This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Cameron consults the comedians

After a memorable pub meeting with Stephen Fry to discuss the burning issue of LBGTOMG rights in Russia, David Cameron has realised that it will be best if all his policies are formulated by comedians from now on.

Don't touch the food - Fry's with everything.

Naturally, "Dave" is in constant touch with many LBGTBLT activists, and he has lost no time in setting up a "war cabinet" to advise him.

"Ern, I'm very worried about Vladimir Putin."

Since the cause of LBGTBBC rights is paramount, it seems that Cameron will be left with no alternative but to declare war on Russia. Luckily, the army is ready to go.

"I assure you, it will all be over by Christmas, Prime Minister."

Meanwhile, the problem of Gibraltar will not go away, and Britain may find itself fighting wars on two fronts simultaneously (that is, excluding Afghanistan, the Vatican, and any other skirmishes we are currently committed to). Luckily, an expert on Spanish affairs is advising the prime minister.

"I will negotiate with Señor Rajoy, Prime Minister."

Finally (and after all, this is primarily a religious blog), Cameron has now explained why he has refused to take any advice from leading religious figures on matters such as same-sex marriage. Apparently, he found it impossible to take Archbishop Nichols seriously, dismissing him as a "mere comedian". Instead, he consulted a highly-respected Irish cleric, but didn't understand the advice he was getting.

"They've mistaken me for Tony Flannery again!"

Following his lengthy exposure to comedians, "Dave" has been trying to relaunch his own double act in the hope of recovering some of his lost popularity; however, it has been generally received with prolonged booing.

Dave cracks a joke, while Nick keeps a straight face.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Damian Thompson: pulling strings?

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor writes:

Cormac and Mennini

Where it all began to go wrong - Mennini tells me I'm past it.

Nobody could have more respect for Damian Thompson than I do. Like him, I come from beautiful Reading, and dabble occasionally in religious matters. Moreover, I share his passion for custard. But tonight an unusually good source told me that he had read on the Telegraph website that Damian was trying to exert his influence in forthcoming ecclesiastical appointments.

You may think that the life of a retired cardinal is one of idleness - watching Countdown on television, going to church every few weeks, that sort of thing - but in fact I also keep a close watch on activities in Rome, and am very anxious to give this new chap Pope Franklin (memo: check name) the benefit of my experiences.

custard church

Why doesn't Damian stick to things he knows about?

I am very dismayed by some of the recent appointments of Catholic bishops in England and Wales. We have seen people like Philip Egan, Mark Davies and Alan Hopes promoted - all nasty traditionalist types who want to bring Christianity back into the Catholic Church. Sometimes I think they prefer the Holy Spirit to the Spirit of Vatican II!

The nuncio, Archbishop Mennini, is to blame here, and I am afraid that Damian Thompson is almost certainly the éminence grise controlling him. (I use the phrase figuratively - Damian is very proud that he has not a single grey hair on his head, and he has won the Telegraph's "best hair" competition five years running.)

Destroy hair salon

The place where Damian Thompson schemes and plots.

Well, the era of Damian's influence is surely coming to an end soon. I've a feeling that many of the top people in Rome - Paolo Gabriele, Battista Ricca, people like that - feel the same way as I do, so I'll be revenged on that nuncio after all!


In my day, they'd even appoint a footballer if I said so!

Monday 19 August 2013

A pope's guide to Twitter

Your Holiness,
Many of us are very pleased to see you on Twitter, but I think it's time that some friendly person took you aside to explain that you're not really using it properly.

Pope's Twitter page

So far, so good... or is it?

You see the problem here? You are following only 8 people, and they have very similar names, for example, Papa Franciscus, Pape François and البابا فرنسيس. If you are going to use sockpopes, you ought to make them less obvious, Holy Father, and conceal them by following lots of other people as well as yourself. Call yourself something more subtle such as "Geo. Bergoglio", or "Anonymous Holy Man", or perhaps "Vatican Big Cheese", or even just "Happy Catholic". All the names that cry out "I'm holy, and don't you forget it!" such as "Miser Peccator", "Holy Smoke", or "On the side of the angels" have probably been taken already, I'm afraid.

Now, you may think that 2-million-plus followers is something special (after all, Dawkins has less than 800,000 and Justin Welby a pathetic 40,000), but even the Dalai Lama's stuff is read by over 7 million fans; when you leave the realms of religion and go into show-business, you find Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Barack Obama all around the 40 million mark. And Obama can't even sing.

Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber Welby. The one who sings, anyway.

