Mrs Proudie
Meditation and Reflection

Mrs Proudie: Thomas Becket’s grim fate offers a cautionary tale

 

Goodness! The bones of Thomas Becket returning to England! Being of an evangelical frame of mind, one has little time for papist superstition, but even I have to admit to being curious. Not quite sure how the Hungarians got their hands on Becket’s bits but at least it prevented Henry VIII from throwing them into the river. What do Protestants do with a heap of old bones? (Memorandum to self: ask cook to boil up some pig’s trotters for supper). I believe Becket’s grim fate offers a cautionary tale to those who believe it their duty to challenge the status quo (rare birds indeed): speak out and get the chop. Of course these days the workings of government are more subtle. Troublesome Archbishops would not be confronted by armed knights in their cathedrals at night: just a few discreet whispers of ‘far-right’, ‘friend of Tommy Robinson’ or ‘Islamophobe’ would suffice to demolish credibility and consign the said cleric to oblivion. My Lord the Bishop is fortunate to have me to guide his thoughts along the straight and narrow path towards the sunlit uplands of preferment.

Over Earl Grey and hobnobs yesterday, Signora Neroni recounted her excursion to the Chelsea Flower Show, an event I have so far managed to avoid on account of the dread Titchmarsh who, like the ubiquitous ground elder, pops up everywhere with his ‘bonny’ this and ‘bonny’ that. The Signora was quite skittishly taken with the red-hot pokers whilst Mr. Slope, who accompanied her, found the pansies irresistible. “You really should display your brassicas next year, Mrs. P.,” insisted the Signora, “They are bound to turn a few heads.” One detests vulgar display, but our head gardener, Dribbling, does amazing things with his green fingers in the hothouse, so perhaps we should enter a legume or two. I’m told the flower display based around the portrait head of the Dear Queen used on postage stamps was a riot of colour, but find this hard to believe – have you seen a Penny Black?

Like Burke and Hare, Messrs. Cameron and Osborne are in the body-business, only they want the United Kingdom permanently shackled to a corpse. The Zollverein is falling apart at the seams – not even Dr. Frankenstein is skilful enough to stitch it back together (though he did a marvellous job with Cherie Blair, don’t you think?) – yet the Buttered Potato and the Draper carry on regardless, churning out fibs and horror stories that would embarrass the Penny Dreadfuls. One minute they tell us Brexit would be a step into the unknown, then next they predict calamities closely akin to Ragnarok. Which is it? “These men disgrace the offices they hold,” thundered the Archdeacon. “And what is even more disgusting is the Treasury is playing their game – whatever happened to the impartiality of the British Civil Servant?” Point out that civil servants are partial to all sorts of things, the promise of a GCMG being just one. “What about integrity,” the Archdeacon continued.

“Ah yes, integrity… I think you will find, Archdeacon, that New Labour threw that out of their Big Tent some time ago. Do have a hobnob.” Alas he was not mollified, and stamped across the Close declaring he was off to Salisbury and needed a spade.

“Whatever for, Archdeacon?” I asked.

“To dig up the Blasted Heath!”

Well, I must go. I have organised the ladies of the Barchester Mother’s Union to knit smocks to cover up the naked cupids carved on the eighteenth century marble tombs around the cloister. Some things should remain private… especially privates. Until next time, dear hearts…

  • michaelkx

    I do enjoy your writings dear lady, it makes my week.

    • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

      Why thank you kind sir…and bless you!

  • Anton

    I’m with Henry II. It is far from clear that he ordered the atrocity at Canterbury, and Becket was standing for – among other things – the trying of clergy in ecclesiastical courts even for secular offences. We know how impartial those courts were from the Inquisition. The context was the Investiture Controversy, regarding whether kings or the papacy should choose bishops. It had for long been kings, because their peoples had built the churches in their lands on land given for that purpose, but the Gregorian reforms sought greater centralisation.

    I’ve seen and enjoyed TS Eliot’s fine play – and seen it in Canterbury Cathedral, although sadly in the crypt rather than where it actually happened – but it is fiction. The Hungarians could keep their relics so far as I am concerned.

    • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

      Yes, not keen on relics myself. I once visited the basilica in Budapest where the hand of St. Stephen was kept in a glass case. if you put money into the slot, the box lit up. I was very disappointed – for that amount of cash the least I expected was a wave.

      • Anton

        The laying-on of hands can continue after death, it seems.

    • CliveM

      Personally I think it right that everyone faced the same judicial system, but equally I think it right that the Church appoint its Bishops. Shouldn’t really be for the King to decide even if he had provided the land!!

      • Anton

        It was locals who not only provided the land and built the building but also paid the Bishop’s salary. Still think the locals should have no say in who the bishop is?

        • CliveM

          Pretty much yes. If it was the locals who had a say and not at best the resident aristocracy, I might agree. But as, in the main, they divied this up amongst their relatives, I think it best that they weren’t involved.

          • Anton

            Under the Gregorian system they acted as spies for a foreign power so far as I am concerned. I’m not going to repeat here my comments (threads passim) against politicised churches and ecclesiastical hierarchies.

          • CliveM

            I agree with you regards the politicised church, but I don’t see how allowing the King to approve the Bishops helps. There is always hierarchy, it just sometimes it’s informal.

          • Anton

            King choosing bishops is essentially the Eastern Orthodox system. But the deeper issue is that according to the Bible each congregation originally had multiple episkopoi, whereas today each episkopos sits above multiple congregations – a change licensed by what authority, that exceeds the New Testament?

          • CliveM

            At the time of Henry II, there were really only two choices, the Church chose the Bishop or the Aristocracy. I prefer the Church.

            You might find the link interesting, you may know about it.

            https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disruption_of_1843

          • Anton

            I know a little about church movements in Scotland in that era from reading about the background of James Aitken Wylie, whose History of Protestantism is not to be relied on historically (at least for evangelical movements before Luther) but is a superb read for its style and sense of drama.

          • bluedog

            The monarch frequently chose an aristocrat to be the ABC.

          • Anton

            Sometimes he chose someone who might grant him to dump one wife for another, but it would be in bad taste to mention it on this blog…

          • carl jacobs

            Precisely. That’s the problem with the quest of the RCC to exercise temporal power.

          • Merchantman

            At a stretch I suppose the EU could reach into that area too.

  • Inspector General

    From what the Inspector has learnt about UK border security, Thomas Becket’s bones will have no problem whatsoever entering the country…

    • Royinsouthwest

      There are probably a large number of people holding EU passports bearing his name already!

  • Inspector General

    Coming soon, the previously unheard of spectacle of Anglican Bone Veneration. Please – no dogs…

    • carl jacobs

      Ah, Inspector. Sometimes you make a post, and the reader can only stand back and admire…

      • Inspector General

        Why, you prairie honey, you…

    • Dreadnaught

      I agree. Lets give it the Elbow.

  • David

    Relics – pah ! Medieval nonsense at the very worst. Quite bizarre and horrible !
    Christians are called to worship God alone, and not mankind, our ideas, works or bits of an individual human’s mortal remains.
    Let the alleged remains stay put I say.

    • carl jacobs

      Joseph asked that his bones be returned from Egypt. The problem is not the return but the purpose for which they might be returned. If only to bury, then well and good. It’s no different than returning the remains of American pilots who died in the mountains northwest of Hanoi.

      • David

        I totally agree with that. It is the purpose for the return that is significant.

        • And the purpose is what?

          As the Rev Canon Jeremy Worthen, the Church of England’s Secretary for Ecumenical Relations, said:

          “It has to be acknowledged that at one point the Church of England tried rather hard to forget Thomas Becket ….

          “Henry VIII singled out Becket for special attention, removing him at the earliest opportunity from the church’s calendar and actually sponsoring a campaign to rebrand him as someone who paid with his life for political treachery not faithfulness to Christ; not a martyr but a traitor ….

          It is a wonderful thing that today we can give thanks for Thomas as a martyr whom we share together as Anglicans and Roman Catholics as well as someone whom we can hold up to the world as an enduring challenge and inspiration for all.”

