This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Sunday 31 May 2015

Eccles apologises

Yesterday, I quoted a tweet from Fr James Martin, SJ, which claimed that the Blessed Virgin Mary was a man (I have since learned that the logic behind this tweet might not be as straightforward as I thought - my mistake, I later deleted the tweet). A few days ago I also retweeted an article about Enda Kenny's forthcoming "cannibalism" referendum in Ireland: this did not express my own views, but I thought I would draw attention to it, as a subject for discussion. I was shocked to see that I instantly got online abuse and was told that "my views" would be placed on a blog, so that people could discuss them.

Alastair Sim

Eccles talks to a lawyer.

Later, I was shocked to see that I had been personally insulted. A friend of mine who has spent a lot of time in court without ever being convicted - he is a solicitor - saw the blog and said, "Father Eccles, you could really cash in here!" It seemed like the appropriate action for a priest in good standing to take, for after all, does the Bible not tell us to "Sue the Lord thy God for all acts of God, and sue thy neighbour if he offend thee"?

Still, I am a poor priest, and not rich enough to sue anyone. Besides, I'm not sure that expressions such as "silly", "toad" and "fish-face" are really actionable. My friend says that "silly fish-faced toad" might be worth a sum in the region of 20p, but I am not so sure.


This is not Eccles.

Worse than that, I found my actions being discussed on the entire blogosphere, as unspeakable people rushed to the defence of the wicked shameless criminal - a self-confessed mother of three. Six people turned up at Mass wearing "We like mothers" tee-shirts, I have been told to "put a sock in it" and I have been accused of being possessed by the spirit of Enda Kenny. Also - horror of horrors - e-mails have been sent to my bishop. And you know how bishops get excited if someone they've never heard of tells them that they have had a Twitter squabble with one of their priests!


My bishop reacts to an e-mail.

Worst of all, a sanctimonious deacon wrote a blog post saying that he didn't agree with me, or anyone else, because he was a much better person than any of us. Still, he would say a prayer, asking that we would all become as virtuous as he was.

Anyway, stuff this for a lark. I apologise to the entire universe for whatever it is I never did.

Kind Regards,
Rev. Eccles.

Advice to worshippers at St Big Benedict's Church

Fr John Bercow writes:

Hello, and welcome to St Big Benedict's Church, Westminster, which is I hope a model for churches everywhere. We have had a few problems recently linked to the arrival of new worshippers, mostly from Scotland, so I think it would be helpful for me to explain what is considered to be appropriate conduct during Mass.

Big Ben

St Big Benedict's Church.

1. No clapping in church. We're not happy-clappies you know! The way to signify your approval of a prayer is with a simple "Amen", not a frenzy of clapping and cries of "You really socked it to us there, Father!" If the deacon manages to read the lesson without falling over, there is no need to give him a standing ovation, gifts of flowers, etc. Just act as if it was perfectly normal behaviour.

2. No selfies in church. That includes you, Mhairi Black, you naughty girl! if we let you worship with the grown-ups, rather the attending the under-9s junior church, then you must learn to behave!

Mhairi Black

We have a naughty step for people like you, Mhairi!

3. No fighting for seats. Poor old Grandad Skinner tells me that he has to come in at 4 a.m. now in order to avoid having his pew taken by our Scottish worshippers; I appreciate that some of you don't realise that he has occupied the same seat for 94 years. Have respect for an old man's wishes - remember. it's row 66, seat 6, that's the number of the Beast of Bolsover. By the way, Grandad, if you could try and stay awake in the service, and stop waking up suddenly with cries of "rubbish!" then we will all be happier.

Dennis Skinner

"... and when I were a lad we 'ad to get up at 3 a.m. to go down t'pew.

4. Dress appropriately! Men should wear trousers, and women skirts, not the other way round! And what was all that nonsense about wearing white roses in Mass? Who do you think you are, Geoff Boycott? Apparently the roses weren't from Scotland, or indeed Yorkshire, but were lovingly grown by slaves in Africa. So what was the point, eh?

