This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Pope Francis goes into orbit

It has long been realised that Pope Francis is a little bored with Planet Earth, and does most of his good work (e.g. developing new Catholic doctrine, weddings, funerals, mass-ordination of journalists to the priesthood, etc.) while flying in the PopeJet. The fact that he is 35,000 feet above most of his flock gives him a "buzz" as well as an air of authority.

The time has now come for him to leave terra firma entirely. The first plan was for him to fly round the world for ever in the PopeJet, but this would require regular in-flight refuelling. So the only reasonable answer is for Pope Francis to be the first Pope in Space!

"I now pronounce you Man and Wife - whoever you are!"

There has been much talk about making space travel available to all - well, to all who can afford it - mainly from Richard Branson, who hasn't even managed to make train travel available to all. The Catholic Church is anxious to cash in on the Virgin brand, for obvious reasons, and the Pope has agreed to perform "the sacrament of your choice" for anyone who turns up at the PopeStation.

The papal flight to Chile was very productive, for, in addition to marrying/blessing the marriage of/regularizing the marriage of* Chief Trolley Commander Carlos Ciuffardi Elorriaga and Deputy Lifejacket Demonstrator Paola Podest Ruiz, who had spent 8 years vainly looking for a church, the Pope also conducted the funeral of a passenger who had died, or at least wasn't at all well, before shooting his body out over the Andes.

*Depending on which account you read.

Incidentally, it is said that the reason the Pope signalled out C.T.C. Elorriaga for a wedding was that this was the first heterosexual male flight attendant that the Holy Father had ever encountered.

An army of deacons stands by to assist Pope Francis.

Meanwhile, old-fashioned earthbound priests are now encouraged to close their churches and invest in private aeroplanes, especially since there is now a huge demand from Catholics for "stunt" weddings. For a small fee, your priest will even agree to make a parachute jump with you, while performing the marriage service.

Anyway, this whole saga has re-established Pope Francis as "the man at the top", and nobody has mentioned Lilianne Ploumen for at least two days. Which was probably the whole point of the exercise.

"Remember, in Space nobody can hear you scream. Which is a good thing..."

Thursday, 18 January 2018

How a pope should give out medals

This is the latest instalment in our self-help guide "How to be a good pope", designed to help those of our readers who may suddenly find themselves catapulted into the Chair of St Peter.

Now, as Pope you have lots of gongs that you can hand out to your friends. For example, the Badge for Amoris Laetitia Learning and Study (BALLS) is for those who unquestioningly agree with everything Amoris Laetitia says, showing aggression when anyone asks them to explain something.

Likewise, the St Ignatius Medal for Profoundly Lecherous Explanations (SIMPLE) is for Jesuits who suggest that naughtiness - especially between members of the same sex - is all right really; while the Francis Order of Logic (FOOL) goes to those who maintain, in the face of all opposition, that 2+2=5.

Lilianne Ploumen

"Look! The Pope loves me!"

There are also some older awards that your more rigid predecessors instituted. For example the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great. These are for giving out in a "goodie-bag" to any visiting dignitaries who come to see you, together with a chocolate model of Martin Luther, a copy of Amoris Laetitia, and a comical red nose.

Now, as Pope you are a very busy man, with lots of other duties to perform. Obviously, you've managed to save some time by cutting down the praying and worshipping, but you still have to keep your "frequent flier" platinum status, and catch up on your unanswered correspondence - some cardinals have been waiting for answers from you for over a year.

So you delegate the award of the goodie-bag to one of your lackeys, who probably didn't bother to check the credentials of the people who received them. And here's the problem.

King Jong-un

"The Pope loves me too!"

Among the lucky recipients of your latest batch of medals are five euthanasiacs, four torturers, three war criminals, two serial killers, and an abortionist in a pear tree. Well, that's fairly normal, if you will insist on giving awards to politicians. But it's embarrassing.

Your critics are going to say, "The Pope should withdraw the honour. The buck stops here. We don't think he's very pro-life anyway. Remember Emma Bananas?"

