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?



Advent Hymn

The death was recently announced of the Rt Revd David Jenkins [91] sometime Bishop of Durham


Tune: Hemsley

No one comes with clouds descending
None for favoured sinners slain
Not a single saint attending
In that non-existent train.
Dr Jenkins
Expels them with superior brain.

Genderless the dazzling body
Deep the bones in unknown tomb
Innocent of wonder working
Offspring of no Virgin Womb.
What we are asking
Is of interest to whom?

Yea, Amen, let all ignore him
Neither praise nor denigrate
All this vain attention seeking
Was so cheap and second rate.
Enfants terribles
Soon achieve their sell-by date

[with apologies to John Ce­nnick, Charles Wes­ley, and Mar­tin Ma­dan.]

Shock horror


The Church of England has been rocked yet again by recent revelations in The News of the World that Richard Chartres (69), Bishop of London, and Caroline his wife, have been living in a ménage a trois with a young curate from Hammersmith called Felix.

In a statement to the press, Lambeth Palace affirmed that the Archbishop of Canterbury had remained fully informed of developments.

‘The bishop’s lifestyle falls well within the boundaries set by Issues in Human Sexuality,’ said Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. ‘All three participants have given me assurances of celibacy. In any case these domestic arrangements do not materially affect Richard’s ability to discharge his duties as Bishop of London. He sounds as much like Winston Churchill now as he ever did.’

Horns of a Dilemma


Dear Frank,

I suppose that (like almost everybody else) you didn’t even know we had a Bishop of Grantham. But we do, and he’s gay. And that’s not a problem for me. As I said (definitively enough to persuade even myself) it does not affect one iota his ability to do the job.

He’s a decent fellow who’s been shacked up with a ‘friend’ for some time.  Coming from my sort of background, I tend to think that any sort of fidelity is a bonus. But you can see that  there are problems. The Africans won’t like it, the LGBT lobby in the UK will jump on the bandwagon, and it drives a coach and horses through our ‘Issues in Human Sexuality’ thingy.

As a matter of fact, I feel rotten about all this. Of course I knew about everything all along – including the boyfriend. But the rules meant that I had to insist on no hanky-panky.

But who am I to judge? Why shouldn’t the pair of them get on with things as, well…normal? It makes me seem so mean and prying and homophobic, and, as you well know, that is far from being the case.

This is not the sort of subject about which I can turn to Sandy for advice – the greenwelly brigade at HTB are not exactly gay-friendly. So I am turning to you. What would a Jesuit do?

With all good wishes,




To ecumenists converts are an inconvenience. To those – both Catholic and Protestant – preparing to celebrate the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation with declarations of forgiveness, amity and corporate amnesia, the very existence of the Ordinariates is acutely so.

Ordinariate Catholics will find it hard to join in the junketing. The wounds are still very sore.

Attempting to live as Catholics trapped in a Protestant body, we lived out the irony at the heart of Anglo-Catholicism: – the irony of asserting that the church within which we functioned was something most of its members passionately believed it was not.

We asked –  from a ‘broad’ church with a chequered history and made up of those with diverse and conflicting opinions – for a safe space. But it was Benedict XVI, not Rowan Williams, who delivered the goods.  Paradoxically what Anglo-Catholics had sought in the Church of England – diversity of practice in the unity of Faith – only the Roman monolith could supply.

To ecumenists converts are an embarrassment. Whilst they are celebrating what is held in common, we have a lively sense of the gulf between us.  Dissembling will not do. We have come, perhaps too late, to acknowledge the wisdom of Cardinal Manning’s uncompromising words:

Ritualism is private judgement in gorgeous raiment, wrought about with divers colours…every fringe in an elaborate cope worn without authority is only a distinct and separate act of private judgement; the more elaborate, the less Catholic; the nearer the imitation, the further from the submission of faith.

Papistical, moi?


Letchworth Garden City is admittedly a long way from the slums of Buenos Aires; but here are some wise words from the sage of Letchworth which might well be addressed to a former South American archbishop:

‘The Pope is not an irresponsible tyrant who can do anything with the Church that he likes. He is bound on every side by the constitution of the Church. Some day a Catholic theologian ought to write a treatise on the limitations of the Papacy. This would do much good among Protestants, who are accustomed to think of us putting the whole system of our religion at the mercy of one man, and of such a man as Rodrigo Borgia.’

Quoted by Aidan Nichols in The Latin Clerk, the Lutterworth Press, Cambridge, 2011, p258

[For Protestants read Liberal Catholics!]