This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Pope Francis agrees to forgive Jesus

In his homily for the Feast of the Holy Family, Pope Francis had this to say:

Instead of returning home with his family, he stayed in Jerusalem, in the Temple, causing great distress to Mary and Joseph who were unable to find him. For this little "escapade", Jesus probably had to beg forgiveness of his parents. The Gospel doesn't say this, but I believe that we can presume it.

Jesus as a child in the Temple

"Now, about your Guardian articles, Father Fraser..."

Clearly Pope Francis has forgiven Our Lord for "going about His Father's business", and in this Year of Mercy it is only right that a truly humble Pope should point out God's sins and try to forgive them. No previous Pope has even dared to try.

Another famous sin that only Pope Francis can forgive was the drowning of the Gerasene (or Gadarene) Swine. You will recall that there was a man possessed by demons - probably he led a fulfilling lifestyle as an alternative comedian on Radio 4, with a huge Twitter following - and his demons were driven out into the pigs, and thence into the sea.

Gerasene swine

Jesus cureth the alternative comedian.

For a long time after, Farmer Giles wondered what had happened to his pigs, but did he receive any apology - let alone compensation - from Jesus? I think not. It is time for Pope Francis, on behalf of the entire Catholic Church, to forgive Jesus's thoughtless actions.

On another occasion Jesus drove people out of the Temple with a whip of knotted cords - whenever anyone says "What would Jesus do?" this is certainly an answer I like to give. The Bible says the people were selling pigeons and changing money, but it is likely that they were also doing even more heinous things.

cleansing of the Temple

"Luckily he hasn't seen that we're also selling copies of the Tablet!"

Jesus was obliged to apologise for losing his temper in this way. In the immortal words of Pope Francis: The Gospel doesn't say this, but I believe that we can presume it.

Having, in his short reign, attacked the entire Catholic Church, from the Curia downwards, Pope Francis is naturally anxious to reconstruct God in his own image, and we look forward to reading more stories of the Holy Father mercifully forgiving God's sins over the next few months.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Church affected by Storm Frank

Storm Francis - or "Frank" to its friends - has now hit the UK, and is said to be having serious effects on certain churches.

Pope Francis in the wind

The effects of Storm Frank

Said one traditionally-minded priest: "I had a large pile of orthodox teaching on my desk, and it's now all been blown away. What just blew in, in its place, is a load of rubbish about Jesus apologising to Mary for being left behind in the temple. It wouldn't even fool the children's Sunday School."

Wizard of Oz storm

A liberal theologian flies past on her way to a Woman's Hour interview.

Fortunately, the Catholic Church has provided itself with some defence against the effects of Storm Frank. All its priests have been issued with a striking new protective costume, including wooden "hover-skis" which will enable them to rescue lost sheep from the deluge.

Year of Mercy logo

A priest on hover-skis rescues a poor one-eyed man from the floods.

So... batten down the hatches!

Monday, 28 December 2015

Catholics told they need no longer aim for Heaven

In a ruling that will come as a great relief to many Catholics, Pope Francis has used his latest interview with Eugenio Scalfari (or "Scalfie") to explain that they no longer need to aim for Heaven if they don't want to.


Up or down? Now you have a choice.

As Pope Francis explained, "A lot of Catholics try to obey the Church's laws because they hope (ultimately) to end up in Heaven, which is traditionally regarded as quite a nice place. But there is also plenty of space in Hell, if you don't mind the German theologians reserving the sun-loungers. So if you're finding the path of righteousness a bit difficult to follow, well, don't worry, there are other possibilities!"

A spokesman for Satan, who refused to give his name but is believed to be a German cardinal, added: "The Holy Father is perfectly correct in what he says. In Hell there is never any 'test' or 'exam' you have to pass - getting in is as easy as getting onto a university course in Gender Studies, and with as great a sense of achievement."

The Pope's ruling has greatly simplified the question whether, for example, people in adulterous relationships can take Communion. They can go ahead, provided that the presiding priest doesn't interfere, and nobody will say anything until they die.

spurious selfie

The Pope takes part in a "Scalfie"

UPDATE: it seems that after all the Pope's alleged "Scalfie" was not genuine. You'll have to behave yourself after all.

