The Tablet mischievously misrepresents Bishop Egan’s plans to secure his diocese’s future

The Tablet has published an article this week that seeks to misrepresent Bishop Egan’s plans to secure his diocese’s future by giving a platform to members of the diocese spreading alarmist accusations that Bishop Egan is seeking to down play the role of the laity in the Diocese of Portsmouth.

The background to The Tablet’s attack on Bishop Egan was the publication in February of the results of a diocesan review begun under Bishop Hollis that revealed a growing deficit in the Curia’s budget, that reflected rising costs, costs that could not be met by increasing the contribution from parishes, currently at 20-25% of their income nor from restricted funds.

The document ‘Changes to the Governing Structures of the Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth’ further reveals that various key groups within the diocese, including clergy, pastoral administrators and heads of diocesan schools, are concerned with the over concentration and centralisation of resources in the Department for Pastoral Formation. The review concluded that ‘one unintended consequence of concentrating pastoral objectives — catechesis, liturgy, formation, etc. – in the Department has been perceived as a disempowering of clergy and parishes. Many complained that, as a result, the gifts and talents within parishes and among clergy were not being adequately used. To take an example: the number of lay catechists has been in steady decline over the last few years, from 1,733 in 2007 to 1,430 in 2012.’

Therefore, in order to reduce the growing curial deficit and stop the over centralisation of resources in the Department of Pastoral Formation Bishop Egan has decided to close that department, making a number of posts redundant, helping the diocese meet a projected £500,000 shortfall.

Bishop Egan makes it clear that one of the objectives of re-structuring the diocese is to return responsibility for formation and catechesis to the local level of pastoral areas and parishes. Regarding the diocesan role of laity the report states that the three committees of trustees will comprise four members– two clergy, two lay – together with other co-opted members who bring particular expertise.

But The Tablet’s hatchet job on Bishop Egan’s and the trustees thoughtful and simple plan to re-establish subsidiarity to the parishes makes no mention of these review findings, instead it reports alarmist assertions from Fr Sean Tobin and Dr Keith Chappell that Bishop Egan is seeking to downplay the role of the laity.

The Tablet reports:

‘In his parish newsletter, Fr Sean Tobin, parish priest of the Churches of Our Lady, Fleet, with Holy Trinity Church, Cookham, Berkshire, paid tribute to the department for “enabling parishioners to explore and grow in faith”. He told The Tablet that a number of parishioners were upset about the redundancies and that he was worried about who would undertake the work of forming catechists after the loss of the department. [...]Under the plans, the department for pastoral formation will be replaced by a department for the New Evangelisation, which will come under a vicariate for evangelisation and will be run by a priest.  Fr Tobin said: “There is a lot of frustration from people as they recognise the great work the department has done over the years. My frustration is over what it says about the role of the laity and the role of the department. There was also not a lot of recognition from the diocese over the work the department has done over the years.” He added that two of his parishioners were among those who had lost their jobs.’

[Protect the Pope comment: The Tablet states that the the department for the New Evangelisation will come under a vicariate for evangelisation and will be run by a priest. It fails to mention that the vicariate for evangelisation will be overseen by a trustee committee comprising two clergy and two laity. Fr Tobin's assertions about peoples' praise of the 'great work the department has done' is not balanced by the review's finding of key stakeholders concerns, including School Heads, of the concentration of resources in the department and its dis-empowerment of parishes.]

The Tablet also reports:

‘…a lay theologian has withdrawn in protest from giving two talks in a series about Vatican II organised by pastoral areas in the diocese. Dr Keith Chappell, a lecturer at the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, said he  was withdrawing from the talks as a result of the announcement last week. He said that the underlying message of the reorganisation was that the role of the laity was to be played down. ‘

[Protect the Pope comment: Dr Keith Chappell's comments to The Tablet were made in a purely personal capacity as a member of the diocese, and not in his capacity as a lecturer at Maryvale Institute. It was mischievous and misleading of The Tablet to attempt to link Maryvale with Dr Chappell's  reaction to Bishop Egan's plans to secure his diocese's future and halt the decline in the number of lay catechists under the watch of the Department for Pastoral Formation. ]

Christopher Lamb of The Tablet should have made more of the review’s actual findings which are reflected in Deacon Stephen Morgan’s comment, in his capacity as secretary to the diocesan trustees, instead of focusing on the sensationalist assertions of Fr Tobin and Dr Chappell.  Deacon Morgan told the Tablet:

‘The plans would mean a greater involvement of laity because catechesis would be devolved to parishes. He said a significant number of those consulted about the changes felt disempowered under the present diocesan structure.’