So what are you doing wrong, your holiness? Well, take your latest tweet: We cannot be Christians part-time. If Christ is at the center of our lives, he is present in all that we do. You're using U.S. English, very good; that will bring in our American friends. A very sound comment, but it does read a little too much as if you're trying to preach to us. When did you last crack a joke? Or post a funny picture?

Not Cardinal Eccles

This man thinks he's a cardinal, but he's just a lunatic. ROFL. Love you all. @pontifex

Yes, that's the sort of thing. Now you should really be following more people and interacting with them. You like football - why not follow Diego Maradona? Then, every time he mentions the "Hand of God", reply with "You're a filthy cheat!" That's the way most people use Twitter.

Or, for a good laugh, follow the Tablet! You've probably never heard of it, but it's a brilliant spoof account, parodying a supposedly Catholic newspaper. It tries to cram in as many heresies, mis-statements and sheer fantasies as it possibly can. You'll love it!

GKC stamp

What do you think, folks? Shall I make this chap a saint? Bless! @pontifex

Finally, you need to have a regular circle of Twitter enemies, with whom you swap insults. There's no use talking to Richard Dawkins or Stephen Fry - they get upset too easily. Besides, your natural home is with the Catholics: they like squabbling on Twitter, so join in the fun. Say that you quite like Catholic Voices, and see how long it takes before you're accused of being a sockpuppet living in Brighton!


Is this a sockpope, or the real thing?

Saturday 17 August 2013

New Hymns 5

In this slot we have previously invited John Henry Newman, King David, Charles Wesley, and Christina Rossetti to attend masterclasses on how to write a good "modern" hymn. Today, we are pleased to welcome William Williams, author of Guide me, O thou great Jehovah (or possibly ...Redeemer). In fact, Bill, you wrote this song originally in Welsh?

WW: Arglwydd, arwain trwy'r anialwch!

Welsh rugby team

Fi, bererin gwael ei wedd...

E: Er, yes, thank you. Of course I speak Welsh fluently, but for the benefit of my readers we'll continue in English, if you don't mind.

WW: Not at all, old fruit.

E: Now, here is the first verse you wrote, in a popular translation:

Guide me, O Thou great Redeemer,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but Thou art mighty;
Hold me with Thy powerful hand:
Bread of Heaven, bread of Heaven
Feed me till I want no more.
Feed me till I want no more.

WW: Yes, and it's usually sung to the stirring tune of Cwm Rhondda.

E: No good, I'm afraid. Too many ideas crammed into one verse, and the tune is not one that you can clap your hands to. Liturgical dancers also find it a bit tricky to participate.

Cwm Dancing

Strictly Cwm Dancing.

WW: Well, I didn't have the benefit of modern musical scholarship, Eccles. Can you help?

E: Yes. Let's change the tune first. How about a song that people can jump to, like Colonel Bogey?

Colonel Bogey

The best tune for today's hymn.

WW: Is that the one about Hitler's deficiencies?

E: Well, in some traditions, but we can adapt your hymn to this too. Note how we just use the first line, and repeat it several times. Thus we don't overload the hymn with ideas!

Guide me, thou great Re-de-e-mer!
Guide me, thou great Re-de-e-mer!
Guide me, oh guide me, guide me,
Oh guide me, guide me, oh guide me, ha-ha!

WW: I don't remember writing "Ha-ha!"

E: Well I would have said "Ch-ch" but Paul Inwood might have complained that I'd pinched one of his deeper theological ideas. We need something clunky to end on.

WW: What happens in Verse 2? "Pilgrim through this barren land" doesn't scan.

E: We can get round that.

I am a jolly pilgrim, Lord!
I am a jolly pilgrim, Lord!
I am a jolly pilgrim,
A jolly pilgrim, a pilgrim, ho-ho!
Like the surprise ending?

jolly pilgrims

I am a jolly pilgrim, Lord!

WW: Well, I didn't see that coming.

E: Note that the verse is now mostly about YOU, and not about God.

WW: So would Verse 3 ("I am weak, but thou art mighty") now be better if it were something like I am - a pretty useless chap?

E: No, that's not inclusive language, Bill. Maybe, I don't - feel very well some days. Still about you, of course. But you know what the real problem with your hymn is?

WW: I'd be very grateful if you could tell me, Eccles.

E: It doesn't mention light, sunrise, shining, etc. These are very popular with modern hymnwriters.

WW: Well...

Sunrise - I like the shining light!
Sunrise - I like the shining light!
Sunrise, I like the sunrise,
I like the sunrise, the sunrise, hee-hee!


Bring me sunshine...

E: Well, we've come a long way from your original hymn, but I'm sure that our new version is a great improvement.

WW: Eccles, thank you very much.

