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THE SAD AND BELLIGERENT STORY OF ARCHBISHOP BLOGGINS AND CANON GROGGIN AND THEIR FINAL FALL FROM GRACE
Recounted by Bruce Kent and Valerie Flessati. Illustrated by David Rumsey
The United Nations Decade for the Culture of Peace
Part one: Bloggins v. Groggin - The Archbishop takes up the battle.
Archbishop Bloggins had just heard about the Decade for the Culture of Peace. Fighting fit as ever, he had no intention of allowing the other bishops to steal a march on him.
“I’m the senior bishop,” he reminded his secretary, Father Peep, “and when it comes to instructions from the Vatican I’ve got to hold the fort. This is no time to let down our defences. As far as the Pope is concerned, I’m in the front line. So fire away, Peep. Let’s hear all about it.”
Peep had been wondering for several months how to trigger the whole thing off. He knew that getting the diocese involved would be a long shot. It might even prove to be a bit of a battle. Getting ideas into the Archbishop was like crossing a minefield. One never knew if he would explode. Sometimes the two of them had been at daggers drawn, but if Peep thought he was in the right he just soldiered on - even if he occasionally had to beat a retreat.
He need not have worried. This time he won hands down. In a few minutes he had captured the Archbishop’s enthusiasm, lock, stock and barrel. The first target would be a new statue outside St Bingo’s cathedral: St George perhaps, slaying the dragon of war with his spear. In no time at all the Archbishop was rolling up his sleeves, ready for the fray.
“In this peace business we are going to be in the vanguard,” the Archbishop chortled. “All we have to do is get the opposition into our sights and come out fighting. I know that the older clergy, especially the deans, can be difficult, but we are going to stick to our guns. Thanks to you, Peep, I’ve got lots of useful ammunition. If the deans don’t like it, they will just have to bite the bullet. It’s time to declare war.”
Canon Groggin, the senior dean, was the main problem. He and the Archbishop had been trained in Rome and regarded themselves as officer class. Groggin was a really big gun in the diocese and he was always banging on about something. He was endlessly up in arms about liturgical changes. He fought for the rights of senior clergy whenever he could and took no prisoners even when dealing with bishops. An awkward old battleaxe, he could make a stand about almost anything. He even had his knives out for the local justice and peace group.
The Archbishop knew he could invoke authority, but that could be a two-edged sword. Rather than shooting from the hip it would be better to keep his powder dry until the Canon had shot his bolt. Then, armed with Peep’s information he would flatten the Canon. “After all, Groggin is a bit of a loose cannon,” thought the Archbishop, laughing at his own joke.
So he summoned Groggin, and two of his most obstructive friends. The battle raged and the roaring could be heard in the corridor for half an hour. Despite the cross-fire it ended in a massacre. Victory went to the Archbishop. Groggin or not, the diocese would honour the Decade for the Culture of Peace and the deans themselves would make a financial contribution to the expenses. Perhaps they could also make a killing by selling Papal Peace Mugs at the cathedral. Even Groggin had warmed to that idea. A truce seemed possible.
But, foolishly, the Archbishop was not covering his back, or preparing for a counter attack. Groggin was heard to mutter as he left Archbishop’s House that he might have lost a battle but that he certainly hadn’t lost the war.
Part two: the Archbishop calls for a blitz on peace, spearheaded by the Catholic Missionary Society.
Part three: Groggin throws down the gauntlet but shoots himself in the foot.
Archbishop Bloggins had fired the first shot, but Canon Groggin had no intention of running up the white flag – not after years of giving others their marching orders. Some of his fellow deans thought he was going a bit over the top, but they responded to a war cry when they heard one.
At a secret meeting in the dusty library of St Pancras the Tedious Groggin struck the first blow. To stop this Culture of Peace nonsense he would hit the Archbishop where it hurt – his finances – even if it meant stabbing him in the back. If there was to be a fight to the death Groggin intended to draw the first blood.