Your fans are going to say, "Of course he knew nothing about it, and will never find out, as he doesn't read the paper, and anyway he's far too busy partying in Chile right now, and have you noticed that it's always the same people who criticise the Pope? The rigid ones who believe in Christian doctrine! Didn't you read America's latest survey in which 99% of women who never go to church said he was a living saint? Now get lost, I've got to practise the piano."

young Pecknold at the piano

Playing the piano versus populum, as recommended by Vatican II.

And you? What will you do? Why, nothing of course. You're in Chile, where they don't have the internet, or newspapers, or telephones. And by the time you get back there will be some new scandal to amuse people. Well done!

I'll be the Eminence Grey, sir!

To celebrate Cardinal Vincent Nichols's recent complete and utter silence on moral issues such as abortion, and his new support of the dissident organization Quest, we have rewritten a classic song in his honour.

Any resemblance between the following song and the "Vicar of Bray" (words and historical background here, and a sung version here) is purely deliberate.

In good Pope Pius' golden days,
When I was just a laddie,
I knew that if I wanted power,
I'd have to be a traddy.
At football matches I wore red,
Dressed in the finest satin.
In Liverpool they speak broad Scouse,
But I spoke classic Latin.

And this is law, I will maintain
Unto my dying day, Sir.
That whatsoever Pope may reign,
I'll be the Eminence Grey*, Sir!

*Eminence Grise, a person of great power.

Pius XII

"That kid's up to no good."

When John the saintly came to rule
And called a great assembly,
I really thought "Oh, this is dull,
I'd rather be at Wembley!"
The Council's rush for drastic change
I could not but acknowledge,
So feeling "cool" and "modern", I
Went to the English College.

And this is law...

When Paul the Sixth possessed the throne
Amidst reforms spectacular
I dropped my Latin, and soon learnt
To pray in the vernacular.
And as the liberals seized the church
I grew each day much bolder.
I got ordained and offered Mass
With God behind my shoulder.

And this is law...

John XXIII and Paul VI

"Watch out, that young chap is up to no good."

John Paul the first did not stay long
But soon we got the Second:
Quite orthodox was I just then
And soon preferment beckoned.
From Westminster (auxiliary)
To Birmingham translated -
As Archbishop, I knew that now
For greatness I was slated.

And this is law...

When Benedict became the Pope,
He thought I was inspiring,
To Westminster he sent me then
Since Cormac was retiring.
Summ-or-um Pont-i-fic-um now
Meant Us-us An-ti-qui-or.
It caused most liberals, like me
Despair, regret and fear.

But this is law...

John-Paul II and Benedict XVI

"Watch out, he's up to no good."

At last they drove old Ben away.
Pope Francis came, and said that
To mark the year of Mersey, now
I'd get my longed-for red hat.
I praised the clarity and style
Of good Pope Francis' preaching,
Though soon the outraged world found out
He'd dropped all ancient teaching.

And this is law...

Pope Francis and Vincent Nichols

Any time you feel like retiring...

So now I have run through the list
Of popes I've had to follow,
And if I don't become the next,
Then life will seem quite hollow.
For Quest and ACTA I support,
I let "gay" masses flourish,
And this is what you'll get from me
When e'er Pope Francis perish.

Still, this is law, I will maintain
Unto my dying day, Sir.
That whatsoever Pope may reign,
I'll be the Eminence Grey, Sir!

Monday, 15 January 2018

A retirement plan for the Pope

Vatican memorandum - confidential.

In view of the Pope's increasingly bizarre behaviour - for many people the award of the title of Commander in the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St Gregory the Great to the blood-drenched abortion-campaigner Lilianne Ploumen was a final sign that he had flipped his lid - we are putting together an attractive retirement package for the Holy Father.

Pope and Ploumen

"Just the Ploumen's lunch for me, please."

Whereas Pope Benedict XVI has used his retirement to concentrate on praying, studying, and beer-drinking, these activities do not appeal to his successor, and we have had to find other ways of keeping him occupied.

One apartment in Francis's retirement home has been furnished as an aeroplane cabin, and - since he is not significantly more modest than Donald Trump - we have branded it as Air Francis. It is expected that the ex-Holy Father, or do we mean Holy ex-Father, will spend hours wandering round this, inventing new Catholic doctrine. Some actors will be hired to sit around all day listening to him, and they are encouraged to clap whenever another piece of the New Testament goes into the dustbin.