5. We are a religious institution. So if I ask you to confess your sins, you do not reply "I deny everything!" Moreover, when the collection bag goes round, put money in, don't take it out. If you have an urgent need for a duck house, you buy with it your own money, not ours!

God Bless!

Bercow in robes

Fr Bercow, robed for Mass.

Monday 25 May 2015

Catholic Dilemmas: Are Catholics allowed to praise Pope Francis?

I cannot stand the way that people think it is all right to praise Pope Francis. Surely a Catholic should always be rebellious?

In recent times popes have been more visible to the world than ever before, thanks to the fact that they have stopped going to church and instead come out into the streets to meet the people. As a result, they are no longer regarded as distant hate-figures, but may occasionally be seen to perform actions that attract admiration.

Pope Pius XI makes an early bid for popularity.

Even in ancient times, popes were occasionally praised by very holy people. For example, St Paul said of St Peter, "Old Pete may not be a great letter-writer, but he certainly 'smells of the fish'."

More recently, Cardinal Newman said of Pope Pius IX, "I could make a better pope out of an old scarecrow, but there's always a chance that this one may be slightly saved if he learns to shut his trap." Generous language indeed!

Blessed Pius IX basks in the warm praise of Blessed John Henry Newman.

Finally, Cardinal Burke has said of Pope Francis, "Well, say what you like about the old thug, but he's not as crazy as Kasper!"

Of course, it is more traditional for Catholics to show love and respect towards the Pope by referring to him as "Fatso", "Francis the Fool" or "Pope Gay" (if you're Mundabor, which few people are, fortunately). Or, if they are members of ACTA, ACP, the Tablet board, etc., to call him "Sexist dinosaur". These are terms that warm the heart of a pope, especially when he sees who is using them.

However, there is nothing sinful in referring to the Holy Father as "Einstein the Ecumenical", "Captain Hermeneutic", or "His handsome Holiness", even though it is contrary to Catholic custom.

Reprinted from the Catholic Herald.

Diarmuid Martin complains that people keep calling him "a man of principle".

Pope Francis takes advice from Enda Kenny

Following the result of the Irish referendum on same-sex "marriage", and a powerful Tablet blog suggesting that this should make the Catholic Church rethink its (well, Christ's) ideas on sexuality, it was announced today that Pope Francis had appointed Enda ("Enda Life") Kenny as a special adviser on moral theology.

Pope and Enda

The Vatican's consultant gives his advice.

As a spokesman explained, "Pope Francis is a very busy man, and has made himself an expert on economics and climatology; it is too much to expect him to master theology as well. That is why he said nothing at all in the run-up to the Irish referendum, leaving the matter in the hands of known spiritual giants such as Diarmuid Martin, Donal McKeown, and, of course the Association of Catholic Priests.

In fact, Francis did condemn same-sex marriage a few months ago, but he was firmly told to "shut up, old man, and stick to moaning about polar bears falling off ice floes."

Peppy, the polar bear

Pope-y, the Fox's Mints polar bear.

Cardinal Kenny, to give him his new title, has lost no time in explaining the next steps in the social revolution that is to hit Ireland, and, as a result, the Catholic Church. "Abortion on demand, infanticide, euthanasia, eugenics, cannibalism, burning down all the churches, beheading all Catholics, ... these may appear to be controversial NOW, but give me another ten years and I can win a referendum in support of any of these modernizing policies! And where Ireland leads, the Pope must follow."

Meanwhile, St Patrick has quit as patron saint on Ireland, saying "Well, in the end the snakes won." Enda Kenny has been asked to recommend a new patron saint, but it seems likely that, being a modest man, he will simply take over the job himself.

stained-glass Enda

A stained glass window of St Enda.