New hymns 6 - While Shepherds Watched

In this slot we have previously invited along John Henry Newman, King David, Charles Wesley, Christina Rossetti, and William Williams to attend master-classes on how to write a good "modern" hymn. Today, we are pleased to welcome Nahum Tate, Poet Laureate (from 1692 to 1715), and author of "While shepherd watched their flocks by night".

At least one of these is Nahum Tate.

While shepherds watched
Their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around.

Other versions are available.

Eccles: Whoah! Stop! You've got something there that looks like poetry. What's more it makes sense, and tells a story. In fact the whole hymn is recognisable as a faithful rendering of Luke 2, verses 8 to 14.

Nahum: Sorry, Eccles, I produced this carol before your previous master-classes on hymn-writing. Can you suggest some improvements?

Eccles: We could go for the Bernadette Farrell treatment, maybe, as seen in "Christ be our Light". You make things sound gloomy and depressing, but we know that, since we are socially-aware Tablet readers, it must be someone else's fault.

Out in the fields, shepherds are freezing,
Out in the cold, shepherds have woes,
Some of them coughing, some of them sneezing,
And one with a runny nose.
CHORUS: Christ be our light, etc.

Nahum: When do we get to the angel of the Lord and his message of Good News?

Eccles: Probably, never. We have another three verses about how there was a leak in the roof of the shepherds' hovel, one of them had a blister on his toe, and...

I'm allergic to wool, but does anyone care?

Nahum: Well, I really wanted to mention the shepherds, sheep, angel and Baby. Could we do it more punchily?

Watch, Shepherds, Watch, Keep an eye on your cuddly lambkins;
Baa, Muttons, Baa, Do whatever sheep do;
Shine, Angel, Shine, Tell the Good News to all the shepherds;
Cry, Baby, Cry, They are off to see you...

Eccles: I like it, but it does sound vaguely familiar. Can't think why...

Friday, 25 December 2015

A good thrashing for Giles Fraser

The story began when Giles Fraser, the ultra-liberal Anglican priest, journalist and radio personality, wrote a particularly nasty piece denying the reality of the Virgin Birth. According to Father Giles, who clearly doesn't have much time for Bible-reading, Jesus was the product of fornication - or possibly rape; which makes it rather hard to see how He would be the Son of God.

Giles Fraser

A hatchet job on the Mystery of the Incarnation? No problem!

Now Pope Francis has said that if anyone were to insult his mother, then they would deserve a punch, and clearly the same must apply to anyone who insulted the Mother of God. However, the Holy Father tends to be quite busy at Christmas, and so dashing over to London to give a heretic a "poke in the snoot" may not be one of his priorities. So it was up to Eccles to stand up for Jesus.

A few possibilities occurred to me:

De-bag Giles and throw him in the river. Unfortunately the Thames is rather deep, and I don't know how well he can swim. It would also lead to strange news items about beached whales.

Horsewhip him on the steps of his club, the "Champagne Socialists". It might be hard to catch him there, and anyway I don't suppose he'd stay around long enough.

Catch him in his church, St Mary's, Newington, and hit him with a cricket bat. Now we're talking. As it happens I have a nice bat that I bought from the recently unsuccessful cricketer Ian Bell ("hardly used").

Ian Bell batting

Keeping the bat away from anything that might damage it.

So off I toddled to St Mary's Newington. I had asked my great friend Father Zuhlsdorf, "What is the liturgically correct time in the service to assault a priest?" but he was not sure, since it was going to be an Anglican service. I remained peaceful throughout the Gospel (readings from Giles's old Guardian columns), the sermon (or "Thought for the Day"), and even the shortened Creed, which went as follows:

We believe in God, more-or-less;
And Jesus may even have existed;
And we've got no problems with the Holy Spirit;
And we're all going to Heaven. Amen.
It was just as a hymn was announced (something about the People's Flag being Deepest Red, which was unknown to me), that I noticed a strangely familiar man sitting next to me.

Richard Dawkins

A strangely familiar man

He was clearly in his mid-seventies, but he dressed as a teenager, and had evidently sewn a new message on to his shirt. "Aren't you Richard Dawkins, the famous zoologist, theologian, bus-driver and poet?" I asked. "What are you doing in church?"