Airplane

"The situation's serious. Pope Francis has woken up."

Apart fom this, we are a little short of ideas. What exactly does the Pope do when he's not talking? We could arrange some video games for him, I suppose; Vatican chain-saw massacre, is a good one, in which you have to dismember as many cardinals as possible. Extra points if they are wearing a cappa magna or saying Mass in Latin. We think this game should keep our client amused for hours.

We have arranged for another room, labelled simply Jesuit meeting room, where Francis can have parties with Spadaro, Martin, Sosa, and the rest of the gang. The Freemasons are kindly helping us with the decor.

Spadaro and Boff

"Now you're no longer Pope we can paint the Vatican red!"

We should perhaps provide the retired pope with a small study and a laptop with which he can write his final messages to mankind. Admittedly Francis's publication list so far is a little variable in quality: from his time as a research chemist we have his thesis Why cyanide is perfectly safe, and from his time as a bishop in Argentina a small biography Austen Ivereigh - the Great Performer; also, more recently, the work we're not allowed to mention, although its initials are AL.

Francis is already preparing his magnum opus Why I was right and all previous popes were wrong, although we understand that he currently has writer's block, and hasn't got much beyond "BECAUSE I SAY SO"; still, he'll probably be with us for another 20 years or so, and we think he may be able to expand on this a little.

Finally, if anyone has any further ideas for keeping Francis occupied, then the new pope, Cardinal Blase Cupich, Pope Francis II, will be glad to hear them!

Friday, 12 January 2018

Sherlock Holmes and the Dictator Pope

Not many of my readers will know that my friend Sherlock Holmes was a faithful Catholic: it is true that, having been brought up by Jesuits, he neither attended church nor obeyed Catholic moral teaching, but this should not be held against him.

Many will remember his epigram about "The curious incident of the cardinal in the night - the cardinal did nothing in the night, that was the curious incident," referring to the Archbishop of Westminster's failure to give any kind of a moral lead on Catholic teaching. As a result of this, and similar cases, Holmes was often consulted on delicate Catholic matters.

Thus, one morning, we were sitting in Baker Street discussing the new Encyclical Humanae Mortis, which had driven Holmes to inject himself with a seven percent solution of "coke" - the scientific name is "Coccopalmerio" - when our servant Mrs Beattie opened the door to admit a man dressed inconspicuously as a South American general.

General Galtieri

Our illustrious client.

"Mr Holmes, I need your help," said our client. "A book has been written about, er, a friend of mine, and we need to trace the author in order to, um, pay him homage. The Swiss Guards are already standing by with torture implements."

"I am at your service, Holy Father," replied Holmes (to my gasps of "amazing, Holmes, how did you penetrate his disguise?") "Shall we go to Rome, and make enquiries?"

We took Pope Francis's private jet to Rome, and the flight passed quickly, since our client remained standing throughout the journey, developing new Catholic doctrines "off the cuff": these will one day astound and delight the world. That evening, Holmes and I settled into an apartment in the Vatican. Holmes took out his violin as an aid to concentration and played a haunting arrangement of Stephen Walford's renowned concerto for piano and Balinese nose-flute (with its famous marking "Play whatever the Pope wants").

After two or three minutes the door opened and an African cardinal strode in. "SILENCE!" he bellowed angrily, and threw a book at my companion's head, stunning him slightly.

The Power of Silence

"... so many noisy popes..." (paragraph 40)

Once I had bandaged his head, Holmes and I made a tour of the building. We were standing outside Cardinal Coccopalmerio's apartment when we heard impassioned cries of "No! Yes! YES! YES! YES!"

"I see that they are working on an answer to the Dubia," I remarked to Holmes. He gave me a funny look that I did not understand, and began to analyse the mystery we were trying to solve.

"Watson, my theory is that the book The Dictator Pope was not written by the real Marcantonio Colonna, as he has been dead since 1584. More likely, it was written by a liberal Catholic, tired of trying to defend the Pope's obvious failings."

Marcantonio Colonna

"I have an alibi. I am dead."

