Hullo Brian, hullo Sue. You know, in a very real sense, what with it being the New Year and all, it’s as good a time as any to check in.
You’ll have noticed that this blog has been on an extended sabbatical. No, I’m not dead, just been doing other things. But I do notice that the absence of my golden words from the blogosphere has been overinterpreted in some quarters, which I suppose is my own fault for going on an unannounced sabbatical. Moreover, the occasional query as to when I was coming back has now become a minor clamour. So, while I usually avoid explaining myself, much less providing mission statements, here’s something by way of an explanation.
Running a blog with a regular – at times prolific – level of posting over an extended period of time can be tough, and it’s certainly time-consuming. It’s especially tough if you’re blogging individually, rather than on a group blog where you can slack off for a while and hide behind the work of others.
And you know, at times, the real world intrudes. There are times when family and work have to take precedence. I’ve also been involved in an extended writing project which, believe it or not, is not available on the web. This meant that, if I was going to get anything done, I needed to exert a bit of self-discipline and avoid the temptation to whack up a daily blogpost.
Besides which, the main purpose of this blog has always been to entertain myself, and provide an outlet for various rants. If anyone else got some value out of it, that was a bonus. There are two conclusions following from that. One is that, if blogging ever stopped being fun, I wouldn’t have much of a motivation to do it; and at times it’s got to be a bit of a chore. To balance against that, I am an incorrigible troublemaker, as if you didn’t know.
The second conclusion is that, this blog being mostly (not exclusively) a bit of fun, well yes, it could always be idiosyncratic and has often been tongue-in-cheek. Hence the blend of high politics, low culture, slightly risqué humour and straightforward whimsy. This is something that I think some readers have always appreciated, but has been lost on those who either didn’t get the joke or else were just congenitally hard of reading. For instance, I’ve been a constant disappointment to those leftist readers whose idea of a good political blog was one that produced large quantities of stentorian Marxist-Leninist agitprop. Why they didn’t simply go elsewhere instead of hanging around the comments box complaining and demanding that I write the sort of stuff they wanted to read, I’ll never know. I suppose it can be taken as flattering.
Something similar applies since I’ve been writing more on religious matters. Allow me to go into this in a little detail, if you will. I’ve never considered myself a Catholic blogger in the sense that, say, Jimmy Akin is a Catholic blogger. Jimmy does apologetics, and does so very well indeed. I’m capable of doing apologetics, but I don’t really have the temperament for it. Partly it’s a simple journalistic instinct of going where the interesting stories are, deploying whatever knowledge and insight I can bring to matters. And I can’t deny that the possibility of a CathoLeaks service appeals mightily to my mischievous side.
But yes, I am invested. I do have axes to grind. And my basic agenda isn’t all that mysterious. If I may briefly outline it:
- I’d like to see good governance in the Church. One of the most frustrating things about Catholic affairs is the uselessness of ecclesiastical bureaucracies. Not merely in terms of the sexual abuse scandal – though that shines a particularly harsh light – but much more generally. Any reasonably informed Catholic knows that incompetence and maladministration are rife in the Church, and that there’s a serious leadership vacuum at the episcopal level. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a utopian. I don’t demand that all of our bishops be inspiring leaders, competent administrators, intelligent theologians and articulate spokesmen in the public square. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to hope that a few of them might tick at least one of those boxes. Cardinal Ouellet, please take note.
- I’d like to see better liturgy. Again, I’m not one of these super-traddies who rejects the Novus Ordo and all its works and pomps. I just don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a bit of quality control. Fewer out-of-tune guitars, fewer tie-dyed polyester vestments, fewer earthenware vessels and fewer godawful Yoof Masses would be a start. And the Traditional Latin Mass (not to mention the rather beautiful Gaelic liturgy) to be made readily available for those who want it.
- I have a low tolerance threshold for sectarianism. This may to some extent be a north of Ireland thing, in that I’m more sensitive to sectarianism and less willing to let it go by unchallenged. But the papal visit to Britain brought into rather sharp focus how Romophobic tubthumping has become acceptable, even trendy, in polite society and particularly in left-liberal circles. One positive aspect to that may be that an increasing number of Catholics are willing to speak up, rather than studiously pretending not to notice anything as their parents’ generation might have done.
- Finally, attacking the hypocrisy of the Tablet is its own reward.
So, there you have it. Will I be coming back on a regular basis? I don’t want to make rash promises, but there is still plenty I’d like to say – plenty that needs to be said, and that I’m not sure anyone else is rushing to do. People keep asking me when I’m coming back. Titus Oates has been having much too easy a time of it in my absence, and I’d hate to think that Ma Pepsi having the Tablet office swept for bugs was all in vain.
Besides, like I say, born troublemaker and all that. So watch this space. And for those of you who’ve hung around, and especially those who’ve left positive feedback, thanks. It really does mean a lot.
Rud eile: I really shouldn’t have to say this but evidently I do – if you’re going to leave comments, play nice. It’s never been an ambition of mine to own my own bearpit.