Dis is me, Eccles

Dis is me, Eccles
Dis is me, Eccles

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Bergoglio Conspiracy

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

a stuffed gorilla

A gift for Cardinal Ouellet.

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

Cormac and Austen

Cardinal Cormac issues his instructions.

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


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

Cormac the Mighty

Don't cross Cormac the Mighty!

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

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

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


Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor explains his plans.

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

Cormac cover

Eccles feels threatened.

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

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Cardinal Cormac did not approach Kim Jong-un

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

Kim Jong-un

Kim Jong-un - thinks very highly of Cormac.

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

The great reformer

Austen Ivereigh's new book.

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

Sontaran and Sarah-Jane

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

Monday, 24 November 2014

Pope Francis becomes infallible again

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

Cardinal Sarah

One of these is called Sarah.

This is a Good Thing for several reasons.

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

Marini and custard pie

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

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

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

Abraham and Sarah

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

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

liturgical dance

Unlikely to impress Cardinal Sarah.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Sister Judy Piranha on free speech

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

judy Piranha

Sister Judy Piranha.

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

Squirrel Nutkin

Squirrel Nutkin demonstrates against free speech.

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

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

Judy Piranha on a donkey

Judy Piranha goes off to confront the Pope.

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

gagged men

This is how I like my men!!??

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The diocese of Arundel and Brighton rejoices

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

Kieran and Cormac

Two spiritual giants discuss spiritual things.

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

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

Argus poster

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

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

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

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

Rowan the druid

Definitely an Anglican.

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

Tim Radcliffe

Fr Tim Radical does his Al Jolson impersonation.

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

And finally...

Kieran and Cormac

The picture we've all been waiting for.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

What should Jesus have done?

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

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

empty bottles

A common problem.

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

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

Cardinal O'Malley

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

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

Giles Fraser

This is what an Anglican vicar looks like.

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

St John Chrysostom

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

Monday, 17 November 2014

No platform for extremists!

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

Eccles: Cis?

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

Stanley and O'Neill

Two extremists, looking for platform 9¾.

Eccles: How else are they going to catch trains?

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

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

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

Tom Quad

Tom Quad - washingmachinophobic hatred at its worst!

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

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

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

Cumberbatch as Turing

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

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

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

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

*Don't try this at home. Seriously.

Friday, 14 November 2014

George Orwell's "2014"

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

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

Pope Francis


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


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

Cardinal Burke

Comrade Burke, Enemy of the People.

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

Christopher Lee as Dracula

A bat-like Christian in traditional Cappa Maxima.

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


The Tinatanic.

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

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Russell Brand becomes a Catholic

The comedian, actor, radio host, author, and activist Russell Brand has announced to his adoring fans that he has become a Catholic. Apparently, after flirting with revolutionary socialism for a month ("which is longer than most of my affairs last") he has decided to become a revolutionary Christian instead.

Pope Russell I (as he will be known).

Brand admits that he is new to this "religion business" but expects to rise quickly through the ranks, and to become Pope shortly before giving up the whole thing out of boredom. When we asked him if he had received the "call" from God, he replied, "Yes, and He left a very rude message on my Ansaphone! Such people should be locked up!"

Apparently, Brand has a new book to sell (the Gospie Wospie according to St Russell), which contains many valuable new insights into the life of Jesus, who is revealed to have been a comedian, actor, radio host, author, and activist, secretly married to St Katheryn of Perry. "I'm really writing about the only thing that interests me," admits Russell, "Myself!"

According to Wikipedia, Brand describes himself as "a person who’s trying to live a decent, spiritual life". If that is really the case, he may not get very far in the Catholic hierarchy within the month or so that he has given himself to take over the Church. But who are we to judge?

Lookalikes: the Million Mask flag, and the ISIS flag.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Probe makes historic landing on Cormac

From our astonomical correspondent.

As reported elsewhere, a robot probe has made an historic landing on the heavenly (?) body Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.

The probe comes in to land on Cormac.

First reports indicate that although considered "eminent", the Cormac is a featureless wasteland unlikely to support much in the way of intelligent life. Sophisticated tests are being conducted for evidence of orthodoxy and spirituality, but scientists are pessimistic about the outcome.

