Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops
Palazzo del Bramante
Via della Conciliazione 34
00120 Città del Vaticano
Phone:. 06-698.84.821

The Secretariat is now open to receive drafts of the closing document of the Synod on Young People.

  • No previous experience is needed.
  • The authors need not be members of the Synod, or indeed have attended any part of it.
  • The final document may be submitted in any language. (It will be translated into Latin by seasoned experts under the close supervision of Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri)
  • Candidates should submit texts as soon as possible (and in any case before the end of the Synod).

This year, by special grace of His Holiness, the winner will have his/her draft entered as part of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church!

Down, Downunder

The retired Anglican Dean of Brisbane is a friend of mine. And though no one would claim that Arthur brought to the role intellectual distinction, he was an orthodox churchman and an assiduous pastor. His firm and fixed intention – which he fulfilled – was to finish John Loughborough Pearson’s great cathedral, the finest gothic building in the Southern Hemisphere.

How tragic, then, to learn from an antipodean correspondent, that the present Dean has dedicated the completed building to a different religion:

‘ On September 16, St. John’s Cathedral in Brisbane held a service of “Choral Evensong for the Brisbane pride festival.” The church’s Facebook page posted photos of the church decked in rainbow flags, the sermon referred to the Trinity of God as the church’s “queering principle,” and according to reports, prayers were said to a “Rainbow Christ” and an “Erotic Christ”. “The Trinity is our Queering principle, that which invites us to defy binaries and labels,” Peter Catt, the cathedral’s dean, declared in a sermon entitled “Queering the City of God”. ’



October 15, 2020

The Conclave following the funeral and canonisation of Pope Francis had proved long and acrimonious. It was with relief that Vatican officials and the crowds waiting in St Peter’s Square greeted the white smoke. Pope Benedict XVII emerged to a roar of well-wishers. ‘Guten abend’, were his first words to the gathered people of his new diocese.

Gustav Nepomuk Switzerhof had for many years been Professor of Biblical Exegesis at the University of Tubingen, when John Paul II plucked him from academe to be Bishop of Stuttgart. He is best known for his work at the CDF under Joseph Ratzinger.

The election has not been universally acclaimed. He was described, in an unusually frank editorial in the English paper ‘The Tablet’ as ‘a reactionary Rottweiler of the old school’. ‘The Tablet’ ruefully conceded that at 63, Switzerhof could be in office for a considerable time.

*     *     *


January 21, 2021

The inauguration of Pope Benedict XVII was interrupted today by three American women, claiming to have been sexually assaulted by Switzerhof during his time at the American Nunciature in Washington DC. Though the Swiss Guard speedily removed the struggling women, an orchestrated demonstration with banners and loud hailers broke out in the Square. Order was not restored until Cardinal Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, came to the microphone, promising a full, free and independent investigation.

‘Pull the other one,’ chanted the enraged women in unison, alluding to the failed investigation of St Francis for homosexual cover-ups.  And making it abundantly clear that they had no intention of letting the matter rest. Cardinal Parolin cancelled the inauguration forthwith, pending the results of the investigation. In the interim Swtizerhof is to live in seclusion at Castel Gandolfo, where it is hoped he will be safe.

‘Thank goodness,’ said Parolin privately, ‘that we no longer have a retired pontiff in residence to take up the reins again.’


Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus…

To date, in a pontificate of five years, Pope Francis has canonised forty-nine saints. This significant inflation of sanctification has come to a crisis with the canonisation of Pope Paul VI.

In a sense, of course, the elevation of Montini to the altars of the Church makes sense: it completes ‘the set’ of sanctified Popes since the Second Vatican Council. But there are also concerns, and not only about the Christian virtues of the recipient. We need to remind ourselves what, au fond, canonisation is.  Canonisation is the official response of the institutional Church to a cultus among the people of God. Arguably the cries of ‘Santo Subito!’ at the conclusion of the funeral Mass of Pope John Paul II were the beginnings of a popular cultus. No such claims could conceivably be made about the deeply controversial figure of Paul VI.

