This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Saturday 30 January 2016

The Book of St Richard, Chapter 24

Continued from Chapter 23

1. And it came to pass that Richard was invited to the prestigious Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism; this was because many years ago he had been a scientist, and he was in those days still a skeptic, or at least a sceptic.

2. And he accepted with alacrity, saying, "It will enable me to rub shoulders with many luminaries of whom nobody has ever heard, not to mention Michael Mann, he who hath produced a 'hockey stick' graph showing that the world will be consumed by fire if we do not shower gold upon him."

3. "And, although I shall fly to New York, that I may claim the miles of air, yet shall I pretend that I walked from Oxford, so that my giant footprints of carbon be hidden from the gaze of Mann."

Chanty Binx

Cometh the Nemesis of Richard.

4. But it was not to be, for there came into Richard's life a woman named Chanty Binx.

5. This was a woman with red hair, not unlike the fair Mrs Dawkins; well, at least, if the fair Mrs Dawkins had decided to dress up for Hallowe'en to scare the breeches off Richard.

6. She was known as an example of the hard-line feminist that screameth abuse, hateth men, and sweareth like the fabled fishwives of the Gate of Billings.

7. So it came to pass that on the Tube of Yew there appeared a song that mocked extreme Islamists and feminists.

8. And Richard found pleasure in this song by a fellow-atheist, and recommended it to his disciples.

Islam and feminism

The shanty that mocketh Chanty.

9. However, as scripture hath it, "Stick not thy nose into a nest of hornets, lest it be stung until it swelleth like the hippopotamus of the Nile."

10. And Richard was told that he was encouraging rape and death threats.

11. For why did he not confine himself to attacking the followers of Christ, who deserved all they got?

12. Thus Richard's invitation to the fleshpots of New York was withdrawn; for, in the words of the prophet Necsas, "Unpopular and offensive views are fine, but if we disagree with them they become divisive, counterproductive, hate speech."

NECSS gets cold feet

Richard is banned from the "world's biggest bores" conference. [click to enlarge]

13. And some said "NECSS hath got cold feet. Doth Michael Mann know of this climatological phenomenon?"

14. But Richard was sore exasperated and said unto himself, "Atheists! Are ye not sick of them? CURSES, WHAT AM I SAYING???"

Dawkins wounded

Richard is wounded.

Continued in Chapter 25.

Friday 29 January 2016

Woman believes she is a bishop

Psychologists are struggling to cope with a wave of "identification" crises. First we saw the case of Bruce Jenner, fathering six children and then deciding that he was really a woman and should be called Caitlin - although to be convinced that he was female we'd really need to see photos of him getting off the sofa and doing the washing up.


Nano the cat.

Next, we saw the Norwegian girl Nano, who said that she was really a cat trapped in a human's body. It is not known whether she lives on a diet of Whiskas and voles, but to be fair, she does claim to hunt mice at night, so maybe she really is a cat. Who are we to judge?

However, another case that has come to our attention strains the limits of credulity even further.

Rachel Treweek

Rachel the bishop.

Rachel Treweek, a 50-something speech therapist, has taken to dressing as a bishop, even referring herself as a "Lord Spiritual" and "Bishop of Gloucester". The UK being a tolerant place, nobody has challenged her when she goes around wearing bishop-clothes, especially as she shows better taste than the American "bishop" Katharine Jefferts Schori.

The case of women self-identifying as bishops is uniquely a late-20th and early-21st century phenomenon. Tell the great theological giants of the 16th century - Luther, St Thomas More, Henry VIII, Cranmer - that a woman could be a bishop, and they would have laughed at you (or, in the case of Henry VIII, cut off your head). Tell Jesus Himself, and He would patiently have sat down and explained the priesthood to you, possibly driving out any demons of which you happened to be possessed.

gender survey

Candidates may attempt not more than three of these.

Ahead of the rest of the world as usual, Brighton school children are now asked to self-identify by gender/sex; so in addition to the perfectly normal male, female, tomboy, transylvanian, tri-gender, hidden agender, and twenty-odd further options, kids will now be able to choose tomcat, moggy, bishop, lord spiritual, and various other combinations. So please be sympathetic to poly-gendered feline bishops.

