Can’t see this “open letter” having much effect

There is, apparently, an “open letter” to Anglican “dissidents” considering entering the Church through Anglican Ordinariates in the Tablet. The irony is that it is not on-line, so not very “open”, eh? Still, thanks to Catholica for posting it. I don’t think it will have much effect on those considering entering the Ordinariates, since “the deeply anti-modernist thinking (and pessimism towards modern culture) which has obsessed Pope Benedict XVI” is exactly what is attracting these folk away from the Anglican communion towards communion with the Catholic Church.

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30 responses to “Can’t see this “open letter” having much effect

  1. Kyle

    I am deeply puzzled by this paragraph:

    “The deeply anti-modernist thinking (and pessimism towards modern culture) which has obsessed Pope Benedict XVI can be read in nearly every speech he gives and, for example, in his decision to end the schism between the Lefebvrists and the Catholic Church. He and the Curia did not even demand that this fundamentalist group accept the teaching of the Second Vatican Council.”

    As I understand, the schism has not been healed and the Pope’s demand of their acceptance of VII remains an obstacle to reunification. I don’t esteem The Tablet very high but shouldn’t this blatant kind of error be picked up on by an editor?

  2. And as for “accepting” Vatican II, well, as it was a pastoral council that enunciated no new doctrines, and Lefebvre himself signed all but two of the Conciliar decrees, from what I understand the chief issue the SSPX has is with apparent ambiguities and contradictions inherent in the documents, above all relating to religious freedom; as a certain Cardinal, now Pope, himself criticised some aspects of the documents as downright Pelagian, I suspect that a good deal of leeway will be available – so long as the SSPX doesn’t denounce the Council as downright heretical.

    What the more “liberal” Catholics mean by “the Council” is shorthand for, not the letter of the documents, but for their image of the modern Church, as opposed to the nasty old pre-conciliar Church and the nasty old men in the Vatican who are for ever trying to wind the clock back: a risible fantasy indeed.

  3. To echo your thoughts, David, were I an Edward Manning today and I read that letter, I’d think to myself, “Ooooh, sounds even more lovely than I imagined. How quickly can I swim the Tiber?”

  4. Peregrinus

    Danger, Will Robinson! Category error!

    This isn’t an open letter to Anglican dissidents. It’s an open letter to Anglicans.

    Does this matter? Yes. As David rightly points out, this letter is hardly going to dissuade those Anglicans who are contemplating participating in an ordinariate from doing so. It will have no appeal at all to them.

    But it’s not supposed to. It’s aimed, I think, at those Anglicans who are open to, or even committed to, the episcopal ordination of women, to assure them that there are those in the Catholic church who see their stance as prophetic and hopeful.

    It may be wrong to say that it won’t have much effect. It certainly won’t have the effect of dissuading any Anglicans from participating in an ordinariate, but that is not the only possible effect that such a letter could have, nor I think the effect that this one is intended to have.

    • I disagree. I think that was precisely why the letter was written. Why else bother? Anglicans not distressed by the current developments don’t pay much attention to the Pope anyway!

      • Peregrinus

        I disagree. I think that was precisely why the letter was written.
        That’s an extraordinary belief; there’s absolutely nothing in the letter to support it. If somebody wanted to appeal to Anglican opponents of women’s ordination, they would write a completely different letter to this one.

        Why else bother? Anglicans not distressed by the current developments don’t pay much attention to the Pope anyway!
        Youi’ve got your Anglicans who are distressed by the consecration of woman bishops, and you’ve got your Anglicans distressed by the splitting of the Anglican church, and it is possible to be a member of the second group without being a member of the first. I suggest those are the Anglicans at whom the letter is primarily addressed.

        • Peregrinus,

          But if that’s true, so what? What does the letter do or say that specifically speaks to them such that they’d care? Oh, there are some Catholics that think like we do, thus our church won’t split after all? I’m not sure I see it.

