The full implications of the Irish abortion referendum are still unfolding.

First there is pressure to bring the North into line. And since a referendum there would probably not give the ‘right’ result, campaigners on this side of the Irish Sea, are pressing to impose a ‘solution’ on the Province. (It is, of course, deemed self-evident that all women in the United Kingdom should have an equal right to terminate a human life – and more than one life if necessary*.)

But more significant will be the response of the Catholic Church, and of the Pope when he flies in – and, perhaps more importantly, on the plane when he flies out.

No one will have been surprised at the deafening silence of Francis heretofore. Nor at the lack-lustre performance of Eamon Martin and the Catholic bishops during the referendum. But now comes the World Meeting of Families, with its Amoris Laetitiae related theme. And that will be the real test.

The Irish government has already put down its marker.

‘There should be a welcome for all. And never again should public statements or remarks which seek to isolate certain families be tolerated,’ said a government spokesperson. The implications are clear: ‘family’ is required to be an ‘inclusive’ term. So to underline the Church’s willingness to conform (despite Catholic teaching on the nature of marriage and so of the family) Fr James Martin is to be a keynote speaker.

‘At the invitation of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, and the Archdiocese of Dublin, I’ll be speaking at the World Meeting of Families in August, as part of the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland, on how the church can welcome families with LGBT members,’ he wrote. ‘The invitation sends a clear and powerful message from the Vatican to LGBT Catholics, their parents and their families: you belong and you are welcome.’

Francis will need to step gingerly if he is to avoid further outraging traditionalists on the one hand, or offending the partisans of the New Paradigm on the other.

* In 2012, 37% of women undergoing abortions had one or more previous abortions. The
proportion has risen from 31% since 2002. 27% of abortions to women aged under 25 were to women who had one or more abortions. [Summary information from the abortion notification forms returned to the Chief Medical Officers of England and Wales]

Wreaths of Empire


“…the greatest dream realised for human beings since the fall of the Western Roman Empire”.

“[The EU] has brought peace, prosperity, compassion for the poor and weak, purpose for the aspirational, and hope for all its people.”

The question has to be: who wrote this tosh?

Clearly it cannot have been Welby himself. He has been far too busy ‘reimagining’ Britain to swat up on the tragically truncated political career of Romulus Augustulus.

The Roman Empire, in truth, far from being a golden age to which modern Europeans can look back with glowing nostalgia, has been the malign ghost which has cast its sinister shadow across the whole of modern history.

Was the Empire to be resuscitated in a French or a German form? That was the question. The armies of both Napoleon and Hitler marched under its eagles.

And now that the two rivals have made common cause in the project, the people of southern Europe languish under their heartless imperium – poor, neglected and without hope.

But I suppose that an Archbishop of Canterbury couldn’t say that.


Dust to Dust


You simply can’t escape the clammy grip of the Church of England!

Professor Stephen Hawking was a famous and professed atheist – perhaps the most distinguished atheist of his generation. One, indeed, who made Richard Dawkins look cheap and inconsequential…and yet. The CofE got its paws on him in the end.

Dr John Hall, the Dean of Westminster (attired at suitable expense by Watts & Co), was there to oversee the burial of the great man’s ashes, and to commend him to a God whose existence he denied and in whom he placed no faith.

It was, all in all, a very Church of England occasion.




Cardinal Walter Kasper, they are saying, is ‘furious’ about the Vatican’s response to the German bishops’ paper on communion for Protestant spouses. And, in so far as that response has had the full support of the Holy Father, he has, in my view, every reason to be peeved.

The paper was part (and, indeed, a very modest part) of the Cardinal’s whole unfolding programme of ‘barmherzigkeit’. And that has heretofore seemed to have papal approbation.

Kasper was, by papal invitation, a major figure at the extraordinary synods on the family. Francis singled him out for approval when he himself addressed the issue of communion in conversation with a Lutheran spouse (see Festschriften, below, video).

It must be galling to find one’s modest proposal blocked by the very author of these blandishments. But that is par for the course in this pontificate. Francis is nothing if not inconsistent. He has neither orthodox nor liberal principles, for the simple reason that he is unprincipled.