Protect the Pope comment: It is mischievous and just plain wrong of The Tablet to portray Bishop Egan’s and the trustees’ plans to re-structure the diocese of Portsmouth as an attempt to downplay the role of the laity. Any fair reading of ”Changes to the Governing Structures of the Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth’ shows this to be a gross misrepresentation of a bishop seeking to face up to serious challenges, not least the £500,000 shortfall and the reported disempowerment of pastoral areas and parishes.  It was also wrong of The Tablet to attempt to link Maryvale with Dr Chappell’s criticism of Bishop Egan. The Acting Director of Maryvale, Petroc Willey, commented: ‘I know that Bishop Philip is thoroughly committed to a full and fruitful collaboration between ordained and lay people. His incisive analyses of contemporary culture and the implications for the new evangelisation are pointing important ways forward for the Church at this time.’ 

Review-Announcement-210213.pdfhttp://www.portsmouthdiocese.org.uk/docs/Review-Announcement-210213.pdf

44 comments to The Tablet mischievously misrepresents Bishop Egan’s plans to secure his diocese’s future

  • Karla

    The Bitter pill is also calling for the Church to abandon the fight against redefining marriage:

    http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/the-bitter-pill-uks-tablet-calls-for-church-to-abandon-fight-against-gay-ma

    This fishwrap needs public condemnation from the Bishops

  • Michael Petek

    Will no one rid us of this meddlesome rag?

  • Wake up England

    High time the Tablet was deprived of its “catholic” status and publicly reprimanded by the bishops. For how long will it be allowed to go on poisoning the faithful, who(seeing at the back of their churches for sale) read it and belive what it says. It’s an absolute disgrace.

    • Karla

      Can. 216 Since they participate in the mission of the Church, all the Christian faithful have the right to promote or sustain apostolic action even by their own undertakings, according to their own state and condition. Nevertheless, no undertaking is to claim the name Catholic without the consent of competent ecclesiastical authority.

      http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__PU.HTM

      An organisation can only call itself Catholic if they have permission from the competent ecclesiastical authority

  • Keith Crocker

    The Tablet are running true to form – it was only a matter of time before an attack on Bishop Eagan was due. Mischief making is putting it mildly, Deacon Nick. Bishop Eagan needs time and space, as well as plenty of prayer, to do the thing’s he must do. Deo Volente, all will work out well. Deacon K

  • Well let’s look at what Vatican II states about the laity’s involvement in the Church:

    V2-I-2. Indeed, the organic union in this body and the structure of the members are so compact that the member who fails to make his proper contribution to the development of the Church must be said to be useful neither to the Church nor to himself.

    Of course, the key words in this example are ‘proper contribution’.

    Next,

    V2-10. In the manner of the men and women who helped Paul in spreading the Gospel (cf. Acts 18:18, 26; Rom. 16:3) the laity with the right apostolic attitude supply what is lacking to their brethren and refresh the spirit of pastors and of the rest of the faithful (cf. 1 Cor. 16:17-18).

    Key words ‘supply what is lacking’

    The answer is simple. The Bishop obviously believes that these departments were not “enabling parishioners to explore and grow in faith”.

    Of course, this is the case up and down the country, with the exception of Shrewsbury and now Portsmouth.

    • Of course when this happened at Shrewsbury (with Bishop Mark Davies) the liberals created a prominent smear campaign there as well.

      This smear campaign, like the last is childish at best, and shows disobedience at worst.