          • David

            Jack, I have no strong opinions about Thomas Becket, his life and times. But of course I am happy for others to delve into the state/Church politics situation of the time.
            My comments were directed solely at this very silly business of carting bits of long deceased humans all over the place and treating them as something special.

          • But David, the relics of a Christian martyr are special and treating them with special reverence dates to the beginning of the Church
            .
            Following Polycarp’s martyrdom in A.D. 156: “We took up his bones, which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place, where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and joy and to celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom.”

          • David

            Venerate bones if you wish Jack, but it seems a most silly and ridiculous idea to me.

          • Anton

            God grant me the faith not to venerate even the genuine foreskin of Christ, if it were preserved. Let us worship the LIVING God, even if we cannot touch Christ today as the disciples could.

          • David

            Well said, Anton.
            Salvation is God’s gift to us, freely given, and all we are asked to do is to repent and place our trust in Christ.
            This talk of venerating relics is at best ridiculous superstition and at worst bordering upon idolatry.

          • Anna055

            As an evangelical protestant I don’t venerate relics, but I think we need to remember that even in Acts there is at least one reference to something which seems remarkably superstitious at first glance. …….the people who were healed by hankies which had had Paul’s shadow falling on them. The writer of Acts puts it down to the working of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit can work through hankies and shadows, maybe He can work through bones? Just a thought…..

          • It isn’t either/or. Veneration of relics does not detract at all from worshipping Christ. You’re just giving expression to a Protestant prejudice based on misrepresentation. Besides, Catholics and members of the Orthodox faith, have the real, living presence of Christ to worship in the Eucharist.

          • Anton

            Veneration of relics is a nostalgia for the physical, in a temporary era during which Christ is not physically present on earth, by people for whom the Holy Spirit is not enough, perhaps because some of them don’t have the Spirit but have been told by their church systems that they do.

            As for the Eucharist, take it up with Aquinas, who argued that transubstantiation was impossible unless matter was indefinitely divisible. Ever since the atomic theory was verified in the 19th century, Aquinas’ arguments stand against transubstantiation (Summa Theologiae, III, Q.75).

          • Is that an infallible pronouncement?

          • Anton

            I’m not infallible, but then, who is?

          • The Extraordinary Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church and, under certain circumstances, as a result of the indefectibility of the Church, the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium.

          • Anton

            So that’s clear then.

          • Clear as a Summer’s Day, yes.

          • Anton

            Kindly compare:

            I am the way, the truth and the life

            with

            The Extraordinary Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church and, under certain circumstances, as a result of the indefectibility of the Church, the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium.

            Notice any difference?

          • That passage needs contextualising and clarifying. A non-Christian wouldn’t understand it. In the same way, Jack could have simply answered:
            The Roman Catholic Church is infallible in matters of faith and morals.

          • Anton

            The difference between the quote from Jesus and the quote from you is explained in 2 Corinthians 3:6: the word kills, but the Spirit brings life.

          • Nonsense.
            You must know Paul was referring to the written law of Moses. To follow the spiritual law, men need to know it and they need grace. The Church promulgates the message and makes grace available.

          • Anton

            Paul frequently widened the notion of law from Mosaic to the more general idea (as in Romans 7), because he spoke to mixed congregations of gentiles and ethnic Jews. Jesus was not pompous or unclear and in that context I am content to let your phrase about where infallibility supposedly resides speak for itself:

            The Extraordinary Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church and, under certain circumstances, as a result of the indefectibility of the Church, the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium.

      • In the fourth century the great biblical scholar, Jerome, declared, “We do not worship, we do not adore, for fear that we should bow down to the creature rather than to the creator, but we venerate the relics of the martyrs in order the better to adore him whose martyrs they are”
        (Ad Riparium, i, P.L., XXII, 907). `

        The Catholic Church says that relics may be the occasion of God’s miracles, and this is supported by Scripture. The use of the bones of Elisha brought a dead man to life – an unequivocal biblical example of a miracle being performed by God through contact with the relics of a saint. Similar examples are the cases of the woman cured of a hemorrhage by touching the hem of Christ’s cloak (Matt. 9:20-22) and the sick who were healed when Peter’s shadow passed over them (Acts 5:14-16). And then there are miracles through handkerchiefs or aprons carried away from Paul to the sick, (Acts 19:11-12).

        There is a perfect congruity between present-day Catholic practice and ancient practice. If you reject all Catholic relics today as frauds, you must also reject these biblical accounts as frauds.

        • Inspector General

          Jack. The Inspector does appreciate bone relics like these as they provide a continuity to the past. Very important that. But taken as an idea, bone veneration is faintly ridiculous, even on a good day.

          • Well, yes, it’s something only a son or daughter of the Catholic Church would properly appreciate such is the misrepresentation put about since the Reformation. Still, it seems Anglicans are now coming round to understanding its scriptural provenance.

          • Inspector General

            Now, one would dearly like to see one of Henry VIII’s bones. The Inspector is convinced the scoundrel died riddled with syphilis which not only ruined his own fecundity, but that of his children…It all fits, you know!

          • Jack believes Henry’s bone is to be avoided at all costs. It is generally accepted he died riddled with syphilis.

          • Pubcrawler

            Au contraire, the theory is now generally rejected.

          • Even so, Jack would still advise leaving Henry’s bone alone.

          • Anton

            I question your comment about Henry’s children. Of the three by his wives who lived for more than a few months, his son and heir died aged 15 before marrying, his daughter Elizabeth never married, and his daughter Mary married aged 38; even today it is not uncommon to have trouble conceiving for the first time at that age. Henry acknowledged one son by a mistress, Elizabeth Blount, but he died aged 17 without consummating his marriage. I am not saying Henry was not syphilitic, but the tale of his offspring does not need syphilis to make sense of it.

          • Inspector General

            Congenital syphilis either killed his children or rendered them infertile. Now, Elizabeth Tudor is interesting. She was around during the new age of discovery and no doubt heeded her physicians advice – don’t marry and have children, otherwise she too might give birth to a dead deformity… enough to put any woman off, don’t you think?

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            It didn’t stop Piers Morgan’s mother now, did it?

          • Inspector General

            A very humorous quip, madam, but as the fellow lives and breathes, he may well sue the knickers off you for that jolly…

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Yes, I take your point dear Inspector. Perhaps discretion requires a tactical redaction…

          • Inspector General

            That’s my gal…

          • Anton

            Please back up your assertion that “Congenital syphilis either killed [Henry VIII’s] children or rendered them infertile”. Also, can you show that a syphilitic father was known in that era to cause problems for his offspring and that Elizabeth’s physicians warned her?

          • Inspector General

            As one has said before, dig the blighter up and we’ll prove it that way. Syphilis if present will be in his bones…

            As for the second part of your post, the scientists, if we can call them that, were beginning to understand this gift from the new world 500 years ago…

          • Anton

            Even if he did test positive it wouldn’t tell you when he contracted it relative to the births of his children.

        • David

          The point is Jack, that when Jesus’ presence, and later that of Peter, led to cures these two people were the living channels through which the Holy Spirit could effect miraculous cures. But to compare those occurrences, recorded in The Bible, with the use of tiny fragments of long dead holy people is stretching incredulity to the extreme. Those scenes recorded in Scripture do not justify venerating bones.

          • And Elisha’s bones? And Paul’s handkerchief? Besides, both Jesus and Peter are still living, as are all the Saints and martyrs.

          • David

            Yes Jesus, Peter and Paul are all living alongside the other martyrs I agree.
            So it comes down to whether you believe that the Holy Spirit tends to move and act, responding through the faith of those believers who are physically, corporeally alive now, as is my position, or whether alleged remnants can also play some part, which is your belief presumably.

          • Catholics also believe in the “Communion of Saints” – the spiritual union of the members of the Christian Church, living and dead, those on earth, in heaven, and those in purgatory. Relics remind us of the holiness of a saint and his cooperation in God’s work. They inspire us to ask for intercessory prayers of that saint and to ask also for the grace of God to live the same kind of faith-filled life.

