Young Catholics set up facebook group to stop The Tablet being sold in parishes

A reader has contacted Protect the Pope to ask us to spread the word that young Catholics have set up a facebook page with the purpose of putting like-minded Catholics in contact with each other who want to stop The Tablet being sold in parishes. One of the young people wrote:

‘A group of my friends mainly young people started up this Facebook page and I would be grateful if you could post it on your site to encourage our bishops to stop the anti-Catholic Tablet from being stocked in our parishes.  It may seem like a silly venture and wont do anything, but more and more I am seeing young people begin to see behind the lies of The Tablet, CAFOD and the Roehampton Institute.

We have also got a good few oldie’s liking the page too now!’

The new facebook page explains:
In view of the Editor of the Tablet’s comments on Channel 4 News (please see the link below). We the undersigned do not believe that it is appropriate for the Bishops of England and Wales to continue supporting this publication. By virtue of doing so they are providing a platform for an organisation which does not support the teachings of the Church. If the Tablet was not there the Media would not be able to approach the Tablet for comments (on Church matters) which undermine the Catholic religion.”

Please go to:

Protect the Pope comment: I invite all loyal and faithful Catholics who read Protect the Pope to sign up to this much needed campaign to stop to The Tablet being sold in parishes. We must do everything we can to get the truth known in our community that The Tablet is no longer a Catholic newspaper. Deacon Nick

70 comments to Young Catholics set up facebook group to stop The Tablet being sold in parishes

  • Rifleman 819

    What a brilliant idea.

    Hit ‘em where it hurts…….right in the wallet.

  • john-of-hayling

    you mean don’t keep taking the Tablets!

  • Stephen

    I think this is an action of fear and not of love. It is no sin to question our faith, our religion or our Pope. By questioning them we can learn more about what we are questioning and sure up our beliefs. So some Catholics have a different opinion, why should they shut up? If all of our Catholic news and teachings are one-sided, we will have a very weak and intellectually poor Church. To disagree with some Church teachings is not anti-Catholic. If you disagree with articles in the Tablet then fight for your view and try to make them see your side of the argument through proper debate. To want it to be banned is like putting fingers in your ears and say ‘I’m not listening’. This is cowardly and will not solve anything. If one wishes to protect the Pope, banning the Tablet will do nothing except make the Church smaller as progressive Catholics are shunned. Our Lord Jesus Christ did very little shunning in his time. He got stuck in and talked to people, helped them and gave peace in their hearts. This is what is needed now for every Catholic. Please do not make the mistake of disregarding dialogue. If you love the Pope and share his views and actions, speak about them, argue for them and prove the other side wrong. I would call for those who disagree to do the same. For there will be things that both sides have overlooked in their arguments. We have had too many schisms. Let us start healing these fissures instead of deepening them.

    • Rebecca

      Er Stephen, no one is saying that the Tablet should be ‘banned’ full stop, what we are saying it should be banned from sale in Catholic Parishes and institutions. It’s like a Justice and peace group inviting a Nazi to come and speak at their meeting to encourage debate. It makes no logical sense that a magazine that despises the teaching of Jesus Christ, should be allowed to have a place in telling people not to follow Him. The Church is not a democracy it is a divine institution that seeks to follow our Lord Jesus whatever the cost. It is a modern scandal day that The Tablet has not been clamped down upon by the Bishops.

    • Mersey Mercy

      The problem is Stephen – it is so one-sided now! I think of those ‘faithful’ Catholics who have been hounded out of their parishes for the want of basic Catholic teaching and who feel so very hurt and angry. What once was holy does not cease to be holy. One only has to look at the ramblings of some churchmen to see how they have misguided the flocks in their charge. They do not answer crticial letters no matter how politely written, they do not visit their flocks and when they do, they tell them that everything in the garden is rosy. They cannot, for the love of anything holy, even acknowledge that there is a hermeneutic of continuity. No – they have pushed and pushed men and women of goodwill (me included) to the point where charity starts to really wear thin. The Tablet (and the BBC and most of the MSM come to that) is currently so one sided that it’s much like a see saw with a hundred weight of bricks. It is THEY who do not wish to discuss things. Try writing to the Archbishop of Westminster or Liverpool, Fr Joe Ryan or Bishop Conry.Try writing an objective letter to the Tablet. It doesn’t work. They don’t reply or publish because it is THEY who do not want to dialogue. This is the cowardly way! Channel 4 news last week was interesting because there were two negative people around that newsdesk and one positive and you only need to watch it to work out who the positive one was. Very few people here would disregard dialogue….if dialogue was there to be had in the first place. Pax.

      • Nicolas Bellord

        I would indorse every word of what Mersey Mercy has said. Just try and write a letter to The Tablet. If they publish it all it is mangled to cut out any criticism. Further to say as Simon does: “It is no sin to question our faith, our religion or our Pope” is far too simplistic a generalisation. It depends upon how you do it and in what circumstances as to whether it is sinful or not. The relentless presentation of heretical views in The Tablet is not dialogue. How about the suggestion at the time of the Royal Wedding that pre-marital fornication should be reconsidered as not sinful?

