An atheist writes:

‘Responses to Some Questions regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on The Church published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the Solemnity of Sts Peter & Paul has provoked indignation from any number of quarters.

Anxious as ever to climb on the liberal bandwagon, The Guardian sought in particular to analyse the statement that these ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called ‘Churches’ in the proper sense and so naturally enough turned to an expert on ‘Churches’.

As the author of the best-selling book England’s Thousand Best Churches, Simon Jenkins was obviously their man and he cannot have disappointed the Farringdon Road trendies. Two or three sentences will suffice to give the flavour: Who is this joker in Rome claiming supremacy via the greatest con in Europe’s intellectual history, the 1870 Vatican council’s invention of papal infallibility… In saying that only Roman Catholicism is a ‘church’, the Pope is merely redefining the word to suit his position. He is climbing to the top of Michelangelo’s dome and beating his chest like King Kong. Measured argument, you’ll be pleased to note! Jenkins, who describes himself as ‘an atheist who loves churches’, inexplicably received a knighthood for services to journalism’ in the New Year’s Honours in 2004.

Value Added Staff

Soon we shall be able to announce this year’s Golden Mitre awards for the highest episcopal expenses. Meanwhile appetites can be whetted by a comparison between archdeacons and suffragan bishops. In 2005, the three archdeacons in the diocese of York netted total expenses of £23,487 – this is, each of them cost the diocese £21-44 per day. However, the three suffragan bishops’ expenses cost a total of £108,995 or £99-50 a day for each bishop.

Not to worry though: bishops’ expenses are paid by the cash-strapped Church Commissioners who are proposing to save £5-2 million ‘for other purposes’ by reducing by that amount the pensions of the retired clergy. Little wonder that suffragans have always resisted with vigour any attempt to transfer responsibility for their expenses to the diocese.

No match for the law

Full marks to Fr Anthony Carr, Rector of Holy Trinity, East Peckham and Net-tlestead in the diocese of Rochester, for lighting his pipe in a Kent police station as a protest against the smoking ban. He walked into the nick at Tonbridge, and according to the BBC, said to the officer: ‘I want to report a crime,’ took out his pipe and lit it.

Fr Carr went on: ‘The officer said ‘Will you please put that out as this is a no smoking area’ and I said ‘I will not.” When officers told him he would not be ‘bundled into’ the back of a van, he replied ‘what a pity’. A spokesman for the Bishop of Rochester said: ‘We regard this as a personal matter – the church would not wish to comment on the incident. Officially, the church doesn’t condone breaking the law’ (What it does unofficially may of course be a reasonable cause for speculation.)

Ground (and heart) breaking

A recent report in the Evening Standard caught our eye: ‘Suzanne Mitchell has appeared in court accused of being the country’s first lesbian ‘bigamist’. The mother of five admitted making a false statement to the registrar at her civil partnership ceremony by failing to mention she was already married. The saga started when Mrs Mitchell’s marriage hit the rocks two years ago. She began a relationship with a younger woman she met at a bus stop, moved her girlfriend into the family home and then ‘married’ her in a civil partnership ceremony at Shrewsbury Register Office (the same place where she had married her husband) in February last year, three months after they met. Meanwhile, her husband Charles was forced to sleep on the sofa downstairs.

The Mitchells met seven years ago at the dessert factory where they worked. Both had three sons from previous relationships. Within weeks they were engaged and living together. But it is understood they are planning to renew their wedding vows – once Mitchell ‘divorces’ her lesbian lover. Mitchell was arrested in November last year when police called at the house following a tip-off. A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: ‘We do not keep records of ground-breaking court cases but this is the first case of its kind that I’m aware of

Only joking

A church in a comedy club is no laughing matter, the managers of a shopping mall have decided. Allowing a church to hold services at The Harford Funny Bone Comedy Cafe & Restaurant in Manchester, Connecticut would violate the club’s lease, a spokeswoman for The Shoppes at Buckland Hills explained. A manager broke the news to Ben Dubow, lead pastor of St Paul’s Collegiate Church, which announced last month that it would hold services in the comedy club.

St Paul’s Collegiate Church is apparently ‘a post-denominational community church – and therein lies the problem. Obviously, it just wouldn’t have been funny enough! Now, if it had been The Episcopal Church (proprietor: Katharine Jefferts Schori), that would have been an entirely different ball game, as our colonial cousins might put it!

Inter-faith relations

A doctor prescribed an exorcism for a Muslim woman with stomach pains during a routine consultation, a recent General Medical Council misconduct hearing was told. The aptly-named Dr Joyce Pratt allegedly said she could feel ‘something moving inside’ her patient, whom she believed was possessed by an evil spirit. Pratt, who claimed ‘black magic powers’, said her patient’s mother was a witch, made her drink holy water, said prayers over her stomach, gave her crucifixes to ward off the demon and told her to visit a priest to be exorcised. Dr Pratt could be struck off if found guilty.

Copy for 30 Days should reach FiF office by the 10th day of the month: