A quick calculation using my fingers and toes suggests that, if invited, three bishops would definitely have signed the letter, or at most five. The rest... oh dear. As a now-forgotten journalist called Damian Thompson once put it, "The Magic Circle".
This is what a saved bishop looks like (Philip Egan).
It is time for a scientific analysis of our bishops, to decide whether they are saved or not. From Easter I shall keep an informal record of mentions of bishops (or at least the ones I notice) to see whether their actions are those of a saved or unsaved person. So Mgr Egan scored very well this week with his comments on abortion (against), same-sex marriage (against) and family life (for). He probably gets bonus points for upsetting Conor Burns MP.
Of course, some bishops are hardly ever in the news. For example, we have never had occasion to mention Bishop Drainey of Middlesbrough on this blog. Indeed, I suspect that unless you live in the Diocese of Middlesbrough you may not have heard of him (and possibly not even then).
Terence Drainey. Nice chasuble, but saved status unknown.
How about an unsaved bishop? Well, to take a hypothetical example, suppose that a bishop stopped one of his deacons from writing a totally orthodox Catholic blog, and gave a misleading account of the whole affair? Would he not be in a state of sin (and unsaved) until he repented and that deacon's gagging was ended? No matter how many worthy deeds he did in the mean time?
Ugh. Let's have another saved bishop.
Another saved bishop (Mark Davies).
So how can a bishop score points? Positive things are easy, but unfortunately rather rare: defend Catholic teaching, especially when it is attacked by MPs who really belong in the Goon Show; ban the Tablet; refuse to allow Timothy Radcliffe or Tina Beattie to speak on church property in your diocese; stick up for people who want traditional forms of worship; set up a fifty-mile-radius exclusion zone in which Paul Inwood's music is banned; you know, do all the things they taught you to do at bishop-school.
Negative things? Prevaricate about Catholic teaching; bully your clergy if they show signs of orthodoxy; encourage the Tablet; join in dodgy ecumenical services with Muslims and Hindus; invite dissident speakers; cosy up to ACTA... well of course none of the bishops would ever do such a thing.
Eccles (L) watches a very senior bishop to see whether he is saved.
Naturally, other countries have unsaved bishops too. There are distressing accounts of Bishop Bootkoski of New Jersey giving the bootkoski to Patricia Jannuzzi, a teacher in a Catholic school who defended traditional marriage. Well done, bishop: Cardinal Dolan, the Grandmaster of the St Patrick's Day Gay Pride Parade, would be proud of you.
"Show her the door, 44!" Bootcatholic calls out the Bingo numbers.