"Amazing, Holmes. Could it be Spadaro? Ivereigh (no, it's too well-written)? Massimo Faggioli? James Martin (no, there's no obsession with homosexuality)? Rosica?"

"These are deep matters, Watson, and perhaps I am wrong. But the case presents interesting features. For example, why is the book produced only electronically, and not on paper? Did Cardinal Baldisseri steal all the printed copies?"

Putting on his liturgical deer-stalker, Holmes led me into Mass, where Cardinal Paradigm was going to preach about Parolin Shifts in Amoris Laetitia. To me it sounded like complete heresy, but then Homes explained that this sort of nonsense was necessary if a cardinal wished to be considered papabile, and Cardinal Paradigm probably didn't believe half of what he was saying.

Parolin dressed in white

"We have found the man who stole the Pope's vestments" announced Holmes.

To be continued?

Saturday, 6 January 2018

How to spot an unsaved person

Let's start the year as we mean to continue, with works of mercy, which include smiting the heretic (or at least, instructing the ignorant and admonishing the sinners).

Father John Z has recently blogged about being blocked on Twitter by Rosica [Rosie] and Faggioli [Beans/Mr Bean] - two people who get a lot of praise on this blog - and he has a point. In fact, everyone on Twitter, including @pontifex, is blocked by Rosie, so Fr Z gets no points for that. Somehow Beans hasn't yet blocked me, but then he is a man of great intellect, at least by the standard of most beans.

For me, the simplest way to find people heading for the Lake of Fire is to see who blocks me on Twitter. So let's start with the most Eminent, and work downwards.

Cardinal Napier

"You're blocked!"

Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier came out well during the 2015 Synod on the Family, signing a letter complaining about the absurd way it was run. However, he later backed down, and became an uncritical fan of Amoris Laetitia, even though it contains some distinctly dodgy passages.

In fact, he turned into a combination of Candide and Polynanna, tweeting random phrases from the dreaded AL. "Love is never having to say you're sorry." "Love is like a tin of sardines, we're all looking for the key." "Some people claim that marriage interferes with romance. There's no doubt about it. Anytime you have a romance, your wife is bound to interfere." That sort of thing.

Several people asked him questions, in particular, about why heretical interpretations were being put forward, and not contradicted by the Vatican. For a while he blustered and flustered, but anyway in the end he gave up trying to answer questions and blocked poor Eccles, who only wanted to learn from the master.

tweet from Napier

It's a pity that he's destined for the Lake of Fire, as sometimes he said what more cardinals should be saying.

We move on to the Bishop of Lancaster, Michael Gregory Campbell OSA. A man who nearly made it into the top flight of English bishops (along with Egan, Davies, Hopes, and one or two more), he has done some very good things: for example, speaking out against abortion, and telling ACTA to go boil their heads. We haven't seen much of ACTA lately, but maybe that is because they have already won (Vincent Nichols seems to like them), or maybe it is because they were banished to Gehenna by Michael Campbell. I don't know.

Unfortunately, the Diocese of Lancaster website, and so, by association, the bishop, blocked me on Twitter, probably because I criticised the big mistake of Mike's reign at Lancaster. Remember? He suppressed the Protect the Pope blog. Why did he do it? Well the story is that various people were very upset by it (I don't think Tina Beattie was a fan), and somehow Vinnie Nichols, in one of his first moves as Cardinal, decided to lean on Mike. A sad case.

Bishop of Lancaster and nuns

Tea and sympathy for the bishop.

I still read the bishop's blog, and it used to contain a regular "Here I am having tea with nuns" picture. However, once I pointed this out, the pictures stopped appearing. I hope that Mike is still getting lots of tea from nuns, even if he is too bashful to admit it.

Going down the food chain, we come to mere priests like Rosie and Jim (Rosica and Martin), Spider (Spadaro), and lesser forms of life such as Austen Ivereigh (the Voice of Catholicism), plus comedy vicars like "Rev" Kate Bottley, and professional atheists such as Owen Jones, Stephen Fry, and Richard Dawkins.

These people are already in the world to get as much publicity for themselves as possible, despite their incredibly limited talents, so let's not discuss them. But there is a surprise in the tail!

