This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Thursday 28 November 2013

Church of England agrees to bless everything

Peace has finally arrived in the Church of England, as it has been agreed that from now on all actions, beliefs, and lifestyle choices are to be blessed.

pill box

"Bless everything!" says Sir Joseph Pillbox.

More specifically, in the new non-judgemental C of E it is forbidden to condemn or even criticise other people's actions. After all, when Jesus said "Judge not that ye be not judged," what he really meant was "Close your eyes to other people's actions and on no account interfere."

wise monkeys

"Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" (Epistle to the Amoralians).

Minority groups in the Church of England have been quick to demand their own blessings. Said one spokesman, Charles Litton of the association of burglars, safe-crackers and jewel thieves: "It will be a great comfort to our members if the local vicar can conduct a short service of blessing before we go out and make a dishonest living."

Said a local vicar, "At first sight some may imagine that stealing is condemned once or twice in the Bible; however, over the years we have managed to get more of an insight into what God really wants from us, and you can take it from me that He really doesn't care if people make a lifestyle choice involving what used to be known as sin."


"Monsieur, I think someone here is in need of a blessing."

As words of confession and forgiveness are deleted from the liturgy - being no longer needed - they are to be replaced by new ceremonies, so that the C of E can provide all-purpose services of blessing: these range from elaborate rituals for blessing conjugal unions involving three men and an elephant, down to "quickies" for people who are planning to pop into the supermarket and shoplift a jar of coffee. From now on, the slogan will be "DO WHATEVER YOU LIKE - JUST MAKE SURE YOU GET A PROPER BLESSING."

Courtney and Blessed

"It looks dodgy to me, Brian, but if you're sure you're Blessed..."

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Evangelii Gaudium

Well, the Pope's new apostolic exhortation, at 48,000 words (roughly twice as long as St Matthew's Gospel), is a little difficult to digest instantly, and so we have decided to let technology come to our aid. By seeing what words and phrases appear - or do not appear - we can determine what is considered important.

Tom Baker and Lalla Ward

Our trained staff undertake a detailed computer analysis.

As a control experiment, let's start with St Matthew's Gospel, which most readers probably know something about. Some of the key phrases that occur are: "I say unto you", "The Kingdom of Heaven" and "The Son of Man" (all more than 30 times), with "the chief priests" coming up behind on about 20. I think we can conclude that the book is about Someone who is keen to put forward a religious message, possibly One with an interest in Heaven. Perhaps at some stage He tangled with some priests. I hope that helps.

Pope Francis

Should I have said more about custard?

Turning our computer's attention to Evangelii Gaudium, we see that one phrase that comes up over 20 times is "post synodal apostolic exhortation", but that's mostly in the bibliography, so doesn't really count. "The Church" and "the Gospel" score highly, over 100 times each, so the author clearly thinks these are important (this is a good sign). There is also a fair amount about the Holy Spirit, and over a dozen mentions of "Latin American". Watson, we have here an educated person, possibly of Argentine extraction, who is trying to give some religious guidance.

Kenneth More and William Russell

Father Brown meets the Rev Chesterton.

Let's try one further experiment, with The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton, which is a little longer than Evangelii Gaudium. Although at first sight this appears to be the biography of a Catholic priest, perhaps something like the Confessions of St Augustine, the computer never lies, and it reveals that some of the most popular phrases occurring are "said Father Brown", "said the doctor" and "the front door". These do not indicate that we have a religious text before us, more a collection of anecdotes. Also, the last phrase is a bit of a mystery to us - perhaps it is something to do with the gates of Heaven?


Thus, on a scale of spiritual nourishment, I think it fair to say that Evangelii Gaudium (EG) scores a little lower than St Matthew's Gospel (MG), but a little higher than The Innocence of Father Brown (FB). Let us look for points in common, and points of difference.

Points in common.

All three works show a high respect for the office of priest, and both (MG) and (FB) contain examples of priests who are, well, unsaved. All three discuss salvation in a religious context. None of them seems to accept the possibility of ordaining women to the priesthood, and all three seem to show a rather traditional attitude to sin.

