English Catholics are expressing outrage after the Church of England installed a nine-hole golf course in the medieval nave of Rochester Cathedral, turning it into a “den of golfers.”
England’s second oldest cathedral after Canterbury opened its “educational adventure golf course” on July 27 to give people “the opportunity to learn while they take part in a fun activity, in what for many might be a previously unvisited building,” the Rev’d Rachel Phillips, Canon for Mission and Growth said.
But former editor-in-chief of the Catholic Herald, Damian Thompson, blasted the Cathedral’s decision, tweeting: “St John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, went to his death rather than watch his cathedral fall into the hands of greedy iconoclasts. I suspect he would rather see it lie in ruins than experience this fate.”
Padre Sebastian Hyatt, also rebuked “Rochester Cathedral’s idea of mission” as “So devoid of theology, and intent on making money they have forgotten ‘This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.’ Shame on you,” the Chaplain to the Forces tweeted.
“What is happening at Rochester Cathedral is sacrilege against God” — Deacon Nick Donnelly
Rochester Cathedral, built by England’s first Catholic King, St Ethelbert, in 604 and consecrated by St Augustine of Canterbury, was home to English cardinal, bishop and martyr St John Fisher for 31 years before Henry VIII executed him in 1535.
Earlier, on June 22, the feast day of Fisher’s martyrdom, Catholics celebrated the Traditional Latin Mass, in the St Ithamar Chapel of Rochester Cathedral, for the first time in 485 years.
“English Catholics care for our ancient cathedrals, even if they are in the possession of the usurping Church of England. We are very aware that the Mass was celebrated at the altars of these cathedrals. What is happening at Rochester Cathedral is sacrilege against God,” Catholic writer Deacon Nick Donnelly told Church Militant.
Simon Lace, chapter clerk at Rochester, insisted that the golf course was a missional effort: “We are trying to draw in new visitors and raise our profile. It is a short-term opportunity to enjoy a wonderful building in a new way.”
However, Deacon Donnelly responded: “This is taking ‘dialogue’ with the world to extremes, which in reality means the mundane invading what was sacred. It betrays a lack of faith in the power of God’s word to attract modern man. What next to appear ‘relevant’ at Rochester cathedral? Pole dancing around the pillars?”
Others slammed the innovation as an abomination: “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer but ye have made it a den of golfers,’” a commenter wrote on the Kent Online news website.
Paulinus, the first Catholic Archbishop of York, is buried in the ancient crypt at Rochester Cathedral; so too is St. Ithamar, the first Englishman to become a bishop. The cathedral is also the home of Textus Roffensis, the only existing written copy of the first code of English law.
The mini golf course will remain in place until September 1, welcoming visitors between 9am and 4pm.
“My house shall be called a house of prayer
but ye have made it a den of golfers.”
Meanwhile, Norwich Cathedral will install a full-size helter skelter in its sacred precincts in August for two weeks to enable visitors to view its architectural features and decorative bosses by climbing the funfair ride.
Canon Andy Bryant said a cathedral may not be the natural home for a helter skelter, but he hoped it would bring people in for a religious experience: “We will be doing what cathedrals have always done: helping people see things differently and make connections with the things of God.”
“The sequestration of the great Roman Catholic cathedrals of our country by what became the Church of England was always fraught with conceptual and moral difficulty. It was achieved by political force and at the cost of Catholic martyrdom,” Bishop Gavin Ashenden, former Chaplain to the Queen, told Church Militant.
“The Church of England, suffering a reductio ad absurdum, has turned its Catholic cathedrals into entertainment centres. Having lost contact with transcendence, majesty and holiness, the CofE has become a branch of the leisure and entertainment industry. Since they no longer know what a cathedral is, or what it is for, it is indeed time for them to return them to the Church that conceived, built, and knows how to honour and use them,” Dr Ashenden, who left the Church of England after the Quran was read in Glasgow Cathedral, emphasised.
Norwich Cathedral, housing the oldest bishop’s throne in England, is famous for its association with the city of the fourteenth-century mystic, Mother Julian of Norwich.
The cathedral is planning other events including a visit by Dippy, the Natural History Museum's iconic diplodocus dinosaur skeleton, from July to October 2020.
Rochester Cathedral has announced that it will be exhibiting the controversial sculpture of the “Knife Angel” in September.
“This monument against violence and aggression and will be the focal point for 28 days of education, reflection, remembrance and prayer,” Rochester Cathedral tweeted.
“The Church of England, suffering a reductio ad absurdum, has turned its Catholic cathedrals into entertainment centres” — Bishop Dr Gavin Ashenden
Last year, Derby Cathedral made headlines for screening films with graphic sex scenes, full female nudity, a pagan sacrifice and a satirical depiction of Jesus Christ.
Dean Stephen Hance screened the unedited version of Don’t Look Now (1973), a movie containing a sex scene so graphic, it had to be cut when the film premiered on television for the first time.
The Cathedral also showed The Wicker Man (1973), a film about a community practising paganism featuring a scene in which a woman dances naked and another scene in which one character is burned alive in a giant wicker cage.
When questioned, Dean Hance told the media the films “won’t be showing God anything that he hasn’t seen before.”
(Originally published in Church Militant. To comment on this piece, click here)