Sunday 24 May 2015

That lost episode of "Father Ted"

The scene: Craggy Island Presbytery. Fr Ted is sitting in a chair, reading a copy of Tina Beattie's God's Mother, Eve's Advocate, and sniggering at the dirty bits. Fr Jack is asleep in a chair.

The front door opens and Fr Dougal walks in. Ted hastily hides his copy of the Beattie book, and picks up a copy of the Vatican II Document Extra Tedium.

Fr Ted cast

Nothing's wrong with the Catholic Church in Ireland!

Dougal: Hello, Ted. I've just run into one of those funny Redemptorist priests, and he told me to vote for "gay marriage", so I agreed. So tell me, Ted, what is "gay marriage"?

Ted: Now, Dougal, it's when two men or two women get married, rather than a man and a woman.

Dougal: Ha, ha, ha! That's hilarious, Ted! Those Redemptorists really took me in!

Ted (slowly): It's not supposed to be funny, Dougal.

Gerry O'Connor

Mrs Doyle meets a Redemptorist (Gerry O'Connor) in a sacred place.

Jack (waking suddenly): FECK! DRINK! GIRLS!

Ted: Now, Father Jack, that's not appropriate language these days! What did I tell you to say?

Jack (puzzled): FECK! DRINK! GIRLS AND BOYS!

Ted: That's much better, Father. We don't want complaints about your being "exclusive".

Ecumenical matter

Fr Jack is given his voting instructions.

The telephone rings. Mrs Doyle answers it.

Mrs Doyle: It's Bishop Brennan, Father. I'll go and put the kettle on in case he wants some tea.

Fr Ted looks at her in puzzled way, but picks up the phone.

Brennan: CRILLY!

Ted: The money was just resting in my account, Bishop Brennan!

Brennan: Never mind that now, Crilly! How are you going to vote in this referendum?

Ted: Well, I thought, since Christ said marriage was between a man and a woman, I'd just vote No. But I'll pretend I voted Yes.

Brennan: Ted, you may vote according to your conscience, provided that you vote Yes. For if I catch you voting No, you'll end up in an even worse place than Craggy Island - I'll send you off to Ballydancer to work with Tony Flannery! The Church needs a Reality Check, Crilly!

The bishop slams down the receiver.

Diarmuid Martin

The Pope's report says we've failed our reality check, and we're not worth repairing.

Dougal: I heard all that, Ted. So, does that mean we're not going to be Catholics any more?

Thursday 21 May 2015

Homosexuals and Christians through the ages

Some readers may have noticed that the relations between practising homosexuals and Christians (and, before that, the Jews) have evolved over time.

1712 B.C. Some people in Sodom and Gomorrah ask Lot to make a "gay cake" for them. Not only does he refuse, but the entire cities of the plain are consumed by fire and brimstone. This is regarded as a perfectly normal outcome, with the real problem being that Lot's wife is turned into a pillar of salt. The next day he goes back with his mother-in-law hoping for an encore, but it is not to be.

pillar  of salt

A wife's lot is not a happy one (happy one).

29 A.D. Christ points out that marriage is intended to be between one man and one woman, presumably realising that this is the "dream team" for producing babies. A few years later, St Paul and other disciples remind people that homosexual acts are really not a good idea, at least for people who want to be saved.

67 A.D. The Emperor Nero marries Sporus, a eunuch. He also has sexual relations with his own mother, and another same-sex marriage (this time in the role of "bride") with Pythagoras - not the expert on hypoteneuses - and he rapes a vestal virgin. Some of these activities are still legal in various parts of the world, although even Enda Kenny is not yet campaigning for all of them. Tell me he isn't...

Nero or maybe Enda Kenny

Enda Kenny gives a fiddle recital.

The Dark Ages. Not much homosexuality around, in fact not much of anything. Also, St Patrick expels the cakes from Ireland.

Medieval times. A typical conversation between monks: "Brother William, I think you have got beautiful legs. May I bake you a cake?" "These are wicked thoughts, my brother. Go and mortify your flesh with a cold bath." Problem solved.

