Saturday, July 04, 2015

Ship of Fools, tired, joyless and dull

the mystery worshipper'The Ship of Fools' have now changed significantly their review of Mass here, they have removed the downright untruths, the inventions of their reviewer, they have however left in the untruth that 'G' the lady with the phone simply left the church, with the implication that she did not return, which is untrue and disrespectful to her, she returned within 30 seconds she told me. However despite the significant change no-one from the 'Ship of Fools' has contacted me to apologise or even offer any explanation for their original mendacious posting.

However a few people whose Churches were trashed by this website have been in contact, they have told me that their complaints have just been shrugged off or treated with contempt. I realise that the only reason why this Ship of Fools bothered to change our review in our case was because I have the ability to punch back on this blog, most of their other victims do not have this ability.

There is something very sinister not just in the image of Ship of Fools mystery shopper, a grinning bandit but seeing liturgy as a consumer product is sinister, rather than the source and summit of a Church's life. Liturgy is debased if it is just seen as show which is how these Fools present it.

It is from our liturgy that vocations spring, currently from us more than any other parish in our diocese, from our liturgy that we care for the poor and the homeless: over seven thousand five hundred people fed last year and from our liturgy we are able to offer help through Brighton Voices in Exile to hundreds of asylum seekers and victims of torture each year and from our liturgy that the deep prayer life and sanctity of many of our parishioners grows. To simply treat liturgy as an entertainment, with a 'cast' of performers is a blasphemous affront. Using an anonymous correspondent to do this seems to be the worst kind of misuse of the internet, it is simply trolling.

We are certainly happy to have casual visitors but we expect them to come to worship, that is not what the Ship of Fools representative did. I know nothing of this organisation, the reviewer, I suspect like all their other reviewers, seems to be of a certain age, I bet there is no-one under thirty on their staff. Their website is messy, I think it is supposed to be humorous but it its humour is tired, it has nothing to say about the Church today. Tiredness seems to be a mark of this website, it was founded in 1997 and probably hasn't changed much. Hardly surprising that their correspondent with a stage Irish name, "Bunbury O'Remus", which I find offensive, is concerned about maniples, or lighting fittings rather than those sleeping rough or going hungry on our Brighton streets or having nightmares because of their torture in Syria or Zimbabwe. As one of my parishioners who was outraged by the mendacity of the original review said, "Their review seemed like a one night stand rather than a member of a family". Well if Ship of Fools is about one night stands, it is hardly a night of passion, more the mechanical acts of a tired old prostitute, that hawks her unwanted wares from parish to parish each week in the expectation someone might give her a handful of small change.

Their site does not show much joy at the Ship of Fools; it is tired, joyless and desperately dull! My score 1 out of 10, and I am being generous. It tags itself as being "self-critical" and "Christian", maybe once it was, now it is formulaic and dull, and not a little self-referential. Possibly once it might have made Christians think, those days are long gone. Perhaps as some of you have suggested, I should not waste my time discussing this website, and giving it space here only gives it publicity but as I say it is mendacious, that always needs addressing.

see Eccles on The Ship of Liars.


Oakes Spalding said...

After your previous piece, I was going to write something on it. (I discovered they gave my church TWO bad reviews.) You made some observations that are spot on but that I was too dim to notice--like how tired and old the site looks. The irony is that it's trying to look fresh and hip. Indeed, that's sort of their schtick--they're fresh and hip and other Christians are not, you know, the ones who like maniples. But the whole attempt fails and they end up looking like a cheap prostitute. :)

Irreverence and tiredness aside, the whole idea of "rating" Christian churches from wildly varying traditions is bizarro, especially if you claim to have no agenda. "I'll give that Cathedral a 6, but that Quaker Meeting House a 4." What does that even mean? Unless of course you're basing it on the coffee. Those guys are obsessed with coffee--"the coffee was a bit strong", "there were no signs telling me about the coffee", and so on. Why not just chuck the religious stuff and just rate houses of worship based on their coffee? That at least would be coherent.

Fr William R. Young said...

Very well spoken, Fr Ray.

Fr William Young

FrereRabit said...

I think a number of people are now on the case and the "Mystery Worshipper" can be quickly outed. There are some interesting candidates and a very clear pattern of trashing traditional Catholic worship.

Fr Simon Henry said...

Father, all you need now is a whip made up out of some cords and we could have some proper Gospel re-enactment! Good for you!

B flat said...

I am glad you have the courage and energy to fight back, Father. Lies should always be exposed for what they are; then any Christian will know who is behind the speaker of those lies, and whom the liar is serving. May God bless your work.