Spidero

Could Spadaro be saved after all?

As a unique act of MercyTM, Fr Antonio Spadaro has recently unblocked me, along with a whole swathe of other saved persons. My own cynical theory is that he suspects that one of us is the great Marcantonio Colonna, author of The Dictator Pope, and he is watching us carefully to see who it is. I admit nothing.

Anyway, everyone knows that MC is really Fr Zuhlsdorf...

Friday, 5 January 2018

Why the Pope is right about everything

What I did in my holidays, by Stephen Rex Mottram Walford, aged 9.

In my holidays I went to Rome to talk to the Pope, who is a big fat man who is always right about everything. They say he is "incorrigible", which means that it is impossible to correct him, because he is always right. He's also got a Magisterium, which means that nobody can ever ever say he's wrong or the smoke of Satan will choke them to death. Cor lumme!

Walford, Pope, 266 shirt

"They were sold out of 666 shirts."

"What do you do, little boy?" the Pope asked me.

"I play the piano," I said.

"Oh, you tickle the Ivereighs?"

At that moment a small man with silly glasses who was cleaning the Pope's shoes with his tongue looked up sharply.

"Oh sorry, Austen, I wasn't referring to you," said my friend the Pope. "Don't worry."

"They tell me that ne of my cardinals is on the fiddle," he continued. "It's traditional for this to happen while Rome burns. Perhaps you can do a duet with him."

The Pope told me that he is directly appointed by God, who is a big man with a beard. This is why everything he says is right, and if you disagree with him you are a nasty nasty dissenter, and will go to Hell, which is a nasty place a bit like Luton, and you will never again be invited to tea with the Pope.

Cardinal Marx

I think this may be God.

"So you see, my lad, if I want to repeal Curriculum Vitae, which is something Pope Paul VI wrote, then I can do so, and you know I am right. The same goes for those bits of the New Testament that aren't very popular."

"What happens if another Pope comes along later and says something different?" I asked, for I am only nine years old and the Pope is a lot older than I am. So I may have to come and worship a new Pope.

The Pope said something under his breath which I didn't understand because I am only nine years old, but it ended with the word "SARAH!". Then he spat on the floor, which Mummy tells me is rude, unless a Pope does it, when it is the Will of the Lord.

I think I understand now that a new Pope can say that Pope Francis was wrong, but the Holy Spirit will make sure that he doesn't. Only Pope Francis can say that someone else was wrong. This is called Theology, and I was told to ask our teacher Mr Faggioli to explain it. We call him "Beans" in Year 6.

The Pope took me to see the Sistine Chapel, which is a big room with funny paintings on the ceiling. He told me that his adviser Father James Martin had recommended that it should be repainted with rainbow-coloured stripes, as that is more welcoming to gay people. Mummy says being gay is sinful, but Mummy is rigid, and Pope Francis says we should get rid of her. Maybe my father can divorce her and marry Fräulein Kasper from next door, as that is what is recommended in the world's greatest book Amorous Lascivia.

Sistine Chapel

Cardinal Maradiaga says he knows a man who will offer him a good price for these paintings. No questions asked.

Anyway, it was very nice meeting Pope Francis who is always right, and he is not at all like it says in the very rude book The Dictator Pope. I was with him for an hour, and he didn't send anyone to the torture chambers, so that proves he is merciful as well as always right, doesn't it?


Very good, Stephen! You really do understand the consequences of Vatican II.
M. Faggioli.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

The mystery of the shepherds

Many writers have speculated about the identities of the Magi, most recently Fr Dwight Longenecker. Clearly, many questions are still to be answered, of which the key ones are:
  • were there three of them?
  • were they wise?
  • were they men?
Indeed, next Christmas's blockbuster by Fr James Martin SJ is expected to reveal that they were five women deacons wearing dalmatics.

traddy creche

A traddy nativity scene, unsuitable for modern use.

Traditionally, at least, there were three wise men, called Kasper, Müller and Baldisseri, but nobody know how many shepherds there were, nor any of their names.

My own detailed research suggests that there were three shepherds (because Biblical stuff comes in threes, sevens, twelves and forties). I thought at first that Baa-lamb was a shepherd, but many scholars now say that he kept a donkey, and was nothing at all to do with the first Christmas.

