Sources Say Planned Bishops Conference Piss Up 'Not Going Well At All'

Sources close to the Bishops Conference of England and Wales have revealed that a giant piss up, planned to take place after Pope Benedict XVI has left the UK, has become unstuck and may yet have to be cancelled.

The piss up, organised through a high profile media co-ordinator with a proven track record in promoting abortion and Tony Blair, seemingly simultaenously, has, according to insiders, spiralled in cost well over the £5000 first estimated, to well over £25 million.

In an embarrassing turn of events, it looks like the all ticket piss up, to take place at a yet unnamed brewery, was paid for entirely by parishioners of the Dioceses of England and Wales.

According to one parishioner of St Cuthman's in Rochester, grassroots Catholic anger is growing. "This is an incredibly bad move by the Bishops," said one man, "I wouldn't miss a piss up with our Bishops for the World. What better way to get to know your Bishop than to have a few beers with him and discuss the Papal Visit which we'd unfortunately been unable to attend. I went onto the website and found loads of ways of paying for and donating to the piss up, but no way of getting an actual ticket. I'm half-wondering whether I shouldn't just turn up on the day and see what happens. After all, at least one of those beers must be mine! If I don't get in, then, well, I'll have a few cans of Skol Super outside and probably have a fight with someone, get a kebab and go home." 

Concern is growing in Catholic circles and questions remain over the competancy of Mgr Andrew Summerskill, the man in charge of the event, who critics claim must take the most responsibility for one of the most poorly organised piss ups since Christ Himself had to intervene at the request of His Blessed Mother at a wedding party in Cana.

Why, for instance, was the organisation of the piss up given to someone who charges 300 times the average going rate for media-based-booze-event-choreography than most firms? Is it just a co-incidence that the media and events management firm who specialise in huge piss ups is so close to the Blairs, when both the former Prime Minister and his barking wife have been so open in their dissent of Church teaching on contraception, the sanctity of marriage and even abortion? Why can't ordinary Catholics attend the event and have a serious word with the Successors of the Apostles about their apparent shameless lack of reverence for the Successor of St Peter, his Teaching Authority in matters of Faith and Morals and desire for liturgical renewal? Why is it that the majority of the tickets have been snapped up by the editorial team of The Tablet and the Bishops Conference's administrative team based in Eccleston Square?

One source close to the Vatican said, "We are not surprised by this news. We know that the Church is a divine institution founded by God, made up of imperfect humans, but things appear to be particularly bad in the UK. That the Bishops of England and Wales couldn't organise this event does not surprise us at all."


gemoftheocean said…
For sure, BYOB!!

I bet the Eccelston Sq. guys are the kind of cheap ba$tard$ who go out to dinner with you and then when it comes time to divy up the bill don't seem to realize that they may also have to chip in for tax and tip....they slink off to the restroom when that part is being settled.
Coffee Catholic said…
It took me a few minutes before my American brain could partially understand the meaning of "pissup" lol!
Disgusted from Tunbridge Wells said…
A highly insulting and disrespectful post. Congratulations, you have achieved a new all time low!
Physiocrat said…
It sounds like the ultimate organisational failure.
Papal trip organiser said…
It's not surprising the visit is over budget, most papal visits are...

The World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008 cost the New South Wales taxpayer $64 million (£37.5 million) more than had been budgeted, according to the reported findings of the State Auditor-General. The cost of transforming Randwick Racecourse - venue for celebrations led by Pope Benedict XVI - and returning it to the racing industry was more than double the original estimate for the entire event at $41 million (24 million pounds). The figure appears in an unpublished draft report by the Auditor-General, Mr Peter Achterstraat, cited in Sydney's Sun-Herald newspaper last weekend.
Austin Ivereigh said…
The costs of Pope John Paul II's 1982 visit are still being paid off by the Church of England and Wales. The organisers do not want to see the same happening again.
Is the papal trip in trouble? said…
It all seemed to be going so well. The itinerary was agreed following a Vatican delegation in January; the costs were estimated, and the fundraising got underway. But now, according to a blistering article in the Spectator and reports in the Daily Telegraph, Pope Benedict XVI's 16-18 September visit to the UK is in "disarray" or even in "jeopardy" because of escalating costs. The two major public events of the visit -- an open-air event in Hyde Park and the beatification ceremony of Cardinal Newman at Coventry Airport -- are no longer listed on the official papal visit website amid speculation that they will need to be abandoned in favour of small-scale, cheaper venues.

Catholics are alarmed, and want to know the truth. It hasn't been easy to find out. On Thursday, when the Spectator article appeared, the Catholic Church in Scotland issued the soothing statement that north of the border the plans were unchanged; but the Church of England and Wales seemed only to confirm the speculation by going silent until eventually issuing a statement that the program was unconfirmed -- and would remain so until next month.

The author of the Spectator article is a well-known conservative Catholic polemicist whose feline, toxic, and often manic blog posts are relished principally for entertainment rather than enlightenment. They are a more reliable guide to his fixations -- the superiority of preconciliar liturgy, the sell-out of modern Catholic bishops to liberalism, the perils of Islam -- than to what is really going on in the Church.

But it would be a mistake to discount the story altogether merely because it is refracted through an unusually distorted lens.

Thompson is the go-to journalist for disgruntled Catholic conservatives, including many priests and at least one bishop, who regularly use him to air their anxieties. "Let sunlight be the best disinfectant", his source -- Thompson describes him as "one of his sources", making out that there are many; but that is a journalistic device to protect a principal informant -- says at the end of his article, justifying why he has given him so much information.

