This is a slightly misleading headline for today’s Holy Smoke podcast, because Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith, Lara Prendergast and I didn’t spend a lot of time duscussing episcopal rudeness. The episode is actually about snobbery in church circles. Fr Alexander muses on clergy who name-drop like dowagers while Lara picks her way through the minefield of wedding invitations.
But rude bishops do crop up, because it’s something I’ve wanted to get off my chest for years. That’s a bit rich, I know, given some of the articles I’ve written. But I reckon most journalists would rather deal with a slimeball from the Palace of Westminster than an over-promoted middle manager in a mitre (or cardinal’s red hat).
Don’t be misled by the fact that their favourite piece of jargon is ‘I welcome…’ With a few exceptions, bishops welcome nothing that disturbs their chauffeur-driven routine.
Not all of them are social climbers, of course. Others go through a pantomime of inverted snobbery. And some switch between the two, depending on their audience. But when they think no one is looking – well, ask an ordinary priest what happens if Bishop Nick or Patrick or Barry doesn’t receive the deference he expects. (Handy tip for Catholics: although you must never call bishops ‘my Lord’ because that’s not in ‘the spirit of Vatican II’, if you treat them like lords you won’t go far wrong.)
But don’t get me started. Listen to this indiscreet podcast instead.