Balaam and the angel

Shepherds only! Clear off!

A study of the Archers, a long-running religious radio programme broadcast by the BBC, suggests that one of the shepherds might be called Walter Gabriel, originator of the phrase, "Me old pal, me old beauty", although Gabriel is also the name of an angel, so one cannot be sure.

The Tony Hancock character Joshua Merryweather (another Biblical name!) is also a possibility, with his classic hymn of praise (now available in The Graham Kendrick Book of Hymns for Today):

I've got mangel wurzels in my garden, 
I've got mangel wurzels in my shed,
I've got mangel wurzels in my bathroom,
And a mangel wurzel for a head.

Tony Hancock et al

Were these the three shepherds?

Well, it's all very mystifying. Also, why did the angels summon shepherds to the manger? Why not celebrities - by which we mean actors, footballers, comedians, politicians, professors of zoology, professors of human flourishing, etc.? Or even celebrity clerics, bloggers, and professors of theology, who could have explained what was going on? It all sounds like an almighty mix-up.

Massimo Faggioli

"There will be a time for the canonization of King Herod," explains a distinguished professor.

Note: "While shepherds washed their socks by night / All seated round the tub" is © The Graham Kendrick Book of Hymns for Today.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

"Stop correcting me," says Pope Francis

"These days I can't say anything at all without some fool trying to correct me," said Pope Francis in his annual Odi et Omnes ("and I hate you all") address to Catholics worldwide.

A voice behind him immediately piped up, "Oh yes you can!"

Pope Francis and Spadaro

"Holy Father, I should point out that 2+2=5."

"It's getting very irritating," continued the Pope. "Letters, phone calls, e-mails, texts, faxes, tweets, bricks flying through the window with little notes attached, drums tapping out 'corrections' in Morse code, ... and all with the same message, that I got something wrong. I received five huge sacks of correspondence this morning."

Tee-shirt

A sell-out at Gammarelli's.

"I mean, this morning at breakfast I said 'It looks like rain later', and five minutes later Spadaro rushed in..."

"Ten minutes later."

"Ten minutes later, with a filial correction giving me the weather forecast for Rome."

doves, crow, seagull

"Now is not the time for peace." A crow and seagull join in the attack on the papal doves.

"Of course I have been used to receiving green-ink corrections from people like Sosa, Martin, Faggioli, etc. for years. For example, I said something in my sermon about Jesus being the Messiah, and Fr James Martin sent me a text explaining that 'Many New Testament Scholars' now believe that John the Baptist was the Messiah. But I am used to that."

At that moment an arrow flew up into the Vatican balcony and impaled the arm of the Pope's Master of Ceremonies Guido Marini. Attached to it was a note, "Don't say something infallibly, you're bound to get it wrong." Guido Marini, a man used to crises, calmly removed the arrow from his arm and said, "I think this is for you, Holy Father," before slumping to the ground.

Pope and Guido Marini

"'Tis but a scratch, Holy Father."

"It's been an odd year," commented the Pope. "Cardinals sending Dubia, wall posters in Rome, filial corrections, that book The Dictator Pope, ... anyone would think they were trying to tell me something."

Monday, 25 December 2017

The Dictator Santa

The scandals surrounding Santa Claus show no signs of ending, and this week children were horrified to see that "Santa's Grotto" in the Rome branch of VaticoTM featured a nude elf. Moreover, there were allegations of corruption at the North Pole, where Maradona the Gnome was rumoured to have had his hand of God in the till.

Did Santa really slap the heretic Fr James Arius SJ?

The public image of Santa Claus is of a perpetually cheerful man, and his recent exhortation Amo Risi Laetitiam ("I like the joy of laughter") contains many cheerful passages such as "Ho ho ho, ho ho ho" (ARL 1) and "I know if you've been bad or good, but if you've been bad don't worry, you'll still get Christmas presents" (ARL 351, Footnote). However, a new book The Dictator Santa suggests that behind his public image there lies a bad-tempered old curmudgeon who torments his reindeer and shouts at his elves.