Tuesday 26 January 2016

Pope seeks Catholic forgiveness for persecution

After apologising to the Protestant churches for the persecution they suffered during the Reformation - and most of us didn't even know that he was personally responsible, so it's very good of him to take the blame after all these years - Pope Francis has now made the grand apology that we've all been waiting for.

Pope and Burke

Cardinals queue up to forgive Pope Francis.

"It's time for me to apologise for the persecution for which I myself am responsible, rather than some long-dead people that I never even knew," he said. "Therefore I wish to apologise to traditional Catholics for all the persecution they have suffered in the last three years."

The Pope went on to apologise for the treatment of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, for the bullying of Cardinal Burke, and for frightening people with threats to change Catholic teaching on marriage and the family.

Pope and Morales

"I apologise for not clubbing President Morales over the head with this abominable object."

The Holy Father went on to apologise for all the insults he had come out with on a daily basis, including the notorious "self-absorbed Promethean neo-Pelagian" epithet. He was also very sorry for his ferocious outburst against the Curia in Rome, when he accused them of suffering from "spiritual Alzheimer's".

"Such rudeness is inexcusable," he admitted. "As Pope I am supposed to preach love and mercy, but sometimes I simply can't manage it. But you know how irritating Catholics can be - just because Jesus taught something, and it's been agreed by the Church for two thousand years, they tell me it has some sort of official validity, and so I can't change it. You wouldn't find the Protestants making that sort of mistake!"

Pope and painting

"And I'm sorry I left handprints all over your painting."

Monday 25 January 2016

Pope Francis to visit Oxford to celebrate atheism

October 2nd 2016 is the 10th anniversary of the publication of Richard Dawkins's learned theological tome The God Delusion, and, in a spirit of ecumenism, humility and mercy, Pope Francis has agreed to visit Oxford to engage in joint celebrations with the Dawkinsite ecclesial community.

Balliol College Oxford

Balliol College Oxford, where Dawkins first nailed his thesis to the chapel door.

Oxford is of course a sacred place to the Dawkinsites - for it was in 1967 that Richard Dawkins nailed his thesis Selective pecking in the domestic chick to the door of Balliol College Chapel (he was later told to remove it and hand it in to the Examination Schools like everyone else).

The "second reformation" started in 2006, with the publication of The God Delusion, and it is this - rather than Dawkins's breakthroughs in chick lit - that will give rise to the papal celebrations.

Dawkins and beads

Dawkins conclusively proves that Rosary beads "don't work."

"...a vindictive bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser, a misogynistic, homophobic racist, an infanticidal, genocidal, phillicidal*, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully." These are the words of Professor Dawkins, referring to Almighty God, but Pope Francis sees them as a useful contribution to inter-faith dialogue. Likewise the Catholic Church's official view on Dawkins as "... a demented, ignorant, illogical, egotistical, bad-tempered, vain, arrogant, raving, ludicrous, fish-faced thug" is due to be interpreted in a more charitable and merciful way than hitherto.

*Not a real word, Richard.

The verdict of history will probably be that Dawkins is less of a threat to the Catholic Church than Martin Luther was - because he obviously hasn't a clue about religion - so it should be much easier for Pope Francis to find common ground with him. Thus, there will be an ecumenical Catholic-Dawkinsite service in New College, Oxford, the institution that currently puts up with Professor Dawkins, with Dawkinisites being invited to take Communion. Representatives of other religions will also attend.

Dawkins and rabbit

Owing to a typing error, an invitation to the Chief Rabbi was sent to the wrong address.

P.S. Richard Dawkins has described Christianity as a bulwark against something worse (perhaps Islam, the religion that indirectly deprived him of a much-loved pot of honey). It is good to know that he doesn't always talk complete bulwarks.

Sunday 24 January 2016

The Year of Mercy - your questions answered

Well, the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy is going swimmingly, but some people have sent us questions about it, so Uncle Eccles will see what he can do.

Year of Mercy logo

The logo by Marko Rupnik S.J., aged 7.

Today I accidentally went OUT through the Door of Mercy, rather than IN. Since then I have been feeling particularly merciless. Should I be worried?

It is permitted to leave church by the Door of Mercy, but to avoid any ill-effects you should reverse out, trying not to collide with anyone who may be coming in. Still, do take the opportunity to go IN again through the door, as soon as possible.

How many times do I have to go in through the Door of Mercy to get a badge?

You can be shown mercy even unto seventy-times-seven times. Make sure that your card is stamped by someone in authority.

I enjoyed Pope Benedict's Year of Faith, and now I am enjoying the Year of Mercy. What shall we see next?

It is unlikely that this pope will designate any more special years, even if he continues in office for a long time. However (according to the Jesuits) there should be many other cardinal virtues, so that we may see a Year of Hospitality, a Year of Humility, or a Year of Vigilance.

Dolan eating

Pope-to-be Dolan enjoys the Year of Hospitality.

I want to use the logo as the basis of a cartoon strip Mercy Man about a skiing instructor with two heads. Would that be OK?

No, the logo is protected by copyright, and can only be used in spiritually nourishing contexts, such as this blog.

I have heard the Year of Mercy chant by Paul Inwood with amazement. Will he be writing any more music?

I'm afraid so. We did try to stop him, by sending in a rogue piano tuner to retune all his keys to the wrong notes. However, he never even noticed. What can one do?

Inwood playing the piano

"I'm playing all the right notes - but not necessarily in the right order."

Saturday 23 January 2016

Bearding the Muslim in his lair

The suggestion by Richard Chartres, Anglican bishop of London, that growing beards can help vicars reach out to Muslims has been eagerly taken up by clerics everywhere. Male and female, vicars have stopped shaving, or, where necessary, rushed off to joke shops to buy Muslim-friendly false beards.

crazy beard

Richard Chartres is not shaved, only Eccles is shaved.

Curiously, this ties in with the experience of St Wilgefortis, a medieval noblewoman who managed to avoid an unwanted marriage by growing a beard. History does not record whether she later managed to reach out to Muslims.

St Wilgefortis

Lovely Wilgefortis.

For us, it is not clear what happens when a vicar "reaches out" to a Muslim. Does the Muslim think "Hmm, Christians are just like us. Time to stop reading the Koran and study Giles Fraser's hard-hitting How to be a Christian without believing very much"? Yes, that must be it. Ayatollah El-Vees at the Guitar Mosque will see congregations dropping as Father Trendy packs the Muslims into his 10 a.m. "Clowns and hoverboards" Mass.

Kate Bottley, maybe

The Rev. Kate Bottley, the "dancing vicar", gets evangelising.

Well, we are all for convertng the Muslims, as it's pretty clear that they've got things wrong from beginning to end. Now is surely the time for Pope Francis to grow a beard - our extensive researches (clicking on Wikipedia) have revealed that the last bearded pope was Innocent XII, who died in 1700, and even his beard wasn't enough to reach out to many Muslims.

Pope Innocent XII

Pope Innocent XII. Not exactly a Rowan Williams, or even a Brian Blessed.

Over to you, Holy Father!

Friday 22 January 2016

Pope introduces hair-washing rite for women

Pope Francis has shocked traditionalists with this week's twenth-ninth change to Catholic teaching and practice - introducing the rite of hair-washing for women on Holy Thursday.

pope washing hair

"Hmm... those look like nits to me." The Pope washes a man's hair.

First reports suggested that the change would involve the washing of women's feet, although many women find this offensive, not least the implication that their feet are anything but clean and fragrant. However, the original letter signed by Cardinal Sarah (who, paradoxically, is not a woman, as far as we know) was in error: in fact this year, priests will be expected to offer a permanent wave to devout Catholic women.

hair wash for woman

The Vatican-approved rite is demonstrated at the Rosica hair salon.

There is some debate about the scriptural authority for head-washing (foot-washing was traditionally regarded as being for men only). Proverbs 25:22 does insist, "Thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee," but this is not a formal recommendation, as the next verse says "Don't try this at home, folks!"

More relevant is Jeremiah 9:1, "Who will give water to my head, and a fountain of tears to my eyes?" which is pretty conclusive, and seems also to be warning against getting shampoo into the eyes of the faithful.

too much foam

A possible side-effect of ritual hair-washing. No need for a mantilla!

Advice to priests reading this blog: VATICO clerical suppliesTM are offering a new product "Wash, pray'n' go", which is recommended for use in the Novus Ordo hair-washing rite. Buy now while stocks last!