Father, the obsession with coffee among these people is that they have no sacramental life, so a service which is in their terminology a prayer sandwich (I take that to mean between hymns and sermon) or a token sharing of bread and wine at which all are welcome, is very little compared to the experience of meeting new people or old friends over coffee and other goodies. That is why coffee is important to them.

You are quite right about their mistaken view of worship. This is so prevalent, that even in the Orthodox Church I have heard Orthodox parishioners assert that it is the priest's liturgical role to provide them with "a good Service". I rolled my eyes upward on hearing that particular stupidity. The "it's all about ME" generation is widespread.

If you are attacked by the devil and those who do his work, you must be achieving success as a priest and pastor. May God bring your labours to good fruit and grant your parish and its priest Christ's promised reward.

DrMatthewDoyle said...

I disagree that they trash traditional Catholic Worship. Reading the reviews of the Brompton and Oxford Oratories were interesting. And it looks like anyone can be a reviewer, so if it is popular then a good way to beat them is actually to join them. The main problem they underline is how unwelcoming visitors can be made to feel; something the Anglican Churches are much better at, than us Catholics.

Oakes Spalding said...

I know I'm going to get trashed for this from all sides but I think the welcoming/unwelcoming thing is a bit silly. My faith isn't a Moonie cult. Before I converted I attended my traditionalist Church alone for a few years. No one rushed up to me with literature, but I felt at home nevertheless.

Liam Ronan said...

Dear Father Blake,

Don't be cross with me, but I read the 'review', and while your indignation is wholly justified and righteous, dare I say I did have a wicked laugh at this Mass/Worship Service 'review' concept.

I laughed because I conjured up in my mind how the Last Supper itself might have been savaged in the various 'categories' scrutinized for the liturgical hit-piece done on your Mass. Very small attendance, no choir, no pew newsletters, one attendee left early, too preachy, lacking joy, no coffee afterwards, etc.

When one reflects on the Last Supper the 'review' is put in its proper light...or shadow.


Genty said...

Once upon a time you went to Mass, had a chat with people outside the church and then went home. The midnight fast sharpened the appetite and it was quick-march back for brekkers.

JARay said...

I have just heard on my radio here in Australia that a group are going to the church which our Prime Minister attends in order to make a protest against him (and the Church) for not supporting Same-Sex Marriage! The reporter just said that the Church should realise just what community feeling is on this matter, after all, just look at Ireland and America!

Victoria said...

I think it was a bit tasteless of Oakes to speak disrespectfully of prostitutes.

Oakes Spalding said...

It wasn't prostitutes but cheap prostitutes. :)

This is for Liam Ronan. For a pending post on my blog I took up and ran with your idea for a Ship of Fools review of the Last Supper. Can I reference you?

Our Lady of Good Success-pray for us. said...

Perhaps you should send the quiet works of mercy that happens through your parish, Father, for a review. Perhaps that would elicit a bit of shame. I think Frere Rabbit makes an interesing observation, that the 'ship of fools' site has a penchant for trashing traditional Catholicism. If so, things like eternal salvation and truthful charity would likely be low on the list of the average reviewer's concerns (never heard of 'inward charity' before, sounds a rather 'localised experience', possibly never reaching beyond one's own skin - sort of like the new-age 'self-compassion'). Eph. 4:15 "But doing the truth in charity, we may in all things grow up in Him who is the head, even Christ."

From an old missal on the sixth Sunday after Pentecost. "This bread is viaticum or 'food for the way', both for our journey through this life and for that of souls into eternity. Hence the name viaticum given to the Eucharist when received in danger of death." We are always 'in danger of death', and in need of 'viaticum', but I guess, for some, getting to the coffee is to goal of the 'way'.

DrMatthewDoyle said...

Once I went to the Birmingham Oratory, myself having little faith, but going for someone else and to have a look around. What had a profound effect on me was the warmth of Fr Gregory Winterton, who enquired about me and told me about an Oratorian Beati that would interest me. Welcoming like that, to ones of little faith like myself, should not be underestimated.

Aitch said...

I read the 'Mystery Worshiper' regularly as I thought it did, hopefully honestly, help all of us involved in whatever way in Sunday worship, to bear in mind that our church may appear very differently to a visiting stranger or someone new in the parish than it does to us as we can all get self satisfied with what we do on a Sunday.
The rest of the site, is as has been pointed out, a bit past it. I'll keep on reading this section of the site but bear now bear in mind the possible partiality of the 'visitor'.

Liam Ronan said...

@Oakes Spalding,

Be my guest by all means! Have fun with it.

Liam Ronan said...


What the 'Mystery Worshipper' cannot see with the eyes, much less review, is the Grace of God poured out and operating on the souls of those in the pews during the Sacred Liturgy and the many souls throughout the world, who though absent, derive spiritual benefit through the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass.

