SUES FORUM 17: 03/2021


We are grateful to Peter Firth for representing SUES at the funeral of Hazel Fort and include in this edition his report on that event.

Roger Mitchell’s six-session course on Travellers was completed on 7th March and it followed the third of our Friday afternoon meetings. All these have been delivered by Zoom and reports appear below. We know that Zoom is not for everyone, but we have shown that it is possible to present something of the programme that we would have wanted had Covid not got in the way. We have one more Friday meeting scheduled, for the 26th March, and we are trying to find speakers for further events. It is still our hope that by the Autumn we will be able to meet in All Saints’ Church Hall, launching the first of three courses for Monday mornings and single-session meetings on Friday afternoons.

After reports on recent meetings there are two main articles this month. Once again, Alan Potter gives us the scientific background to what we are now experiencing, and Peter Firth concludes his three-part series on the Cardinals. As always, we are on the look-out for further contributions. If any member has ideas, please get in touch.

SUES Committee and Representation

Over the years, a small number of members have acted as a committee to organise and provide learning opportunities for our members through courses, lectures, visits or publications. Fortunately, this has continued during the pandemic and members have been participating in good numbers either through Zoom sessions or in reading the monthly FORUM or website.

Currently the committee (John, Roger, Peter, Bob and Alan) is all male and so does not represent the membership of SUES. Therefore I would like to invite any of our female members to join the committee. Meetings take place only a few times each year and are usually not more than an hour in length. At the moment, of course, meetings take place over Zoom.

If you are interested, please email me on and let me know. Having a balanced committee would make us much stronger and also make sure the learning opportunities we provide in the future are those the membership as a whole would like to have and wish to participate in.

Alan Potter

1066 and All That

It is always assumed that if there is one historical fact that everyone knows, it is the Battle of Hastings. But how does everyone know? In his Friday afternoon talk Peter Firth used the Norman Conquest as a case study in the basic historical technique of examining sources. We would not know anything without the evidence, and the evidence comes in many forms. Moreover, we have to weigh the evidence: is it credible or not? Peter gave an excellent exposition of the whole issue, relating it to the famous battle in which King Harold was shot by an arrow in the eye – or was he? Much of the fascination of history lies in the debates about what really happened in the past. We are grateful to Peter for showing us how and why.

John Sharp

Travellers’ Tales

Roger Mitchell has led us on a marvellous journey over six Monday mornings over the last three months as he revealed his unsurpassed knowledge of, and unfailing enthusiasm for, great travellers of the past. From Samuel Pepys’ holiday to Bath, through the wanderings of Celia Fiennes, Daniel Defoe and Thomas Cook, right up to Isabella Bird’s adventures in the wild west of America, we travelled across the centuries as well as countries and cultures listening and learning as we went. This was our first course through Zoom and Roger adapted admirably, bringing out the trials and triumphs of each traveller and his own admiration for what they achieved. Roger also produced helpful handouts and references to further our understanding, and received great support from his audience, many of whom read passages from their writings to bring these colourful lives to life. Each great journey brightened up the gloom of the pandemic and lockdown, and also whetted our appetites for more learning adventures of our own to come.

Alan Potter

Forthcoming Talks

March 26th: The Rise of the Cardinals c. 1049 – 1100

Forums 15-17 include three parts of my PhD thesis which began by comparing some of the scandals at the heart of the papacy, over a millennium apart. This was followed by an analysis of events during the second half of the eleventh century which shaped the formation of a rudimentary College of Cardinals but, nevertheless, one recognisable today. Its members had acquired a key function in participating in the political control of the Apostolic See through the underlying themes of Reform, Reaction, Counsel, Ambition and Self-Awareness. My talk will provide not only the opportunity for discussion on this significant development in papal politics, but will highlight the re-occurring phenomenon in human decision-making: The Law of Unintended Consequences.

Peter Firth

How COVID Vaccination Works


When germs, such as the virus that causes COVID-19 (see picture), invade our bodies, they attack and multiply. This invasion, called an infection, is what causes illness. Our immune system uses several tools to fight infection. Blood contains red cells, which carry oxygen to tissues and organs, and white or immune cells, which fight infection. Different types of white blood cells fight infection in different ways:

(a) Macrophages are white blood cells that swallow up and digest germs and dead or dying cells. The macrophages leave behind parts of the invading germs called antigens. The body identifies antigens as dangerous and stimulates antibodies to attack them.

