This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Sunday, 28 February 2016

In Memoriam: Father Jack Hackett

Father Jack Hackett (or at least the actor Frank Kelly, who portrayed him) has died, and tributes are already flooding in.

Father Jack

So, farewell then...

Cardinal Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture

When that good Catholic David Bowie passed away, I tweeted "Ground Control to Major Tom, Commencing countdown, engines on. Check ignition, and may God's love be with you." Now that an even more distinguished Catholic has gone to meet his Maker, all that the Pontifical Council for Culture has to say is "Feck! Girls! Arse! Drink!"

Tony Flannery

Fr Tony Flannery, Redemptorist Extraordinaire

Many people have said that I bear a slight resemblance to Fr Jack Hackett, and certainly we share similar religious opinions, namely, "Feck Off, Pope!" Today has been a strange day, as people have come up to me and said "We thought you were dead, Father." I am happy to say that I am still alive and I WILL NOT BE SILENCED. But I miss Fr Jack's support for my annoy-the-Vatican campaign.

Stephen Fry, luvvie-in-chief.

Bottoms. bottoms. bottoms! I've always had a great appreciation for bottoms, and so, I would say, has Fr Jack, to judge from his regular cries of "Arse!" Of course he was a Catholic, so as far as I am concerned he could feck off.

You don't like my comments? Well feck you! I'm not commenting on this blog ever again, and I'm going to leave this planet. Uranus looks nice.

Donald Trump/ Hillary Clinton mashup

Donald Trump, future President of the USA, possibly.

I would like to pay tribute to one of my closest friends, Father Jock Hoggett. At present I am too busy campaigning in order to make America great again, as otherwise I would be rushing over to Iceland to attend his funeral!

Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin.

There was a time when Fr Jack Hackett and I were in strong contention for the job of Archbishop of Dublin. I won the contest by a whisker, and I think it is fair to say that my strong spiritual leadership has given Irish Catholicism the moral high ground and influence that it possesses this day. Fr Jack would have been unable to show the courage and decisiveness for which I am known. Maybe.

Damian Thompson, blood-crazed ferret.

In my days at Telegraph blogs we had a little fun at the expense of Fr Jack. In reality he was a sober, polite and learned man, but we created for him the persona of a lecherous, foul-mouthed, drunk: many people were fooled by it. As a result the Irish Magic Circle of bishops was thwarted in its attempts to install Fr Jack as Archbishop of Dublin.

Frank Kelly

The true Fr Jack: author of a ground-breaking monograph on John Henry Newman.

The Book of Brexodus

1. And there arose a new king of EUgypt, who set taskmasters over the children of Britain, to afflict them.

2. But God heard the groaning of the children of Britain, and God remembered His covenant with their forefathers, made when EUgypt was simply a common market.

3. Thus there arose two leaders among the children of Britain, whose names were Bosis and Cam-aaron.

Boris and Dave

Bosis and Cam-aaron play "spot the loony".

4. And Bosis spake, saying, let us leave EUgypt and go our own way. For Cripes! we want the right to obey our own Ten Commandments, rather than obeying the Ten Million Directives imposed by the Pharaoh, whose name is Juncker.

5. However, Camaaron disagreed, saying, I have spoken to the Pharaoh, and he hath promised us mighty concessions. Each day, between the second hour and five minutes after the second hour, our bondage will be lifted. Except when the day endeth in a Y.

6. And the people mocked Camaaron, saying, thou hast achieved nothing, for lo! the Pharaoh's servants Merkel and Hollande stand outside our tents, ready to flood them with aliens, such as the people of the Refugites, the Migranites, and even the Terrorites of Isis. And not a single good plumber among them.

Politicians march

An army of Migranites seeking to invade.

7. And even Corbyn the Clown jeered at Camaaron, saying, what is wrong with slavery and bondage, anyway? I myself quite enjoy being bullied, humiliated, and laughed at, for that is why I became a party leader.

8. Then God smote EUgypt with a series of plagues.

9. For there came a plague of Farogs, which went to the houses, and the bedchambers, and even the drinking-troughs, crying "Brexit! Brexit!"

Nigel Farage

A Farog cometh to the drinking-trough.

10. And Pharaoh came to Bosis, saying, Take away the Farogs, and I might even let thy people go.

11. But Camaaron spake, saying, I have obtained a wondrous deal, and I shall advise the people of Britain to stay in EUgypt, rather than go into the wilderness.