"I was so impressed by Giles Fraser's Guardian article that I have decided to sign up to Anglicanism," replied the learned professor. "I have finally discovered that religion doesn't actually involve believing in anything..."

I was disconcerted. If Father Giles was winning converts, then perhaps I should defer his thrashing to another occasion, or even cancel it. I walked out of his church, and from a nearby Catholic church I heard groans of "MERCY! MERCY!" as the congregation reacted to the Paul Inwood "Year of Mercy" chant (1024 repetitions of the same banal tune). Yes, I should show mercy. Happy Christmas, Giles, even if you don't believe a word of it.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

We wish you a miserable Christmas

This year, Catholics, Anglicans and atheists have a single message for us. Pope Francis, no less, has told us that, this year, Christmas is a charade. Father Giles Fraser of the BBC is dreaming of a Blue Christmas. Finally, there's Kevin McKenna of the Guardian with a rant, Away with the manger! It's a holiday, not a holy day.


Down with this sort of thing (even the outsize king)!

That's that, then. No carol-singing, please; no wishing people - even Christians - a Happy Christmas; I think it may be OK to say "Season's Greetings", since that can be said at any time, and doesn't actually mean anything. "Happy Holidays" is also out, but the sort of people who say that are miserable humourless Guardian-reading types anyway.

So how should we "celebrate" Christmas? Will sitting in a dark cupboard for three days satisfy our distinguished commentators? Or should we go out into the streets and cry "Woe, woe, and thrice woe!"?

Senna the sooth-sayer

"Woe, woe, and thrice woe!"

We've already had many happy festivals recently, what with Hallowe'en, Guy Fawkes Night, Thanksgiving, Black Friday (your mileage may vary here), so it seems a bit excessive to rejoice just because God sent his Son to the Earth to redeem mankind - hey! most of us didn't even need redeeming, as my spiritual director, Fr Phil of St Daryl the Apostate's Church, is at pains to point out.

Many will say that the usual way to celebrate Christmas - eating and drinking until you feel ill, sending cards to people you hate, buying people presents they don't want, watching rubbish on the television, etc. - is quite enough to make most of us miserable, and that this is what God (or at least the Pope) wants. So how can we stamp out the other, more joyful, aspects of Christmas - those that somehow associate it with Christ?

Hislop's blunder

Private Eye is apparently unaware of The Return of the J.C. (H/T Gareth Hurley)

As Fr Phil put it in last year's Midnight Mass sermon to a congregation of three (one old lady with her hearing-aid turned off, a sleeping man who had walked in by mistake after the pub closed, and myself), "My text today is from an old English carol, We all like figgy pudding. (We shall be singing this later as our offertory hymn, in an arrangement by Paul Inwood.) Some of you may be feeling guilty at this point - perhaps you don't like figgy pudding? It is important to realise that these words, like 'We believe in God', are purely a liturgical cliché. Following the Spirit of Vatican II, we realise that they do not commit us to anything. God loves us all - in a metaphorical sense - even those who have chosen a jam roly-poly pudding lifestyle."

figgy pudding

Purely symbolic - like angels, shepherds, God, etc.

Well, Fr Phil's sermons are usually too deep for me, but I think that - as usual - he is liberating us from the more traditional aspects of Christian worship, such as Christmas. That leaves us free to be as miserable as we wish. Enjoy!

Friday, 18 December 2015

The Book of St Richard, Chapter 23

Continued from Chapter 22

1. And lo! Christmas was approaching once more, the season of peace on Earth to people of good will (and maybe some others, too).

2. But Richard was still in those days an unsaved person, and he spake forth, saying "Bah! Humbug!" Or sometimes (for a change) "Bah! Jellybaby!" in homage to Tom Baker, he who had been married to Romana.

Dawkins and tree

Richard displayeth a biological specimen in his living-room.

3. And behold, he went on the attack with a brilliantly-crafted tweet, saying "There are people who believe Jesus turned water into wine. How do they hold down a job in the 21st century?"

4. For he reasoned that the butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker, and the professor of biology could not do their jobs adequately if they believed in an omnipotent creator.