          • Peregrinus

            Hi Ogden

            To me it’s fairly clear. It’s a call to Anglicans to have the courage of their convictions and proceed with the consecration of women bishops for the good of Christianity as a whole. And it’s intended to reassure them that there are many Catholics who will support them in this, and take hope from it.

            • Peregrinus,

              I mean, I take your point that might be behind the last paragraph. But it seems the rest of the letter is a diatribe about Catholicism and how terrible it is, almost a “don’t come here, we have people who -believe- in things. Isn’t it awful?? And they think other people should believe as they do! Horrible!” That seems to me the main thrust of the whole letter, the final paragraph notwithstanding.

              • Peregrinus

                No, no, no. The letter is certainly not addressed to Anglicans contemplating coming to Rome – if only because it refers to those Anglicans as “them”, while Anglicans sticking with Canterbury are “you”. That’s a pretty clear indicator of who is being addressed.

                Your characterisation of the letter as “don’t come here, we have people who -believe- in things. Isn’t it awful?? And they think other people should believe as they do! Horrible!” is certainly inaccurate. Nothing the writer says can possibly be construed as criticising the pope and the hierarchy for having a belief. His objection is to the particular belief they are articulating, which (a) he doesn’t like, and (b) he doesn’t think reflects the belief which the church at large holds, and (c) he thinks is being imposed, rather than proposed.

                There’s not much point in engaging with a letter of this kind if we start by pretending that it actually says something from completely different from what it actually says. Far from being an effective refutation of the letter, this rather lends it a degree of credibility, by suggesting that there is no effective response to its arguments and that a straw man is being created in an attempt to distract attention from that fact.

                • Well, Peregrinus, that’s a fair point. 🙂 I’m appalled at myself for going anywhere near a fallacy, much less using it. 🙂

                • Then what is the point of the letter, Perry? Why bother writing such a thing to people who are not in the least tempted to take the plunge into the Tiber, since those who sympathise with the sentiments expressed in this (not very) Open Letter are hardly likely to want to become Catholics anyway? As I said, what possible effect could such a letter be expected to have?

                  • Peregrinus

                    Isn’t it obvious? He wants to encourage and support them in the path they are taking, viz. the consecrationo f women bishops, and he wants them to know that there are Catholics who hold this view.

                    • In a publication they don’t read and in a forum they can’t see?

                      The more I think about it, the more it just doesn’t make any sense either way. David and you both have very valid points, but the more I look at it, neither truly satisfies.

                      I suspect part of it is that we might not have the whole letter. Perhaps the opening better and more clearly states the aim of the letter, and for some reason the poster at Catholica neglected to put it in.

                    • Peregrinus

                      In a publication they don’t read and in a forum they can’t see?

                      Oh, they’ll see it in the Tablet. Remember the author is positioning himself as a Catholic addressing Anglicans. From that point of view it makes sense to have his piece published in the Catholic press, and the Tablet is (in the UK) easily the most prestigious and visible paper he could have chosen. (Plus, I suspect some of the others would have declined to publish.)

                    • Terribly sorry, Peregrinus, but I grew up and Swam the Tiber in Britain and the Tablet is neither of those things. The Catholic Herald now …

                      My understanding from the Catholica website though, is that it was posted online in a “members’ only” forum. Hence David’s whole jibe about it not being particularly open.

                    • Peregrinus

                      As I understand it, Ogden, it’s in the print edition of the Tablet, which of course anyone can buy and read. It’s not on open access on the website because the Tablet’s internet strategy is that the full print edition is only available online to subscribers, this being held out as one of the attractions of being a subscriber. Only selected articles from each week’s edition – certainly much less than half of them – are open to all on the website. I don’t really know on what basis they choose the articles that they will make available to all, but obviously this one didn’t make the cut.

                      I don’t know whether this piece appears in the Tablet as a “letter to the editor”, so to speak (in which case it would be very surprising if it were on open access online; readers’ letters never are) or as a feature article (some of which are on open access, and some of which are not).

