This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Wednesday 30 April 2014

Protect the Bishop!

Following the closure of the Protect the Pope blog on the orders of Bishop Michael Campbell, many orthodox Catholics are extremely angry, using phrases such as "dimwitted bully", "what's he got to hide?", "puppet of the Magic Circle" and "who made this clueless old goat a bishop?"

deacon gagged

Note that Deacon Donnelly maintains a dignified silence.

This blog refuses to go along with such criticism, arguing that bishops are always right, even when they're wrong. So we are launching Protect the Bishop, a website which aims to support our bishops in those difficult decisions such as: should I be a wise shepherd of my flock, supporting my priests and deacons when they are faithful Catholics loyal to the Magisterium of the Church, or should I act like a power-crazed loony knowing that Rome is a long way away and nobody will do anything about it?

sheep and goats

Did you want the sheep on the right and the goats on the left, or vice-versa?

We can see where Deacon Donnelly went wrong. Why couldn't he have simply written a nice, boring, everything-in-the-garden-is-wonderful blog, similar to Bishop Campbell's, which is not expected to be shut down? It could have had lots of pictures of Bishop Campbell in it, doing all the wonderful things bishops do when there's a photographer handy. Take a few tips from the brilliant prose of your bishop!

Bishop Campbell

The Reading is taken from Protect the Pope. Hang on a minute...

Dear Diary. On Holy Thursday we had the Chrism Mass, attended by all the devoted priests of the diocese. When I came outside I found that one of my clergy had kindly left a leaflet about retirement homes for bishops at my house - well, in fact it was thrown through the window attached to a brick, but it's the thought that counts! But I'm only 72, and I intend to carry on until people say I'm no longer able to do the job properly.

Later, I washed my feet, because that's what bishops do on Holy Thursday. I also heard some Confessions: one of the most shocking was someone who admitted to owning a computer! For those who don't know what these are, they are engines possessed by demons, and only to be used by people of the rank of Bishop or higher.

Magic Circle

The Magic Circle: an ACTA representative prepares for a non-liturgical service.

On Easter Day - now this'll surprise you - we celebrated the Resurrection. As a bishop I explained in my homily whose Resurrection it was: it's one of those obscure facts that I learnt for my become-a-bishop exam. When they woke up at the end the congregation were all impressed by my episcopal erudition.

Yes, that's the sort of hard-hitting blog we expect to see in the Lancaster diocese.

murder of Becket

A turbulent priest is punished for blogging too frankly.

So, building on an idea of Richard Waghorne, we feel that we should mark the bishop's courageous gagging of a turbulent deacon by loudly singing Shine, Jesus, Shine in celebration. But please, not outside Campbell Towers at 4 a.m.

Protect the Bishop tee-shirts are now available in a full range of liturgically-appropriate colours, suitable to be worn by altar-servers.

Tuesday 29 April 2014

How to keep the Pope busy

A leaked Vatican memorandum has come our way.

To: Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.
From: Alfred Xuereb, first private secretary of Pope Francis.

Pope and Xuereb

Could you sign the excommunication order for Enda Kenny, Holy Father?

Your Eminence,

Thank you for your memorandum expressing concern that the Holy Father may have too much time on his hands, which is why he has got into the habit of phoning up random Catholics for a chat. Following your advice, we are proposing a full programme of activities to keep him busier. Here are some ideas:

1. Canonizations. The recent ceremony was very popular, and succeeded in winding-up the non-Catholics as well as the Tablet paper. We propose some more high-profile canonizations, possibly including Pope Pius XII, Grand Inquisitor Tomás de Torquemada, Pope Alexander VI, and Pontius Pilate. The resulting controversy should keep the Pope fully occupied.

Cardinal Ximenes

Nobody expects Cardinal St Ximénes de Cisneros!

2. Excommunications. We have received petitions for the excommunication of Hans Küng, Tina Beattie, Tony Flannery, Enda "Enda Life" Kenny and Bishop Michael Campbell (this last one may be a misunderstanding, but we will appoint a "God's Advocate" to look into the question, all the same).

Enda Life and Pope

Oh yes, I'm a pious Catholic, Holy Father!

3. Travel. Pope Francis is not such a good traveller as Pope St John-Paul II was, but we should be able to pack him off to a few exciting places.

Holy Croydon

Pope Francis has expressed an interest in riding on a tram in Croydon.