Thursday 21 January 2016

Government plans to regulate Sunday schools

The Department of Education is expanding its plans to register and inspect Sunday schools using OFCHURCH, the government office that already ensures that church services preach inclusivity, equality, diversity, British values, etc. and as little religion as possible. From now on, there will be a national curriculum, and all Sunday school teaching will be strictly controlled.

Noah's ark picture

This is allowed, as it celebrates biodiversity and warns against climate change.

All Bible stories, games, and children's drawing and colouring will be strictly monitored, and if a church fails to comply with government guidelines, then it can be closed down without warning. The above picture is permitted, but those containing a serious religious message will be forbidden.

pope picture

This picture is banned under the "prevention of terrorism" legislation of 1558.

However, it is not just Sunday schools that are under threat. Scouts, guides and cubs, for example, are another target. "DYB DYB DYB?" What kind of message is that for modern Britain, especially as "Do your best" is an exclusive and elitist mantra, discriminating against those who have chosen a slothful lifestyle! OFCHURCH recommends "DWYL DWYL DWYL" ("Do whatever you like"), as something that cannot be offensive to anyone.

Rainbows logo

Rainbow groups (ages 5 to 7) are still encouraged. Can you guess why?

It is expected that the Department of Education will soon be undertaking a complete overhaul of churches' liturgy, to remove all controversial aspects. For the time being, Latin masses will be exempt, as nobody in the civil service knows what they mean, and anyway, if we are going to preach diversity by supporting the African and Asian communities, we must also respect the rights of those such as Fr John Hunwicke whose first language is Latin. However, don't rely on this continuing.

Wednesday 20 January 2016

School report on Jorge Bergoglio

We have been sent a school report for a boy called Jorge Bergoglio who attended St Evita's Academy, Buenos Aires, in around 1947. We don't know what happened to Jorge (at that time he said he wanted to become a butcher), but the report may still be of interest to some readers.

Young Jorge.

Science. This seems to be Jorge's strongest subject. He is very fond of letting off explosions and startling his friends - so much so, that he is thinking of studying chemistry when he grows up. He is definitely one for experimenting, and it is hard to make him obey instructions. Indeed, I put him in detention after he accused me of "divination" and "idolatory" for insisting that he make gunpowder according to the book.
Che Guevara, Science Teacher.

Religion. Jorge is a studious boy, who has read the whole Bible, although he sometimes gets confused between Christian teaching and the works of Karl Marx. He tells me that he is inspired with the Spirit of Vatican I, and so everything needs changing - it doesn't matter how, just so long as it changes. Jorge's friends do get rather annoyed when he accuses them of being creed-reciting, parrot Christians. As a joke I suggested that he should become a priest. How we laughed! In fact, he's more likely to end up as a Lutheran pastor.
Fr Ray Bentos, Religious Studies teacher.

"God bless Mummy, and keep her from neo-Pelagianism."

Latin. Very weak. He seems to think that it is the same as Italian. Must try harder.
Jorge Luis Borges, Latin teacher.

Sport. Jorge is a very strong boy, and when he grows up he could easily make his living as a bouncer at a club. He must learn to curb his natural aggression - for example he punched another boy on the nose for insulting his mother.
Mara Dona, Sports teacher.

Jorge in the gym.

Headmaster's assessment. Jorge is an interesting child. He has some good friends (he was very kind to our exchange student Walter Kasper, and it was certainly not his fault that Walter burnt down the school library). Still, at the same time, Jorge does tend to irritate people by perpetually criticising and insulting them. He seems to think he is infallible, but he needs to realise that this has its limitations. His teachers agree that Jorge always has a lot to say, although he must learn to write comprehensibly. Asking old Scalfari the odd-job man to type out his essay for him was a blunder that had the whole school laughing!
Leopoldo Galtieri, Headmaster.

Sunday 17 January 2016

Catholic thanksgiving prayers for the Reformation

Following the issue of joint Catholic-Lutheran prayers of thanksgiving for the Reformation, we are pleased to publish further prayers along these lines, including some that are better adapted to use by the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
O Lord our Governor,
But not Supreme Governor, as that's the Queen,
We thank You for the life of King Henry VIII;
For his inspiring model as a loving King and Husband,
Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived:
May we all aspire to such an achievement.
Henry VIII

All Catholics venerate this man.

