This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Sunday 30 March 2014

Justin Welby redefines sin

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has signalled that the Anglican Church (well, some of it) will now abandon its resistance to same-sex marriage. This is part of a new far-ranging review of the nature of sin - the point being that it is anomalous for the established Church of England to be in conflict with the laws of the land.

From now on, teaching based on scripture and tradition will be abandoned, since it cannot be updated. Instead, following negotiations with the police force, there is one simple rule for salvation:

Welby in helmet

If it's legal, it's moral. If it's moral, it's legal.

OUTGOING: All those "sins" which are no longer illegal, such as wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony are now repealed. Fancy some Sabbath-breaking, adultery, fornication, same-sex relationships, or worshipping false gods? Go ahead, chum. God can't touch you for it.

golden calf worship

Only sinful if you are obstructing the traffic.

INCOMING: Make sure that from now on you acknowledge all breaches of the law: from now on, these are all redefined as sins. Did you drive a car without wearing a seatbelt? SINNER! Did you sell a wrongly-shaped banana in contravention of EU Directive E/1601303/ZLOBB/Q? REPENT, OR YOU WILL GO TO HELL!


Forgive me, Father, for I have sold a wrongly-shaped banana.

These changes will filter down to the liturgy of Anglican services. Out go traditional forms of words such as "We confess and acknowledge our manifold sins and wickednesses". Instead, we shall hear the following words (possibly set to a happy-clappy anthem):

PRIEST: Hello, hello, hello. What's all this, then?
CONGREGATION: It's a fair cop, Guv'nor. I dunnit orl right. 
prodigal son with pigs

The Prodigal Son realises that he's been moving pigs without a permit.

The nature of Good and Evil is constantly evolving - in the Church of England we have long since got away from the idea of a "God" who makes up the rules - so it is good that a logical doctrinal position is now being taken. Naturally, as time goes on, new sins will defined, and some old ones repealed. One all-purpose sin that is currently under review is Denial. Do you deny that same-sex couples are really married? Do you deny that whatever sort of winter we have, wet, dry, warm or cold, it is evidence of climate change? Do you deny that Stephen Fry is hilariously funny? YOU ARE A BIGOT AND A SINNER AND YOU WILL NOT BE SAVED.


Forgive me, O Lord, for I am bigoted.

A guest post from Robert Mickens

Since I have just been suspended from my prestigious position as the Tablet's Rome correspondent, I am very grateful to my friend Eccles for allowing me to explain the circumstances on his lovely blog.

Robert Mickens

Formerly @robinrome, now @robinthedoghouse

As you will probably have read in numerous places, starting, I think with my pal Damian Thompson's blog, I got into trouble for referring to Pope Benedict XVI as "the Rat" and speculating about his death.

Rood and norty screen shot

Mere friendly banter!

Benedict and I are old friends: when I saw him in Rome (this happens less frequently now, since he's stopped being God's Rome correspondent) I would say "Ooh look! It's the Rat!" and he would reply "Wer ist dieser Schweinehundheretischentabletistikendummkopf?" My German is nearly as bad as my Latin, but I gather that this is a term of endearment.

Mickens Mouse

Benedict (Rat) also refers to me as "Mickens Mouse".

You may recall that Benedict used to tweet as @pontifex, and I remember the time he gave me a special mention:

@pontifex Dearly beloved, Laetare Sunday is a day on which we remember the words of Aquinas. P.S. Why isn't Mickens Mouse dead yet?

Anyway, you'll want to know what happened last week. Pope Francis - we at the Tablet haven't yet thought up an insulting nickname for him, as it's still possible that he may be on our side - made the appointment of Cardinal Methuselah, aged 113. Methuselah is a sprightly person for his age: he bungee jumps regularly, boxed 15 rounds with Guido Marini only last week, and plays prop forward for the Italian Rugby team.


Cardinal Methuselah: new blood in the Vatican.

Anyway, in a spirit of merry banter I joined my friend Chris Grady (who enjoys trolling) in speculating that Cardinal Methuselah would outlive Benedict. I didn't know what trouble I was getting myself into!

There came a telephone call from Catherine Popehater, the redoubtable editor of the Tablet. "You fool, Bobbie!" she said. "It is the Tablet's policy to attack Pope Benedict (and indeed all earlier popes) by subtle means, not outright insults. Now you've given the whole game away!"

I could see her point. If the Tablet falls from grace, what will be next? Will people suspect that ACTA is run by the KGB? Will there be whispers about whether Tina Beattie is really to be taken seriously when she claims to be a Catholic?

prayer and reflection

The answer: prayer and reflection.

So I have decided to go for a period of prayer and reflection, as recommended by nine out of ten bishops to bloggers who point out where the bodies are buried. It's going to be a tough day or two, but I'll be back soon - maybe even in time for the Rat's funeral (oops!)