5. For would they not inevitably produce bad sausages, or bad bread, or bad candles, or bad lectures, if they were men of faith?

6. Therefore, Richard, being of a scientific mind, decided to test the miracles of Our Lord, by showing that they were impossible.

7. Thus he gave a great dinner party, and served unto his guests water, poured from old wine bottles, saying "Marvel ye, this is the finest wine!"

8. And his guests tapped their heads and said to themselves, "Let us humour the old coot, lest he biteth someone." Thus they spake out, praising the water as if it were vintage claret.

Gates and water

William of Gates praiseth the Chateau D'Ocquins wine.

9. Then Richard began to show the impossibility of many other miracles.

10. He invited five thousand members of Oxford University to dinner and fed them on five loaves and two small fishes. They became exceeding wrathful, and telephoned for five thousand pizzas.

11. Then one of his keener disciples was moved to cut off the ear of a policeman, that his master might restore it. The case cometh up next week.

12. After this, Richard walked on the Sea of Galilee, and was rescued by the fishermen.

Dawkins paddles

The miracle of Dawkins almost walking on water.

13. And there were many other miracles that Richard failed to do. Thus he was convinced that nobody could do them. "Well, it would be a miracle if they could!" he said.

14. Now, at about this time men spake of Mother Teresa, she who had spent a lifetime in good works, and was evidently a saved person.

15. And the Pope, he who was called Francis the Merciful, told the world that Teresa's acts of healing had continued, and that she was to be recognised as a saint.

16. And Richard was exceeding wrathful, describing Teresa as "over-rated" and her followers as "gullible".

Mother Teresa

An ignorant woman who knew little of selfish genes.

17. For had not he devoted his own life to good deeds, namely screaming at people of faith? And had not he performed miracles, in persuading people to buy his trashy books? But, as yet, few spake of Richard as a saint.

18. "Woe!" he cried. "It is not fair!" And again he cried, saying "Boo hoo!"

19. For Richard was angry that a Church to which he did not belong should dare to honour one of its own members without consulting him first.

Continued in Chapter 24.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Leading with humility

Thanks to @JoaoMMXIV for drawing my attention to the book "Lead with humility", by Jeffrey A. Krames, which is subtitled 12 Leadership Lessons from Pope Francis. I haven't actually got the book, but I have a fairly good idea of what it should contain.

Lead with humility

Can we have a Year of Humility next time, please?

Well, dear reader - Mr Heep, say - as a humble person you won't have put yourself forward for a leadership role, but don't despair, someone else will "fix it" for you. In the old days it might have been Jimmy Saville, but he's rather gone out of favour recently (and, anyway, is dead), so you may have to settle for getting a specially-constituted Team Heep to promote your case. Have a word with Cardinals Cormac Murphy-O'Connor or Godfried Danneels, and see whether they can help.

If all goes well, you will become the managing director of the Lancaster branch of the Acme Drainage Company (motto: Protect the Pipe), and be the proud possessor of a "Cormac fixed it for me" badge.

Now, how does a truly humble leader behave? Well, start by making your office look more humble. Throw out all the comfy chairs in which visitors used to sit, keeping just one for yourself. That aspidistra plant had better go, too: a humble leader should settle for a wilting dandelion. Make it known that you have given your bed at home to the poor, and that from now on you will sleep in the dog's basket. For food, avoid Dolan's All-you-can-eat Restaurant: a humble plate of Fish and Chips (in Italian, "Fisichella") will be much better for you.

luxurious bed

Available to any poor person who wishes to collect it.

So far we haven't addressed the questions of leadership, which, in your case, means getting your own way without seeming to do so. There are various ways to achieve this: one is to come out with a blizzard of insults, confusing and contradictory statements, and plans which you know can never be implemented. When you do so, remind people that your words are being uttered in a spirit of humility and mercy. You could even install a "window of mercy" in your office, so that when you get annoyed with staff and defenestrate them, they can realise that it is being done very humbly.


Dilbert's boss embraces the Spirit of Pope Francis.

Another humble way to lead your company is to announce changes to company policy in a less direct way. For example, every time you take an aeroplane trip, you could stand up and make a speech outlining a batch of controversial changes (e.g. from now on, all staff must turn off the central heating in their offices, to prevent climate change) - check with the cabin crew before doing this.

