This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Wednesday 31 July 2013

Damian Thompson Q&A

Pope and Damian

Now, I've got something to ask you, Damian.

Welcome to Telegraph Comment's live Q&A, where Damian Thompson answers your questions on religion, music, hairdressing and custard.

The Archbishop of Corby: Damian, sweetie, how do you get your hair looking so wonderful? What's it like being such a talented writer? Does it frighten you to think that you are worshipped as a god in seventeen separate countries? Where would the Catholic Church be today if it were not for your intervention? Why not visit Corby this weekend? Custard is 20p off at Asda.

DT: I rinse my hair in custard every night, Paul. As for the rest, I'm too modest to reply.

worshippers of Damian

Worshippers of Damian Thompson discuss addiction.

Phil Trollhurst, alias Phil Evans, Daryl Brown, Deborah Comments, Vilepuffin, etc.: Now that Pope Francis has renewed the Spirit of Vatican II and said that he plans to allow gay bishops to marry each other, don't you think it is time for all the traddies to leave the Catholic Church? Wasn't Hans Küng right all along?

DT: Speak later, Phil.

clown in Mass

Dignity in worship: Phil takes a leaf out of Bosco's book.

Micky Dross: It's so dreadfully unfair how your moderators censor free speech, Damian. All I want to do is to post links to anti-Catholic articles in the Huffalump Post, and they are removed straight away. Oh, and "mollusc porn", of course, but that's a very specialised interest.

mollusc porn

Mollusc porn.

DT: As editor of Telegraph blogs I have no control over the moderators, or anyone else. In fact (edited by a muddlerator).

Fr Alfred Haddock: Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? 1 Corinthians 11:14.

DT: Oh, absolutely. I mean, look at A.C. Grayling. But don't look at Alan Massie, as he's one of ours.

shameful Grayling


Eccles: Ullo, Damian. Is you saved?

DT: Well, that's all we've got time for now.

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Are you Romaphobic?

Today we deal with a frightening problem in the modern Catholic church - the fact that so many people hate the Tridentine Mass, hate anyone who wants to offer it, and hate those who wish to attend. Yes - this is romaphobic hate crime.


"Rumours of Satanic influence are definitely exaggerated."

It is difficult to understand romaphobia. Certainly there are people who prefer Masses in the Ordinary (vernacular) Form, and they don't all demand puppets, dancing bishops, or guitars. But your true romaphobe doesn't just want to make the OF available to those who prefer it, he or she actually tries to prevent the celebration of the EF.

In serious cases, the romaphobe also tries to suppress the new translation of the Mass, because it is too much like the traditional Latin liturgy. Try whispering "consubstantial" into the ear of a romaphobe deacon, and watch him scream!

Tablet woman

A Tablet journalist prepares a hatchet job on the Latin Mass.

The attitude of Pope Francis is still hard to determine. After a successful World Youth Day in Rio, he was buttonholed by journalists and spoke Ex Carpo (which may be translated as "Off the cuff" and is about as far from Ex Cathedra as you can get). It seemed that Pope Francis is still prepared to allow the ordination of Latin-speakers, especially since the Pope Emeritus is there to growl Summorum Pontificum at him.


They called it "JMJ", because the spirit of Jean-Michel Jarre rested upon it.

So, what is to be done about the modern Catholic Church, which has been described as "Institutionally Romaphobic"? The solution is surely to convoke a new Council, "Vatican III", with the object of discovering exactly how much was agreed by Vatican II, and how much was made up later by people who should have known better. It doesn't need to be a big Council - and please don't invite Basil Loftus along.

Romanes eunt domus

Romaphobic inscription on the walls of Westminster Cathedral.

Monday 29 July 2013

NO 5: how to receive Communion

In our guide to modern practices, written with the shocked traditionalist in mind, we have reached the point where you may receive Communion. The actual words for the consecration may have been a little unfamiliar, and recent news from the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate suggests that Elvish, Esperanto or Klingon may soon become more common than Latin. However, it is usually fairly clear - possibly by the ringing of a bell - when it is time to receive.

form a queue

Now, can you please form an orderly queue?