The Time Meddler

Brother William gets cross with Brother Peter.

The Renaissance and Reformation. The fragmentation of Western Christendom isn't much to do with gay rights. Henry VIII ends up with six wives, all vaguely female. Martin Luther marries Katharina von Bora, although he is arguably the greater Bora. Queen Elizabeth I is too busy persecuting Catholics to find time for marriage.

1600-1950. There is no homosexuality until it is rediscovered by Alan Turing. He is also supposed to have had something to do with computers, codes and mathematics, although this is largely forgotten nowadays.

Turing machine

A Turing machine. Used for surfing the web, cracking German codes, and so much more.

1960s. Sex is not discovered until 1963 when Philip Larkin works out what it is. A homosexual version is legalised around this time - at least between consenting adults in private. Hippies, free love, Vatican II, Basil Loftus, Jimmy Savile, ... these are exciting times.

1990s. Everyone agrees that it would be silly to allow men to marry men, or women to marry women. What a hilarious idea!


Well, that's what it was like.

2010s. Everyone agrees that it would be cruel and wicked discrimination to forbid men to marry men, or women to marry women. The Christian churches mostly stand firm, although oddballs such as Giles Fraser, the Redemptorists in Ireland (overlooked by St Patrick in his snake-expelling days), or even Bishop "Dirty Donal" McKeown of Derry, decide that perhaps Christ didn't really know what He was talking about.

Dolan gives scandal

Cardinal Dolan at the St Patrick's Day Gay Pride march.

2015. Some people in Belfast ask Mr Lot to make a "gay cake" for them. When he refuses, they rain fire and brimstone on his shop, reducing it to Asher's. Most saved people go into hiding, but those remaining ask for a referendum on whether Christianity should be legalised. Watch this space...

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Relics of Diarmuid Martin go on display

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth has confirmed that the relics which arrived at Southampton today pertain to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, and not, after all, to Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin, the parents of St Thérèse of Lisieux. Apparently, this was a "replacement item", delivered when the real relics were out of stock.

Diarmuid Martin

Archbishop Martin - his relics were delivered by mistake.

It is normally considered "bad form" to open the box and see what the relics actually consist of, but in this case an exception was made and it was discovered that what had been delivered was the lost backbone of Archbishop Martin. This was reported missing earlier today, when the good archbishop declared that, although he himself would vote against same-sex "marriage", he had no wish to stuff his religious views down other people’s throats. After all, it's not an archbishop's job to give moral leadership and guidance (ask Vincent Nichols!)

Bishop Egan has declared himself dissatisfied with the replacement item, feeling that the archbishop's spine is unlikely to be truly an object of veneration, nor indeed capable of working minor miracles.


Not a very sacred relic.

Meanwhile, other prominent Irish Catholics have entered the "same-sex marriage" debate, including the silenced Red Emptyhead, Tony Flummery. Faithful to the Vatican's command Pone soccum in eo, O Antoni ("put a sock in it, Tony"), Fr Flummery has maintained a dignified silence, talking only to the trees and his pet rat, O'Connor. However, lacking any concrete guidance from Archbishop Martin, a man whom he deeply reveres, it seems that Fr Flannery will probably vote "yes" in accordance with Enda Kenny's wishes.

Enda Kenny

"Another text from Satan. What can he want now?"

The confessions of Isobel Brownlie.

Finally, in Northern Ireland, a related issue is the great "gay cake " scandal, in which Judge Isobel "hash" Brownlie came up with a remarkable verdict. Apparently, the Christian-owned Asher's Bakery was obliged to bake a cake which simultaneously infringed the Sesame Street copyright on the puppets Bert and Ernie, promoted a political slogan demanding (illegal) same-sex marriage, and went against their own consciences. A triple whammy, there. Later, Isobel Brownlie was said to have had second thoughts - well, first thoughts, actually - about her verdict and despairingly echoed Pope Francis in saying "Who am I to judge?" Many readers of this blog will also ask themselves "Who is this idiot to judge?"