4. If all else fails, we will suggest to the Pope that he release some more symbols of peace. We haven't had much luck with doves, but he could try sending out creatures such as wild boar, alligators and tigers into the streets of Rome: they can probably take care of themselves.

lion of peace

Pope Benedict releases a "lion of peace".

Anyway, all further suggestions will be gratefully received. At present Pope Francis spends a lot of time in front of the television, gloomily watching re-runs of The Two Marinis, and it can't be good for him.

Two Ronnies

It's "Ite, missa est" from me - and it's "Ite, missa est" from him!

Monday 28 April 2014

Sir Simon Jenkins explains Canonization

From the Guardian's "Comment is free and worth every penny" section.

The Catholic Church declared two new saints at the weekend. Although I am not a Catholic, I am a very important person, and I run the National Trust. What's more, I once wrote a book called England's Thousand Best Churches, and so I am definitely an expert on ecclesiastical matters.

ugly church

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

Now, I can tell you that what goes for the National Trust should equally apply to the Catholic Church, and canonization is just medieval nonsense. Miracles, Prayer, the Virgin Birth, God, ... these are all things that no intelligent Catholic believes in, and I should know because I am a very famous person who got a knighthood for services to the fishwrap industry - I was knighted at a moving ceremony attended by a million devoted worshippers!

N.B. They said it was a miracle that a dimwit such as I should be given a knighthood, but we know that miracles don't exist!

fish and chips in newspaper

My journalism has helped to feed the starving millions.

I am less indulgent to the behaviour of religions. More death and destruction is being perpetrated in the name of religion than for many decades past - Pope Francis may claim that Pope John XXIII and Pope John-Paul II never went berserk in a crowded theatre with a machine-gun or crashed aeroplanes into Church of England cathedrals, but I know better.


Sir Simon Jenkins

Saturday 26 April 2014

Pope canonizes Laurel and Hardy

Although all eyes are on Rome this weekend for the canonization of Popes John XXIII and John-Paul II, we have learned that Pope Francis has just recognized another pair of saints by telephone.

pope Francis telephones

"It says 'If you wish to change Catholic teaching, press 1...'"

Apparently a lady in Argentina wrote to the pope, saying how much she admired Laurel and Hardy, and he telephoned her to tell her that from now on they were saints - St Stanley and St Oliver.

Laurel and Hardy with piano

The miracle of the raising of the piano.

Although it is unusual for popes to make infallible statements by telephone, "instant canonizations" are not without precedent - Our Lord Himself chose twelve disciples for fast-track canonization, although in the end only eleven of them passed the course.

St Stan and St Ollie are among the more amusing people to have been canonized, although it is generally accepted that they may hold a second-rate status among saints. There are precedents for this.

I'm St James the Less. And yes, this does give me an inferiority complex.

It is hoped that this new announcement will not be a distraction from the canonizations of the two popes, which is expected to be a much more spectacular event, with liturgical dancing, Pinocchio puppets, and a mad woman from the Tablet rushing in to say "STOP!" This will be followed by a state banquet for the 5,000 celebrity guests, consisting of loaves and fishes. Pope Francis himself is said to be worried by the expenses, saying "Couldn't I have done all this by telephone?"

another nice Mass

Well, here's another nice Mass you've gotten me into!

Friday 25 April 2014

Are you a bat-like Christian?

Time for a little spiritual nourishment.

Pope Francis has said that there are many "funeral" Christians who are afraid of the joy of the Resurrection; instead, they are "Christian bats" who prefer the shadows to the light of the presence of the Lord.


I admit it, I am somewhat bat-like.

The thought will no doubt have struck many of our readers: am I a bat? Here are a few tell-tale signs:

1. Do you emit high-pitched squeaks (and we don't just mean the 
"music" of Paul Inwood)?
2. Do you sleep hanging upside-down in a shed (or a cave)?
3. Do you like eating insects?
If you can answer NO to all these questions, you are probably not a bat. You may still be a self-absorbed Promethean neo-pelagian, but at least you don't scare passers-by after dark.

Batman and Robin

Holy Pepinsters, Batman! We're late for Mass!

Pope Francis has also given us an Argentine proverb: When you get burnt by boiling milk, later when you see a cow you start crying. Fortunately, this is not an ex cathedra statement (although it may have more authority than a telephone call to a confused old bat lady). However, just in case it applies in your case, we apologise for making you cry with the following picture. Think of it as necessary therapy.


If you have tears, prepare to shed them now. >

Thursday 24 April 2014

How many saints have you met?

