Dis is me, Eccles

Dis is me, Eccles
Dis is me, Eccles

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Don't let Pope Francis turn into Sylvester McCoy!

In a very interesting piece for the Catholic Herald Tim Stanley complains that the modern Dr Who character is becoming too atheist. There has been a change from the Jon Pertwee days, when the Doctor was almost certainly a staunch Anglican - if the Anglican Church was the Conservative party at prayer, then Dr Who was the Anglican Church hiding behind the sofa. Over here we have observed a different phenomenon: the Catholic Church is being led by a new Pope, who bears a suspicious resemblance to Sylvester McCoy.

Sylvester McCoy and Nicholas Parsons

Pope Francis (L) with Guido Marini.

The signs are all there - a general feeling of bewilderment, as if the Holy Father is unaware what forces he has unleashed, together with an air of total chaos as nobody really knows what direction the Church is heading in. Pope Francis's aim is not to judge anyone (except when he chooses to, of course) and the state of play in the fight between good and evil is generally uncertain.

Kandy man

Pope Francis has an ecumenical meeting with a Buddhist from Kandy.

Contrast this with the more rigorous, formal, regime of Pope Benedict XVI. Here of course the Doctoral model was William Hartnell, a thoroughly orthodox but much stricter character, who wouldn't suffer fools gladly.

Meddling Monk

Pope Benedict gets tough with a renegade monk.

Pope Benedict made great use of his Tardis to visit earlier times: one famous story in which he was involved was Summorum Pontificum, set in Rome. Here, the language of Latin was used throughout (although when shown on television it was dubbed into English).

Romans

Pope Benedict explain the use of Latin in the story Summorum Pontificum.

Before the Pope regenerated into Benedict XVI, the role was played by John-Paul II, who may be seen as a Patrick Troughton figure: saintly, but sometimes prepared to clown around. Still, a good man to follow when fighting Cybermen, Yeti, Communists, etc.

Troughton and book

Pope John-Paul II working on his latest encyclical.

Pope John-Paul II was known for visiting many far-flung parts of the Universe (he would usually kiss the ground on the planet when his Tardis landed). As a result he met a plethora of exotic creatures, many of which seem to be immortal.

Troughton and Cyberman

A meeting with Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.

However, the Sylvester McCoy model is definitely prevailing in the Catholic Church right now. So, what shall we see next? A female Pope is as unthinkable as a female Doctor, even though his arch-enemy managed to regenerate into a woman (the Mistress Beattie). Moreover, we are unlikely to see a Pope along the lines of ultra-liberal modernists such as Tennant or Capaldi. We may end up with a Colin Baker - some cardinals really have no taste in vestments - but a calm, sophisticated pope with fantastic hair is expected next time round.

Doctor Who as a monk

Br Pertwee (R) - the next Pope?

Saturday, 20 December 2014

There's good in all of us

This blog has occasionally been criticised for taking a negative attitude towards certain people - apparently casting down the mighty from their seats and exalting the humble and meek isn't appreciated if you're one of the ones being cast down - so today we get into the Christmas spirit and praise everyone. After all, even Pope Francis is supposed to have said that all of us are redeemed, and this also applies to our pets, especially cute ones.

Mother and child, by A. Hitler.

Sister Wendy Beckett comments: This charming picture, from the "Nazi" School of art, shows a touching scene of a mother and child. See the devotion in the mother's eyes, as she regards her little baby, born to be Führer, while he looks around, perhaps wondering whether he needs more Lebensraum. Evidently, the artist was a kind and sensitive man, who knew the true meaning of love. Do look up his life history, as I am sure that we can follow his example in many ways.

Lord Voldemort.

Damian Thompson writes: Lord Voldemort, sometimes incorrectly called "Lord Tom Voldemort" by people who don't know how to refer to peers of the realm, was a talented wizard. I knew him well in his childhood in Reading, when he was simply Tom Marvolo Riddle; he attended the same primary school as I did, before winning a scholarship to Hogwarts, and was a very clever boy indeed, coming second in the class (to me). Although a devout Catholic, he was strongly influenced by the Spirit of Vatican II, and this may have contributed to the bad press he received in later years. I blame Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.

Basil Fawlty attempts to mend a broken-down car.

Andrew Sachs explains: Basil Fawlty has received a lot of bad press, from those who see him as a bad-tempered bully. However, we must wonder whether with such a personality he would have been better suited to another occupation, for example, as a deacon in the Croydon area. In any case, having encountered both him and Russell Brand, I have to say that Mr Fawlty was a much kinder person all round, and he definitely never made nuisance telephone calls or tried to harass bank staff going about their lawful business. No, with all his faults Mr Fawlty was a kind and generous man, and he certainly wouldn't have written a pretentious "bookie wookie" called Revolution.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Thou shalt kill

Many readers have asked me "What the blazes did the Supreme Court think it was playing at when it ruled that two Catholic midwives would be obliged to supervise abortions carried out by their colleagues? Is it not a complete travesty of the Commandment that says 'Thou shalt not terminate'?" (We don't use words like "murder" or "kill" any more, as that might give the game away.)

Moses and Commandments

Thou shalt kill.

Lady Hale explains: "We are the Supreme Court, and there is a clue in the title. Theologians will tell you that the Supreme Court is the Court of Heaven, and the Supreme Judge is God. This proves irrefutably that I am God, and I have a right to change the definitions of Good and Evil to suit myself."

Actually, as Deputy President of the Supreme Court, Baroness Hale of Richmond is only entitled to be called Deputy God, and God Himself is called Baron Neuberger of Abbotsbury. Still, He wasn't involved in this decision, and the power of life and death has devolved to Brenda Hale (or Jehovah Hale, as she should really be known).

Baroness Hale

Judge Eternal, throned in splendour...

It is expected that the Supreme Court will come out with further decisions in the near future, all designed to foster the culture of death. Lifesavers will be ordered to drown people; workers for the Samaritans will be ordered to tell people "Your situation is beyond help: go and top yourself, you time-wasting moron." Doctors, who used to swear a Hippocratic Oath all about maintaining ethical standards, will be encouraged to kill helpless babies in the womb - oh, I'm sorry, that one already happens, I'm told. But of course doctors will also be asked to swear a Shipman Oath (Shippocratic?) undertaking to bump off a regular quota of old people.

lollipop lady

Protecting children? You're doing it all wrong.

Then again, lollipop persons (as above) will be asked to push children under buses, and mountain rescue services will be told to employ St Bernard dogs carrying cyanide. Finally, as the great Fr Hunwicke has observed, those who worked in Nazi concentration camps were only obeying orders, and we know what a wonderful job they did.

Oh Brenda, Brenda, Brenda! BPAS and the National Secular Society think you are wonderful, so I wouldn't dare call you an evil woman destined for Hell (or, more charitably, a loopy old bat). Whatever I might think.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Church of England appoints first female bishop

The Church of England today became history, er sorry, made history, when it appointed its first female bishop, Mrs Looby Loo. Traditionalists - those who had not yet fled to become Catholics, Orthodox or Muslims - had hoped that the announcement that it was possible to appoint women to such positions was enough to satisfy everyone, and like the nuclear deterrent, it was a threat that never actually needed to be exercised.

Looby Loo (L) with Bishop Andrew Pandy and Rev Edward Bear.

Mrs Loo has had a strong media profile since she appeared regularly on television with fellow-clerics "Andy" Pandy and "Teddy" Bear; indeed, the fact that the three of them lived together in a picnic basket was once regarded as something of a minor scandal in church circles. She is also celebrated in a well-loved Anglican carol, to be found in the best-selling hymn book Hymns Ancient, Modern, Postmodern and Downright Silly:

Here we go looby loo, 
Here we go looby light, 
Here we go looby loo, 
All on a Saturday night.
Mrs Loo today declared herself "overjoyed" to be appointed Bishop of Stockport, saying "I am delighted to be the first rag doll ever to promoted to the grade of bishop (except possibly for George Carey), and I look forward to seeing other characters from children's programmes taking their rightful part in the management structure of Anglico PLC."

The Rev. Weed, with her two deacons.

A hot tip for the next female bishop is the Reverend Weed, who is tipped to be become bishop of one of our "garden cities", possibly Letchworth or Welwyn. When asked for her views on today's announcement, she modestly cried "Weeeeeeeeeed!" and refused to elaborate on this statement. Her deacon, Bill (or was it Ben?) was more outspoken, saying "Flobadob-a-wobadob-a-flobadop", which one may take as a definitive comment on the whole issue of women's ordination.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Is Francis really the Pope?

We asked a spectrum of people describing themselves as Catholics to tell us whether or not the jolly man in Rome is really entitled to call himself Pope.

pope with bracelet

What is that pagan symbol on the Pope's wrist?

Sedevacantist: No, of course he's not the Pope. All Popes since the First Vatican Council in 1864 have been imposters, and probably demons sent to lure us to Hell; so Gregory XVI must be considered to be the last real Pope. Don't talk to me about Pius IX and the Spirit of Vatican I. Think of all the unwanted changes we've had since then - priests inviting nuns round for cups of tea, church jumble sales, giving to charity, and other modernist ideas. It was so much simpler when bishops lived in palaces, and priests lived in stately homes, and they didn't come out except on Sundays, when they'd berate the faithful and tell them they were destined for Hell. Why, the way things are going, they'll be introducing blasphemous things like masses in English, which God won't even understand!

mad hatter's tea party

This was unthinkable before Vatican I.

Mundaborist: Sigh. Yes, he's a genuine Pope. He's a complete bastard and he's going to Hell, but we still show him honour and devotion. He may be enslaved by Satanic forces and the most incredibly evil person since Stalin - perhaps equally evil - but we respect him because he is the one true shepherd who looks after the Catholic sheep. Let's hope he decides to retire soon - apparently he's in rather delicate health, he's only got one liver you know. Of course a demon may just come along and carry him down to Hell, that's also quite likely, isn't it? We love Pope Francis and wish him well, but just get lost will you, Holy Father?

bad statue of pope

Mummy, why does this statue look nothing at all like the Pope?

Ordinary Catholic: Yes, he's the Pope. True, he talks too much off the cuff, and says some very silly things. Luckily he doesn't say silly things infallibly. He has also made a complete pig's ear of the Extraordinary Synod, been nasty to Cardinal Burke, and bullied the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, but still he shows no signs of trying to change Catholic doctrine. Mind you, if Pope Benedict XVI were alive, he'd be turning in his grave. Still, Francis is very popular with people who aren't Catholics (not that it will make them come to church).

Pope and Ivereigh

The Holy and the Ivereigh: Pope Francis meets a humble journalist.

Liberal Catholic: Yes, he's the Pope. Of course he's another of those sexist homophobic men in the Church, and we aren't impressed just because he gives himself a grand title. There was this fantastic article in the Tablet explaining that Fr Timothy Radcliffe should be Pope, as he understands how to be Catholic without bothering about the exact details of what Jesus taught, or Paul, or any of those sexist men. Professor Tina Beattie also knows how to practise a non-religious version of Catholicism and I'm with her! And did you see what Fr Tony Flannery has to say? You can find his article in the Guardian, the Tablet and the Beano, and he'll be speaking on a grand tour of the UK with gigs at 25 major venues in a month. He explains very carefully how he's been silenced, and that it's all the Pope's fault.

Flannery at microphone

"There's something wrong with the microphone." "And also with you."

Anglo-Catholic: No, I don't recognise any Pope since Pope Clement VII. We follow - not Justin Wobbly although he's a fine chap I'm sure - God's supreme representative on Earth, who is Queen Elizabeth II, God Bless Her. She's been Queen since 1837 and she has never put a foot wrong - well, perhaps she did sign the abortion bill, and the same-sex marriage bill, and many other bills of dubious morality, but at least she never says anything controversial. People come from over the world to learn from her wisdom. "Have you come far?" she'll ask, or "And what do YOU do?" No trying to stuff religion down people's throats! Pope Francis could learn a lesson there!

Henry VIII

I'm Henry VIII, I am. Have you come far?

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Only cute pets can go to Heaven

As is usual nowadays, Fr Federico Lombardi has clarified the off-the-cuff remarks of Pope Francis that all God's creatures are saved. "What the Holy Father really said," he explained, "is that all cute animals are saved." The offer does not apply to the Hound of the Baskervilles, for example; and pit bull terriers will still end up in the pits of Hades.

cute kittens

Cute enough to be saved.

It was explained that, whereas Jesus died to save humans from their sins, animals as such do not have a great idea of the difference between Good and Evil, being in that respect something like Members of Parliament or Guardian-readers. For instance, how do you tell the difference between a good crocodile and a bad crocodile when it's biting your leg off? Moreover, it would be inconvenient to have crocodiles wandering round Heaven, even ones equipped with angels' wings.

unsaved crocodile

An optimistic crocodile sings "Amazing Grace".