The Cormac has long been a significant object in the constellation Circulus Magicus, and is of such a great age that many observers had expected it to fade away by this time. Nevertheless, it still exerts a mysterious force on other celestial objects, such as Cardinalis Amnesiae or the "Nichols Star"; however, its rogue satellite Kieranus Arundelis et Brighthelmstonis has now broken away, and is alleged to have been seen in the vicinity of Uxor Alii.

Watching Cormac from the Westminster observatory.

The Cormac has occasionally been sighted in Urbs Roma, where it exerts a mysterious gravitational attraction way beyond what is predicted by the normal laws of physics. This influence is considered undesirable, and may even be a cause of some recent chaotic behaviour observed in the great star Pontifex.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Cardinal Burke becomes a cult figure

Following the unexplained demotion of Cardinal Raymond Burke from the post of Cardinal Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura to Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a wave of sympathy, love and affection has swept the Catholic world, so much so that Burke is rapidly becoming a cult figure, and significantly more popular than Pope Francis.

Cardinal Burke

The hero of the hour.

Throughout the civilised world petitions are being signed saying "Thank you, Cardinal Burke", or "We love Cardinal Burke", or "Burke, the People's Cardinal", or even "Burke for Pope". Gammarelli's sales of the Burke-style Cappa Magna have gone through the roof - causing a world shortage of silk - as bishops round the world decide to dress up like their hero. On the other hand, Pope Francis is definitely feeling unloved at present, as cruel people send him details of retirement homes and "How to claim your papal pension" booklets. It's fair to say that no clergy are dressing up like the Pope (except indeed Cardinal Burke, as he tries on a set of white robes, "just in case the call should come").

Pope with face covered

Dressing like the Pope is not always easy.

Although the Protect the Pope blog was closed down by a bishop who felt unable to support its aims, we are told that a new Protect Cardinal Burke blog is to be established, which will counter unwarranted attacks on the cardinal from liberal Catholics, Kasperites, and jealous popes.

Dolan and Burke

Cardinal Dolan, a well-known heavyweight, supports Cardinal Burke.

Cardinal Burke himself is a modest man, and does not appreciate being made into a cult figure. However, whenever he appears in public, teenage girls whistle and scream with delight - which is not entirely appropriate for a Requiem Mass. His is clearly a hard act to follow, and it is unlikely that the new man, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, will attract the same adoration.

Knights of Malta

Raymond Burke's new job involves getting the Knights of Malta to cheer up a little.

Late News: Cardinal Burke has decided to challenge the Pope's decision to dismiss him. To do this, he need only appeal to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. Since he remains president until the decision is confirmed, he can never be sacked. Q.E.D.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Civil war in the Catholic Church

Adapted from a Spectator article by Damian Thompson.

Make no mistake, the Catholic Church is facing its biggest crisis since 1517, and Pope Francis is now embroiled in a "no holds barred" civil war. All the enemies that he has made in the last eighteen months - an alliance of self-absorbed, Promethean neo-Pelagians, airport bishops, existential tourists, church climbers, rosary counters, and promoters of the poison of immanence - are ganging up against the Holy Father.

Civil War cartoon

The cardinals square up to one another.

The two sides in the English civil war, have been somewhat inaccurately described described as "wrong but romantic" (Cavaliers) and "right but repulsive" (Roundheads). In fact, given Cardinal Kasper's views on Africans, we can identify some cardinals who qualify as "wrong and repulsive".


"This will annoy the Pope!" Burke aims to be right and romantic.

Perhaps the American civil war is a better model for the present conflict. However, "Abraham Lincoln" sounds more like the title an Anglican bishop of Lincoln would adopt, so I am not sure where that leaves us (the present incumbent is no doubt very embarrassed when he has to sign hotel registers as Christopher Lincoln and Mrs Lowson).

Abraham Lincoln

Probably not a bishop.