Points of difference

Although all three have a main protagonist who is some sort of religious figure, the hero of (EG) isn't primarily engaged in performing miracles, nor at solving mysteries (although he does refer to a "sense of mystery"). Again, in (MG) we encounter a wide range of characters, from the impressive Peter through to the villainous Judas; likewise, in (FB) we meet a range of heroes and villains, some of whom steal fish knives, and some of whom drop hammers off church towers. There is less action in (EG), although the author does speak of crime in cities, and of fish swimming in polluted rivers: by and large, he disapproves.

Evangelii Gaudium

Thanks, Eccles!

Tuesday 26 November 2013

New uncontroversial hymn

The hymn, "I vow to thee my country," much sung at memorial and remembrance services, has been criticised for being theologically a bit suspect. It is true that it does not capture the main ideas of modern religious thought, and accordingly we have rewritten the first verse to make it totally uncontroversial. Any resemblance to other famous hymns is purely intentional.


I like to watch the sunlight.

I like to watch the sunlight, all earthly things above:
For walking in the shining light's a thing I really love.
Oh, the colours of the daytime are a-dawning in my mind;
With a "Kum Ba Yah" and "Follow me" I leave the dark behind.
I see the grass and trees: if I were a butterfly,
I'd be dancing in the morning, with the Lord of sea and sky. 
(Ch Ch).
yokels dancing

All join the dance, now!

Monday 25 November 2013

Pope Francis not a Zygon

Having watched the Dr Who 50th anniversary episode (and we promise not to blog on Dr Who again for... ooh... at least a week), we have finally found the explanation for the sudden change in Pope Francis.


This is not the Pope.

Pope Francis has been having a lot of bad publicity lately, thanks to various statements that he is supposed to have made - or which were made up for him by Eugenio Scalfari and various liberal journalists.

Indeed, his reputation amongst traditionalists was mud, with the great Mundabor writing "Francis is clearly a sodomite pinko liberal commie pervert - although as a pious Catholic I do respect the authority of the Holy Father." Then Rorate Caeli chimed in with "We're not really sedevacantists but how can we possibly accept Francis, when he's an ex-KGB member in league with the Prince of Darkness? What's more, his Latin is terrible." Even Father Z commented: "Let's read Francis as if he'd said what Benedict said."


Scalfari - his new book is called: Believe me - Pope Francis told me he was an atheist.

Only the Bitter Pill and the National Anti-Catholic Fishwrap dared to defend the words of Pope Francis, when he said - at least according to these distinguished publications - "Stop worrying about abortion, birth control, same-sex marriage, murder, theft and adultery. Just chill out, man," and - on another occasion - "Who am I to judge between Good and Evil - they're equally good lifestyle choices!"

But all this is at an end. It turns out that for several months we did not have a pope at all, but a shape-changing Zygon. Within the last week, this alien creature has been sent packing, and a lucrative column on the Guardian awaits it, as a colleague of Chris Huhne.


Another strange being employed by the Guardian.

Now that the real pope is back on the throne of St Peter, we are seeing all the traditional statements that we expect from a pope. For example, on Twitter: "HI! I'M A CATHOLIC. RETWEET IF YOU ARE TOO! LOL." (Sadly, he has not yet matched the intellectual gravitas of Pope Benedict.) Then again, "This Hermeneutic of Continuity idea sounds jolly fine. Perhaps I'll drop into Blackfen next week and find out more about it." And finally, "Spirit of Vatican II ??!!?? Arentchasickofit ??!!??" This last is regarded as a bid for a regular column in the Catholic Herald, perhaps entitled Frank Speaking.

Pope firing Cormac

And you're fired too!

Saturday 23 November 2013

The Two Doctors

Yes, it's the 50th anniversary of the first Dr Who episode, and we have an exciting new adventure starring the Two Doctors, Dr Tim Stanley and Dr Damian Thompson. Those alien time-lords from the planet Telegallifrey are back!

Tim Stanley

Dr Tim, with some of his most notorious enemies.

