By Bart Harrington
Among the works of Michael de la Bedoyere was a life of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists. De la Bedoyere may not have been a saint. He was however, an example to all journalists on how to be a prophet of openness under threat.
Nor were the threats he faced only from religious establishments.
Like The Daily Mirror (though for different reasons) de la liedoyere's Catholic Herald roused the hair-trigger ire of Winston Churchill during World War The article which set Churchill in a rage in 1940 follows. It is a fair example of de In Bedoyere's style therefore of the man himself: "Let us remember that today, as yesterday, the only Power to lose by a just peace will be Russia; let us, therefbre, be on our guard against those who insist on prolonging the war for reasons, however specious. It will not be a coincidence if those who today appear keenest on destroying Germany and sparing Russia insist tomorrow on the rejection ofany peace which falls short of military triumph. Nor will there be anything illogical if in the end such an attitude leads, not to the securing of the Empire but to the spread of Bolshevism.
we are wise we shall start 1940 ovith the firm resolution to defend the interests of our faith, our country, Europe, our very selves, fry limiting our aims to the elimination of the evil things in Europe, above all, the elimination 0/Stalinism within our Western frontiers and then the injustices upon which Hitler and his gang have poisoned themselves and temporarily poisoned so many of their people. We shall also watch the peace endeavours of the three peacemakers, and we shall pray."
Only the representations of Sir Desmond Morton of the Foreign Office prevented the closure of the Catholic Herald after the publication of de la Bedoyere's article.
During his lung editorship, de In Bedoyere achieved that meld of character, talent and personal belief which makes a newspaper influential in ways not measurable in terms of circulation.
But what of de la Beduyere's effect of individuals less exalted than Winston Churchill?
His courage, his successful welding of his immense intellectual powers to his faith made him for many young Catholic Christians the sign they could surely follow in the immediate post-war and preVatican 11 days as the Church slowly emerged from the trough of paradoxically complacent insecurity that marked it.
I would just like to add what he, the paper he edited and the ideal he came to represent meant to me, a layman readjusting himself to civilian life as an ordinary Catholic teacher in impoverished schools.
He made me see that the church should be greater than the parish. that it really was a body of people rather than a highly structured institution.
He made me see that power to be accepted must be acceptable and responsibly shared in accordance NOM the essential dignity of each human being. He made me see that it was the function of the Catholic teacher to broaden his students' outlook and not simply to perpetuate the narrow parochialism held so much in esteem by its own powerful self-perpetuating establishment.
Thus I was rIOI only entitled but obliged by the very nature of my own being as a human person fashioned in the likeness of my Creator to assume the dignity which my Creator had given me.
Michael de la Bedoyere, in ways entirely unknown to him, forced me to see people as independent, willing, tree accepting members of a Church which should he big enough, kind enough, under standing enough to embrace all, and to acknowledge that persuasion is so much more effective in the long term than force.
His editorials were at all
I i m e s i ntellectua I I y stimulating but sometimes difficult to understand and so were frequently misinterpreted by both the lay and clerical, paternalistic attitude. Not that he was always right. Of course he wasn't and didn't he get it in the neck when he wasn't?
lv own indirect experience of his reputation came on one or two occasions when 1 called on parishes to try to improve the paper's circulation, I was hurriedly escorted to the door. Ibis is all amusing in retrospect but full of anguish at the time.
I met him only once in the Fleet Street office.
His influence on me was through his writings and the ideas he propagated. It is still alive and kicking as I believe it is still the essence of the Catholic Herald. Anyhow that is asI see it. And that is why, after over 25 years as a correspondent, I still cannot resist the challenge to attempt to present views and news as a means of achieving his objective as I interpreted it — a stimulating, responsible Catholic newspaper wherein ordained and non-ordained may meet, each respecting the other and both loving and being loyal to the Church Christ gave us all.