In many EF Masses I have attended, people pile out of the pews, knocking over the weak and feeble, so as to be first up to kneel at the altar rail. This wouldn't work in an OF Mass, for, as likely as not, there is no rail, just the priest and a helper - maybe a deacon, or, if he's indisposed, an old lady - standing in front of the altar. If you rush up to the front you may well knock over the old lady, and this is a BAD THING. If you bump into the deacon he'll probably flatten you.

So probably, "aeroplane etiquette" is safest. The people from the front pews step into the aisle first - this may well include the organist, the guitarist and the girl with the out-of-tune flute - and then people come up, a pew at a time. (Of course things work slightly differently if the aeroplane happens to be on fire.) Usually you will end up tripping over the hand-luggage of anyone who chooses to stay in their pew at this time.

don't rush

Please don't all rush up at once.

In busy and disorderly masses, there may be several places where you can receive - random helpers will loiter in various corners of the church and, in the confusion, you may find yourself offered the Cup before the Body. I have not been able to find out whether it is a sin to accept, but try not to do it, anyway.

If you are used to kneeling and receiving Communion on the tongue, then forget it. Apparently, Vatican II was very keen on stopping this practice. Kneeling is out. Give it another ten years, and genuflection will be out too - the custom will simply be to give a little skip as we face the altar.

Probably, there'll be a hymn sung while you receive. If the organist starts too soon, it'll be a solo from him; if he leaves it too late, then it will probably continue until well after Communion is over, and the priest may be obliged to come across and force him to stop.


And now for verse 37!

Well, that was the most sacred moment in the Mass, and deserves to be treated with respect. On the other hand, you may be lucky enough to have a South American bishop present, and then you can be sure that things will go with a swing.

bishop and yoof

Getting down with the "yoof".

Sunday 28 July 2013

New secular sacraments

Now that the sacrament of marriage is to be given a totally new meaning in the secular world - no longer simply a bond entered into by a man and a woman - Prime Minister David Cameron today announced secular versions of all the religious sacraments.


The seven traditional sacraments - but Dave may invent some new ones!

No longer will Baptism, Confirmation, Communion, Penance, Anointing, Ordination - or, of course Matrimony - be limited to those who are religious, or even those who wish to participate in a ceremony with the same basic meaning.

Baptism. Well the basic idea here is that the baby gets wet and has some words said over it. But from now on Parent 1 and Parent 2 will be able to baptise the little dear. To do this, they simply give it a bath, say some appropriate words ("Goo goo, who's a little darling, then?" will do), pay a fee, and little Nick can have a baptism certificate!


Recommended for a secular baptism.

Confirmation. Hey, who wants to be "confirmed" as a member of a church? Sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and strengthened in Christian life? No, from now on secular confirmation will be something like getting a driving licence (and you can be excommunicated if you drive through a red light - hey, we're being moral here!) As an added advantage, you can apply for confirmation online, just turning up for the sacramental part (the wielding of the rubber stamp) at your local council offices.

bishops dancing

Bishops attending a keep fit class - but no bishops will be required.

Communion. Bread and wine? Body and Blood? Just turn up at your local for a ploughperson's lunch and a chardonnay. Don't forget to call the barperson "Father" (or "Mother!") Oh - and try not to leave any of your kids behind when you stagger home...

Penance. There's not much call for this among secularists, for - let's face it - we don't usually talk about "sin". Still, we do talk about crime, and, following an idea in the board game "Monopoly", the government will now start selling "Get out of jail free" cards. Prices to be negotiated, but get your Royal Pardon before you commit your crimes!

get out of jail free

Too late for Mr Huhne, alas!

Anointing. All citizens have the right to be smothered in oil, if they are feeling a little off colour. It tones up the skin, and makes you feel GOOD! We are taking scientific advice as to whether it should be the finest olive oil or simply a dose of Castrol GTX: this may depend on whether you are anointed privately, or on the NHS.

olive oil

The Catholic Church has no monopoly on the trademark "Virgin".

Ordination. This may be controversial, but we are creating a new order of "secular" priests and deacons, who will be able to perform all the religious rituals associated with Christian churches, but on a "no frills" basis, and with no religious belief required. (Many churches have such priests already, of course!) Of course they will be able to wear cassocks, chasubles, fanons, mantillas, etc. just like real priests do.

odd priest

Secular priests may look something like this.

