Carrion call


Those who have the good fortune to know Mgr Andrew Burnham personally will have been shocked at blogger Archbishop Cranmer’s characterisation of him as a vulture in search of carrion.

What Fr Burnham did was to point out, in an article for the Catholic Herald, that the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, erected by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, is ready at any time to receive former Anglicans eager to be united with the Holy See. That is what it is for.

He did so in the wake of incontrovertible demonstration that the Church of England is incapable of prosecuting its own ‘Five Principles’ and providing for orthodox catholics that ‘space to thrive’ which the Ordinariates secure for them within the Latin Church.

His sentiments, like those of the Ordinariates themselves, are without doubt pastoral, not predatory.


That the recent misadventures of Philip North and Jeffrey John have exposed fault lines in contemporary Anglicanism few could doubt.

These events expose equivalent and opposite attitudes to the new doctrine of ‘radical inclusion’. But more than that they reveal the profound and fundamental erastianism of the institution. This, it should be noted, has nothing to do with establishment (the Church in Wales is disestablished); but everything to do with an in-built expectation that its primary role is to baptise the ambient culture.


Dr John – whose recurrent episcopal vicissitudes (Southwark, Reading, LLandaff) would be comic if they were less significant – is a case in point. Without considering for a moment that there might be reasons other than his sexuality for his rejection for so many bishoprics, he has weighed in (not for the first time) with accusations of ‘homophobia’. A slew of Welsh MPs has written in his defence. Why? Because, unlike Muslims and Roman Catholics, Welsh Anglicans are expected to come up to the standards of modern secular society.

Philip North has twice been intimidated from office by bigots for whom catholic orthodoxy is an affront and an offence. For them, like the protesting MPs, the Equality Act 2010 trumps the consistent witness of the Christian centuries.

Since the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill of 1851 (Lord John Russell’s ill-fated response to Wiseman’s sally ‘From out the Flaminian Gate’) Parliament has avoided legislating against religious sentiment. But it seems that, in the name of ‘British values’, others are prepared to take up the cudgels.

The Catholic Church, which has always been a preferred object of mob violence in the United Kingdom, needs to take note.

Many Happy Returns

Image result for justin and francis

Dear Frank,

Four years! In some ways it seems like a life-time. I won’t be as fulsome as Vincent (I leant at HTB to suspect anyone who is quite so free with ascriptions to the Holy Spirit) but I have to say that I don’t know how I would have got through it all without you.

It’s a cliché, I know, but it’s lonely at the top. You and I have muddled along in our modestly modernising way, and I am really grateful that you have been someone I could always rely on to listen and to care. We both have the same vision of an open, uncensorious Church which can welcome people where they are and as they are; and that counts for a lot with me.

We Anglicans have come a long way. And I hope that is an encouragement to you. Hardly anyone remembers now that we used to be opposed to divorce; and it will be the same with gay marriage. Give it time, is what I say. It’s all inevitable. We are moving, you and I, with the tide of God. The Holy Spirit buoys us forward.

But there – I am sounding too much like Vincent – I will end.

With gratitude for everything



20141020cnsto0012-800x500“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5: 22.

“We thank God for the richness of the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, which are the hallmarks of your ministry: joy and peace, patience and kindness, faithfulness, wisdom and mercy”. Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Pope Francis.

What are we to conclude from Vincent’s adaptation of Galatians 15 to suit Pope Francis? Surely not that the Cardinal thinks the Holy Father lacking in gentleness and self-control?

And why the curious choice of a fourth anniversary for this enthusiastic encomium? What gives?


With the emergence of ever more documents about the relations of the Church and the National Socialist Party has come to light the text of an address of Bishop Heinz Zuhldorf of Hanover, on behalf of the German Christians of the Reich, on the occasion of the first anniversary of Hitler’s coming to power.  As Ian Kershaw comments in his magisterial Hitler:  A Profile of Power few could have imagined in 1934 the tragic denouement of 1945. We publish the text below.

