This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Hallowe'en Mass

Now that Hallowe'en - which has absolutely nothing to do with All Hallows Eve - has become a major secular celebration at this time of year, the church of St Daryl the Apostate has decided to join in by celebrating Mass with a special Hallowe'en liturgy.

Priest and pumpkin

Vestments for the Mass include a pumpkin mask for Fr Arthur.

The Service begins with the Paul Inwood hymn Trick or Treat Ch-Ch? (loosely based on the Gregorian chant Fallere aut Remunerare?) After this, prayers will be offered to St Jack O' Lantern, an Irish Saint who was often "Lit up."

Saint Jack

St Jack O' Lantern, pray for us.

The readings for the day are expected to include the passage from 1 Samuel 28, where King Saul is turned into a frog by the Witch of Endor. The text on which Fr Arthur preaches tonight is Revelation 21, where it is claimed that sorcerers will end up in a pool burning with fire and brimstone; he will explain that this is purely a metaphor for people scowling at them ("Hate Crime") as they practice their sincerely-held beliefs.

Witches in church

We welcome witches. Note the modernist broomsticks!

After the service, there will be "eye of newt and toe of frog" soup and bread rolls available in the Church Hall. Do come along!

Making soup

Making the soup.

Reading skills for bishops

Are you a bishop? It's a great job, isn't it, with an army of priests at your beck and call, addressing you as "My Lord," and quaking in fear that you may move them to a really nasty parish?

Captain Kieran of the Enterprise

It's not "My Lord" any more, it's "Captain Kieran of the Enterprise."

But it's a busy job too, and we find that many bishops do not have time to brush up on their reading skills. You know how it is, you're bombarded with a blizzard of documents from your boss in Rome, all with offputting names like Summorum Pontificum and Sacrosanctum Concilium, and even when you get hold of an English translation, it's full of complicated sentences that you can't really digest. And it doesn't have any pictures or conversations, so you tend to doze off quite quickly.

Bishop's blunder

Oops! Neither the speaker nor the audience can see the screen.

Well, Dr Eccles offers a course in reading skills for bishops. No longer will you make gaffes such as ...over the centuries, and especially after the Protestant Reformation, many of the elements of the Mass had become obscured. Much of this was a consequence of the continued use of Latin, which served to alienate and distance people from the action of the Mass (already noted on several excellent blogs such as this one and this one). This is at best total gibberish, and, at worst, a complete denial of the views expressed by the Magisterium over the last 50 years or so.

Look, Bishop, there's no need to feel guilty about it. I know you'd like to say Mea Culpa - if you knew what it meant - but we understand that reading the Vatican II documents is very difficult if you're not supposed to move your lips. It's tempting to skip over them, and assume that they say certain things, when in fact they say exactly the opposite. Dr Eccles is here to help you.

Este Sancti

Lesson 1: an "Easy reading" translation of the Encyclical Este Sancti.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Why can't the churches do as I say?

For those who missed Tim Montgomerie's Times article No palace, no politics. Just Christian teaching (which is most people, as you would probably need to pay to read it), here is a summarised version.

One reason I became a Christian, at the age of 36, was the writings of C.S. Lewis. I was reading this very exciting story about a lion, a witch and a wardrobe, and it was explained to me that Aslan was just another name for God. Since I adore big cats, I knew that a religion which worshipped a lion was just the one for me.


Aslan. The Bible says that Jesus was incarnated as a lion.

Nowadays, I think the churches have lost their way. They are trying to give a moral lead, and to obstruct policies agreed by democratically-elected politicians. They hardly ever sit down to any serious lion-worshipping.

However, now that a new Archbishop of Canterbury is to be appointed, it is a great opportunity for all the churches to get back to basics. Here are my plans for the Church of England: I am sure that the Catholics, the Muslims, and the Jews (etc.) will immediately follow suit. After all, as far as I can tell, they all believe roughly the same things.

Sell off the churches for affordable starter homes and all-night supermarkets. This is what the country needs now, not a building for people to gather in and think subversive thoughts.

Tesco St Paul's

St Paul's - would be much more useful as another branch of Tesco's.

