Page 5, 10th May 1996

10th May 1996
Page 5
Page 5, 10th May 1996 — Truth in Charity: the real meaning of press freedom

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Organisations: English Catholic Church


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Truth in Charity: the real meaning of press freedom

A letter to the Editor from Otto Herschan, Managing Director, The Catholic Herald

THE CATHOLIC HERALD has had a radical reputation, deservedly or otherwise, in the 40 years I have been associated with it. It is an independent newspaper that values its independence.

We have been attacked, sometimes justly, at other times unjustly, for opinions we have allowed to be expressed. During the Editorship of a predecessor of yours, Michael de la Bedoyere, The Catholic Herald campaigned for much that was realised by Vatican II.

I recall receiving a letter from a Bishop, condemning the paper for campaigning for Mass in the vernacular. Years later, the same Bishop (he is now dead, so I will not name him) wrote to me again. Some 10 years after Vatican II, the Catholic Herald published a Leader suggesting that the Tridentine Mass be permitted for those older faithful, and especially converts, who regretted not being able to go to a Tridentine Mass. It too incurred the displeasure of the same Bishop. I resisted the temptation of sending him a copy of his earlier letter. The Church, or rather the institution of it, is understandably wary of its authority being undermined.

When important questions have arisen, The Catholic Herald has not been afraid. When Humanae Vitae came on the scene, the Catholic Herald published a Leader entitled "Not The Last Word". We realised it would upset many of our readers and priests who sold the Catholic Herald at their churches. This indeed it did. However, some weeks later Cardinal Heenan was interviewed by David Frost on Humanae Vitae. His arguments were based similarly on the question of personal conscience. The Cardinal enjoyed two advantages: some weeks had elapsed with much being written and said and he was a Prince of the Church.

Before it is said by anyone else, let me declare that Archbishop Worlock was, I believe, a friend of mine. As is often the case with friend ships, we had our ups and downs on numerous occasions. It should also be said that for a long time I had expressed my personal dissatisfaction with Alice Thomas Ellis as a columnist in the Catholic Herald.

There is no excuse for writing in such a fashion of a person who has recently died. This was simply in extremely bad taste.

There are, of course, many people who regret the impact of Vatican II, and there exists an increasing wish for some of the excesses to be curbed, but there are others who have sincerely welcomed the changes.

In the 1950s the old-fashioned brigade attacked those who advocated change. Today the more "liberal" elements in the Church are equally intolerant of the opinions of the conservative elements. There was an interim period when the arguments were about an Irish or English Catholic Church in this country.

However, I cannot and I may be wrong recall such opinions being so distressingly personalised as they have been in the case of Alice Thomas Ellis, writing about Archbishop Worlock.

I will not criticise Alice Thomas Ellis's opinions of the Church, but I would like to draw her attention and that of Catholic Herald readers to two points.

I attended the funeral of Archbishop Worlock. So many Liverpudlian Catholics wanted to pay tribute to a beloved Archbishop that a multitude had to stand outside because there was not enough room inside the very large Cathedral. And this Cathedral was built by Cardinal Heenan, in the eyes of older people a totally orthodox Bishop.

There have, of course, been occasions in my time at the Catholic Herald when I have regretted things that we have published. If I am spared, there will be more.

Paul VI, speaking of the Catholic press, urged it to observe Truth in Charity. Alice Thomas Ellis's contribution last week certainly does not conform to that ideal.

Yours etc, 0 Herschan, Managing Director, Catholic Herald.

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