Sunday 23 March 2014

The massacre of Glencoe

Just for a change, here is a post that has nothing to do with religion. It tells the story of how the Campbells massacred the MacDonnellys in 1692.

the highlanders

A tale of Bonnie Scotland.

The Laird of the Clan Campbell was a braw man named Michael, who ruled his territory with an iron hand. At least he did, except when it was invaded by a tribe of PICTAs ("Protestant Invaders Call To Action"), in which case he tended to lie down on the ground and let them tickle his tummy.

The PICTAs were fearsome warriors, about which many ballads were sung, for example:

Rebekah O'Keeffe
Has a fine set of teeffe,
And she bites even hardeur
Than Ann Lardeur.

ACTA demon

A PICTA warrior frightens two harmless clerics.

Anyway, Michael, the Laird, was a learned man, who wrote a journal, which he entitled "blog". In it he recorded the insights that had occurred to him in his life as a laird. With admirable restraint, he did not post many pictures of what he had for dinner, probably because in those days he would have to wait around while an artist painted it.

Michael Campbell

The Laird.

However, Campbell was much troubled by the clan MacDonnelly; its own laird, Nick by name, published a far more interesting journal, showing a greater awareness of the evils that beset Bonnie Scotland. In particular, he was none too sympathetic to the PICTA tribe, arguing that they were simply rebels who threatened the Pope, to whom he (and the Laird Campbell) owed allegiance.

Pope and Bovril

Protecting the Pope, by feeding him on traditional Highland food.

Thus the Laird Campbell became angry, for many fewer people read his own blog than that of his rival MacDonnelly. "Fighting against the World, the Flesh and the Devil is MY job, even if I don't do it very well," he said. Thus the Campbells lured the MacDonnellys into a lonely glen, and vanquished them. Nick MacDonnelly was exiled to a primitive hovel - some say it was a shed, but that may be a myth - where he was ordered to stop blogging, and to pray and reflect. It is not recorded whether Michael Campbell also vowed to pray and reflect.

However, this is not the end of the story. After the massacre, there remained at large the wife of Nick MacDonnelly, a mysterious woman known only as "M"; showing great courage, she carried on the MacDonnelly chronicles while her husband languished in exile.


A mysterious woman known only as "M".

The prophecies of St Damian

Being an account of how St Damian Thompson uttered many wrong prophecies, but finally managed to name the new archbishop of Liverpool.

Malcolm McMahon

Malcolm McMahon, on the set of Star Trek.

St Damian Thompson, the Telegraph blogs editor, was known for his visionary predictions of events in the Catholic world. Some of these he obtained from "Inside sources in the Vatican", some by reading tea-leaves (or, more commonly, the dregs of a pot of custard), and some by staring at Toby Young's head, which would light up as a crystal ball and give him mystic visions.

Toby Young

A crystal ball.

One of St Damian's greatest prophecies was made when Pope Benedict XVI resigned, and a new pope was to be elected. St Damian predicted that the Catholic Church would break with tradition and elect Paul Priest, the amateur archbishop of Corby, and author of numerous 100,000-word encyclicals, such as Honestly, Ma'am, you don't know the first thing about ontological paradigm shifts and The time-bomb of Vatican II-type liturgical/doctrinal/moral Vichyist revisionism. But it was not to be.

Paul Priest

Paul Priest: good hair, fond of custard, likes the EF Mass. But not elected.

St Damian also spake forth about the reasons for Pope Benedict's resignation, averring that the Holy Father Emeritus had a rare illness, the symptoms of which included a compulsion to dress as a clown and roll on the floor laughing hysterically. Although in many churches this was accepted as normal behaviour, it had pained Pope Benedict to feel that he might end up in the same way. However, the diagnosis proved to be inaccurate.

St Damian also predicted the departure of the Nuncio, Archbishop Mennini, because of certain disagreements with the liberal "Magic Circle" of bishops in England and Wales. It was confidently predicted that Mennini would expire of polonium poisoning, or else would be found with his head bashed in by a bishop's crozier. St Damian even described a possible prime suspect, in case this eventuality came to pass.


A photofit of the prime suspect.

However, Menini survived, and - another great surprise - Vincent Nichols finally obtained his red hat, in spite of his nonchalant attitude towards "gay" masses, the ACTA rebellion, and Professor Tina Beattie.

But even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and St Damian finally obtained the scoop he had longed for. Archbishop Paddy Kelly, the curator of "Patrick's Wigwam" in Liverpool, resigned his office, and all eyes were on possible successors. Would it be Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton, known throughout the Catholic world for his traditionalist views and unswerving hatred of ACTA? Or might it be Michael Campbell of Lancaster, he who was so supportive of his deacons' blogging skills? Surely they would not recall Arthur Roche from Rome, a man known for skating on thin ice and closing churches?

