Progress Report


My Dear Wormwood,

There arrived on my desk this morning a memorandum which does you nothing but credit. From time to time HIM Office of Statistics provides me with a useful summary of the progress of all our operatives.

You have clearly had a considerable success with your patient; the department itemises:

2013.  Francis said that Jesus’s multiplication of bread and fish was really a miracle of sharing, not of multiplying .

2014. The midterm report of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family recommended that pastors emphasize the “positive aspects” of cohabitation and civil remarriage after divorce.

2014. Francis told a woman in an invalid marriage that she could take Holy Communion.

2015. He claimed that lost souls do not go to hell; and said that Jesus had begged his parents for forgiveness.

2016.  He said that God had been “unjust with his son”; announced his prayer intention to build a society “that places the human person at the centre”; and declared that inequality is “the greatest evil that exists.”

2017. Was a bumper year. Francis joked that “inside the Holy Trinity they’re all arguing behind closed doors, but on the outside they give the picture of unity.”
Jesus Christ, he said, “made himself the devil.”
“No war is just,” he pronounced.
At the end of history, “everything will be saved.” he said, “Everything.”

This accelerating progress is very heartening. These direct contradictions of scripture and departures from Church teaching are what we would normally expect of a Liberal Protestant. To have achieved so much in so short a time (with a Pope for your patient) is by any standards remarkable. But do not rest on your laurels. The steepest mountain is still to climb: gender dysphoria and all that that entails

After your dazzling successes with the Anglican Communion, however, I have every confidence that you can finish the job.


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,

My little boy (he will be five in January) has recently developed an interest in my Janet Regers. He dresses up in my bra and panties and parades himself in front of relations and visitors. I find this rather embarrassing. What should I do?


Tunbridge Wells


Dear Emma,

I am sure that there is nothing to be alarmed about. Statistics show that an increasing number of little boys (and girls) are showing an early interest in cross-dressing. We in the Church of England believe that everyone – including the totties – should be enabled freely to discover who they really are.  After all, we are all made in the image of God (what we theologians call the ‘imago Dei’) and have a right to explore all possibilities for ourselves.

Does it matter if your child grows up to be Superman or Greyson Perry, as long as they have a fulfilled and happy life as the person they want be? What a dull world it would be if we all turned out to be the same!

Trust me, I am a theologian. We theologians are coming to see that sound theology and genuine humanity go hand in hand.

Your task is surely truly to accompany your child on his journey. If he likes pink give him pink, I say!

I write as a father myself, and believe me,

Your friend,




Preparations are said to be in train for the beatification of John PauI I, following the now well-established tradition of the automatic beatification of recently deceased pontiffs – a practice not dissimilar to that of the deification of Roman Emperors.

But will Francis live long enough to be obliged to beatify Benedict? It would be a delicious irony. May we all live to enjoy it.




The Holy Father is of course quite right to deprecate the taking of photographs with mobile phones during liturgical celebrations (especially by concelebrant priests and bishops). The rite demands prayerful attention.

But he is, himself, somewhat to blame  The increasing tendency to project the Pope as a ‘celebrity’ has naturally resulted in him being treated as such.  It is a circumstance in which familiarity breeds adulation; and the Vicar of Christ is put on a par with Elton John.

Am I alone in recognising that the reverence in which John Paul II and Benedict were held by both the faithful and the secular world has shifted radically in this pontificate? It has been displaced by the popularity of a popularist.

So naturally, everyone will want to snap away.

Bishop’s move


‘We know no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality’.

So Thomas Babbington Macaulay on Lord Byron. And he did not end there.

‘From the poetry of Lord Byron they drew a system of ethics compounded of misanthropy and voluptuousness, — a system in which the two great commandments were to hate your neighbour and to love your neighbour’s wife.’

Little or nothing in the harassment scandal which has recently enveloped Westminster would justify comments as stringent as Macaulay’s. But after the initial storm over abuse in the Church of England (which, you will recall, nearly claimed the scalps of an Archbishop of York, an Archbishop of Canterbury and the saintly George Bell) a curious case has arisen.

Founding member of the Archbishop’s Council, Jayne Ozanne has claimed that she was raped by a priest twenty-five years ago, that she approached a Church safeguarding officer who brushed her off, and that she recently reported the offence to a bishop who advised her to drop the matter.

Who is the priest, who is the safeguarding officer (and from which diocese) and who is the bishop? We need to be told, and they need to be disciplined.

In a world where victimhood is rapidly becoming a status symbol the details of such accusations need to be forensically examined for the sake of all concerned, and the health of the institutions involved.

It is time Ms Ozanne named names.



Overheard in a London Club:

Bishop: The present crisis of Europe is a three-sided war between Christianity, the Enlightenment and Islam.

Priest: Precisely so. And the Pope can’t make up his mind which side he is on.

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche

As the Cahiers de Doléances mount up in the in-tray of the Absolute Monarch* what is to be done? How to respond when the apparently guileless invitation to parrhesia is accepted?

Like Louis, Francis’s first reaction has been to sack a few ministers. But as with Louis, that will probably make things worse in the long run. And another Synod might, like the calling of the Estates General, solve no problems and simply bring matters to a head.

A change of style would be difficult; to admit mistakes virtually unthinkable.

Perhaps, as in 1789, things will simply take their course.

*see the letter of Fr Thomas Weinandy at