          • David

            Yes Jack, as we all, east and west, share the same Nicene Creed, few Christians will need reminding of “the communion of Saints”. Indeed in NT terms we are all “saints”. But now you are widening the discussion considerably and space and time presses.

    • Inspector General

      One would like to think Len is being treated for severe shock right now and is unable to comment accordingly….

      : – >

      • David

        Hopefully he might be enjoying the sunshine ?

        • Inspector General

          Don’t think that man enjoys anything. That would be a sin for a born again…

          • Uncle Brian

            Don’t underestimate Len, Inspector. We get occasional glimpses of his strongly developed sense of humour, though he does his best to keep it out of sight most of the time …

    • Relics are not worshipped, silly man. As Jerome put it: “We do not worship, we do not adore, for fear that we should bow down to the creature rather than to the creator, but we venerate the relics of the martyrs in order the better to adore him whose martyrs they are”

      • David

        Sorry Jack, that doesn’t assuage my fears regarding this practice. Indeed “venerate” sounds rather concerning to this protestant. If nothing else, veneration, distracts from our sole object of worship, our Creator God.

        • That’s probably comes from a deeply instilled Protestant aversion to many things Roman Catholic.

          Many Protestants shy away from the sacramental aspects of Catholicism. In the sacraments, water, wine, bread, oil, and the imposition of hands result in the giving and infusion of grace. Related to the sacraments are the sacramentals, i.e. objects such as medals, blessed palms, holy water, and ashes. Catholics believe their use can lead people to receive or respond to grace. Many wrongly believe that the Church teaches that these sacramentals actually provide grace. The relics of saints – the bones, ashes, clothing, or personal possessions of the apostles and other holy people, are held in reverence by the Church and sometimes associated with miraculous healings and other acts of God.

          • David

            Noted. This protestant certainly shies away from such strange practices.

          • The use of relics as channels of God’s grace are attested to in scripture. If you are a “Bible Believing Christian”, you cannot discount this.

          • David

            Hhmm ! Really !

          • chiefofsinners

            Not hardly. One incident with Elisha is about it for first degree relics. It’s not much to build an entire medieval industry on.

          • “Of all the thousands of miracles recorded in scripture you’ve got one linked to a dead man’s bones.”

            Thousands of miracles recorded in scripture? Something of an exaggeration. Besides, you’ve overlooked the New Testament reference to second degree relics of Saint Paul.

            There’s the use of Saint Paul’s handkerchief: ” … when handkerchiefs or aprons which had touched his body were taken to the sick, they got rid of their diseases, and evil spirits were driven out.” (Acts 19:12)

            God’s work is done through the lives of these holy men, and His work can continue after their death. People were drawn closer to God through the lives of holy men, and their remains inspire others to draw closer even after their deaths. This is the perspective of the Church.

            Relics remind us of the holiness of a saint and his cooperation in God’s work. At the same time, relics inspire us to ask for the intercessory prayers of that saint and to also ask for the grace of God to live the same kind of faith-filled life.

            “By that logic we might look to Balaam’s donkey and build a belief system around asses. Oh, hang on… we already have.”

            Sir, that’s no way to refer to another person’s faith. You’ll cause upset to Carl and he is (allegedly) a sensitive chap.

          • Old Nick

            And are attested as early as the comrades of S. Cyprian (martyred in 258) laying cloths in front of him to collect his blood when he was beheaded.

        • Old Nick

          An archdeacon is venerable – and he is also the crook on the bishop’s staff.

    • Old Nick

      Can you not distinguish latreia from proskynesis ?

      • The ghost of Calvin lives on ….

        • Old Nick

          I was thinking of Origen, actually

          • Did he disapprove of relics too?

          • Old Nick

            No he distinguished latreia, worship of the sort which should be offered only to God from proskynesis, veneration or ‘bowing the knee’ – rather as when you address the local mayor as “Your Worship” (at least we do in England, in New York you call him Hizzonner”, I think ?). This is fundamental to the Orthodox theology of icons, and there is a whole dossier of patristic opinion from the Seventh Oecumenical Council (Nicaea II of 787) which illusrtates the point.

          • Old Nick

            The logic behind the veneration of relics derives from the doctrine of the Resurrection of the Body, of course.

  • carl jacobs

    You know, I sometimes suspect that Mrs Proudie (the picture of Victorian rectitude that she is) might on occasion slip a double entendre into her writings. It’s hard for an American to tell. But then I think “Not our Mrs Proudie!”

    • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

      Certainly not! On the subject of relics, I was once given a finger which came as quite a surprise. It purported to be the digit of St. Ogg, an Anglo-Saxon mystic who sat on a stone in the middle of Epping Forest for 30 years – now venerated as the patron saint of piles… Nasty, gnarled old thing…

      • Uncle Brian

        Did that unfortunate incident occur in St Ogg’s parish church, dear Mrs P? And did you complain to Dr Kenn? It must have come as a severe shock to him to learn that a bishop’s wife, no less, had been subjected to such an indignity in his church. Given a finger, indeed! Nothing of that kind ever happened in Barchester Cathedral … did it?

        • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

          I fear it is way beyond our Kenn…

      • chiefofsinners

        You are not, by any chance, that unfortunate woman who probably, maybe, no evidence can be published but definitely was possibly the victim of George Bell? And deserves a fat payday from the Canterbury coffers?

        • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

          I shall send you a bar of carbolic soap. You know how to use it….

          • chiefofsinners

            Wash my hands of George Bell and hang him out to dry?

    • chiefofsinners

      Double entendre? Double entendre? What language is this?
      She is an English rose, and would never de-flower herself with French letters.

  • Inspector General

    “All hail the bone! All bow before the bone! Take your hat off sir, and respect the presence of the bone.”

    It has occurred to the Inspector that Becket, as a ROMAN CATHOLIC prelate, would not have been too impressed by an early outbreak of Protestingism among the clergy. With the agreement of the king, they would have both come down hard on the malcontents. Very Very Hard.

    Just so you all know…

  • Father David

    A misplace apostrophe – Mrs. Proudie, the shame of it. Should that not be Mothers’ Union for I do believe that there is more than one dear lady in that August and worthy organisation?

    • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

      Ah indeed, how careless of me! But then, shouldn’t ‘august’ be lower case?

      • Uncle Brian

        … And shouldn’t ‘misplace’ have a ‘d’ on the end?

  • Father David

    I repent in dust and ashes over the absent “d” and the upper case “A” – I shall flagellate myself with nettles before bedtime and repeat a dozen Hail Mary’s as a penance. May I be cast into outer darkness. Bang goes my chances of becoming the next Incumbent of Puddingdale.

    • Inspector General

      For shame, sir! For shame…

      • Father David

        Pray, why?

        Fr. D

        Sent from my iPad

        • Inspector General

          You would dare play fast and loose with the English language on this of all sites? And there is an American colonial viewing too. How on earth are we to get him to use the Queen’s English when you cannot…

          • carl jacobs

            I’ve been watching a show on Youtube called “Anglophenia.” It’s fascinating. Do you really have two separate water taps for hot and cold water?

          • Anton

            thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth – from Revelation 3.

          • The Explorer

            You can have. Or you can have mixer taps. Sometimes both types exist within the same house.

