My dear Wormwood,

Words are our stock in trade. As I was taught in the Jesuit seminary which prepared me for my present job, ‘a change of vocabulary is a change of perception’. So it is with some satisfaction that I view your recent successes with Francis.

‘Casuistry’ is a slippery term at the best of times. And your patient, I admit, is constitutionally given to imprecision. Let us not, however, belittle your achievement. Under your expert guidance he has managed to turn things completely on their head.

Whereas Jesus, for example, forbids divorce, and the pharisees say the law permits it, Francis manages to make it sound as though the opposite is the case. As though they were the intransigents and JC the libertarian. And then the Pharisees are dubbed ‘casuists’ for their supposed intransigence!witches_macbeth_21

Such a masterpiece of sleight of hand can only have been your work. I thoroughly admire the virtuosity of a performance like that! ‘Fair is foul and foul is fair’, as the witches are supposed to have chanted over the cauldron.

The man Jesus, as everyone knows, was unhealthily obsessed with doing the will of the Enemy… ‘every jot and tittle’. And he was fiercely intolerant of the human hypocrisy which paid it lip service, but tried to get round it in subtle ways. Your patient on the other hand has, quite properly, been encouraged to see that Jesus’s charge to ‘be perfect’ is simply absurd. What people need nowadays is not an uptight pep talk, but a little ‘mercy’ – and a good deal more personal freedom and self-reliance. Which, with your help, is exactly what Francis will give them.

And ‘casuistry’ – which in the hands of others used to be a science – has been added (along with ‘rigid’ and ‘unbending’) to the rich vocabulary of sneers.

Well done! All things considered, it couldn’t have gone better.

Your admiring uncle,


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