A Cynic’s Guide to Bergoglianism





Some while ago an assemblage of the Great and the Good – including Justin Welby – produced a ‘A Pope Francis Lexicon’, outlining the meaning behind the Holy Father’s customary vocabulary.  The following is intended as a modest sequel to an invaluable book


Synod: A quasi-democratic gathering of bishops whose primary purpose is to appear to discuss and agree position papers drafted by Papal appointees. Contentious changes in doctrine and morals can then be attributed, not to the Pontiff himself, but to the ‘mind of the Church’ – thus avoiding challenges from cardinals, theologians and others. Quasi-democratic bodies, however, have a disconcerting habit of exceeding their initial brief: consider the events of 1789.

Rigid: A term used to vilify a class of persons overly concerned to uphold minutiae of the moral law and niceties of doctrine. A useful test for ‘rigidity’ in a person is to consider his or her attitude to the provisions of the Decalogue. For example: it is NOT rigid to adhere strictly to the Sixth commandment (as witness the Holy Father himself), on the other hand it IS UNACCEPTABLY rigid to affirm the Seventh. The first four are considered rigid only in ecumenical and inter-faith contexts. There is no rigidity in upholding Eight, Nine and Ten, though rigid people may well show a sentimental attachment to Five.
Watch this space as these judgements may change without notice.

Neo-pelagian, neo-donatist etc: These are simply contentless terms of abuse, like sh*t  and bu**er, but they have the added advantage of making the user sound learned and theological.

Clericalism: A tendency to exalt and cling to the clerical state. Victims of clericalism will show symptoms of addiction to elaborate clerical attire (white excluded).  They will probably be ‘rigid’ (q.v.), be inclined to keep each other’s company and have more Latin than the rest of us. They are given to issuing ‘dubia’ and ‘testimonies’. They will evince an ’inward-looking’ view of the Church and may well celebrate Mass ad orientem. Clericalism is a known cause of child-abuse.

The Great Accuser: A blanket term for opponents, esp. a synonym for Carlo Maria Viganò (who should come out of hiding immediately and surrender himself to lawful authority… or it’s bell, book and candle for him).

Vincentian Canon


If reports are to be believed – and who can be sure of anything about this most secretive synod? – Cardinal Vincent Nichols made a telling intervention on the subject of ‘synodality’.

The notion, it seems, had been smuggled into a synod ostensibly called to discuss ‘Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment’, by managers eager to do the Pontifical bidding. And Vincent to his credit sought to scupper it before it gained traction. (This, it should be said, demonstrates a change of attitude by the Cardinal. ‘Synodality’ is clearly a pet project of Bergoglio and Nichols has heretofore been an obedient courtier [see Adoremus below]). Vincent cited the experience of the Anglican Communion, where ‘Synodality’ – aka Provincial Autonomy – has resulted in acute tensions followed by potential disintegration.

In common declarations of intent, Rome and Canterbury have vowed to learn from one another. Here is the lesson that Rome should learn: that in a polarised world (left and right; North and South; gay and straight; black and white) the centre must hold. Never has the role of Peter been more crucial for health, well-being and very survival.


Jan van Eyck - The Ghent Altarpiece - Adoration of the Lamb (detail) - WGA07654

O quanta qualia sunt illa sabbata
quae semper celebrat superna curia,
quae fessis requies, quae merces fortibus,
cum erit omnia Deus in omnibus.

Vera Ierusalem est illa civitas,
cuius pax iugis est, summa iucunditas,
ubi non praevenit rem desiderium,
nec desiderio minus est praemium.

Quis rex, quae curia, quale palatium,
quae pax, quae requies, quod illud gaudium,
huius participes exponant gloriae,
si quantum sentiunt, possint exprimere.

Fake News


From the final document of the recent synod of bishops:


It is hereby announced that posts on this blog are real, factual and reliable. This blog refuses to participate in the lamentable growth of Fake News, attacking and lampooning the Holy Father and other figures in the Roman Curia.

To this effect we have recently received a certificate of orthodoxy and authenticity from no less a person than Fr Antonio Spadaro. No one can henceforth doubt our loyalty and veracity.



Lingua Franca


Some while ago I took a holiday in Cambodia – to see the temples, as one does.

One of the attractions of the trip was the expected opportunity to use my rusty French in a former French colony. Alas! Everyone I spoke to (including the elderly French priests at Mass in Phnom Penh) spoke either Khmer or English. French, it seems, has died the death.

Which got me to thinking…

Would it not be sensible – Latin no longer being an option – to conduct Synods of the Catholic Church in what has become the unofficial lingua franca of the world? Such a policy would give a voice to many third world bishops, and cut Cardinal Baldissari down to size, by requiring him to execute his manipulations in a tongue in which he is not entirely fluent.

Of course, as a result, the Americans would be disproportionately noisy; but then they always are.



Dear Frank,

I am afraid that my schoolboy Italian is not up to a document of any length, so (rather like most of your Synod fathers, I suspect) I have had to rely on someone else’s summary. Nevertheless, it has my wholehearted approval. It was good to see that you had shoe-horned in the paras on gay lifestyle and synodality –  things which were barely discussed in the chamber, I gather. That will go down well with the youngsters we are hoping to lure back.

I have got to thinking recently about how much we can learn from the young: their vitality, their enthusiasm, their righteous indignation. Unlike us old codgers they are not rigid and fixed in their ways. In fact, they are wholly unsullied by actual experience. And these days they are virtually free from any knowledge of scripture. All these are supreme advantages in doing real theology – accompaniment and that sort of thing.

The final document of this ground-breaking Synod is a real gift of the Holy Spirit to the whole Church. And the Spirit, as always, was working under your masterful and expert guidance. Well done!

Your colleague and friend,





Dear Frank,

I have to admit that I am envious.

As your Synod on Yoof comes to an end you are in the happy position of being able to oversee the drafting of the final document without fear of contradiction. I, on the other hand, am little more than a servant of our General Synod, tied hand and foot by quasi-democratic red tape.

What cheers me is that – au fond – we have identical aims and objectives. We both see the future in an accommodation to the general drift of Western values. Of course, with women’s ordination and casual abortion, we are way ahead of you. But there are new inclusions that we can work for together. What a triumph if you could smuggle a reference to LGBTQERTY into your final document!

Our task is to remedy the declining number of believers by adapting the Faith to what people really do believe. Then we can claim that the majority have been Christians all along and call it ‘evangelisation’.

At the moment, as I am sure you will agree, things are going swimmingly. Though to be honest I have mixed feelings about euthanasia – still,  I suppose we will find ourselves embracing it in the end.

Keep up the good work,

Your affectionate ‘partner in crime’,