                      As for which paper to choose, if your audience intended includes Anglicans then the Tablet is certainly the better choice. Reportedly it has a higher readership than the Herald anyway but, more to the point, it has long had an Anglican audience because of the lack of an equivalent paper in the Anglican media stable. I doubt if many people in the CofE read the Herald, or pay much attention to what appears in it, but the same would not be said of the Tablet.

                      (Plus, would the Herald carry a piece like this? It makes little sense to criticise the author for his choice of paper if, in fact, he didn’t have a choice.)

                    • I wasn’t criticising his or her choice. I was remarking to your claim that the Tablet was prestigious and visible. My point is that it is neither. Many years ago this could be said, but its readership was in decline for many years. Some reporting has been done to the effect that they inflate their numbers by including the loads they send to churches to distribute at the backs of churches. The same reporting has noted how few are taken.

                      I mentioned the Herald as a prestigious and visible paper, again your description.

                      I wasn’t making any remark on this letter-writer’s choice of paper, just taking some exception to the Formerly Catholic Paper (as it is described in the Holy See) as prestigious and visible.

                      The Tablet thinks it’s the Culturally Popish Grauniad, but in fact it’s more of a sad attempt at the Express with the circulation of the Independent.

                      The Herald is more like somewhere between the Torygraph and the Times, but its circulation is probably a bit akin to the Financial Times.

                      Now what you say about the Tablet being read by CofErs might be true. I have no evidence of that, mind. I do suspect that the ones who do are like Most Reverend and Right Honourable, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who fancies himself a small-c catholic. But again, I have no evidence of Anglicans reading the Tablet. I have no evidence of Catholics reading the Tablet, come to that.

                    • Peregrinus

                      The Tablet’s circulation figures are audited by the Audit Bureau of Circulation, who require adjustment for unsold copies. Churches and other distribution outlets generally do report the unsold copies, because by doing so they get a full refund for them – an ABC requirement. But in fact of the audited circulation of 22,000, slightly over 18,500 are subscription sales (of which 6,500 are outside the UK and Ireland; part of the reason for the paper’s high profile). Only 3,500 are sales from the rack, whether in newsagents, churches or elsewhere. Thus the scope for distorting circulation figures by persuading outlets not to report unsold copies, even if there were any evidence that this was happening, is pretty limited.

                      The usual complaint about this practice is not directed against the Tablet, but against the Universe and the Catholic Times, both of which withdrew from the ABC in 2003, and so no longer have their circulation figures independently audited. Anecdotal evidence suggests that well over half of the copies distributed to churches, etc, are dumped, and it is unknown how these are treated in the claimed circulation figures.

                      The Catholic Herald has never participated in the ABC. It claims a circulation of 20,000, but this doesn’t seem to be audited by anybody, and we have no information on the breakdown as between subscription, newsagent and parish sales, and indeed no information on how many copies are distributed for free.

                      I’d have to say that, of these papers, the Tablet’s circulation figures carry the most credibility, simply by virtue of being independently audited.

                      (The word on the street is that the Tablet gets its figures audited because they have been on a steady long-term rise, whereas all the others choose not to because they have been in embarrassing decline. This could be because the Tablet’s brand of civilised intellectual liberalism is going to sweep the world. On the other hand, it could be because it’s the only one which circulates mainly by subscription rather than back-of-the-church sales, and so isn’t affected by declining mass attendances.)

                    • Yes, I had heard that about the Universe and the Catholic Times. They’re also universally reviled by all sides it seems.

                      We could get into the politics of participating in the auditing thingimy, questions as to motive are not always fallacious, for example. I’m not sure how the ABC receives its funds; I haven’t found that on its website. But the auditing/accrediting organisation to which we belong requires an annual subscription, and it’s not cheap by any means. For a small circulation paper, and let’s face it all Catholic publications are likely to be small circulation regardless, the cost may seem prohibitive for a benefit deemed unnecessary (especially if your audience is rather “captive” in the narthex, nave or wherever you put the paper). I mean when it’s all said and done the ABC’s reports are of great use to advertisers as a check to ensure accuracy in circulation figures, among other valid purposes. But advertisers in Catholic papers don’t always care about circulation figures per se. Some factors they consider might be editorial strategy, attention to orthodoxy etc. So again, it might simply have been deemed by someone at the Herald oh those ages ago not to be in the slightest necessary due to the cost and lack of benefit for the cost. Dosh out to the door, eh whot?