C.S. Lewis once said that a Heaven for mosquitoes could be combined with a Hell for humans. Nowadays, modern teaching has largely abolished the idea of Hell, and Good and Evil are replaced with Niceness - see the Niceone Creed for details. Nevertheless, being able to decide whether one is saved simply on the basis of one's Cuteness applies only to animals, and not to humans. For example, many of the saints were not at all cute.

John the Baptist

John the Baptist - as un-cute as Russell Brand but still saved.

Fr Lombardi added that simply possessing a cute pet was not an automatic guarantee for salvation: the pet itself would have to abandon its owner in the afterlife. Cats, for example, will do this without any scruples.

Blofeld and cat

Only one of these is saved. Can you work out which it is?

According to Biblical teaching, God has decided that sheep are saved, and goats are not; this does indeed follow the principle of "cuteness", as goats are not generally regarded as cute animals. Indeed it is hard to imagine Pope Francis trying to gain credibility by walking around with an unsaved goat round his neck. Q.E.D.

Pope and lamb

The Pope poses with a saved creature.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

A Christmas Carol

Martini was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The Catholic world was stirred but not shaken to hear that Martini, the "Commie Cardinal", had gone to meet his Maker, to tell Him where he had gone wrong.

Berscrooglio knew he was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? Berscrooglio and Martini were partners for I don't know how many years...

Cardinal Berscrooglio, living humbly.

(Get on with it, will you, Eccles, nobody wants to read an entire novella. When do the ghosts appear?)

All right then. Berscrooglio looked out of the window at the jolly Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, as they processed towards St Traddy's Church in order to celebrate a Mass in the Extraordinary Form. "Bah! Humbug! Self-absorbed Promethean Neo-Pelagians" he sneered, and retired to bed.

Berscrooglio lay, half-awake, until the clock had struck midnight; then the curtains were drawn aside; and then, starting up into a half-recumbent attitude, Berscrooglio found himself face to face with the unearthly visitor who drew them.

"I am the Ghost of Synod Past," exclaimed the spirit, "also known as Vatican II. Come and see what we did!" The ghost took Berscrooglio back to the 1960s, to a vast meeting of the Great and Good. And Basil Loftus. There the Wise Fathers of the Catholic Church decided to follow the Spirit of the 60s, and encourage the faithful to become hippies. Well, actually they didn't, but somehow sex, drugs and rock-and-roll crept into the spiritual life of the Church soon afterwards.

"I, the Ghost of Vatican II, took most of the credit for this," explained the spectre. Every night in the Vatican there was a rumbling sound, as of an earthquake. It was an army of dead popes, all turning in their graves.

Spirit of Vatican II

The Ghost of Synod Past.

Moving on quickly, now: the next night Berscrooglio was visited by the Spirit of Synod Present (or at least, only just past), which manifested itself as a smiling man with a fanatical expression on his face. "I am Kasper, the Spirit of Synod Present," said the grinning spectre. "I have come to change the church's teaching on the family; that of course includes homosexuality, divorce and adultery, which are jolly good things that can only make the family stronger. O Berscrooglio! Beware Burke! Send him to Africa, we don't take any notice of people down there. Or even as far as Malta will do."

Casper

The Ghost of Synod Present.

Berscrooglio woke at dawn with a shudder, but he knew that his torments would continue. Sure enough, when midnight arrived, a third horrific phantom slowly, gravely, silently, approached him. When it came near him, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery. "Am I in the presence of the Ghost of Synod Still To Come?" he asked. "Strange Spirit, who art thou? Cormac? Vin? Tiny Tim Radcliffe? Surely not Catherine Pepinster or Tina Beattie?"

"I am all these, and none," said the Spectre. "My name is Legion, for we are Many. See how the Church fades away, as we make it conform with the world!"

Synod Still To Come

The ghost of Synod Still To Come.

"Horrible! Horrible!" said Berscrooglio. "After all, Uncle Benedict was right - it is time for us to become religious again! It is not too late for me to repent - away with my giant Pinocchio puppets, my copy of 'Tango-for-Dummies', even my CD of 'Paul Inwood's Greatest Bath-Time Gurgles'!" Hurriedly dressing, he made his way through the early morning mist to the livestock market, where he bought the largest tiger you ever saw, and left it at Cardinal Kasper's door as a Christmas present.

tiger

A present for Cardinal Kasper.