No, in the end it was the sheriff bishop of Nottingham who got the job, and Damian Thompson who predicted the outcome, having stumbled across the bishop at his gym, trying on football shirts.

Liverpool and Everton

Modernist or traddy? The big choice for McMahon.

For Malcolm McMahon knew he had to face his biggest challenge yet. Would he support Liverpool Football Club with its modernist motto You'll never walk alone, or would he become a fan of its neighbours and rivals, Everton, with their traddy motto Nil satis nisi optimum? Religion was not strong in Liverpool, but football certainly was, and the entire Catholic population of the North of England anxiously awaited the archbishop-elect's decision.

statue with mobile phone

Damian? I've got a tip for you. He's going to support Tranmere Rovers.

Sunday 9 March 2014

Protect the Deacon!

This week we have seen the temporary suspension of the excellent Protect the Pope blog. The truth is that Deacon Nick Donnelly managed to upset a group of heretics, degenerates, people with body odour problems, perverts, atheists, people who put frogs down the necks of nuns, secularists, ACTA members, lovers of clown masses, Freemasons, people who pull the wings off butterflies, people with nasty foot diseases, shed-dwellers, abortionists, Calvary Chapel worshippers, professors, people who wipe their noses on their hands before going up for Mass, Pope-haters, supporters of same-sex "marriage", people with two-metre statues of themselves in their gardens, drunkards, Tablet-readers, fans of Paul Inwood, communists and cat-kickers. And there's supposed to be one sad individual who is all of these things.

Monty Python bishop

"Hello, is that ACTA? We're leaning on the deacon, as you asked us to."

Accordingly, the "Superdeacon" has been asked to observe a period of prayer and reflection. This is bishop-speak for "Look, Nick, a bunch of loonies keeps phoning me up at 4 a.m. to complain. I haven't had a decent night's sleep for weeks. Lie low for a while, there's a good fellow!" Because after all, prayer and reflection is something that good deacons do a lot of anyway. Indeed, it's probably the results of the deacon's prayer and reflection that are proving so embarrassing to the unsaved.

So far the excellent Fr Hunwicke - another thorn in the side of the dissidents - has escaped a similar persecution, and his Mutual Endowment Policy blog continues unscathed; this is probably because it's so intellectual that most of the liberals can't really work out what he's saying, anyway.

Pope Francis

Our patron shows his support for the deacon.

Anyway, we urge all our faithful readers - both of them - to Protect the Deacon!

Addendum: see also what Frere Rabit has to say on the subject.

An Anglican Service

For reasons I won't go into, I had to attend an Anglican Communion Service this morning, somewhere in deepest East Anglia. This is what I found.

Norfolk church

Not the actual church, but something like it.

The church itself was built in Catholic times, several hundred years before the Reformation. I'm told that when the Church of England was set up they planned to construct a whole new set of churches, but thanks to the generosity of the Catholic Church, which lent them its own buildings, they didn't need to.

The first hymn was Onward, Christian Soldiers. I am not sure whether this was chosen as being appropriate for Lent, or because we are soon expecting to fight a re-run of the Crimean war. The hymn has a stirring tune by Sir Arthur Sullivan, and this verse in particular stood out:

Like a mighty army
Moves the Church of God;
Brothers, we are treading
Where the Saints have trod.
We are not divided;
All one body we:
One in hope and doctrine,
One in charity.
This is where the Anglicans definitely have the edge - I don't think the Catholics could sing "One in hope and doctrine" with a straight face (see this blog, passim, for reasons why not). But then a dreadful thought struck me? Was S. Baring-Gould being satirical? Were Baring-Gould and Sullivan a comic partnership similar to Gilbert and Sullivan?


I don't think he was being satirical there.

I checked this with an Anglican after the service. "Don't you have dissenters too? Some Anglicans want women bishops, some don't believe in the authority of women priests. Some of you campaign for same-sex weddings, and others think they're an abomination?"

"No, Eccles, we all believe in the traditional Christian doctrine handed down by our ancestors. We may allow some women to call themselves bishops, but nobody really takes them seriously."

comedy bishop

The comic vestments are a hint that she is not to be taken seriously.

Then I thought of Giles Fraser, and realised that the Anglicans do have the official position of "comedy vicar" - a spiritual version of court jester - which does not exist in the Catholic Church, although some very well-qualified people are campaigning for its introduction.

The sermon was rather good. Part of the message was again relevant to the Catholic Church with which I am more familiar - the vicar was explaining the virtues of obedience, and he said in an exasperated tone that some people thought that obedience was only for dogs. Perhaps all is not well in the C of E? Do they have people like Hans Küng? Is there an Anglican ACTA trying to undermine Justin Welby? These are deep waters, Watson.


An obedient dog.