As far as I know, I have not met any officially-recognised saints, and indeed most of us haven't. However, my retired parish priest, Monsignor M., has certainly met Pope John-Paul II - or, if he hasn't, then he must have photo-shopped a picture of himself with the late pope; which monsignors don't normally do. So I am only two steps away from a saint (or will be, this weekend).

saints medal

This is what saints look like.

Of course, saints are by definition already dead, so if you want to meet a saint you must catch him or her while still alive. It seems that my advert in the Tablet, "SAVED PERSON WOULD LIKE TO MEET SAINT. OBJECT: DOING GOOD THINGS" was doomed to failure.

Still, you may be able to spot embryonic saints going about their everyday business.

saint with halo

The halo is sometimes a give-away.

For the purposes of this post, we shall have to exclude the latter-day saints, many of whom may be wonderful people but are not quite what we had in mind. Luckily, someone has given me a little book, which will help me with my saint-hunting.

book of saints

Have you seen any of these people recently?

By the way, did someone overlook Pope Pius XII?

two old friends

Two old friends who are not yet saints. >

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Eccles-iastical rumours

Great excitement has been generated by rumours that the Pope told a divorced and remarried woman, Jacquelina Sabetta, that she was now allowed to take Communion. "Who am I to fudge?" he is said to have asked her. Without knowing whether or not this rumour is true, we should point out that many previous rumours about the Pope have been shown to be false, and caused by mistranslation, misreporting, misunderstanding or simply mischief. Here are some of the silliest.

Pope and Queen of Jordan


Centuries of tradition, whereby the Pope, and indeed all priests, are forbidden to marry were supposed to have been upset recently when the Pope was seen talking to an attractive Muslim lady. Said the Queen of Jordan (for it was she), "Don't be silly, Damian (who he?), we are just good friends."

Pope and lamb


The Maundy Thursday ritual of washing feet was challenged this year when it was claimed that the Pope had extended it to animals. Said a spokesman, "It is true that the Holy Father might wash the feet of a primate, but only if it were Justin Welby."

Pope and boy


Despite the strong physical resemblance, it has been explained that these two popes are not related.

The rumour machine continues to grind on, with forecasts that Fr Alban McCoy would become the next bishop of Leeds (which has been sede vacante since Arthur Roche was packed off to Rome). Ten days have elapsed, and the good man still hasn't received the expected letter, so we must conclude that this bit of gossip was off the mark.

Dr McCoy

Dammit, Damian, I'm a doctor, not a bishop!

We were going to blog about St George's Day as we did last year, but apparently it has been moved, owing to a clash with Easter. Curiously, one Very Famous Person Indeed found it was possible to celebrate Easter and St George at the same time.

Christ and St George's flag

They always said God was an Englishman.

Tuesday 22 April 2014


After a short break, we resume the Eccles Bible Class today with the deutero-canonical book of Judith. Dawkins! Good to see you in class today, although I hear that your pals are very cross that you didn't sign their letter about Britain being an atheist country. Would you like to tell the class what "deutero-canonical" means? Come on, boy, you must know, you're supposed to be a learned theologian, remember?

All right, I'll explain. This is an Old Testament book that wasn't in the Hebrew Bible, and so it's not really accepted by most Protestants. We can probably get through it quite quickly, as there is only one thing you need to know about Judith: she cut off the head of Holofernes.

Judith and the head

I'm sorry, Madam, but you can't take this as hand-luggage.

What's that noise outside? Oh, some new arrivals! Pratchett! Tatchell! Nick Ross! Steve Jones! Singh! You felt that, Britain being a Christian country, you ought to brush up on some of the theory? Well, you're all very welcome to join in, but today's book of the Bible isn't really a great introduction to Christianity. There won't be very many deep spiritual insights today, and indeed not very many in general until we reach Job.

Steve Jones

Professor Steve Jones denies that his pets are malnourished.

Actually, there is one another reason to remember Judith, which is that the Tallis motet Spem in alium is based on words from this book. Just in case your Latin's a bit rusty, here's an English rendering of it:

I have never put my hope in any other
but in You, O God of Israel,
who can show both anger and graciousness,
and who absolves all the sins
of suffering man.
Lord God,
Creator of Heaven and Earth
be mindful of our lowliness.
Professor Travers

My colleague, Fr John Hunwicke, teaches Latin to atheists.

Right, let's get to the point. The book of Judith is agreed to be non-historical, rather than an accurate account of events. Those who have been paying attention will remember that we said that the books of the Bible aren't all alike. Some are solid accounts of events, some are poetry, some (such as this one) are more like parables.

good Samaritan

Don't worry, we're only part of a parable. Trust me, I'm a Samaritan.