          • Inspector General

            Yes we do Carl. But where on earth did you hear about plumbing? You might now consider your fawcett in the yard inadequate for your needs…

          • carl jacobs

            Proper spelling of British place names:

            1. Aberstwyth should be spelled Aberistwith.
            2. Bicester should be spelled Bister.
            3. Cirencester should be spelled Sirencester.
            4. Derby should be spelled Darby.
            5. Dumfries should be spelled Dumfreese.
            6. Ely should be spelled Eelee.
            7. Frome should be spelled Frume.
            8. Gloucester should be spelled Gloster.
            10. Hartlepool should be spelled Hartleypool.
            11. Llanelli does not belong in the English language.
            12. Leicester should be spelled Lester.
            13. Leominster should be spelled Lemster.
            14. Loughborough should be spelled Luffburrah.
            15. Marlborough should be spelled Mullburrah.
            16. Marylebone shiould be spelled Marlibun.
            17. Mousehole should be spelled Mausel.
            18. Reading should be spelled Redding.
            19. Powys is spelled correctly.
            20. Slough is spelled correctly, but the pronunciation should be changed to rhyme with “slow.”
            21. Tottenham should be spelled Tauttenam.
            22. Fowey should be spelled Foy.
            23. Islay should be spelled Eyeleh.
            24. Gwynedd should be spelled Gwinen.
            25. Ruislip should be spelled Riselip.
            26. Pontypridd should be … why is there a place named Pontypridd anyways?
            27. Durham should be spelled Duhram.
            28. Woking is OK, but could be spelled Woeking to remove ambiguity.
            29. Worcester should be spelled Wuster,

            30. And the number on place-name rule … Manchester should never be followed by a word beginning in “U.”

            Glad to be of help.

          • There’s an American tourist in London who asks where the elevator is. The Brit replies, “We don’t have elevators. We have lifts.” The American responds, “I think I know what to call it. Remember, we Americans invented the elevator!” “That’s true,” the Brit replies, “but we invented the language.”

          • carl jacobs

            How fortunate that the Americans arrived to fix it.

          • Q: What’s the difference between the US and yogurt?

            A: If you leave yogurt alone for 300 years, it develops a culture.

          • carl jacobs

            Q: What do you call an Englishman in the knockout stages of the World Cup?

            A: A Referee.

          • An American tourist visits an oil-rich country. He gets into the customs checkpoint, the customs agent asks him “Occupation?” The American replies “No, just, visiting.”

          • carl jacobs

            Q: What’s the difference between Cinderella and the England football team?

            A: Cinderella wanted to get to the ball

          • Carl, you’re behaving like a football hooligan and Mrs P. will object.

            When the Brits shoot, the Germans duck!
            When the Germans shoot, the Brits duck!
            But when the Americans shoot – everybody ducks!

          • carl jacobs

            Q: Did you hear about the Englishman who fell into barrel of beer and drowned?

            A: He came to a bitter end.

          • Is it true you have drive-up ATM machines with braille lettering in America?

          • carl jacobs

            Actually I think the drive-up ATM I most frequently use might have braille letters. Not sure. But:

            1. People will also walk up to drive-up ATMs.
            2. There is an economic efficiency being purchased by making a common product.

          • Hmm … isn’t it a bit risky if you’re blind using a drive-up ATM?

          • Old Nick

            Should Cirencester not be spelled Sissiter ? And Marlborough should surely be spelled Bra .

          • carl jacobs

            Should Cirencester not be spelled Sissiter

            Not according to this fine example of British oppression of the ever-helpful Americans.

            Not a bad British accent he affects, don’t you think? Americans are multi-talented,

          • David

            Watch out !
            There’s a contingent of the Llanelli Free Riflemen heading your way.
            As for Pontypridd, surely that means bridge over the river prydd – a Latin/Welsh hybrid ? I admit I am taking a punt on that one. Is there a linguistics expert in the House ?

          • Anton

            If you are taking a punt on it then it had better be a fairly calm river.

          • David

            It’s so long since I was there I really can’t remember whether it is a raging, in spate, foaming, fluvial conduit of a beast, or a nice, little, calm Welsh trickle of a stream. Being relatively high up, more towards the watershed, I suspect that it moves at a fair pace. So I ‘d better use a sturdier craft I think. Thanks for the good advice !

          • Royinsouthwest

            No, “Pontypridd” does not mean bridge over the river Prydd or Pridd because there is no such river! “Pont” does mean bridge and where it occurs in place names then 9 times out of 10 it will be followed by “y” which means “the” which in turn will be followed by the name of the river but “Pontypridd” is the exception that proves the rule.

            The river that runs through Pontypridd is the River Taff. (In Welsh it is spelt Taf with one “f” and is pronounced “Tav”). When one particular bridge over the river was being built the labourers lived in a sod house – i.e. a house made of earth, or in Welsh “ty pridd”. “Ty” means “house” and “pridd” means “earth”.

            The town that was growing up by the new bridge was at first called “Newbridge” in official documents but in Welsh it was referred to as “Pont y Ty Pridd” or “the Bridge of the House made of earth”. There is another “Newbridge” just a few miles to the east so to avoid confusion the English name was soon dropped and a shortened version of the Welsh name was used instead, “Pont y Ty Pridd” becoming “Pont y Pridd” or, as it is normally written, “Pontypridd”.

          • David

            Blessings ! A linguistic expert appears just when you need one ! Excellent and many thanks Roy.

          • Anton

            No. 11 is a true statement. Ask any Welshman, who will not be pleased to have his native language confused with English.

          • Politically__Incorrect

            Carl. You forget that our quaint snd non – phonetic place names are our last defence against a foreign invasion, along with turning the road signs 180 degrees

          • Anton

            In America they use the road signs for target practice from a moving vehicle. There is often much to be said for our American cousins.

          • Uncle Brian

            Carl, what improved spellings would you suggest for these names?
            1. Arkansas
            2. Illinois
            3. Atlanta
            4. Baltimore
            5. Tucson

          • carl jacobs

            Well, by definition American spelling is correct so no real changes need to be made. Besides, there are only a few silent consonants in that whole list. You know as opposed to silent syllables.

            Now, we do have some difficulties. Take the name “Brett Favre”. He is a famous retired Football player. His name is pronounced “Farve”. But that is what happens when you let French influence into a country. Fortunately we managed to limit the damage.

          • (Ahem) ….. that’s American football player and he’s only famous in the USA and amongst the followers of this somewhat localised sport.

            We wont mention his irregular lineage.

          • carl jacobs

            Yes, Jack. He is an American who played football. That was apparent from the context.

          • No, Carl. He’s an American who played American football.

          • carl jacobs

            No one has ever called football “Gridiron.” That’s just a made-up name imposed on the sport by foreign entities. “Soccer” is a British appellation and resolves the problem quite nicely.

          • As described in Outdoor Sports and Games (1911), by Claude H. Miller:

            A football field is 330 feet long by 160 feet wide. At each end are goal posts set 18 feet 6 inches apart, with a crossbar 10 feet above the ground. The field is marked off in chalk lines similar to a tennis court, these lines being 5 yards apart. The centre of the field where the play starts is 55 yards from either end. It is usually customary to run lines parallel to the sides of the field, also 5 yards apart, but as a field is but 160 feet wide the first and last of these lines are but 5 feet from the side lines instead of 5 yards. The lines on a football field make a checkerboard effect and have given to the field the name of “gridiron.”

            As a result, the name of the field, “gridiron,” was applied to the game itself. The ball would be snapped in the grid in which it was downed on the previous play. The grid system was abandoned in favor of the system of yard lines and hash marks used today, but the term “gridiron” has survived.

            Especially outside of the U.S. and Canada, the terms “gridiron” and “gridiron football” are often used to distinguish the North American sport from other codes of football. “Gridiron” is the normal word for the sport in Australia and New Zealand. In some cases the terms are used specifically for American football, sometimes even in distinction from Canadian football, though it is now often used as a blanket term for both North American variants.

            In the United States and Canada, the game is known unambiguously as football; the term gridiron is often used in a more poetic sense or for more colorful newspaper headlines. Association football is known in these countries as “soccer” and rugby football, seldom encountered in the U.S., is known as “rugby” or, especially in Canada, “English rugby” (“Canadian rugby” is an archaic name for Canadian football).

            (Wiki)
            So, as we’re posting on a British weblog, it’s best all round if we use the term Gridiron football and, where necessary, clarify if we mean the American or Canadian variant.

          • carl jacobs

            Yes, Jack. Everyone knows a football field is called the gridiron. But to suggest anyone has ever said “Let’s go play some gridiron” … no. In 1905, when the sport was almost banned, and the game was codified into the beginnings of what we know today, it was known as “football.”

          • The term originated in the USA. Whatever the modern usage, Jack will follow the example of Australia and New Zealand and call it Gridiron football.