In this special story they encounter a whole range of famous villains. For Dr Tim - the one with the truly extra-terrestrial hairstyle - the one big threat comes from the Obamamen, loathsome, unscrupulous and totally amoral creatures whose only aim is total power.

Damian Thompson

See! I really am a Doctor!

For Dr Dame, the senior doctor, there is a whole range of enemies to confront, such as the repulsive Johanns of Hari, the terrifying Hitchens, and the fiendish Cormacmen, who threaten to turn the pope into robotic creatures like themselves.

Cormac Murphy-O'Connor


Of course the Master is back, too, vainly claiming to be a time-lord like the Doctor, but thwarted because he does not have a "proper" doctorate in sociology from the London School of Custard.

Richard Chartres

The Rev. Magister (or Master).

As always, Dr Dame's assistant Cristina will be at his side, ready to scream "Doctor! Doctor!", or simply to say in confused tones: "I don't know what's going on - but I'll blog about it anyway." We also see another would-be assistant, Paul, a part-time archbishop from Corby, but he turns out to be on the side of the angels, and does not survive long.

weeping angels

The angels practice some liturgical dance steps.

It would be wrong of us to give away the entire plot of the story: anyway, since it was written by Steven Moffat, it doesn't make a great deal of sense, being just a conflation of manic scenes with no logical connection between them. But we can reveal that the doctors zap some of the nasties with their sonic screwdrivers (while assembling a set of IKEA bookshelves with the aid of their sonic laser cannons), and they also rewrite Time itself on three occasions.


Hide behind the sofa - it's a Yeti!

The story finally ends with the Doctors defeating the Yeti, robotic creatures who serve a disembodied entity knows as the Great Stupidity.

Thursday 21 November 2013

Church changes its mind

Galilee, 30 A.D.

Jesus of Nazareth declared himself "very disappointed" today, when His twelve disciples voted by a large majority to admit an extra dozen women to their number.

woman bishops

Why should the men get all the best vestments?

In spite of an impassioned speech by Christ, explaining why His Father had instituted an all-male priesthood, and why He was carrying on this tradition, strong opposition came from several of the more liberal apostles.

Said St Andrew, the Scottish disciple, "Och, ya ken, ah see nothin' wrang wi' the ordination of ladies. They wear skirts just like the laddies do."

A more intellectual argument was put forward by St John, who said, "In this modern day and age it is important that Christians do not stand out from members of the general public, who might otherwise regard us as 'weird'. What women want from the Church is a well-defined career structure, with promotion on merit, and eventually the possibility of a managerial role."

give us a job

An applicant for the post of Bishop of Bethany.

This is not the first time that the disciples have voted on the issue, and indeed last year they decided against creating women apostles. However, after King "Dave" Herod told them that they had produced the wrong answer, and that they must go away and vote again until they got it right, the eventual decision was never in doubt.

St Peter, generally regarded as something of a traditionalist with ties to Rome, was philosophical about the whole affair. "We'll be making this vote an annual event, and it might go the other way next year. If so, then I'm afraid the new female disciples will just have to retire: maybe some of them will take up religion instead."

male nuns

Late news - men admitted to the nunhood. Washroom arrangements under negotiation.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

The Pilgrim's Ogress 3 - Poirot investigates

Continued from Part 2

The story so far: Eccles is trapped in the Tablet fortress in Hammersmith, having been locked in a cell by the fearsome Professor Tina Beattie, who is driving him insane with excerpts from her infamous stage show (banned in Clifton and San Diego). Meanwhile, his Aunt Moly is waiting for him in a nearby pub. Agatha Christie continues the story.


When I've found Eccles, I must discover who stole my moustaches.

Poirot scrutinised the old lady who had demanded his help. Meticulous as always, he straightened the six gin bottles on the table in front of her, and bade her speak. "So, Madame, you say that your nephew has disappeared? Tell me the exact circumstances."

"He left me here, and went out..."

"Eh bien, did he say where he was going?"

"He mentioned tablets. And some rubbish about unsaved persons. Woeful."