E: My pleasure, Bill.

Friday 16 August 2013

Sherlock Holmes and the poisoned professor

"What do you make of this, Holmes?" I asked, looking up from my laptop, on which I was reading some comments on Twitter. "Richard Dawkins is complaining about something again."

Holmes and Watson

"Watson, this case presents interesting features."

Holmes rose from his chair, from which he had firing bullets into the wall, producing a passable outline of the head of Bishop Kieran Conry (or it may have been Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall) - the revolver shots were annoying, but less painful on the ears than when he played selections from Paul Inwood on his violin. "Let me see now," he said. "Wednesday was insult-Muslims day, and Thursday, being the Assumption, would have been the occasion of a dig at the Virgin Mary. On Friday he just whinges about life in general - recently it was the difficulty of finding a matching pair of socks."

I read out the tweet in question: My daily breakfast includes (unsalted) cashew nuts. My current batch tastes of chlorine. Any (knowledgeable, non-facetious) ideas why?

cashew nuts

A feast fit for a leading atheist!

"There is Devilish work afoot here," replied Holmes. "A scientific question that even Richard Dawkins cannot answer! But, if I am not mistaken, here is our client now!"

Mrs Hudson opened the door of our rooms in Tom Baker Street, admitting an aged man, who was accompanied by a younger woman and a strange metal dog bearing the legend "K9". Holmes greeted them warmly.

"I perceive from your right sleeve that you are a retired zoologist, now employed as a world-leading amateur theologian and scourge of the godly," said my friend. "Also, the scuff marks on your shoes indicate that you came here in a large red bus bearing the legend 'Look, I tell you, there probably isn't a God. Now get lost.'"

Dawkins, ill

Our client, looking distinctly unwell.

"Never mind that rubbish, Holmes, you charlatan," replied Dawkins with his well-known charm and bonhomie, cutting short my cry of "Amazing, Holmes!"

The facts of the case turned out to be as Dawkins had already related in his Twitter comment, and my friend had further questions to pose. "Do you have enemies, Professor Dawkins? Are there any people you may have offended in some way?"

"Not really," said Dawkins in a puzzled tone. "Well, the Catholic Church of course. And the Anglicans. The Baptists. The Muslims. Sikhs. Hindus. Hardly anyone, really."

We accompanied our client and his companions back to the scene of the crime, the breakfast room in Castle Dawkins, Oxford. Holmes scrutinised the room carefully, then, with a cry of "Aha!" he pulled a white cap from under the table.


A clue!

"If I am not mistaken," said my friend, "this is a zucchetto. No, Watson, don't try and eat it, it's not a zucchini. This is a skull cap worn by someone very senior in the Catholic Church. I have written a monograph classifying 200 different types of skull cap. Perhaps you have read it, Professor Dawkins?"

Dawkins explained to us that he never read works by other people, to avoid the risk of being contaminated by their opinions, and Holmes gave us a profile of his prime suspect.

"I suspect someone senior in the Catholic Church, probably a pope. He would need to have some knowledge of chemistry - perhaps he found the subject too difficult, and gave it up to become a pope instead. Now, to judge by the monogram inside the cap, his name begins with F. Have you seen a Pope Fred in the neighbourhood recently?"

Pope Fred

Pope Fred (R) prepares breakfast for Richard Dawkins (L).

Alas, the case was destined to remain unsolved. Somewhere my friend had made a vital error, for we were totally unable to track down anyone answering to the name of "Pope Fred". It was one of Holmes's rare failures.

"Watson," said my friend. "If it should ever strike you that I am getting a little over-confident in my powers, kindly whisper 'Dawkins' in my ear, and I shall be infinitely obliged to you."

Thursday 15 August 2013

Persecuted Archbishop told to "grow up"

Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, was today told to "grow up" and stop moaning about feeling "mildly uncomfortable".

Rowan Williams

Thou writest bitter things against me. Job 13:26

After saying a few daft things trivialising the difficulties suffered by faithful Christians in modern Britain (e.g. the loss of their jobs), Archbishop Williams has received a hail of abuse, insults and invective, both on Twitter and on the blogs. Although he is very distressed by this, it has been pointed out to him that his sufferings are minor compared with those of some former Archbishops of Canterbury.


Cranmer. Called "beardie" by his enemies. Also burnt to death.

Archbishop Cranmer himself was very unpopular in his time. Although he became a fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge, he never made it to Master, probably because of his silly beard, for which he was remorselessly mocked. "Oh look, it's that leftie druid chap," said the Cambridge students as he walked through the town. In the end he had to go.


Thomas Becket - the authorities said he was a liberal.