          • carl jacobs

            All football terms originated in the US because its an American game. That doesn’t mean the sport was ever known as anything other than football. It evolved from Rugby football, for goodness sake. You need to find me some primary source material that shows someone calling the game “Gridiron” – like the “College Gridiron League” or a newspaper account of “Gridiron scores”.

          • Gridiron it is then.

          • Now this is worth watching:

          • Uncle Brian

            I’ve never been to Cirencester, but if any communicant here has, perhaps he or she could confirm whether it’s true as I was told once:

            Most people in England call it “Sirencester”, but if you go there, when you start getting close you’ll hear it called “Sissister”. And then when you actually arrive in the town, it’s “Sister”.

          • Inspector General

            The Romans thoughtfully built a road from the legionary fortress of Gloucester (until the legion was packed off to South Wales) to Cirencester. The locals there call the place “sester”. Pronunciation is best with a piece of straw hanging from your lips….

          • Royinsouthwest

            1. Aberstwyth should be spelled Aberistwith.

            Don’t be ridiculous! The letter “i” in Welsh is pronounced “ee” and that would be wrong. Aberystwyth is in Wales and the name means “mouth of the Ystwyth” (the Ystwyth being a river).

            24. Gwynedd should be spelled Gwinen.

            Rubbish! It doesn’t sound remotely like “Gwinen”. In English there are two completely different sounds that are, quite illogically, both represented by the same pair of letters – “th”. One is the sound at the start of the word “this” and the other is the sound at the start of the word “thing”.

            We have the same two sounds in Welsh but, since our spelling is far more logical than English spelling ,those two sounds are represented in different ways. Just like the English the Welsh use “th” to represent the sound that occurs in the English word “thing” whereas we use “dd” to represent the sound occurring in the English word “this”. Consequently the “dd” at the end of the place name “Gwynedd” is pronounced like the “th” in “this” or “the”.

          • carl jacobs

            Now, wait a minute here. You added a vowel. The video presented the spelling as “Aberstwyth”. Every American will pronounce that by making the “A” rhyme with ‘fat’, putting the accent on the first syllable, and making “berst” into a single syllable. Now you added “Y”. Is it spelled “Aberystwyth”? Because now we would read that as a four-syllable word instead of three. The accent moves to the third syllable and the y’s become short i’s. We would say “aa-ber-RIST-with” where the r sound gets bridged across the second and third syllables. And that would be pretty close to British pronunciation.

          • Uncle Brian

            Yes, the name does have that first yin it, and in England, at least, we pronounce it as you say, with the stress on the wrist.

            Two you left out: Greenwich, pronounced either Grinni ch or Grinnidge, and Warwick, pronounced Worrick.

            Norwich, too, follows the same rule as Greenwich. Ipswich, on the other hand, I think is always pronounced with the w in it, Ip-Switch.

          • carl jacobs

            Americans will see GMT and say “GREN-itch” Mean Time. But we don’t ever spell out the acronym. I don’t think most American know it is spelled Greenwich. The connection registered with me only when you wrote it but if you had asked me without providing the spelling I wouldn’t have known. I probably have read it in a book but it just gets instantly translated to GMT and you don’t even notice.

            One of the problems we have is that English places names transported to the US are pronounced naturally in the US. . Warwick and Norwich are pronounced here with the “w” verbalized. So we take that pattern with us when we go to the UK.

          • Uncle Brian

            Yes, it happens the other way round, too. The first time, many years ago, I saw the name Greenwich Village I read it to myself as Grinnidge Villidge, the two words almost rhyming with each other. And once when I’d booked into a hotel called the Warwick, it came as a surprise to hear it pronounced as two words, War Wick.

          • Inspector General

            One’s favourite, and it’s not too far away from Inspector Towers (2 days pony ride, or 90 minutes on the train) is ‘Ystrad Mynach’. Have a go at that…

          • carl jacobs

            The initial ‘Y’ has either a long “e” sound or a short “I” sound. I will guess the latter. The “a” probably rhymes with the German “a” in Stadt. The “Y” is a long “I” sound. Accent on the first syllable for both words. My pronunciation would be …

            IH-strahd MY-knock

          • Inspector General

            Close…

            “Us Strad My Nack”.

          • Inspector General

            By the way, the Gloucester Aircraft Company, of Meteor Jet fame, did indeed change its spelling to ‘Gloster’ especially for American types…

          • chiefofsinners

            Otherwise, how would one know the difference?

    • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

      Puddingdale is out of the question, but you might be in line for the Perpetual Curacy of Stopingum…I will speak to my Lord the Bishop. Of course the ‘father’ will have to be dropped….

      • bluedog

        Part of the Low Church faction, are we?

        • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

          Evangelical dear Bluedog…evangelical…

          • That’s low church Mrs. P. Have you and the good Bishop experienced the Great Awakening yet?
            Ole!! Ole!! Ole!!

        • chiefofsinners

          Read your Barchester Chronicles, bluedog. Mrs Proudie is the doyenne of the low church faction.

          • bluedog

            That sounds rather dull. One always suspects that Low Churchmen are closet Non-Conformists or even Presbyterians. They all seem to share the same addiction to Good Causes. One would hardly expect a Low-Churchman to be a Sound Hunting Parson, for example. Anyway, our Mrs Proudie comes across as decidedly irreverent, what ever her Very Reverend husband’s leanings.

  • bluedog

    Dear Mrs P, your scoop regarding the bones of St Thomas a Becket (or is that Bouquet? Remember her?) being in Hungarian hands reminds this communicant of an old joke, the recipe for Hungarian omelette: first steal two eggs.

    One senses that a roaring trade could be at hand. A very good friend, Mr Mehmet al-Salami of Istanbul, advises he can supply several container loads of the bones of St George on request. Perhaps you can assist by renting a storage unit in Barchester where the relics can be appropriately repackaged by migrant workers. The empty containers would be used for their accomodation so no additional expenses will be incurred.

    • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

      Migrant workers? Fie….we have the gentlemen of Hiram’s Hospital who are in need of purposeful employment. We could do a nice line in Holy boned corsets too…

      • bluedog

        Excellent. However Mr Al-Salami does have a printing enterprise (for Turkish passports with Euro-visas incorporated) and felt his team could easily switch to National Insurance documentation.

        Certainly a Holy-boned corset could be more than just spiritually uplifting, inspirational!

  • chiefofsinners

    Presumably every living person in Hungary has already come to work in the UK. They are now opening the graves in Budapest to find enough migrants to keep our wages falling and our house prices rising.
    But do not fear: thanks to Dave’s emergency brake the bones of Tomasz Beckett will have their tax credits phased in over the next four years.

    • Inspector General

      True story this. When the Mayor of Budapest was informed that Hungary had been admitted into the EU, he said now the city’s sewers could be repaired.

      • chiefofsinners

        I fear that all their ‘sewers’ have come here to compete in the Great ‘British’ Sewing Bee. – Following the victory of a bunch of Hungarians in the 2013 ‘Britain’s’ Got Talent show.
        Meanwhile British pensioners of British Steel are having their pensions cut so the company can be sold on from one bunch of foreigners to another.
        It seems that our country exists for the benefit of everyone except us.

        • Inspector General

          You’ll just have to start voting UKIP, won’t you?

          • chiefofsinners

            Let’s start a British party. All the Hungarians would come and join it.

    • David

      There’s an interesting article on “Breitbart London” describing how many Germans are settling in conservative, right wing Christian Hungary, as they no longer feel safe or at home in their own country, due to massive Muslim immigration.

      • It’s happening everywhere. I saw a documentary on the BBC about the last whites of the East End.

        http://metro.co.uk/2016/05/14/people-are-leaving-east-london-because-of-immigrants-bbc-documentary-reveals-5882272/

        It’s not only the security aspect although this does play a big role, it is natural human nature to want to stay with one’s own herd as is quite clearly demonstrated in the documentary.