Marriage. Ah, we had the brilliant idea of making it possible for two people of the same sex to marry... oh, you've heard of that one.

And finally... Thanks to the miracles of technology, you don't need to worry about going to Heaven or Hell when you die! We can keep your brain alive for ever by pumping electricity into it (and the occasional replacement of spare parts). So religion is finally redundant!

brain that wouldn't die

Life after death! Or instead of it!

Saturday 27 July 2013

Tutu chooses Hell

Fascinating news from South Africa, where Archbishop Desmond Tutu tells us that he would prefer Hell to a homophobic Heaven.


The sort of tutu that nobody would mock.

So Desmond, do you think that in Heaven people's sexual urges will be relevant? Have you really thought this one out? Would it be better to stop posturing and just accept the fact that Christianity has always looked rather dimly upon homosexual activity, as one of many recognised sins?


Entry requirements for Heaven are a 2.1 degree or better. A 2.2 is not good enough.

Look, I'm sorry Des, old man. You were dead right to oppose apartheid - although as a black man in South Africa it would have been surprising if you hadn't - but you are getting very confused when you start talking about sexual morality. Good Christians don't persecute homosexually-inclined people, but they don't pretend that sex in any context other than within marriage between a man and a woman should be approved of, either.

Tutu's pal

Desmond, how nice to see you. We have lots of bishops here.

Meanwhile, this blog is uniquely privileged, in that it has contacts in Heaven. So we asked St Paul for a brief statement on Desmond Tutu's latest outburst.

St Paul

St Paul comments.

"I'm afraid that Mr Tutu really wouldn't enjoy Heaven. We do have some rather strict rules, you see. No smoking, no drugs, no guitars, no pet mice, no Paul Inwood music, and no sex. What we have is much better..."

We expect that Giles Fraser will soon be available for comment. He usually is.

Friday 26 July 2013

Church of England reviews its investments

After expressing embarrassment that the Church of England was profiting from investment in the payday loan firm Wonga, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has been considering other possibilities.

Willy Wonka

Welby Wonga - an unethical investment in chocolate.

Welby Wonga, the chocolate company, is of course excluded because its products make children fat and destroy their teeth. But there are other options available.

Top of the list of possible investments for the Church of England is the company Bunga, which supplies female companionship to Italian politicians.

Bunga Bunga

Silvio B. was very satisfied with Bunga.

Another option available to the archbishop is to invest in a successful manufacturer of arms, nerve gas, biological weapons, etc. This could easily be achieved by buying UK government bonds, although doing so may fall foul of Archbishop Welby's "ethical investments" policies.

More acceptable may be Dunga, the manure conglomerate (slogan "Where there's muck there's brass"), which provides a necessary social service, reprocessing animal waste, and similar material such as Thought for the Day contributions, into high-grade fertilizer.

One final possibility is that the Church of England cash will go abroad - possibly to India, where Kipling, the cake company, has opened a subsidiary, Gunga Din.

Gunga Din

"You make better cakes than we do, Gunga Din."

Thursday 25 July 2013

New baby named after the Pope

The United Kingdom was thrown into a constitutional crisis yesterday, when it was revealed that the new royal baby - instead of being called Austin Cambridge, as would have been natural - is to be named George Alexander Louis; this is in clear homage to the Pope, whose original name is Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

royal baby

William, Kate and George - are they secretly Catholic?

As will be well known to most readers, the Catholic Church in Britain has a special constitutional role not shared by Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus etc. If Prince William has secretly become a Catholic - and naming his baby after the Pope is a clear hint that he has - then he will be unable to succeed to the throne. For Prince Charles, a member of the Organic Church of Plant-Worship, there is of course no such obstacle.

Pope Alexander VIII

Pope Alexander VIII.

The baby's second name comes from Pope Alexander VIII, an unfortunate man who is often confused with Alexander Pope, the poet. Prince William is known to be very fond of Pope's poetry, particularly the last lines of the Dunciad: these are astoundingly relevant to the state of Britain today, especially Westminster:

Religion blushing veils her sacred fires,
And unawares Morality expires.
Nor public Flame, nor private, dares to shine;
Nor human Spark is left, nor Glimpse divine!
Lo! thy dread Empire, Chaos! is restor'd;
Light dies before thy uncreating word:
Thy hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall;
And Universal Darkness buries All. 

