Naked at the altar

Every day brings confirmations to the dawning truth that no satire can keep pace with the modern world.

It seems as if it was only yesterday when I made sly comments on women priests complaining about the sexless attire they have to wear. Responding to the growing demand, a famous designer began to fashion clerical clothes accentuating womanly charms.

I was so impressed with the deeply slit skirts that I let my fantasy flow freely, opining, among other things, that a nicely revealing décolletage wasn’t incompatible with the dog collar. I even went so far as to suggest that the reverend ladies perhaps ought to celebrate mass in the nude (having looked at their photographs, I withdrew the suggestion).

A priest friend took exception to my flippancy, especially when I wrote that such a development could give a whole new meaning to the entreaty “Take, eat: this is my body”. “Blasphemy,” he said, correctly, and I was suitably contrite.

Neither of us realised that I was not only blasphemous but also prophetic. For the world has caught up with my morbid satirical vision, moving it a step closer to reality.

Downing Street has just appointed the Venerable Karen Gorham to the bishopric of Sherborne, and I shan’t bore you with yet another diatribe about female priests and especially bishops.

What’s worth mentioning is the interesting fact that the freshly minted bishop is the author of an impassioned apologia pro vita sua… sorry, wrong book. The apologia the Venerable Karen did write was about the delights of nudism.

Doubtless to spare the aesthetic sensibilities of the outside world, the new bishop no longer practises what she preaches, as it were. But she used to, throughout her youth.

Going buck naked, she wrote a few years ago, “is just about doing things which one generally does with clothes on.” Since Her future Grace generally officiates church services… well, you get the picture.

“It is a natural way of doing things, and gives people freedom,” she added. Far be it from me to debate a theological point with a professional, but Jesus, in whose divinity Her naked Grace presumably believes, talked about the truth making one free.

I think, from my lowly theological position, that he meant the truth of God, not that of walking about with one’s floppy bits flapping in the wind.

Sinking even deeper into the exegetical hole I’ve dug for myself, I may even suggest that going starkers isn’t natural any longer. It was so only before Original Sin, a concept the Venerable Karen must have studied at the seminary but has since forgotten.

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they – well, all of us – were punished. “And the eyes of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.”

Of course the Venerable Karen might have received a personal revelation that Original Sin no longer applies and, if so, by all means she should share it with us.

But in the absence of such a Damascene experience, her advocacy of nudism makes her sound vulgar, ignorant and probably agnostic. Along with her unmarried womanliness, these are just the right qualifications to become a bishop in today’s Church of England.

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