Monday, 5 November 2012

A reply from the Bishop...except that, it's not

It all started with a polite request from me to Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth.

I asked why one of his parishes was organising a visit to a Hindu Temple; it seemed a pretty pointless exercise to me and ecumaniacal initiatives such as this never seem to have a reciprocation aspect to them.
We tend to go forth and join rather than to go forth and teach.

Now this is where it gets boring (yawn) it's a bit anecdotal so please bear with me.
I received a nice reply from the Bishop suggesting that I take the matter up with my Parish Priest - alack!
 I am a pikey Catholic, I have no parish, no place to lay my head or kneel in prayer except several 'adopted' churches where the PP is a kind and forbearing person.

Mantra for customer satisfaction -
 "Delegation is good but it must be followed through"

In haste I responded with an apology for giving the impression that I was a parishioner of St James's Church, Reading.

And then.......the response comes back.....except that, whilst it purports to come from the Bishop it obviously comes from one of his priests charged with admin duties filed under "Nuisance enquiries from awkward b*****s" (that stands for bloggers, by the way).

You see, as any fule kno, as Molesworth would say, you never, ever, send an email that has been forwarded or cc'd.

Because the chances are that there will be one or two earlier emails on the tab that may carry info that you would not wish the final recipient to see.

Now, my reply carried nothing nasty as such but it had not, I believe, been sent by the Bishop because there was a forward note from the Bish's PA stating: "Father, for you"

And the reply itself was.....a bit (I'm trying to be charitable) -  pompous and twittish, and I am sure that the Bishop would never have made such remarks.

Here is the response, verbatim, you may judge for yourselves (my comments in red):

Dear Robert (Um, just plain Richard would do, it is my name after all)

The nature of interreligious dialogue and proclamation is of course a complex one. (Well, it certainly sounds it) You might do well to look at the article by Mgr. Billy Steele on the Diocese of Leeds website (It really gets up my nose when people say things like "You have to understand" or "You might do well" and, anyway, I would never read anything from a Catholic priest with the Christian name 'Billy').

Some Christians veer towards syncretism, others to fundamentalism (err....there is a whole world between those two words and just because I may object to syncretism it doesn't make me a fundamentalist) and the rejection of any possible ‘conversation.’ (But is a visit to a Hindu temple a 'conversation'? What is the actual purpose of such a visit?)
The Catholic position is directed by recent Church teaching (Such as?)
In this particular case, I still think it would be best to discuss the precise nature of the proposed visit with the Parish Priest (but, as I have stated before, I am not a member of this bleeping parish!) before making your judgment.(Ah...judgements are wrong, that's the innuendo here).

With prayers and best wishes

In Corde Iesu

+ Philip

What an awful, ignorant letter. I am confident that Bishop Philip did not write it, what do you think?

If I was the Bishop I'd give whoever it was that wrote it, a week's course on customer service and relationships at Marks and Spencer.


  1. A Sympathetic PriestNovember 05, 2012 12:13 pm

    The big problem for Bishop Egan is getting his clergy on side, they have had the uber-liberal +Crispin Hollis for so long, a time with +Anthony Emery and the before that ultra uber-liberal +Derek Worlock. The diocesan staff are all +Crispins appointees, as are the significant clergy.
    I would normally support you Richard, but in this instance I think you should Bishop Egan and his office some slack for a while.

    If he alienates his clergy in the first year he will have an incredibly difficult job regaining there support.

  2. That reply is a load of old tosh!written by a pollyana catholic.Full of nothing!And no, I dont think that those are the Bishop's words!

  3. Insulting, pro forma, bureaucratic, relativistic, PC gibberish - with no reference to the common faith of the Bishop and the addressee nor the duty of the Bishop to the Faithful.

  4. Just having lunch so just a quick reply.

    There may or may not be a problem with this visit. If the visit is purely dialogue then that is OK.

    However, if during this visit ANY member of clergy or ANY Catholic engages with any aspect of Hindu spirituality then they would have broken the first commandment.

    The clergy (including the Bishop) would be even more culpable of this sin.

    Beyond the basics of the first commandment the clergy have to consider that engaging Catholics in Hindu spirituality would be in fact saying that "Catholicism is no different to other faiths".

    Of couse (as you know), beyond this any non-Christo-centric practice would allow the devil a foot hold in and move a Catholic away from Christ.