We give thanks for the martrydom of St Thomas More,
Who probably enjoyed the experience.
And the same goes for St John Fisher.
Also for the dissolution of the monasteries,
Which encouraged the monks to die off, or to get proper jobs.
An act that gave us so many charming National Trust properties 
   to visit,
When we have nothing to do on Sundays.
Cardinal Koch

Cardinal Koch with a new disposable edition of the Bible.

In a spirit of ecumenism, we also give thanks for the mass slaughter,
Given to us by thy servants,
Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I,
For the wonder that was the Tudors, if You'll excuse the pun.
Although in those days they didn't realise than burning people
Might lead to climate change.
Still, they knew that they were doing Your will
By killing off all the people who actually believed in something.
A policy not needed these days, at least not in Europe!
Martin Luther in a silly hat

Martin Luther - founder of modern Catholicism.

We also give thanks for the wisdom of Martin Luther.
He had many good qualities, not least a really cool hat.
Also when he called the Pope a "pompous toad with smelly feet",
He was merely leading the way to modern theological debate.
You should hear what they say about Pope Francis,
Although, being God, You may already know.
Well, there You are then!
Spanish Inquisition

Thank God for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith!

Finally we give thanks for the effects of the Reformation 
   throughout Europe.
Many were driven into exile or were blessed with martyrdom;
Which can't be bad, can it?
And, as the Anglican Communion falls apart before our eyes,
We pray for new schisms. 
Although please spare comedians such as Giles Fraser.
Ecumenical matter

Two Catholic priests discuss the new prayers.

Saturday 16 January 2016

God apologises for causing hurt and pain to the LBGT community

Following endless protests, the Lord God Almighty has apologised to the LBGT community for His "insensitive" behaviour to them over the years.

Sodom and Gomorrah

An insensitive act of destruction.

Facing protestors, He explained, "With hindsight, some people may think that raining down fire from Heaven on Sodom and Gomorrah was a somewhat tactless way of treating the LBGT community. I particularly wish to apologise to Mr Lot for turning his wife into a pillar of salt, when all she was doing was 'rubber-necking'. Still, she made a great conversation piece."

He continued: "Nowadays, I realise that my role as Judge Eternal, Throned in Splendour could be regarded as controversial. I can reassure the American Episcopalians that I shall attempt to regard them in a more tolerant and sympathetic light from now on, and there will be no punishment for them in this world. Why, I'll even drop some 'gay manna' from Heaven, if they insist."

gay cake

Gay manna.

God the Son was equally contrite. "When I said that marriage could only take place between a man and a woman, I made this comment in haste, without consulting Giles Fraser first. Although it is a self-evident truth, and I do still believe it, I feel that I may have been a little insensitive to mention it."

The Holy Spirit joined in the apologies: "Inspiring Christian writers such as St Paul and St Jude to make homophobic comments was perhaps a little tactless. Good chaps, but they did get carried away sometimes. Still, compared with the Muslims, they were really rather tolerant!"

Archbishop Welby welcomed the Trinitarian apology, and recommended to the Anglican Communion that they continue worshipping God, "at least for the time being".

Friday 15 January 2016

Are there really two popes?

In the Catholic Herald Damian Thompson has written an interesting piece about the relations between Popes Francis and Benedict. However, he has not really captured the essence of the question, so here is an improved version.

It is nearly three years ago that Pope Benedict shocked the world by his sudden resignation. Probably he believed that he was too infirm and unable to cope. Was it the daily texts from Robert Mickens asking "Aren't you dead yet?" or the fact that every time he met Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor he was given a selection of brochures for retirement homes? Or maybe it was just the regular phone calls from Cardinal Kasper saying "You, Mr Pope, have been specially selected to try out our new range of heresies"?

Whatever it was, Benedict decided to quit, and handed over to a little-known ex-bouncer, ex-chemist and Jesuit called Imbroglio (memo: check spelling), who took the title of Pope Francis the Humble. But then Benedict refused to go away: this was possibly because the Vatican had never thought of providing a pension scheme for retired popes, and so the ex-pontiff was forced to hang around, stealing food from the kitchens.