How did Rudolph's nose get so red? Did Santa punch him?

At this most holy time of Santa Mass, we don't forget that the season has one true meaning - eat and drink too much, buy lots of expensive presents, and have a good time. So it seems churlish to attack the Holy Father Christmas, who symbolises everything that is important about December 25th.

Still, we should warn the faithful that questions are being raised about the leadership provided by the big man, and that something is rotten at the heart of the North Pole. Some say that the man who came down your chimney last night and kicked your cat is not to be trusted.

The College of Cardinals meets to elect a new Santa.

A happy Christmas to both my readers.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

A nude man at the Vatican

It's O.K., this piece is nothing to do with you, Monsignor Luigi Capozzi, or you, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, so you can relax. No, it is about this year's Vatican Nativity Scene, condemned by the notoriously pure-minded Facebook as being sexually provocative, because it contains the figure of a nude man.

Vatican creche

Probably the first nude man to appear on this blog.

It's a very exciting creche this year, and manages to eliminate Mary, Joseph and Jesus almost entirely, giving preference to Works of Mercy. Some Works of Mercy are more natural than others: take Burying the Dead for example. (The part of the tableau that portrays Burying the Dead looks something like a scene from Dracula...) If my Great-auntie Moly expires behind the sofa after an overdose of gin, should I leave her there for a few years, or get her buried? (Actually, putting a match to her in the garden would be simplest, what with all that gin inside her...) It's true that explaining in Confession that I still haven't buried my great-aunt could be fairly awkward. But I digress.

At the Vatican Press Office, they keep their clothes on, no matter what Amoris Laetitia says.

Although I thought initially that the nude man was Fr James Martin SJ, and that he was in the nativity scene to publicize his latest theological idea - that Jesus was simply a disciple of John the Baptist - I may be wrong, since he (whoever he is) is apparently there to symbolize Clothing the Naked.

Terry Jones nude

A rejected design for the Vatican Nativity scene.

In the Eccles household, we don't include scenes of explicit nudity, but we go for a traditional, rigid, interpretation of the scene. The only oddity is that we have one extra king, who is the wrong size, but he was given to us by a priest, so that shouldn't be a problem.

creche with large king

We really don't have the heart to sack him.

Let's finish with a couple of Anglican nativity scenes from a collection assembled by Fergus Butler-Gallie.

tin man from Sheffield

Sheffield - the tin man from the Wizard of Oz, and his oddly-shaped tinned baby.

Teletubbies from St Alban's

St Alban's - hand-knitted Teletubbies.

Correction: even on a blog intended for family reading, there have been scenes of nude men before. See this piece about the Atheists' Nude Calendar and Richard Dawkins's reluctance to participate...

Thursday, 14 December 2017

British values versus Christian values

Apparently School inspectors want new powers to tackle faith schools that 'clash with British values'. Let us take an in-depth look at what is meant by British values.

Britannia

Britannia (or Britannius?) Keen on diversity, same-sex marriage, and transgenderism.

British values were first developed in the age of Prehistoric Britain, which is supposed to have started in about 500,000 B.C. (give or take a few months). In those days schoolchildren were taught to paint themselves with woad - blue for boys, pink for girls - and any kid who wore the wrong colour woad was told to stop being silly.

Diversity was not really popular in those days. The ancient British were very worried about invasions of ancient Franks and Germans - which is why they dug the English Channel - but probably more worried about woolly mammoths.

mammoth

MAMMOTHS KEEP OUT. Coming over here, eating our cabbages, ...

Presumably the exploits of Adam and Eve were known about, but Christian values were at a rather primitive state.

So let us go forward to 1707, when Britain arose from out the azure main (as the song has it), and became a kingdom including England, Wales and Scotland. What were British values then?

Well, same-sex marriage still wasn't very popular (it basically went out of fashion around the time of Nero, with occasional unsuccessful revivals, as in the time of Edward II), and transgenderism was limited to hairy Scotsmen wearing kilts. Equality and diversity were definitely continental notions (especially after 1789), and shunned by all decent people.

Scotsman and bagpipes

A despised member of society, but only because of the bagpipes.