As the Psalmist might say of such crass critiques:

"They have eyes, but they do not see; They have ears, but they do not hear..."
Psalm 135:16-17

Richard Duncan said...

The whole premise of the Ship of Fools "Mystery Worshipper" brings to mind irresistibly the following passage from CS Lewis' Screwtape Letters:

"You mentioned casually in your last letter that the patient has continued to attend one church, and one only, since he was converted, and that he is not wholly pleased with it. May I ask what you are about? Why have I no report on the causes of his fidelity to the parish church? Do you realise that unless it is due to indifference it is a very bad thing? Surely you know that if a man can't be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that "suits" him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches. The reasons are obvious. In the first place the parochial organisation should always be attacked, because, being a unity of place and not of likings, it brings people of different classes and psychology together in the kind of unity the Enemy desires. The congregational principle, on the other hand, makes each church into a kind of club, and finally, if all goes well, into a coterie or faction. In the second place, the search for a "suitable" church makes the man a critic where the Enemy wants him to be a pupil. What He wants of the layman in church is an attitude which may, indeed, be critical in the sense of rejecting what is false or unhelpful, but which is wholly uncritical in the sense that it does not appraise - does not waste time in thinking about what it rejects, but lays itself open in uncommenting, humble receptivity to any nourishment that is going. (You see how grovelling, how unspiritual, how irredeemably vulgar He is!) This attitude, especially during sermons, creates the condition (most hostile to our whole policy) in which platitudes can become really audible to a human soul. There is hardly any sermon, or any book, which may not be dangerous to us if it is received in this temper. So pray bestir yourself and send this fool the round of the neighbouring churches as soon as possible. Your record up to date has not given us much satisfaction."

Keep up the good work and Nil Carboranum Illegitimus

Fr Richard Duncan
The Oratory

Wynn said...

FrereRabit was, I think, specifically referring to this particular mystery worshipper, rather than the whole site. "Bunbury O'Remus" has, I believe, four reviews to his/her "credit", all of them displaying varying degrees of hostility to traditional Catholicism.

Oakes Spalding said...

Well, the Last Supper review is now at Please correct me if I made any biblical or historical errors.

Gatepost productions said...

As I'm getting really old, I've had time to be many things, not least, a Shipwright ...which is where I started. This puts me in the unique position to comment upon ships and their construction. As previously mentioned by Fr B, the superstructure of 'The Ship of Fools' is well passed its Best Before date. But on a more technical note, she has problems with her bilge pumps, hence the suspicious smell which you noted concerning her writings.

Her navigational aids are ineffective leaving her adrift on a sea of lies and unable to find the truth or a true heading. The figurehead is carved in the likeness of their ...figurehead/editor/founder/main feature writer/skipphirer.

She sails under false colours, and draws about her a crew of discontents and maligners, she is indeed, a "Skip of Fools".

Long-Skirts said...

Liam Ronan said:

"I laughed because I conjured up in my mind how the Last Supper itself might have been savaged in the various 'categories' scrutinized for the liturgical hit-piece done on your Mass. Very small attendance, no choir, no pew newsletters, one attendee left early, too preachy, lacking joy, no coffee afterwards, etc."



For neurotic-psychotic
“Attached” to the old,
We give you a hireling
To take care your fold.

No need for the shepherds,
Who seem so much keener,
They’ll tempt you with dreams
Of pastures much greener

And say not to mimic
Past, tolerant-barters,
So heads were cut off,
Who could dialogue with martyrs?

The shepherds tell fables,
‘Bout a man, hated, hailed,
Like you, just “attached”,
Don’t believe He was nailed!

RJ said...

This consumerist approach is something one tends to encounter outside the Catholic Church.

Richard Duncan said...

"Bunbury's latest report seems to show where his preference's lie, as if we didn't know already.

Perhaps you should get an African Hut Tabernacle?

Diane Korzeniewski said...

I didn't know that site still existed, much less that they were doing something of this nature. It's pitiful that anyone would visit a parish just to hunt for "problems". There was a period of time that I had no choice but to take a phone call and run out during Mass - when my mother was in ICU and we awaited her death. It's no one else's business to presume why one might walk out in such a case. Among a crowd could be a surgeon on call.

It sounds like much rash judgment is involved in what the fools are doing. That too is sinful. I wrote an extensive piece on it some years ago.

Diane Korzeniewski said...

Follow up to my last comment, I am only now reading your original post Father and see the phone was ringing. In my last comment, I should mention I left it on vibrate, and it was aimed at anyone who might judge another who takes a call during Mass (running to a vestibule, of course).

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