(b) B-lymphocytes are defensive white blood cells. They produce the antibodies that attack the pieces of the virus left behind by the macrophages.

(c) T-lymphocytes are another type of defensive white blood cell. They attack cells in our bodies that have already been infected.

The first time a person is infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, it can take several days or weeks for their body to make and use all the germ-fighting tools needed to get over the infection. After the infection, the person’s immune system remembers what it learned about how to protect the body against that disease. The body keeps a few T-lymphocytes, called memory cells, to go into action quickly if the body encounters the same virus again. When the familiar antigens are detected, B-lymphocytes produce antibodies to attack them. Experts are still learning how long these memory cells protect a person against the virus that causes COVID-19.

How COVID-19 Vaccines Work

COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies develop immunity to the virus that causes the disease without us having to get the illness. Different types of vaccines work in different ways to offer protection, but with all types of vaccines, the body is left with a supply of ‘memory’ T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight that virus in the future.

It typically takes a few weeks for the body to produce T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes after vaccination. Therefore, it is possible that a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and then get sick because the vaccine did not have enough time to provide protection. Sometimes after vaccination, the process of building immunity can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity

Types of Vaccines

Currently, there are three main types of COVID-19 vaccines that are available or have ended their clinical trials and await approval. Below is a description of how each type of vaccine prompts our bodies to recognize and protect us from the virus that causes COVID-19. No vaccine can give you COVID-19.

1. mRNA vaccines contain material from the virus that causes COVID-19 and that gives our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight the virus if we are infected in the future. Both the BioN/TechPfizer and Moderna jabs use this new technique and both of these require freezing, or super-freezing (about -70*C), for distribution. However, they can be stored in refrigerators for up to five days at the clinic site.

2. Vector vaccines contain a weakened version of a live virus – a different virus than the one that causes COVID-19 – that has genetic material from the one that causes COVID-19 inserted in it (this is called a viral vector or adjuvant). Once the viral vector is in our cells, the genetic materials give our cells instructions to make a protein that is unique to the virus causing COVID-19 which prompts our bodies to build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight the virus if we are infected in the future. Two vaccines that have been approved or seek approval using this familiar technology are from Oxford-AstraZeneca and Janssen both using a modified, benign virus to ferry in DNA that produces the virus’s spike protein and both require only regular refrigeration.

3. Protein subunit vaccines include harmless pieces (proteins) of the virus that cause COVID-19 instead of the entire germ. Once vaccinated, our immune system recognizes that the proteins don’t belong in the body and begins making T-lymphocytes and antibodies. If we are ever infected in the future, memory cells will recognize and fight the virus. Novavax is a vaccine that works in this way to stimulate the body’s protective antibodies. This is a well-tried method for generating vaccines and modern flu vaccines or HepB vaccines are of this type. They take longer to make and to make one as quickly as Noravax has done is a remarkable achievement. One advantage to such vaccines is that they only have to be refrigerated, not deep-frozen, and are easy to manufacture in large quantities so are suited to lower-income countries.

The Need for Two Doses

Almost all COVID-19 vaccines available or in final clinical trials require two shots. The first shot starts building protection. A second shot a few weeks later is needed to get the most protection the vaccine has to offer. The Janssen vaccine (in final clinical trials at the time of writing, February 2021), from Johnson & Johnson, only needs one shot. Currently in the UK, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which advises the government, asserts that the priority with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is to get as many at-risk people as possible a first jab and to complete the course with a second jab within 12 weeks.

Alan Potter

The Rise of the Cardinals c. 1049 – 1100: Reform, Reaction, Counsel, Ambition and Self-Awareness

Part 3: Papal Scandals in the Eleventh and Twenty-First Centuries

The previous two parts of this article can be found in Forums 15 & 16. They described: the control of the papacy in the hands of Roman families prior to 1050; the secular intervention of Emperor Henry III to appoint reform-minded popes, significantly Leo IX; a decree, giving cardinal-bishops exclusive rights in papal appointments; and a decree by Alexander II, allowing cardinal-priests greater power within the Church of Rome. Even more dramatic developments would soon follow.

Upon Alexander II’s death, Hildebrand, who had been archdeacon and effective power behind the throne, succeeded as Gregory VII. However, somewhat surprisingly, this did not happen as enshrined in the 1059 papal decree by the cardinal-bishops but occurred following popular acclamation.