Francis and Benedict at prayer

"I wish he'd move along a bit."

Pope Francis found that, everywhere he went, Benedict was on his tail. His white cassocks were being borrowed by the former Pope - they needed cutting down to size, of course. In fact, the papal vestment issue was already a problem for Francis, after the day he caught Cardinal Vincent Nichols hiding in his wardrobe (Vin had been trying on Francis's spare cassock "just to see whether it would suit me"). Much more of this borrowing, and Francis would be forced to do his papal rounds dressed in jeans and an "I am the Pope" tee-shirt.

Pope Francis's sole victory was over the question of red shoes: luckily his feet are much larger than Benedict's so that the ex-pope has been unable to borrow the papal footwear without a grave danger of tripping over.

Francis, Benedict and a helicopter

"Don't worry, I'll take care of things while you're away, Francis."

Benedict continued to haunt the Vatican. He would get up early and grab the post, so that anything addressed to "The Holy Father" or "The Pope" that did not mention Francis by name would be taken. Pages would mysteriously disappear from Francis's latest encyclical Non salvati estis, ego solus salvatus sum ("You is not saved, only I is saved" in Francis's rather poor English); so that proposals to allow people to marry llamas, to canonize Pinocchio, and to project Reservoir Dogs onto St Peter's Basilica never saw the light of day.

Of course, having two Popes - one retired and one still employed - poses all sorts of constitutional questions. Are they both infallible? What happens if they say contradictory things infallibly? Who takes precedence? For example, should Pope Francis really have pushed his way through the Door of Mercy first, knocking Benedict to the ground?

Francis, Benedict and a picnic hamper

Who gets to feed the papal rabbit from now on?

It is known (to us insiders) that Benedict, as an art-lover and music-lover, is distinctly unimpressed by the Year of Mercy logo, and the Paul Inwood theme tune. It is said that he tore up the logo, and it was reassembled from the pieces (which is why one of the eyes in missing). Moreover, the Inwood score was also reconstructed (badly) from fragments found in the waste bin. Surprisingly, the jumbled version was considered to be an improvement.

Pope Francis is 79, and also in poor health. What will happen if he also decides to retire? Will Pope Nichols/Tagle/whoever gets the job be haunted by a duo of retired popes, pinching his favourite breakfast cereal and making faces at him in church? The prospect is daunting.

Wednesday 13 January 2016

It's Bowie-mania in the Vatican!

I don't really know much about the late David Robert Jones, also known as David Bowie, although I once nearly met him (I'm fairly sure that we were both in London at the same time, or maybe that was someone else). However, certain distinguished people in the Vatican are singing his praises, so he must have been a devout and holy person, whatever else he got up to.

David Bowie

A devout and holy person.

First, we heard from Father Thomas Rosica, the Salt and Light media magnate, who tweeted a spiritually nourishing message. I have had some worries about Fr Rosica's health lately (it's rumoured that he had a severe case of Repetitive Strain Injury after blocking the entire Catholic Church on Twitter), and I do wonder whether he could have been overworking. It's hard to imagine a man of Rosica's build bopping around to the sounds of David Bowie.

Anyway, Rosica's message was "The world remembers David Bowie with gratitude. He helped us to remember those on the peripheries of life," and he linked to a video of a man with some Kermit the Frog glovepuppets. Time for your lie-down, Father!

Rosica and Tagle

Fr Rosica rehearses Space Oddity with Cardinal Tagle.

Well, Rosica is Rosica. A more worrying case was that of Cardinal Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture. I thought at first his Twitter account had been hacked, when I saw that he'd tweeted first a platitude from Buddha, then the following message:

Ground Control to Cardinal Ravasi: Have you been hacked?

I suppose that "culture" can mean many things, including music, literature, and colonies of bacteria, and when you are 73 (as Ravasi is), you may have fond memories of the 1960s and 1970s. Now, no offence to the late David Bowie, but he wasn't particularly Christian. If anything, he was drawn towards Buddhism. Aha, like Cardinal Ravasi, maybe?

So far, Pope Francis has not get joined in the Bowie-mania, except possibly in private. He was last seen plugging launching his new book The Name of God Is Mercy, with the aid of the comedian Roberto Benigni.

