The Tablet online edition = Grima Wormtongue

From the UK’s best Catholic weekly, The Catholic Herald, comes this analysis piece by William Oddie.  My emphases and comments.

There are various perspectives from which we can view the papal visit: and one of them is as a PR exercise. That’s not to say, of course, that that is what the visit was actually about: [It was surely also about PR.] but a failure in PR terms would have been a definite set-back for the Church. The ultimate PR pro, Max Clifford, has opined that the Pope “got better coverage in the British media than I expected. In the build-up to the visit there was far more criticism than praise and then after he arrived far more praise than criticism. The pluses far outweighed the minuses. From a PR perspective there is a huge amount that needs to be done, but the visit was a success – far more a success than I thought it might have been.”

We starry-eyed papalists might at this juncture be a little more enthusiastic than that about the fact that the whole thing was “more of a success than… it might have been”, but Clifford’s is on the whole a positive assessment from a wholly disengaged non-Catholic professional.

The Tablet online assessment was much less positive than Max Clifford’s: if you didn’t know, you might have thought it had been composed by a member of Protest the Pope—an organisation which was basically reduced to complete insignificance by the scale of the Pope’s success everywhere but in the immediate environs of their demonstration last Saturday, but which continued to say what a success their whole campaign had been.

Thus, the Tablet online: “Unfolding sex abuse scandals, the rehabilitation of a Holocaust-denying bishop, and the Pope’s traditionalist leanings that have led him to relax restrictions on Tridentine liturgy while continuing to limit Catholic clergy to unmarried men had cost the Pope a degree of support he might have enjoyed from inside and outside the Church. Secularists and gay rights activists joined forces to create a “Protest the Pope” group and 10,000 people took to the streets of central London when the Pope was in town”. Nothing about the Pope’s success: incredible.  [I am not in the least surprised.]

The Tablet print edition did better, opining that at the Hyde Park rally (which took place at the same time as the Protest the Pope demo [Or Perhaps the other way around?] by which their online writer was so impressed, and which attracted an attendance over ten times less numerous). “British Catholicism” reads the Tablet leader “set out its stall, saying simply, ‘Here we are, this is what we do.’ It displayed its diversity, its contributions to the common good through its care for disabled and elderly people and for the education and welfare for young people, its inclusive concern for immigrants, strangers and refugees, its commitment to international development and to protecting the environment. This is precisely what the Pope, writing as Cardinal Ratzinger, once called a “creative minority”. More enthusiasm there for “British Catholicism” (whatever that is) than for the Pope, but it was at least an attempt to be positive.

The Tablet online assessment, though, represents the voice of a certain kind of English Catholic, who like Grima Wormtongue [ouch] in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings aims to sap courage and self-confidence by depression and defeatism, and who as we see is already finding once more its insidious voice. That voice has always been fundamentally anti-Wojty?a and anti-Ratzinger; and it surely will find it a lot more difficult now to be heard. But it is not yet a thing entirely of the past: be on your guard.

Dr William Oddie is a leading English Catholic writer and broadcaster. He edited The Catholic Herald from 1998 to 2004 and is the author of The Roman Option and Chesterton and the Romance of Orthodoxy.

The Tablet online = Grima Wormtongue.

Tabula delenda est

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  1. TJerome says:

    As I predicted, the Bitter Pill couldn’t bring itself to declare that the Pope’s trip was a success. The Bitter Pill “Out-Guardianed, the Guardian” which was fairly complimentary. Typical of fake Catholics.

  2. Eric says:

    who…. aims to sap courage and self-confidence by depression and defeatism

    Kind of reminds me of Jimmy Carter.

  3. Henry Edwards says:

    In the interest of fair and balanced coverage—even of the usually “bitter pill”—let me point out that Mr. Oddie’s piece fails to give credit where credit is due . . . To the surprisingly warm and even-handed treatment by The Tablet in its print edition. For instance, the lead feature article
    Pope springs a surprise, and so does Britain
    A Vatican veteran’s analysis
    Robert Mickens [The Tablet’s veteran Rome reporter]

    ‘You could feel the sense of jubilation among the members of Pope Benedict XVI’s entourage on Sunday evening as they bounded up the steps of their Alitalia jet in Birmingham and headed back to Rome. The Vatican churchmen had clearly judged the four-day papal visit to Britain a great triumph. . . . . .The nearly 70 journalists who were enjoying the same spread in the back of the Pope’s plane could not begrudge them their festive mood. “It went better than anyone could have expected,” said the BBC’s David Willey, the senior member of our group. “This did more to boost the Pope’s image than 10 beautifully written encyclicals could have ever done,” said another veteran reporter, glass in hand. Those same journalists had been singing a different tune – a dirge, actually – right up to the day the “controversial” visit began on 16 September. Many of our number had written gloomy forecasts of a disaster waiting to happen.’