  • Rifleman819

    Bishops need to be in charge of their dioceses-Shrewsbury and Portsmouth have two new and effective bishops.

    Chummy little committee men of laity don’t like it.Sob. Enlist the least Catholic of catholic media to complain to……….sorry the winds of reform and change are blowing, Tablet or no Tablet.

    Let’s have more commonsense restructuring in a time of challenge across all our dioceses.Resources of all kinds are scarce and the church in E and W literally cannot afford the luxury of bloated layers of bureaucracy.

  • About six years ago I wrote to Bishop Hollis about how every year in the Diocesan Year Book over the past twenty years the number of practicing Catholics in the Diocese was declining by around a thousand every year. I pointed out that eventually the numbers would be so low that it would hit the Diocese financially. Last year the Diocesan Trustees refused to sign the accounts because it would be wrong when the finances were poised to go into the red. This was all quoted under Finance in the Diocesan Website. The Year before the Bishop had began what he thought would be the great escape, a special fund raising activity in the Diocese, called Living Our Faith. Professional Fund Raisers were brought in to start this off, the Bishop hoped some of that money could be used against the debts. But this was not the case.
    Now the facts are that the Diocese paid out over £2 million pounds annually on salaries and the biggest cut went to the Department of Evangelisztion. The Diocesan Website under Finance also revealed that one member of this august group received over £60,000 per year. Now with the auditors refusing to sign the Accounts what was Bishop Egan to do? What would Dr Keith Chappell or Fr Sean Tobin have done? May I also say I do not believe that the Department did any good in the Diocese. I heard a lecture from one memeber who speaking on the Bible started off informing the audience that in fact until Vatican II, Catholics were forbidden to read the Bible. Another commented that the Papal Supremacy referred to Love and not Authority. I remember in the eighties being ostracised in a group for daring to contradict the speaker that ecumenically we were now all part of the One Church and that was what Vatican II said. When I said Vatican II said not such thing you could hear a pin drop before the usual response, “So you think you are the only one going to Heaven”. Bishop Egan was forced into these changes and I know he would have probably preferred to have waited a few years.

  • peter

    John
    though catholics were never forbidden to read the bible the Council of Trent certainly discouraged it. I think the speaker you referred to was probably thinking of the dreadful hash of things the vatican curia via its own biblical commission was making in the early part of the 20th century regarding the study of the bible. The pope, writing as Joseph Ratzinger, acknowledges this himself in a wonderful essay ‘exegesis and the magisterium of the church’. It was because Pius 12 wrote ‘Inspired by the Divine Spirit’ (DIVINO AFFLANTE SPIRITU) that catholics were allowed to use the historical method to study scripture. This was developed by Vat 2 in the document ‘The Word of God) Dei Verbum and in reality it was highly unusual for catholics to read and study the bible. The council of Trent believed that only the church could interpret scripture. Thankfully that view has been put to one side and we have the wonderful resources such as the Jerome Biblical Commentary – a commentary on the bible that is so beautiful by catholic scholars.

    • Would you kindly explain precisely what you mean by “the historical method to study scripture”.

      • Stephen

        It didn’t really happen…..
        It was at a different time…..
        They made it up????

      • peter

        Hi Patricius
        the Vatican Biblical Commission defines it using various methods of understanding the Word of God. ‘This study is never finished; each age must in its own way newly seek to understand the sacred books.’ see
        http://catholic-resources.org/ChurchDocs/PBC_Interp-FullText.htm

        historical-critical methodology was developed in nineteenth-century and looks at authorship, context, style. Biblical Archeology is used as well as redaction and form criticism. For example scholars have looked at who authored the books of the New Testament, did Paul write all the epistles, why do the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke/Acts differ from John. They do this as a service to the Church so we can develop a deeper understanding of the Word Of God. The Catholic Church has some wonderful scripture scholars who use the historical method and this method has the full support of the church.

      • Conor

        For information on the historical- critical Method read the beginning of the first Jesus of Nazareth book. The Pope explains how it is a useful tool for interpreting scripture, but only when used with other tools, on its own it can be very detrimental

  • Daniel

    Bishop Egan would have more to worry about if The Pill was praising him.