Roberto Benigni

"You laughed at Laudato Si', but this is even funnier!"

This isn't good enough, Holy Father! Why aren't you wearing black robes? Why isn't the Vatican flag at half mast? How long must we wait for David Bowie to be canonized?

Saturday 9 January 2016

Primate gathering in Canterbury

Over now to the Anglican Communion, where the news is that Canterbury will be hosting the long-awaited gathering of primates. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is representing the humans, but - the Anglicans being a very broad church - we shall also see baboons, gorillas, chimpanzees, etc. taking part. There will also be a guest keynote speech from King Küng the dissident Catholic.


Veneration of relics, from the last gathering in 2001

The meeting is expected to be very controversial, with disagreement on a variety of topics. For example, vestments: only the human clergy tend to wear clothes in church, but that is because (with the exception of Rowan Williams) they are not entirely covered in fur. Also, consider the case of Katharine Jefferts Schori. She wears the worst vestments you've ever seen outside a clown act in the circus, but the prospect of her stripping off is even more terrifying.

Jefferts Schori in bad vestments

Keep them on, Kathy!

Another issue is bananas. No, nothing to do with the views of Giles Fraser (who accidentally wrote something sensible recently), but the fruit. Many primates find it hard to obtain bread and wine, and would prefer bananas as an alternative for Communion.

Then there's swinging from the beams, while scratching oneself under the arms. For many primates this is an acceptable form of worship, but for conservative Anglicans it may be a liturgical dance too far.

chimpanzee tea party

More tea, vicar?

Then there is the liturgy. Could it not be reduced to a simple "Oook!"? The Catholic Paul Inwood has offered to produce a chant "Alleluia, oook, oook!" in the interests of ecumenical understanding.

Indeed, the Vatican itself has been very much involved in Primates 2016, lending St Gregory's crozier to the Church of England for the occasion (also, as it happens, Canterbury Cathedral, which has been on loan on and off since 1536).

Vatican film show monkey

The Vatican marks the primate gathering

Good luck, chaps! Oook oook oook!

Friday 1 January 2016

Top of the Christians

The Anglican Cranmer blog has published its new list of democratically-elected top UK Christians, and the winner is Nissar Hussain, the former England cricket captain who has been persecuted for his faith in the forsaken lands of the Islamic jihad (Bradford).

Last year I expressed my disappointment that Tony Blair did not make it onto the list (not to mention Tina Beattie, Thomas the Tank Engine and Fr Jack Hackett), but this year "our Tony" has been recognised as the truly pious, influential and rich warmonger that he really is.

Blair in a suit

The formal stage. Entrants later paraded in swimsuits as well.

Hilarity has been ensured by the inclusion of various other entertaining characters known to this blog: Giles Fraser, Tyson Fury, and a bunch of women "bishops" - well, it is an Anglican blog, and they take these things seriously. Of course there have been complaints about the results from those who don't understand the democratic process - not enough women, not enough ethnic diversity, hardly any Muslims, etc.

Abu Hamza

Not elected. Religious and disablist discrimination in action.

There are some excellent Catholics on the list, but no Catholic bishops. Vincent Nichols goes into the dustbin of history (oh dear, how sad, never mind) but none of his colleagues is famous enough to take his place. James MacMillan makes it, but Paul Inwood doesn't, in spite of - or perhaps because of - his contribution to the Year of Mercy. Again: oh dear, how sad, never mind, ch-ch.

Bad news for Catholic journalists too. Tim Stanley is deservedly there again, but where is Damian "cupcake" Thompson?


Damian starred in a major film this year, but still did not make the cut.

Actually, Spectatre's "Bond girl", Isabel Hardman, did make the list. She runs a coffee house at which Damian's cupcakes are served: a good read, but somehow I never spotted that she was slightly saved, as well.

So who are Eccles's tips for December 2016?

George and Charlotte

Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

The future Supreme Governor of the C of E (if it survives that long) is believed to say his prayers regularly, and he still has that "sweetness" touch which we find hard to associate with tough guys like Tyson Fury or Theresa May.

I won't include any other photos, as they won't be as sweet, but my other two tips are Jeremy Corbyn (the postal vote should swing it), and Stephen Fry (because he has to be on every list, darlings). You read it here first.