Unfortunately, Gregory’s single-minded pursuit of reform goals and his uncompromising style of papal government, in the end, did not inspire support from all those around him and gradually worsened. Even a close supporter, Peter Damian, had written about the archdeacon to Alexander II:

If you want to live in Rome you have to obey the pope’s lord, rather than the lord pope

On another occasion, Peter Damian wrote this imagery to Hildebrand:

I humbly beg my Holy Satan not to act so cruelly towards me, nor should his impressive pride beat me with such frequent blows, but at length having its fill, it should show pity for his services. My livid shoulders have had enough of this, and bearing welts from this beating, my swollen back cannot withstand so many lashes

Another problem created by Gregory was his greater use of local resident legates to hold Councils, rather than sending cardinal-bishop/priests. In parallel, to the detriment of cardinal-deacons, there was no noticeable development in papal administration, probably because of Gregory’s time as archdeacon. This deteriorating relationship with cardinals contributed to a loss of the earlier sense of collegiality. In many ways, Gregory’s pontificate was a setback for the development of the Roman cardinalate.

Gregory also introduced a new concept into papal government whereby an individual’s importance or participation was dependent on their ‘serviceability’ to the pope – effectively, obedience to Gregory. This principle was applied to both churchmen and the laity, including Henry IV. By then a young man, he did not take kindly to having his imperial status overridden by a distant bishop in Rome. Of the many disputes between them, the so-called Investiture Controversy, concerning the right to appoint and invest bishops, took centre stage.

Henry refused to give up this level of authority. During the conflict, Henry’s German bishops supported him and not the pope because of Gregory’s restrictions on their own authority. Ultimately, widespread rebellion against the pope developed. Decrees were issued by imperial-led Councils in Germany and Italy, calling for Gregory’s deposition by force, if necessary, and the election of an anti-pope.

At one of these Councils, a forged copy of the 1059 election decree was in circulation, almost word for word with the original. However, the simple omission of the word episcopi (bishops) after the word cardinalis (cardinals) now implied that all cardinals had the right to elect a pope. This provided a major incentive for disaffected cardinal-priests whose status under Alexander II had been improved and yet was being held back under Gregory. This forgery became of enormous importance to the Roman cardinals.

Overt internal opposition within Rome eventually surfaced in 1082. Without Gregory’s presence, a meeting took place between high-ranking cardinals over his intention to mortgage Church property in order to fight, militarily if necessary, Henry IV. Those present comprised supporters and opponents of Gregory. The outcome was unanimous in rejecting the plan.

Matters finally came to a head in 1084 with the defection from Gregory of one cardinal bishop, eight cardinal-priests and three cardinal-deacons, together with many other leading Roman clergymen, including hand-picked recruits of Gregory. This rebellion at the heart of papal government heralded the final element in the transformation of the eleventh-century Roman cardinalate.

Bringing a military force to Rome, Henry saw an opportunity to rid himself of Gregory who took flight to Salerno where he died in 1085. Meantime, an anti-pope, Clement III, was installed with the support of the defecting cardinals and clergy. It was not until 1087 that Gregory’s supporters managed to elect Victor III as their pope. His short reign was followed by Urban II.

Two rival factions emerged during the so-called Wibertine schism, unleashing a major polemical battle. The defectors claimed that the Petrine commission, whereby Christ gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven and upon which papal succession was founded, was supplemented with an Apostolic commission, instructing the apostles to teach the word of Christ to all nations and baptise them accordingly. This notion placed the cardinals collectively on an almost equal footing with the pope.

During this period, neither Urban nor Clement was able to hold Rome for any length of time, so it was vital for both sides to have the support of its clergy, particularly as there was only ever one set of cardinal-priests and cardinal-deacons there, split between both camps. It was they whose base was in Rome, in contrast with the two sets of cardinal-bishops which developed outside the city.

This schism presented an ideal opportunity for cardinal-priests to exploit the situation and lobby for a greater say in papal government. This was first accepted by Clement and soon after by Urban. To acknowledge this development, in one of his few surviving decrees, the anti-pope went as far as describing his cardinals as papal eyes, having the authority to act collectively as his vicar during his frequent absences from Rome. He confirmed that papal justice and papal decrees were being issued through the cardinals and that they provided mutual co-operation in papal affairs and government.