  • Joseph Matthew

    Peter, It is only right to point out that Joseph Ratzinger was highly critical of historical-critical exegesis when it abandons the analogy of faith. Read his wonderful Ratzinger Report. I attended a talk given by a a Catholic priest who told us that the infancy narratives are not historical, Our Lady never said the Magnificat etc. The talk caused a great deal of distress.Modernism is the scourge of our time.

    • peter

      Hi Joseph
      I read ‘The Ratzinger Report’ many years ago and i found it rather disappointing. Ratzinger has produced some good work (I can’t recommend his Introduction to Christianity highly enough) and is acknowledged as a fine theologian, though a little conservative for my taste. The historicity of the infancy narratives is a good area of research for biblical scholars, they attempt to unveil the beauty and depth of these events. I heartedly recommend The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke by Raymond Brown SS, one of Pope Benedict’s favourite biblical scholars.
      If the priest gave the talk just to shock people, i think of him out of order.
      peter

  • Peter,
    I cannot relate to what you say. It was Pope Leo in the 19th century who wrote an encyclical on Scripture and indeed gave Catholics an Indulgence of 300 days if they read the Bible for just 15 minutes per day. Catholic Bookshops stocked Bibles and I bought the Douai-Rheims version then the Ronald Knox version. But why Ronald Knox would have written a translation of the Bible in the 1930`s if nobody was reading bibles I do not know. Bible scholarship and the Historical Critical method of approach to understanding the Bible is quite another matter. No, this was a New Church being built for the 21st century where all Protestant myths were to be upheld.

    • peter

      Hi John
      The culture in the English catholic church was to pray the rosary and novenas, Mass and benediction rather than read scripture, which for some, was seen a rather protestant thing to do.
      As i mentioned scripture wasn’t forbidden, rather it was not widely practised by lay people. I come from a large catholic family and none of us prayed with the bible, we prayed our novenas every night then rosary, scripture was for sunday mass!
      peter

      • Nicolas Bellord

        Well that is not my experience as a cradle Catholic. Bible stories were the meat in the Religious Instruction I received. I wonder whether the idea that Catholics did not read the Bible is yet another Protestant myth dating back to the reformation? I seem to remember a text in Anglo-Saxon written by King Alfred commanding that a bible be placed in every Church. The problem was that there were various UNAUTHORISED versions of the Bible such as Tyndale’s which were not recommended viz: St Thomas More’s critique thereof. I find it somewhat ironic that the Anglican Church decided to call their version AUTHORISED. Personally I am glad to have the Church guiding my reading of the Bible as in the Old Testament there are many passages which are less than edifying and can be quietly overlooked and unread!

        • peter

          Nicolas, I think there is something in what you say. The Reformation saying of ‘Sola Scriptura’ did give the impression that the catholic church did not use the scriptures, and the magisterium over-emphasised tradition. However I think we can both agree that the catholic church has a wonderful resource of tradition that helps us understand scripture.

          ‘Personally I am glad to have the Church guiding my reading of the Bible as in the Old Testament there are many passages which are less than edifying and can be quietly overlooked and unread!’
          The church’s lectionary of readings is a beautiful gift to us, though because of the cycle we still miss out a little. That is why i encourage people to read and pray with scripture texts as often as they are able.

          peter

  • Peter,

    I should have mentioned that I read Scripture `with` the Church. In the final interpretation of Scripture The Church still claims to be inerrant. It is in this sense, when there are many interpretations around, that the Church still claims to be the interpreter of Scripture and this has not changed. The message of God is within Scripture and the Church is still our Infallible guide.