                      But all that is somewhat immaterial, I guess. We can go back and forth over niggling details. It seems to me, in the end, David’s point is spot on if for no other reason then no Anglicans, of whatever persuasion, seem to have taken any notice, judging from the complete lack of … well … taking any notice really.

                    • Peregrinus

                      “We could get into the politics of participating in the auditing thingimy . . .”

                      It’s not politics, it’s business. Newspapers pay to be audited by the ABC. They do this because audited circulation figures carry much more weight in the advertising world. All other things being equal , you will pay a great deal more to advertise in the Tablet (audited circulation of 22,000) than in the Herald (unaudited circulation of 20,000). The premium for the Tablet will be much more than the 10% that the raw figures would suggest.

                      All other things aren’t equal of course, and one of those other unequal things is that the Tablet cover price is ₤2.50, while the Herald cover price, from memory, is less than half that. And – amazing but true – people take advertisements in expensive publications more seriously than those in cheaper ones; i.e. the advertisement is more effective. Plus, the more expensive a magazine is, the more likely it is that each copy is read by more than one person. Readership is larger than circulation for nearly all publications (except the ones stuffed through your letterbox for free), but this would be a bigger factor for the Tablet than for the Herald. Advertisers like these things. And, unsurprisingly, so do People With A Message, like Herbst.

                      I make no criticism of the Herald for not having their circulation figures audited. It’s a straightforward commercial decision on their part, and I wouldn’t attempt to second guess their commercial decisions. Their business model differs from the Tablet’s; I suspect advertising revenue is of less significance to them, and I suspect their calculation is that auditing their circulation figures would cost more than it would yield in additional advertising revenue.

                      But the reasons why this is true are also reasons why people might prefer to have their open letters published in the Tablet rather than the Herald. Quite simply, what’s in the Tablet tends to have more impact. It’s a crude measure, but Tablet articles are regularly discussed (and criticised) in the Catholic blogosphere. I can’t recall the last time I saw a Herald article mentioned by anyone who doesn’t actually work for the Herald.

                      “It seems to me, in the end, David’s point is spot on if for no other reason then no Anglicans, of whatever persuasion, seem to have taken any notice, judging from the complete lack of … well … taking any notice really.”

                      What effect would you expect it to have? Herbst doesn’t ask anybody to say, or do, anything; he merely expresses support and sympathy for what they are doing in any event. At most, he wants them to know of his position and I still think that, with that end in mind, publishing the Tablet rather than the Herald was the obvious course.

                    • Again, Peregrinus, my original mentioning of the Herald was to counter your assertion of prestige and visibility. I never asserted it ought to have been the case that the fellow should have chosen the Herald. You seem to be banging on about it more as though I did; I didn’t. It’s quite obvious to me why it wasn’t published in the Herald. I severely doubt the letter-writer would have been tempted to consider it. It’s a bit like a socialist publishing his open letter to Third Wayers in the International Worker’s Weekly rather than the Daily Mail. It’s obvious! The Third Wayers are more likely to read the IWW than the Mail. -But,- and this is the jolly good kick in the bum here, would it not be more open and more beneficial to express one’s solidarity or bloviation or what have you in something the Third Wayers are guaranteed to read? Once again, that David’s point! Sure *some* Third Wayers see what their kith and kin are up to, but if I were a rather brainy socialist wanting to really reach out to those Third Wayers, for whatever reason, I’d publish in something they’re all more likely to read.

                      As to your point of “quoted in the blogosphere, it’s clear we frequent very different blogs,” because I never see the Tablet quoted except to deride.

