In absentia


In a surprise announcement Cardinal George Pell has withdrawn from an Ordinariate ordination next Saturday.

The Cardinal, who was intending to stay at the Oxford and Cambridge Club (see O&C below), has given no reason for this sudden withdrawal.

Commentators are speculating that it is related to the forthcoming publication by Melbourne University Press of a book giving details of the police investigation into allegations of child sex abuse, and interviews with alleged victims.

It emerged recently that the DPP of Victoria was close to a decision about prosecution.



For readers with no Italian, an official English translation has been issued:

To all School and House Prefects

The Headmaster has asked me to write to you all on the subject of Absits.

It has come to the Headmaster’s attention that boys have been seen in the town at coffee shops, tobacconists and – in some instances – bars. This may lead to association with undesirable elements.

Prefects are reminded that they are in positions of trust, and that the rules regarding Absits apply to them as well as to other boys.

The Headmaster needs to know the whereabouts of all Prefects at all times. They may only leave the perimeter of the school with a duly authorised permit, and for legitimate reasons.


Angelo Card. Sodano
Deputy Headmaster.

Ask the Archbishop


In our new series, agony uncle Justin Welby answers your questions.

Questions should be addressed to:
The Most Reverend, the Archbishop of Canterbury,
Lambeth Palace,
London SE1 7JU


Dear Archbishop,

My Muslim friend Selima started it all when she took me to the madrassa.  I got very interested in Islam, and now my parents are afraid that I have been radicalised. What should I do?

Rachel, Sutton Coldfield.

Dear Rachel.,

As everybody knows, Islam is a religion of peace. So I would say to you, not to worry about radicalisation.

Of course all religions have their hotheads. Good heavens even Anglicans burnt people at the stake centuries ago! The truth is that we are all aiming at the same things and going to the same place. In a world where there is so much religious ignorance and illiteracy, it’s a splendid thing that you are learning about Faith.

Go on with it, I would say!

Personally, I have to tell you, I find it so refreshing and reassuring to hear of a young person who is concerned about the spiritual things of life.  When you come to think about it (as I have had reason to do only recently) there is practically no difference between the teachings of Jesus and Mohammed, after all.

Muslims, of course, do not believe that Jesus was the Son of God; but that is also true of many members of the Church of England. So it’s as well not to make too much of a fuss about it. There are more important things in life.

The only problem, it seems to me, is the Muslim attitude to women. We in the Church of England are committed to the absolute equality of all the sexes. And we even have women bishops to prove it. In some Islamic countries women are not even allowed to drive a car! There is a real problem there.

I don’t know what sex you have decided to be. But if you can put up with outmoded attitudes like that, I say good luck to you.



At a Catholic charismatic celebration in the Circus Maximus Pope Francis, on the eve of Pentecost, emphasised the ecumenical dimension of the charismatic movement. Christians, he said could block the unity in diversity desired by the Holy Spirit by focusing on their differences rather than on what they share. ‘We choose the part over the whole, belonging to this or that group before belonging to the Church’.

There could be no more apt description of the divisive effects of the charismatic movement in the Catholic Church!

Francis’s sentimental homily gave no indication of the dangers attendant on claims of special or privileged communication with the Holy Spirit. Nor did he address the profound difficulties in relating modern Pentecostal experience to the events in Acts 2.

None of this is surprising from a Pope who is claimed by his supporters to have an especial intimacy with the Spirit; and in a pontificate which is increasingly marked by a reliance on popular sentiment and a repudiation of intellectual and critical rigour.

Ask the Archbishop




In our new series, agony uncle Justin Welby answers your questions.

Questions should be addressed to:
The Most Reverend, the Archbishop of Canterbury,
Lambeth Palace,
London SE1 7JU



Dear Archbishop,

Our neighbours take their children with them to church every Sunday. My wife thinks this is little short of cruel, and that the little ones should have a normal upbringing. What can we do to help?

John, Hither Green.

Dear John,

I don’t want to alarm you, but your neighbours may be Roman Catholics, or from a foreign country, or both –  which would explain their eccentric behaviour. But if this is not the case, then I think your wife is right. If the children are to grow up to behave normally in adult life they need a good example from early years.

Try inviting the whole family, along with your own children, to a Sunday picnic at an adjacent National Trust property. After all, ‘you are closer to God in a garden than anywhere else on earth’.

A few Sundays of healthy outdoor exercise and I am sure your neighbours will revert to normal church-going patterns – baptisms, weddings, funerals, nativity plays, carol services and the like.

If this does not help, I am sure your local friendly Vicar will have further suggestions. Always remember that the Church of England has a presence in every neighbourhood.

Religious cliche

Labour leadership contest

Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

Who, until the recent atrocities, would have supposed that Andy Burnham – he of the plucked eyebrows and permatan –  was an authority on Islamic Theology? And yet the recently elected Mayor of Manchester feels entitled to assure the citizens of that city that Islam is a religion of peace. What, we are entitled to ask, does he know that we do not?

But Mr Burnham, alas, is no different in this from other politicians. One tires of people who could scarcely pass a Sunday School test on Christian theology pontificating on the essential nature of a religion which is to them  largely a closed book.

Copies of the Qur’an are available in every public library. The time has surely come to start reading them.

An Election Interview


PAXMAN (for it is he): You have been in office now for over four years. Can you tell us why nobody seems to know what your policy is about anything?

BERGOGLIO (for it is he): I think I have been very clear. I have made it crystal clear that I am in favour of peace and reconciliation in the world.

PAXMAN: Which amounts to precisely what? Just how do you propose to end terrorism, bring peace to the Middle East, and discourage nuclear proliferation? It’s all very well to have pious aspirations, but what is their cash value?

BERGOGLIO: I exercise a lot of influence. Just look at my recent meeting with Trump. I gave him a copy of Laudato Si.

PAXMAN: And much good that did! He went away and renounced the Paris agreement on carbon emissions. How in the world do you expect to influence others when you can’t even keep the peace in your own Church? What about women’s ordination for example?

BERGOGLIO: But I have said several times now that I am against the ordination of women.

PAXMAN: And yet you have set up a commission to study women deacons! So, are you going to ordain them or not?

BERGOGLIO: The commission, I am sure, will determine that deacons in the early church were a quite different order from those we have today.

PAXMAN: And if it doesn’t, what will you do then? It seems to me that you simply can’t make your mind up. I’m asking you whether or not you intend to ordain them. Thousands of women are waiting for the answer. A simple yes or no will do. Have the courage of your conviction; after all you are infallible: whatever answer you give will be the right answer.

BERGOGLIO: Jeremy, it really isn’t as simple as that.

PAXMAN: OK, then. What about divorce and re-marriage? Why do people disagree about what you have said? Why, when senior colleagues ask you for a perfectly reasonable clarification, do you refuse to answer them?

BERGOGLIO:  What I have written is perfectly clear. I cannot waste my time quibbling over footnotes.

PAXMAN: You may call it quibbling: but perfectly reasonable people think it demands an explanation. And then there is the affair of the Knights of Malta. What is your attitude to condoms?

BEGOGLIO: You know perfectly well Jeremy, that I hold to the teaching of my predecessors. In the Malta affair, that was not the main issue.

PAXMAN: You may say so. Others disagree.

I put it to you, Jorge, that you have made a pig’s ear of the last four years, that you are unpopular with your own staff, and that you would be in serious trouble were it not for the media support of a bunch of non-Catholics. Thank you and good night.