This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Welcome to Tablet blogs!

Many of us remember the Telegraph blogs, in the days when they were run by Damian Thompson, the blood-crazed ferret and expert on catholicism, Chopin, cup-cakes and custard.

Damian at custard museum

Lest we forget: Damian Thompson at the National Custard Museum.

Damian persuaded the great and good (and Mary Riddell) to write for him: Norman Tebbit, James Delingpole, Stephen Hough, James MacMillan, ... Even Cormac Murphy-O'Connor took an interest (but failed to shut the whole thing down). These days, with Damian gone, there is nothing left to see: in the last ten days we have had pieces from Hannan (politics), Wedderburn (health and lifestyle), Potts (health and lifestyle), Hannan and Hannan. And that's it: Spam, Egg, Sausage, Spam and Spam. Why, you see more activity on this lovely blog!

Van Rompuy

Herman Van Rompuy shows what he thinks of Daniel Hannan.

So, over to the Tablet, where the blogs are alive and well. People who hate Catholicism need not fear - you're in good company! Look at some of the highlights from the last week!

Tony Flannery.

I refuse to be silenced. The Pope would like nothing better than to tie me to a chair and stuff a gag in my mouth. But I won't have it! I have just had a great time in the States, talking to anti-Catholic organizations, and preparing for the time when I shall march into the Vatican and demand justice. I spoke at the Call to Action conference, and gave them tips on how to avoid excommunication while still denying Catholic teaching on women priests, contraception, homosexuality, etc. I also met some Westboro Baptists, who welcomed me by holding me upside-down above the toilet bowl, saying "You may be a bit too friendly with faggots, Tone, but we are proud to recognise someone who hates Catholics almost as much as we do!" Praise indeed, and a sign that I've got Pope Benedict on the run!

Flannery digger

"If you're in a hole, keep digging!" says Tony Flannery.

Tina Beattie.

The Pope! Arentchasickovim? He went to the EU Parliament, and what did he tell them? He hates grandmothers! Well, we can see what that means, can't we? He won't be ordaining any grandmothers in the near future, in line with the sexist, misogynist Catholic tradition that goes back all the way to, er, ... Jesus Christ! Let me tell him that in my daily life I meet many grandmothers and grandfathers, and it's the grandfathers that are the useless ones - they sit in a chair all day long, drinking beer and watching television, just as Jesus did, while the grandmothers do the shopping, the cleaning, and the washing, and they bring in the coal; then they stay up all night writing theological tracts (just like Martha). Phooey! If I were not a distinguished professor of Catholic Flourishing (memo: check exact title), I would quit and become a Pagan!

Pope and Queen

Pope Francis shows his utter contempt for a grandmother.

Una Kroll.

As a former Anglican vicar, and now a Catholic layperson, I want the Catholic Church to be more like the Anglican one: it was a big mistake when some pope decided to break away from the Anglicans in the 16th century. So I want to see Catholic women ordained bishops - never mind what the men at the top of the Church think. Also, we need to change Catholic teaching, and drop patriarchal concepts such as faith, hope and charity. We need to use more buzzwords, such as equality, cultural diversity, gender awareness, sustainability, organic unity, low-fat, gluten-free, climate change, recycled, cis and trans, and empowerment! Empowerment for me, that is, and not for some silly men in Rome! I may be 102, but it's not too late for me to take power! Mwahahahaha!

Power of Kroll

"The power of Kroll" (Dr Who, 1978). The men stare at Una in amazement.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Liturgical dancing - the only way to worship

Advent is here, and many readers have asked me, "How can I brighten my services with a little liturgical dancing? The traditional litany of the Mass is so predictable, with its obsessive focus on God, and my congregation is crying out for novelty and entertainment."