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b07czw5k/last-whites-of-the-east-end

      • Anton

        The Hungarians won’t let Islam in; they know what it is to be ruled by Islamic forces, for their land was 160 years under Ottoman occupation after the Battle of Mohacs in 1526.

        • David

          Exactly. For so long western Europe has been protected from Islam by the nations like the Serbs, Hungarians and Poles, that have acted as guardians of the gate, that many in the west are unaware of the threat that political Islam resurgent represents. Laws designed to propagate the nonsense that all cultures are of equal value, cultural relativism, have further confused and disarmed our culture. Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali’s excellent book, which from me memory is titled “Triple jeopardy for the West” sets out many of these points very clearly.

  • Father David

    Dear Mrs. Proudie, you rightly took me to task over my upper case “August” may I, with the deepest respect, point out that your “father” should begin with an upper case “F”. I do hope that pointing this out won’t affect my chances of becoming the next Perpetual Curate of Stopingum? I can assure you that I do not usually play “fast and loose” with the Queen’s English and that my homilies and sermons are quite on par with Father Slope’s.
    With regard to the Inspector’s observations – well, in charity, all I can say is how much I used to enjoy him in that televisual programme “On the Omnibuses”. That Reg Varney and Olive did make me chuckle and I loved his catchphrase – “I hate you Butler”. Such fun and jolly japes.

    • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

      Surely father should have a capital when used with a name – Father David – but when referring simply to a generic ‘father’ it is lower case? I thought I had referred to father in the latter sense, but I am getting on a bit and memory is not what it was. The Perpetual Curacy of Stopingum is yours…

  • Eustace

    Becket’s ancestry was exclusively French.

    Damned immigrant! Send his bones back to Normandy where they belong.

  • Father David

    Eustace, still William the Bastard’s little victory in October 1066 I should think that many in this sceptered isle have French blood coursing through their veins surely you don’t want them all sent back across the Channel in order to reside in France?

  • Father David

    Before I am accused again of playing “fast and loose” with the Queen’s English – for “still” read “since”. These damnable computers think they know better than you do and automatically change words to suit themselves. I fear that the Age of Arthur C Clarke’s Hal will soon be upon us and these machines will become our masters rather than our slaves.

  • len

    Becket was murdered because he wouldn`t remain silent(as we all know) Islamic militants are murdering Christians in many parts of the world today because of their faith in Jesus Christ and for that reason alone. This is a war of’ ethnic cleansing’ of which world Governments take little or no notice. Christians are being raped, enslaved, tortured crucified beheaded and all this in the name of the Islamic god. Becket was hacked to death by men wielding swords. It seems little has changed since Beckets time?.
    Christians are being silenced in the west by the process of ‘political correctness’ a device to silence those who do not subscribe to government code of’ ‘no absolute truth’ and ‘no absolutes in moral conduct’ devised by secular governments much less violent but the aim is the same.
    Thomas Beckets death is a cautionary tale indeed…

    • Anton

      I’m with you re Islam but Becket is a poor analogy. He was standing for such abuses as the trying of clergy in ecclesiastical courts even for secular offences. (We know just how impartial those courts were, from the Inquisition.) Also for the right of the papacy – a foreign secular power among other things – to choose England’s bishops. His murder was an atrocity (and not necessarily Henry II’s responsibility) but he was in politics up to his neck, unlike the Christian martyrs of the Middle East today.

      • len

        The fact is no one has the right to take another’s life because they disagree with their politics or their religion.That is the analogy.

        • Anton

          Actually I support the death penalty for treason. But I’m with you re Islam.

      • Jack believes it is commonly accepted the Inquisition Courts operated at high standard. Of course, heresy was defined by the Church and individual, heterodox opinions were not acceptable and, at the time, deemed to be treason.
        Any Church should have the right to appoint its bishops free from State interference.

        • Anton

          Jack believes it is commonly accepted the Inquisition Courts operated at high standard

          If you accept torture as a way of gaining evidence, and apart from the fact that the inquisitors were paid from the sale of goods confiscated from persons found guilty, a high standard indeed.

          • Practices varied between countries and between different Inquisitions. In some, the Church retained control. In others, the secular authorities. Compared to the prevailing standards of the time, in general terms, the Inquisition operated at a high standard.

            Anyone wishing to beat the Church about the head will grab two favourite clubs: the Crusades and the Inquisition. The medieval world was not the modern world.

          • Anton

            That torture to gain confession is legal protocol of “high standard” is a disgraceful statement. Whatever be my motivations, you didn’t have to say that. The church is held to eternal standards, not the standards of the mediaeval world or even the modern world (which Rome did so much to avert; see eg Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors).

          • Oh, please, spare Jack do! Don’t be so melodramatic and do stop trying to score points. This from a man who, given half a chance, would restore Mosaic law and execute adulterers and homosexuals.

            As Jack said, the medieval world is not the modern world. The position of the Church is stated in the Catechism:

            “In times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the Pastors of the Church, who themselves adopted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture. Regrettable as these facts are, the Church always taught the duty of clemency and mercy. She forbade clerics to shed blood. In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person. On the contrary, these practices led to ones even more degrading. It is necessary to work for their abolition. We must pray for the victims and their tormentors.”
            (2298)

            The Church, following the judicial customs of the day, allowed for torture as a part of the judicial procedure. It was not the invention of the Church. Roman law allowed judicial torture. Under the medieval understanding of law, the accused in a capital crime could only be convicted if there were full proof of his guilt. This entailed either the testimony of two witnesses, being caught in the act, or personal confession. If the first two were lacking, and everything else pointed to the guilt of the accused, torture was used to extract his confession. To be considered a valid confession, the accused had to confess freely the next day.

            “The church is held to eternal standards, not the standards of the mediaeval era or even the modern era.”

            Protestants and secularists, from the 16th century to the present, have wildly exaggerated the evils of the Inquisition in order to further their own ends. The Church is a human organisation and those in its hierarchy are not perfect beings. They make mistakes and sin too. In regard to the use of torture, the Church did not invent the practice, but regulated and codified existing civil, judicial practices and aimed to correct the abuses of individual inquisitors who were arbitrary and cruel.

            From the perspective of secular authorities, heretics were traitors to God and king and therefore deserved death for treason. From the perspective of the Church, however, heretics were lost sheep that had strayed from the flock. As shepherds, the pope and bishops had a duty to bring those sheep back into the fold. So, while medieval secular leaders were trying to safeguard their kingdoms, the Church was trying to save souls.

            Most people accused of heresy by the medieval Inquisition were acquitted or their sentence suspended. Those found guilty of grave error were allowed to confess their sin, do penance, and be restored to the Body of Christ. The underlying assumption of the Inquisition was that, like lost sheep, heretics had simply strayed. If, however, an inquisitor determined that a particular person had purposely departed out of hostility to the flock, there was nothing more that could be done. Unrepentant or obstinate heretics were excommunicated and given over to the secular authorities.

            It was the secular authorities that held heresy to be a capital offense. The simple fact is that the medieval Inquisition saved uncounted thousands of innocent people who would otherwise have been killed by secular lords or mob rule. The Inquisition provided a means for many heretics to escape death and return to the community.

          • Anton

            Wiser men would keep silent when faced with the heinous and biblically utterly unjustifiable evils of the Catholic Inquisitions.

            It was the secular authorities that held heresy to be a capital offense.

            It is the secular authorities that decide sentence for any crime. What you don’t say is that the Catholic church pressed the authorities for the death penalty for heresy. In England, for instance, it was introduced in 1400 with the passing of De Heretico Comburendo. In case you doubt me, it opens with these words: “on the advice of the prelates and clergy of… England…” Ecclesia non novit sanguinem (the church has not known blood) is sanctimonious claptrap in view of this fact.

            You say that heresy was regarded as treason and that the Inquisition actually preserved people from arbitrary sentence imposed by local rulers. How then do you explain that Count Raymond of Toulouse refused Innocent III’s demand to persecute the Cathars (who held genuinely heretical views) – because they were good citizens? Innocent’s response was to raise a genocidal Crusade against the Cathars which promised their lands to knights who took part in the massacre. This was the church’s response, by the way, not the the response of the secular authorities. What you say is the opposite of the truth. The fact is that the mediaeval Catholic church refused to tolerate peaceable Christians in Catholic lands who refused its authority, such as the Waldenses.

