Author Topic: Ockham's Razor  (Read 290 times)

Offline Jacko

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Ockham's Razor
« on: November 06, 2019, 05:43:06 AM »
Not sure what to do with this. Whether to lengthen it into a full play or use it as the first episode in a series of different situations.

FADE IN:

INT. AN OFFICE. LONDON HOUSE. THE BISHOP OF LONDONíS OFFICIAL RESIDENCE. LONDON. - DAY

The BISHOP of London sits at his desk in an opulently wooden panelled office, complete with bookcases and fireplace. He is in his early fifties, tall and suave, every inch the gentleman. His secretary SIMON is a Church of England Chaplain in his early thirties. They work well together, but it is apparent how much the former relies on the latter. They are both dressed in the traditional dog collars and dark jackets, the difference being that the Bishop wears a purple shirt befitting his rank and Simon a normal black one. Simon hands the Bishop some papers which he signs.   

SIMON
And finally this one, my Lord.

The Bishop signs the paper with a flourish.

BISHOP
Time for some tea, I think, Simon.

SIMON
Far be it from me to inject a sense of urgency into the proceedings, my Lord, but have you given any thought at all to the problem of Reverend Thornton?

BISHOP
Ah yes, the vicar of St. Matthewís. Whatever shall we do with him, Simon?

SIMON
I only ask, because Cardinal Fitzpatrick is due here soon to discuss the issue. Have you decided on a course of action?

BISHOP
I was rather hoping the whole affair might simply fade away.

SIMON
My Lord, a Church of England vicar claims to have had a vision of the Virgin Mary in an Anglican church. How, may I enquire, is this going to fade away?

BISHOP
I donít know. Itís all got terribly out of hand. I mean, why on earth do I have to meet with a Roman Catholic official?

SIMON
The Archbishop feels that in the interest of interdenominational harmony, the matter should be fully investigated.

BISHOP
In the old days, of course, this would have been swept well and truly under the carpet and the chap in question quietly posted to a missionary colony in Tanganyika.

SIMON
Yes, my Lord, very possibly.

BISHOP
Anyway, why canít we investigate it ourselves? Itís probably nothing more than an overindulgence of the communal wine.

SIMON
I believe the request has come from the Vatican. The Archbishop considersÖ

BISHOP
Oh, hang the Archbishop! He deliberately foisted this mess onto me, because if he dealt with it himself he would miss the three day test match between England and The West Indies!

SIMON
That may well be the case, my Lord, but we must remember that His Grace the Bishop of Durham is in complete agreement with him on this. As indeed are the Bishops of Rochester, Worcester, Truro, Gloucester and Norwich.

BISHOP
Now thereís a motley crew if ever there was one.
(Beat)
Oh, alright! So what do we know about this Reverend Thornton?

SIMON
Heís an intelligent, caring and extremely industrious cleric. Very highly thought of by his parishioners, which is a refreshing change from the norm.

BISHOP
Industrious? Then canít we put this down to a hallucination through overwork?

SIMON
Itís not that simple, Iím afraid.

BISHOP
Why?

SIMON
Because Reverend Thornton is a Progressive Modernist, my Lord.

BISHOP
Meaning?

SIMON
How can one put it? In matters of religion he perceives God to be an optional extra.

BISHOP
Good Heavens! Heís an atheist?

SIMON
Sort of, my Lord, yes. To be precise he veers heavily towards agnosticism, believing the bible to be largely allegorical, nothing more than moral stories. He also has a virulent tendency to argue that one need not necessarily accept the word of God to worship in his church.
(Beat)
So, any vision at all, let alone that of the Virgin Mary is hardly concordant with his radical views.

BISHOP
Well, if it wasnít a delusion, Simon, what was it?

SIMON
It appears we may be left with a genuine mystical occurrence.

BISHOP
But we donít acknowledge the divinity of Mary; therefore she canít possibly be the subject of a beatific vision.

SIMON
Therein lies the problem, my Lord.

BISHOP
Is he a drinker?

SIMON
An ardent teetotaller, Iím afraid.

