Ask the Archbishop


In our new series, agony uncle Justin Welby answers your questions.

Questions should be addressed to:
The Most Reverend, the Archbishop of Canterbury,
Lambeth Palace, 
London SE1 7JU


Dear Archbishop,

I am a former England rugby international who has recently undergone gender realignment surgery. I am now considering a future as a priest of the Church of England. How would you assess my chances of becoming Archbishop of Canterbury?

Samantha, (address withheld)

Dear Sam (if I may call you that!),

The current teaching of the Church of England on LGBT issues is, to be frank, less than clear. I don’t want to be invasive, but, since your surgical intervention, have you entered into a relationship with a man, or woman (or a former woman or man)? If so, I have to tell you that problems might arise. Same sex liasons genitally expressed are presently viewed by the Church of England as an impediment to proceeding to ordination. Of course, we would need to convene a meeting of the House of bishop to determine what would constititute a same sex relationship in any or all of  the circumstances I have outlined!.

Nevertheless, the present state of affairs may change in the foreseeable future, and I for one would not wish to discourage you from proceeding (to ordination, that is).

You sound to me like a very responsible young person. Whether or not you could ever become Archbishop of Canterbury is, of course, not for me to judge. Who can tell who or what will be my successor? God knows –  and the will of God will only be revealed to us by the General Synod in the course of time.

I recommend Westcott House, by the way,

Your friendly Archbishop,


Right-on Rite

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                                           Hello, Possums!       

Today the General Synod of the Church of England voted unanimously to draw up an order of service for use in the parish to re-induct a parish priest who has recently changed sex.

A draft rite for experimental use has already been prepared by the Liturgical Commission:

Archdeacon: What is your present sex?
Clergyperson: M or F or ….
Archdeacon: I am obliged by Canon Law to ask if you continue to be the same person previously known as ………
Clergyperson: I am, God being my helper.

Bishop: N now M, you have served faithfully as pastor of this congregation. Is it now your intention, after extensive reconstructive surgery, to persevere in this calling?
Clergyperson: It is.

Bishop: People of God in this parish, do you recognise ……as your pastor and guide, in his/her/its new capacity and gender?
People: We do.

Bishop: N now M, I duly invest you with all the rights and privileges of this benefice for such time as you continue in your present gender. In the name of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier*. Amen.
People: Welcome, thrice welcome. You have become a New Creation.

The congregation and all participants shall then repair to the parish hall for a good old-fashioned knees-up.

*The more traditional wording ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit’ may be used in parishes adhering to The Society, unless the priest in question declares it to be demeaning or offensive.



Wearied by a world beyond parody, where Monsignors snort cocaine in Vatican gay orgies and Cardinals enjoy joint accounts of unimaginable wealth in Swiss banks, this blog is going into retreat up a remote Yorkshire valley, many miles from the nearest human habitation.

Perhaps it will one day return. Who knows? Who cares?

Compassion Fatigues


In a development which has shocked the world’s media, Pope Francis and President Donald Trump have both offered asylum to embattled former Archbishop George Carey.

Carey is threatened with action in the British Courts for child sex offences. Said Donald Trump, in an anguished late-night tweet: ‘Let him come to us, we will protect him from those money grubbing lawyers’.

Pope Francis – never knowingly undersold on mercy and forgiveness – offered asylum in the Vatican. ‘We are no strangers here to providing refuge for those under investigation by the Civil Courts. He will not even be our first George.’

Who will win the compassion competition?

Antonio Spadaro is in no doubt. ‘The Holy Father has opened his arms to enfold the erring Archbishop. As the world knows, Francis’s middle name is Mercy. We intend to win this one hands down.’

Who’s next?

Iisn an alarming development, Vatican sources are reporting that Robert, Cardinal Sarah was yesterday arrested by a detachment of the Swiss Guard, and has been incarcerated in the Castel Sant’Angelo.

Friends of the Cardinal have been refused access to him, and commentators are speculating about the implications of the arrest, following, as it does, so quickly upon the sacking of Cardinal Mueller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Relations between Cardinal Sarah and Pope Francis have recently been described as ‘cool’, though no specific accusations have so far been made.

The Dean of the College, Cardinal Angelo Spadaro, was not available for comment.

Who’s next?

The predictable has come to pass (see below, May 29 – Who’s next?)

Rorate Caeli reports that Cardinal Mueller is for the chop. Pope Francis has sacked him on the very day his five-year mandate expired.

Though not unexpected, this attempt to silence the most influential voice interpreting Amoris Laetitia (see June 28, below – The Amoris Laetitia Audit) consistently with the teaching of St John Paul II and Pope Benedict is a major step.

No one can now entertain any hope that the Four Cardinals will be granted an audience, or that the Dubia will receive a Papal response.

And the question, once more, is Who’s next?

Cardinals Muller and Ezzati arrives for morning session of extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at Vatican

The Amoris Laetita Audit




For those who find it hard to keep up with the heady excitements of Catholic Moral Theology, this blog proposes to keep a running tally of positions and opinions world-wide.


The current state of play in the struggle to change the Church’s doctrine on marriage, divorce and penance is that there has so far been:


  • papal approval of a draft statement by a group of Argentine bishops of the Rio de la Plata region that opens the door to the reception of Holy Communion by divorced and civilly remarried Catholics;
  • an affirmation by Cardinal Müller that Holy Communion cannot be given to those living in a state of adultery;
  • publication by the pope’s own newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, of the statement by the Bishops of Malta that couples in invalid second marriages can receive Holy Communion if they at are at peace in their conscience with that decision;
  • reaffirmation by the Bishops of Poland that the teaching and discipline enunciated by St. John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio have not changed, and that only those civilly remarried couples who live as brother and sister may be admitted to Holy Communion;
  • a statement by the Archbishop of Philadelphia saying the same thing;
  • statements by the bishops of Belgium and Germany agreeing with the bishops of Malta and Rio del La Plata, Argentina.

Watch this space for further fascinating developments.