More Donald Trump than Pio Nono.



What is really at issue in the current stand-off between the German Conference of Bishops and the CDF? There are, I think, three things. They are not particularly German; and they are not trivial.

The first concerns the very nature of the universal church.  Is it a confederation of regional or national churches (like the Anglican Communion); or is it a unity whose doctrine is held, semper, ubique et ab omnibus?

The second concerns the respective roles of the Pope and the diocesan bishops. Are bishops (and the Holy Father himself) a remora against doctrinal novelty, charged with safeguarding the faith handed down by their predecessors; or do they simply exercise voting rights which, by some ill-defined democratic process, allow adventitious changes to be made in faith and morals?

The third concerns the very patterns of decision- making. Liberal Catholics (and the German bishops’ conference in particular) seem to have adopted a principle – they misname it ‘Mercy’ – which runs clear contrary to reason and tradition: they hold that hard cases make good laws.

If truth be told…


A Joint venture by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana
and the Canterbury Press.

The Little Book of

Things We Never Said

by Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin

This is the book for those who have been taken in by Fake News.

Did Francis say that homosexuality was nothing to worry about?
Did Justin say that the EU was ‘the greatest dream realised for human beings since the fall of the Western Roman Empire’?

Of course not!

Now, in this ground-breaking little book YOU can learn
what they really said or meant to say




Praise to the Holiest


The time has surely come to catalogue the ham-fisted PR stunts which have characterized this pontificate and brought ridicule upon the Holy Father.

Aside from the stunts on aeroplanes (impromptu weddings and the like) and clumsy replies to personal questions (the Lutheran lady and the gay Chilean) they have largely comprised attempts to polish Bergoglio’s reputation as a deep thinker and a compassionate pastor.

Published by Elledici in 2015, the first shot  was Il Vocabolario di Papa Francesco, which modestly attempted to elucidate ‘the way Francis talks’ – to systematise, that is, the pontifical disjecta membra.

At the behest of the Liturgical Press (Collegeville, Minnesota) this gave birth to an English Language version, A Pope Francis Lexicon, of which more later.

But these efforts were light-weight. At the behest of the Libreria Editrice Vaticana, there followed an altogether more grown-up project – the eleven (slender) volumes of The Theology of Pope Francis. The aim was clearly not only to celebrate the brilliance and originality of Bergoglio’s thinking, but to demonstrate that what appeared to be novelties or deviations in Francis’s theology were in fact legitimate developments, consistent with the teaching of the last two great Popes. To that end a gift set was despatched to the Pope Emeritus in the hope that he would commend them.

Benedict (in a private letter) pointedly refused to do so. At the press launch of the books the Libreria went ahead regardless and claimed that he had penned the requested puff. Only the subsequent publication of the private letter made clear what he had actually intended and why.

Readers will by now have reached their own conclusions as to the orthodoxy and profundity of Bergoglio’s thinking; but nothing in this short history is edifying. The essays in the two lexicons are, for the most part trivial and by the usual liberal suspects. The eleven volumes have done little (indeed less than nothing) to progress the PR project for which they were commissioned.

Now it appears that these ham-fisted attempts were preceded by one both more blatant and more self-defeating. Shortly after Pope Francis’s election, award winning film-maker Wim Wenders was commissioned to make a biopic of the pontiff. Variously described by critics as ‘religious pornography’ and ‘more like the work of Leni Riefenstahl than a serious biography’, this embarrassingly sycophantic production has now been released – no doubt to counter the more recent narrative of Bergoglio as a tyrant and a bully.

All these unprecedented attempts to present Francis as both learned and benign are proving singularly ineffective.   A quotation from one of the entries in the Pope Francis Lexicon can adequately stand for the whole project. Towards the end of the entry on ’Women’, Astrid Lobo Gaijwala writes:

It would seem that much of Pope Francis’s understanding of women’s situation is intuitive and not drawn from any principles or ideology, and that perhaps is why he is unable to see the threads of patriarchy and sexism that run through so much of church teaching. It would also account for the contradictions and inconsistencies of his stand.

With friends like that, who needs ‘Marcantonio Colonna’?