  • Robin Leslie

    Since the culture of Modernity initiated in the lste (not the early) Renaissance has been
    discarded as incredulous, and postmodernity dismissed as a waiting room for nihilists, relativists and humanists among others, talk of ‘Modernism’, ‘Postmodernism’ and ‘modernization’
    is substantively vacuous. In other words those who advance the ideological practice of modernizing the Church are sloganizing a clapped-out private language game (a la Wittgenstein).
    Underlying all philosophical positions is a sociology, for example to advance an individualist philosophy there need to be certain social conditions, social structures (institutions, culture) in place that make the ‘autonomous individual’ a social reality. In such circumstances and contexts virtue, truthfulness will continuously be endangered by social evils and attempts to found communities of faith and truthfulness will recurrently founder on the rocks of the social order in place at the time.
    If we want to practice virtue and faith with minimal threats to their perpetuity we must first build a social order that serves the Common Good and is founded on the transcendent
    Love of God. Anything less than this will continuously fall into idolatry and violence.
    We need a social transformation and a metanoia in these ‘revolutionary’ times
    We should remember Hugo Chavez in our prayers, for even though we may have reservations about some of his allies, no fair minded person could deny the obvious goodness of a man who was a
    fellow Catholic, who told the truth about Anglo-American violence and who relieved the neediness of poor people. The sorrows of poor Venezualans queing in their thousands was
    an unforgettable sight for me, especially at a time that another Catholic Minister Ian
    Duncan-Smith was driving the poor out of their homes and breaking their families apart. Please
    pray for the soul of Ian Duncan-Smith that he may be rescued from his bitter ideology.

  • Dominic MacCarthy

    Not a few dioceses have these “Pastoral Formation Departments”. Often the laity who staff them are not very well qualified theologically. Many have no theology degrees, and most have certainly no degrees in Catholic theology i.e. from a Pontifical University or Maryvale.

    Remember you can do a theology degree in this country which consists mostly of reductionist bible exegesis, gay theology, feminist theology, eco-theology, oh yes, and maybe one course on history of Christian doctrine or the formation of the New Testament. Nothing hardly on church history, sacraments, canon law, spirituality, the Catechism, a decent faith-filled look at the Scriptures, Vatican II etc etc. I’m not saying that all secular university theology degrees are like this by any means, but some are. One needs to look very carefully at the actual courses completed by anyione applying for a post who claims theological qualifications.

    Yet such “Pastoral Formation” staff, whose Catholic theology is often half-baked and gleaned from the pages of the Tablet, Peter Hebblethwaite, Hans Kung, and no doubt the Blessed Tina of Beattie, produce shoddy half-baked courses. They go round pastoral areas like great gurus and theologians, spouting insipid and misleading blather. Priests far sounder and far better qualified go ignored.

    Moreover, these “Pastoral Formation” staff receive good salaries, £30k £40k or more, paid for by the parishes, while the priests have to get by on £10k or suchlike per year. No wonder they are resented by the clergy, and sometimes the laity too. Maybe the Portsmouth staff were better than others: this isn’t an attack on them, but a general comment about various dioceses.

    However, one of Bishop Egan’s staff did seem to spend more time at conferences in America than actually teaching music around the diocese. Nice jollies with a big salary attached?

    Obviously the Tablet would have preferred the Bishop to increase the precept on the parishes to 25-30% in order to subsidise all this central administration and bureaucracy. Fleece the families in the pew, at a time of financial hardship, and pay the fat cats of Park Place? I suppose Tablet readers must have plenty of money to burn, since they waste it subscribing to that rag anyway, so they don’t understand ordinary Catholics whose money is in short supply!

  • Franjo Kuharcic

    I am struck by the charity here: A young seminarian sent me a text shouting ‘rejoice, rejoice’ at the news that Bishop Egan had sacked some of his lay staff. Reading the contributions above it is more of the same. A recession and we are expected to rejoice at redundancy? Not in my name.

    • Rifleman819

      For Franjo-but I bet it is “Yes in my name” for substantial numbers of Catholic laity in Portsmouth…who have seen their pew donations supporting staff some of whose whose salaries are way , way beyond theirs…………esp , as you say , in a recession.

  • I have never read the Tablet but why is it still being aloud to call it self a Catholic paper??? Thomas Haverstock Winnipeg Man Canada

  • Deacon Stephen Morgan

    I am the Secretary to the Trustees of the Diocese of Portsmouth and would like to correct a number of the inaccuracies posted here.