12. What's more, Bosis is a cad and a traitor unto me, and if we were still at Eton I would smite him behind the bike-sheds.

Continued in Chapter 2

Pope Francis gives advice in an aeroplane

Knowing that Pope Francis regards aeroplanes mainly as places in which to impart new teaching, his press officer, Federico Lombardi, has negotiated for him the duty of doing the airline safety briefings. Nothing can go wrong, can it?

Pope and Lombardi in plane

"Please give this encyclical your full attention."

Francis: Now, all you modern gnostics need to be restrained. Will you please BELT UP?

Lombardi: The Holy Father is asking you to fasten your seat belts, please.

F: There are six exits in this plane, plus an additional door of mercy leading into the pilots' cabin. In an emergency, you must go through the door of mercy.

L: This is not an ex cathedra change of doctrine, since the Holy Father is standing up, not sitting in his seat. His instructions may be interpreted as saying that you should leave by the usual exits.

Captain Dolan maintains that everything is under control.

F: If the oxygen supply fails, condoms will drop down...

L: ... oxygen masks...

F: Place the mask over your ear, unless you are the sort of rosary-counting museum mummy who insists on putting it over the mouth and nose!

L: This is fully in accordance with the teaching of Pope Paul VI. I can't actually find a reference for it, but I'm sure he said something rather like it.

Paul VI in plane

"Should a pope sit quietly, or stand up and embarrass people?"

F: In the event of landing on water, please stay in the plane and drown. Unless you are a Christian hypocrite only interested in formalities, when you may find a life-jacket under your seat.

L: Pull the red tag to inflate it.

F: NO! That is the sign of a watered-down faith, and a weak-hoped Christian!

L: What do the light and whistle do?

F: They are there to attract attention. Alternatively, just put on a sombrero and say the first "doctrine" that comes into your head. It works for me!

L: Well, you got that right.

Do not inflate the sombrero before leaving the plane!

F: I'm a great fan of Emma Bonino, you know.

L: Yes, well that's all we've got time for. Enjoy your flight.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Pope John-Paul II and his women

A special report by Ed Satan, presenter of Radio 4's prestigious religion and ethics programme, "Soaraway Sun Day".

Ed Satan

The Only Way is Ethics.

There is no actual evidence that Pope John-Paul II, a figure remembered by some Catholics, was the Casanova of the 20th century, with a string of mistresses, illegitimate children and bigamous marriages, but, using the techniques of innuendo, misinterpretation and scandal-mongering - or investigative journalism, as it is technically known - we are forced to come to this conclusion.

Even in his childhood years, Karol (an alias that John-Paul was probably using for the purposes of deception) was known to be fond of a Polish schoolteacher called Emilia Kaczorowska, who died when he was eight years old. Affectionately, he would call her "Mamma", and he would often tell her he loved her, and give her gifts on her birthday. Pretty shocking stuff, you'll agree, especially as she was 36 years older and already married to a man called Wojtyła.


The mysterious Emilia Kaczorowska.

Later, the young John-Paul became a devoutly religious Catholic. Of course, this can take many forms: for example, I know of one pious Catholic - technically, I suppose he's a sinner, ha-ha - who left his wife and three children and ran off with another woman. It would be wrong of us to judge such a person, especially as he now presents a BBC flagship programme on religion and ethics.

In John-Paul's case his Catholic faith was combined with a mysterious devotion to a woman known only as "Mary". The young priest would keep statues of this woman in his house, and even write adoring letters to her (I have in my possession one that begins "Hail Mary, full of Grace", unearthed by the brilliant John Cornwell, author of Don't be so hard on Hitler, it was all Pius XII's fault).

We have not been able to make a definite identification of "Mary", although she is believed to have been a Jewish woman with strong Christian sympathies. Well, that's a reasonable assumption.

Assumption of Mary

The unknown Mary.

When it comes to Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, a philosopher, we are on surer ground. Indeed, we have definite evidence that John-Paul II spoke to her, even when he was Pope. This would be the first time that a reigning pope had spoken to a woman since Pope Pius X asked his tea-lady for an extra biscuit in 1910. At the time this was considered a great scandal, and it led inexorably to World War I a few years later.