    • Francis

      Well said Stephen! The Tablet provides the intelligent and thoughtful Catholic with a wide range of views on Catholic life. To suggest that it is anti-Catholic is plainly ridiculous.

    • Bob Hayes

      This Facebook campaign is surely about honesty; not – as some may think – censorship. It is not about the liberty to hold views contrary to the Faith that is at the heart of the matter. What is of deep concern is that The Tablet, and its spokesmen and women, masquerade as THE voice of Catholicism. They are undertaking works of disinformation and misrepresentation. Its conduct is akin to, say, Iain Duncan Smith appearing on TV claiming to represent the Labour Party’s views on welfare reform. It is dishonest and fraudulent – and that it why The Tablet should not distributed in our churches. If people want to read it they are at liberty to order a copy through their newsagent.

    • Lynda

      Respectful dialogue is based on honesty. The vehemently anti-Catholic “Tablet” is fundamentally a lie; it passes itself off as a paper within the Catholic Church, obedient to the Church’s teaching and teaching authority. If one isn’t, so obedient – which it clearly isn’t – it isn’t a Catholic paper, a paper from within the Church. If it continued to operate, but honestly, as the anti-Catholic paper that it is, I’d have no problem with it. Free speech, etc. But it ought not to be distributed within Church channels, as an anti-Church paper.

    • Pat

      Stephen said “To disagree with some Church teachings is not anti-Catholic”. See what the Church actually says about this:- in the commentary on Ad Tuendam Fidem, signed by (then) Cardinal Ratzinger in 1998:- “Such doctrines can be defined solemnly by the Roman Pontiff when he speaks ‘ex cathedra’ or by the College of Bishops gathered in council, or they can be taught infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Church as a “sententia definitive tenenda”. Every believer, therefore, is required to give firm and definitive assent to these truths, based on faith in the Holy Spirit’s assistance to the Church’s Magisterium, and on the Catholic doctrine of the infallibility of the Magisterium in these matters. Whoever denies these truths would be in a position of rejecting a truth of Catholic doctrine and would therefore no longer be in full communion with the Catholic Church”. Please read the whole link, it is fascinating.

  • Elizabeth Crump

    Well done ! Very brave ! The Tablet is not in line with the teaching of The Catholic Church and has no place in our Parishes.

  • Hunted Priest

    Stephen, you seem to think that it is possible to hold two contradictory things at the same time. “To disagree with some Church teachings is not anti-Catholic.” What? You are seriously misinformed. If you disagree with Church teaching then you are wrong! You cannot be right since that mean that the Church was in error in her teaching. To believe this is to cease to believe in the Church as she was constituted by her Founder. This liberal dross about ‘listening’ has led to the desolation of the last 50 years.We are called to submit ourselves to the Magisterium not vice versa. You cannot ‘dialogue’ with God – you must just accept His will.

    By the way, your characterisation of the Lord bears no relation to the Lord we meet in sacred scripture – you are making God in your own image.

  • Kinga Grzeczynska LLB

    Many thanks,Deacon Nick, count me in.
    About time something was done about The Tablet. We do not have it in our church. It was banned two years ago.

    Kinga Grzeczynska

    • El Nino

      This comment reminds of why Jasper Carrott’s Funky Moped was “banned” from the BBC all those years ago…….it was crap!

      Kinga, how do you know that the local priests just got fed up returning all those unsold copies to the publisher? I mean, you can get anti-Catholic bilge from the mainstream media, often for free.

  • iggy o'donovan

    The Tablet represents something of sanity within the Church.

  • Rebecca

    The Tablet, CAFOD and Roehampton are an axis of evil, each of them undermines the gospel of Jesus Christ to love our neighbour.

  • Bob Hayes

    One ‘oldie’ just signed up! Well done to those who launched this initiative.

  • No copies of the Tablet are sold in any church in North Lincolnshire. Slowly more and more churches are banning it around the country.

    In relation to the video on the facebook site, Channel 4 must have been galled to discover they had a young faithful Catholic defending the faith (in the guise of Pascal).

    I have always said that Youth 2000 are doing a good job with young Catholics and this proves it.

  • Anyone who wishes to attack the Catholic Church is perfectly free to do so (and frequently does) in the mainstream media press, radio and television without the assistance of the Church and in a publication claiming to be Catholic.

  • peter

    A very sad state of affairs when a Catholic newspaper is gagged. The Tablet is a sound newspaper that discusses issues that some catholics wish to debate. I can’t see this sort of censorship ever working.