Canons Murphy, Moriarty and McGuinness all agreed to keep in step. A surprise assault on the annual Peter’s Pence collection should force the Archbishop to surrender. He could never stand up to the cut and thrust of an attack by a united front of deans and canons collectively on the warpath. Junior curates – led by that insufferable Peep - might try to take up the cudgels on behalf of the Archbishop but such inexperienced recruits would soon be overrun. “Once the Pope sees his income going down the Archbishop could get the chop,” growled Groggin, satisfied with the day’s work.
But then the bombshell dropped. Unfortunately for Groggin this treasonable discussion had been overheard by Mrs O’Reilly, the parish housekeeper, whose own scouts had their ears to the keyhole. Loyal to Peep, she saw the lie of the land. Straight as an arrow, she left her kitchen and rushed full tilt across town to the episcopal palace of St Bingo’s. No need. An advance guard had already warned the Archbishop of a clerical fifth column.
Determined to hold his fire until he saw the whites of their eyes, yet fearing that the Pope may already have heard the distant wardrums, Archbishop Bloggins biffed off a telegram to Rome. “Your Holiness,” it read, “nothing shall undermine your finances. The enemy are within, but you can count on me. I will be loyal to the death.” Then he turned to Peep. “Mobilise the Legion of Mary, Peep, and the Knights of St Columba. We need reinforcements. Tell them to stand by and await further orders. We’re not fighting a lost cause. This isn’t some minor skirmish: it’s mortal combat!”
With that the Archbishop struck camp, boarded his Daimler, and swept down on St Pancras for a first strike while Groggin was still off guard.
Part four: The Archbishop enlists a forceful ally, Canon Ball, Chaplain-general to the Forces. Can the military chaplains rescue papal funds?
Part five: The Swiss Guard, a lean and deadly Vatican commando, mounted on their battle-bus, outflank Groggin.
Part six: Capitulation and Defeat.
Groggin, having spiked the guns of the Swiss Guard, put his head over the parapet and set his sights on a direct appeal to the Pope (a big shot if ever there was one). But the Pope, who had already had a blow-by-blow account of the trench warfare in the diocese, went ballistic. Not for him Nelson’s eye. He intended to knock the stuffing out of both Bloggins and Groggin. In fact he had been gunning for Bloggins for some time. A bishop who couldn’t deal with his canons had to be demoted, Decade for the Culture of Peace or not. The Pope wanted a bishop of really high calibre to take over the See. At the same time that obstreperous old veteran, Groggin, who had rashly threatened papal finances, had to be taught a lesson.
For a week or two it was a battle of nerves. The Pope wasn’t sure of his next move. So he called a council of war and sent for his aide-de-camp, Sister Victoria, his favourite Mother General. A canonical sharp-shooter, she scored a bulls-eye: Groggin would be ambushed and Bloggins hoist on his own petard.
The two prelates were summoned to Rome to meet their Waterloo. As they were paraded before him, the Pope told them that the ordinary foot-soldiers of their diocese were becoming mutinous and fed up with such gung-ho leaders. No battle-honours for either of them. They were being reduced to the ranks.
Then, in a surprising manoeuvre, the Pope, who had always fought against women’s ordination, emerged as a doctrinal turncoat. His blockbuster was devastating: Sister Victoria herself would be consecrated as a bishop and would take over the Diocese of St Bingo. Bloggins and Groggin would get the Church equivalent of being court-martialled and shot at dawn. They were consigned to the silent monastery of St Sanctimonious, a no-man’s land for quarrelsome clerics.
Unrepentant, Bloggins tried a parting shot - a garbled threat to join the Orthodox. But this was no time for rearguard action. “I’m the officer in charge around here” the Pope retorted. “Off you go now, and don’t forget to salute my old friend the Abbot when you get there. Oh, and peace be with you,” he added, giving them the V sign, as they were driven away by Peep. (This young clergyman, outranked on all sides and realising that prudence was the better part of valour, had wisely managed to remain neutral.)
The new bishop was flushed with victory. After years of whispering into the papal ear she had at last won her spurs. She was soon going great guns in the diocese and knocking spots off all opposition. The Pope himself would come to England, launch the Decade for the Culture of Peace, and unveil outside St Bingo’s cathedral a new monument - of St Boadicea in her chariot, sword uplifted as she vanquished her enemies.
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