BY MICHAEL MULLINS
What do Mel Gibson, the editor of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano and Catholic hierarchy of England and Wales have in common? They all draw fire from bloggers at London’s Catholic Herald over the past week.
The paper represents conservative English Catholicism, but blogger Stuart Reid has had enough of Mel Gibson’s traditional Catholicism, which he says is feeding – rather than exorcising – the actor’s demons.
Describing him as a “juiced up Irish-Australian-American” and “a poor, often embarrassing actor, and a cheesy director”, Reid details some of his latest indiscretions, including racist taunts against African Americans and hitting his former girlfriend, the Russian singer Oksana Grigorieva (pictured), and called her an expletive-deleted “pig in heat”.
Mel is a man in the grip of galloping paranoia and sexual insecurity. He is a puritan who now regrets having departed from the straight and narrow… He is also a serious Catholic, however, and has sound liturgical instincts. Unfortunately, he cleaves to a paranoid traditionalism that seems to feed his demons… Maybe he should return to the mainstream, hand his Holy Family Church outside Malibu to some traditionalist group in communion with Rome.
The Catholic Herald’s editorial blog portrays L’Osservatore Romano as “an embarrassment to the Vatican”, suggesting that it is “undermining the Church”. On the positive side, it is “livelier now and appeals to a much broader audience” under Giovanni Maria Vian, its editor-in-chief since 2007.
It has been described as a “must-read” for journalists, diplomats and Vatican officials, but the blogger is not that impressed that it’s now widely regarded as a “breath of fresh air in the fusty world of Vatican communications”.
L’Osservatore Romano faced strong criticism last month for its publication of Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks about condoms. The blogger says if it had made it clear that the comments did not represent a shift in Church teaching, the media would not have got it so wrong.
The blogger is also unimpressed by the paper’s “steady stream of articles praising pop culture figures such as the Beatles, the Simpsons, and Michael Jackson”, which critics say are “gushing and puerile” and “embarrassing for the Vatican, since they are invariably interpreted as official Vatican policy (as in ‘Vatican forgives Beatles’).”
Another of the Catholic Herald’s bloggers is longtime editor William Oddie. Last week he detailed the influential American Catholic commentator George Weigel’s views on the British Catholic hierarchy. Weigel sees that bishops as insipid and of little practical use in filling the secular void. What he calls a hollowness is the legacy of the Blair years, during which the country remained transfixed by Diana’s death.
That this woman’s death,” comments Weigel, “however tragic, sent an entire country into a nervous breakdown says something deeply disturbing about the culture of contemporary Britain. That Tony Blair perceived this national crack-up as ‘a tide that had to be channelled’ rather than a nonsense that had to be confronted suggests that he is not quite the Churchillian figure some of his American admirers would like him to be.”
Quoting Weigel, the blogger says that is the nation that Pope Benedict did confront during his visit this year. But the bishops were useless. “The British hierarchy didn’t do much wrong on this visit, but they did contain their enthusiasm until the secular press declared it a success, and then they joined in.”
In other blogs. John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter looks at the WikiLeaks cables dealing with the Vatican, which were reported in the media at the weekend.
He says that while they don’t contain any surprises, “they do lift the veil on how American diplomats and their colleagues have viewed various moves by Rome in recent years.”
An example is a cable about Pope Benedict’s decision to lift the excommunications of four traditionalist Catholic bishops, including one who is a Holocaust denier, which the diplomats saw as revealing a serious “communications gap” in the Vatican that leads to “muddled, reactive messaging that reduces the volume of the moral megaphone the Vatican uses to advance its objectives.”
Because senior Vatican officials typically do not understand the nature of modern communications, the cable asserted, they often speak in “coded” language impossible for the outside world to decipher.
In another National Catholic Reporter blog, Tom Fox regrets the actions of president of the Catholic League William Donohue. Donohue is lambasted in a New York Times column titled “Gay Bashing at the Smithsonian” that looks at the mindlessness at the heart of his campaign that moved officials at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington to cave in and censor part of a survey on same sex themes in an exhibit there.
Michael Mullins is founding editor of CathNews (1999-2006) who now edits CathBlog and Eureka Street. This 'Blog Watcher' column is published in CathNews every Monday.
Disclaimer: CathBlog is an extension of CathNews story feedback. It is intended to promote discussion and debate among the subscribers to CathNews and the readers of the website. The opinions expressed in CathBlog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the members of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference or of Church Resources.