Judge Gavel Doozer

Judge Isobel Brownlie (or the nearest equivalent I could find).

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Have you sold your soul to the Devil?

Let me make one thing clear before we start: do not try this at home. Selling your soul to the Devil is a very bad idea, and is likely to lead to great inconvenience later on. Assuming that none of my readers has tried this, can we identify any people who have?

Obama and Kenny

I can't imagine what that photo is doing here.

Clue 1: People who sell their souls to the Devil will normally have got a good price. They will almost certainly be rich and famous. So, although we may think that Tina Beattie is beyond the pale, nobody is going to sell their immortal soul just to become a professor at Roehampton, so I think it's safe to assume that she is beyond the pale for other reasons.

The same goes for Michael Coren, who - we might think - has been renting his soul out on and off, on a time-share basis. But all that just to get a few newspaper columns and a TV show? I think not. Likewise, Fr Timothy Radcliffe hasn't managed to cut a deal - for who wants to sell their soul just to become the Vatican consultant on paperclips? Why, he hasn't even made it as far as bishop.

Radcliffe and Mephistopheles

"Sorry, I'm hanging on for a better offer."

Clue 2: People who sell their souls to the Devil will normally lead very evil lives. So someone in a position of great power, such as the Pope, Queen of the United Kingdom, or publisher of Spectator Health, Money and Life, will not be assumed to have made a diabolical deal unless they start acting in an evil manner. Despite what some bloggers say, the Pope is not that bad, although he seems to have good days and bad days.

Richard Dawkins, then? He's got a fairly good deal from life, becoming an expert on zoology, genetics, philosophy, theology, poetry, honey, etc. And all that without significant quantities of common sense. But a man who spends his declining years in howling at the Universe via Twitter is surely not getting a very good bargain, even if he does have a pretty wife from Gallifrey.

Clue 3: People who sell their souls are supposed to have all the women (or men, or whatever) that they want. So we can rule out Tony Blair after all, for, despite being rich, famous, powerful, evil, etc., he is saddled with Cherie. (That wasn't very gallant, Eccles.)

Cherie Blair

Phew! Proof that Tony Blair didn't sell his soul, after all.

Maybe, then, nobody has sold his soul to the Devil recently. Not Richard Branson, not Cardinal Nichols, not Russell Brand, not Enda Kenny. Well, maybe Enda Kenny. We'll see whether he wins that referendum...

Monday 18 May 2015

Hopes fade for Michael Coren

Doctors monitoring the state of Michael Coren, the Catholic Evangelical Catholic Anglican Druid writer have expressed themselves as pessimistic about the possibility that he can be saved. Since swimming the Tiber for the fourth time (and becoming eligible for a Frequent Swimmer Gold Card), Mike has shown a distinct inability to laugh at his predicament, and - unlike the rest of us - is taking himself far too seriously.

Michael Coren

Cheer up, Mike!

We have made attempts to bring a smile to the face of Mr Coren (after all, he is supposed to be keen on "gay" issues). These include tickling him with a feather during his latest television interview, putting a whoopee cushion on his seat when he attended (Anglican) church, and reading out in a silly voice some passages from Why Catholics are Right. All to no avail, he's still Mike Misery-Guts.

Rosica and Kasper

Kasper has just stuck a "Kick me" sign to the back of Fr Rosica.

Contrast this with the demeanour of his Eminence, Cardinal Kasper, who has a somewhat perpetual grin. Wally Kasper's views are not very different from Mike Coren's, but he has managed to avoid donning the old life-jacket and plunging into the Tiber. Of course, some regard the Kasper grin as a sign of mania, but it's better than scowling all the time.

Kasper and Radcliffe

"So then his Holiness saw the sign and gave him a kick!"