Lo! thy dread Empire, Chaos! is restor'd.

So what of the baby's third name, Louis? Here there is no religious or political significance: it is simply that Princess Kate is a great fan of the most famous Louis who ever lived.

Louis Armstrong.

So, should Prince George fail to succeed to the throne, it is hoped that he will still be able to make his living as a Catholic trumpet-player.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Pope stuck in traffic jam

As World Youth Day 2013 gets under way in Rio, the main news item that has emerged so far is that Pope Francis is there, and has got stuck in a traffic jam.

narrow is the way

Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way. Matthew 7:14.

One of the explanations for this problem is that the Pope omitted to bring his Swiss Guards with him - the Swiss Guard Army Knife has a device for extracting Popes from traffic jams. Another relevant fact is that the Pope was alleged to be a victim of "road rage" after cutting up a Nissan Toynbee driven by Richard Dawkins, who was en route to a rival event known as "World Oldie Day".

World Oldie Day

Pious atheists listen in rapt attention to a speech from Richard Dawkins at WOD.

After the "road rage" incident, the Holy Father continued his journey by bus; Richard Dawkins wished to match him on this, but was told "There's probably no bus - now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

Pope on bus

Luckily I brought my bus pass with me!

Meanwhile, a scandal is brewing in Rome after a bank-clerk, Mgr Battista Ricca, was allegedly stuck in a lift. Resignations are expected, mainly amongst the engineers who service the Vatican lifts. There are also rumours of a sex scandal here, and the unfortunately-named Cardinal Sodano will no doubt wish to reassure himself that there is no truth in it.

lift - or elevator

There's something not quite right about this elevator.

Meanwhile hysterical Vatican-watchers are hurriedly copying-and-pasting messages from unnamed priests into their blogs. So we can tell that the situation is serious.

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Bad Hymns 24

The Judges of the Eccles Bad Hymn Award are delighted to welcome "R.H.", the 18th-century author of "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree". So, R.H., you published this hymn in London's Spiritual Magazine, although only under your initials?

Newton and apple tree

Apple trees have long been a source of inspiration.

RH: Yes, I felt that anonymity was safest here, in case people started mocking my song. It was later published in Joshua Smith's hymnal.

E: Well, I'm about 200 years late, but I got to it in the end. I don't suppose that R.H. stands for Rolf Harris? The song has that sort of ring to it: perhaps an accompaniment with a didgeridoo or a wobble board would make it seem less silly?


These didgeridoo virtuosi also used the Apple label.

RH: No, not Rolf Harris.

E: Well, onto the song:

The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.
Calling Christ an apple tree isn't very Biblical, is it?

RH: Well, there are apple trees in the Song of Songs (Song of Solomon), Eccles.

E: A bit far-fetched, Rolf. Still, resting under the tree, and eating its fruit, do tie in well with general Christian doctrine, IF you interpret Christ as an apple tree.

RH: I wrote another verse, all about drinking cider and falling over under the apple tree, but the Spiritual Magazine cut it out.

There's too much cider in my cup,
I need someone to pick me up.
Since I can't stand right now, Lord, see
Me doze beneath the apple tree.

Ooh, arr, we appreciates the fruit of an apple tree.

E: That was probably best. Moreover, apples have cosmetic uses, so I've written an extra verse for you:

My skin is wrinkled, full of spots,
But luckily I now get lots
Of vitamins, A, B and C,
In lotion from the apple tree.
Er, I left out Christ, as I am still not sure that He really has much to do with this hymn.

RH: Thanks, Eccles. Shall we contact the Spiritual Magazine? They may like to publish a new edition of my words.

E: Didn't it merge with the Tablet? Ah no, it's probably turned into this:

Spiritual magazine

Spiritual journalism.

RH: Well, thank you very much, Eccles.

E: My pleasure, Rolf.

Previous entries for the Eccles Bad Hymn 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.    The red flag.
Go, the Mass is ended.    I watch the sunrise.    Bind us together, Lord.    Our god reigns.
My way.    Ding-Dong! The witch is dead.    If I were a butterfly.
Journeys ended, journeys begun.    The Galilee song.    The perfect face.

