Postcode Adultery


How is Amoris Laetitia to be interpreted and applied? And whose interpretation is to be authoritative?

These are no longer merely academic questions.

The Bishop of Rome, it seems, holds to one interpretation, and the Archbishop of Florence to the opposite. Which means that divorced Catholics in covenanted relationships in Rome are admitted to Holy Communion. In Florence, where the exegesis of Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, former president of the pontifical council for the family, holds sway, they are not.

Since Amoris Laetitia (para 300) calls for bishops to draw up diocesan guidelines for those in irregular relationships (and not only for their pastoral care), it would seem that Giuseppe Bertori is well within his rights. But the anomalies are startling – verging on the absurd.

If the Vicar of Christ can have one opinion about the meaning of a document (of which, after all, he is the accredited author), and a neighbouring Archbishop can take an opposite view, what was the point of the document in the first place? Surely it cannot be the purpose of a Magisterial declaration to sow dissension and discontent in a matter so close to the hearts of many and so clearly addressed in the Gospels?

What if the Rome/Buenos Aires axis proves to hold the minority opinion, and the Antonelli/Bertori view takes the world by storm? Who then is Pope?


The Pope gave Justin a pastoral staff modelled on that which his predecessor Gregory had given to Augustine. A neat touch which whilst honouring the recipient spoke eloquently of the status of the giver.


Betting is now open on what Francis will give to the lady Archbishop of Uppsala when he visits Sweden to celebrate the Reformation. This blog is open for suggestions.

Canoniztion? Or is that being kept for Luther?


Red Hats

How many Cardinals does it take to change a light bulb? The traditional answer used to be: ‘Did you say CHANGE?!!!’. But time passes and the game of stacking the college with the like-minded is as irresistible to a Pope as to a Prime Minister stacking the Lords. The new appointments seem, indeed, a little like a PM’s resignation honours list.

Nothing now surprises. Soon it will be obligatory for each Pope to canonise his predecessor. You can’t have too many papal saints, after all! But better sanctification, some would say, than a Presidential Library and Museum somewhere  in California (or any place else).


The Holy See more and more comes to resemble other elective offices – with the modest exception that the scramble for photo-opportunities takes place after, rather than before the election.

How one longs for the Good Old Days of the ‘Prisoner in the Vatican’. Nothing becomes a Pope more than reticence.

Roman Holiday



Dear Frank,

So is that it? Is there nothing to take home from our Rome meeting but an agreement to work together to combat climate change and oppose people trafficking? Don’ get me wrong, I am not in favour of either, but as an agenda for common action it does seem strange to list two things about which neither of us can do very much. Frankly, I had hoped for something a little more positive than rhetoric.

As you said, we both have our problems. You have traditionalists thwarting your every intention (and the whiff of scandal still hanging over Vatican finances). I have dwindling authority in the Communion, and a gay agenda at home which I can neither halt nor moderate. All we can do, it seems, is to fly off and make speeches in foreign parts!

You’re quite right, of course: it all comes down to sex in the end, whether it’s gay marriage, women priests, gender identity or no fault divorce. I’m not sure Sandy prepared me for all this. It makes one nostalgic for the good old days when people argued about grace, salvation and transubstantiation. It was all so much simpler then.

Heigh-ho! Till the next time – if there is a next time

Your friend,


Second Thoughts ?


The Pummerin (‘Boomer’) in the steeple of the Stephansdom in Vienna is the third largest swinging bell in Europe. It was cast in 1705 from cannon captured from the Turks at the Second Siege of Vienna , and refounded in 1951, using the metal of the old bell with the addition of bronze from Turkish cannon in the  Heeresgeschichtliches Museum.

On Easter Day, shaking the steeple, the great bell rings out announcing the Lord’s Resurrection and recalling again the defeat of the city’s most formidable enemy. No sound could more delight the Christian people.

Except…the words of their own Archbishop, in his Cathedral Church, on the 333rd anniversary of Sobieski’s great victory. He was bold enough to say what every inhabitant of the continent knows: that a concerted Islamic invasion of Europe is once again underway. ‘Will there now be a third attempt at an Islamic conquest of Europe? Many Muslims think so and long for it and say: This Europe is at an end’

Except… having spoken the truth (boldly going where no politician dares to tread) the Archbishop unaccountably lost his nerve and issued a retraction. This ‘has absolutely nothing to do with Islam… It is clear that many Islamists would like to take advantage of our weakness, but they are not responsible for it. We are.’ Apparently what he was really intending to say was that the violence being experienced in almost every country in Europe is not to be attributed to Muslim malice, but to Christian infidelity. We have brought this upon ourselves.

Tell that to Fr Jacques Hamel.

Cardinal Schoenborn is a charming and cultured man, and a theologian of considerable distinction. So it is a tragedy that he has succumbed to the pressures of the zeitgeist in this demeaning way.

And the more tragic still that he should have done so in the former capital of the Habsburg lands, where the pressure of Islamic invasion was most acutely felt and most heroically resisted.

Brexit Bother


As the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union continues to unravel, complications multiply. One which has recently surfaced concerns the Commission of Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) – proprietor one Reinhard Marx.*

The Catholic equivalent of the West Lothian problem can be stated simply: when the UK finally leaves the EU Ireland will continue its membership. In consequence, whilst the Bishops’ Conferences of England and Wales and Scotland will withdraw from COMECE, the Irish will not. Catholics in Northern Ireland will therefore have representation which is denied Catholics in Scotland – despite a Remain vote in both countries.

‘This is not just a problem for the God-botherers,’ said Alec Salmond, veteran campaigner for Scottish independence. ‘This is being hotly disputed on the terraces of Ibrox and Celtic Park. Demands are already being made for a second Independence Referendum so that Scottish Catholics can have the same rights in the EU as their co-religionists across the Irish Sea. Alongside border disputes in County Armagh, this could be big.‘

Nicola Sturgeon was unavailable for comment.


*Be honest, you didn’t even know that this existed.


ἡ ἀλήθεια ἐλευθερώσει ὑμᾶς


The prime purpose of a Magisterium, one would have thought, is to state with precision and clarity what ought to be the case – to be, as one might say, Magisterial.

Not so in this pontificate. Unclarity seems to be the watchword. Laudato Si was strong on aspiration and weak on prescription; mere monkeys on the face of the Basilica.

And now Amoris Laetitia.

What in particular should parish priests conclude from it and divorced Catholics expect of it? Distinguished theologians and pastors have begged for clarification*, and now, in a letter to a South American bishop from the hand of its reputed author, comes guidance which is less than pellucid**.

Some will wonder whether Francis understands AL himself. Others will suspect some low cunning or sleight of hand. Whatever the case, plain speaking would disarm rumour.  So why not give it a try?