One Down, One Up

Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has finally got his comeuppance. This morning the Holy See announced his laicization. His notorious career of flagrant ‘clericalism’ is at an end.

But according to ancient laws of ecclesiastical polity, what goes down must come up. Almost simultaneously the Vatican has announced that Cardinal Kevin Farrell has been nominated Cardinal Camerlengo by Pope Francis.

The Camerlengo – who takes charge of the See during an interregnum, organises the papal funeral and arranges the ensuing conclave – obviously needs to be a man of the utmost integrity, untainted by scandal. Which is why the lot fell on Farrell.

Francis clearly wanted someone unconnected with the disgraced McCarrick. And who better than one who, despite living at close quarters with McCarrick for some years, has so repeatedly and vociferously denied all knowledge of his patron’s proclivities? Would a prince of the Church prevaricate?

Thus it comes about that we have a clean pair of hands to supervise the inauguration of a new era!

Umbilical Discord

Now let us get this straight.

A woman who applied, under the Gender Recognition Act, 2004, to be publicly acknowledged as a man, has nevertheless conceived a child. He is now petitioning to be registered as the ‘father’ of the child. The grounds cited are the difficulty of explaining the complications of the situation to the child, and the emotional and relational problems which might ensue.

It is, it seems to me, not at all clear how lying to the child twice over – about both the nature of the present relationship and the abandonment of the child by the mother it will naturally assume to exist – can possibly be of help to anyone. Nor do I see how, in all conscience, the registrar can falsify the birth certificate. If the birth of a child is not sufficient proof that the ‘father’ was (at least at the time of the birth) a mother, what would be?

The complications arising from the anomalous relationship of parent and child in this case do not require further involvement by the State. The problem arises from the absurdity of the 2004 Act itself


Rumour (she who has more tongues than eyes) has it that a cabal of wealthy Americans (associated with a man called Bannon) is intent on securing the election of Gerhard Mueller as our next Pope.

That the St Gallen Mafia may have met their match is news which every fervent Catholic should greet with rejoicing. But not so fast! In a world of false news, nothing is certain and little is credible. Might not the current rumour be a fabrication by that same St Gallen bunch, intent on belittling Mueller’s ‘manifesto’ as a mere electoral stunt?

Who knows? Who can tell?


Cardinal Mueller’s bold attempt to smoke out the hard-core revisionists by publishing a string of quotations from the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church and challenging them to subscribe to it, is harvesting a goodly number of the usual suspects.

But what the Holy Father will sign up to, we will never know. For him silence is golden, and clarity is yet another manifestation of ‘clericalism’.


Genesis Butler (sic), a 12-year-old US animal rights activist, and the Million Dollar Vegan campaign have challenged Pope Francis to go vegan for Lent 2019. This gesture – consonant with Francis’s aim to make the Catholic Church the custodian of the planet’s future – will be rewarded with 1m dollars to the charity of the Pope’s choice.

With the books of the Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù still to be balanced (even after ex-Cardinal McCarrick’s generous subvention) it was a no brainer. Francis will go vegan. Only the details needed to be settled.

The Million Dollar Vegan campaign is insistent, however, that there should be independent verification, and the suggestion that Archbishop Vigano should come out of hiding to fulfil the task was not immediately acceptable to the Cardinal Secretary of State. Eventually, however, it was agreed that Vigano, disguised a a Swiss Guard, would be given temporary accommodation in an apartment in the City until Holy Saturday.

The Holy See has let it be known that it is open to other sponsorships of a similar kind. A deal with Macdonadl’s is already being negotiated for the whole of Eastertide

Francis not St Francis

The Holy Father has said that his visit to the Arabian peninsula and meeting with Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the imam of Al-Azhar, has caused him to think again about the meeting of Francis of Assisi with Sultan al-Kamil.

But this was more than mere musing.

Pope Francis was making a direct connection between his visit and that of his saintly namesake. Just as the Assisi meeting of 1986 deployed the story of Francis’s visit to Egypt during the fifth Crusade, so the Pope is now portraying himself as Francis’s successor as mediator and peacemaker.

But both politicised deployments of the Francis of Assisi story distort the history of the event (in so far as we can be certain about it). St Francis did not cross the military line at Damietta to broker a truce, or to effect a dialog or reconciliation between Christianity and Islam. His aim was to convert the Sultan to Christ. So confident was he of success in this task that (according to Bonaventure, writing some 40 years later) he told the Sultan to decapitate him if he failed.

There is, it seems, in the tale of St Francis and the Sultan, no precedent at all for the doctrinal indifferentism currently championed by Pope Francis. St Francis of Assisi clearly believed that God willed that all men should be Christians, and was prepared to uphold that proposition at the expense of his own life.

See also: Augustine Thompsom, OP, Francis of Assisi: A new Life, Cornell, 2012, pp 67-70; and (for more diverse interpretations of the evidence) John V. Tobin, St Francis and the Sultan : The Curious History of a Christian-Muslim Encounter, OUP, 2009.

What the h*ll does he mean?

It is never easy to know what Francis means. Perhaps, in that, he is being deliberate.

But unlike John Paul’s kissing the Koran, this is not an action (picturesque but ambiguous): these are words with a plain meaning:

The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings.

Francis needs now to explain, first of all, what he is NOT saying.

Is religion, then, like ‘colour, sex, and race’ – an accident of biology for which the individual cannot be held responsible? Or is it like language – a social construct indigenous to a particular ethnic group? *

Neither of these sits easily with the Church’s notion of the Faith as a personal commitment to Truth divinely revealed and constituted. Nor are they consonant with traditional Islamic theology and the teaching of the Koran. To contemporary liberal indifferentists, the absolute claims of both religions are, of course, an embarrassment; but they are an indispensable part of the self-understanding of each.

*Or, in the Babel story, a God-given punishment for hubris