    • Patrick

      On the contrary, the Tablet is a disgrace, and lacks journalistic integrity. The occasional critical article in a supposedly Catholic journal is one thing, but week in, week out, to oppose the teaching of the Magisterium in general and just about every initiative of Pope Benedict’s in particular, is another. Let it be sold in W H Smith, but without the misleading and dishonest epithet “Catholic”, but please not in Catholic Churches.

    • Rifleman 819

      It is not being gagged-the moment this once great institution starts reflecting the Faith…I am sure it will be encoraged.
      Again the same with Tina Beattie , Call to Action and other similar groups…..they are completely free to do as they choose …but they pay for their own venues, they fund their own admin and running costs.
      To do otherwise is deceitful verging on fraud.

  • peter

    Patrick, some catholics are happy to read The Tablet because it has good writers, who try to address some of the very complex issues we face. You may or may not agree with their views but to say it lacks integrity is a little ambitious. To be a catholic means different things to different people it should not surprise us that we may disagree with one another. That is how the church has grown throughout the ages, headed by Christ, with dialogue and debate within the magisterium and then with the wider church. A church that does not debate is a dying church. peter

    • James M

      The teachings of the Church are not open to debate.

      • Camilla

        James, ive read this forum up and down. It seems that all the people opposing to the tablet not being sold in churches are the ones who are unconsciously allowing jesus’ own teachings to be debated (ironically, professing the opposite)

        • Camilla

          **agreeing to the tablet being sold in churches

          • Camilla

            Okay, i just read over what i said and it made no sense.

            What i meant was….the same liberal mindset that wants a open speech church because they think it mirrors Jesus’ mandate….is also undercutting The Church (Jesus himself). By encouraging the view we can determine what we want by democracy overturns dogma of the church. We can’t pick and choose what we want.

            Is it just me that thinks it’s garden variety hypocrisy that we all stand together in the same church declaring the same creed?

            If Jesus is our Lord, he decides. We follow. Disobeying this under the veil of ‘open and progressive’ is shortsighted at best and heresy at worst.

      • Peter

        My understanding is that church teaching is debated then put to the vote. That is how our church councils operate.

    • Rifleman 819

      “To be a catholic means different things to different people”….can you provide examples pleas-using as a yardstick the Magisterium of the Church?

    • Patrick

      There are some things that are open to debate, but in the case of settled doctrine, the issue is one of gaining a better understanding of what the Church teaches and not thinking that we know better. The whole approach of the Tablet is to try to get the Church to conform to the standards of secularist culture, rather than seek to bring people back to Christ. We have a difficult enough time as it is with hostile mainstream media without a supposedly Catholic journal constantly trying to undermine the teaching and authority of the Church.

      I stand by what I said about integrity.

      • peter

        Hi Patrick
        I agree that we all need to gain a better understanding of church teaching. I disagree that The Tablet, which i no longer read, is trying to conform to secularist culture. In my opinion writers are trying to understand the incarnation of Jesus into the world and some of the difficulties that we face as catholics. The Tablet is not for everyone, it has a small readership of likeminded people who have a different view of the church from the majority of people in this forum. The church (the term church church really needs to be defined here but i will leave aside for the time being) has in its 2000 year history as often been in debate with itself and the world it inhabits. I am very new to this forum, but it would appear in my brief time here that many members would have us believe that the church has always been correct on all matters, I am sure you understand this.
        As long as Christ remains at the centre of all we do, and we are proclaiming his kingdom, we will be guided by the Holy Ghost in the love of God the father.

  • ms Catholic state

    Please include those anti catholic Irish newspapers that seem to be always on sale in the churches. It makes my blood boil how they have the affontery to sell their newspapers in the church………and why priests don,t refuse it. Time for some respect for our Church and Christ.

  • Wake up England

    Given The Tablet’s disgraceful track record, I should like to know why it is for sale at Westminster Cathedral. Are we to suppose Archbishop Nichols is broadly in favour of The Tablet’s views? The Man in the Pew can only suppose he must be.

  • Lynda

    They allow it because, sadly many of the priests are enemies of the Church too, and have been responsible for making many of the laity, enemies too. Thankfully, the vast majority are confined to the generation of late fifties to eighties.

  • Bob Hayes

    The Facebook site provides a link to a Channel 4 News interview with Paschal Uche and Catherine Pepinster. I saw it when broadcast live (the clip is here: ) and recommend its viewing.

    What struck me in particular was how the voice of orthodoxy came over as dynamic, radical and enthusiastic, while – in sharp contrast – the liberal speaker presented as dour, establishment and rigid.