Judith is a Jewish woman, known for her great virtue, and Holofernes is a general in the service of Nebuchadnezzar - here described as king of the Assyrians. Holofernes is charged with the job of making himself a nuisance to the rebels against Nebuchadnezzar, which basically includes all those who serve God. Just as you atheists like making yourselves a nuisance towards Christians, eh?

Judith uses her feminine wiles - probably, she's even prettier than Toynbee here - and this is what happened to Holofernes:

Her sandals ravished his eyes, her beauty made his soul her captive, with a sword she cut off his head.


Warning: these sandals may ravish your eyes.

She also takes the head home to her people as a souvenir (see above). As a result of these actions, the Assyrians flee, so it's a happy ending for the good guys. Look, you really don't need to worry too much about this book, folks. Just try and stay saved.

Monday 21 April 2014

Renewal of vows

Here at the Church of St Daryl the Apostate, in conjunction with ACTA, the Tablet Newspaper and the Tina Beattie Foundation for Extreme Silliness, we recognise that Easter is a time to renew our vows, or more precisely to make some new, more modern, ones. Therefore, I ask:

Do you renounce all that happened in the Catholic Church prior to the 1960s?

We do.

Do you renounce all that stuff in the Bible written by bronze-age goat-herds, in particular the four Gospels, which obviously need updating for modern secular Catholicism?

We do.

lonely goat-herd

A bronze-age goat-herd learns that he is simply not up-to-date.

Do you believe in the Spirit of Vatican II, who came upon us and told us to preach many new and exciting things which were beyond the wildest dreams of those who were actually present at the Second Vatican Council?

We do.

Do you believe in those Saints of Modernism, Annibale Bugsbunni, Carlo Maria Spartini, and Basil the Lofty (who some say is not just an old bearded man in the sky, but alive and resting in a bothy somewhere in Sutherland).

We do.

Annibale Bugsbunni

"What's up, Doc?" asks Annibale Bugsbunni.

Do you believe in the blessed Hans Kong, he who has written 295 books telling the Catholic Church why they are not saved and only he is saved?

We do. O Worship the Kong.


At this point the congregation will light their Hans Kong candles.

Do you believe in the blessed Professor Tina Beastie, the world's leading expert on human flourishing and avant-garde post-modern neo-liberal Catholic doctrine?

We do. Wonderful woman.

long-legged beasties

Surely "from long-windedy Beatties"?

Do you praise the Tablet, the National Catholic Reporter and all other organs of liberal Catholicism?

We praise them. Of course we don't actually read them.

Do you renounce all the orthodox Catholic blogs, such as Protect the Deacon, What did the Pope really say?, The Hermit of Continuity, and Father Ray Bloke?

Verily, they are a thorn in our side.

Nasty traddies seeking to prevent dialogue in the Church.

We now come to some ACTA-specific vows. Do you live in fear?

We live in fear.

What do you want?

We want dialogue!

When do you want it?

Well, now would be a good time to have a chat with the bishop, although it seems that he's blessing the lesbian knitting circle this afternoon, and then he's got a joint service with the Freemasons, and we mustn't forget that he's conducting a circle-dancing class this evening...

Finally, some vows of modernism. Do you renounce Latin, a language spoken by Nero and Caligula (here he may name other famous nasties who spoke Latin)?

We do.

Do you swear always to worship God in English, except when we have joint services with the local Maharashtran community, when we may have a Mass conducted partly in the Marathi dialect, for convenience?

आम्ही करू.

पवित्र जिव्हाळ्याचा परिचय एक विलक्षण मंत्री (An extraordinary minister of Holy Communion).

Do you abjure Gregorian chant, hymns written by dead people such as Charles Wesley and John Henry Newman, and any hymns with more than one basic idea in each verse?

We do.

Do you adore the songs of Paul Inwood, the publications of Kevin Mayhew Ltd., and all hymns where you can go "clap clap", "ch-ch" or "fizz-pop" in the chorus?


BONG! You said "Yes". That's the end of the game.

Is Britain a Christian country?

From a letter to the editor of the Telegraph.

Dear Sir,

We are fifty odd intellectual giants, er, sorry, fifty-odd intellectual giants, who like to see our names in the papers, and between us we have put together this letter in which we give an in-depth analysis of Britain, in just a few short paragraphs. Being busy people we just had time to write two words each.