So we have got together with some of the greatest liturgical experts of our time, to present a new translation of the Mass that can be (and should be) danced to. Out go the ancient Latin texts, and in come Spirit-of-Vatican-II dances from the period with which our experts are most familiar, from the 1940s to the 1970s!

arms raised

KYRIE (arr. P. Inwood)

One, Two, Three O'clock, Four O'clock rock,
Five, Six, Seven O'clock, Eight O'clock rock.
Nine, Ten, Eleven O'clock, Twelve O'clock rock,
We're gonna rock around the clock tonight.
Dr Eccles, the Regius Professor of Liturgy at Oxford, explains: England's "Mr Liturgy" has chosen to replace the boring "Kyrie Eleison" stuff with a more rhythmic version, which marks the passage of the hours, while at the same time bringing us meekly to our Maker. It states our devout intentions for the Mass: "O Lord, we shall rock around the clock tonight."

liturgical prance

GLORIA (arr. B. Farrell)

You put your left arm in,
Your left arm out.
In, out, in, out,
You shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Cokey and you turn around,
That's what it's all about!
Eccles: Bernie knows that all forms of worship are equally valid, even ones that don't have much to do with God, and so she has chosen to glorify the Lord by saying, in effect, "God created us to dance, and, when you get down to basics, that's what Christianity is all about."

dancing vicaress

CREDO (arr. D. Schutte)

Oh baby.
Yeah come on shake!
Oh, it's in the bag,
The hippy hippy shake!
Well now you shake it to the left,
Shake it to the right,
Do the hippy shake, shake,
With all your might!
Eccles: A powerful affirmation of faith from Dan Schutte, there. "Oh, it's in the bag," is a very concise summary of God's purpose in the world, I feel. "Do the hippy shake, shake, With all your might!" is certainly telling the world in no uncertain terms that we are backing God!


SANCTUS (arr. K. Mayhew)

Well, shake it up, baby, now (Shake it up, baby)!
Twist and shout (Twist and shout)!
C'mon c'mon, c'mon, c'mon, baby, now (Come on baby)!
Come on and work it on out (Work it on out)!
Eccles: A new take on the boring old "Holy, holy, holy" routine that drives so many people away. Kevin tells us to shake our bits to the Lord, and show Him we're gonna work it on out! This is just what we have come to expect from a man of sincere and deeply-held faith.


BENEDICTUS (arr. G. Kendrick)

You are the Dancing Queen, young and sweet, only seventeen.
Dancing Queen, feel the beat from the tambourine!
You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life,
See that girl, watch that scene, digging the Dancing Queen!
Eccles: Well, "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord" is very old-fashioned, and Graham has recognised that we may want to celebrate other blessed people, perhaps ones with a greater tendency to dance!


AGNUS DEI (arr. E. White)

Hands, knees, and boomps-a-daisy! I like a bustle that bends.
Hands, knees, and boomps-a-daisy! What is a boomp between 
Hands, knees, oh, don't be lazy. Let's make the party a wow.
Now then, hands, knees, and boomps-a-daisy! Turn to your 
   partner and bow. Bow-wow!
Eccles: Estelle has gone for a more traditionalist liturgical dance, one in which physical contact is encouraged! "What is a boomp between friends?" we ask ourselves, and this is follows on naturally from the "Boomp of Peace" that many go-ahead parishes have introduced recently.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Is this the worst pope ever?

A re-post of something I wrote in 1494.

When cardinals meet in a conclave to elect a new pope, they are of course guided by the Holy Spirit - or at least the Spirit of Lateran II - or, failing that, by the Spirit of Cardinal Murfio Conna - and therefore there can be no such thing as a bad pope. So we should be reluctant to criticise Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia).

Pope Alexander VI

Actually, he does look a little like Pope Francis.

Traditionalists among us fondly remember Pope Innocent VIII, with his powerful encyclical Summis desiderantes, a polemic against witchcraft that led to harsh criticism by Signora Cristina Beati in the Pastiglia.

Alexander is rather different. Already he is highly unpopular in Germany, where an 11-year old boy called Martin Luther has been arrested for scribbling "The Pope is a Schweinehund" on his church door. But even amongst adults there is disquiet as to some of the Holy Father's behaviour.

Luther's graffiti

Graffiti at Wittenberg.

For a start, there are Alexander's views on family life. His recent Extraordinary Synod on the Family took a controversially liberal attitude to unconventional family arrangements. Indeed, it was attended by the pope's mistress, Vannozza dei Cattanei, together with numerous children. This sort of conduct may be tolerated in Arundel and Brighton, but is still considered inappropriate for Rome.

Vannozza dei Cattanei

Vannozza dei Cattanei.

Alexander is also ruthless with his political enemies. Some have been exiled to the barren island of Malta, and there have been claims that in extreme cases the Pope is prepared to use poison. However, these are still only rumours. In any case, such minor eccentricities are surely outweighed by the pope's humble and charismatic nature! Who are we to judge?