Let's go back to the English model of a civil war. So far, we have seen a few skirmishes on English soil. Norwich has fallen into the hands of Colonel Hopes's forces, and has had a pontifical Latin Mass celebrated from the throne for the first time since A.D. 597 or thereabouts. Pope Francis is said to be livid. Colonel Egan in Portsmouth has thrown the notorious Paul Inwood to his dogs, while Colonel Davies is making Shrewsbury into an impenetrable stronghold.

But things have also been going well for the forces of modernism and liberal Catholicism. It is true that Colonel Conry was humiliated in Arundel and Brighton, but General Nichols has a firm grip on Westminster, and has even despatched his sidekick, Colonel Stock, to occupy the northern fortress of Leeds.

Nichols and Pickles

Squeezed between Nickles and Pichols.

Back in Rome, the Pope is under attack. For one thing, he's a Jesuit, which is often seen these days as something like a cross between a con-man and a politician. His "Who am I to judge?" line is probably the most-quoted line by any recent Pope, even if the obvious reply, "You're the Pope, aren't you?" is less commonly repeated. Expert pope-watchers tell me that he is also a liberation theologian and a football fan.

And now another voice is being heard. The Doctor's arch-nemesis, Pope Benedict, whom nobody expected to see again, has survived the Time-War between the Time-Lords and the Daleks, and has been reincarnated as a women called "Missy". He (or she) is planning to turn Basil Loftus into a Cyberman, which could be a distinct improvement. I'm sorry, I seem to have turned over two pages of my notes at once.


Pope Benedict is back!

Better wrap this article up now, I'm nearly at the Spectator's word limit. Moderate conservative Catholics such as my friend Cristina Odone (stop laughing at the back, there!) say that they are simply confused by Pope Francis. Is he St Peter, is he Henry VIII, or is he Barack Obama? Or is he just a very naughty boy?

Will this do? I'm a bit out of practice. Next week's piece on Rachmaninov will be better, I promise. DT.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

My daughter is a Satanist: should I be worried?

Our agony aunt, Ella Rislim, answers your ethical questions for Crux.

Dear Auntie Ella,
My daughter is obsessed with the occult, like many healthy nine-year-olds. Recently, she has been conducting seances in her bedroom, inviting Madame E. Curti, a local medium, to summon up the spirits of dead people. Last week, for example, she conjured up her Uncle Albert, Charlie Chaplin, and Mgr Basil Loftus (the last was rather a surprise until we realised that his soul had long since parted company from his body).


A perfectly normal interest for a young child.

So far there have been no ill effects apart from the fact that her bedroom smells strongly of ectoplasm and the cat has disappeared. Oh - and there was the unfortunate incident when her best friend encountered the demon Melbrinionon-sadsazzer-steldregandish-feltselior and was carried off down to Hell. We are faithful Catholics, regular readers of Crux, and great fans of Pope Francis. Do you see a problem with this?

Auntie Ella writes: It is good for children to have a hobby. Admittedly the Catholic Church warns against occultism, conjuring up spirits, cosying up to demons, and playing around with the supernatural. But after all, Tolkien was a Catholic, and nobody ever told him off for writing those books of his!


Tolkien - wrote about wraiths and spirits.

Dear Auntie Ella,
My teenage son Victor has started to take an interest in grave-robbing, and has formed a fine collection of body parts. He tells me that he is just one spleen and three bones short of making a complete monster, which he proposes to animate the next day we have a thunderstorm. As a pious Catholic who attends Mass every Christmas, should I feel concerned?

Auntie Ella writes: This is perfectly normal activity for a Catholic teenager. However, I should check that the wiring in your house is safe, as we don't want him to start a fire, do we?

Boris Karloff

The monster offers to help in the garden.

Dear Auntie Ella,
My daughter Catherine sleeps in a coffin during the day time, and goes out only at night "for a drink", as she puts it. Also she keeps dozens of bats in her bedroom. I am worried that this pattern of behaviour is causing her to neglect her studies, and she may fail to get into Oxford University. As a faithful Catholic, what should I do?

Auntie Ella writes: Do not worry. If she can't make it into Oxford, she might try Roehampton.

brides of Dracula

An anxious moment waiting for A level results.

Dear Auntie Ella,
My daughter has been reading Crux and taking advice from its agony aunt. Is this wise?

Auntie Ella writes: Er, well....