Monday 22 July 2013

Royal Baby Watch

Well, excitement is certainly mounting here in Bethlehem, with news that St Mary is expected to give birth to a royal baby within the next few hours.

Madonna and Child

Exclusive picture of the royal baby.

We interviewed Mary a few hours ago, when she arrived at the "Jolly Shepherds" inn, and booked into their luxurious Stable Suite.

So Mary, you must be feeling very excited by the prospect of giving birth. Have you thought what you might call your baby?

Yes, we're fairly definite that we'll call him Jesus.

A nice name. And what if it turns out to be a girl?

Let's just say that we'll be very surprised.

Now you won't have the services of a midwife, but I see that you have an ox and an ass standing by to help with the delivery?

ox and ass

Expert medical help on its way to the inn.

Yes, the NHS had nobody else available tonight. It's the Christmas season you know, and lots of people are on holiday.

Now, I'm told that the Royal Baby will be a king. Do you think that this will change your life at all?

Yes, I'm fairly sure it will (...being St Mary she doesn't say "moron" or even think it...) Indeed, it will probably change all our lives.

We've been told that there is a group of Magi on their way to Bethlehem. Indeed, they seem to have caused something of a traffic jam, having got lost in the one-way system.


This SatNav is useless. The star was much better!

Yes, I expect they're on their way to see us. Also some shepherds are likely to be dropping round for tea later.

How about Prime Minister David Herod? I hear that he is anxious to meet your child, too.

No, unfortunately we probably can't stay around for that. We have a flight to Egypt booked.

St Mary, thank you very much.

Well we'll keep you in touch with regular broadcasts and Tweets from Bethlehem, but now back to the studio where we are interviewing the Astronomer Royal about a mysterious star that has just appeared in the sky.

astronomer royal

The Astronomer Royal is baffled.

Search engines to block offensive images

Google and Yahoo have responded to requests from David Cameron by taking urgent steps to block sexually explicit images and others that may be unsuitable for children. Here are some of the images that your children will probably never see again, thank goodness.


Many children had nightmares after seeing this photo.


Associated with bullying and sexual obsession.

Giles Fraser

Too scary!


Contains the worst kind of offensive material.


Do you really want your children to be exposed to this?

Dawkins foundation

Likely to cause delusions and eventual insanity.

Sunday 21 July 2013

Homeopathic religion

The principles of homeopathy will be well known to most readers: they are based on Proverbs 32:42: A little goes a long way. For example, blindness can be cured by drinking a glass of water in which a piece of carrot has been dipped - but don't forget to dilute the water 1000-fold.

Similarly, a broken leg doesn't require extensive bandaging - a skilled homeopath can cure it with a small sticking plaster (indeed, applying it for five seconds and then removing it should be enough).


You poor man - let's get these bandages off and cure you homeopathically.

And now the principles of homeopathy are being applied to religion. Compare and contrast the old and the new regimes:

Old: Love God, love your neighbour as yourself, prayer, fasting, Mass attendance, charitable actions, regular reading of this blog.

New: Generally stay indifferent to God, ignore your neighbour, say "O God" in times of trouble, refuse that fifth helping of treacle pudding in Lent, ...

treacle pudding

Fasting - in Lent do not eat more than four of these at a time.

... wave at the church as you drive past on the way to Tesco's, put your old hole-ridden socks in one of those charity bags that people push through your letter-box, use the Tablet to line the cat's litter tray.

angry cat

Who's been leaving **** in my litter tray?

We spoke to one of the leading exponents of homeopathic Catholicism, jolly "Enda Life" Kenny. He explained to us that, despite his antipathy towards unborn babies, he remains a staunch Catholic. On the principle that a little goes a long way, Enda is going to feed on minute, diluted quantities of Catholic doctrine - if he can find something easily digestible that will not get in the way of his more important diet of secularism.

Kenny and a dog

"Yes, I'm having a hot dog for lunch," says Enda.

Well, there you have it. As homeopathic medicine is cheap and relies on the "placebo" effect, we see that homeopathic religion, relying on the "Please yourself" effect, requires no difficult commitments; it can be practised in such a way that nobody even notices that it is going on.


The homeopathic road to Salvation.