Another smiler who makes the good folk at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith throw up their hands in disgust is Fr Timothy Radagast the White, who has been packed off to Rome as consultor to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. We were hoping that this was a non-job, designed to keep him out of trouble, but unfortunately Timmy Radish - who, like his namesake keeps coming back leaving a nasty taste - will probably consider that drivelling on about homosexual rights is the main purpose of Catholicism.

Rowan Williams and Radcliffe

"That's funny, I reject Catholic teaching as well."

So, Mike, why not come back again to the Catholic Church - it will get you a mention in the Guinness Book of Records, and as a Frequent Swimmer you'll get complimentary champagne and fatted calf! After all, your ludicrous anti-Christian views are already shared by some very senior types in Rome! Think about it, OK?

Friday 15 May 2015

Britain’s leading lay Catholics

To celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Tablet, and the 25th anniversary of its ceasing to be a Catholic paper, we are printing excerpts from its list of Britain's leading lay Catholics - or, to be more precise, those powerful people who have done so much to make the Catholic church conform to Tablet values.

wicked witch

Hecate Popestrangler, ACTA Sturmbannführerin.

Hecate is the coordinator of the Midsomer branch of ACTA, and she has done more than anyone else to foster dialogue between the bishops and the rebellious laity. Comments about her work include "It's that old bat on the phone again, My Lord," and "Tell her to jump in the lake." A regular columnist for the Tablet and qualified liturgical dance instructor.

Ben Turpin

Adolf Herod, Amnasty International Infanticide Division.

Adolf, a pious Catholic, hides his light under a bushel. So much so that he is single-handedly responsible for changing Amnasty International from an organization that cared for prisoners into one which pushes for abortion. Dr Herod is also an influential member of the Catholic Youth in Asia campaign, which is pressing for a humane death for everyone over the age of 60.


Harriet Cyberman, Secretary of State for Cotton Wool.

Harriet is one of the most powerful Catholics in the country, and is said to have the Prime Minister's ear (obvious joke omitted). A keen proponent of same-sex marriage, equality, diversity, dexterity, elasticity, viscosity and toxicity, Harriet lives in Hampstead with her wife and three test-tube babies. She greatly admires Chris Patten.

Sid Vicious

Professor Sidney Vicious.

Professor Vicious is on our televisions most nights, whether it's as a guest on Strictly Come Chainsaw-Massacring or I'm a psychopath, get me out of here! Whenever the BBC needs someone to explain how Catholics are just like everyone else - and even believe exactly the same things - Professor Vicious, the Regius Professor of Astrology at Myra Hindley University, is there to oblige. His new translation of the Mass, with added expletives, is recommended by the Tablet.

Thursday 14 May 2015

Vincent Nichols conducts a Blue Mass

Following on from his controversial "Gay Mass" at Farm Street, in which he was ably assisted by his yes-man, the incredible Mgr Bottletop, Cardinal Nichols is now planning an even more shocking event, namely, a "Tory Mass". It is expected that many "out" Tories will attend, and that ++Nichols will preach a sermon stressing the role of "Mercy", without however insisting on the orthodox Catholic doctrine that Conservative acts are sinful (the doctrine of Purge-a-Tory). The Mass will take place in the Brompton Ora-Tory, the scene of many scandalous Tory masses.

Vincent Nichols in blue

++Vin forsakes his rainbow vestments for a Tory blue.

Traditionally, Tories have been regarded as in some way "second class" citizens, and the Christian churches have been blamed for fostering anti-Tory bigotry. For example, Canon Giles Fraser was given the prestigious "Bigot of the year" award for Toryphobia by the Tory Rights organization, BlueWall, after expressing the view that Conservatives should not be allowed to marry.


"Toriesssss... we hates 'em, my precious!"

In Rome, the forthcoming Synod on the Family, Part 2, will be addressing the vexed question whether Tories should be permitted to take Communion in the same way as ordinary liberals and socialists are allowed to. For many, Cardinal Kasper's proposals, which would even include letting Tories marry in church, are a step too far.