    First from John Kearney:
    The Diocesan Trustees did not refuse to sign the accounts last year or any other. What the trustees refused to do, on my recommendation, was to approve the rolling 5 year budget for the period to 2010/1-2014/5 because it showed the central diocesan expenditure sliding into deficit, a deficit which, by 2014/5 would have risen to £500K pa. The deficit was due to the effects of inflation causing costs to rise at a time when diocesan income remained flat. The response of Bishop Hollis and the Trustees was to commission a review that would look at everything we spent and consider how effectively and efficiently that operate, whilst proposing options to the new Bishop and Trustees for how the deficit could be eliminated whilst still carrying on with the essential functions that the diocese as a charity is obliged to do.

    The diocesan fundraising campaign, Living Our Faith, was set up in 2007 and ran between 2008 and 2010. It was established not to provide funds for central expenditure but for four specific areas: clergy training and support, formation of the laity in parishes (ie. not centrally), renewing facilities in poor parishes and specific parish determined priorities. Bishop Hollis set up the campaign in such a way that its funds could not be used to support the diocesan Department for Pastoral Formation nor have they been.

    The diocese does not have a Department for Evangelisation at present. It is the Department for Pastoral Formation that is being cut. Neither does the diocese have a central salary bill of £2million pounds annually. The diocese (today) employs 240 people, 203 in parishes (from cleaners and gardeners, through secretaries and administrators to yourth workers, pastoral assistants and catechists) and 37 people in the diocesan central pastoral administration (the Curia). The central payroll amounts to something less than £900K annually.

    The auditors have never refused to sign the accounts of the diocese.

    Second Dominic MacCarthy
    The laity in the diocesan Department of Pastoral Formation are very well qualified, with an abundance of undergraduate and graduate degrees both from Pontifical Faculties and secualr universities.

    The salaries paid to members of those staff are not readily comparable with the remuneration of priests. Priests pay nothing towards their accommodation, nor do they bear the cost of heating and lighting their homes, their council tax and the cost of repairs, furniture etc. In addition, their housekeeping costs (food, cleaning etc.) are also covered. As is, I imagine, obvious, few have the responsibility of providing for spouses and children.

    I well understand how these matters arouse strong opinions and rightly so, however, contributors would do well to check their facts before posting, particularly where adverse inferences as to other individuals could be drawn from their comments. Blog comments can be defamatory and actionable.

    • Lynda

      The last line was unnecessary. Any factual inaccuracies were clearly not potentially defamatory of a person, and we’re without malice.

    • Dominic MacCarthy

      Dear Deacon Stephen

      Thank you for taking the trouble to reply and to make some good points. As I said, my comments about Pastoral Formation Departments were not directed particularly at the Park Place staff. In certain other dioceses, which I shall not name, the situation I described definitely pertains. Perhaps my language was a little too colourful, but it comes from long frustration at the nonsense propagated by certain PFDs.

      However, checking your Portsmouth diocesan website, none of your Pastoral Formation staff list any qualifications after their names, though I am very happy to hear your assurances that they were well qualified. It would be better if they had actually listed their theological qualifications, then we could actually have seen how well qualified they were: it’s normal professional practice to do so. Humility, even false humility, doesn’t help in this respect: the punters in the pews do actually need to see that the person being paid to do a job is professionally qualified for that work.

      The Church has suffered dreadfully in the last forty years from people passing themselves off as experts, traducing Vatican II and substituting their own agendas.

      I was actually trying to defend your bishop from the sniping comments of the Tabletistas, who I am sure will be gunning for him and your Trustees after their well-considered decision.

      Incidentally, why do dioceses not have “Departments for Theological Formation”? That is what seems to be more lacking these days.

  • Rifleman819

    For Deacon Stephen Morgan ,

    Your last comment is interesting,presumably actions for defamation would be launched and paid for by the individuals concerned and not from diocesan funds?