BISHOP
Well, thatís suspect in itself. Iíve never trusted these bods who claim not to even have a pre-prandial sherry of an evening. In my opinion, lack of alcohol dulls the senses, Simon.

SIMON
Unfortunately, my Lord, even if that were correct, which I doubt, it is an over excitement of the senses which produce phantasms.

BISHOP
Drugs, then?

SIMON
He is fit, healthy and in the prime of his life. Three doctors have examined him mentally and have independently reached the conclusion that he is completely sane.

BISHOP
There must be something we could use to deflect attention from this.
(Beat)
I suppose itís too much to hope that heís having an affair with the vergerís wife?

SIMON
Heís been happily married for twenty-five years with three children all at university. His hobbies include steam trains and countryside rambles.
(Beat)
Iím sorry, my Lord, but apart from his extremely unorthodox slant on Christianity, we can find absolutely nothing untoward with this manís life.

BISHOP
What a mess!

SIMON
Might I suggest that instead of playing the man, we concentrate on playing the ball?

BISHOP
What do you mean?

SIMON
Focus on the occurrence itself. I think it may be our best plan of defence under the circumstances.

BISHOP
Iím not sure about that. Isnít this Fitzpatrick fellow supposed to be an expert in these matters?

SIMON
Nevertheless, we do argue from a weak standpoint. Also Iím not absolutely sure about the morality of publicly attacking one of our own clerics.

BISHOP
Does that matter? After all, we are the C of E. Isnít burying a moral argument for the sake of expediency a speciality of ours? (Laughs weakly)

SIMON
Too much glare, my Lord. Add to that the involvement of Rome and the implications of this whole business could become far reaching indeed.

BISHOP
This is an intolerable position for the Archbishop to place us in!

SIMON
Yes, my Lord.

The telephone rings and Simon answers it.

SIMON
YesÖI seeÖCan you bring him through, please Carol?

He replaces the receiver.

SIMON
Cardinal Fitzpatrick has arrived, my Lord.

BISHOP
Battle stations, Simon. Do you think we have any chance at all of keeping a lid on this?

SIMON
(Smiles)
Is the Pope a Catholic?

BISHOP
That, I suppose, is what weíre about to find out.

Enter CAROL, a secretary with Cardinal FITZPATRICK.

He is an elderly man, dressed in the traditional dog collar and dark jacket, except his shirt is red to denote a Roman Catholic Cardinal. He is shorter and thicker set than the Bishop with an altogether more stern countenance. He speaks with an Irish lilt.

CAROL
His Eminence Cardinal Fitzpatrick, my Lord.

BISHOP
Thank-you, Carol.

Carol exits.

FITZPATRICK
My Lord Bishop.

BISHOP
Your Eminence, welcome to London House. May I offer you a cup of tea?

The two men shake hands formally; neither man is off his guard.

FITZPATRICK
No thank-you, my Lord.

BISHOP
Coffee?

FITZPATRICK
Iíd rather get straight down to the matter in hand if itís all the same to you.

BISHOP
But of course, please take a seat. Allow me to introduce Simon Wallingford, my secretary. You have no objection to him being present, I take it?

FITZPATRICK
(Gives Simon a curt nod)
None whatsoever.

Fitzpatrick sits down and pulls a sheaf of papers from his attachť case. He puts on his spectacles and reads from the page.

FITZPATRICK
William Harvey ThorntonÖ

BISHOP
Ah yes, the Reverend Thornton, such a tragic individualÖ

FITZPATRICK
I am here to investigate the phenomenon, not the man. My instructions are very clear and precise.
(Pause)
Now, the occurrence of the visionÖ

BISHOP
(Smoothly)
You mean the hallucinatory experience.

FITZPATRICK
If, in fact, thatís what it was, then I shall find out. These events generally run to a certain formula. Iíve investigated more authentic visions of the Blessed Virgin than youíve had teeth pulled, my Lord.

BISHOP
Then it is fortunate I have an excellent dentist, Your Eminence.                                       

Fitzpatrick removes his spectacles in a serious manner.