So why canonisation? The most plausible explanations involve internal church politics, and probably revolve around liturgical change. Arguably the most momentous change in the whole history of the Catholic Church was the outlawing of a rite which had been continuous from ancient times, and its replacement by Paul with one fabricated according to the tastes and predilections of modern liturgists. The upheaval in parishes across the globe was devastating and incalculable. It unleashed a bonfire of sacred art unseen since the Protestant Reformation.

It is this, perhaps, rather than a vague ‘Spirit of Vatican II’ which Francis is canonising. He has already declared himself the foe of Benedict’s rapprochement with the Roman Rite. The elevation of Montini demonstrates, ineluctably, that there is to be no turning back.


Rex Non Potest Peccare II

It is a foolish leader who surrounds himself with sycophants.

After the cloying letter to Donald Wuerl on his resignation as Archbishop of Washington – in which Francis redundantly quoted himself (‘cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 235′, indeed!) – comes the following effusion from Thomas Rosica*:


Echoing His Master’s Voice, Rosica amplifies it. In his servant’s eyes, not only is Bergoglio shrouded in the aura of sanctity, but all his allies and confederates are similarly beyond criticism or reproach.

This unhealthy state of affairs cannot lead to the resolution of the current crisis.

*formerly English language assistant to the Holy See Press Office. 

Rex Non Potest Peccare

Perhaps the strangest feature of the present crisis in the Catholic Church is the failure of most participants – and especially the American press – to understand the cultural factors at its heart. In seeking accountability and disclosure they fail to take cognisance of the fact that, in a world of participatory democracy and political manoeuvre, the Papacy is the last surviving European autocracy.

The Vatican is an absolute monarchy, in which the Pope is not merely the fount of law; he is the law. He has no need to answer questions or respond to accusations. His strength (as Cardinal Quellet’s recent letter has shown) lies in a mystical ontology, which makes of criticism a sort of blasphemy.

The stand-off between Francis and the American Catholic press is a clash of two cultures – of two worlds which are virtually irreconcilable. You do not, in my view, have to be an adherent of the ‘Whig View of History’ to predict which side will win.

The English Civil War was a similar conflict between autocracy and accountability. And it ended, as we all know, with a beheading.

Charles I execution

Coming up Roses


Canon Rosie Harper, chaplain to the Church of England’s Bishop of Buckingham (cue the limerick) has joined Rachel Treweek in an intemperate attack on the language of scripture:

‘At the deepest level we have chosen to create an image of God which colludes with the toxicity of male dominance. So much religious language is violent. It is about heroic leadership, Kingship, subjection, dominance. It’s about who wins and who looses. It’s about punishment and reward. There are wars, physical and spiritual. Every level of oppressive patriarchy is right there in our holy text…This is about so much more than making a few women bishops. This asks us all if there is a way in which Christianity can be so counter-cultural that inhabits a universe that is free form gender war at every level…To even begin to make that happen we need to talk about pronouns. While God goes on being caricatured as ‘he’ the conversation cannot even begin.’

All this, of course, is vieux jeu, and rather 70s; but it demands an answer, nevertheless.

What, one is obliged to ask, does Rosie want? And what does she think will be left when the Bible and the Tradition has been cleansed of all that she finds toxic and offensive?

A gang rape by Roman soldiers of the daughter of a divine mother is perfectly imaginable. But it would be a very different story from that contained in the gospels. And it would be totally lacking in credible historical context and resonance. It would be an adventitious mythology fabricated for ideological purposes.  In short it would constitute a different religion.

Rosie is, of course, entitled to invent a religion of her own, with its own distinctive moral compass and social structure – with abortion, euthanasia and all the other things about which she is enthusiastic. She might even be able, for all I know, to call it Anglicanism. What she cannot do is to claim that it is Christianity. Change the basic imagery of a story, and you change the story itself.

And that is true of everything, from Genesis to Paddington Bear.