Mad Hatter


One is, I think, allowed a surreptitious glance across the Tiber from time to time – especially when the view is instructive or entertaining.

Entertainment came recently by means of an article in The Guardian (where else?). There, according to its correspondent, we learned that Dean Jeffrey John, the gay marriage activist, has been turned down for seven bishoprics in the last seven years,

This mitre-a-minute record leads one to wonder at the supposedly confidential proceedings for the selection of Anglican bishops (which is clearly operating with a very narrow field of candidates); and to wonder why Dean John is so convinced that his failure to gain preferment is down to his gay credentials.

To be turned down for one job might be considered a misfortune…but when a persistent pattern emerges, ‘homophbia’ is probably not the only explanation. It is certainly not the case that gay clergy are routinely disappointed by the Church of England appointments system.

Santo Subito II


Cause of the Beatification of Pope Francis

The Search for Miracles

Evidence is sought for miracles committed by
Jorge Mario Bergoglio
before, on or since his elevation to the Supreme Pontificate
All miracles considered
Virgin Birth or Immaculate Conception
especially welcomed.
Miracles involving Muslims given priority
(no conversions, please!)

Application, in the first instance, should be made to the newly formed
Dicastery for Life, Death and the Meaning-of-it-All.
Via Borgo Pio 134, Vatican City – Prati, 00193 Rome, Italy


Santo Subito



In a surprise announcement Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta has begun today the process for the beatification of Pope Francis.

In this unusual move – the Church normally reserves beatification until after death – the archbishop is calling on Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to surrender to what he calls ‘the will of the people’, and following a now established custom, to declare his successor like his predecessor, a saint.

Said a spokesperson for the archbishop: ‘There is a groundswell of support for this move. Francis the Merciful is already an object of devotion to many. He is bigger than Elvis or the Beatles.’

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, head of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was not available for comment.



There was dancing in the aisles – and in the streets – today as Westminster Cathedral celebrated the retirement of Vincent Nichols, as eleventh Archbishop of Westminster.

At a Mass of Thanksgiving the clergy of the archdiocese, bearing lighted candles, surrounded Archbishop Nichols as he descended from the altar. ‘We were determined to see him out of the building,’ said one enthusiastic young priest.

Thousands watched the service on screens erected on the piazza, whilst more followed events from inside the Cathedral Hall.

Later, on the cathedral steps, in an unprecedented gesture, Archbishop Nichols’s predecessor, Cardinal Murphy O’Connor, presented him with a lifetime achievement award from the influential St Gallen Group.

Cardinal Nichols is 71.



Catholic doctrine on marriage and divorce relies heavily on a supposed saying of Jesus, found in its most uncompromising form at Mark 10: 2-12. But how can we be sure that Jesus said any such thing?

There are serious reasons to question the dominical origin of a teaching which has dominated Christian thinking about marriage for the last two thousand years. Can the Church have been misled all these years?  Fr Diego Ignaz Cantacuzeno, Head of Biblical Exegesis at the Jesuit College in Cusco, Peru, thinks so.

‘The famous passage from Mark’s gospel is not the earliest attestation of the attribution of these sentiments to Jesus,’ says Cantacuzeno, ‘we first encounter the idea in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinithians, probably written some thirty years before Mark. There Paul claims to have Jesus’s authority for the marriage regulations he is giving to his new community:  To the husbands I order, not I but the Lord: the wife may not be separated from the husband, and if she separates, let her remain without remarrying or let her be reconciled with the husband, and the husband may not repudiate the wife (1 Cor 7:10-11)’.

‘I order, not I but the Lord is a familiar piece of Pauline rhetoric, frequently adopted to settle an argument. We are dealing’, says Catacuzeno ‘with Pauline overkill. Paul claims to have a special revelation from the Lord himself on every  subject about which he will broke no contradiction. But there is good reason to treat these Pauline claims to ultimate authority with grave suspicion. He famously uses the same ploy at I Cor 14: 33-40 to forbid women from speaking in the assembly, (where, it should be noted, there is no synoptic corroboration).’

‘Clearly what is happening here is that Paul is imposing his own, essentially Jewish, presuppositions on his gentile churches and claiming the authority of Jesus for them. We know, for instance, that the prohibition at 1 Cor 14 cannot have had a dominical origin, because, of course, we know that Jesus would have taught the equality and dignity of women. There is similar reason to doubt the origin of Paul’s attitude to divorce.

‘Of course, once this rigid, unyielding view was established in the Pauline churches – on the powerful but erroneous supposition that it emanated from Jesus himself – it was impossible for subsequent writers to go back on it. So they wrote it into the gospels, projecting Paul’s obsessions back into Jesus’s teaching.’

Fr Cantacuzeno is the author of a number of influential books, including Women Apostles of the Early Church,  Gender Reassignment in the Balkans 451 – 1453, and Marriage Rites of the Albigensians. He is currently an adviser to the recently formed Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life

Whatever next?


A Church in Wales bishop, we read [ancientbritonpetros.blogspot], claimed that the ordination of women ‘would rid the world of homophobia, misogyny, brutalisation of women in all situations including those in war zones’. And Monica Furlong, of course, once famously claimed that women’s ordination would reduce the incidence of rape on the M4.

None of this has happened yet.

But the fascination of WO is not with its projected consequences – fanciful or otherwise – but with the collateral damage caused by the wider implications of its underlying attitude to sex, gender and the authority of scripture.

Here is a game you can play at home.

List the following ‘developments’ in the order in which you think they will occur.  Seal the list in an envelope and put it is a secure place. Open it twenty years later and look back in anger over the devastation which will have intervened.

  • Vatican allows priests to marry.
  • Vatican ordains women deacons.
  • Church of England allows same sex marriage.
  • Vatican permits divorce and remarriage.
  • Church of England’s first married gay bishop.
  • First married Catholic Bishop.
  • First woman Archbishop of Canterbury.
  • Vatican agrees to abortion.
  • Gender reassignment counselling introduced in all schools.
  • Vatican approves gay marriage.
  • Etc.,etc.,etc.



Dear Frank,

I think I have good news for you.

As the Dubia thing drags on and on, I suspect that you are beginning to see that just saying (and doing) nothing is not the answer. One way or another, I promise you, it is not going to go away.

The good news is that Sentamu and I have come up with an A1 scheme. What we all need to avoid, in circumstances like that (and I include the Philip North Affair), is any theological statement to which one could be subsequently held.

But how to say something without actually saying anything? That is the conundrum.

The wizard scheme we have come up with is to refer the matter to an Independent Reviewer who will wrap the whole thing up in legalese and so avoid drawing any doctrinal conclusions

Isn’t that brilliant? They ask for decisions – and we give them decisions; but not the ones they wanted.

You must give it to us Anglicans, we may be a small church, but we know a thing or two about ducking and weaving. It’s a ploy you should try yourself.

Yours helpfully,


PS We have a retired civil servant who is prepared to do the job for a fee.