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Why don't Anglicans go to church on Sundays?

Many sages, including the Anglican Archdruid Eileen and the Catholic Fr Longenecker, have wondered why Anglicans don't like to go to church on Sundays. After all, wouldn't you expect Janet and John Anglican to leap out of bed on a Sunday morning, with a dialogue something like the following?

almost-empty church

Come on... no need for everyone to sit at the back!

"Hurrah! It's the 21st Sunday after Trinity today! Let's rush down to St Tharg's for Morning Prayer!"

"Hey, we've got a simply great Collect today. We're going to beseech God to grant us pardon and peace; that we may be cleansed from all our sins, and serve Him with a quiet mind!"

"Splendid! I'm fed up with serving Him with a noisy mind! What's the Epistle?"

"A good solid chunk of Ephesians, dear. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth..."

"Yes, I'm just putting on my trousers. Anything interesting in the Gospel?"

"Yes, Jesus meets a certain nobleman, whose son is sick at Capernaum."

"Does He heal the son?"

"Oh... you've heard that one before!"

"Nothing but repeats... let's not bother."

Jesus heals

Jesus heals the hypochondriac by giving him two aspirins.

As it happens I do occasionally find myself in an Anglican service. The last time, it was indeed a Matins (which seems to have the advantage that there is no Kiss of Peace, even if there's not much spiritual nourishment either). The priest started chatting about something else - I think it was the fact that he had a sore throat - and then hastily turned to the "liturgy" and said "I suppose we'd better say this bit" before getting down to the script. Yes he did.

To be fair, he preached a rather good sermon - far better than many Catholic sermons I've heard, and probably just as orthodox. I can't remember what it was about, but that's fine. You're not supposed to remember. If you do, how can the priest use the same sermon next year?

Great Sermon Handicap

The classic way to make sermons more interesting.

The hymns... well, they were be produced by the I'm Sorry, I haven't a Clue team. In other words, we had unfamiliar words sung to the tunes of familiar hymns. I think the problem is that old (traditional) hymns are no longer considered acceptable - especially not ones about God smiting sinners - and so we have to have anodyne rubbish about how we welcome God's Light in when we're brushing our teeth.

This was a small village church, with a congregation of about 15. Afterwards, we went out and threw bricks through the windows of everyone who hadn't turned up. No, actually I made that bit up. However, it might have been better if the priest was in the habit of knocking on doors, saying "We haven't seen you in church lately, Mr Mohammed; have you been unwell?" Who knows what might have happened?

Press Gang

The St Tharg's Press Gang drags in a reluctant worshipper.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Bergoglio Conspiracy

As many of my readers will know, I was hanging around Rome in a red biretta in March 2013, hoping to participate in the election of a successor to Pope Benedict XVI. The Adopt a Cardinal website had randomly allocated me Cardinal Ouellet, and I was providing him with all the support at my disposal, including gifts of sandwiches, lemonade, and a stuffed gorilla that someone had left behind in our church.

a stuffed gorilla

A gift for Cardinal Ouellet.

It was a dark and rainy night, and I was wondering what other little kindnesses I could render towards my chosen cardinal, when I heard a sharp "Psst!" and saw, skulking in the shadows, an oddly-assorted couple: a large man dressed as a priest, and a smaller smartly-dressed man in glasses. "Austen Ivereigh" said the small man. "No, Ford Prefect," I replied, thinking that he was asking about my car.

Cormac and Austen

Cardinal Cormac issues his instructions.

"The Argentine goose is coming to land in Rome," said the large man, mysteriously. "I hope that we can rely on your support."


"The chemist at the conclave is ready to release white smoke," he went on. "Or, to put it terms that even an idiot would understand: can we rely on you to support Team Bergoglio?"

Cormac the Mighty

Don't cross Cormac the Mighty!

"You wouldn't want to wake up with a horse's head in your bed, now, would you?" continued the smaller man. "My friend here can't take part in the conclave himself, but he's decided what result we want, and we need your backing. Old man Kasper's with us. Hummes is signed up. Dolan will stay on board if we keep him well fed. Mahony will do what we tell him. All in all, we're heading for victory here."

"Who is this Bergoglio?" I asked. "What is he likely to do if he becomes pope?"