    ‘While a few placard-carrying hecklers turned up at most venues of the visit, the most significant event by far was Saturday’s “Protest the Pope” rally that saw several thousand people march through central London. However, the Protest the Pope marchers were outnumbered 45:1 by the Hyde Park prayer vigil pilgrims and people on The Mall combined.’ [Note: He says 45 to 1!]

    ‘From his arrival in Scotland onwards, the Pope was given a warm reception at every event he attended. He and his entourage were particularly surprised and delighted by the sustained and thunderous ovation that accompanied him into and out of Westminster Hall for his keynote address of the visit. And they marvelled that so many people had spontaneously turned up along The Mall in central London to see him make his way to the Saturday prayer vigil in Hyde Park.’

    And the editorial:
    Visit lays a new foundation/b>

    “To say of Pope Benedict XVI that “he came, he saw, he conquered” would be true, even spectacularly so – but still only part of the truth. . . . . . The enthusiastic crowds who lined the streets to watch him pass on his way down the flag-lined Mall grew to 200,000 while there were 6,000 on the anti-papal march to Downing Street, although the organisers claimed that it was several times that figure. Even those parts of the national media that had been most critical of the visit beforehand, had changed their tune by the time he left.’

    Read them yourself. I believe the very positive tone of these pieces signifies the fact that Pope Benedict’s visit to Britain was such an overwhelming success that it simply could not be denied, even by those who might have wished to do so.

  4. William Oddie is the absolute best. I highly recommend his biography of G.K. Chesterton, Chesterton: the Romance of Orthodoxy.

  5. leutgeb says:

    As Cofton Park bus monitor (aka Pilgrim Leader) on the Blackfen plus others bus, I took the executive decision to leave the pile of (free) special commemorative colour supplement Tablets under my seat on the way home. [Well done.]

    I understand that this was not the only coach where this happened. I see it as part of a tradition of British Catholics getting on and doing what needs to be done without talking about it. The silent masses who turn out for the Pope, St T of L’s relics etc seemingly unencouraged and unbidden.

    I don’t feel antagonistic towards The Tablet, but treat it rather like the extreme Protestants outside Westminster Abbey. As the HF went by a man was shouting, ‘The Pope is the antichrist,’ behind me. Smile, say nothing and ignore. (He was shouted down by a massive margin, worry not.) Where do they get the impression that anyone is listening to them?

  6. AnAmericanMother says:


    Love to hear your experiences during the visit. Nothing like first-hand reports from people on the ground.

    It seems from here across the pond that things went beautifully from start to finish.

  7. pattif says:

    Sadly, even the print edition could not avoid the odd snidey comment. Bobbie Mickens dredged up a quote from the Holy Father (to President Shimon Peres, on last year’s trip to the Holy Land), “My English is very limited”, (we should all have such limited command of a fourth modern language), before claiming a scoop as the only journo to notice that, “His comments on sex abuse certainly over-shadowed the main oint of his homily at Westminster Cathedral. The mainstream media ignored his pre-Vatican II emphasis on the Mass as sacrifice (no mention of meal) and on the Crucifixion (just a passing mention of the Resurrection) as the core of Catholic faith.”

    Noting his description of Anglicanorum Coetibus as “a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to the developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics…[which] helps us to set our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion….”, the ‘Catholic theologian’, Dr. Tina Beattie, insisted, “For this to happen, sooner or later the Roman Catholic Church will have to learn from the struggles of the Anglican Communion, not in order to fuel its resistance but in order to break down its defences.”

    I fear the wholesale conversion of the Tabletistas has not yet been accomplished. But we can still pray….

  8. pattif says:

    Whoops – that should have been “over-shadowed the main point…”

  9. mysticalrose says:

    Could I add “NC(Reporter) delenda est” while we’re at it :)

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