“We thank God that the Holy Spirit guided the process of your election and that the same Holy Spirit guides and supports you day by day. We thank God for the richness of the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, which are the hallmarks of your leadership: joy and peace, patience and kindness, faithfulness, wisdom and mercy.

“Dear Fuehrer, we thank you for the steadfast way in which you uphold the principles which govern our nation, presenting them in deed and in word with a freshness and directness, which draws the attention of the world. We pray that God will give you strength and courage to continue this great ministry from which we all draw such encouragement.

“I assure you, dear Fuehrer, of the love, the esteem and the whole-hearted support of us all.’




Today saw the launch, in the Frauenkirche, Munich of UXORIA, a new movement which is campaigning for the next Pope to be a married man.

Said a spokesperson for the new group: ‘The Holy Father should be just that, a father, the head of a family –  with all the experiences, excitements and disappointment which real fatherhood brings. A leader whose task is to uphold family values should himself be a family man. It just makes sense.’

‘Of course,’ said Sr Magdelena Schaleger, secretary of the new organisation , ‘we expect a strong reaction from precisely the same group of die-hard celibates in the Curia which has opposed every attempt by the present Pope to modernise the Church. They, as always, will argue from tradition. But there are influential voices on our side as well. As Cardinal Kasper* has pointed out, in his recent book ‘Die Familie der Kirche’, Peter himself was a married man. That surely is precedent enough.’

Preparations are already in hand for a mass rally in St Peter’s Square as soon as the next conclave is announced.

Said one young supporter: ‘Of course we don’t wish Pope Francis dead, but we just can’t wait. He is so forward-looking. We know it’s what he would want too.’

*In a parallel announcement it was also revealed that Cardinal Walter Kasper has become the patron of a small ginger group calling itself GVP – ‘Geschiedenen für einen verheirateten Papst’.

Deja vu

The Philip North affair, quite understandably, continues to excite comment in the Church of England. The following is a text of a letter which I sent to Fr Philip, as he then was, shortly after the debacle over the See of Whitby.


Dear Philip,

I read your two articles in New Directions with sadness and astonishment. They contain so much which is true, and yet draw such bizarre conclusions from those indisputable facts.

‘The Church of England has a wonderful way of dealing with challenging or new opinions…which is to domesticate them by labelling them as one of the traditions or constituencies which make up a diverse church’.  Just  so.

But you go on: ‘ A new group or movement is given its own little space, and allowed to go on saying what it thinks as long as the others have equal space.’

Not so. Precisely the opposite has been conclusively demonstrated by the prolonged dispute over the ordination of women as priests and bishops.  Provision which might have accorded ‘equal space’ in the matter has been systematically eroded and shows no signs of possible re-instatement. The majority in this matter are like vegetarians: after you have prepared them a nut cutlet, they do not have the grace to offer you a pork chop. For them ‘principle’ trumps tolerance every time!

I do not see, moreover, why you should think that greater involvement in the life of the Church of England at deanery, diocesan or national level is a prophylactic against that gelding- by- assimilation which you have so accurately described. ‘We must spurn safe places and ghettos’, you say  –  as though that were a courageous and adventurous thing to do. But since the CofE has made it clear that there is no alternative, the gesture can hardly pass muster as either. You are simply repackaging reaction as action.

‘The Holy Father has put an offer on the table…and we have said no .That means that we have re-committed ourselves to an Anglican future.’

But again, not so. Your own flirtation with the episcopate has surely taught you the anomalies of the present situation.  Full integration into the corporate and sacramental life of the Church of England is no longer possible for those who refuse the ministry of women priests and bishops (and, prospectively, the men they ordain). The constitutional  fiction upon which the catholic  movement subsisted in the two decades after 1992 –  that the matter was reversible and that the CofE could opt to return to the status quo ante – has been demonstrated to be just that: a fiction.

‘We change, leave or die’, you conclude. Since you have ruled out the life-giving option (though you never say precisely why)  you have only two options left.  In all probability they will turn out to be the same thing.

With all good wishes,