Or you could float new company policy in interviews with 100-year-old deaf-mute journalists who don't speak your language too well; or you could get a trusted member of staff (the technical name is a gasper, one who emits hot air) to float the silliest ideas that he can imagine. Having totally confused and terrified your employees, you may then return to the office and humbly do whatever it was you planned to do all along.

monkey on St Peter's

When King Küng attacks, only a humble person can respond.

Finally, a good catchphrase you might adopt is "Who am I to judge?" The answer being, that you are the boss, and you will judge whenever you feel like it... humbly, of course. That's what leaders do.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Giles Fraser agrees to accept a refugee

Canon Giles Fraser, vicar of St Mary's, Newington, Guardian columnist, Thought for the Day star, Moral Maze pundit, and all-round liberal, has finally been persuaded to accept a refugee into his home.

St Mary's, Newington

Giles Fraser walking in St Mary's churchyard

The refugee in question, Don Al-Trump, is a man who feels persecuted in his own country because of his beliefs (specifically, that banning Muslims is the answer to all problems); nevertheless, it was thought that he would not be able to find refuge in the UK. Father Giles, however, is living up to his Christian principles, and has promised to welcome the stranger ("and they don't come much stranger than Donald!" he quips).

Donald Trump

Will Don's wig also be allowed asylum?

"I'm not one of those hate preachers you come across, who want to ban people from the country because of their beliefs," explains Canon Fraser. "Admittedly, I'd prefer someone who was more gay-friendly and less driven by his religious faith, but you can't have everything."

It is expected that Don Al-Trump will lead a fulfilling life in London until he manages to settle down and find a job. At "Loose Canon Towers", he will have access to several million old copies of the Guardian together with Thought for the Day recordings going back to the 1960s, so a spiritually nourishing lifestyle awaits him. It is expected that tonight Fraser and Trump will attend a boxing match featuring Tyson Fury - both are great fans of Mr Fury, not least because he is clearly a man of deep religious convictions.

Psalm 47

Psalm 47, sung regularly in St Mary's, Newington

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Archbishop Fisichella excommunicates the Pope

Following his claim that critics of the Pope faced automatic excommunication - the sort of "merciful" statement that we expect to hear a lot of in the next few months - Archbishop Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for New Evangelization, today revealed that he had excommunicated Pope Francis himself. It is believed to be the first occasion since the middle ages on which an occupant of the Chair of St Peter has suffered this indignity.


"Maybe I hadn't really thought this out."

Apparently the Holy Father was overheard commenting that he had greatly sinned, in his thoughts and in his words, in what he had done and in what he had failed to do, through his fault, through his fault, through his most grievous fault. "Now, if any other Catholic had said this of the Pope," said Fisichella, "perhaps Bones or Mundabor, then they would have been in deep trouble. So it is only fair to punish Francis for this vicious attack on himself."

LATE NEWS: Pope Francis has been forgiven.

Disney display

Meanwhile, in Rome...

Yesterday, the start of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, was also the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The Vatican chose to mark this by using St Peter's Basilica as a projection screen, showing a range of Pope Francis's favourite wildlife.

hunchback of Notre Dame

St Quasimodo of Notre Dame.

However, Disney, threatened by the possibility that the Vatican could soon be showing Tom and Jerry cartoons on St Peter's, has responded with a display of scenes from the Jungle Book.

tigers in Rome

Shere Khan the tiger.

Gosh, this year of Mercy is going to be interesting.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Britain is going to Hell, so let's help it along, says report

After two years of detailed analysis, a fancy commission, chaired by the retired judge Baroness Butler-Sloss, has noticed that, by and large Britain is going to Hell.

However, the brilliant Butler-Sloss team (including Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury) has found the solution: help it on its way!

the butler did it

Who produced this criminally stupid report?

* Kids aren't learning about Christianity? Then make sure they are taught less and less about Christianity!

* We are overwhelmed by people who, although they are not Muslims, bruv, do like killing people while shouting "Allahu Akbar!"? Then let's ask ISIS to send us more of the same, introduce Sharia law, and force all women to wear burkas!

