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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
While we're sending you to sites that require free registration: Do see the recent Spectator and Telegraph reviews of Loose Canon, a new book on the late Brian Brindley, a flamboyant former Anglo-Catholic vicar who died in the middle of a seven-course banquet on his 70th birthday, breathing his last between the dressed crab and the boeuf en daube.
Damian Thompson, who was at Brindley's last supper, reviews the new book for The Spectator:
[He] was always a man who liked to have his cake (with lashings of extra double cream to make it 'less rich') and eat it. He was piously Christian yet naughtily and flagrantly homosexual; he dressed like a cross between a pantomime dame and an 18th- century Roman monsignor and yet wondered why people tittered so; he elevated frivolity to an art form while yet proving himself one of the General Synod's most able administrators; he outraged many of his fellow Anglicans, especially Evangelicals, with his outspokenness and theatricality, yet still imagined that one day he would be granted his bishopric.
Brindley dressed like an 18th-century monsignor, in red heels (which he sweetly painted himself) and a soutane with 39 red buttons, "one for each of the Articles I don't believe in". He thought the Tridentine Rite was "a Mass for peasants" and turned his unremarkable Reading church into a scented, gilded, shimmering, gorgeous monument to the Highest end of Anglo-Catholicism, and the highest end of camp. At his silver jubilee mass in 1988, says Damian Thompson, "the Bishop of Oxford presided from a throne fit for a Borgia pope" - and that was the least of it.
A wondrous self-creation, Brindley knowingly turned himself into something of a caricature, part pantomime dame, part Liberace - except that his bravery made him less comical than the former, and his taste exempted him from serious comparison with the latter - "I have a perfect sense of colour," he once said, and, says Thompson, he did. He was a genuine eccentric, and unaware of the fact. Once, in Hackney in 1977, he turned up at a friend's ordination so extravagantly attired that he was mistaken for a visiting woman priest from America. He was perfectly indignant when told.
He also liked young men, for which he was very modernly punished by the News of the World in the late 1980s. The resulting exposé led to his sacking: he lost his job, his house and his seat on the General Synod. He moved to Brighton, where he created another extraordinarily flamboyant home for himself, and converted to Catholicism after the C of E's decision to ordain women priests (about as ordainable as donkeys, he said). In his final years, he wrote a column for the Catholic Herald.
The colourful clerical gourmet Brian Brindley (6 August 2002) gave up his Anglican priesthood because of his objection to women priests and, when going over to Rome, took the confirmation name of Leo in honour of the Pope who had condemned Anglican orders as null and void.