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Showing posts from September, 2010


I'm reading what everyone else seems to be reading at the moment - Jonathan Franzen's 'Freedom'.
The following article first appeared on the website of New Humanist magazine on 17th September 2010.

Pilgrims visiting the open-air masses of Pope Benedict XVI this weekend will not gain entry unless they have first obtained a “Pilgrim Pack” via their diocese’s “Pilgrim Leader”. This can be had in exchange for a £25 “contribution”. Perhaps hoping to tap into Simon Cowell’s devout following, the Pilgrim Pack includes a twelve-track CD, featuring welcome messages, prayers and songs by Catholic musicians, including Britain’s Got Talent finalist Liam McNally. It is the first time pilgrims to see the Pope are to be charged in this way – yet it won’t be a first for the tat that comes with it.

When Pope John Paul II visited in 1982, my grandmother camped out all night in Manchester’s Heaton Park. She returned with a handbag of prayer cards, rosary beads, bottles of “holy water” and a “souvenir photo”. It was no surprise. Growing up I was surrounded by Catholic iconography. There was the wood-…

Beyond Belief - Review

A review of Beyond Belief - The Catholic Church and the Child Abuse Scandal, by David Yallop.

Investigative writer David Yallop has a knack of bringing books out in the eye of the storm. His book ‘Deliver us from Evil’ on the Yorkshire Ripper, was delivered to the publishers just before Sutcliffe was caught. He had time to quickly insert details of his capture.

Similarly, with his new book, ‘Beyond Belief’, Yallop brings events right up to August of this year, just as the Catholic Church in Belgium is going into meltdown with abuse allegations.

Of course, the current situation in Belgium has added another heavy dose of fuel to the raging bonfire upon which burns the decency the Church was for so long accorded. The Belgian Bishop, Roger Vangheluwe, the most senior Catholic clergyman in Europe to be directly linked with the allegations, has just gone into hiding after admitting he abused a young nephew for 13 years.

Yallop has been able to build upon the research carried out for his o…

Booker Shortlist

The Booker shortlist has just been announced :

Peter Carey for Parrot and Olivier in America

Emma Donoghue for Room

Damon Galgut for In A Strange Room

Howard Jacobson for The Finkler Question

Andrea Levy for The Long Song

Tom McCarthy for ‘C’

A couple of rooms, a question, a long song and a singular letter! And Carey of course.

I'm not at all bowled over by this little lot. It's all a bit too predictable.