  • Clifford Longley

    Patrick tells us – “On the contrary, the Tablet is a disgrace, and lacks journalistic integrity. The occasional critical article in a supposedly Catholic journal is one thing, but week in, week out, to oppose the teaching of the Magisterium in general and just about every initiative of Pope Benedict’s in particular, is another.”
    Where is your evidence? Do you even read The Tablet week by week? The charge that it lacks journalistic integrity is a grave calumny – can you prove it? It is a plain lie to say The Tablet opposes the teaching of the magisterium week in week out or “just about every initiative of Pope Benedict”. Those who read the Tablet know this is completely absurd and grossly dishonest; but those who don’t, have no yard stick with which to assess your seriously defamatory allegations, and may even be stupid enough to believe them. I really think you should consult your conscience, and you are very lucky you are not subject to a writ for libel or malicious falsehood.
    So what lies behind this extraordinary hatred of The Tablet, given that it strives to be orthodox in matters of faith and is accepted as such by the English hierarchy, as well as being widely read in Rome? I am baffled. But I will pray for you.

    • Rebecca

      Clifford with respect is this a joke? I must contend with the constant duplicitous comments that you espouse in the paper you write for. You have a beef with the Teaching of the Catholic Church, just admit it, don’t hide behind insinuation and red herrings. The problem young Catholics like myself have is that people like you pretend that your views are Catholic when they are not and then deceive and mislead the average Catholic on the pew that your views represent the magisterium, since they are stocked in a Catholic parish. I don’t have a problem with The Tablet being stocked in WHSmith, but in my local parish I do. It is a lie Clifford and you know it to say that The Tablet is orthodox. Clifford tell me in plain simple language where do you stand on issues of gay marriage and contraception? A straightforward non-duplicitous answer would be appreciated. We are praying for you too Clifford…

    • Patrick

      Dear Mr Longley

      I stand by what I say, and could substantiate every word. The Tablet has been notably unsympathetic to Pope Benedict’s liturgical reforms – the Motu Proprio etc. It has been unsupportive of the Ordinariate, and has tried to stir up hostility to the new translation of the Missal. It is favourable to women’s ordination, despite authoritative teaching of the Magisterium that there is no power to ordain women. It is not supportive of the Church’s teaching on sexuality.

      I am far from alone in holding these views. I actually think that in the right hands, the Tablet could make a useful contribution to Catholic intellectual life in this country. If I appear to hate it, it is because I love the Church and deplore those who try to undermine her teaching and authority, especially when she is under such attack in the secular world.

      I will reciprocate your prayers, but not your unpleasant sentiments.

    • Lola

      @Clifford: Orthodox Catholic papers do not carry advertisement.

    • BJC


      Threats and tantrums aren’t going to get you anywhere. Patrick is hardly saying anything new so I don’t know what your problem is. If you don’t like being criticised then don’t be a journalist. Its simple. You’ve chosen a very funny profession to be in if you’ve got such a thin skin. We’ve got as much right to a view as you and the general view here is that people like you and Catherine Pepinster lack integrity and act in a hypocritical way. To give you but one example, the Tablet calls itself “Catholic” and then goes out of its way in its editorials, features and letters pages to undermine Catholic teaching. Fair enough if you’re not Catholic but totally hypocritical if you claim you are. Here’s one of your own articles to prove the point and lets face it something like this gets printed in the Tablet week in week out:

      My reading of this is that you seem to be saying that homosexual genital acts are not mortally sinful, am I right? You also seem to be saying that ‘gay marriage’ is alright, again am I right? The trouble with people like you is that you are clever enough never to be caught in print outrightly defying Church teaching but always push the envelope as far as you possibly can. Its the Tablet ‘house style’; its special signature and don’t think for a moment others haven’t spotted what you are up to. If people call you names you don’t like then quite frankly don’t come looking to me for sympathy. You’ve only got yourself to blame. Articles like the one above are a walking talking definition of the phrase ‘lacking in integrity’.

    • Clifford

      I thought I would put your theory to the test regarding your comments on the Tablet. I have one copy in the house. I picked a random page and randomly chose some text which stated that:

      “the human sciences, the mystical traditions, and the therapeutic world have given us so many insights in to what priestly and religious formation could be” Tablet, 4th July 2009.

      Really???? In this particular article it is difficult to work out whether this is a Catholic article, a secular article, or a pagan one?

      This is not how we want the Catholic Church portrayed any more.

      Times have changed. It is time for liberals to accept that.

    • Paul Priest

      Mr Longley – with the greatest of disrespect to your defence of that pertinacious obscenity that has the apostatic effrontery to designate itself ‘Catholic’….

      How many lives have been ruined?
      How many hearts and minds have been corrupted and poisoned?
      How many souls have been jepardised?
      How many Catholics have become disillusioned, dispossessed, disenfranchised and disgraced?
      How much havoc has been wrought?

      …all via this smug, vindictive, venomous, vituperative, mendacious, desacralising, heretical, defiantly anti-Catholic, culture-of-death-conspiring rag???!!

      It’s a greying-beige-purple scandal sheet of ignominious ideological pornography from start to finish.

      …and it shouldn’t merely be deprived of the name Catholic: Rather it should be exorcised and publicly declared excommunicate and given the ultimatum to crawl on bended knee before His Holiness seeking absolution for its systemic crimes against the Mystical Body of Christ.