            In 1252 Innocent IV approved the Inquisition to use torture, in his bull Ad Extirpanda. As this document stipulated that limbs should not be broken, it was partly regulating practises that were already going on. But why did Innocent IV not simply rule out torture as an un-Christian practice, as Pope Nicholas I had done in his responses to the questions of the Bulgars several centuries earlier? Aristotle had pointed out that torture was as likely to elicit lies as truth, to make it cease (Rhetoric, 1.15.26).

            The most common tortures used by the Inquisition, following the instructions in Ad Extirpanda, were the rack (stretching of the body, dislocating major joints), the tightening around limbs of cords (which might reach to the bone), waterboarding (forced ingestion of water, short of drowning) and strappado (hoisting in unnatural positions; the victim might be repeatedly lifted and dropped short of the ground so as to tear muscles and dislocate joints). Can you imagine Christ telling his disciples that they may torture people like that in order to find out their beliefs?

            To be considered a valid confession, the accused had to confess freely the next day.

            Knowing that if he or she did not, torture would be resumed. Do you call that “free”? The author of that revisionist paragraph in the Catechism should be ashamed.

          • More one sided, anti-Catholic, sanctimonious twaddle, Anton. Jack is not defending the Inquisition, just putting it into its historical context which you refuse to do. And of course Christ wouldn’t sanction torture by the Church. What a nonsensical polemical question.

            “What you don’t say is that the Catholic church pressed the authorities for the death penalty for heresy.”

            Where’s the evidence for that statement? The opening sentence of De Heretico Comburendohardly supports your assertion.

            “Whereas, it is shown to our sovereign lord the king on the advice of the prelates and clergy of his realm of England in this present Parliament, that although the Catholic faith builded upon Christ, and by his apostles and the Holy Church, sufficiently determined, declared, and approved, hath been hitherto by good and holy and most noble progenitors and predecessors of our sovereign lord the king itl the said realm amongst all the realms of the world most devoutly observed, and the Church of England by his said most noble progenitors and ancestors, to the honor of God and the whole realm aforesaid, laudably endowed and in her rights and liberties sustained, without that the same faith or the said church was hurt or grievously oppressed, or else perturbed by any perverse doctrine or wicked, heretical, or erroneous opinions.”

            And the next sentence show why it was considered a matter for the State:

            “Yet, nevertheless, divers false and perverse people of a certain new sect, of the faith of the sacraments of the church, and the authority of the same damnably thinking and against the law of God and of the Church usurping the office of preaching, do perversely and maliciously in divers places within the said realm, under the color of dissembled holiness, preach and teach these days openly and privily divers new doctrines, and wicked heretical and erroneous opinions contrary to the same faith and blessed determinations of the Holy Church, and of such sect and wicked doctrine and opinions they make unlawful conventicles and confederacies, they hold and exercise schools, they make and write books, they do wickedly instruct and inform people, and as such they may excite and stir them to sedition and insurrection, and make great strife and division among the people, and other enormities horrible to he heard daily do perpetrate and commit subversion of the said catholic faith and doctrine of the Holy Church, in diminution of divine Worship, and also in destruction of the estate, rights, and liberties of the said Church of England; by which sect and wicked and false preachings, doctrines, and opinions of the said false and perverse people, not only most greatest peril of the sou1s, hut also many more other hurts, slanders, and perils, which God prohibit, might come to this realm, unless it he the more plentifully and speedily holpen by the King’s majesty in this behalf; especially since the diocesans of the said realm cannot by their jurisdiction spiritual, without aid of the said royal majesty, sufficiently correct the said false and perverse people, nor refrain their malice, because the said false and perverse people do go from diocese to diocese and will not appear before the said diocesans, but the same diocesans and their jurisdiction spiritual, and the keys of the church with the censures of the same, do utterly condemn and despise; and so their wicked preachings and doctrines do from day to day continue and exercise to the utter destruction of all order and rule of right and reason.”

            i>”In 1252 Innocent IV approved the Inquisition to use torture, in his bull Ad Extirpanda …. But why did Innocent IV not simply rule out torture as un-Christian practice, as Pope Nicholas I had done in his responses to the questions of the Bulgars centuries earlier?”

            Well, you’d have to ask him. The bull was issued in the wake of the murder of the papal inquisitor of Lombardy, who was killed by Cathar’s in 1252. The bull argued that as heretics are “murderers of souls as well as robbers of God’s sacraments and of the Christian faith …”, they are “to be coerced – as are thieves and bandits – into confessing their errors and accusing others, although one must stop short of danger to life or limb.”

            The following parameters were placed on the use of torture:
            – that it did not cause loss of life or limb;
            – that it was used only once; and
            – that the evidence against the accused was virtually certain.

          • Anton

            Why use torture if the evidence is virtually certain? And what of Aristotle’s point (Rhetoric, 1.15.26) that that torture was as likely to elicit lies as truth, to make it cease? Do these things not show that the aim of the Inquisition was to deter any dissent from Catholic doctrine, through awareness of the threat of torture?

            “Used once” was interpreted very broadly: once per offence, or during an open-ended interrogation, for instance. Bones were not to be broken nor blood shed, hence the use by the Inquisition of waterboarding, strappado and the rack. So that’s alright then…

            I asked: “why did Innocent IV not simply rule out torture as un-Christian practice, as Pope Nicholas I had done in his responses to the questions of the Bulgars centuries earlier?” You replied: “Well, you’d have to ask him.”

            You are not bad at ducking questions when it suits. Think yourself lucky that your inquisitor is me and not a practised mediaeval Dominican.

            De Heretico Comburendo is written, as was the custom of the era, as a single massive sentence, enacting the burning of so-called heretics and beginning “on the advice of the prelates and clergy of… England”. So I have done what you challenged me to: shown that the English Catholic churchmen of the era pressed the secular authorities for the burning of so-called heretics. I say ‘so-called’ because these were the Lollards. But they were the true Christians and Catholics were the heretics, for burning people who disagree peaceably with you is itself a heresy, of course.

          • “So I have done what you challenged me to: shown that the English Catholic churchmen of the era pressed the secular authorities for the burning of so-called heretics.”

            Jack doesn’t read De Heretico Comburendo that way. The clergy advised there was a problem – they didn’t necessarily advocate for a particular solution. Besides, in executing heretics (also guilty of treason) they would be following Mosaic Law that you so admire.

          • Anton

            But that is the convention in how laws were phrased.

            It is a matter of public record that the mediaeval Catholic church tolerated no persons in Catholic lands who refused its authority while calling themselves Christian. Rome enforced its own ecclesiastical monopoly wherever it had the earthly power to do so. To that end it libelled persons such as the Lollards and Waldenses as heretics.

            “in executing heretics… they would be following Mosaic Law that you so admire.”

            I have explained to you multiple times before that it is only the moral components of Mosaic Law that Christians should advocate for in their non-covenant nations. You seem to do the opposite of admire Mosaic Law, namely deplore it. We may discuss its applicability and we may agree that ALL law is crisis management since the Fall, but I remind you that much of Mosaic Law is God speaking in the first person; treat it with reverence. Or are you a clandestine church liberal who, like other such, believes that the Law came together after the return from Babylon and was written to look like it was given at Sinai as a pious forgery? The favour of an answer is humbly requested.

          • “Or are you a clandestine church liberal who, like other such, believes that the Law came together after the return from Babylon and was written to look like it was given at Sinai as a pious forgery?”
            Most certainly not!

          • Anton

            Most glad to hear it!

          • Just as a separate question, do you suppose Jesus, under the New Covenant, would support execution for the sins adultery and homosexuality? You never did say.

