Monday, 7 March 2011


"Catholic doctrine is being eroded; there is no Catholic teaching in Catholic schools. We need more honesty from the English hierarchy. They don't want to admit to any problems. They want to pretend that everything is fine and dandy. They will not listen to protest."

God may not have changed but His Bishops have!

Words from a famous and great Catholic woman, Alice Thomas Ellis whose anniversary of death it is today (March 8th), may God have mercy on her soul. Those words were written by her in a momentous article in The Daily Telegraph, headed: "I accuse the Catholic bishops". It followed close on the heels of a piece she had written for The Catholic Herald which strongly criticised the late but not lamented Archbishop Derek Worlock of Liverpool. As a result of that article, (so it is alleged) countless priests contacted the then acting editor of the Herald, Harry Coen (good Irish name) and Alice Thomas Ellis was sacked. Now, the names Cristina Odone (Catholic Herald Editor) and Cardinal Basil Hume are also in this mix and I recall the allegations at the time; that the Cardinal had contacted Ms Odone and asked for ATE's dismissal..... that is now lost in time but, if true, it does not surprise me.

Born Anna Lindholm, Alice converted to Catholicism at the age of 19 and entered a convent to pursue her vocation. It did not work out and she left, in time marrying publisher Colin Haycraft.   Described as half Welsh, half Finnish, her first novel 'The Sin Eater' was published in 1977. She followed this success with a series of novels and a flurry of non fiction works including her much acclaimed 'Serpent on the Rock' a travelogue that looked at the sad state of the liberal excesses of the Church (1994).
Her home in Wales housed a collection of Church sized statues of the saints, which I think was rather a nice touch which we, as a family have since tried to emulate.

Extracts from  her Telegraph article follow here:-

I was born in Liverpool and later attended the art school there. You could breathe
Catholicism in the very air. The churches were wonderful, full of what the aesthetically pure would doubtless call Catholic kitsch, and full of worshippers.

Between 1980 and 1995 there was a net loss of 50,000 practising Catholics. This disaster was never publicised. Instead we heard constantly of the glorious ecumenical work being done by the Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool, the Most Rev Derek Worlock, and the Anglican Archbishop, the Rt Rev David Sheppard, in their efforts to bring peace to the city. Last week, in my final column for the Catholic Herlad, I wrote publicly what many say privately, that Archbishop Worlock's venture with Dr Sheppard failed Liverpool's Catholics - and the city.

As a correspondent in the Telegraph put it: "The situation has been that if the Anglican Bishop could not accept a particular Catholic doctrine, the Catholic Archbishop did not teach it"....

There is a bitter joke going around Liverpool, that each gentleman had a signature tune. Worlock's being Anything Goes and Sheppard's, I did it my Way!

...One man, representing his parish on the matter of the destruction of the interior of St Robert Belarmine (church), found himself the recipient of a letter from the archbishop (Worlock) demanding an apology. Other bishops behaved similarly and Mass attendance has fallen dramatically everywhere. There is silence from the hierarchy and, after a while the people, neglected by their pastors, become indifferent.....

...Modernism, pluralism, syncretism and the madder forms of feminism are rife - not to mention many, many others too technical to describe here. There is continuing erosion of respect for the Blessed Sacrament. The Mass - the centre of our spiritual lives - is frequently distorted by priests with an agenda of their own. There is no specifically Catholic doctrine taught in our schools and teachers have been sacked for trying to remedy this.

"Well" people ask, "who would you like to be Liverpool's next bishop to be?" And I respond, not unreasonably, that a Catholic would be nice"


Alice Thomas Ellis was a great friend of fellow novelist Beryl Bainbridge, also a Catholic, and the two of them enjoyed their cigarettes together with their vodkas and tonic.
Tragically, one of her sons, Joshua, died in a fall from a roof and this naturally enough, had a profound effect on her. She was survived by four sons and a daughter.