  • I am a new Catholic of only 5 years but I have a master’s degree in theology (Protestant) and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. I read my way into the Catholic Church and am thrilled to be part of the one true church. I know I understand theology and I am a convert of absolute conviction. Although some are saying no adjective should be placed ahead of “Catholic” (e.g., “faithful”; “orthodox”; “believing”; etc.) I am, to the best of my ability, absolutely loyal to the Magisterium. If the Magisterium teaches something, I accept it. I am an orthodox, faithful, believing Catholic. Now, regarding the newspapers in the Church: When trash is found in the church vestibule, it should be thrown out whether it is Jehovah Witness, Mormon, anti-Catholic fundamentalist or unorthodox journalism. I am sure many will consider me a reprobate for such audacity and may castigate me in the strongest terms. I do not plan to respond to any of those comments.

  • Clifford Longley

    In answer to Rebecca, I am against gay marriage, women priests, abortion; I’m in favour of church schools, Friday abstinence, hate guitars at Mass, have no problems with the latin Mass which can be beautiful. I wish the Ordinariate well but I’m not sure I grasp the point of it, because the Anglican identity thing is a bit of a chimera. I think I am in favour of compulsory celibacy for the clergy, but open to argument against. I doubt the validity of Anglican orders. I accept papal infallibility as defined, though I notice the phenomenon of “creeping infallibility” with alarm. I also think that Humanae Vitae was a mistake, not least because it ignored the way sexuality was shaped by evolution and natural selection. Humanae Vitae was not infallible, as the Vatican forcibly made clear at the time. I also agree with my old friend Derek Worlock that “birth control is not the acid test of Christianity”. Is that a hanging offence? I can’t think of any other teaching of the church with which I have a disagreement. Vatican II – I accept every word of it. Benedict’s three encyclicals were excellent and I have said so. Caritas in Veritate, the last, was quite brilliant. He didn’t put a foot wrong during his visit to Britain. HIs speech in Westminster Hall was historic, and extremely shrewd. In almost every respect The Tablet shares my opinions, for I am, as is well known, its editorial consultant. I stand by everything I said in my earlier post. If anyone has evidence to the contrary let them bring it forward. Let’s us have an end to wild unChristian assertions of bad faith, and have a sensible and reasonable – and prayerful – conversation, based in a few facts.

    • Deacon Nick Donnelly

      Clifford, you write that ‘Humanae vitae was a mistake’, and also write, ‘Vatican II – I accept every word of it’, but Gaudium et Spes para 51 categorically rejects contraception:

      Hence when there is question of harmonizing conjugal love with the responsible transmission of life, the moral aspects of any procedure does not depend solely on sincere intentions or on an evaluation of motives, but must be determined by objective standards. These, based on the nature of the human person and his acts, preserve the full sense of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love. Such a goal cannot be achieved unless the virtue of conjugal chastity is sincerely practiced. Relying on these principles, sons of the Church may not undertake methods of birth control which are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law. (

      Clifford, in the light of this how do you reconcile your two statements?

      • Deacon Nick Donnelly

        Advice to all participants in this thread, please keep the posts respectful and even-tempered, stick to facts and avoid accusations and threats. Deacon Nick

    • Kieran

      Hi Clifford,
      I remember at one time looking forward to reading my weekly edition of the Tablet, alas over the last 10 years I now read it from habit. I am often left feeling that many editorials and articles are agenda driven, which is perhaps reflected by what I consider to be stance in support for aspects of dissent in the Church. Before Christmas the Tablet published a centre page list of signatures that actually supported open dissent, you might call it theological freedom, at that point I almost cancelled my subscription, however, I am not that narrow minded in my reading material. Like you I do not agree with what you call “creeping infallibility” although I wonder what you mean by that. For example, is the definitive teaching of the Church regarding the fact that women cannot be ordained a form of creeping infallibility – as I am sure Nicholas Lash would suggest – or is it as the CDF have stated, a teaching that should be treated as infallible? However, regardless of whether or not it is infallible, we have been called to definitively assent to the teaching, do you, and does the Tablet?
      I will continue to read the Tablet, if only for the book reviews! I am impressed that you have participated in this debate. If I remember from the Tablet there has been (letters extra) some criticism of your view of the evolution of sexuality, I don’t believe you have responded to that criticism yet.