We had four hymns, all dating from the 19th century or earlier - in contrast with the last but one Catholic Mass I went to, where all four hymns were from the 1960s or later. We even had "Who would true valour see" by Bunyan, which would make a perfectly good Catholic hymn too. This was the traditional version with hobgoblins, foul fiends and lions to fight, rather than the weaker version one sometime sees; however, it was mildly modernised to "No goblin or foul fiend". I am not sure whether a goblin with a hob is better or worse than a hob-less one.

Hobgoblin Ale

This will not daunt his spirit.

Oh, there was one dreadful part of the service. The infamous "Sign of Peace". The little country church had about thirty worshippers, and approximately fifteen of them insisted on shaking hands with me - in a Catholic Mass it might be eight out of 150. I had the feeling that some people had got up that Sunday morning and said "I'll bet I can shake hands with thirty people today. My average over the last ten services is 28.4."


Practising for the "peace".

Still, apart from that, a good time was had by all.

Monday 3 March 2014

QUAERITUR: Is Latin bad for your soul?

Over at the little-known Rorate Caeli blog, they have broken the news that Michael Olson, the bishop of Fort Worth, Texas, has banned the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Mass at Fisher-More College (which is odd, as Fisher and More would have been amazed to see a Mass celebrated in English).

Harry Worth


In his letter, +Worth issues various threats (called "norms"), explaining "I make these norms out of my pastoral solicitude and care for the students of Fisher-More College, as well as for your own soul."

As a well-regarded arbiter of moral issues, I have been asked, "Is Latin bad for your soul?" So here is some definitive advice on the degrees of sinfulness involved.

Latin Soul

Latin or Soul? The great dilemma.

Slightly sinful: using expressions like "e.g.", "i.e.", "Q.E.D." and "R.I.P." in conversation (not realising that they are LATIN). You should certainly mention this at Confession.

Dangerously sinful: deliberately showing off with expressions such as ipso facto or persona non grata. Atone for this by making a pilgrimage on your knees to a holy place such as Fort Worth.

In peril of damnation: attending Mass and using expressions such as Gloria in Excelsis Deo, which God regards as a personal insult. Will probably be excommunicated, just as soon as they've got round to dealing with Enda Kenny.

Damned for all eternity: attending an Extraordinary Form Mass, similar to those celebrated by all Catholics fifty years ago. No hope of being saved!

Pope John XXIII

Pope John XXIII: canonization cancelled after complaints from Bishop Olson.

I hope that helps.

Sunday 2 March 2014

Your application for the position of Pope

From the Human Resources Department, Vatican City

Dear Mr England,

Thank you for your application for the position of administrative officer, grade 12 (commonly known as Pope). Although the position is not actually Sede Vacante, unless you believe those cranky websites that say there has been no valid pope since the Council of Trent, we are of course aware that the current Grade 12 officer may retire at any time, and so it is advisable to keep a pool of well-trained people in reserve.

As you rightly surmised, the "conclave" at which popes are "elected" is merely for show, and the real business is the responsibility of Human Resources.

small pope

A trainee pope (possibly the next pontiff but three).

Your CV is indeed an impressive one, with a 2.1 degree in Politics, computer training, and "on the job" experience serving soup to homeless people. However, there are some clear gaps in your profile, which you may wish to remedy before re-applying in five years from now.

LATIN. You do not mention any Latin skills, but this is de facto the lingua franca of the Catholic Church (see the Vatican II documents) - indeed, we would be grateful if your re-application were to be made in Latin. This also helps us weed out applications from Latinophobes, especially smart Alecs who think we should be using Esperanto.

KISSING FEET. An important part of a pope's job is to kiss people. Whereas politicians tend to harass babies in this way, a pope is more likely to find himself kissing ugly and deformed people, not to mention the feet of complete strangers. Actually, this is not a difficult skill to learn, and we advise you to practise this on the London Underground. However, we bear no responsibility if an ugly deformed stranger decides to kick you in the face.

passengers on the Tube

Excuse me, sir, you seem to be particularly ugly. May I kiss your feet?

RELEASING BIRDS INTO THE AIR. We have had some problems with this, recently, when Officer Francis refused to do a proper health and safety risk assessment before sending a hapless dove into danger at the hands of a seagull and a crow. Releasing a bird may seem easy, but we do demand that you attend an official training course before endangering doves in this way.

BLOGGING. Although your blog is generally excellent, it is not usual for popes to make a spectacle of themselves in this way. So far it seems you have resisted the temptation to post pictures of the baked beans on toast that you had for lunch, or pictures of yourself cage-fighting, but be warned we shall have to give your blog a nihil obstat before it can be accepted as an official papal document.

WELCOMING CHILDREN. You may wish to reflect on how you would react if confronted by the following situation. No hints!

ugly child

An everyday problem for a pope.

Best wishes,
Cardinal Paperclip,
Human Resources, Vatican City.