A concerted effort is being made to persuade readers that Jorge Maria Bergoglio is a systematic theologian of some distinction. Not only has the Vatican launched a series of booklets in Italian called ‘The Theology of Pope Francis’, (which Benedict XVI politely declined to review),  but the Liturgical Press has recently produced ‘A Pope Francis Lexicon’, (introduced by the Ecumenical Patriarch and containing a chapter by Justin Welby), replete with articles by Austen Ivereigh, Tina Beattie, Blase Cupich and all the usual suspects.

The effort is superfluous. Anyone who doubts the crisp, incisive theological mind of Francis should simply view the following:



Dear Frank,

Let me join my greetings with those of all your friends and admirers on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of your pontificate.

On a personal note I was especially thrilled to be invited to contribute to the recent festschrift, ‘A Pope Francis Lexicon’. Imagine it: me up there with the likes of Austin Ivereigh, Tina Beattie, James Martin, Victor Fernandez and Timothy Radcliffe – in with the IN set!

And how kind of you to send me a thank-you postcard for my modest contribution on ‘Sheep’. I have put that lovely picture of you with a halo in a prominent place on our Lambeth mantlepiece. It will give Mrs May pause for thought when next she pops round to consult me about Brexit.

It’s good to have friends,

With heartfelt congratulations,


Gagging order


Imagine our surprise when recently we received a lawyers’ letter from Baker & McKenzie, the second largest law firm in the world, demanding that we surrender the domain name of this site (ignatiushisconclave.org) to Fr Arturo Marcelino Sosa Abascal SJ, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, on the grounds that readers might plausibly conclude that this site is an official organ of the Society.

Our own lawyers, Winckworth, Pemberton and Sloth, have replied expressing surprise that no one in the office of so prestigious a firm was aware that ignatiushisconclve was an allusion to a work of one John Donne (deceased), and intended to indicate that the site is satirical in nature. Any reader would, they pointed out, immediately conclude that the site was independent of the said Society from the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury was a regular contributor, and that it contained no articles by Fr James Martin.

We await a response.

See: http://www.lepantoinstitute.org/vatican/vatican-hires-pro-homosexual-law-firm-shut-pro-family-catholic-website/

A thoughtful gift


Dear Frank,

I am taking this opportunity of sending you a copy of my new book. To a Pope, I suppose, it demands a little explanation.

Since the days of Margaret Thatcher, we in the Church of England have seen ourselves as the REAL opposition to the Government. We are opposed to austerity – which the Tories misleadingly call ‘balancing the books’ – and in favour of the poor (those who use food banks, etc.)

My own scheme for the CofE to put pay-day lenders and loan sharks out of business was a modest expression of our intent. Unfortunately it proved more complicated than I first thought, and sank without trace.

In my book I address issues which nobody else seems to be treating – mental health care, social care, the NHS. Whilst the heartless Tories refuse to deal with them, we in the CofE are determined to show Christian compassion, and put the nation’s wallet where our mouth is.

With the current chaos in Italian politics, I should think you would find my book inspiring reading. If you set your mind to it (and with your media presence) I expect you could out-vote Berlusconi in any election.

Only then, of course, unlike me, you would have to live with the consequences.

Read on…

Your colleague,



Flagge Europäische Gemeinschaftdepositphotos_1736428-Vatican-City-Holy-See-Flag

Commentators are generally agreed that negotiations for the accession of the Vatican City to the European Union are not going well.

The insistence of M. Barnier, the EU Chief Negotiator, that the Pope must, in all matters, be subject to the rulings of the European Court of Justice  was greeted with shock and horror in Rome.

Said Cardinal Parolin: ‘No Vatican Secretary of State could agree to such a demand.’ The Pope, he said, is sovereign with rights and privileges dating back to Jesus Christ himself.

The alternative, suggested M Barnier, was a hard border between the Vatican State and the Italian Republic, involving customs check-points and passport controls around St Peter’s Square itself.

Further points at issue include euthanasia, contraception and transgender issues. ‘We in the EU are looking to Pope Francis, whom we had previously supposed to be generally in favour of forward-looking policies, to be able to offer a pragmatic solution to these intractable problems. The twenty-seven countries are seeking an amicable solution which will allow the rights of European citizens to be respected in the Vatican as elsewhere. Until these issues are resolved we cannot move on to the tricky matter of the regulation of the Vatican Bank.’

The talks in Amsterdam continue over the weekend, beginning with a working Lenten lunch on Friday.




Taking their cue from the recent ruling by the Crown Prosecution Service that refusing to acknowledge the naming and gender preferences of others is a hate crime, a group of liberal Catholic priests in favour of the ordination of women has written to Cardinal Vincent Nichols.

Claiming as a man to be, in fact, women, they all demand to be called ‘Cynthia’.

The Cardinal has in consequence taken legal advice from both secular and canon lawyers. Whilst awaiting that advice he has notified the Vatican that the legal battle involved in refusing the priests’ petition may be long and expensive.

In an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Nichols reassured readers that a similar petition by bishops was not anticipated – in England and Wales, at least.

‘What the Germans will do, ‘ he concluded, ‘is anybody’s guess.’

Confusion worse confounded


Let me see if I can get this straight.

  • In the matter of reception of Holy Communion after adulterous remarriage the conscience of the individual is sovereign.
  • But the provisions of AL allow for – indeed encourage – individual bishops, and especially conferences of bishops, to make decisions on the matter, which are said to be responses to local cultural diversity.
  • A letter confirming the decision of one such conference, however, because it has been published in Acta Apostolicae Sedis, is the definitive statement on the matter. To question it is to question the very guidance of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church.

The problem, surely, is how these three distinct and conflicting sources of authority come together. And if they do not, which is the most ‘merciful’.

In order to make his case – whatever it is – Cardinal Cupich must unravel this conundrum. And in doing so, explain how any of this relates to the consistent teaching of previous Popes.