Fr. Z stands with Fr. Blake of Brighton – UPDATES

Originally Published on: Sep 7, 2013 @ 15:17

My friend Fr. Ray Blake, parish priest of St. Mary Magdalen in Brighton, England, was treated shamefully by a malicious newsie for a thoughtful, serious, introspecive piece he wrote on his blog about the poor.

Fr. Blake’s piece HERE.  Take a look at it.  It is engaging and compelling.

A write for The Argus in Brighton, Bill Gardner, picked up Father’s blog entry and twisted it.  The writer for the Daily Mail, Will Robinson, also picked it up to pick on it.  Robinson either has no critical reading skills (which seems to be pandemic among journalists), or he is simply a bigot.  Wills twisted what Fr. Blake wrote about how difficult it can be to work with the poor (Father provided examples that could vex a saint) and about recognizing his own complacency.

I’ll let Fr. Finigan take over from here.  Check out everything he has to say over at his place.  HERE

Fr Ray Blake wrote a characteristically thoughtful and provocative post about the poor who turn up on his doorstep in Brighton. His article challenges romantic notions about the poor by detailing some of his experiences of the reality of helping poor people – which he does with heroism. He has to cope with lies, nuisance and mess, but his point he makes is that rather than become complacent, we must let the poor mess up our lives.

Enter Bill Gardner, journalist for The Argus in Brighton who writes a stupid article portraying Fr Blake as though he were simply attacking the poor. Fr Blake has replied in spirited fashion, inviting Mr Gardner to come and help with one or other of the projects that St Mary Magdalen’s runs for the poor. (See, for example his thoughtful article on Soup Runs.) The Daily Mail has also run another stupid article in the same vein as Bill Gardner.


Unfortunately there are some journalists who are not particularly interested in getting a genuinely good story but simply concerned to impress their editor with something that will look sensational enough to help sales of the paper. The Argus-Mail take on Fr Ray looks like an example of Dumb and Dumber, but realistically we have to say that it is simply malicious, unprincipled and a disgrace to a profession that labours under public criticism. I imagine that principled and honest journalists must be cursing those who sully their profession with the kind of rubbish that Fr Ray has been subjected to.

Fr. Z Kudos to Fr. Blake!

Please read his blog entry and then add a comment of support.

UPDATE Sunday 8 Sept 15:37 GMT:

Fr. Blake has posted his own response to the “unscrupulous journalist” (I prefer “low-information hack”) who trashed him in Brighton’s paper in an article that has gone viral.

Good for Fr. Blake.  I still stand with him.

UPDATE Monday 9 Sept 17:52 GMT:

Here is a good take on what the malicious newsies did to Fr. Blake. HERE

A sample:

Here’s the truth as I see it. Having known this priest for five years I can confirm that the poor are more than welcome at his parish; his tolerance is almost limitless. Fr Ray runs a soup kitchen for the homeless in the evenings and if people ring his bell at all hours of the day then it’s probably because he almost always answers it. If he has a politics, I’d call it Christian Socialist – in that Old Labour, community activism kind of way; copies of Tribune, rosaries for peace etc. And, being a priest in Brighton, he not only serves gays and lesbians (without a second thought) but also the large contingent of homeless people who are drawn to its admirable local support network. A great number of them suffer from drug addiction and mental illness; these are not the cap-doffing tramps of some Victorian novel but people with real problems that would test the patience of a Saint. In other words, Fr Ray actually has to confront on a daily basis the kinds of challenges that liberal journalists and politicians only talk about in the abstract. If he says that the poor can be difficult, he’s not being nasty. He’s being honest.

UPDATE Monday 9 Sept 1950 GMT:

It seems that Bp. Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton (where Fr. Blake is, of course) did an interview on the Beeb and made a statement about Fr. Blake’s controverted blog post.

UPDATE Tuesday 10 Sept 14:28 GMT:

It seems that Fr. Blake’s bishop, Most Rev. Kieran Conry was interviewed on the Beeb and apologized for Fr. Blake.

Bp. Conry should have read Fr. Blake’s blog first.  What a shame.

For more go HERE.

Does anyone have a transcript?

UPDATE Friday 13 Sept 23:57

Fr. Blake is angry.  He is understandably angry.

