Sir: The first of your reports (14, 15 September) on Pat Buckley's ordination ceremony for Frances Meigh states as a fact the discredited fable that "there was a 9th-century pope, the English-born Joan, who had been a female priest". The Pope Joan tale has often been refuted, for example by a French Protestant, David Blondel, in 1657. Our modern Anglican expert on the popes says there is no contemporary evidence of a female pope at any of the suggested times, and that the known facts would make it impossible to fit one in.
Buckley's situation has never been "given part-recognition by the Church". The facts are that Michael Cox, himself irregularly ordained bishop, ordained Pat Buckley bishop at a clandestine ceremony in May. Each was automatically excommunicated and has no authority to teach or to act as a Catholic bishop.
There is no foundation for your reporter's claim that our Catholic religious orders "have sharply varying degrees of international conformity to compulsory celibacy, and now, to an exclusively male priesthood".
Pat Buckley is a rebel priest who has become a clandestine bishop. Whatever he does and says is his personal responsibility and has no effect on the Catholic Church. Any male priest he ordains would be automatically suspended by Canon Law from exercising the priesthood.
The writer was Catholic Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle 1974-1992