Christianity was mainly of the Protestant variety, although not a lot like the modern Church of England. People got their ideas mostly from the New Testament, rather than "Thought for the Day". Tolerance and respect for idiots, not being a Christian virtue, was virtually unknown.

So far so good, British values were not all that far from Christian values. Possibly empire-building, fighting the French, and so on, were not entirely in accordance with God's plans, but they were more-or-less OK.

So what is the problem in religious schools these days? Well, at St Custard's we have this:

Molesworth

"Please sir, I want to be a girl." Six of the best for you, Molesworth, sa Headmaster GRIMES chiz chiz chiz

And at St Trinians Catholic School they found this practical way of dealing with an Anglican who enrolled by mistake:

St Trinians

I won't describe the scenes of carnage that followed when St Trinians played hockey against St Aisha's School for the Daughters of Muslim Gentlefolk. 11-0, with 8 Aishains retired hurt. Still, St Trinians girls met their match when the boys girls of St Bruce's Caitlin's Transgender Academy challenged them. It was not a pretty sight.

Anyway, given a choice between Christian values and modern "British values", I think it's time to change my name to Eccleczyk, and declare myself to be Polish.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

What do you know about Christmas?

Our attention has been drawn by Archdruid Eileen to an article showing that 9 out of 10 Independent journalists know nothing about Christmas.

The problem, of course is that 99% of them haven't been in a church for more than 20 years ("Is it that big building with the minarets?") and 85% of them have never spoken to a Christian ("They're the ones in the turbans, aren't they?")

The Gherkin

This is probably not a church.

Although we haven't even got to the 2nd Sunday in Advent, it was clear to the Independent editor that we must already be on about the 35th Day of Christmas, which traditionally starts when Bonfire Night is over, and it was time for a "What we don't know about Christmas" piece.

Shockingly, when asked to name the 12 Apostles - not that they have much to do with Christmas - the Independent "Staff and Agencies" (a term they use when they can't find anyone prepared to take responsibility for an article) came up with the following list:

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Adam, Eve, Esau, Jacob, David, Goliath, Pontius Pilate,

and as, mentioned on the Archdruid Eileen blog, they narrowly avoided naming Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen (or possibly Kasper and Cupich and Farrell and Tobin).

John Arnold being silly

Christians - except for "Jihadi John" Arnold - do not celebrate Mohammed's birthday.

Clearly, it is difficult to find the traditional Christmas story - either you need to find a Bible, and then it's a long wade through from Genesis until you get to the bit about Bethlehem, or else you need to do "research" (probably Google), and that sounds too much like hard work. Indeed, if you use traditional Christmas keywords such as "snowman", "robin" and "mince pie", you may never stumble across the story at all.

The Easter story is equally hard to pin down, and even a Biblical concordance won't help you if you type in keywords such as "egg", "bunny" and "chocolate". We Christians know that these are key parts of the Easter narrative, but traditionally these bits aren't even read out in church.

I don't think we can blame Pope Francis, who, when he has finished rewriting the Lord's Prayer, is definitely expected to introduce that beautiful old Christmas hymn "We all like figgy pudding" into the liturgy for Christmas Day.

snowman dressed as a priest

"And there came three snowmen unto Bethlehem..."

When asked what languages Jesus spoke, 80% of Independent staff said that, although of course He normally spoke in English (see the King James Bible for proof of this), he must also have understood Gaelic (the language of St Andrew), and probably also spoke whatever it is that Jews speak - probably Yiddish. Anyway, there's clearly no point praying to God (an obscure ritual that some traditional Catholics perform) in languages such as French and German, as HE WON'T UNDERSTAND YOU.

The journalists had heard of the Turin shroud, but most associated it with Alan Turing, the computer chappie, rather than Jesus. "Anyway, wherever Jesus's body is buried, He's probably still wearing the shroud."

Well, with this level of ignorance - and the Guardian is worse - we have a long way to go before we see surveys asking people to explain the Hermeneutic of Continuity, the difference between Modern Reformed Baptists and Reformed Modern Baptists, or the meaning of Eschatology. Let's start with something simpler, such as explaining the Gospels to Fr James Martin SJ.

Houdini

Harry Houdini - a master of eschatology.