To emphasise her point, Auntie Moly picked up an empty gin bottle and threw it through the open window in the general direction of a passing archbishop, who had been furtively heading towards the Tablet offices across the road. The bottle struck the prelate a glancing blow on the head. Exclaiming to himself "My God, there really is a curse on the Tablet!", he came into the pub to recover from the shock.

Vincent Nichols and old lady

From now on it's tea only, Moly!

"Alors, Hastings, the solution to the mystery lies in that prison across the road!"

"You mean..."

"Yes, Eccles may be locked in one of their little grey cells."

The two men left the pub, and knocked on the door of the Tablet offices. In his career Poirot had confronted many villains in their lairs, and he was reminded briefly of the notorious Hans Kong, who frightened young women to death with a hideous statue of himself. Then he thought of the fateful day that he had finally caught up with Annibale Bugsbunni, the alleged freemason who had been exploding liturgical time bombs.


Worshippers from the cult of Bugsbunni.

"Sacré Pepinster! They do not answer, Hastings. Let us search the premises."

Eccles was still a captive, and he was looking for a ventilation shaft, having read somewhere that this was the standard means of escaping from imprisonment. However, there was none, and the sulphurous fumes wafting round the building were causing him to choke.

Elsewhere, Poirot and Hasting came across a group of Tablet staff, attempting to calm Elena Curti, who was screaming as if in great pain.


Elena Curti reacts to some shocking news.

"Good grief! Is she all right, Poirot?" asked Hastings, seeing the star journalist writhing in agony.

"I think so, mon ami," replied his friend. "She is possessed by the Spirit of Vatican II, but she has just learned of Pope Francis's condemnation of the hermeneutic of rupture. It is causing a terrible reaction."

Leaving the Tablet staff to do their best for the poor lady, Poirot and Hastings moved on to the cell where Eccles was imprisoned, and released our hero.

"That wasn't much of an adventure, Poirot," complained Hastings. "I was expecting the Tablet staff to provide you with some clues to Eccles's whereabouts."

"That is right, Hastings," said Poirot, as the three of them left the building, "but in the end they all turned out to be totally clueless."


"Boom! Boom!" says Basil Loftus.

To be continued by another author.

Hell awarded "City of Culture" title

The City of Hell (full title, Kingston-upon-Hell) has just been awarded the prestigious "City of Culture" title, fighting off stiff competition from Purgatory and Heaven (better luck next time!)

Devil's best tunes

Some of Hell's cultural assets.

Said a spokesman for the judging committee, Mr Dante Alighieri, "We always thought that the Devil had the best tunes, and now that old-fashioned hymn-singing is falling out of fashion, to be replaced by Paul Inwood's Greatest Hits, the Kevin Mayhew Book of Vogon Songs, and the like, it is clear that modern Christianity, at least, is making little effort to catch up."

ugly cathedral

A modern cathedral. Heavenly, but very ugly.

In architecture, too, Heaven offers little to challenge the supremacy of Hell, as we see ancient churches converted into supermarkets, or palaces of consumerism, while "prison-style" construction inspires so many new religious buildings.

Said a prominent resident of the new City of Culture, Baron Prescott of Kingston-upon-Hell, "I am very excitable and delightful to hear the news - denigrating Hell as the City of Cultivation puts us firmly on the map, rather than just off the edge, and the working people of Hell will be calibrating tonight, no mistake. This would never have happened when we had a Tory Governess. Oh, have we?"


The James Joyce of Kingston-upon-Hell: nothing he says makes sense.

Meanwhile, spokesmen for The Church of Purgatory, such as Lord Carey and A.N. Wilson, have expressed feelings of despondency, saying "We've still got one or two nice churches - although we didn't build them ourselves - but nobody wants to attend them."

Indeed, it is hard to see what the solution could be. Modernizers have done all they can to bring the C of P up to date - they don't mention God any more, and many bishops are very happy with same-sex marriage, adultery, even a little discreet theft and murder. What more could they do?


Could glamorous vicaresses be the answer?

But enough of the problems of Heaven and Purgatory. Today is definitely a day when Hell - an increasingly attractive destination for modern youth, with its fabled lakes of brimstone, and jolly twerking demons to make them feel at home - has every right to celebrate.


