Confessions of the Catholic priest who doesn't believe there's a God

Fr Jude Bullock, a member of the Sea of Faith, is being investigated by Cardinal Hume for holding radical views on the nature of God's existence, Heaven, Hell and the Resurrection. This article by Lesley Thomas is reprinted from the Sunday Express.

A Catholic priest is being investigated by church authorities after complaints from angry churchgoers that he does not believe there is a God, Heaven or Hell.

Father Jude Bullock, from Islington, north London, has been ordered to explain his views to Cardinal Basil Hume, the Archbishop of Westminster and leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

The radical cleric, who refuses to wear a dog collar, preaches at St. John the Evangelist church. He has so upset parishioners that some have boycotted his masses.

He is the first Catholic priest to be publicly identified with the Sea of Faith group, set up to promote the idea of religion as a human creation. Two years ago one of its Anglican members, Rev Anthony Freeman, was sacked by his bishop for saying he did not believe in God.

According to Fr Jude, 37, there is no God "out there". His confusing explanations range from: "God is nothing and god is everything", to "God is being in itself".

He says his prayers are "more like meditation", that he has "dumped" the idea of the soul and questions the concept of the virgin birth.

He defended his controversial views last week: "It's just a re-interpretation of the term God in non-supernatural terms. We should not focus on punishment and reward at the end of our lives as a way of guiding our ethics.

"I don't thing Heaven and Hell are places that the soul -- whatever that is -- goes to. They are descriptive of the way life can be lived.".

In accordance with this view Fr Jude has excised "everlasting life" from his sermons, preferring to refer to life as "timeless".

Asked what happens after death Fr Jude said: "Speculation is futile. I haven't the foggiest".

And questioned over Jesus' resurrection, he said: "It's absurd to think you can comment on literature that's almost 2,000 years old."

This weekend, Cardinal Hume assured concerned Catholics that he is investigating Fr Jude's position, talking to both the priest and his detractors. It could be a lengthy investigation. In his first response to the Archbishop, Fr Jude wrote: "The issues of Heaven, Hell, evil and the Resurrection are too complex to discuss now without this letter turning into a thesis".

He has also suggested philosophical reading material for those who disagree with him.

However, Fr Jude does not expect to be expelled. "This is a universal church. I have spoken to the Archbishop and I get on well with him. We don't share the same views, but I think he knows where I'm coming from."

But for some, Fr Jude's musing are nothing short of heresy. Dennis Everest, a lay Catholic who has complained to Cardinal Hume, said: "Why is this man a priest?"

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