"God bless us, every one!" said Berscrooglio. "Even Eccles!"

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The Top 100 UK Christians

Many will be aware that the Cranmer blog conducted an online poll to find the Top 100 UK Christians. The results will apparently be announced at the New Year, but here are a few tips from me.

Apparently, Cranmer has already weeded out a few popular choices such as the Dalai Lama, Adolf Hitler, and Mohammed, who are either not British, or not Christian, or not alive: sometimes all three. Eccles has also been weeded out, so as to give everyone else a chance.

Vin the Hindu

Sometimes a Christian is hard to recognise.

On the Catholic side, the "Bishop of the Year" title was won convincingly by Kieran Conry, greatly admired in Arundel and Brighton; however, for most of the year we had been confidently expecting Bishop Campbell of Lancaster to win the prize for his acts of kindness and charity, including the suppression of the Protect the Pope blog. I'm sorry, he says he did not suppress it. It must have suppressed itself. And anyway, it's only a temporary 40-year sojourn in the wilderness for Deacon Donnelly. Note that Bishop Campbell is also very good at answering e-mails.

Campbell digging

It's a bishop's job to know where the bodies are buried.

There is also the Stephen Fry award for being ubiquitous for no apparent reason. Planning a binge to celebrate your diocese's 50 years? Organizing the largest Catholic Youth event EVER in the UK? Why, you need to invite Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP! A simple member of the Dominican community, founded to preach the Gospel and to combat heresy. Just don't mention his controversial views on homosexuality or communion for divorcees! It surely can't be long before the "man in white" becomes a bishop - they're looking for someone at Arundel and Brighton, and the bar is rather low there. Or perhaps Fr Timothy will just get his own TV show.

Kasper and Radcliffe

Sharing some new doctrine with Cardinal Kasper.

I am not so up-to-date with Anglican politics, let alone Methodist, Baptist, and the rest. Presumably on that side Giles Fraser (also a man of startling ubiquity) will be a front-runner, and possibly a bishop or two will also be highly commended. How about Richard Harries, who wants to see the Koran read at the next Coronation? He could appear in the Top 100 UK Muslims list as well.

Indeed, now that it's been decided that Christ got it wrong, and it is OK to ordain women, even to the level of bishops, there is one obvious front-runner. And here she is:

girl bishop

Rebecca Howarth (11), the first female bishop.

Or they could just be boring and give the prize to Queen Elizabeth II.

No Kiss of Peace for Eccles

Long-time readers of this blog will remember Fr Arthur, our local priest in good standing who takes very seriously the view that we are all sinners: indeed, for two pins he will give you a list of your sins, and, if he spots you in the confessional, will remind you of all the things you forgot to confess.

Fr Arthur has now recruited Deacon Marvin to help him, another man of pronounced likes and dislikes - mostly dislikes. On Sunday we had a hymn by Bernadette Farrell, "Christ, Be Our Light". It's not a completely bad hymn - it doesn't give me stomach cramps like "Shine, Jesus, Shine" or "Walk in the Light" do - but it reads more like a Guardian editorial than a hymn.

The Scream

All music is equally valid, you see.

Now, you may remember that Mrs Farrell wrote a rather impudent piece in the Tablet, in which she concluded that all styles of worship were equally valid and that the composer James MacMillan was wrong to express dislike for the dross produced by Paul Inwood, Dan Schutte and Gerry Fitzpatrick. Somehow Deacon Marvin overheard a private conversation in which I criticised Bernadette's musical taste, and that set him off.

There's a point in the Novus Ordo Mass where we are encouraged to offer each other the sign of peace. Usually it is the deacon who says this particular exhortation, and what we got this Sunday was the following version "Let us now offer each other the sign of peace. Except for Eccles, who is revolting and unkind, a bitter and twisted old neverwas. Anyone who shakes hands with Eccles is not worthy." You could see the Christian love radiate from the deacon (and the steam coming out of his ears) as he said these charming words.

Deacon Gollum

"We hates Eccles because he criticised Mrs Farrell."

Fr Arthur slapped the little deacon on the shoulder, as if to say "Good man," and so the Kiss of Peace went on without me. "Peace be with you." "Peace be with you." "Sorry, Eccles, you're an untouchable." "Peace be - oh, I've done you already, haven't I?" "Unhand me, sir!" "Ugh, you just sneezed in those hands." "Peace be with you." "Pax tecum." "Traddy pig!" "That makes twelve handshakes, I'm on a roll this week!" "I'm a Catholic, get me out of here!" "Bog off, Eccles." "Peace be with you."