Celebration in the streets of Hell.

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Cristina Odone, the poster girl for today’s Catholics

Pope Francis writes:

Cristina-mania is sweeping through the Catholic Church worldwide. In countries such as Italy, Argentina and even the United States, statues of the Virgin Mary are being thrown out, and replaced by images of Mama Odone.

Odone and Dawkins

Even atheists are starting to warm to Mama Odone.

Part of Cristina's popularity is her liberal attitude. Traditional Catholicism was linked with long-forgotten people such as Jesus Christ, St Mary, St Peter and St Paul, who never spoke of the Spirit of Vatican II. It emphasised sin, forgiveness and redemption. However, Cristina-nity or Crist-inanity, as the new faith is called, stresses the "cuddly" side of religion.

• Telegraph now inserts random garbage in middle of blog posts.
• Tim Stanley, the 17th Doctor Who, the one with the best hairstyle.
• "Chivers" now means rubbish. Get over it.

It's too early to say whether Cristina is really at the helm of a "Vatican Spring", that will revolutionise the Church - maybe it's more of a "Fall of Man". However, thanks to her, "Catholic" is no longer a word to be associated with intelligence, good writing, or a strict sense of logic.

Odd one out game

Sometimes there are no easy answers.

Suddenly, being a Pope feels good. People no longer sneer at me, if I mention my Faith. "You're in the same Church as Cristina Odone, aren't you?" they say, when they bump into me in the street. "Sounds fun. Can anyone join, or do you have to believe something?" Of course I reply that I'm not the best person to answer that - after all, Cristina speaks for six billion Catholics worldwide, even those who are not in the least religious. Not even God can dent this new "Cristina Effect".

Our Lady of Fathead

Our Lady of Fathead - known for making apparitions to the gullible.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Is Pope Francis really weird?

One thing that both traditionalists and modernists seem to agree on is that Pope Francis is a very unusual pope. Is he the new broom that will sweep away traditional Catholic doctrine for good, institute same-sex marriages, stop everyone from "obsessing" about abortion, and free the oppressed and fearful - such as the aged folk of ACTA, who eagerly await the second coming of the Spirit of Vatican II? Or is he basically a mildly eccentric old uncle, who means well, but occasionally seems a bit dotty?

Pope in headdress

Pope Francis turns down the offer of a nose-piercing.

The explanation for Pope Francis's behaviour is very simple: he is not European, and therefore not what some people expected. Let us explain this with reference to three types of pope: a hypothetical English pope, a German, and an Argentine.

Roger Moore

An English pope.

An English pope drinks dry martinis, wears evening dress under his fanon, thinks Lourdes is a cricket ground, spends the evening watching Strictly Come Liturgical Dancing, and Downton Abbey, and gets his theology from the works of G.K. Chesterton. The style of liturgical dancing he prefers is Morris dancing, or the Alleluia Cha-Cha of Paul Inwood. All educated Englishmen are like that.

Pope Benedict XVI

A German pope.

A German pope wears Lederhosen, drinks beer, eats lots of sausages, gets his theology from the heavy guys like Hieronymus von Kartoffelsalat, and reads Kant in the bath. He may prefer the sort of liturgical dance where everyone slaps each other in the face and ends up under the altar.

Pope and Kirchner

An Argentine pope strives to please one of his flock.

However, Argentine popes are rather different. They are often brought up on a diet of corned beef, and addicted to watching the sort of football match where fouling is tolerated (so be careful the pope doesn't trip you up when God isn't looking). The greatest theologian he has read is Diego Maradona. The tango is the natural liturgical dance for an Argentine pope, although he may not take part himself. It is not known whether such popes are likely to have scorpions tattooed on their shoulders.


An Argentine handball player and theologian.

Jewish popes are the most eccentric, perhaps. Although they don't wear red noses, as far as we know, they often have a fascination with fish, and dress even more simply than Pope Francis. Very strange.

Jesus and fishermen

Congratulations! You've been elected Pope!