Now, unfortunately, we have no evidence that John-Paul was in love with Anna-Teresa, nor she with him, but the journalistic techniques of innuendo and creative writing lead us to the inescapable conclusion that they had a torrid love affair and that she was the mother of sixteen of his children.

We have seen his letters to her, which, couched in the language of philosophy, make damaging reflections such as "It's a funny old world," "There's nowt so queer as folk" and "You never can tell, can you?" What can these be but a coded way of expressing his deep passion for her?

Pope JP2 camping

Scandalous photo of Pope John-Paul in a compromising situation.

I repeat, there is no evidence whatsoever that Pope John-Paul broke his vows of celibacy, However, as the Gospel puts it, "There's no smoke without fire," especially when I'm the one making all the smoke. Don't get me wrong - I'm not condemning "The Sexy Pope" - after all if Christ had one message for the world, it was that there is no such thing as sin. But the whole issue should embarrass the Catholic Church, and force it to realise that Good and Evil are equally valid lifestyles. Which suits me fine.

Pope Francis praises Mexican culture

On his visit to Mexico, Pope Francis has praised the culture and traditions of Mexico's indigenous people, and condemned the interference of Europeans.

Who are we to judge?

"In my trips round the world, I have found common ground with many non-Catholic religions," said the Holy Father, "including the Russian Orthodox, the Lutherans, and even the Muslims. Now is the time for dialogue with the Aztec high priests."

The Pope went on to condemn the European invaders who had suppressed the traditional Aztec religion and imposed Catholicism. "You may say that human sacrifice and cannibalism are nasty 'traddy' rites, and contrary to the Spirit of Vatican II, but in this Year of Mercy we should recognise that the Catholic Church is big enough to embrace these old traditions."

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Praying to be declared a "hate crime"

Following the news that the distinguished atheist Richard Dawkins has suffered a mild stroke (fear not, he will soon recover, and the only after-effects will be an inability to speak coherently, so no change there)... following this news, the Church of England, together with other organizations, has encouraged people to pray for Richard and his family (Romana, K9 the dog, and his hive of honey-bearing bees). The main argument from the Christian perspective is that Richard needs a bit more time to get his act together before going to meet his Maker, so let's give it to him.

Justin Welby praying

The arch-troll of Canterbury, deliberately offending atheists.

However, supporters of Dawkins have accused such Christians of trolling, and it is clear that the only way this situation can be resolved is if praying for atheists is declared to be a "hate crime". Police will be given the powers to raid private homes and confiscate laptops in the search for prayer lists and other evidence of "hate prayers".

Already it is considered culturally insensitive to wish people "Happy Christmas", rather than "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings", and those of my readers who annually send Richard Dawkins a card saying "May you have a Holy and Blessed Christmas you silly old goat" should stop that sort of thing.

Personally, I welcome prayers from Christians. If people with less refined beliefs wish to pray to stone idols, sacred donkeys or Prince Philip, then I promise not to be offended.

Prince Philip worshippers

"O Prince Philip, bless thy servant Dawkins, we pray!"

In other news, it has been revealed that a genuine Christian, Dan Walker, has been appointed to host the BBC's prestigious breakfast show Get off the sofa, you lazy slob, and go to work.

This is a controversial appointment since not only is it virtually certain that Mr Walker is guilty of hate crime (praying) in his spare time, but also, since he is a Christian, he must believe that snakes can talk, that wine-making is done by pouring water into large pots, and that the blind can be cured by having mud rubbed into their eyes. No doubt also he believes in the great Sky Fairy, which no intelligent person has ever done - well, except for Shakespeare, Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, Beethoven, Tolkien, ... oh make your own list.

Dan Walker

Clear off! We want someone impartial like Stephen Fry!

Exclusive interview with the Russian Patriarch

Following his historic meeting with Pope Francis, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow has agreed to give an equally historic interview to this blog.

"And for spiritual nourishment you can't do better than reading Eccles's blog."

E: Good to see see you, Kirill. I gather you had a very successful meeting with Pope Francis.

K: Yes, we found that we had so much in common. For example, the Catholic Church is under pressure from liberals who want to introduce "gay masses", and so are we in the Russian Orthodox Church. There's this appalling Archbishop called Vinkentii Nikolskii, in the Diocese of West Minsk. If he ever became Supreme Patriarch, we might as well remove the word "Orthodox" from our title.