* Faith schools are vaguely religious? Close them down, we can't have some people believing different things from others! We know how good bad Diversity is!

* Thought for the Day is watered down so much that it's hard to find any religious content? Then let's introduce some specifically non-religious thoughts for the day! Perhaps Richard Dawkins with his "abort the Downs kids"? Or Polly Toynbee?

Polly and Giles

The new-look Thought for the Day

* People aren't going to church? Then extend Sunday trading and make it more difficult for people to go to church!

* Our churches are led by a bunch of self-serving weeds who don't really believe in God? Then let's appoint some specifically secular bishops!

* Marriage and the family are being totally undermined? Then let's destroy marriage and the family by allowing people to marry their uncles, aunts, household pets and washing machines!


A washing-machine gives birth to a baby. Note that it emerges fully clothed.

The Butler-Sloss approach to "fixing broken Britain" obviously has many applications in everyday life.

My car has a puncture. Have you thought about sticking needles into the tyres?

My house is flooded as a result of the recent rains. We recommend turning on a few taps and emptying some bottles of water over the floor.

flooded house

"It's not working. We need more water!"

There is a famous retired judge who, every time she says something, makes me want to bite the carpet. Why not get her to chair a commission, so that she has the opportunity to make her views more widely known? Meanwhile, make sure you stock up on carpets!

Yes, that seems to be the answer.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Catholic Church to celebrate the Black Death

It has been decided that, following the celebrations in 2017 of the anniversary of the Reformation (with its mass-slaughter on both sides, the destruction of the monasteries, etc.), it would be similarly appropriate in 2023 for the Catholic Church to celebrate the 675th anniversary of the Black Death.

Federico Lombardi

Federico Lombardi explains

"It used to be thought that the death of 100 million people was nothing but one of the worst tragedies of European history," said Fr Federico Lombardi of the Holy See Press Office, "but nowadays we can look back and see the positive aspects of this period of history. Many people were brought to God rather sooner than they expected, and industrialization came to a halt, protecting the Middle Ages from the worst aspects of climate change."

It is thought that Pope Francis is anxious to reach out to the rodent community - although he will not celebrate the Rodentine Mass - since he appreciates that, although rats are widely blamed for bringing the Black Death to Europe, they too suffered many grievous losses. "The Holy Father has a great fondness for funny little creatures with whiskers," explained Fr Lombardi.

Cardinal Marx

Funny little creatures with whiskers are welcome!

Apart from holding ecumenical human-rodent Masses, using specially blessed cheese, it is not clear what else is planned for the Year of Bubonic Inter-Species Reconciliation. Will Paul Inwood, the Pope's Official Composer, be asked to provide a suitable anthem, possibly "Alleluia Squeak-Squeak"? How will Robert Mickens, he who referred to Pope Benedict XVI as "the rat", react now that we are asked to love the little creatures? Watch this space for further details.

Fawlty Towers rat

Ecumenical dialogue with a rat, or possibly a Siberian hamster.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Eccles finds a safe space

I don't normally agree with Professor Anthony Grayling about very much - nothing personal, but I'm saved and he isn't - and I couldn't really go along with his article on whimpering students. After all, students (except, perhaps, those boring scientists in their white coats) go to university for three years to get away from education, new ideas, opinions and teachers. It does not seem fair to expose them to micro-aggression, which is the term we use nowadays when someone unconsciously says something that we can turn into a cause of offence.

For example, "I trod in a puddle this morning" is an "ablist" remark that can be interpreted as an act of violence towards anyone who happens to be unable to walk, either through disability or drunkenness.

Dr Who, Warriors' Gate

Grayling is, of course, a friend of the Dawkins family and their dog.

And - I'm sorry, professor - but a lot of language needs to come with "trigger warnings", which means "I am about to use everyday terms but if you've got nothing better to do, you can get upset".

In my case, the trigger phrases that raise my blood pressure include "Spirit of Vatican II", "Cardinal Kasper says", "We'll now sing 'Oh what a horrid place the world is' by Bernadette Farrell", "Today we have a visiting preacher, Fr Harry Tique S.J." and "Let us offer each other the sign of peace".


The kiss of peace? No thanks.