    • pat

      “I doubt the validity of Anglican orders” – but Apostolicae Curae tells us that Anglican Orders are “null and void” which should surely remove any doubt, and this was confirmed in the Commentary accompanying Ad Tuendam Fidem which stated that “With regard to those truths connected to revelation by historical necessity and which are to be held definitively, but are not able to be declared as divinely revealed, the following examples can be given: the legitimacy of the election of the Supreme Pontiff or of the celebration of an ecumenical council, the canonizations of saints (dogmatic facts), the declaration of Pope Leo XIII in the Apostolic Letter Apostolicae Curae on the invalidity of Anglican ordinations …”

    • Trisagion

      If I had once read anything so positively disposed to the Church in The Tablet or had heard you speak in such terms on your slot on Radio 4′s Thought for the Day, I should have sung a Te Deum. Instead we get carping and snide digs. Last week’s misrepresentation of the ecclesiology of Lumen Gentium, with its use of what John Humphreys calls boo-hiss words to label the model of the Mystical Body of Christ, was just the latest in a list of egregious examples. And if you think that citing that co-patron of the disastrous Liverpool Pastoral Congress, the damaging after effects of which we are still trying to cope with 33 years later, as an authoritative source of the Church’s teaching regarding artificial contraception in contrast to Bl John Paul II, is likely to calm criticism of you, friend of yours or not, then you are very much mistaken.

      C’mon, Clifford. We’re far from fools.

  • Paul

    This discussion is part of a very old debate in Britain. In this discussion, I notice that very great weight is placed on the very recent doctrine of papal infallibility. Wind back 150 years, before there was any such doctrine, and consider the life of the eminent Catholic Victorian Lord Acton.
    Lord Acton (1834 -1902) was an English Catholic historian, politician, and writer. He is famous for his remark, often misquoted, that: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. From an ancient Roman Catholic family, young Acton was educated at Oscott College under Dr (afterwards Cardinal) Wiseman until 1848 and then at Edinburgh where he studied privately. He had endeavoured to procure admission to Cambridge, but was not permitted to attend because he was a Catholic.
    In 1859 Acton became the editor of the Roman Catholic monthly paper The Rambler.on John Henry (later Cardinal) Newman’s retirement from the editorship. Under Acton’s editorship, it was a journal dedicated to the discussion of social, political, and theological issues and ideas. Through this activity and through his involvement in the first Vatican Council, Lord Acton became known as one of the most articulate defenders of religious and political freedom. He argued that the church faithfully fulfills its mission by encouraging the pursuit of scientific, historical, and philosophical truth, and by promoting individual liberty in the political realm. In 1869 Acton was raised to the peerage by Queen Victoria and became the first Baron Acton. His elevation came primarily through the intercession of Gladstone. The two were intimate friends and constant correspondents, and had the very highest regard for one another. Matthew Arnold used to say that “Gladstone influences all round him but Acton; it is Acton who influences Gladstone.” Lord Acton become the most influential Catholic in British government since the Reformation.
    In 1870, Acton opposed the moves to promulgate the doctrine of papal infallibility in the First Vatican Council, going to Rome in order to lobby against it, ultimately unsuccessfully. Yet it should be noted that Acton kept on attending Mass regularly and received the last rites on his deathbed. It was in this context that, in a letter he wrote to the Anglican Bishop and scholar Mandell Creighton, dated April 1887, Acton made his most famous pronouncement:
    “I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
    For Acton, infallibility meant that a solemn papal pronouncement on faith or morals was to be received by Catholics as true because it enjoyed (in the words of the Council) “the same infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer thought fit to endow his Church” and “not in consequence of the consent of the Church.” What revolted Acton, what he devoted his life to exposing, was the rationalization of crime when the criminals are authorities, whether civil or ecclesiastic. Acton believed in holding the strong and the weak to the same moral standard. His championing of liberty against power was the central theme of his intellectual life. Acton described himself as “a man who started in life believing himself a sincere Catholic and a sincere Liberal; who therefore renounced everything in Catholicism which was not compatible with Liberty, and everything in Politics which was not compatible with Catholicity.” Two issues surfaced for reflective Catholics: freedom for the Church and freedom within the Church. For Acton they were not incompatible goals. He doubted, not that the Church has implacable enemies, but that authoritarian governance helps Her fight them. If anything, he feared, it throws dry wood on the flames of anti-Catholic prejudice. Liberal self-governance will fortify the Church, not weaken Her. Acton’s conscience did not allow him to ratify the doctrine of papal infallibility, just because he was a Catholic. He could not ignore that conscience’s directives. His opposition was not a symptom of doubt regarding any doctrine that had “always been believed, everywhere, by everyone.” Rather, he feared that the ascription to a sinner of a divine attribute, however circumscribed, would tend to discredit the Faith and fortify harmful absolutist tendencies within the Church.
    In 1874, when Gladstone published his pamphlet on The Vatican Decrees, Lord Acton wrote during November and December a series of remarkable letters toThe Times, illustrating Gladstone’s main theme by numerous historical examples of papal inconsistency. Acton’s letters led to another storm in the English Roman Catholic world, but once more it was considered prudent by the Holy See to leave him alone. In spite of his reservations, he regarded “communion with Rome as dearer than life”.