    If you reply then maybe it would be worth mentioning lessons learnt from Assisi and beyond this suggest, to whoever wrote the reply, that rather than quote a Mgs Billy Steele that infact that he should be quoting straight forward official Catholic teaching on this issue. It is the Mgs. Billy Steele reference that makes me think that in fact the Bishop did not write the reply to you.

  5. ”…you never, ever, send an email that has been forwarded or cc'd.”

    I have noted elsewhere that many in the hierarchy – and diocesan chanceries – have learned to ape the business world in terms of bureaucratic machinations. But all have not learned the lesson well – even in the business world.

    Recently, I ‘dialogued’ (via Email…) with an editor of the newspaper where I am employed about a certain headline. His dismissive reply was open-copied to the Publisher and assorted ‘heavies’ in the company. Bad mistake! (there’s a reason for ‘blind copies’ in Emails…).

    My reply was a “Reply All” so all the people he copied got it as well.

    He was not pleased.

    The joys of modern technology!

  6. Just a very quick follow up,

    Despite the fact that Mgr. Billy does effectively say that 'God moves in mysterious ways in terms of the Salvation of His people' it is worth mentioning to the Bishop that Mgr Billy also refers to "human error and folly, in other religions".

    So obviously it is not as clear cut as the Bishop would wish to make it sound.

    See below for quote,

    "It is certainly part of the witness of the Church, sometimes involving the supreme witness of martyrdom, to proclaim Christ as the one Saviour, in season and out of season ( 2 Tim.4:2) and to point to human error and folly, in other religions and indeed in the human institution of the Church

    Yet all this must go along with the glad recognition that

    …Christ plays in ten thousand places,
    Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
    To the Father through the features of men’s faces.".

  7. I think you might find this handy:

  8. Re: Chaucer's Ploughman: "That hadde ylad of dong ful many a fother." Now we know what happened to that load of dung -- someone has sent it to you, all dressed up in polysyllables. Still stinks, though.

    - Mack in Texas

  9. I think the good Bishop's lack is reply is perfectly justified. It is christian coutesy to make your concerns or criticsm direct to the person concerned before complaining about them behind their back to their superiors. Any good manager would do the same. The Bishop's delegate didn't say or imply that you were a parishoner of the church concerned. What was suggested to you was you approach the priest of the parish. You don't need to be a parishoner to talk to the parish priest. Furthermore, it was a visit to the hindu temple. There was no suggestion that there would be a shared service or participation in any Hindu forms of worship. Visits to catholic churches by other denominations are organised reasonably frequently as well. If you're not interested in going then don't go - nobody is making you and it's not even your parish. I think the good Bishop was wise to ignore your email, it was nit-picking and trying to cause trouble over nothing. Period.


  10. Peter, when your hotel bedroom is filthy dirty do you complain to the chamber maid or the manager?
    You know full well that any 'ecumenical' visit is going to begin with sprinkling flowers or ashes or blood or summat and that's not acceptable. Bad examples have, admittedly, been set by those in authority.

  11. Richard

    I am glad you wrote to the Bishop on this. The parish newsletter specifically advertises the visit stating:

    "The aim is to provide the catholic group with experience of Hindu worship in the Temple.".

    Why any catholic would need experience of Hindu worship is beyond me. You can see the newsletter here

    I was wondering if perhaps Portsmouth diocese has a particularly high Hindu population, hence the need for such close ecumenical relations. Let us not forget that SINCE Bishop Egans ordination, this was ALSO the diocese of the high profile case of a priest banning Hindu Hatha yoga from his church hall:

    St Edmunds, Southampton (

    Yet in Portsmouth cathedral, they decided to precede the new Bishop's first thanksgiving mass with Hatha Yoga at Portsmouth Cathedral, and decided to commence a new Hatha Yoga course at the Cathedral to co-incide with his ordination.

    Here are more examples of Hatha Yoga in churches in Prtsmouth

    - Portsmouth cathedral new 10 week course

    - St Joseph's, Portsmouth

    - St Swithen's, Southsea

    Why is it so hard to grasp that CATHOLICS ARE NOT HINDU????? This is what Hatha Yoga is:

    And yet I can't even find daily Eucharistic adoration in Portsmouth. Whats going on????

    Namaste, good brother, in Corde Jesu. xx

  12. Lady Oremus, thank you so much for your comment. It is weird is it not that so much emphasis is being placed on false gods? Time for a little melting down I think. Richard