A total reorganization of church services. My researches have shown that priests are unnecessary, since it does not require special training for someone to read out a few prayers. Moreover, churches should be a forum for discussion, taking the House of Commons as a model.

The liturgy should be amended according to the needs of the day. For example, the words Gloria in Excelsis Deo or "Glory to God in the Highest" should be a motion for debate, and not to be taken for granted. In a pilot scheme, we found that a focus group preferred to amend this to Habe bonum diem, Deus or "Have a nice day, God," a motion which was then passed by a two-thirds majority.

Have a nice day, God

A lion, possibly Aslan, having a nice day.

Don't try and give a moral lead. Luckily, the main Christian churches have more-or-less dropped the idea of making moral judgements, but a few rogue bishops and archbishops will insist on talking about sex. I have read "The lion, the witch, and the wardrobe," and I can assure you that Aslan never talks about sex.

The more libertarian approach adopted by the BBC seems to work very well. There's this chap called Savile who's been in the news recently: I haven't kept up with the full story here, but all I'm saying is, why can't the churches follow his example and stop treating sexual activity as something that should only take place in private?

Confession. Once the government has been allowed to take over the churches, Confession will operate as it does in police stations - a priest with a truncheon will hit the penitent sinner until he or she confesses their sins.


A really interesting Confession, requiring four priests for Absolution.

Vestments. Again, these are unnecessary in the modern era. The churches should take their lead from politicians, and dress simply.

Here comes the bride

"Here comes the bride," a humble politician in simple dress.

I trust that my words of advice will be taken up by the people in authority. Times are changing, and the churches need to change too, or they will become places where only the religious-minded will feel at home. Next week, I'll be giving more details of my plans to make divine worship conform to a proper business model.


Inside a mosque. But wouldn't it be more businesslike with computers, filing cabinets, and proper office furniture?

Monday 29 October 2012

Bad Hymns 13

Taking a break from religious hymns, as we have done once or twice already, the Eccles Bad Hymn Award judges are pleased to welcome Jim Connell, author of the Socialist Hymn The Red Flag, together with "Red Ed" Miliband, who likes to sing the hymn once a year.

Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband singing The Red Flag.

E: Jim, if I could come to you, first. The flag isn't really deepest red, is it? Usually, it's quite a bright red colour. In fact you later describe it as "scarlet."

JC: Yes, well the idea is that it is stained by the blood of the martyrs.

E: Oh right. So Ed, can you name some Labour martyrs whose blood has stained this flag?

EM: Well, there was Clement Attlee.

E: Attlee? The man who ended up with an earldom and the titles of KG, OM, CH, PC and FRS?

EM: He was a martyr to lumbago, you know.

Clement Attlee

Clement Attlee - used to wrap himself in a red flag when his lumbago got bad.

E: The version I heard was The people's flag is palest pink, Mum washed it in the kitchen sink. Still, back to you, Jim. I see that nowadays people don't sing the more embarrassing verses of your hymn?

JC: (sings)

   Look round, the Frenchman loves its blaze,
   The sturdy German chants its praise,
   In Moscow's vaults its hymns were sung
   Chicago swells the surging throng. 

E: Of course the French like anything that blazes, really. Red flags, cars, British lamb, ... The pyrotechnic habits of the French are worth a whole verse on their own. But I quite like the phrase "sturdy German." We've had quite a lot of trouble from sturdy Germans since you wrote that song. And Moscow, Chicago, ... hmmm.

EM: At the Labour conference we omit all that tosh. Still, we are very fond of the colour red.

Justine Miliband

The people's dress is deepest red - behold the wife of poor old Ed!

E: So basically verse 1 is all about martyrs - possibly including Clement Attlee - being wrapped in red flags. Wasn't there another martyr? David somebody, who was stabbed in the back by his brother?

EM: I deny it completely. Anyway, David is not dead. Just resting.

JC: (sings)

   It suits today the weak and base,
   Whose minds are fixed on pelf and place
   To cringe before the rich man's frown,
   And haul the sacred emblem down. 

EM: Will you be quiet? We in New Labour don't regard anything as sacred. In fact, we don't even regard religion as sacred.

E: And you've got plenty of rich men in your party, eh, Ed?

