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The Reverend Fergus Butler-Gallie is Assistant Curate at Liverpool Parish Church and the author of A Field Guide to the English Clergy, a Best Book of the Year for The Times, Mail on Sunday and BBC History. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Oxford and a bachelor's degree in theology from the University of Cambridge. He once accidentally appeared on Only Connect. This is his second book.
'A hugely enjoyable, eccentric account of clerical heroism in the face of evil.' Observer 'Comedy and tragedy run side by side... Bracing and lively.' The Times 'An admiring study of priests and ministers who have put their lives on the line.' BBC History Magazine Who says you can't fight fascism in a cassock? Wherever fascism has taken root, it has met with resistance. From taking a bullet for a frightened schoolgirl in Alabama to saving Greek Jews from extermination by way of fake IDs, each of the fifteen hard-drinking, chain-smoking clerics featured in this book were willing to risk their lives for what they believed.
Amusing, inspirational and underpinned by a radiant reverence for its subjects, this collection shares the indomitable acts of fifteen fascist-fighting “loose canons”, toppling the perception that Christians of the cloth are meek and mild. The acts of opposition are framed within the context of Christianity’s ideological history: ”Since the days of St Paul, Christianity has had a lack of internal ethnic distinction as a key tenet of its teaching (if not, regrettably, always of its practice). Paul wrote that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female; all are one in Christ.” Within these dynamic accounts we meet a bedazzling band of brave clerics from across the continent. Take Abbé Pierre, the “miraculous mountaineering monk”, for example. He started out as “an awkward and gangly young would-be monk” and“ended his career the most respected and popular man in France” on account of his pivotal role in the Resistance against the Nazis and Italian Fascists. Enduring the massacre of comrades and incarceration, and having engaged in numerous audacious acts of Resistance, plucky Pierre’s spirit and ethos (“to serve the most needy first”) lives on today in his charity that spans thirty-seven countries. The author duly acknowledges that, “for every tale of bravery related above, there were tales of cowardice and collaboration”. He also points out that many of the men and women of the Resistance exhibited “the frailty of humanity” and goes on to posit the view that “true strength is achieved in embracing our weakness”. Sage words to conclude a book that’s suffused in the vitality of its subjects’ inspirational acts and the author’s affable wit.
Judge not, lest ye be judged. This timeless wisdom has guided the Anglican Church for hundreds of years, fostering a certain tolerance of eccentricity among its members. Good thing, too. The 'Mermaid of Morwenstow' excommunicated a cat for mousing on a Sunday. When he was late for a service, Bishop Lancelot Fleming commandeered a Navy helicopter. 'Mad Jack' swapped his surplice for a leopard skin and insisted on being carried around in a coffin. And then there was the man who, like Noah's evil twin, tried to eat one of each of God's creatures... In spite of all this they saw the church as their true calling. After all, who cares if you're wearing red high heels when there are souls to be saved?