  • Kinga Grzeczynska LLB

    Deacon Stephen Morgan

    Dominc MacCarthy made observations that could be applied to a number of Dioceses not specifically to Portsmouth. I think you are too quick to apply a rebuttal without thinking the comments through.

    I would expect that your priority is obedience and 100% support to your new Bishop and I would expect that all the Diocesan employees should support + Egan completely – after all he is the Boss and if the good Bishop wants to clear the decks – than that is what he has done.

    The Diocesan Trustees Reports and Financial Statements are available from 2006 – 2011 on the Diocesan website.

    New management means new methods and new implementations. Get used to it because there are a good number of vacant positions for Bishops in England and Wales and a few in Scotland.

    With repect to the media commentating about what Bishop Egan has done/not done and the critising comments, is it possible that reports could be made on the many good things he has performed as Bishop of Portsmouth?

    Kinga Grzeczynska LLB

  • [...] enough, and as Protect the Pope has observed1, The Tablet cannot view the departure of Paul Inwood from the payroll of Portsmouth Diocese [...]

  • [...] journal, The Tablet. Again, rather than link to them, you can get a flavour of things from this page. For [...]

  • Tom

    The Park Place set-up in Portsmouth Diocese was always pushing its own agenda, against the instincts of many parishioners and clergy but with the benign support of the previous bishop. For years they churned out wodges of stuff about ‘collaborative ministry’ and long, complex para-liturgies for events like the ‘installation’ of a priest by the local pastoral council chair. So far as I know, this never happened in a single parish, but I still had to attend a day’s ‘training’ on it. The disconnect between the Department of Pastoral Formation and the rest of the diocese was complete except that we paid for them. I do feel a personal sympathy for those who have lost their jobs, but the future of the diocese is now stronger and better, more true to the church’s teaching and more true to the views of the people. An odd, irrelevant and expensive extra in the life of our diocese is gone. Few parishioners are weeping.

  • Mike R

    One of the really strange things about the Portsmouth setup was the role played by these lay ‘experts’ in the selection process for clergy. Candidates had to pretend to adhere absolutely to the values of the Pastoral Formation people, especially in the days when there was a collaboration officer, or something of that sort. She had a near veto over candidates. It created the necessity for deceit right at the beginning of an ordination candidate’s formation. I hope that’s over now

  • Sue

    I still remember, as a recent convert (not a word allowed in the Portsmouth diocese, mind you – we were ‘New Catholics’) going to a local workshop for catechists run by some of the Pastoral Formation team. The chief speaker was a religious sister in a tweed skirt and jumper who spent much of her time telling us how lucky we were that we no longer lived in the “bad old days” (her actual words).

    She informed us that until Vatican II, she’d never prayed together with her sisters: I thought this was very strange, considering the obligation on religious of liturgical prayer, whether the full Divine Office, the Little Office of Our Lady, or whatever – but it turned out that what she meant was the ‘prayer meeting’ which I’d thankfully left behind in my evangelical past.

    At this meeting, Sister informed us that the most important thing we could communicate to the children we were teaching was ‘our faith’, which I think meant the fact that we believed. I suggested that the most important thing wasn’t ‘our faith’, or indeed anything about us, but ‘The Faith’; this objection was, however, was smothered in a blanket of niceness (“Of course, of course…it’s really the same thing, isn’t it?”)

    The workshop was the first of three, but I didn’t go to the others. My husband forbade me to attend, given the state of my temper when I returned from the first one. No, I shan’t miss the Pastoral Formation Team.

  • Sarah

    A small point, but if The Tablet is unable to get something as simple as the address details of Our Lady & Holy Trinity right, why would we expect them to correctly report more important facts?

  • Tess

    ‘Love one another as I have loved you’ John 13:34-35… Not much evidence of that here.

    The church is made up of many voices, all have a right to express an opinion and be heard. Some we will agree with, some we will not, BUT all are equal and valid!

  • Mel Ward

    I have to agree with Tess. I am often ashamed of blogs like this.I have found truthful,useful and informative views on the issue here.but also a lot of underlying nastiness and denigation.

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