Alan Sugar frowning

The rich man's frown.

EM: I don't remember the words exactly, but our conference sing-song ends with something like: "Though tumpty-tumpty traitors sneer, Um, er, the red flag flying here."

E: Actually, most people sneer at the song these days, especially after the fall of communism; not just traitors. You've just missed Eric Hobsbawm, he liked that sort of thing. Where is the flag flying now, then?

EM: We left it in Manchester. You didn't expect us to take the silly thing home with us, did you?

E: No, I guess not.

JC: (sings)

   With head uncovered swear we all
   To bear it onward till we fall;
   Come dungeons dark or gallows grim,
   This song shall be our parting hymn. 

E: Fine sentiments, Jim. I think that nowadays dungeons aren't dark, indeed they all have colour TVs; and gallows aren't grim either, in fact they're mostly tourist attractions. But you weren't to know that. Ed, a final comment?

EM: Don't look at me, I don't know anything about this hymn.

E: Well, thank you both for coming. Shall we conclude with another scary picture?

Harriet Harman

The people's witch is dressed in red. She's cast a spell upon you, Ed.

Previous entries for the Eccles Bad Hynm Award:

Lord of the Dance.    Shine, Jesus, shine.    Enemy of apathy.    Walk in the Light.
Kum Ba Yah.    Follow me.    God's Spirit is in my heart.    Imagine.    Alleluia Ch-ch.
It ain't necessarily so.    I, the Lord of sea and sky.    Colours of day.

Sunday 28 October 2012

A few advertisements

Dawkins horror mask

MMMWHAHAHA! It's the Richard Dawkins horror mask!

You've seen Damian Thompson, you've seen Cristina Odone. But now, scarier than either, is the perfect accessory for Hallowe'en.

Cause real terror in your neighbourhood this Hallowe'en as you jump out at your neighbours and scream the dreadful words "GOD PROBABLY DOES NOT EXIST!!!" Watch them run for cover, as they think you are about to plug one of Dawkins's dreadful books!

Walk into a Catholic cathedral, and see the bishop hastily turn to the exorcism rite! Watch priests go into hiding, fearful that you may try and arrest them!

Warning: we recommend that you do not inflict Dawkins on children under the age of 45, elderly people with weak hearts, or the Pope.

New Tablet Computer on sale

The perfect device for those who hate Catholicism but wish to make telephone calls and surf the web! It comes with a built-in PepinsterTM chip that protects your children from all orthodox religious websites.

In each model there is installed a copy of the Tablet Bible, "Professor" Tina Beattie's monumental tome, The Mass - an occasion for dirty thoughts.

Of course you can also watch videos on your Tablet, and here is one we particularly recommend.

Wicked witch

A scene from the Wizard of Oz. The Wicked Witch reads out an evil incantation.

Men! Do second-rate journalists mock your hair? Come to Damiano's, the renowned hairdresser's and beauty parlour.


Damiano is waiting to give you a truly Catholic hairstyle.

Relax to the soothing sounds of Gladys Mills playing Bach's monumental The bad-tempered ferret, while Damiano (Il Barbiere di Notting Hill) gives you a haircut that nobody will dare to mock.

For the middle-aged client with too much hair, the "Boris" is now out of fashion, and Damiano recommends:

Michael Fabrication

The "Michael" Fabrication, a Damiano speciality.

While, for the older balding man looking for love, the "Andrew Neil" look is no longer recommended, and Damiano now suggests:

Silvio's spray-on hair

The "Silvio," as sprayed on by Damiano himself.

Advice on keeping your weight down is also available, while, for the ladies, Signora Cristina will soon be opening a special department dealing with beauty problems.

Thursday 25 October 2012

New Cardinals appointed

The Vatican announced yesterday the appointment of six new cardinals. All parts of the Catholic world are represented, with the notable exception of Europe: it was explained that the Holy Father didn't see why he should be expected to honour any Soho-Mass supporting pinko liberals until they learnt to toe the line.

Pinko liberal

A pinko liberal in typically flamboyant costume.

Those six new cardinals in full:

Cardinal Nanook

Cardinal Nanook of the North.

