charity and unity in the Church”.
Mr Donnelly, vocations director for the permanent diaconate in the Lancaster Diocese, ceased posting, but his wife, Martina, continued to post on the blog.
He recently asked the Bishop of Lancaster, Michael Campbell, for permission to resume blogging but this request was declined as the period of discernment had not yet finished.
Last week a posting on the blog said that the bishop had “effectively closed down” the site and there would be no more news postings.
But Bishop Campbell said in a statement: “To be clear: I have not closed down Protect the Pope.” He added: “the fact that this decision was forced, misinterpreted and then released publicly on the site – and miscommunicated by certain media outlets and blogs – claiming that I had effectively ‘closed’, ‘suppressed’ or ‘gagged’ Protect the Pope was regrettable and does not represent the truth of this situation.”
The bishop said that on a number of occasions he had warned Mr Donnelly to be careful “not to take on individuals in the Church of opposing views through ad hominem and personal challenges” on the blog.
"Protect the Pope" regularly criticised theologians and church leaders – including Cardinal Vincent Nichols – for being at odds with church teaching. It was also critical of a number of articles in The Tablet. The blog started in 2010 as a response to the “Protest the Pope” campaign against Benedict XVI’s UK visit and was at first focussed on defending the Church from secular critics. In recent years it has concerned itself with so called dissent inside the Church seeing itself, in Bishop Campbell’s words, as a “doctrinal watchdog.”
Bishop Campbell added: I am, of course, also conscious, that no bishop can ever ‘close down’ or supress blogs and websites – such a claim would be absurd. Bishops can and must, however, be faithful to their apostolic duty to preserve the unity of the Church in the service of the Truth. They must ensure that ordained clergy under their care serve that unity in close communion with them and through the gift of their public office: preaching the Truth always - but always in love.’
NOTE: this story was corrected to include Bishop Campbell's statement making clear that he did not close down Protect the Pope.