I have just been out shopping and was talking to ‘an occassional’ parishioner who has a few problems and one of my regular crack addicts came past, we chatted very briefly, he was obviously in a hurry, she was rather disgusted by him and said, ‘I thought you hated people like that, he is disguting ….’ I told her off of course and asked how she had formed that opinion of me, she had been reading the Brighton Argos.

I am so angry, they have really trashed my reputation, it hurts, and I am angry and it hurts my parishioners.

If you read the Argus’ unscrupulous journalist Bill Gardner’s twitter account he revels in his animus against me not I think because it is me nor because I am clergyman, ‘a vicar’, no, it is because I am a ‘Catholic priest’, it seems quite apparent this is an anti-Catholic thing, from his point of view at least. His stories, however, have been approved by his editor. Gardner informed me my blog was often discussed in the Argus Office.
Here is one extract from his Twitter account, […]

Read the rest there.

I also saw this at Mulier Fortis and That The Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill:



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Biased Media Coverage, Green Inkers, Liberals, Priests and Priesthood, The Drill, The Last Acceptable Prejudice and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Gretchen says:

    At least a number of the commenters on Fr. Blake’s blog understood his message.

    My Irish father-in-law (who was the first in his family to attend college) used to say to his kids, “The more I give you, the less grateful you are.”

    Giving to the poor is more about the giver, I think. It enlarges the understanding of how merciful and forbearing our LORD is to us, who undoubtedly offend him with our own ingratitude countless times a day. This was brought home to me when a group of us prepared supper for the local poor at a Salvation Army kitchen. We labored at our own expense for many hours, buying, preparing, serving, and cleaning up for about 50 individuals. The people complained about everything from the soup to the nuts, and even complained when they couldn’t take a third helping. There was an almost overwhelming temptation to excoriate those we were serving. But some angel whispered in my ear, “Imagine how the LORD feels! [Right.] This is the lesson. This is why the poor will always be with you–they teach you to be grateful and to remember what Jesus went through.”

    My thanks to Fr. Blake for reminding me of that lesson.

  2. JamesM says:

    Point of interest : Bishop Kieran Conry (Fr. Blake’s Bishop) was interviewed by the BBC and apologised for the offence caused by Fr. Blake

  3. couissent says:

    The attack on Fr Ray is absolutely outrageous. Fortunately, there is strong support for him both on the Argus site (the comments under the original offending article: HERE and on Tim Stanley’s supportive blog on the Daily Telegraph (HERE).

    The lack of support by Bishop Conry, a notorious modernist who dislikes the TLM, has queried the value of frequent Confession, and who is quoted in this week’s Tablet as saying that Catholics had made up their own minds about contraception and most were happy to live with ambiguity, is deplorable. Bishop Conry incidentally is in charge of evangelisation and catechesis in England and Wales!

  4. mike cliffson says:

    Many are supporting Fr Ray.
    But” the bones you have crushed” is a parishoner: uplifting, even without this tripehound.



  5. Supertradmum says:

    One must understand the deep, deep hatred of the Catholic Church in Great Britain-the last acceptable prejudice. Father Blake is a martyr to the cause of goodness and truth. But, the media here will use anything to attack the clergy. And, the Evil One loves chaos and disruption. The bloggers here have supported him clearly. May God bless him and I hope he keeps writing. He is a wonderful priest.

  6. Kathleen10 says:

    Is there no end to the madness? People are now arguing about what a priest says about “the poor”. Fr. Blake sounds like he knows a thing or two about it! Unlike the romantic notion some people clearly have in their minds, if you actually work with “the poor” you get over that quickly. Reality check. Poor Fr. Blake was being candid and apparently, you can’t be candid about the poor, you must speak of them as if they are all canonized saints.
    We all have to find that fine line about giving. It can be hard. My husband was just at Dunkin Donuts and a man approached him and asked him if he could help him out. My husband gave him two dollars, and when he came out from Dunkin Donuts he saw the man sprinting into the package store nearby. This type of thing is pandemic, we all know. People have looked into where that cash goes when people beg, and it is often for drugs and alcohol. That’s ugly, but true. And homelessness and mental illness, drug abuse or alcohol, are often connected. There is no point denying this or pretending all money given goes for some lofty purpose, like a hungry child at home. Must we be that naive in the name of giving to the poor? I am interested in Fr.’s experiences! I like candor, and the real truth as opposed to sugary fiction. Fr. Blake has shared what it is like being a priest in that circumstance, and it’s interesting!
    I did not read the criticism of Fr. Blake, but my goodness, is this what Pope Francis meant by causing a “holy lio”? People criticizing priests who dare to impugn the now elevated persona of “the poor”? How absolutely absurd.
    Mother Teresa said the US was the poorest nation she had seen, because of the spiritual poverty we have here. It is not just lack of material goods that makes a person poor of course. Some seem to forget that. There are many poor in the wealthiest communities.