    • Rifleman 819

      Paul ,
      A long and learned discourse.But the fruits of Acton were the fragmenting of the Church and the little stump of Old Catholics…so beloved of Anglo-Catholicism for ordinations.I believe the Old Catholics now ordain women?
      But a more serious charge….who was or is Acton?
      He may have been a peer with the ear of Gladstone or audiences with the Queen Empress…….but so what?
      Compared to the teaching of the Faith he was, in the context of 20 centuries, a mere punctuation mark.
      You call papal infallibility a very recent doctrine-yes as “promulgated” doctrine I agree…but you ignore 1900 years of acceptance, both implicit and explicit of the Bishop of Rome as more than a primus inter pares.

      It is interesting that a lot of dissent then , as now, is down to vanity.I remember the letter sent to the Times deploring the Papal visit-all listed with titles and academic degrees, as if that somehow validated the authors’ credibility , above the “hoi polloi” of the faithful clergy and laity.

      Don’t forget where individualism and conceit leads.

  • BJC


    I’ve just shown you some evidence. Are you saying homosexual genital acts are not mortally sinful? Simple yes or no.

    You say you are against abortion. is that all abortion from conception or are you saying from a particular date e.g. 1 week, 1 month. Please be specific.

    You say that Humanae Vitae is not infallible teaching. I think you will find this is why there is all the antagonism here. I think I can safely say most people here accept that it is and that it forms part of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church. Further we would see a direct link between rejection of it and abortion, promiscuity, pornography, breakdown of the family and gay marriage. You say rather tritely ‘is it a hanging offence?’ and maybe that’s the problem. You see ‘birth control’ as trivial but we see it as essential to the restoration of a true Christian vision of society. I won’t bother with all the references demonstrating that Human Vitae is infallible because it forms part of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church because no doubt you reject this.

    Last question. Gay civil partnerships, yes or no. And also should gay couples be allowed to adopt and use IVF to form families? Again yes or no. And I don’t mean situations where a gay man leaves his wife for another man and then adopts children from his former marriage.

    • BJC

      To avoid any confusion the line above in my comment “You see ‘birth control’ as trivial but we see it as essential to the restoration of a true Christian vision of society” should read “You see ‘birth control’ as trivial but we see the teaching of and acceptance of Humanae Vitae as essential to the restoration of a true Christian vision of society.

  • Peter

    The church’s teaching on abc is not infallible. The fact that a papal commission was set up to discuss the issue suggests that the teaching is open to debate. The vast majority of Catholics reject the teaching, in good conscience. There is a certain consensus within the church that the time is right for a change in church teaching regarding birth control, the church’s teaching could welcome methods of contraception that are not abortifacient.

    • Trisagion

      Peter, the papal commission examined the question and made its report. The Pope received the report and then decided to confirm the perennial, constant and universal teaching of the Church. Pope Paul VI made it clear that in so doing he was teaching as Pastor of the Universal Church, teaching definitively on a matter of morals and on his own authority as Pope. What part of hat doesnt meet the conditions set out in Pastor Aeternus for a teaching given infallibly, i don’t know. Roma locuta causa finita est, as we say around here.

      As for Catholics rejecting that teaching “in good conscience”: that is an assertion you can’t possibly demonstrate as true. Since we have a duty to form our consciences in the light of faith according to the teaching of the Church, to which we have the duty to show, at least, religious submission of the mind and will, I would say that it is at least as likely that Catholics who reject this teaching do so in bad conscience. Bl John Henry Newman wrote, in the much misquoted Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, that unless a man was convinced, as if in the presence of God himself, that to obey a papal injunction was evil, then he was bound to obey it. That’s a pretty high test for dissent, let alone rejection. Furthermore, he reminded his readers that since conscience was an instantaneous dictate of the practical reason, it was not a faculty capable of acting in a speculative manner. Indeed he called the claim that it could a “counterfeit conscience” and “the very anti-Christ”. In other words, subject to having properly formed one’s conscience, giving proper consideration to the proper authority of the Church’s teaching, one might employ a method of artificial contraception on a particular occasion in good conscience. To do so as a matter of general practice would seem to be less likely to be undertaken in good conscience and to reject the teaching tout court would seem to be almost incapable of being undertaken in good conscience.

      In twenty years of forming couples for marriage, I have yet to meet an individual, let alone a couple, who, after reading and being instructed in the Church’s teaching on responsible parenthood and the reasons for it, felt that it was untrue. Many felt that they would be unlikely to live according to it, but that’s a different matter.

  • Peter

    Is this conversation turning into the Inquisition?

    • Trisagion

      Funny how any challenge to dissent is met with the adolescent passive-aggressive deployment of the ecclesial equivalent of Godwin’s Law. Why can’t you recognise dissent for what it is, rather than mature contribution to debate?

  • Rebecca

    Dear Clifford I respect you coming on here and engaging with people, but really you have proved my point about the duplicitous comments that Tablet writers often give regarding Catholic moral teaching like contraception. You don’t believe in Church teaching on contraception, even when it is articulated in Vatican II a council that you purport that you believe in every word of as proven by Rev Nick. I asked you to give me a yes or no response regarding contraception, instead you danced around the issue and threw in the usual ‘Tablet’ red-herrings.