"If he doesn't want to end up at the bottom of the Tiber in concrete boots, he'll do whatever we tell him," cackled the older man. "For a start, he'll make Vincent Nichols a cardinal - which Benedict would never have done - and then at the next conclave we can push for Vin to take over as pope. Gay masses in the Lateran Basilica! Tina Beattie addressing the College of Cardinals! Can you imagine it? All my dreams come true!"


Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor explains his plans.

In the end I owned up that I probably wouldn't be allowed into the conclave to vote: the red biretta was fine, but apparently the security checks were becoming more stringent, and in the end they had no record of a Cardinal Eccles. "Well, remember!" insisted the older man. "If anyone asks, this conversation never took place! You never saw me. I wasn't here..." He drew his fingers across his neck in the liturgically-approved "I'll slit your throat if you betray us" gesture, and the pair of them disappeared into the shadows.

Cormac cover

Eccles feels threatened.

It is only now that the truth is coming out: a rival gang, known only as "Team Burke", has provided me with a totally new identity, and I am ready to tell my story.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Cardinal Cormac did not approach Kim Jong-un

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has vigorously denied suggestions, expressed in a new book "The great dictator" by Austen Ivereigh, that he was largely responsible for the election of Kim Jong-un as President of North Korea.

Kim Jong-un

Kim Jong-un - thinks very highly of Cormac.

Being over 80 years old - and not being called Kim - Cardinal CMOC was of course ineligible to vote for the new president in the 2011 conclave, but many people regard him as an Eminence Grise, unable to resist pulling strings behind the scenes. Although he initially favoured Kie Ran-Con for the position of President of North Korea, Cormac is said to have conceded in the end that Kim was a more responsible character.

The great reformer

Austen Ivereigh's new book.

Today Dr Ivereigh was happy to clarify the issue, explaining that Cormac did not directly approach Kim, or lobby for his election: the whole "Team Kim" story is a myth. Nonetheless, it is possible to imagine the "hand of Cormac" behind many interesting recent appointments, including the exiling of Edwina Currie to the television programme "I'm a silly Brit - get me out of here", the choice of Peter "Mr Verbal Abuse" Capaldi as the new Doctor Who (narrowly defeating David Mellor), and of course the appointment of Cardinal Burke as President of Malta.

Sontaran and Sarah-Jane

Deprived of the starring role, David Mellor was still allowed to appear in Dr Who.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Pope Francis becomes infallible again

After several months of bad press - some of it no doubt deserved - Pope Francis has surprised everyone by taking a completely infallible decision for once. He has appointed Cardinal Sarah from Guinea as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

Cardinal Sarah

One of these is called Sarah.

This is a Good Thing for several reasons.

(i) He is not Piero Marini, the mortal enemy of Pope Benedict, disciple of the infamous Annibale Bugnini, and chief architect of the so-called "hermeneutic of craziness". Of course, most people aren't Piero Marini (luckily).

Marini and custard pie

Piero Marini and the notorious "custard-pie in the Pope's face" incident.

(ii) If one consults a map, and ignores New Guinea, Guyana and similar places, one is led to the conclusion that Cardinal Sarah is from AFRICA. Apparently, on hearing the news that an AFRICAN had been appointed to a position of responsibility, Cardinal Kasper fell down in a fit and started biting pieces out of the carpet. He was rushed to hospital, where he was visited by the benevolent Cardinal Napier. Now his condition is said to be "extremely critical".

(iii) Without checking their facts too carefully, various liberal commentators have concluded that Cardinal Sarah is a woman, possibly the lady in the blue dress shown above. This is seen as a great step forward for women in the Catholic Church, as the dawning of a new era in which it is virtually certain that the next pope will be female.

Abraham and Sarah

Sarah (R) tells Abraham he's getting a son for his 100th birthday, so he shouldn't think of retiring just yet.