Well, I never much liked the Kiss of Peace, and it is only an optional part of the Mass, one of those things that the Ghost of Vatican II slipped in when nobody was looking. And it is humbling once in a while to be told by a man in holy orders that he hates us.

St Nicholas and Arius

St Nicholas gives Arius the "slap of peace".

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Swiss Guard told to soften up

As deacons in the Lancaster diocese know only too well, protecting the pope too enthusiastically can get you into hot water. This attitude has now reached Rome, where Colonel Daniel Anrig of the Swiss Guard has been dismissed for being too strict.

Swiss guards

"Tell Francis that we're big softies really."

In the past the Swiss Guard was expected to behave like any other group of soldiers. "How many divisions has the Pope?" asked Stalin, and under Pope Francis the Catholic Church has more divisions than ever before. But from now on, if any crazed atheist breaks into the Vatican and tries to arrest the Pope (or, for that matter, if someone tries to steal some of its treasures), they are to be welcomed in and offered a cup of tea; under no circumstances should they be opposed by force.

Dawkins

A crazed atheist may look something like this.

The traditional weapon of the Swiss Guard - the Swiss Guard Army Knife - is being redesigned. No longer will there be attachments for disembowelling Tony Flannery, for pulling out the toenails of Hans Küng, or for tickling Tina Beattie. Instead, there is an iPod loaded with Argentinian dance music (for use in Masses), a miniature thurible, a candle, and of course the usual attachment for removing stones from horses' hooves. However, in the words of Flanders and Swann:

He seldom, if ever meets a horse
(It is this that makes him sad):
When he does then it hasn't a stone in its hoof,
But he would if he did and it had!
Said one disgruntled Swiss guard yesterday, "I joined the papal army in order to kill Muslims and Protestants, but my halberd has never seen any serious action. They don't like it up 'em, you know..."

Pope and Grand Mufti

If he doesn't stop reading out bits of Austen Ivereigh's book, I'll hit him.

So no longer will the Swiss Guard be allowed to sing "Onward, Christian soldiers" or to take potshots at passing heretics. From now on, there will be a new Swiss Role, and the soldiers will only engage in peaceful pursuits such as dressmaking, washing up, and, of course cooking (mostly pasta).

Swiss Guard cookbook

The Swiss Guard cookbook (this is real).

As Orson Welles put it: "In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Saint of the week - St Nicholas

Here's a little exercise for you. Can you identify the saints in this photo?

Saints Mary, Peter and Nicholas

Obviously readers of this blog will have no trouble here, although most non-religious members of the general public will probably only identify the chap on the right. The lady on the left is of course St Mary, and she may even appear in a few remaining nativity plays, although, out of deference to the sensibilities of Muslims, atheists, etc. she is nowadays only allowed to hold a teddy-bear rather than the baby Jesus.

The chap in the middle? There's a clue in the keys, isn't there? Unlikely to be St Zita of Lucca, the patron saint of lost keys, as she was definitely female. Although in these days of gender-flexibility, who knows? Anyway, the answer of course is St Peter, the rock on whom the Church is said to be founded.

Which leaves number three, St Nicholas, also known as Santa Claus or even Father Christmas. Everyone knows him. People are even paid to impersonate him and sit in "Santa's Grotto" giving out toys around this time of year.

St Nicholas (15th March 270 – 6th December 343) was bishop of Myra. He is known for going "Ho! Ho! Ho!" and keeping company with elves who made toys. This is unusual for bishops, although there is perhaps an obvious exception (instead of elves, he has the St Patrick's Day Parade).

Dolan laughing

"Ho! Ho! Ho!" says Cardinal Dolan.

It is difficult to find many other bon mots attributable to the bishop of Myra. Some say that he used to ask people "Have you been naughty or nice this year?" - a function now partly taken by Cardinal Müller of the Inquisition. Another wise saying attributable to St Nicholas is "Come and sit on my knee, little girl, and tell me what you'd like for Christmas" - there is currently no bishop with this specific responsibility, as far as we could tell.