E: I gather that some of your Orthodox liberals want to ordain Matriarchs?

K: You're probably thinking of Professor Kristina Beatii, Eccles. Her feminist notions are totally off the scale: her devotion to the Virgin Mary is very commendable, but she seems to have trouble with all the male characters in the Bible.

E: She writes for Tabla, doesn't she?

The Tabla staff after an acrimonious editorial meeting.

K: I won't have the rag in my house, Eccles. Under Katarina Pepinskaya it has become the paper for those who want to ferment rebellion and dissent.

E: It is good of you to speak so frankly, your patriarchship.

K: Well, the last interview I gave was to a 103-year-old atheist journalist called Scalfarii, who told me "Don't bother to say anything, Kyrill, I'm going to make it all up anyway." I expect you will do much better.

E: Well, I hope so, sir. It was actually quite difficult for me to get to see you, what with that burly man on the door screaming "You're blocked" at all-comers. Father Rositskii, was it? He said he worked for the Siberian "Salt Mines" conglomerate.

K: I believe he's some sort of actor. Didn't I see him in the new production of War and Peace? Just ignore him.

Napoleon, as seen in "War and Peace".

E: Patriarch Kirill, thank you very much. Stay saved.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Lenten Reflections on Modernism

This blog will soon be closing for Lent, as I retire into the contemplative life of a hermit. I shall move to a shed on the Costa Blanca, where my only companions will be my four faithful hippopotamuses: Dolan, Pickles, Batmanghelidjh, and Auntie Moly. As a modern St Francis - or maybe St Augustine of Hippo - I shall exchange spiritually nourishing ideas with these highly intelligent creatures, but, except possibly on some Sundays, there will be nothing new to read on this blog.


Auntie Moly has a spiritually nourishing idea.

So, to give you material for reflection during Lent, here are some thoughts on modernism in a religious context.


Pre-Vatican II. A spiritual experience. Note the clouds of incense.

cheap train

Post-Vatican II. Worshippers don't even know where they're going.

The revolution in Catholicism can be traced to three events, which collectively are known as "Vatican II". First, there was the Beeching report, saying that churches should be modernized, some being closed down and the others becoming soul-less. The results can be seen above - in the "modernist" service we don't even know which way the priest's going to be facing. "Extraordinary form" services still exist, but the Spirit of Vatican II is against them, and they are often only available to the lucky few in churches run by enthusiasts.

Boycott batting

Traddy worship. Note how Fr Boycott's vestments are liturgically appropriate.

pyjama cricket

Bad vestments with the priest's name on the back!

Second, there was the move to bad vestments, and the rush to complete all one's worship in one day. Before Vatican II, a Mass could easily last five days, with intervals for lunch and tea. Experienced worshippers would use terms such as "night-watchman" (usually a disparaging reference to a deacon who came in for the night-time vigil), and "state of the pitch" (a reference to the quality of the unaccompanied Gregorian chant). These concepts have now largely disappeared.

Jon Pertwee

An asperges from Pope Pertwee.

Peter Capaldi

A guitar Mass with Pope Capaldi.

Finally, there was the Medicus Quis. In the olden days, Pope St Pertwee's main recipe for salvation was to "reverse the polarity of the neutron flow," which in theological terms means "turn back, O Man, forswear thy foolish ways." He often found salvation via the ventilation shaft (whence came the "rushing wind" of the Holy Spirit), and his services never employed guitars; only rarely did he use gimmicks such as the sonic screwdriver.

Pope Capaldi, on the other hand, relies almost exclusively on the sonic screwdriver. A demon appears? Zap it. A penitent needs a blessing? Zap him (oops. you weren't supposed to use the same setting, Father). Alleluia, zap-zap!

I hope these little thoughts will help you to stay saved during Lent. At least the hippopotamuses appreciated them.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Pope Francis refuses to meet the Mayor of Whitby

Councillor Heather Coughlan, Mayor of Whitby, has reacted angrily to reports that Pope Francis will be meeting with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, but has, as yet "no plans to visit Whitby".

Patriarch Kirill

Nicene Nice one, Kyrill.

"What is it with Francis?" asked the mayor angrily. "He's happy to talk to Lutherans, Anglicans, Orthodox - even Catholics sometimes. But he refuses to consult Whitby town council when it comes to discussing an alternative date for Easter."