(iv) Orthodox Catholics are delighted because Cardinal Sarah seems to be - well - a perfectly normal and orthodox Catholic without any particular hang-ups. There is some possibility that in the future most Divine Worship will be simply what is says on the tin - focused towards God rather than the priest (who is doing a tango), the deacon (who has put on a clown costume), or the musical director (who is vainly trying to play "Shine, Jesus, Shine" on the Balinese nose-flute). Result!

liturgical dance

Unlikely to impress Cardinal Sarah.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Sister Judy Piranha on free speech

Cis transit gloria mundi!!?? That's part of the Latin liturgy, you know!!?? And it means that the world's a glorious place full of cis and trans people!!?? No longer do we divide up the human race into male and female in that stuffy old Biblical way!!?? We are all either cis or trans - unless we choose not to be of course!!?? Get used to it: cis is boring, trans is fun!!?? Who would want to be male, just because their parents told them they had to be??!!

judy Piranha

Sister Judy Piranha.

Here's little Judy back again, one of the famous "Nuns on the poor broken-down donkey", and I'm here to stand up for sister (or brother??!!) Niamh McIntyre!!?? Yes, she's the plucky girl who protected Oxford from the threat of Stanley Tim and Neil O'Brendan!!?? They wanted to discuss her uterus, and that's a no-go area!!?? (Luckily for any babies, eh??!!) Niamh's a brainy girl - she got into Oxford!!?? And the same goes for cuddly Squirrel Nutkin!!?? He's at Cambridge, so he must be nearly as brainy!!??

Squirrel Nutkin

Squirrel Nutkin demonstrates against free speech.

So what was the debate all about, eh??!! Well, nasty bigoted sexist cis male pig Tim wanted to debate with nasty bigoted sexist cis male pig Brendan!!?? See the problem??!! Two perfectly ordinary people!!?? Nobody to represent the BLT community!!?? No womb at the inn!!?? Not even a token lesbian transsexual human-duck hybrid, and Heaven knows there are plenty of those ready and waiting to quack!!??

Of course the real problem is the subject!!?? Abortion!!?? A right extracted from nasty sexist King John by those lovable cuddly barons, who forced him to sign the Magna Cum Laude!!?? An inalienable human right recognised by the founding fathers, who signed the American Declaration of Intransigence!!?? Why - didn't we fight Adolf Hitler in order to win abortion rights for all women??!! I know I did!!?? And hasn't Pope Francis said how much he admires abortionists??!! Well, actually he hasn't but I'm sure he will, when our "Nuns on the donkey" have a word with him!!?? And the Prophet Emma Barnett has got a hot-line to Jesus, and He told her "Spare those poor weak helpless abortionists!!?? Suffer little abortionists to come unto Me!!??"

Judy Piranha on a donkey

Judy Piranha goes off to confront the Pope.

But the issue goes further!!?? Why should we allow people even to discuss whether debates can be held??!! HANDS OFF MY EARS!!?? I don't want to hear nasty bigoted chauvinist males talking about the right to debate!!?? THEY DON'T HAVE FEMALE EARS, DO THEY??!! So how can they know what misery their words cause to Sister Judy (or maybe Brother Judas if I'm having one of my trans days)??!! JUST SHUT UP, MEN!!?? Got that??!!

gagged men

This is how I like my men!!??

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The diocese of Arundel and Brighton rejoices

Sunday 5th July 2015 will surely be the most exciting day that Christendom has seen since Pentecost, A.D. 28 (or whenever it was)! 50 years of Arundel and Brighton - the diocese that's a model for Catholics everywhere! Especially since the year 2000, when its bishops have included two spiritual giants of this age - or indeed of any age - Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the eminence grise who runs the Catholic Church behind the scenes, and Kieran Conry, once tipped to be the next pope but three!

Kieran and Cormac

Two spiritual giants discuss spiritual things.

You thought I was going to use that photo of the two of them looking shifty, didn't you? Admit it. Well, maybe later.

Crowds of people will be heading to the Amex Stadium in Falmer, Brighton. This in itself is something of a miracle, as the place is normally used by Brighton and Hove Albion football team: thus the stadium remains empty for weeks on end. The entire Catholic population of Surrey and Sussex is encouraged to trek over there, and no doubt there will be special "Catholic special" trains laid on. So bad luck if you were thinking of going to Mass in your local church: your priest is under instructions to get his football boots on and trek out to the Amex Stadium.

Argus poster

What may happen if all the priests are away for the day.

Now, let's see what giants of Catholicism will be turning up for the football match. Cormac, yes, hard to keep him away really; not Kieran, as far as I can tell, but who knows? He doesn't seem to have moved out yet. And the two key speakers, who will no doubt wish to encourage the faithful Catholics of the South Coast are...