    As a young Catholic I can assure you that Church teaching on contraception and integrating this into my life has been one of the most truly liberating aspects in my journey of faith. The precious truths of the faith bring peace and liberation to those who open their hearts to what Christ left with His Church to guard and defend.

    God be with you,


  • When I had a re-conversion to Catholicism in 2001, my mother advised me to subscribe to the Tablet – she said it was an intellectual publication for ‘posh’ catholics – not like the Universe – which my holy granny loved. So I took out a subscription and was terribly upset when the first edition arrived. There was an article slamming the Fatima apparitions. That killed it for me, as I grew up knowing all about Fatima. I found further editions insulting to John Paul 2 so I decided my blood pressure was too delicate to continue with it.
    I wrote to the Tablet governing body recently (Lord Patten is a member) – asking them to drop the name “catholic’ as it is clearly an Anglican paper.
    I wrote to Abp Nichols about my thoughts on this paper, and really it should not be in parishes.
    And Clifford – I am reading your excellent book called ‘The Warlock archives’ – it’s a masterpiece. You have described the faith as per Brighton Rock. Indeed Pinky spoke the truth about mortal sin and Vat 2 didn’t change the teaching on mortal sin. I think everyone should read Brighton Rock as it describes the Faith in such simple terms.

  • Clifford Longley

    Thank you all for your comments. You will note that I have used my real name, and I would really urge all of you to do likewise. Anonymity is an occasion of sin on internet blogs, as it leads to more inflammatory remarks than if you were to sign it and own up to what you write.
    I am struck by the thought, from more than one of your contributors, that what this is really all about is contraception, and my disagreement with Humanae Vitae. It is a misreading of Gaudium et Spes to quote it as in support of HV, as it preceded it by three years; and all the commentators agree that the bishops in council knew that the pope had withdrawn the issue – specifically of the pill – from the council and passed it to a special commission to discuss. As for HV itself – follow “Dominie Stemp’s” advice and read my book. Thank you for that commendation, by the way.
    I’m told The Tablet’s reputation for being anti-Catholioc – promoted by blogs like this one – was raised at a meeting of the Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales, presumably by two bishops who were not regular readers. They were asked from the chair for their evidence. When they could not give any, they were asked if they would please monitor The Tablet for six months, and report back on what they had found. They did report back, and said they had found nothing that was unacceptable except one letter to the editor; and agreed to withdraw their complaint. Doesn’t that bring things into a better perspective?
    I hope my intervention has been useful, but I have to say I do not propose to monitor this blog regularly from now on. But good luck with it. Thank you for having me on it so far, and of course, for your prayers.

    • BJC


      Talking down to people isn’t going to make you many friends. You come across as defensive and pompous. Whenever I read your columns you come across as somebody who doesn’t understand the nuts and bolts of Catholic doctrine and if you’ve got any sense you’ll pick up a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church tomorrow and read it from cover to cover looking up all the references. If you do you’ll find criticism of the Tablet that its anti-Catholic is justified and also that those Bishops who you say can’t see anything wrong with it need to read it too. On the other hand you may not have that amount of sense….

      As regards the Tablet’s lack of journalistic integrity Joe Shaw gives some excellent examples in this blog post below. Its pretty unedifying stuff.

  • Michael Calwell

    “The Liberal Catholic assumes as the formal motive of the act of faith, not the infallible authority of God revealing supernatural truth, but his own reason deigning to accept (40) as true what appears rational to him according to the appreciation and measure of his own individual judgement. He subjects God’s authority to the scrutiny of his reason, and not his reason to God’s authority. He accepts revelation not on account of the infallible revealer, but because of the “infallible” receiver. With him the individual judgement is the rule of faith. He believes in the independence of reason. It is true he accepts the magisterium of the Church, yet he does not accept it as the sole authorized expounder of divine truth. He reserves, as a coefficient factor in the determination of that truth, his own private judgement. The true sense of revealed doctrine is not always certain, and human reason has something to say in the matter, as for instance, the limits of the Church’s infallibility may be determined by human science. Within lines thus prescribed the declarations of the Church are infallible, but these limits are not to be determined by herself. Science will do that for her. She is of course infallible, they say, but we will determine when and in what she shall speak infallibility. Such is the absurdity which the Liberal Catholic falls into by placing the formal motive of faith in human reason.”

    El Liberalismo es Pecado: “Liberalism Is A Sin,” by Don Felix Sarda y Salvany 1886

  • wallace

    It’s just a mag for geriatric baby boomers haven’t succeeded in making the Church in its relativistic post-modern image. The editor is still annoyed that some religous brother/nun slapped them way back in 1955. It may be useful for toilet paper

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