Learned canonists will be disputing the matter for some time; but the question will remain.
Can the Pope be admonished?

The primary question resolves itself into two subsidiaries.

  • Do mechanisms exist for holding the Pope to account if his deliberate and considered teaching contradicts perennial Christian doctrine?
  • And is it likely that the present Pope would pay such an admonition any heed or attention?

The answer to both questions seems to be: No.

There is much learned talk about the condemnation of Honorius. But no-one can surely suppose that the peculiar circumstances of that case will be repeated. It is no precedent for anything.

The Pope is the fount of order and of law. As such he is Louis XIV in a mitre. (“L’eglise, c’est moi.“) He hires and fires with impunity. Moreover, Pope Francis is almost impossible to pin down. His own statements are ambiguously gnomic. He leaves it to his supporters and cronies to be specific. And when he strays dangerously close to clarity there are others who are ready to provide him with an escape route. Consider the recent claim that “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”. The explanation of that claim, which Francis subsequently used to Bishop Schneider, was not his own. It was suggested by well-wishers, who were trying – against the odds – to think the best of him.

Francis’s principal weapon of self-defence is silence. His belligerent refusal to acknowledge challenges and accusations dares others even to mention them. And he relies, self-confidently, on his popularity with the secular media. The stir which the publication of the dubia initially caused is long passed. By simply ignoring them, Bergoglio has gelded both Burke and Vigano.

He is effectively unassailable.


The serious commentators have given us little help in understanding the new arrangements which constitute Francis’s long-awaited re-organisation of the Vatican dicasteries. But the auguries are not good. The CDF, it seems, is to be subsumed into a new and all-encompassing department of ‘Evangelisation’.  

In the Francis vocabulary ‘evangelism’, GOOD; ‘proselytism’ BAD.

Evangelism, for him, is not explaining the truths of the Catholic Faith and defending them against all-comers, but assimilating those truths, so far as possible, to the consensus of modern Western society. ‘Prosyletism’ is a fierce and unyielding assertion of veracity; ‘evangelistion’ is a process of gentle accommodation.

You can be sure that in the new and governing dicastery there will be no more Muellers.

Global Warning

Cute, or not?

Am I alone in thinking that Greta Thunberg (the Swedish teenager who is credited with single-handedly initiating the current wave of climate protests) is a fearful little prig? Who credits a pig-tailed Horseman of the Apocalypse? If she is what Pope Francis meant recently about the importance of listening to the young, then there is good reason to be alarmed.

The young (contrary to a prevalent superstition) do not necessarily know better. Indeed, in so far as they are indoctrinated by a largely left-of-centre teaching profession, their notions are likely to be jejune, and, paradoxically, at the same time, vieux-jeux.

Why should we grandstand Thunberg, whose simplistic message fails to recognise the political complexities with which statesmen have been wrestling for decades? Come to think of it, why (at the other end of the age spectrum) should we, on this subject, listen to Francis – who is a layman in the scientific debate, and a bystander to the political argument.


Pope Francis kneels to kiss feet of the President of South Sudan Salva Kiir at the end of a two day Spiritual retreat with South Sudan leaders at the Vatican, April 11, 2019.

What’s all this about kissing?

News items have recently featured accounts of Papal osculations or non- osculations. Videos have appeared of Francis refusing pilgrims to kiss his ring, and of him kissing the feet – more properly the shoes – of visiting Sudanese diplomats.

In each instance, what did Francis think he was doing? The ring incident was later passed off as a mere hygienic precaution. This was obviously absurd in a country where kissing is ubiquitous, and not banned by medical authority.  So what was the real reason? No official announcement from the Vatican has been made outlawing the time-honoured custom, so we are left with a question.

Then there was the kissing of shoes (certainly not hygienic). Commentators have likened the incident to an act of Jesus at the Last Supper. But that is to confuse liturgy with scripture – the 13th chapter of St John makes no reference to kissing. And the liturgical action needs context and number to make it intelligible. A random group of men, apparently unprepared for the event, does not make for an intelligible sign.

As with so much else in this pontificate, the kissing (and paradoxically, the not-kissing) are related more to Francis than to symbolism. No Alter Christus or other-Francis of Assisi here. He was – very adeptly – drawing attention to himself.

Easter Day

Most glorious Lord of Lyfe! that, on this day,
Didst make Thy triumph over death and sin;
And, having harrowd hell, didst bring away
Captivity thence captive, us to win:
This joyous day, deare Lord, with joy begin;
And grant that we, for whom thou diddest dye,
Being with Thy deare blood clene washt from sin,
May live for ever in felicity!

And that Thy love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love Thee for the same againe;
And for Thy sake, that all lyke deare didst buy,
With love may one another entertayne!
So let us love, deare Love, lyke as we ought,
—Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.

Good Friday, Riding Westward

This day, when my Soules forme bends toward the East.
There I should see a Sunne, by rising set,
And by that setting endlesse day beget;
But that Christ on this Crosse, did rise and fall,
Sinne had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I’almost be glad, I do not see
That spectacle of too much weight for mee.
Who sees Gods face, that is selfe life, must dye;
What a death were it then to see God dye?
It made his owne Lieutenant Nature shrinke,
It made his footstoole crack, and the Sunne winke.
Could I behold those hands which span the Poles,
And tune all spheares at once peirc’d with those holes?
Could I behold that endlesse height which is
Zenith to us, and our Antipodes,
Humbled below us? or that blood which is
The seat of all our Soules, if not of his,
Made durt of dust, or that flesh which was worne
By God, for his apparell, rag’d, and torne?

Victorian Values III

The conviction of Cardinal George Pell, you will recall, was based upon the evidence of one man, remembering events long ago. It now appears that memory may have played one of its usual tricks.

Keith Windschuttle, an Australian historian and journalist, has uncovered the description of assault allegations made against an American priest published in the September 2011 of the Rolling Stone magazine. Windschuttle has uncovered ‘uncanny’ resemblances between the two cases.

In both cases the sexual abuse occurred in the sacristy after Sunday Mass. In both cases, the victims had been drinking wine they found in the sacristy. In both cases the boys involved had assisted in the celebration of the Mass. In both cases the priest is alleged to have fondled the boys’ genitals.
In both cases the boys were made to kneel before the priest.

The resemblances are startling.

Is it possible that the man in the Pell cases remembered and applied to himself the article which he had read, and become genuinely convinced that the account had happened in reality and to himself? In a climate of anti-Catholic frenzy, the Victorian Police, even if they had lighted on the article in question, would have been unlikely to follow it up. They knew their duty: which was conviction