In fact, Pope Francis's negotiating position with Patriarch Kirill is more wide-ranging than this, being based on three demands (the fourth was considered to be "a step too far"):

1. Use the Gregorian Calendar.
2. Drop that stupid alphabet.
3. Stick "Filioque" in the Creed.
4. Get involved in gay masses, clown masses, and liturgical dancing.
Many of Whitby's most famous inhabitants, such as, er, Captain Cook and Dracula, are known to have favoured the current method for deciding the date of Easter; this was agreed at the Synod in A.D. 664 and has survived the changes brought on by the Reformation, Vatican II, etc.

Dracula at Whitby

A tense moment at the Synod of Whitby.

If a new date for Easter is agreed now, then it is likely that Yorkshire will go it alone, sticking to the present means of calculating it. After all, what's one more schism between friends? It is thought that both John Sentamu (Anglican Archbishop of York) - who signs himself John Ebagum, using the Roman word for York - and Marcus Stock (Catholic Bishop of Leeds) are strongly supportive of the plan for a Yorkshire Easter.

As far as the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales is concerned, they would like to move Good Friday to a Sunday (cf. Epiphany and Ascension), but have not yet worked out how this would fit in with all the other plans under discussion. For Prime Minister David Cameron the important thing is that Easter Sunday should become an even more important shopping opportunity, the exact date being unimportant.

Cameron and yet another fish-shop

"Are you sure this is an Easter egg?"

Saturday, 6 February 2016

More letters to the Catholic Herald

For an eclectic mix of lunacy and wisdom, there are few sources like the Catholic Herald letters page, so here are some recent highlights.

"Fun" before Mass.

Your idiot of a correspondent thinks that the bedlam in many Catholic churches before and after Mass can be justified because "God doesn't mind". So bad have things come that I was told off by a priest last week because my silent prayer was disturbing those who were trying to text, gossip, laugh and play games of darts. Apparently it was putting a damper on the occasion.

pub darts

Those sacred minutes before Mass starts.

Indeed, I was warned that kneeling down and looking solemn was definitely a "holier-than-thou" attitude, not welcome in the Church of St Daryl the Apostate. Apparently, Fr Phil is making lots of exciting innovations, including a side-chapel where money-changers may operate, plus the opportunity to buy doves symbolizing the Spirit of Vatican II. I don't know about you, but this makes me feel vaguely uncomfortable.

Pastor Juventus F.C.

Faithful Catholics love the EU.

Stands to reason, dunnit, guv? Ever since Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor in 800 A.D., and the new emperor used his powers to deal with the pressing problems of curved bananas and mislabelled prunes, it has been clear that pious Catholics must support ever-closer European union.

Over the years several good Catholics such as Napoléon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler have tried to unify Europe, knowing that this was God's will. What's more, we should listen to the wise words of Pope Francis, which exhort us to believe in climate change, to give the Falkland Islands to Argentina, and to support the San Lorenzo football club. When popes make such statements it is a refreshing change from all the usual boring stuff about religion, and we should take their words seriously.

Pope and football shirt

"Supporters of other teams cannot be saved" says the Pope.

Yes, make no mistake, people who oppose having their laws made by corrupt, overpaid and unelected bureaucrats in Brussels are DAMNED. What's more, the Catholic Bishops' Conference in Mordor Square agrees with me!

Fr Cloud Cuckoo-Land.

Sack Ronnie Rolheiser!

Every week Ronald Rolheiser's column is entitled "The last word", but unfortunately he's always back again the following week. And he writes such drivel...


Ronald Rolheiser

The heart sinks (and what do Ron's hand gestures mean?)

And finally, a cheap shot from a Scots Nat.

Your correspondent writes, "In England we are preparing for a referendum on the EU." He didn't mention Scotland, and that proves that we nationalists won the independence vote. When we go to Heaven we shall feast on porridge and haggis, while praising God on the bagpipes. Och Aye!

Rabbi Burns.

bagpipe band

Praise the Lord upon the badly-tuned bagpipes!

Friday, 5 February 2016

Book about Church of England to be pulped

A new book about the Church of England, That Was The Church That Was, by spiritual giants Andrew Brown and Linda Woodhead, has been withdrawn by the publishers because of "a disputed passage about a Christian leader". Damian Thompson has made some valiant efforts to discover what the fuss is about, but only this blog has the real story.

That Was The Church That Was

This book is dynamite!