FITZPATRICK
Donít think for one moment that Iím not aware of your objection to the Holy Father being involved.

BISHOP
How is the Bishop of Rome nowadays?

FITZPATRICK
Or of your total disregard for the Apostolic Succession.

BISHOP
My dear fellow! Of course I accept the Apostolic Succession. How else can one explain the descent of the Archbishop of Canterbury from Judas Iscariot?

FITZPATRICK
Or, indeed, of your reputation for glib comments.

BISHOP
This whole business is entirely paradoxical! I really fail to see what all the fuss is about. ďPluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitateĒ, as my old Classics Master used to say.

There is a short silence as the two men glare at one another. Simon coughs politely.

SIMON
Itís Ockhamís Razor, Your Eminence. Broadly translated it means the simplest solution to a problem is likely to be the correct one.

FITZPATRICK
Iím well aware of what the translation is, young man! And Iím more than familiar with Ockhamís Razor, thank-you.

BISHOP
Iím delighted to hear it. Although I must say it remains a mystery as to why youíre not applying itís principles in this case.

FITZPATRICK
The only mystery here, my Lord, is why a vision of the Mother of God, by a Man of God, in a House of God, albeit a Protestant one, should not be considered by far the simplest option.

BISHOP
Because, Your Eminence, according to Reverend Thorntonís variety of Christianity, God is surplus to requirements.

FITZPATRICK
I beg your pardon?

BISHOP
Exactly! Heís a Progressive Modernist.

FITZPATRICK
An atheist?

BISHOP
The Church of England doesnít really have a word for a non believer, we call someone who takes God out of the game and places Him on the touchline a Modernist.

FITZPATRICK
And what is a Progressive Modernist?

BISHOP
Itís someone who not only takes God out of the game, but doesnít actually see the need to bring Him along to the stadium in the first place.

FITZPATRICK
You people never cease to amaze me.

Fitzpatrick rises from his seat and walks over to the window.

BISHOP
To be fair even the most ancient institution in this country is bound by the political correctness of the time. We arenít allowed to sack a fellow simply because he doesnít believe in God.

FITZPATRICK
But this is the Church!

BISHOP
Apparently itís for precisely that reason. Itís called Establishmentarianism. Because the church is so intricately linked with the state in this country, the Archbishop feels we must set an example.
(Pause)
It is the law of the land.

FITZPATRICK
We are all subject to a higher authority than that.

BISHOP
Are you referring to Brussels?

FITZPATRICK
Iím talking about the law of God!

BISHOP
Oh! I think youíll find that carries very little weight with the Archbishop.

FITZPATRICK
This is beside the point! It only strengthens the authenticity of the vision. Why would a man who doesnít believe, see the Blessed Virgin unless it were true?

BISHOP
Itís the very fact that he doesnít believe in it that is the strongest argument for it to be false.

FITZPATRICK
Does he still not believe in it?

BISHOP
HeísÖa little confused at the moment, but Iím sure with a modicum of restÖ

FITZPATRICK
I knew it! This is a cover up!

BISHOP
Nonsense, my dear chap! Itís nothing of the sort, I assure you. Reverend Thornton is merely convalescing in the West Country.

FITZPATRICK
I am in full agreement with His Holiness. This incident could send out a very potent message to both the faithful and the sceptic alike.

The Bishop and Simon exchange a glance.

SIMON
Yes, Your Eminence, I agree. However, it may not quite be the message you expect.

FITZPATRICK
What do you mean?

SIMON
Well, the story of a protestant cleric claiming to have witnessed a purely catholic manifestation could become somewhat misconstrued.

FITZPATRICK
Only in favour of the Church of Rome, surely.

SIMON
Not necessarily.

BISHOP
What my secretary means is that there are many important members of the Episcopalian establishment who would relish the idea of a closer link with the Vatican.

SIMON
Even to the extent of a possible merging of certain doctrines.

BISHOP
After all, Lambeth Palace under the current Archbishop has become increasingly liberal.

FITZPATRICK
A merging of Protestant and Catholics?