It is said that in a long-gone degenerate era the Anglican church was regarded as "The Tory Party at Prayer"; eventually, its leaders managed to reform it, removing the Tory elements as well as the prayers. The Catholic Church was more faithful to Christ's teaching that we should all join trades unions, vote Labour, go on strike, read the Guardian, worship the sacred Edstone of St Miliband, deface war memorials, etc. However, nowadays these Toryphobic attitudes are considered obsolete, and it is only in certain repressive countries such as North Korea, Zimbabwe, Iran and France that being a Conservative is actually illegal.

Margaret Thatcher in car

Margaret Thatcher is sent into exile for being a Conservative. Is a royal pardon imminent?

So, although we are usually harsh critics of Vincent Nichols's orthodoxy, his bullying, and his inability to get the date of Ascension Day right, we are going to stick our necks out here and say that in showing compassion to the most despised members of society, he is proving himself to be a true man of God. Wow.

Monday 11 May 2015

Giles Fraser condemns the Re-election of Jesus

Palestine, 33 AD.

Gi-les Fra-ser, a Sadducee scribe, has expressed himself extremely dissatisfied with the recent surprising Re-election of Jesus of Nazareth.

Mad Charlotte Church

The Church of Charlotte was also dissatisfied.

Dr Fra-ser, known for his regular Take no thought for tomorrow slot for the Roman Empire Broadcasting Company, was writing his "Lost Canon" piece for the Guardian's The comments will make you free section. He pointed out that there had been three candidates for Re-election, namely, Jesus, Ed Dismas the Good Thief, and Nick Gestas the Bad Thief. (There were also candidates with less potential for salvation, such as Judas Isgalloway.)

Two Milibands

Dismas's brother demonstrates the Vulcan death grip.

It is thought that Dr Fra-ser was first disillusioned with Jesus when he came across His views on marriage: apparently, it was the bigoted "one man and one woman" model that he found unacceptable. Weeping copiously, Dr Fra-ser wrote how he was ashamed to be a citizen of the Roman Empire, and that he felt that the democratic system had failed the most vulnerable in society. He thought that God had got it wrong ("as He so often does"), and that the highly eccentric Russell Barabbas might have been right after all, when he told people to support nobody at all Ed Dismas, the Judaean People's Front.

A powerful message from Russell Barabbas.

Jesus, is of course associated with food banks (5000 hungry people were clamouring for a free meal at one point), and a somewhat hit-and-miss attitude to health care, as Lazarus and Jairus's daughter could testify. However, it seems that He has now been Re-elected for a long period, and it is not clear how Fra-ser proposes to resist his authority. Meanwhile, he admits, "I'm very Sadducee."

Sunday 10 May 2015

How can I make my sermons less boring?

A week or two ago, Pope Francis ordained nineteen new priests, telling them to feed the people of God with heartfelt homilies rather than boring sermons. Since then, many priests have contacted me, asking "How can I make my sermons less boring?"

Pope Francis joking

"So I told him, 'I will not dance with you for three reasons. First because you are drunk, second because that music is not a dance but our national anthem, and third because I am the cardinal-archbishop of Buenos Aires.'"

Certainly many sermons are boring, but here are a few ways to make them less so, based on observation of the Holy Father himself:

1. Say something so confusing that nobody knows what you really mean. People will ask themselves, "Did he really say that we should all try and commit a few extra sins today?"

2. Insult your congregation. Call them "Sloth-diseased, acedic Christians!" or ""Querulous and disillusioned pessimists!" or the old favourite, ""Self-absorbed, Promethean neo-Pelagians!" There is a useful list of insults here.

3. Make an off-colour joke about mothers-in-law, or perhaps women in general. Try to avoid jokes about ethnic minorities, homosexuals or the disabled, as there are limits to what even a priest can get away with.