Thomas Becket was another occupant of the see of Canterbury who was roundly abused on the Internet (or Plantaga-net as it was called in those days). Although his beard was not widely criticised in contemporary blogs, he was described as "turbulent" by a very senior member of the government (Henry II), and it was not long before he lost his position.

So those who are saying to Rowan Williams, "Chin up! Bear your sufferings like a man!" are probably only being fair. These days, the life of an Archbishop in modern Britain is relatively comfortable, and the persecution he suffers is insignificant.

Magdalene College

A home for retired archbishops.

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Desert Island Discs

There are rumours that the BBC is planning to change the format of its radio programme Desert Island Discs after a barrage of three complaints from the National Secular Society. At present, "castaways" invited onto the show are invited to take eight records of their choice, together with the Bible, the works of Shakespeare, and one luxury item. We asked Terry Sanderson, president of the NSS, to explain his objections.

Terry Sanderson

By popular request: Terry Sanderson exiled to a desert island.

Explained Terry: "It is assumed that people will want to take with them the works of Shakespeare, but in this modern age few people believe in them. I'm not saying that some of the events portrayed in the book didn't happen - for example, most of us would accept the existence of Henry IV, even if we didn't think he came in two parts - but some of the stories are clearly legends that nobody can be expected to believe."

Bottom with ass's head

A ridiculous fairy story.

"This book about a midsummer night's dream," he continued. "Obviously a man can go around with an ass's head on him - my friend Richard Dawkins finds this idea totally reasonable - but there are miraculous elements in the story that reduce it to a fairy story."


Malvolio - imprisoned for smugness and "gay" stockings.

"There are may unsavoury incidents in the work," continued Sanderson. "My other friend Stephen Fry is shocked by the story of Malvolio, imprisoned for being insufferably smug and wearing yellow stockings. Stephen rightly says that if the story is true we should refuse to play any sport with Illyria. But my feeling is that the whole thing is a myth."


Polonius - simply a great teacher?

"I'll say nothing against the character of Polonius, although he is generally regarded as a humourless old fool," he added. "For various reasons I feel a natural affinity with him, and his martyrdom behind an arras is truly unpleasant. But it would be wrong to think of the play Hamlet in supernatural terms, and this nonsense about a ghost strains all credulity."

The "King James" edition of Shakespeare has made it a popular book since the early 17th century, containing as it does a mixture of history, moral teaching, instructive legends and poetry. However with the NSS condemning it, the BBC (which regards the NSS in high esteem) is likely to drop it from the radio programme.

3 witches

The book of Macbeth is similarly fantastical.

A BBC spokesman said last night that they were expecting to drop Shakespeare, replacing it by a suitable secular work, such as The God Delusion or Whitehead and Russell's Principia Mathematica.


Just the thing for a long stay on a desert island!

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Who was the mystery priest?

When Katie Lentz of Missouri, USA, was trapped in a crashed car, a "mystery priest", appeared from nowhere and prayed with her. The story has miraculous elements, as the priest appears on no photographs of the scene, and later ascended bodily into Heaven (I may have got that bit wrong).


"Hand me down a blanket!" says the mystery priest.

Although in some accounts, the mystery priest was later identified as Fr Patrick Dowling, this is far too improbable a theory, and we suggest some other miracle-working priests.

Fr Z the bus man

Father John Zuhlsdorf, with his bus pass.

Father Z, a traditional Catholic and celebrity blogger, is also an experienced miracle-worker, and would have no trouble manifesting himself at a road accident, provided that he was facing east at the time. Known for miraculous deeds such as "turning the water into coffee" and "driving the demons out of the National Catholic Reporter", Fr Z is also prepared to do liturgical materializations, if the instructions are written in red.

 Eccles in black

Fr Eccles.

Fr Eccles, author of The Pilgrim's Ogress, a biography of his aunt Moly, normally wears a red biretta. However, this week he lent his red hat to Archbishop Vincent Nichols ("I'd just like to try one on and see what I look like in it"), and was wearing a simple black one.

Eccles and custard

The mystery priest sustained Katie Lentz with a dish of Eccles cake and custard.


Fr Tony Flannery? No, the man looked like a priest.

The "mystery priest" was reported as behaving entirely like a normal Catholic priest in good standing, who did not once moan about how beastly the Vatican had been to him. We must regretfully eliminate Fr Flannery from our list of suspects, even though, as one person put it, "It's a miracle that he's still a priest."

John Arbold

Bishop John Arnold.