  7. chantgirl says:

    I can relate to Fr. Blake’s experience of the poor. I have answered the door at several rectories which were in the middle of neighborhoods and off the beaten path. People whose cars had broken down or run out of gas somehow found their way to these rectories to ask for cash. If we gave any cash out, ten more people would show up with broken down car stories. Only once did someone ask for food, and I was so excited to make them a sandwich because I felt that I was finally able to help someone. One rectory was in a bad neighborhood, and I often felt my pulse race when I answered the door, wondering if this would be the time that someone violent would greet me. It was the thought that someone might actually want to make a confession that gave me the courage to answer the door. That, and a quick prayer to my guardian angel. Working with the poor is not the rosy picture presented in movies (even Mother Teresa said that the poor were Jesus in distressing disguise), but it still needs to be done. What irks me, though, is that Catholics accuse other Catholics of not caring for the poor simply because they disagree on the method.

  8. Johnno says:

    I’ve been routinely approached by women, even abroad, asking for money. And oftentimes I’ve been suckered into giving them some. Sometimes they approach claiming they are alone and pregnant and need something to eat. Some don’t say anything, give you a card claiming they are deaf and mute, others that they are single women with 5 kids and want money. Some are even bold enough to demand an amount, and even ask for other thigns if they see it on your person. Many people feel bad and are taken in out of a desire to be generous. After some experiences I never give money directly, but ask for contact information if I can help them, or if I can simply buy them a meal instead of giving them money. But when I offer to buy them food directly rather than give them money, they get upset, make excuses “I have a rare diabetic condition”, and sometimes are just plain ungrateful when you buy them something to eat. The ones who are genuine will always be very grateful and thank you. Like the account of Jesus and the leapers. Out of many, only one will be genuine.

    It’s a terrible world when one becomes afraid to do charity because one is afraid that in doing so he may only be contributing to the welfare of thieves and charalatans. The only ones who suffer here are genuinely the poor. And due to things like this, it’s no wonder amny would rather rely on the government or other organizations for the corporeal works of mercy.

  9. Norah says:

    I am truly saddened that Fr Blake’s spiritual father, Bishop Conry, saw fit to abandon his spiritual son, by apologising for him on the BBC. Did Bishop Conry speak with Fr Blake about his post? Did Bishop Conry read Fr Blake’s post before apologising for it?

    Some years ago, here in Australia, a woman rang a talkback radio station to complain about a priest to do with the administration of last rites. The priest’s vicar general, now a bishop, apologised via the media for what the priest was alleged to have done before he spoke to the young priest to find out the facts.

  10. mike cliffson says:

    On the sublect of the “awkwardness” of” the poor”, folks a generation ago applauded the red Spanish filmmaker Buñuel’s “Viridiana”.Not to be viewed in my opinion by anyone even by those with a strong stomach and a strong faith and a Christian optimism to shake off worldly hopelessness,( Buñuel was gifted by God to be a master craftsman, but it doesn’t show that this gift was used in God’s service) but perhaps it was a worldly corrective for those who have such a “spiritual ” outlook on life, including syrupy ideas of charity, that they could float off the surface of the earth into a newage uncatholic misty ether.

  11. pelerin says:

    I am still trying to get my head round the appearance on the BBC of my Bishop apologising for what my Parish Priest wrote instead of supporting him and explaining the meaning of the post. A few years ago he requested Fr Blake to change the name of his blog from a parish blog to a personal one as I understand somebody in the parish had complained that his views did not fit theirs. Fr Blake obeyed immediately as one would expect him to do. He never ever criticizes the bishop but must feel sad that he does not seem to have his support in this case.