Have a guess, go on. The Pope? No, too busy giving interviews. A nearby bishop of distinction (+Egan of Portsmouth, maybe?) No. Bill Gardner, formerly of the Argus, and now employed by the Telegraph in its relentless "dumbing-down" campaign? No, be serious.

The first guest is the great Rowan Williams! Er, wasn't he until recently the Archbishop of Canterbury? Wouldn't that make him an Anglican, not a Catholic? Yes, I think so.

Rowan the druid

Definitely an Anglican.

And the second guest is the even greater Timothy Radcliffe! Yes, he is a Catholic, of the slightly ludicrous variety, being known for his public opposition to the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. Well that will go down well in Brighton, no doubt, although not with many Catholics.

Tim Radcliffe

Fr Tim Radical does his Al Jolson impersonation.

It could have been worse. So far Mo Ansar has not been invited. Or Richard Dawkins. Or Tina Beattie. And it's not too late to ask Fr Ray Blake to take over the running of the event. Or me, for that matter.

And finally...

Kieran and Cormac

The picture we've all been waiting for.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

What should Jesus have done?

In the old days, whenever we faced a dilemma, we would ask ourselves "What would Jesus do?"

Of course, this guidance is more useful in some situations than others: "We have run out of wine. What would Jesus do?" Well, we know the answer to that one, Jesus would have asked for some large pots, and made some more. However, this doesn't always work (I've tried it).

empty bottles

A common problem.

"This church has got a gift shop, selling selling picture postcards, bronze statues of Vincent Nichols, and copies of the Tablet. What would Jesus do?" Well, Jesus would have made a whip out of knotted cords and driven the whole lot out into the street. I haven't tried that one, so far.

But now we come to "What should Jesus have done?" and this is a hole that some quite well-known clerics are prepared to dig for themselves. Cardinal O'Malley, for example: "If I were founding a church, I’d love to have women priests. But Christ founded it, and what he has given us is something different." Oh, Jesus! If you'd only had Sean O'Malley to advise you! Probably You'd have bought Yourself a brown dressing-gown as well, and for the Last Supper You'd have had something more exciting than bread and wine! But it's too late now - we're stuck with Christianity, when O'Malleyanity would have been so much more fun!

Cardinal O'Malley

Sean O'Malley. Not destined to found a church.

Then we have Giles Fraser batting for the Anglicans, who have just decided to create women bishops. "Hallelujah, the long wait for female bishops is over at last!" he squeals. He concludes by patronizing the poor souls in his church who hold "to my mind, reprehensible, views" on the ordination of women. What he means here is "Jesus got it wrong. His views are reprehensible. Only I, Giles Fraser, Guardian Correspondent, star of the Today programme, and Anglican vicar (yes, really) hold the key to this savage parade! I have already condemned Jesus's view that marriage is for one man and one woman only as 'bigoted', and now I am kicking Him on the priesthood question."

Giles Fraser

This is what an Anglican vicar looks like.

Look, guys. It's OK to bash bishops when they need it - after all, "The road to Hell is paved with the bones of priests and monks, and the skulls of bishops are the lamp posts that light the path," as St John Chrysostom pointed out. It's even OK to bash cardinals when they need it - most readers of this blog will agree that Cardinal Kasper is a fruitcake if ever there was one - and it's all right to admit that some popes are altogether brainier, wiser and more coherent than others. But when it comes to starting your prayers with "O Lord, here is a list of things you should have done better..." then perhaps there's something wrong somewhere.

St John Chrysostom

St John Chrysostom - not often invited to bishops' parties.

Monday, 17 November 2014

No platform for extremists!

Oxford Undergraduate: As an Oxford Undergraduate, I am very anxious to make sure that any views that I disagree with get a fair hearing, i.e., none at all. After all, isn't that how education works? For example, a college which must remain nameless (Christ Church) wants to hold a debate on abortion, involving two "cis" males...

Eccles: Cis?

OU: This means males who are not really females thinking they are males: tragically, Tim Stanley and Brendan O'Neill really are males. Therefore, they are automatically prejudiced against a woman's right to cut her baby to pieces. Eccles, do you think we should allow extremists a platform?

Stanley and O'Neill

Two extremists, looking for platform 9¾.

Eccles: How else are they going to catch trains?