What is true in this story is buried under the usual fog of Thompson fixations and exaggerations. To what he calls the "secretive Magic Circle" of liberals who he thinks runs the British Catholic Church he adds here a "Blairite cabal" -- people close to the former prime minister and his Faith Foundation who have been influential in bringing about the visit, and then, bizarrely, links the two. The Catholic hierarchy of England and Wales, he claims, "can be regarded as one of the last bastions of Blairite patronage and back-slapping".
Is the popal trip in trouble? 2 said…
Paranoid nonsense aside, it is true that the papal trip is having to be re-negotiated -- with a new body of government officials. And it is true that it is not as fixed as it was even a month ago. There have been obstacles and unanticipated problems -- the papal nuncio, for example, is seriously ill. But the principal reason is the one that appears nowhere in Thompson's article (doubtless because it's a boring one). The UK has a new Government. The Conservative-Liberal coalition (I have profiled it in the current issue of America) has a very different mindset to the previous Labour government, and is promising, as all new administrations do, a fresh start.

The state visit to the UK of Pope Benedict was promoted and agreed in principle under Tony Blair and finalized with enthusiasm by his successor, Gordon Brown. That has implications for September's visit. The Foreign Office under its new minister, William Hague, would doubtless never have agreed to the visit's purpose as "to strengthen ties between the UK and the Holy See on global action to tackle poverty and climate change". The new government has yet to make the papal visit its own; that is one element of uncertainty.

The other is that the new Government has ordered a review of public expenditure -- and that includes, necessarily, Pope Benedict's state visit. The organisers have found themselves having to justify to a new set of public officials the public costs of the state element of Pope Benedict's itinerary, and having to negotiate hard to ensure that the Church is not burdened with much higher costs than the estimated £6.75m which, under the previous Government, the Church agreed to contribute as its share of the estimated £15m total.

Thompson says that the £6.75m figure is "a woeful underestimate"; but the papal visit organisers are committed to ensuring that that sum does not increase. The costs of Pope John Paul II's 1982 visit are still being paid off by the Church of England and Wales. The organisers do not want to see the same happening again.

I understand that some of the negotiations have involved pedantic discussions about the points at which Pope Benedict ceases, as it were, to be a state visitor, and becomes "a pastor" -- and who (state or Church) therefore bears the cost. These discussions are never easy; and many are having to be held all over again with a new set of political authorities.
Is the papal trip in trouble? 3 said…
There are similar complications with Coventry council -- the local authority of the area where the Newman beatification is to take place. Because the council's makeup changed at the 6 May elections, its new officials are examining the contracts which they have inherited.

Until these negotiations reach a resolution, neither the Hyde Park nor the Coventry events can be finalised and confirmed -- nor the numbers attending either event (assuming they still happen, which few doubt they will). Thompson accuses the organisers of mismanagement: "It's hard to think of a surer recipe for pushing up expenditure than announcing venues before properly securing them", he says. What he doesn't point out is that trying to claim to a new government that agreements with a previous one are fixed and unnegotiable would be extremely bad manners -- and politically unintelligent.

What is needed now is a champion of the papal visit trusted by the new Government who can smoothe the negotiations between the organisers and the Foreign Office.

Enter Lord Patten, the former governor of Hong Kong and European commissioner, who -- the Telegraph reveals today -- will work with teams from both the Church and the Foreign Office to keep the visit on track. Lord Patten is a Conservative, and close to the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols. It is an inspired choice -- which even Thompson (who tries to spin him as a member of the "Magic Circle") accepts.

It would be extremely sad if the two major public events of Pope Benedict's visit in September need to be cut back. Turnout is vital: it is how Catholics make visible their presence in the public square. Many Catholics hope the visit's organisers -- Lord Patten -- make a vigorous case for a papal visit being treated differently from a rally or demonstration. Let us argue for 150,000 in Hyde Park and 200,000 in Coventry Airport. The current message going out to Catholics -- asking them to contribute to events which they could be asked to stay away from -- is the wrong one, and it needs to be corrected as soon as possible.

It may, eventually, not be possible to agree that kind of turnout -- security and cost obstacles may prove too great. But to claim, as Thompson does today, that the English and Welsh bishops regard the visit as an inconvenience they are anxious to get out of the way, is so patently off the wall it makes you question everything else he has written. The organisers want a success. Catholics want a success. The Foreign Office wants a success.

And surely, God willing, it will be a success.
Acknowledgements said…
Is the pope's visit really in trouble? taken from Austin Iverleigh's article in America magazine.
Dominic Mary said…
Damian is a reliable, and very well-informed, journalist with a wide range of excellent sources, some (at least) of which are not readily available to the Hierarchy; and he's certainly not as naive as you would appear to suggest.
Do you perchance have an agenda yourself ?
It's Austen Ivereigh's comment in the America Catholic magazine. Hot off the press, so to speak. Catholic Voices, eh? Who'd have believed it!?

And we thought that Catholic Voices were created to defend the Pope. Turns out the whole thing was about defending the Bishops of England and Wales.
Cardinal Hume replies to Laurence said…
''There can be no unity with the Pope without unity with his fellow bishops also''

Cardinal Hume's address (warning?) to the Latin Mass Society AGM sometime in the 1980s
dont make me laugh said…
dominic mary - don't fool yourself, damian666 is far from reliable. his stories are usually non-stories based on gossip and inuendo spinned to cause controversy designed to undermine the bishops.
are you really saying damian66 has sources which the e&w bishops dont have access to? more innuendo, you're trying to suggest he has the ear of rome which is just unbelievable.
his sources are, as austin says, the same hyped up trouble making margins of the trad fringes.
you can be certain that damian will not be meeting old benny if he does come here in sept.
Et Expecto said…
Does anyone think that the Mgr A S could organise the consumption of Alcohol in a place of its manufacture.
Papal visit commentator said…
yes - after all wasn't fr AS responible for organising the 1982 papal visit? Therefore he has previous experience which is highly relevant.