Coming from a very small archdiocese to the North of Canada, Cardinal Nanook is the only Archbishop whose Cathedral is made entirely of snow. In a statement released today he said, "This red hat comes at a very opportune time, as my head is rather cold at present."


The Cathedral of Christ the Somewhat Frozen.

Cardinal Robinson Crusoe

Cardinal Robinson Crusoe.

Cardinal Crusoe, Archbishop of the Cannibal Islands, is also delighted to receive his red hat. "Now my parishioners are really starting to take religion seriously," he said. "They're already saying grace!"

Cardinal Fu Manchu

Cardinal Fu Manchu.

The Catholic church is making great inroads in the mysterious East, and this is recognised in the appointment of Cardinal Fu Manchu. Although he has a fondness for world domination and a reputation for ruthlessness, it is thought that he has been brought in to counter the threat of the mysterious oriental villain Ans Kung.

Cardinal Kor

Cardinal Kor relaxes in his Cathedra.

One of three extra-terrestrial cardinals to be appointed, Cardinal Kor is the first Klingon to be honoured in this way. When we asked him for a comment, he replied: Daq the tagh ghaHta' the mu', je the mu' ghaHta' tlhej joH'a', je the mu' ghaHta' joH'a'.

Cardinal Cyberman

Cardinal Cyberman gives a blessing.

Cardinal Cyberman comes from the traditional wing of the Catholic church. However, his aversion to gold means that he will probably not be a serious contender in the next papal conclave.

Cardinal Jabba

Cardinal Jabba of Tatooine (with altar-server).

Cardinal Jabba is Archbishop of Tatooine. He is very fond of cinnabons and was formerly Bishop of Leeds.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Bishop Williamson founds SS

Bishop Richard Williamson, expelled from the SSPX, today announced the formation of an entirely new religious group, to be called simply "SS."

Bishop Richard Williamson

Bishop Williamson.

"SS" stands for "Society of Saints," although at the moment its membership is cautiously estimated to be approximately 1. When it was pointed out that "SS" was an unfortunate name for his new society, sharing as it does the same brand name as the notorious Schutzstaffel, Bishop Williamson replied "I don't understand what you're talking about. It's only 1912, isn't it? Himmler isn't due to come to power for another 17 years."

Bishop Williamson is furious at his rejection by the SSPX, and added, "I shall be appealing directly to Pope Pius X over this matter." It was pointed out to him that Pius X died in 1914, but he replied "You may believe that, but I tell you it's just a modernist heresy."

Pope St Pius X

Pope St Pius X - expecting a stiff letter of complaint from Williamson.

For a long time, SSPX has been severely embarrassed by the activities of Bishop Williamson. They were hoping to encourage him to retire to Southend-on-Sea, where he could at least use an SS postcode without offending people: as Bishop Bernard Fellay put it: "I would say that Williamson is way beyond Barking."

Barking (mad)

Barking - Williamson is way beyond this.

Bishop Williamson has expressed himself unhappy with some of the doctrinal theories generally accepted by mainstream SSPX members, whatever their other differences with the Vatican. In particular he is unhappy with the idea that women should be allowed to attend church, or indeed to talk to men in public. "I would have been horrified to think that my own mother was a woman," he said. "I am sure that she was really a man." Bishop Williamson's latest book Virgo Maria - vir aut mulier? takes a whole new look at the mysteries of Jesus's parentage, and comes to the conclusion that there are no women in Heaven.

And God created Woman

A woman, so not saved.

We rang Bishop Williamson again this morning, hoping for further information on his future plans, but he was unavailable for comment, having gone to the doctor's with a slight soreness in his arm, caused by excessive saluting.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

All you need to know about the fanon

Pope Innocent III in fanon

The fanon - a bodyblow against liberal Catholicism.

Certainly the most exciting thing to happen in the Catholic church this week was the return of the papal fanon, which the Holy Father wore for the Pontifical Mass on Sunday.

What is the fanon?

It is a gold-and-white cape, which only the Pope may wear. Anyone else wearing it is guilty of impersonating the Pope, and will be arrested for identity theft. The same penalty applies if any impostor attempts to open a bank account in Rome under the name of Pope Benedict XVI, or to canonize his own friends.