OU: Be serious for a moment, Eccles. Should extremists be allowed to tell us their views, so that we can decide whether they are extremists or not?

Eccles: It's never really bothered me. The real extremists - the ones who think the gas chambers were a pretty neat idea - never really get very far in the UK. The "jihad" bunch don't organize debates on "Should we cut the heads off unarmed women and children?" as they know they'd lose. So they run off and join the Satanic State nutters.

OU: But there are extremists everywhere, Eccles! For example, those people who tell you that gay marriage is not actually marriage at all! They disapprove of same-sex unions and rent-a-womb babies! They refuse to make cakes bearing political slogans about the right to wed anyone or anything we wish! I've suffered myself, you know - I wanted to have sex with my washing-machine in Tom Quad, but the porters stopped me!

Tom Quad

Tom Quad - washingmachinophobic hatred at its worst!

Eccles: That's shocking. You're another Alan Turing. They should make a film about you with Benedict Cumberlandsausatch.

OU: Quite so. They've even made me lock my washing-machine away in a garden shed.

Eccles: I expect it will become a relic to be venerated, like the famous Shed of Turing. Anyway, haven't we wandered away from the point?

Cumberbatch as Turing

Turing - made a Turing machine out of paper tape in order to decipher Elgar's Enigma variations.

OU: Quite right. The point is that there are extremists everywhere, and they're not yet being beaten up by us peace-loving tolerant liberals! In fact we are so peace-loving and tolerant that we have asked for the debate to be cancelled, so that we aren't forced to go and beat up the participants!

Eccles: You're being very reasonable there. By the way, do you know why the college is called Christ Church? Could it be something to do with Christianity?

OU: Christianity! I was away the day we did that at school, but it's extremism, I know it is. I must consult my friend Freda M'Speech on this one. A few peace-loving threats, and we should be able to eradicate the religion for good. Now, leave me in peace, I just typed "Abortion" into Google images*, and I'm not feeling too well... How dare Google allow people to find out what abortion is really about?

*Don't try this at home. Seriously.

Friday, 14 November 2014

George Orwell's "2014"

It was a cold November 2nd, and in England the Catholic Church was celebrating All Saints Day. For by orders of Comrade Nichols of the Ministry of Truth, all holy days had been moved from their correct dates, as part of a general break with that evil thing known as "tradition".

Winston Smith looked outside, and saw a poster bearing the portrait of an old man in white robes. BIG FATHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran. Big Father, the man who had seized power eighteen months ago, driving into exile President Benedict the good. Big Father, who kept an iron grip on the Church.

Pope Francis


On another poster were written the slogans produced by Big Father's right-hand man, Comrade Kasper.


Winston Smith checked his watch and turned back to his television set, which could never be switched off. It was now broadcasting endless programmes of puppet masses and tango dancing from St Peter's, Rome. The Mass had reached the point where the comrade deacon was instructed to announce the Two Minutes Hate.

Cardinal Burke

Comrade Burke, Enemy of the People.

As usual, the face of Raymond Burke, the Enemy of the People, flashed on to the screen. Comrade Burke had once been one of Big Father's most loyal supporters, but had now disappeared from public life. Some said that he was already dead, smothered in his own cappa maxima, while others claimed that he had merely been exiled to the barren wastes of Malta. On the screen, Smith saw crowds of Catholics screaming words of hatred for Burke, the enemy of the people. "AIRPORT BISHOP!" they yelled. "SELF-ABSORBED PROMETHEAN NEO-PELAGIAN!" "BAT-LIKE CHRISTIAN!"

Christopher Lee as Dracula

A bat-like Christian in traditional Cappa Maxima.

The two-minute hate being over, the Mass continued on its way, with the usual liturgically-approved procession of clowns towards the altar. Winston turned his head away from the screen, and opened his copy of the State Newspaper, the Tablet. "Arrange the following virtues of Big Father in order of importance, then complete the following sentence in not more than ten words. I love Big Father because... First prize: a two-week holiday on Tina Beattie's luxury houseboat, the Tinatanic." Theological debate was not what it used to be.


The Tinatanic.

There was a hammering on the door. Was it a gang of ACTA thugs, demanding "dialogue"? Or had the thought police discovered that Winston possessed a copy of the suppressed Catholic Herald? Should he have been expecting the Spanish Inquisition...?