At St Tharg's Church, where I normally worship, such acts of micro-aggression are common, and are definitely liable to deter worshippers. However, we do have a side-chapel dedicated to the memory of St Tharg. I have therefore persuaded Fr Arthur to let us use it as a "safe space" for sensitive worshippers. Out go the altar, the candles, and Tracey Emin's religious installation, "The Bed of St Tharg". In come sofas, teddy-bears, blankets to hide under, and the sounds of Gregorian chant.

safe space for Eccles

A safe space in the Tharg Chapel.

Bring on the Year of Mercy with its logo of the two-headed cyclops on skis, its official Paul Inwood Taizé-pastiche hymn, and its mysterious opening of doors! Actually, I don't mind the opening of doors, since Dr Joseph Shaw has kindly provided a liturgy for this in his Latin Mass Society booklet:

Pulso! Pulso!
Quis adest?
Papa Franciscus!
Papa Franciscus quis?

Anyway, bring on the Year of Mercy, and I'll see you in the Tharg Chapel.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Tiddles is saved

This is a guest post from Eccles's cat, Tiddles, who was shocked to read an article by Jonathan Langley entitled Ten reasons it's okay for Christians to hate cats



I could really have entitled this post "Seven reasons it's okay for cats to hate Christians", except that we cats are loving creatures, and do not bear grudges.

1. Cats get a bad deal in the Bible.

There is no Biblical mention of cats, in the sense of domestic animals, but lions and leopards are certainly there. Some impertinent chap called Isaiah says that the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid. I consulted a focus group of twenty leopards, and none of them thought this was very likely. And lions have their pride, you know.

Another cheeky chap called Peter says that your adversary the Devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. Well, I admit that we do like devouring things, but then so do humans. So why smear us cats?

Personally, I prefer Amos's "The lion hath roared, who will not fear?" or, in my case, "The cat hath miaowed, who will not fear?"

cat shooting ducks

Remember, cats are naturally great hunters.

2. Humans don't recognize cats' kindness to them.

Humans don't appreciate the gifts we leave them. I recently marked Eccles's birthday by leaving a dead vole on his pillow - well, half a dead vole, actually, I got a little hungry - but he refused to show any gratitude. Then, one evening, when I was at a loose end, I jumped off the cupboard onto Eccles's lap, with the idea of sharpening my claws on him. He gave out a yell and got up, sending me flying through the air. No love and affection there!

Tom and Jerry

Ailurophobic hate-crime.

3. Humans are insanitary.

I didn't want to mention this, but Jonathan Langley raised the matter. We cats do our little doings in a litter tray, or behind the sofa, or under the bed - somewhere nice and tidy. Humans send their waste products down a pipe, where they get processed into someone else's drinking water. Well, which do you prefer?

4. Human religion is daft.

The ancient Egyptians used to worship cats, but we don't see much of that these days. Oh no, it's "Tiddles, get back in the garden, you're not coming to Mass with me." Look at the word "Catholic" - it originally meant "addicted to cats", as with "alcoholic" or "chocaholic". But it is not reflected in their practices. When will cats be ordained to the priesthood? When will they even be allowed to take Communion? Has the Pope mentioned cats in his "Year of Mercy" speeches?

Even so-called "liberal" Catholics are anti-cat. Cardinal Kasper, a man who you would expect to be sensitive to feline issues, has refused to answer our e-mails or return our phone calls. Apparently, in the spirit of gradualism, he wants to ordain dogs first. Madness.


The good old days pre-Vatican II.

5. Humans are always fighting.

When female humans fight, they call it a "cat fight", probably because the combatants hiss at each other and scratch. Curiously, when male cats fight, we cats don't call it a "human fight", since head-butts, punches on the jaw and kicks in the sensitive parts are generally considered to be unsporting. You're more vicious than we are.

Saracen's Head

... and we don't have wars between cats of different beliefs.

6. Eternal life isn't a big deal.

The best religious deals on offer for humans seem to promise eternal life in some sort of paradise. We cats have nine lives, which makes us nine times more saved than humans. Do I need to say more?

7. Finally...

sweet cats

We are sweet.

Dawkins and chums

You are not sweet.