          • Anton

            The written Law of Moses is viewed throughout the Bible as something given verbatim by God. Jesus is divine, so you will find no difference of opinion between him and his father. The question of the applicability of the Law of Moses beyond ancient Israel requires several points to be taken into account:

            1. God did not impose Mosaic Law on ancient Israel; the people were asked if they wanted it and they voted Yes by acclamation.

            2. The New Covenant is with the individual believer and the collective of these, the church, is a voluntary grouping, so that a legal code with civil penalties is inappropriate to the church.

            3. The animal sacrifices are definitively outdated by the Crucifixion of Christ.

            4. The definition of sin did not change at the Crucifixion, and human nature did not change at the Crucifixion.

            Taking all of these into account, my position (which has not changed) is that faithful Christians should advocate within their nations for those components of Mosaic Law that govern interpersonal relations (so-called ‘moral’ law), should advocate to nonbelievers using ‘natural law’ arguments (which are limited because man’s moral compass is defective since the Fall, although of some use), but should not impose these laws unilaterally even if able, for some consensus is needed.

          • If possible, through consensus, would you advocate the use of capital punishment for rape, incest, bestiality, adultery and homosexuality? Or, how about consensual sex where a betrothed woman loses her virginity to a man?

            And how about offences against God – e.g. sacrificing to other gods, false prophecy, blasphemy and Sabbath breaking?

            Then there’s smiting, cursing or persistently disobeying one’s parents, kidnapping, contempt of court, and false witness to a capital crime?

            And do you believe Jesus would approve?

          • Anton

            Point 2 means that offences against God are to be dealt with as church matters – St Paul explained to the Corinthians that the most to be done was to throw somebody out, perhaps with a prayer stating that the person was now loosed to Satan. As for the rest, I call for Christians to educate people that the appropriate laws governing interpersonal behaviour are the Mosaic ones. Why would you wish me to be more specific? And what is wrong with my argument to this end that such Mosaic Laws provide divine precedent; that God is wiser than man; and that neither the definition of sin nor human nature changed at the Crucifixion?

          • “As for the rest, I call for Christians to educate people that the appropriate laws governing interpersonal behaviour are the Mosaic ones.”
            Stop being so sheepish, Anton. Jack is asking about suitable punishments for breaches of the moral law. We agree the code given in the Ten Commandments is applicable across time, cultures and peoples. Indeed, it is written universally on the hearts of men.
            Jack is asking if the punishments are universal too? Do you advocate executions in line with Mosaic Law?

          • Anton

            The punishments are part of the Law of Moses, are they not? I’ve explained that Christians should argue in their nations for the components of the written Law of Moses that govern interpersonal relations. I’ve also explained why: neither the definition of sin nor human nature changed at the Crucifixion. Stop being sheepish about what you consider wrong with that argument! I’ll add that death for convicted murderers, at least, was commanded to all mankind after the Flood in a covenant with Noah and his family that has never been restricted to a single nation or part of its history.

          • So, to be clear, you believe the death penalty is still an appropriate punishment for:

            Rape;
            Incest;
            Bestiality;
            Adultery;
            Prostitution;
            Homosexuality; and
            Consensual sex where a betrothed woman loses her virginity to a man.

            Then there’s:

            Smiting a parent;
            Cursing a parent;
            Persistently disobeying a parent;
            Kidnapping;
            Contempt of court;
            Rebellion and insurrection against the government; and
            False witness to a capital crime.

          • Anton

            So to be clear, do you think God was wrong to command death for those things in ancient Israel; and what has changed in human nature between then and now?

          • You haven’t answered, Anton.

          • Anton

            Haven’t I? Have you?

          • Ok, so Jack will take it you do support the death penalty for the breaches of the moral law listed.

            No, Jack does not agree the Mosaic penalties remain applicable today. They were particular to Israel as God’s chosen people and not to the nations and not to us today.

            First, to clear one matter up. The death penalty was not a mandatory penalty for most crimes. Numbers 35 is about the institution of cities of refuge for those who committed manslaughter. Verses 30-31 read, “Moreover, you shall not take ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death.” This makes it clear that convicted murderers had to be executed, but it implies that the penalty in other crimes might be commuted through a ransom, probably some monetary compensation (Prov 6:32-35; and Matt 1:19). Just as God accepted the blood of a sacrificed animal in place of the blood of the sinner, so the victim of a crime other than murder might accept a lesser penalty than death. When someone confessed to a sin, God mercifully treated the sin as a sin that could be atoned for by sacrifice (Num 5:5-8); so also, God’s representatives who governed Israel might commute a sentence for a penitent criminal.

            Next we need to consider the penalties in the context. Israel was set up with a system of graded holiness, which applied at several levels. Spatially, the most holy place was the Most Holy Place; the Holy Place was somewhat less holy, and the courtyard of the tabernacle less holy still; the land of Israel was more holy than surrounding lands, but not so holy as the tabernacle. Personally, the High Priest was holier than the other priests, but the priests were holier than the people, and Israelites holier than the Gentiles. The holiness of places, persons, and things was determined by their nearness to God, who is Thrice Holy.

            With regard to the death penalty in Mosaic Law, the pattern is that the nearer one is to God, and the holier one’s status, the more severe the penalties. Adam was in the garden where God walked, and so what appears to be a “minor” sin received the death penalty; the Priests were near to God, so rearranging the order of the sacrifice was enough to get Hophni and Phineas killed; a priest’s daughter who ‘”played the harlot” was executed and burned (Lev 21:9), but a layman’s daughter who played the harlot might be executed by stoning; Israelites lived in the holy land, the land God claimed and the land where He lived, and therefore they were subject to more severe penalties than the nations.

            The death penalty in the Mosaic law functioned within a system of holiness that no longer exists today. We could make this kind of totality transfer only if there were a nation that was in the same “holy” status as Israel. But there is no such nation in the New Covenant. The Mosaic system was a system for the holy community of God.

            Paul uses the Mosiac death penalty formula in 1 Cor 5. He is dealing with a sexual sin that was a capital crime in ancient Israel (1 Cor 5:1; Lev 20:11), and he uses a phrase from Deuteronomy that refers to “purging” an offender through execution (1 Cor 5:13; cf. Deut 13:5; 17:7; 21:21; 22:21). Yet, Paul is not referring to execution, but to exclusion from the church. The sinner in Corinth is the be delivered to Satan (1 Cor 5:5). This doesn’t mean that he is eternally damned, which is not a decision the Corinthians could make. It means he’s turned out of the church, back into the world under the dominion of the accuser. This is a severe penalty. But it is also a merciful discipline, which intends to destroy the “flesh” so that the “spirit” can be saved.

          • Anton

            Interesting line of thought – thank you – but I don’t agree, and will gladly explain myself.

            For what was a capital crime in ancient Israel, St Paul uses expulsion from the church in 1 Cor 5 (probably with a particular form of wording), because the church is not a nation with a national code of law but a voluntary grouping. The reason for capital punishment in the OT is repeated clearly – “You must purge the evil from Israel.” Here Paul is purging the evil from the church by analogous means. But Paul is for the death penalty in society in principle, for in Romans 13 he speaks with approval of the sword as a tool in the hands of the authorities; he can mean nothing else.

            I agree that in many situations in ancient Israel the death penalty could be commuted if the wronged parties were willing to accept compensation of certain forms. The distinction between criminal and civil law was less clear in the Law of Moses than in our land today, where it has perhaps grown too sharp.

            But Leithart’s point about gradations of holiness in ancient Israel, which he correctly states is not relevant to modern nations, is scarcely reflected in the Law of Moses. The penalties for theft or injury are not greater if the wronged person is a priest; nor does the word of a priest count for more in court than the word of anybody else. The king is not the law but is under the law, as Nathan sharply reminded David.

  • Anton

    Dear Mrs Proudie

    I thought to go to Evensong today in one of our cathedrals at some distance, before continuing going on to an evening engagement; but was shocked to discover that the service of Evensong had taken place at 3pm. That is scarcely evening, would you agree? May I please have your assurance that your husband the bishop would not contemplate such a thing in his seat?

    Yours faithfully
    Anton

    • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

      At Barchester Evensong takes place at 4pm.