Tuesday 12 November 2013

The Pilgrim's Ogress 2 - Dr E and the Tableks

Continued from Part 1.

The story so far: the pilgrim Eccles and his Auntie Moly, the ogress, have reached Hammersmith. Today's guest author, the late Terry Nation, takes over the story.


Catherine Pepinster and Elena Curti discuss the next issue of the Tablek.

Dr E and his assistant Mol had reached the Tablek fortress in Hammersmith, with its friendly sign outside: Tablek Headquarters - trespassers will be exterminated. "This may be dangerous," said the Doctor, and he suggested to Mol that she take refuge in the local pub, the Aged ACTAvist. Having introduced her to a large gin, Dr E returned to the fortress, used his sonic screwdriver to open the doors, and entered into a maze of narrow corridors. Was this where he would find the Tablek army, which was intent on domination of the Catholic Church, and even prepared to ally with the hated Küngs and Flanneries in order to achieve supreme power?


A pious Catholic is incensed by encountering a Tablek.

Dr E ducked into an alcove as two Tableks glided past in conversation: "POPE FRAN-CIS IS OUR SER-VANT. HE WILL CHANGE CATH-O-LIC TEACH-ING. WE DO NOT NEED TO EX-TER-MIN-ATE HIM YET." Was this true, or had the Tableks been fooled as a result of receiving a mass of confusing signals? The Tableks continued: "WHO ARE WE TO JUDGE? WE DO NOT JUDGE. WE EX-TER-MIN-ATE."

Through a window, the Doctor caught sight of a sinister figure in a mobile life-support chair. Could this really be that evil twisted genius who, some said, was the brain behind the Tableks?


Duffros, riding in his life-support chair.

Yes, it was indeed the dreaded Duffros, a man of undoubted brilliance but one of Dr E's deadliest enemies. The Doctor's courage was almost ready to give way, and he thought briefly of returning to the safety of his Traddis (a converted police-box in which traditional worship was held). But the decision was taken out of his hands. An important-looking Tablek had spotted him, and was approaching rapidly, with the harsh cry of "EVES-AD-VO-CATE! EVES-AD-VO-CATE!"

Eccles and Tina Beattie

Dr E encounters Tina Beattie.

To be continued by another author.

Monday 11 November 2013

Annoying people to be banned

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is proposing to introduce legislation to ban annoyance, with the implementation of orders known as IPNAs (Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance).

Theresa May

This sort of irritating nuisance will probably be banned from our streets.

Naturally, we give Mrs May our full support here, as we find many things irritating. Following W.S. Gilbert with his little list, including:

There’s the pestilential nuisances who write for autographs –
All people who have flabby hands and irritating laughs – 
we have even attempted to make our own list, which included:
There are atheists like Dawkins who is nothing but a clown
For his books contain the biggest heap of garbage written down -
Yes, yes, yes, we must keep them all off the streets!

Mrs Mills and fruit cake

Even Damian Thompson (seen here with Fr Jorge Bergoglio receiving a cake from Mrs Gladys Mills) can be very irritating.

The important thing from now on is that everyone must be happy, and nobody must be irritated. Are you angry because your train is late? Well, now you will be able to put the managing director of Late Western in prison!

This being a mostly-religious blog, we are naturally delighted that the law will now enable us to dispose of our enemies in a state-sanctioned way - for we must not expect religious groups to have any exemptions! What is your particular hatred? Latin Masses? Paul Inwood? Carol Singers? The National Secular Society? Ban them!


Irritated by a liturgical tango? Tell Theresa!

Then again, wearing red noses in public is an established Catholic tradition, dating back to the encyclical De Nasis Rubris of Pope Pius XII, but some people do find it irritating, and Mrs May's law will make it illegal if anyone objects.

Pope with red nose

No longer shall we be seeing red-nosed popes!

So, what's not to like? All the irritating people will be driven off our streets - cyclists, motorists, pedestrians - and all the irritating newspapers - Guardian, Daily Mail, Babes in Custard - will be banned from sale. Surely, the great Theresa is onto a winner here!

Fr Ted

And don't even think of participating in any demonstrations!