Myra is in Turkey, a rather warm place to find reindeer, and so the legend that its bishop used to drive around in a reindeer-drawn sleigh with jingling bells is disputed by scholars. One may expect to hear a certain hymn on Songs of Praise, which, in its original plainsong version, went something like this:

Let the bells jingle, for is it not pleasing to ride in an open sleigh that is drawn by a single horse?

Santa and reindeer

All in a night's work for your bishop.

Thus it is possible that the bishop's "one horse" has been exaggerated into "eight reindeer", possibly including a ninth with a red nose. A historian's lot is not a happy one.

Well, that's all you really need to know, except that St Nicholas is remembered for various miracles - the one in which he squeezed himself down all the chimneys in Myra in a single night in order to leave gifts is perhaps the most famous, although there are others, such as the one about resurrecting three dead-and-pickled boys, which is a bit too gruesome for a blog like this.

Anyway, St Nicholas is appreciated by Christians and atheists alike, and that must be something of a miracle.

Richard Dawkins

"I'm staying up all night in the hope of seeing Santa Claus."

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Welcome to Tablet blogs!

Many of us remember the Telegraph blogs, in the days when they were run by Damian Thompson, the blood-crazed ferret and expert on catholicism, Chopin, cup-cakes and custard.

Damian at custard museum

Lest we forget: Damian Thompson at the National Custard Museum.

Damian persuaded the great and good (and Mary Riddell) to write for him: Norman Tebbit, James Delingpole, Stephen Hough, James MacMillan, ... Even Cormac Murphy-O'Connor took an interest (but failed to shut the whole thing down). These days, with Damian gone, there is nothing left to see: in the last ten days we have had pieces from Hannan (politics), Wedderburn (health and lifestyle), Potts (health and lifestyle), Hannan and Hannan. And that's it: Spam, Egg, Sausage, Spam and Spam. Why, you see more activity on this lovely blog!

Van Rompuy

Herman Van Rompuy shows what he thinks of Daniel Hannan.

So, over to the Tablet, where the blogs are alive and well. People who hate Catholicism need not fear - you're in good company! Look at some of the highlights from the last week!

Tony Flannery.

I refuse to be silenced. The Pope would like nothing better than to tie me to a chair and stuff a gag in my mouth. But I won't have it! I have just had a great time in the States, talking to anti-Catholic organizations, and preparing for the time when I shall march into the Vatican and demand justice. I spoke at the Call to Action conference, and gave them tips on how to avoid excommunication while still denying Catholic teaching on women priests, contraception, homosexuality, etc. I also met some Westboro Baptists, who welcomed me by holding me upside-down above the toilet bowl, saying "You may be a bit too friendly with faggots, Tone, but we are proud to recognise someone who hates Catholics almost as much as we do!" Praise indeed, and a sign that I've got Pope Benedict on the run!

Flannery digger

"If you're in a hole, keep digging!" says Tony Flannery.

Tina Beattie.

The Pope! Arentchasickovim? He went to the EU Parliament, and what did he tell them? He hates grandmothers! Well, we can see what that means, can't we? He won't be ordaining any grandmothers in the near future, in line with the sexist, misogynist Catholic tradition that goes back all the way to, er, ... Jesus Christ! Let me tell him that in my daily life I meet many grandmothers and grandfathers, and it's the grandfathers that are the useless ones - they sit in a chair all day long, drinking beer and watching television, just as Jesus did, while the grandmothers do the shopping, the cleaning, and the washing, and they bring in the coal; then they stay up all night writing theological tracts (just like Martha). Phooey! If I were not a distinguished professor of Catholic Flourishing (memo: check exact title), I would quit and become a Pagan!

Pope and Queen

Pope Francis shows his utter contempt for a grandmother.

Una Kroll.

As a former Anglican vicar, and now a Catholic layperson, I want the Catholic Church to be more like the Anglican one: it was a big mistake when some pope decided to break away from the Anglicans in the 16th century. So I want to see Catholic women ordained bishops - never mind what the men at the top of the Church think. Also, we need to change Catholic teaching, and drop patriarchal concepts such as faith, hope and charity. We need to use more buzzwords, such as equality, cultural diversity, gender awareness, sustainability, organic unity, low-fat, gluten-free, climate change, recycled, cis and trans, and empowerment! Empowerment for me, that is, and not for some silly men in Rome! I may be 102, but it's not too late for me to take power! Mwahahahaha!

Power of Kroll

"The power of Kroll" (Dr Who, 1978). The men stare at Una in amazement.