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

How to be a popular Pope

In the spring of last year I received an urgent telephone call from Rome: "Eccles, I have just been elected Pope. I've done the 'Oh my goodness I never expected this' routine and the 'I'd like to thank my parents, my teachers, my auntie Carmen, my pet donkey Diego, and all the cardinals who voted for me' speech, and even the 'I love you all' bit. So what can I do now to become the most popular pope in history?"

anonymous pope

It would be wrong of me to say who consulted me.

My client comes from South America, where the forms of worship are rather different from those in Europe and North America, for example. There it is considered de rigueur to give the Mass the air of a wild party - so Pinocchio puppets, tango dancing, dodgy footballers, angels on roller skates, etc. are all considered a necessary part of the liturgy, in a way that is rarely seen, for example, at the Brompton Oratory. Despite being Latin American, my anonymous friend is not a fan of Latin, and he would be quite happy to make Italian the universal language of the Catholic Church.

"Well, George," I told him (I call him George because I have known him since he was a humble cardinal). "The main problem popes have is that they are Catholic. As a result they get bad publicity in the liberal press. SEXIST SKY-FAIRY BELIEVER IN SILLY DRESS REFUSES TO ALLOW GAY PRIDE MARCH IN VATICAN - as the Tablet put it. You must become a liberal yourself."

"Did the Tablet really say that?" asked George.

"Yes, it was in Prof. Eamon Duffy's learned commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. Harsh words about St Peter, there."


Chilling out with Eamon Duffy (R).

"Now, what people don't like about popes is that they think they have a fairly comfortable lifestyle," I continued. "What can you do to counter that?"

"Comfortable?" asked George in amazement. "I have to go to two-hour masses in the middle of the night, I have to meet all sort of crazy people from lands where the Catholic Church is in disarray - have you met my stalker - he's a chap called Cormac - by the way? - and then I have to travel around the world and kiss airport runways when I land. Ugh."

"Still, you could dress more humbly than Benedict did. No papal fanon or red shoes - give them to the poor. Get down with the 'yoof' by wearing a papal baseball cap, tee-shirt, jeans and trainers. It works for the Anglicans."

pope in baseball cap

Getting down with the yoof.

"Now, how about rewriting Christian teaching?" I suggested.

"I can't do that - I'm the pope!" said George. "It may be all right for German cardinals - they're basically Protestant anyway - but if I start taking a soft line on divorce, abortion, or homosexual acts, then I'll be eaten alive! Mundabor and Rorate Caeli will call me an anti-pope. Father Z will be perplexed. Father Hunwicke will say something learned and incomprehensible, but all his readers will know he's calling me a heretic. Even Damian Thompson will start criticising my hairstyle."

"Tricky, isn't it?" I agreed. "How about making a few off-the-record throwaway remarks that are obviously foolish, but which can be taken up as liberal soundbites? Ask 'Who am I to judge?' when some ghastly sin is mentioned. Have a go at self-absorbed Promethean neo-pelagianism - nobody knows what it is, but it sounds as if you are getting tough on traddies. For that matter, why not persecute some very devout but rather traditional order of friars? Tell them that unless they bring in clown masses toot sweet they will be closed down!"

pirate Mass

Yo-ho-holy! A new look for the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.

"I know - I could hold a synod!" said George delightedly. "I'll spin it that we are rewriting the New Testament so that the more embarrassing parts of Christ's teaching can be quietly dropped. Then if one of those awkward customers like Burke and Pell starts complaining, I can deny it all and blame it on 'loopy' Kasper. By the way, I'm going to have to do something about Burke: he keeps accosting me in the Vatican tea-rooms and sneering 'Are you really the Pope? Oh good grief!' Now I can sack him!"

"Good thinking, Holy Mate," I said (I call him Holy Mate because we used to go drinking together). "Don't worry about offending orthodox Catholics - they would have preferred Benedict anyway, and besides they'll go to Mass whoever the pope is. Dumb down, take the Christ out of Christianity, add an N, and what have you got?"

George contemplated my brilliant wordplay for a moment, before replying "Inanity. Yes, what the world is looking for is a Pope of Inanity!"