Bishop John Arnold is chairman of the allegedly-Catholic charity CAFOD, and credited with a miracle that still leaves people's jaws dropping - the pouring out of gold (£90,000) onto CAFOD's Chief Executive Chris Bain. John Arnold has links with more plausibly Catholic organizations as well, including the Archdiocese of Westminster, an organization which recently hosted a lecture by Tina Beattie. So far he has not denied being the "mystery priest".

Fr Dowling mystery

Oh all right, perhaps it was Fr Dowling after all.

Monday 12 August 2013

Are atheists more handsome?

After failing to convince people that atheists were statistically more intelligent than "faith-heads" - which of course would instantly prove that all religion was a load of rubbish - Prof. Richard Dawkins has come up with another devastating argument for his beliefs. Yes, it seems that atheists are more handsome than religious people.


A typically handsome atheist.

We should contrast the above picture with one of a typically ugly Christian. Whoever I choose, I am going to be told off for a lack of gallantry, so let's pick the lovely Dena O'Callaghan, billed as a "woman Catholic priest", whatever that may be.

Dena O'Callaghan

Dena - she has the Dr Who scarf, but she wasn't chosen as an assistant.

The aesthetic argument does not exhaust the wide array of anti-God logic that Richard Dawkins has at his disposal. Statistically, atheists are better athletes and better cooks, they win more prizes for vegetable marrows at country fairs, and of course they tell funnier jokes.

giant atheist marrow

A giant atheist marrow, probably. (Someone please check!)

Says Dawkins: "Christians, Muslims, Jews and the rest are very much stuck in the dark ages. Many of them can't even read. Trust me, I'm a retired professor of zoology and I know about these things."

Christian writer

A typical Christian - wrote the Bible, but knew nothing of genetics.

However, Richard Dawkins's latest comments to his millions of adoring fans are starting to irritate even moderate atheists. Said one, "Clearly, Christians are uglier and less intelligent than atheists, with the possible exception of Giles Fraser. No Guardian-reader would ever disagree! But when Richard says that they smell funny, refuse to change their socks, and break wind in public, it is hard to translate this into a direct argument for the non-existence of God."

Dawkins smells something

Hmm, there's a funny smell in here. Can it be one of those Christians?

Sunday 11 August 2013

Nasty things traditionalists do

Sister Modernia writes:

Sister Modernia

Sister Modernia

I am very grateful to Brother Eccles for giving me the opportunity to draw your attention to some of the nasty things that traditionalists do. I have written at least a dozen letters to Pope Francis about this issue, but so far he refuses to excommunicate anyone.


Mantillas. Ban them!

Why should women be allowed to wear mantillas in church? They only do it in order to be "holier than thou", sneering at me as I come in wearing my "kiss me quick" baseball cap.

good taste

Now that's what I call good taste!

There's nothing wrong with being bare-headed anyway - St Paul may have said (in 1 Corinthians 11) that women should cover their head in church, but that was only addressed to the Corinthians. Remember it wasn't in the Vatican II documents, so it cannot apply to us!

disgusting Latin

Latin. How disgusting!

Up to the 1960s there must have several million Latin Masses celebrated. They were all invalid! I see it as my mission to stamp out the Latin Mass wherever I encounter it. You wouldn't see me attend one, so why should others? And some of those traddies pretend to understand what's going on! No, it's simply elitism! Ban it!

Pius V

Pius V - may have been a saint, but he didn't know what a proper Mass was.

And here's another nasty habit we need to do something about.


Kneeling! How offensive!

When I go to Heaven - which I surely shall, thanks to my devotion to the Spirit of Vatican II - I shall meet my Creator. Will I kneel before Him? Good Heavens, no! I'll stride up boldly to Him and say "Yo, Dude! Didn't I do well?" He'll be surrounded by His angels, most of whom will probably be former Tablet staff, and they'll all say "Modernia! You told 'em!"

Clifford Longley

One of God's angels.

No, we don't kneel before God these days. Moreover, it is vital to make sure that nobody else does, even if they want to! If you see a "kneeler", mock them!

Well we've just got time for one more "nasty thing". Pro-life issues!

Madonna and child

Mother and baby stuff. Over-rated.

Don't you just hate pro-lifers? Or people who keep going on about how they like children? Some of them even blog on the subject - woeful! They're just doing it to make the rest of us feel bad. However, I read in the Tablet that church teaching is evolving on this issue. Pope Francis may secretly be a "traddy" pro-lifer, but we have friends in Rome who are ready to "spin" what he says.

choose life

We shall ban smug, offensive, provocative posters like this!

Finally, I'd like to thank Eccles for allowing me to post on his blog today, and bringing my views to such a wide audience. He's got a long way to go, but we're working on him!