    On an earlier post Fr Z wrote that ‘Bishops have to be careful about public or open support of any particular blog these days’. This is understandable and perhaps helps a little towards feeling more charitable towards the bishop – but only a little.

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  14. Sonshine135 says:

    I can empathize with Fr. Blake completely, and apparently, more than a few Priests can do so in the United States. If you have ever wondered why many Priests do not live in a Rectory at the church, it is because of several of things Fr. Blake mentioned in his blog. In fact, it has become dangerous in many areas for a Priest to live at the church, if not impossible due to “whoever” knocking on your door at 2 and 3 a.m.

    At one time, I too participated in “feeding the poor” out of our church. I would assist with setting up the overnight bed rolls for those who visited. After awhile, I noticed something that gave me pause and made me rethink why I was doing what I was doing. Several of the “poor” had cell phones, cigarettes, and manicured nails though they had no place to live. They survived by traveling from church to church and feeding off the high carbohydrate meals we were feeding them. Thus, many were obese. I started to question whether my “help” was enabling the poor rather than helping the poor. Truly, I found some in need who could not make the money they needed for operations or who were too sick/disabled to work, but they were few and far between. I reasoned that if I am enabling many of the poor to stay poor, than I am guilty of helping them sin (remain slothful). I still do help the poor, but I often give to charities in Haiti and in Central America where the aid is direct and designed to help people that really have absolutely nothing.

    There is no easy answer to the plight of the poor. I find comfort in Fr. Blake’s depth of thinking. I would simply caution him to remember that many people, Catholics included, have very shallow though processes if any thought processes at all. Most will of their thought is given to them by their little portable electronic device, and it goes no further than that.

  15. The Masked Chicken says:

    I have to go teach a class, but this subject deserves a lot more discussion. The newspaper writers should try going homeless for a week before they write their articles. Then, they might know something, I am sick and tired of journalists who write about imaginary homeless people that they have no understanding of (and, therefore, little capacity to truly love).

    I will be back to tell stories…

    The Chicken

  16. robtbrown says:

    I spent a few weeks at the rectory of a priest friend in New Orleans. Regularly, he received phone calls and visitors at the door who asked for money. The requests always contained the same reason: The need of $$ for a prescription for a sick child.

    Although giving alms to the poor is an act of justice for someone who is reasonably prosperous, it also imitates the generosity of God, whose Grace–according to saints and metaphysics–often goes to waste. Thus, if I give $5-10 to someone who claims to be in need, I don’t need to have a questionnaire to confirm that it will be well spent.

  17. Cathy says:

    Sonshine135, being poor is not a sin.

  18. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Thus, if I give $5-10 to someone who claims to be in need, I don’t need to have a questionnaire to confirm that it will be well spent.”

    There is a matter of prudence involved as well as charity in giving money to the poor. If you can reasonably conclude that your twenty dollars will be spent on a prostitute, say, then by giving him the money you become a cooperator in the sin. Of course, the degree of certainty necessary might approach the level of moral certainty for you to be guilty of sin through participation, but, nevertheless, the possibility is there.

    A legendary bishop of the diocese once gave a poor man the coat off his back only to find him, later, sitting in a pub bragging how he fooled the bishop. The bishop forcefully ripped the coat off of the man’s body while the man was sitting at the bar and walked out.

    The Chicken

  19. robtbrown says:

    How would someone “reasonably conclude” that a stranger asking for $5-10 intends to use it on a prostitute? And someone might need money to eat because money had already been spent on a prostitute.

  20. One of the easier answers, particularly for those who beg at traffic intersections, is to carry a few “bag lunches” with prepackaged foods in the bag. A tin or two of sausages (Vienna sausages, for example), 1-2 sealed packages of crackers & cheese (or crackers and peanut butter), sealed plastic cup of canned fruit or fruit cocktail, a plastic bottle of juice and one of Gatorade, one each plastic spoon and fork. These can all be put together in a gallon zip-lock plastic bag along with 1 or 2 paper towels and carried in the car to be handed out when anyone begs for help. In our area (Seattle) many of the poor begging in such locations hold a sign saying “Anything helps.” We try always to have 2-4 such bags in our car. It has been a very rare occasion when the recipient has not been obviously sincerely grateful for the meal.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  21. Norah says:

    Keith thank you for your witness to Christ; I will happily copy your idea.


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