Enthusiasts for the inglorious excesses of pre-Reformation Catholicism have found an unlikely champion. ‘Bubbles’ Stancliffe (Prop: Salisbury diocese), doyen of the ultra liberal Affirming Catholics, has suggested a remarkable solution to the church’s financial crisis. Faced with calls for reforms and cutbacks among the ever growing army of expense-sodden bishops and dignitaries, ‘Bubbles’ suggests severe spiritual penalties for those who won’t cough up the extra lolly. Clergy, he advises, should withhold a blessing from financially recalcitrant congregations. This is clearly an idea with enormous potential. But why stop there?

Absolution could be withheld from the deathbed penitent until the Church was made a beneficiary in the will. Baptism and confirmations families could be shown an income-related sliding scale of thankofferings appropriate to the gift of the Holy Spirit (the Simon Scale perhaps, Acts 8.18). And what about those who are a bit short of cash on a particular Sunday? Could they perhaps put in for a partial blessing?

‘I can only afford the blessing of the Father this week, Vicar, but I should be able to find enough for the other two by Thursday.’

The technical problems have yet to be sorted out. Will the indulgences be general or individual? What about those who don’t use a stewardship envelope? Will the priest have to delay the service while the collection is counted to see if the congregation is worth blessing? This one could run and run.


The Church Calendar is usually associated with the cycle of religious seasons and the remembrances of godly men and women. Not any more. Never let it be said that the CofE is out of touch. Hard on the heels of the phenomenal success of the Women’s Institute naked calendar girls come the men of Portsmouth Cathedral Choir. Under the inspired leadership of Dean William Taylor the lads have got their kit off for charity. No surplice clothing and yours for less than a tenor.

The ‘Heavenly Hunks’ website features one member stripped to the waist clutching an enormous tool for tightening the nuts on his organ. The tasteful arrangement of rippling musculature gives not a glimpse of the conductor’s baton or the bass part but the cheeky exposé is likely to be a big seller in Affirming Catholic circles.

Bishop Kenneth Stevenson is quoted thus, ‘I support anything that involves young people having fun as part of the Church.’ Bless.


Our spiritualia correspondent, the Blessed Arthur Middleton, reports on a curious trend in new wave spiritual directors. After 40 years of ministering ‘Ghostly counsel’ for free, our man in the confessional was astonished to encounter a nun who told him that she was ‘at the cheap end of the market. I only charge £20 per hour.’ Arthur made his excuses and left. More earthly colleagues suggested he should have explained that he just wanted to talk or riposted, ‘Here’s a tenner, can I just rattle your rosary?’


The Democrats in the USA are having a hard time. Their longstanding pro-feminist, pro-gay, pro-abortion enthusiasms have finally been rumbled as profoundly anti-Christian. People in America do not like to think of themselves as voting against God, so leading candidates for the Democratic nomination had been busy re-inventing themselves, mentioning prayer and having a Bible handy. Not handy enough as it turns out. The front runner Howard Dean was asked, in the wake of his new-found appreciation of Jesus, what was his favourite book in the New Testament. To hoots of uncharitable mirth he replied, ‘The Book of Job’.


The usual raft of fuddy-duddies and stick-in-the-muds lined up in the festive season to criticize the Department of Culture’s Christmas card. But surely Tessa Jowell (Secretary of State), the remarkable survivor of Tony’s cronies and party funding rows, has got it right. When people choose their Christmas cards they are giving you an insight into their personal taste and what they see as important about the festival. Ms Jowell’s collage is elequent of New Labour Britain. Central is a huge football image. Who can dispute this is the main object of our country’s worship? This is bordered by a Japanese television (average adoration time equals four hours per day ). Above is a rock musician – the new aristocracy – so regularly ennobled for their services to fornication and drug abuse. There are Hindu dancers and a mosque for our reverence of compulsory multi-culturalism and a feast of bicycles because we hate cars (except ministerial and episcopal chauffer-driven ones of course). It is hard to tell, in the present state of English education, if the children’s daubing on the card comes from a kindergarten or an A level project. Ms. Jowell is to be congratulated on her encapsulation of the nation’s priorities.


Few people nowadays have heard of the Abelites – a small North African sect at the time of St Augustine. Believing that it was wrong to perpetuate original sin they married but refrained from the sordid business of sexual intercourse. It was, in consequence, a brief and none too popular heresy. In the wake of the extensive leaking of the Rochester Report many newspapers were cheerfully reporting Forward in Faith’s proposals for an ‘All male province’. Seasoned heresy hunters need not fear a revival of Abelism in the traditionalist heartland. Orthodox remain cheerful breeders. As a majority of FiF members are female some of our epistolary amazons were able to correct ignorant editors. Real Catholics believe in an all-male priesthood and in the doctrine of creation. They also like to have fun!


Fun and games at The Daily Telegraph. While Jonathan Petre, their excellent and tenacious correspondent, continues to pull in the scoops, the new editorial office constantly baffles readers with its curious ‘take’ on the stories. Presented with confessions that some bishops continue to rack up entertainment bills of £250 per week, the Editor pronounces them to be excellent value!

Petre scoops the Rochester Report on women bishops with a serious discussion of the Third Province. The Editor dismisses such a possibility because, apparently, Anglicanism, in whatever form, cannot resist ‘the gravitational pull’ of society.

As the new Editor is, apparently, a theology graduate, the question arises. Is he that most loyal of liberal establishment Anglicans who is, cheerfully, going with the flow or is he a Roman Catholic who clearly understands that, under present management, the Church of England exists only to bless whatever heresy or moral deformity the governing class seek to impose. I think we should be told.