Alf Garnett

This is going to end badly, Deacon.

Apart from that, here are few tips about keeping your audience's attention. Start with something arresting, preferably about SEX, as this is a subject that occupies most people's minds most of the time.

POOR: "I think the sex life of the rhubarb plant is really fascinating."

WEAK, BUT BETTER: "The sex life of the three-toed sloth is one that carries a powerful message to Christians."

BETTER STILL: "You may have seen a recent television programme in which Professor Dairymaid McCauliflower told us that nobody ever had sex until the Reformation."

BEST, BUT A BIT PERSONAL. "The sex life of Sally Bercow is really fascinating."

Sally Bercow

We are not sure what is happening here.

Apart from sex, other subjects that your audience can identify with include football (for some), pop music (but try not to describe Elton John as a "promising youngster"), and what was on television last night.

You may also want a gimmick tailored to the subject of your sermon. If your subject is "I am the vine", then bring a vine in with you and wave it, just in case your audience has never seen one. If it's "Money is the root of all evil", tear a five-pound note in half (you can still use it afterwards), to symbolize your rejection of the material.

Bottley of wine

Kate Bottle (Anglican) explains the Miracle at Cana.

Anyway, you get the picture. Avoid all mention of dead people, such as Aquinas, Luther or Newman. Only very clever people have heard of them, and it violates the last and most important rule of sermon-giving, or public-speaking in general: WHEN IN DOUBT, DUMB DOWN.

Saturday 9 May 2015

A remembrance service for departed politicians

I am the re-election and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were rejected by voters, yet shall he live, peradventure to return to the world by a by-election, or peradventure to enter the heavenly House of Lords. Failing that, to be blessed with directorships, consultancies, and other means by which the world poureth out money on the otherwise unemployable.

Man that is elected to parliament hath but a short time to serve, and causeth a lot of misery by his meddling. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one eternal government.

Three polticians (two of them also walking dead) remember the fallen.

Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God, in his wise providence, to take out of parliament the souls of our deceased brothers, we therefore commit them to the dustbin of history; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, toast to toast; looking for a general re-election on the last day of the new administration.

We remember in particular the following brothers who have been taken from us:

Edward Edwin Edgar Edmund Balls, he whose testament to the world, "Ed Balls", is forever remembered in "Ed Balls Day". Although his cutting off leaves the House of Commons emasculated, may the holy day of April 28th (or, if the bishops choose, a convenient Sunday nearby) ever be used to remember him; yeah, even when his works have faded into history and the deficit is no more.

Ed Balls, clad in robes of white.

George Saddam Felix Galloway, many times winner of the "most obnoxious man in politics" award. Well, the less said about him, the better. May he be granted seventy-two virgins in Paradise, preferably Jewish ones.

Possibly the last we shall see of George Galloway. I'm an optimist.

Vincent Nijinsky Cable, dancer extraordinaire and politician ordinaire, he who was unplugged before his time; and Mark Lemming Reckless, of whom we never heard until he decided to sing a new song to the Lord, which proved his undoing.

And there are many others, mostly dressed in robes of red and yellow, whose names are already forgotten.

I heard a voice from Heaven, saying unto me: Write, From henceforth blessed are the dead who are thrown out: for they rest, and we have peace from their foolishness.

"Mwahahahahaha!" Sometimes the undead come back to haunt us.

The priest is asked NOT to mention wailing and gnashing of teeth, even though there is a lot of this going on in BBC interviews, etc.

[At this point Messrs Cameron, Miliband and Clegg will lay wreaths at the eight-foot "Edstone". Mr Cameron will endeavour to stop giggling, before departing to visit some more fish markets. Mr Miliband will trip and fall, before leaving to seek spiritual advice from the Venerable Brand. Mr Clegg will depart in a taxi with the rest of his MPs.]

liturgical dancing

Life goes on: Theresa May teaches liturgical dancing to a group of new MPs.