In fact, there are several allegations that the Church of England is desperately trying to suppress. The first concerns its founder, Henry VIII, who is as much a figure of veneration to all Anglicans as St Peter, and the man who earned the title Fidei Defensor, which his successors bear so proudly.

It is claimed that Henry VIII was a nasty piece of work who tended to cut people's heads off whenever he felt like it, and treated at least four of his six "wives" rather badly. If this gossip were to leak out - and so far only readers of this blog know it - then the Church of England would be forced to close.

Henry VIII

The skeleton in Justin Welby's cupboard.

Of course, dead people can't sue, and the publishers are really more worried about revelations about living Christian leaders. Take Prince Charles, for example. There are claims that he was a less than totally faithful husband to his first wife, Diana. (We can discount claims that his own father conspired to kill her, either with MI5, Amnesty International, or the Mothers' Union.) Still, this man will - in thirty years or so - become Supreme Governor of the Church, and if the secret ever leaks out...

Mohammed Fayed

Will Mo get his chance to be the first Muslim head of the C of E?

Other shocking stories circulating about senior Anglicans include rumours that Archbishop Rowan Williams has converted to druidism, that Archbishop George Carey supports assisted suicide, and that Canon Giles Fraser doesn't really believe in either the Devil or the Virgin Birth. If any of these turns out to be true, then the C of E may as well close down now and give most of its churches back to the Catholics.

Rowan the druid

The Archbishop of Stonehenge.

As Damian Thompson puts it: "For the time being, the Church of England is being protected from this atrocious book by somebody’s lawyers. But for how long?"

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Eccles gets a Blaised throat

Yesterday was the feast of St Blaise, and February 3rd is a very appropriate time of year to celebrate him, since he is the one to go to for throat problems. I myself have had various coughs and colds throughout this winter, so I went up after Mass yesterday to have my throat blessed.

St Blaise

St Blaise with 4th century medical equipment.

Now, what outcome should I have expected? If Jesus had healed me in person, then I would have leapt up rejoicing; but clearly one expects slightly less from a retired Irish priest fumbling around with two candles, even if he is somehow appealing to St Blaise for help.

Still, for a few hours I did feel quite a lot better: no coughing and only a slightly sore throat. Maybe it was psychological, or maybe Fr Jack had managed to invoke a minor miracle.

Now, the Bible itself doesn't have many positive things to say about throats. For example, there's Psalm 69: I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God.

St Paul (Romans 3) is also somewhat discouraging: Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips. Who is he referring to? Well, all of us, it seems.

Morecambe and Wise, Glenda Jackson

Cleopatra prepares to take delivery of an asp.

So here we are at a new day. The throat is slightly better, perhaps, but still not cured. Perhaps someone can advise me: is the St Blaise cure simply a matter of time? Or should I put this one down as a failure (like when, as a child, I asked God to mend my bicycle lamp and He refused)?

Well, there's always Lourdes, I suppose, but it seems a long way to go for a cough.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Cardinal Wolsey claims success in Europe

London, 1529.

Ahead of the forthcoming referendum on whether the Church of England should remain part of the Catholic Church (a referendum in which only kings called Henry Tudor will be allowed to vote), prime minister Thomas Wolsey has returned from Europe claiming success in his negotiations.


"Call me Tom" Wolsey.

According to the negotiated settlement, King Henry will be allowed a quota of six wives, of which a maximum of two may be executed; most importantly, the first marriage may be annulled on the solid theological grounds that Henry is a lecherous slob. Caveat: these demands will be granted subject to a "red cardinal" system whereby they have to be approved by a majority of all the cardinals.

Other "English" demands will also be granted within a time-frame of at most 500 years (this is called "applying the emergency brake"). These include the right to conduct masses in English, with or without clowns and puppets, and to sing silly songs about Jesus shining and being Lord of the Dance. More extreme Anglican demands, such as the right to ordain women, are still rejected by the Catholic Church.

Giles Fraser

Thomas Cromwell, star of the Guardian's "Cromwell is free" pages.

The "leave Europe" campaign is currently being spearheaded by two theological giants, the blogger Cranmer and the very influential Thomas "Let's dissolve the churches" Cromwell.

It therefore seems unlikely that "Tom" Wolsey will be able to avoid defeat in the Reformation Referendum, and his future is now very uncertain.