Saint Cameron

Look, we're not all as saintly as David Cameron!

Look at the names we've got on board! Not Richard Dawkins or Stephen Fry, we admit - they were too busy being famous somewhere else - but who cannot be impressed by the names of Rincewind the Magician (failed), Dr Death, Polly Tuscanee, and Martin Rowson the world's most pointless cartoonist?

Terry Pratchett

Sir Terence Pratchett, Regius Professor of Wizardry.

Now we admit that Christian values are taken very seriously by the blessed David Cameron, just as they were by St Tony Blair. So seriously, that he does not let them affect his policies in the slightest (but then, nor did St Tony). Our Dr Evan Helpus in particular is very happy that abortion is thriving in the country as never before - who knows, perhaps he'll get pregnant himself, exercise his own right to choice, and perhaps end up on Big Brother! And of course we're all great fans of Equal Marriage - although Giles Fraser explained to us that this is actually a Christian thing, and so it probably doesn't count.

Giles Fraser

He's not my husband, I just met him in a bookshop.

Anyway, we're all very cross that people have been celebrating Easter this weekend, especially Simon Singh. Did you notice that Simon sign(h)ed the letter twice? That's because he's very cross indeed. And Polly is cross because nobody sent her a Fairtrade Easter egg. Someone did give Ken Follett an Easter bunny, but they told him not to bite its head off, so where's the fun in that?

Apart from the narrow constitutional sense that we have an established "church", Britain is no longer a Christian country. At Professor Grayling's College for Rich and Stupid Atheists, the students beg to be allowed to work on Sundays, Good Friday, Easter, Christmas, etc. Well, we say work, but this week's challenging assignment - curling up with The God Delusion and drawing faces on the blank pages - is surely a pleasure rather than a chore?

Jesus and Mo

J. and M. In deference to Muslims' feelings, the latter is portrayed as a black egg.

Anyway, it's very important to have Equality and Diversity in this country, as this means that we are all equal and unequal at the same time. We respect all faiths of course, and want them to flourish, provided they do what we tell them. You see, we have discovered in round-the-table-chatter at Islington dinner parties that we all fundamentally believe in the same things. Socialism. Liberalism. Atheism. Equal equality. Diverse diversity. Equal diversity. And of course Diverse equality. And Chocolate.

Signed, ... a long list of very boring and egocentric people who don't see why the Christians are so happy at Easter.

Sunday 13 April 2014

Palm Sunday Dilemmas

Fr X. Pell de Mons, our resident exorcist and liturgical consultant, answers your Palm Sunday questions.

hymn sheet

St Theodulph of Orleans (tr J.M. Neale) wrote a cracking good hymn.

Q. In today's Palm Sunday procession, I accidentally started singing "The company of angels..." instead of "Thou art the King of Israel...", since I am used to reading text downwards in columns rather than across. After two lines of this I noticed that people were glaring at me, and so I switched back to Verse 1.

My question is: when we got to Verse 2, should I have sung "The company of angels..." again, or gone back to sing the omitted bit from Verse 1? I didn't want people to think I was denying "Thou art the King of Israel".

A: You could try muttering "Thou art the King of Israel..." sotto voce - or sub voce as we Latinists have it.

Q: I had another problem with Verse 3.

A: You mean "with palms before thee went"? Did you sing "psalms" by mistake, even though you have a visual aid to remind you?

entry into Jerusalem

Actually, He requested psalms.

Q: Mea culpa, but there's another problem, in Line 3. "Our prayer & prayers & anthems..." I suppose that's a typo?

A: Yes, St Theodulph of Orleans never wrote Inwoodisms like that. It's "Our prayer and praise and anthems". Er, or possibly, "Our praise and prayer and anthems". I'd need to look it up. Still, in these circumstances, you should always sing what is written on the service sheet.

Pope Francis blesses palms

A pope showers people with holy water.

Q: I am a Catholic priest, and at the Palm Sunday procession my attention was distracted by an idiot who was singing the wrong verse of "All glory, laud and honour." So much so, that some of my holy water fell onto a pile of unsold Tablet newspapers, which promptly burst into flames, severely damaging the bespoke mass-trousers worn by one of the servers. Is this a known problem?

burning Tablet

The Tablet. Keep away from holy water.

A: Yes, indeed. I even heard a rumour that a certain Tablet journalist was severely burned when she came into contact with some holy water; however, this is probably just malicious gossip.

fuel tablet

The Tablet in easy-to-burn form - you can fuel some people all of the time.