It was also in Clement’s papal documents that the expression De fratrum consilio (concerning the advice of our brothers) began to appear more frequently, thereby demonstrating a joint decision-making process. It was also among Clement’s cardinals that increasing numbers of deacons began using the attribute, cardinalis, as they began to subscribe more and more to papal documents. Parallel developments in terms of attribution and status took place in Urban’s documentation, as both sides endeavoured to hold on to and expand cardinal support.

Whilst Clement tended to be predominant for most of the schism, ultimate victory came to his opponent. Although he died in 1099, Urban was immediately succeeded by cardinal-priest Rainer of S. Clemente as Paschal II. Clement died soon afterwards and, with the loss of imperial support whilst Henry IV was attending to the rebellion of his own son, the future Henry V, support for Clement’s faction waned. There were two further anti-popes, but only for short periods, attracting very limited Roman clerical support.

Many churchmen were tired of the conflict after fifteen years, so during the first decade of Paschal’s pontificate, most bridges between the rival cardinals were mended, either by compromise or death from natural causes. Over time, Paschal was able to call on the support of nearly all cardinals.

Far from being the end of the rise of the cardinals, their roles within the papacy evolved further over successive decades and centuries, with the honorific appointment of high-ranking clergymen to all three cardinal ranks, as they coalesced into one entity of equals.

But it was the second half of the eleventh century that had witnessed a major breakthrough – the transformation of the Roman cardinalate from liturgical functionaries into papal counsellors, with their responsibility in papal elections clearly established. Despite roles and responsibilities still to be clearly defined, cardinals were now at the heart of papal government, evident through their ongoing growth in subscriptions to papal documentation and by consistently appearing ahead of all other clergymen in such lists.

Historians have debated whether individuals such as Leo IX, Peter Damian, Gregory VII, Clement III or Urban II were responsible for this transformation, with its underlying themes of reform, reaction, counsel and ambition. However, it was the self-awareness of the cardinals themselves and their vision of the role they felt they should play in papal government that brought about these long-lasting changes.

It had not been a linear progression. Transformation had come about by both design and accident: the formation of a ‘kitchen-cabinet’ of reformers at the heart of the papacy; the development of a cardinal ecclesiology; the 1059 Papal Election Decree and its subsequent forgery; the decree of Alexander II concerning cardinal-priest responsibilities with the Roman Church; and, finally, the schism that forced the rival popes to involve cardinal-priests and cardinal-deacons progressively more into papal government. At every turn, this progression was underpinned by a vision of cardinal self-awareness, ultimately leading to a College of Cardinals we can recognise today where cardinals are still competing for power and control within the papacy.

Peter Firth

Hazel’s Funeral

In addition to those attending Hazel’s funeral at St Helen’s Church in Crosby on March 4th was a guard of honour outside, as the coffin was taken in. This was formed by some 30 children from the Savio Salesian College in Bootle where Hazel ran the school chaplaincy, having retired from formal teaching after many years at the Notre Dame Comprehensive in Liverpool.

Hazel was known in Crosby for her work as Eucharistic and lay funeral minister at St Helen’s, where she was also a part-time sacristan and she was also heavily involved in Neighbourhood Watch. All this was mentioned as part of the eulogy. She was a member of other church groups, including the Union of Catholic Mothers. Interestingly, it was confirmed that she was 71 and had no children of her own but treated her three godchildren as if they were hers.

Her niece, Scarlett, gave the priest some other information about Auntie Hazel, taking her and other siblings on holiday as children to Skegness and Blackpool. She always had something on the go – one project or another, or several! Hazel kept herself very busy since retiring as a teacher. She loved all the schoolchildren she came across who were “her kids”.

The priest also added that whenever he saw her she was always happy with a smile on her face and always had time for people.

She enjoyed travelling both on pilgrimages with the church but also on her own to more exotic locations like Japan and China.

Apparently, she was known for carrying “everything” in her handbag. So, for example, if someone had a corn on their feet, Hazel was there delving into it to come up with the appropriate plaster!

Finally, she was described as “a woman of faith.”

Peter Firth


Chair: Alan Potter
07713 428670

Secretary: Roger Mitchell
01695 423594 (Texts preferred to calls)

Membership Secretary and Forum Editor: Chris Nelson
07960 117719


See our archive for previous editions of the SUES Forum!

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