BISHOP
I believe theyíre called Unificationists.

SIMON
What is more, Your Eminence, research has discovered that many English Catholics are not altogether indisposed to accepting a large number of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England.

BISHOP
Indeed, a great many of them reside in this diocese. Which, I hasten to add, includes the countryís capital. Always a good yardstick for the rest of the population, donít you think?

FITZPATRICK
Catholic and Protestant united?

SIMON
In a sort of One World Church, as it were.

BISHOP
Entirely the fault of the Evangelicals, of course, theyíve been hammering on about it for years.
(Beat)
In my view itís nothing short of religious communism.

FITZPATRICK
I take it this is what loosely passes for a joke in these parts.

BISHOP
Certainly not! My own office has conducted rigorous surveys on that very subject.

SIMON
Copies have already been issued to Ten Downing Street and Buckingham Palace.

BISHOP
They tell me the Prime Minister is looking upon it favourably.

There is a silence as Fitzpatrick turns and stares out of the window. The Bishop and Simon exchange a look suggesting they are both aware that they may have the upper hand.

FITZPATRICK
Yes, I suppose in a country where schools are allowed to ban the Nativity play as being offensive, anything is possible.

Fitzpatrick turns from the window to face them.

SIMON
Just think, Your Eminence, those four and a half hour Latin liturgies could become a thing of the past.

BISHOP
Exactly! On any given Sunday the whole thing could be over with in three quarters of an hour tops! A couple of hymns, a stint of interminable waffle followed by a glug of communal wine and everybody's home for an early lunch.

Fitzpatrick turns back and stares out of the window again.

BISHOP
And just in case life becomes too exciting for you, all Catholic Bishops would be required to sit all day in the House of Lords listening to an endless array of Government policy.

SIMON
All the really good aspects of both denominations coming together under one roof.

BISHOP
Except you would probably get women priests.
(Beat)
And possibly contraception.

Fitzpatrick turns from the window to face them.

FITZPATRICK
I take it then we are both in agreement?

BISHOP
I think so.

FITZPATRICK
This can never be allowed to happen.

BISHOP
Absolutely not.

Fitzpatrick sits down.

FITZPATRICK
Of course it would mean the vision of Our Blessed Lady would have to be suppressed.

BISHOP
I think suppressed is a bit harsh. Surely the word unconfirmed is preferable under the circumstances.
(Beat)
These old churches, Your Eminence, do have a tendency to deceive the senses, especially a building like St. Matthewís. Itís medieval, you know, all arches and balustrades. Why, Iím sure Iíve read somewhere that these old rood screens under certain light conditions can play devilish tricks on the eyes.

FITZPATRICK
What are you suggesting?

BISHOP
An optical illusion, perhaps?

FITZPATRICK
Would that be your definition of Ockhamís Razor in this case?

BISHOP
These ancient scholars knew a thing or two didnít they? After all, thereís no point in deliberately upsetting the apple cart unless one is prepared to waste oneís whole life picking the damn things back up off the floor.

FITZPATRICK
For once we appear to be in agreement. My report to the Holy Father shall indicate as much.

BISHOP
Please extend my warmest regards.

Fitzpatrick replaces the sheaf of documents into his attachť case.

FITZPATRICK
What about the Reverend Thornton?

BISHOP
Overall, despite his somewhat unconventional views heís a good man at heart.

FITZPATRICK
Of that I have no doubt.

BISHOP
Men of his calibre are extremely thin on the ground nowadays.

FITZPATRICK
That they are, my Lord.

BISHOP
However, I do think the metropolis may be a little tooÖ shall we say, claustrophobic for his exceptional talents.

FITZPATRICK
Purely out of interest, do you have anywhere else in mind for him?

BISHOP
Iím thinking of a place where his unique brand of pastoral care would be truly appreciated by all.

FITZPATRICK
Such as?

BISHOP
Simon?

SIMON
Yes, my Lord.

BISHOP
Do you happen to know the dialling code for Tanganyika?

THE END
« Last Edit: November 06, 2019, 06:30:13 AM by Jacko »