                    • My inverted commas really went for a walkabouts in that last paragraph. It should just be “quoted in the blogosphere” and the inverted commas should have stayed jolly well put!

                    • Peregrinus,

                      Why do you keep going on about publishing in the Herald? How do I make this clear to you?

                      I
                      Never
                      Suggested
                      Anyone
                      Should!
                      Ever!
                      At all!
                      Ever!
                      Not once!
                      Ever!
                      Never

                      Why do you keep saying things like “But isn’t the argument a little unreal? I kind of doubt that the choice of publishing in the Herald was open to Herbst. It was publish in the Tablet, or publish somewhere that’s all but invisible. It’s a no-brainer, really.” Didn’t you admonish me earlier for strawman arguments? Isn’t saying that I said someone should publish in the Herald, (something I never said, suggested, intimated or desired!), just to call it a silly argument the VERY THING?

                      I will say it once more and then never again: I only ever mentioned the Herald as a counter to your claim of PRESTIGE and VISIBILITY. I did not mention the Herald to imply, suggest, claim, or assert anyone should have published any open letters in it of any sort to any one.

                      Clear?

                  • Peregrinus

                    “It’s a bit like a socialist publishing his open letter to Third Wayers in the International Worker’s Weekly rather than the Daily Mail. It’s obvious! The Third Wayers are more likely to read the IWW than the Mail.”

                    Gosh. In the UK context I associate the Third Way with Tony Blair. And he had far more traction with Daily Mail readers than he ever had with IWW readers.

                    “As to your point of “quoted in the blogosphere, it’s clear we frequent very different blogs,” because I never see the Tablet quoted except to deride.”

                    Not that different. I ususally see the Tablet quoted to deride, too. But even those who deride the Table are at least paying attention to what it says. I never see the Herald quoted at all (except, as I said, by people who work for it). If you want to be talked about – and Herbst must be presumed to want at least that – then I don’t think the Herald is a good choice.

                    But isn’t the argument a little unreal? I kind of doubt that the choice of publishing in the Herald was open to Herbst. It was publish in the Tablet, or publish somewhere that’s all but invisible. It’s a no-brainer, really.

                    • My earlier comment is up higher. Sorry, still trying to work out the correct way to reply around here.

                      Anyway, as to the Mail; they detested Blair.

                      My chum once pointed out that you could read any article you liked in the Mail, on any subject, and Blair took the blame if it was bad.

                      “Man falls to death in Kenya; Blair refuses to accept responsibility”

                      “Gwyneth Paltrow’s dress a disaster at awards dinner; Blair to blame”

                      “Economic figures show improved economy; Blair refuses to credit Tories for success”

                      Third Wayers and especially Mr. Blair are not on speaking terms with the Mail.

                    • Peregrinus

                      Oh, the Mail itself never liked Blair. But his achievement – for a time – was to get Mail readers to be willing to accept him, or at least enough of them. Remember, the Third Way in the UK was not an attempt to appeal to Socialists; it was aimed – successfully – at disaffected Tories.

                      I doubt very much if the IWW readers ever liked or tolerated Blair. They would have seen him – rightly – as their implacable enemy. Not that it made much difference; you don’t win elections in the UK by securing the support of IWW readers.

                      As for the Herald, I accept that you never suggested that Herbst should have published there. It was, however, you who introduced the Herald into this thread, suggesting that it was “prestigious and visible” in a way that the Tablet is not. And, since you did so in response to my pointing to the prestige and visibility of the Tablet as a reason why Herbst might have published there, I took it that the implication of your claim is that Herbst would have done better to publish in the Herald, were that possible.

                      I accept, of course, that you did not intend that implication; you were merely making a point about the relative prestige and visibility of the Tablet and the Herald. But I remain of the view that the Tablet has the larger and more diverse circulation, and that its circulation is growing while the Herald’s (so far as we know) is not. And it certainly has more international recognition. I see no evidence at all that the Herald has much visibility, or any prestige.

                    • Then it shall forever be a point of disagreement between us then. 🙂