The pen and voice of Alice Thomas Ellis are sorely missed in the church today. Sadly, not much appears to have changed in England and Wales with regard to the Bishops.


  1. I enjoyed reading ATE's novels, and saw the house you describe on the TV show "Through the Keyhole". The statue in her kitchen was so massive and magnificent that you couldn't take your eyes off it. Regarding your earlier post, I must admit I very much like the film version of "The Quiet Man" (all the American "Oirishness" notwithstanding). Anything with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara in it usually well worth watching....

  2. Hmmm,been reading several books on Archbishop Worlock.Was Confirmed by him in Portsmouth after the re-ordering of the cathedral.I am afraid his legacy lives on in this part of the country.The show case of Vatican 2.Alice Thomas Ellis's words are very pertinent to today.

  3. Here in the U.S. we have many more bishops over a wider area. With few bishops per capita in Britain, great damage can be done by only a few.

  4. Let's face it, the last 50 years in the Church have been a monumental waste of time - except insomuch as we'll learn from all the mistakes.

  5. A wonderful post. I have linked to it. Thanks Richard.

  6. Alice Thomas Ellis - a voice in the wilderness. Sorely missed by all Catholics concerned at the state of the church today.

  7. By coincidence, I came across the following while tidying my old blog on Sunday:

  8. This is such a tragedy. This has happened in the U.S in many places as well. Just remember that Christ has promised that evil will never triumph over His Church. I have great hope for the future of the Catholic Church - at least here in New Orleans because of the fine group of seminarians that our archdiocese has now. They are being trained with deep reverence for the Blessed Sacrament and in faithful obedience to the Magisterium. Let us continue to pray for the Church worldwide.

  9. A Mr Dafydd John commenting on my post that was featured on the blog 'Catholic and Welsh' (confusing this)accuses me of nasty anti-semitism because of my comment regarding Harry Coen and the fact that it was a "good old Irish name".
    Well, I am not an anti-semite, the comment was a casual one and is of a type that has been used in my family for eons. It is a weak joke, I'll give Mr John that,and is based on the apparent incongruity of finding a person with a name of such apparent Jewish origin in a Catholic post. The name could just have easily been Rachmaninov or Tchaikowsky or, even Jones except that it would have been even less funny.
    I do find it mildly humorous just as if it was announced that the editor of the Jewish Chronicle was a Mr Goronwy Rees-Llewllyn.I would still make the comment about it being a good old Irish name.
    I can think of some anti semitic actions but mild jokes don't really enter into the same category.

  10. Richard -

    thanks for clearing that up. As someone who worked in England for many years and "suffered" the usual jokes about close personal familiarity with sheep, I think we can sometimes be a little too "ultra-pc."

    Such comments were water off a duck (or taffy's) back and I took them in good humour when they were meant as such (i.e. without nastiness, snears or really personal digs).

    As I said to the gent who made the issue over it, I don't keep a list of Jewish names to double-check because I do not feel that it is necessary (perheps he does?), nonetheless, on matters of religion I believe as a Catholic that anti-Semitism is as wrong and dangerous as philo-Semitism.

    Our ultimate aim must be the conversion of the Jews (and the Hindus, Muslims, Protestants, Atheists and lapsed Catholics), for the sake of Our Lord Jesus Christ and true Catholic Charity.

    Some might say that is philo-semitism, some might say that is anti-semitism. It is neither. It is just good old fashioned Catholicism.

    When I say I want the Hindus converted, it is not because I particularly love Hindus, nor because I particularly hate Hindus. I view their religion as false, I view them as human beings, with immortal souls that need (as I know I do) the help of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and the Confessional.

    The need for the conversion of Hindus is as much a fact as the need for my body to have food and water. It is not an "angle," it is not a "fad." It is a cold, harsh fact of life.

    Such should be our basis of dealings with all men, of all creeds.

    Neither "pc" fear, nor "huggish" love, just absolute Catholic Charity out of the love of their immortal souls.