Pope Benedict XVI in fanon

Probably the real Pope.

What is the significance of the Pope's wearing the fanon?

It is sending a powerful message to the liberal wing of the church that they have finally lost. Having seen the fanon in action, Catherine Pepinster is believed to have gone into hiding, Tina Beattie has joined the Methodists, and Hans Küng has hastily sold his two-metre-high statue to a farmer needing a scarecrow.

Hans Küng

My name is Ozymandias, Küng of Küngs. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

Why did the fanon fall into disuse, anyway?

One very hot day, Pope John-Paul II was trying to put a pile of Vatican II documents into some sort of order. Unfortunately, the electric fan that he was using to cool the room caused a breeze, and some of the most important documents about the hermeneutic of continuity blew out of the window and were never seen again. "We don't need the fan on!" shouted the Pope in an infallible way: and henceforth it was so.

What will the Pope wear next?

The 16th century papal doublet and hose are probably next to be resurrected; or possibly the pope will go straight to the fisherman's garments worn by St Peter.

St Peter

A statue of St Peter, in traditional fisherman's robes.

Sunday 21 October 2012

The 2012 Tabloid Lecture

A longer and funnier version of the lecture appears here.

Catherine Popehater, Editor of the Tabloid comic (motto Ecclesia Contra Papam), was very pleased that Kaiser Wilhelm II agreed to give the 2012 Tabloid lecture. Last year, by mistake, we invited Vincent Nichols, who said that, on balance, he thought that poisoning the Pope was not the only possible answer to the problems facing the Catholic Church. This year, we have managed to find someone less conservative.

Robert Blair Kaiser

Robert Blair Kaiser.

These days, both wings of the Church are saying that the Second Vatican Council was a failure. I do not believe that this is true. For one thing, it allowed an obscure talentless journalist such as myself to make a career out of the Catholic Church's problems, just because I am a fluent Latin speaker.

I remember meeting Pope John XXIII just before the Council opened. "Hic, haec hoc!" I said to him, challengingly, and followed this up with "Mensa, mensa, mensam, mensae, mensae, mensa!" The Pope looked at me in a puzzled way, crossed himself, and moved on: it was at that moment that I knew I had influenced the Church in a way that would go down in history.

Pope John XXIII

John XXIII - he had no answer to my arguments.

His predecessors, Pius XI and Pius XII, had campaigned against Evil. As an historian, Papa Roncalli knew what a risky business this could be. "No more moralizing," he said. I am sure he didn't want the Council to take sides in the so-called battle between God and the Devil.

As the Council opened, I sought out America's most famous Catholic preacher, Bishop Fulton Sheen. I expected him to be sleeping in a cardboard box under a railway bridge, but when I saw that he was staying in a hotel, I instantly knew that he was a reactionary. "This Council will be inspired by the Holy Spirit," he said.

"Never heard of Him," I retorted. "Can you tell me how to interview Him?"

Bishop Sheen merely smiled sadly, and I knew that we would be in danger, if the Holy Spirit - an unelected grandee - tried to interfere in the Council's decisions.

Fulton Sheen

Fulton Sheen - did he wear gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints?

Well, you expect to see dinosaurs like Sheen when bishops are appointed by the Vatican hierarchy, instead of being democratically elected like police chiefs, in a free ballot in which atheists may also participate!

In the end, unlike the previous twenty Councils, in which some mythical person called "God" had played a key role, Vatican II was inspired directly by the 1960s ethos. The inspirational figures of the 1960s - people like Ronald Biggs, Jimmy Savile and Christine Keeler - were all to be found outside the Church oligarchy.

Christine Keeler

Christine Keeler, in prayer.

The Council changed the way we thought about God and the World. Indeed, Pope John and his Council made preliminary moves that helped end the Cold War - and, only 25 years later, Communism collapsed. (I make this comment since I am not pretending that the effects of the Council were always beneficial.)


Marxists reflect on the threat posed by the Council.

Before the Council, Mass had to be celebrated by a priest. Afterwards, nobody went to Mass anyway, so it didn't matter.

Before the Council, women were forbidden to attend Mass. Afterwards, they were freed from their bonds and allowed to participate fully in the life of the Church. The shock of this liberation drove some women insane with joy, and special caring arrangements had to be made: for example, Patient C was appointed editor of a Catholic comic, while Patient T was sent to sheltered accommodation in Roehampton.

Roehampton care home

Roehampton - a place where crazy people are respected.

Before the Council, Catholics were forced to read the Bible. Afterwards, they could read my best-selling books The Selfish Pope and The Pope Delusion.

Before the Council, we were sin-obsessed. Nowadays, Good and Evil are recognised as lifestyle choices, and nobody in the Church dares to say that one is better than the other. Before the Council, people spoke of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. Nowadays, we know that nobody will judge us, not even God.


Do we really see God like this, as a judge?

What we modernizing Catholics really hated was the Council of Trent (1545-1563). When announcing Vatican II, Pope John XXIII stated that the precepts of the Council of Trent continue to the modern day, but of course he wasn't serious. What could a bunch of medieval people know about sex and drugs, and rock and roll?

Council of Trent

The Council of Trent. We hates it, we hates it, we hates it.

When Jesus addressed the multitudes on that hillside overlooking the sea of Galilee, he didn't tell them how to behave. He told them how to have fun. Jesus could have learned a lot from Vatican II - the Council told us what he should really have said. Which is as it should be.

Saturday 20 October 2012

Bad Hynms 12

The Eccles Bad Hymn Award judges are pleased to welcome Sue McClellan, to tell us about her highly irritating hymn Colours of day dawn into the mind.

A grey day for Monet

A grey day for Monet.

SM: It's lovely to be here, Eccles. Pity it's such a dull day, eh? What a dreadful fog!

E: Good to see you, Sue, which I probably couldn't do if we were outside. Is this the sort of colour of day you had in mind?

SM: Something sunnier would be better, Eccles.

SM: Yes I see: The sun has come up, the night is behind. I expect you ask priests to get a reliable weather forecast before scheduling this hymn in their services?

Singing in the rain

Singing in the rain, an alternative hymn for bad weather.

SM: It's metaphorical, Eccles. Think of God, rather than the sun itself.

E: I'm still wondering how colours can dawn into the mind, but let's move on. Go down in the city, into the street, And let's give the message to the people we meet.

SM: Ah yes, that was unfortunate. The church tends to empty at that point, as some people take it too literally.

E: Perhaps the hymn should say: After the service, go into the street...?

SM: Good thinking, Eccles. I'll consider that for when I revise the hymn. Unless of course people want to stay for coffee? After your coffee, go into the street...?

Pope drinking coffee

Just a quick coffee, then we'll go into the street.

SM: Now, do you like the chorus? So light up the fire and let the flame burn. Open the door, let Jesus return. Take seeds of his Spirit, let the fruit grow.

E: I suppose we could cook the fruit on the flame. Or Jesus could come in and warm Himself by the fire.

SM: I got an award for my mixed metaphors, you know.

Let the flame burn

Let the flame burn.

E: Go through the park, on into the town. Did you write these words yourself, or was it your SatNav?

SM: Ah, I have had some complaints here, Eccles. People kept telling me that the way into town didn't go through any parks.

Go through the park

Go through the park, on into the town. Then ask again.

E: I'm not sure that there's much to say about the rest of the hymn. It seems to be all about the sun and light, but you do stretch the metaphor almost to breaking.

SM: Oh, but Eccles, dear, there was even an extra verse that I deleted:

The sun's got his hat on, isn't that great?
The Spirit is with us till half past eight.
The sun disappears in late afternoon,
But God made the cow jump over the moon.

E and SM (together): So light up the fire and let the flame burn...

God makes the cow jump over the moon

A little-known work of the Spirit.

Previous entries for the Eccles Bad Hynm Award:

Lord of the Dance.    Shine, Jesus, shine.    Enemy of apathy.    Walk in the Light.
Kum Ba Yah.    Follow me.    God's Spirit is in my heart.    Imagine.    Alleluia Ch-ch.
It ain't necessarily so.    I, the Lord of sea and sky.