ECCLESIASTICAL DEEP THROAT


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Daily Mail diarist, raconteur and author John McEntee remembers an exorcism with Father Michael Seed, the “priest to the stars” famed for his string of well-connected friends and other inspirational stories

The Rev. Father Michael Seed is a Latin Rite Catholic priest, a Franciscan friar, author, and former Ecumenical Advisor to the former Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Basil Hume

The Rev. Father Michael Seed is a Latin Rite Catholic priest, a Franciscan friar, author, and former Ecumenical Advisor to the former Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Basil Hume

Fr Michael Seed was a godsend, manna from heaven. A friar of the St Franciscan Order of the Atonement, the mere whiff of a cork had Fr Michael singing for his supper, lunch, refreshments at the French House and afters at Jerry’s Club in Dean Street.
As Cardinal Basil Hume, the late Archbishop of Westminster’s advisor on ecumenism Michael gleefully disclosed, over a friendly bottle or two, details of the visits of Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Princess Diana and other notables to Basil’s red brick home behind the cathedral.
As a gossip columnist on various newspapers I rejoiced in encounters with dear Michael. He was the fashionable society cleric who converted the likes of Anne Widdecombe and John Gummer. Michael was diary gold.
Smuggled into Downing Street to celebrate secret masses for Tony and Cherie Blair; stories of Michael failing to convert Alan Clark on his death bed; sending Pope Benedict XVI beer mats from Soho’s French House provided glorious icing on the gossip column cake.
Fr Michael was a living breathing ecclesiastical Deep Throat.
And as chaplain of the Useless Information Society (of which I remain a member) he was endlessly indiscreet and great fun.
Once when the late, great Keith Waterhouse complained about the absence of royalties from our co-authored Useless Information handbook (9 editions) founder Noel Botham declared at a drink fuelled dinner upstairs in his pub, the French House, that he would take us all to New York for lunch in lieu of payment.
Keith pointed a rheumy finger at Seed, declaring he wanted his share to go to Michael’s shelter for down and outs in Westminster. The cleric quickly whispered in Botham’s ear prompting Botham’s retort: ‘Fr Michael says if he gets Keith’s share of the royalties he will use it to come to New York with us for lunch!’

Waterhouse never attended another UIS nosebag.
When he was asked by the dying Tory diarist Alan Clark if he would be reunited with his beloved departed dogs in heaven, Michael nudged his glasses back up his nose and replied in the negative: ‘Dogs don’t go to heaven’. Subsequently a debate in the letter pages of The Spectator concluded that while dogs didn’t have souls, Heaven was what you decided. If you wanted Rover and Spot at your side in paradise so be it.
Michael, appointed adviser on ecumenism by the late Basil Hume, managed to survive successor Cardinal Cormac – Murphy but was doomed on the elevation of Cardinal Nichols. His Eminence didn’t see the point of the tonsured monk with the face of an altar boy and the thirst of a camel.
Michael fetched up in Cardiff where his friend George Stack had been raised to Archbishop. Now he is back in London, greatly diminished. Suffering from dementia and existing on a small stipend from the Westminster diocese, there is little sign of his fashionable friends including Cherie Blair.
We spoke recently on the telephone to arrange lunch. Poignantly he absent-mindedly returned my call seventeen times. It was heart-breaking. A good and loyal friend Derram Attfield has been organising his life, ensuring he eats and doesn’t turn up at the wrong date for events.
But Michael no longer lights up London book launches, openings and soirees with his quick laugh and whispered confidences. I miss him. Memories crowd in – a pilgrimage to Rome where Michael boasted about St Francis’s leg being venerated in a local church, Noel Botham’s 69th birthday lunch in Paris when Michael missed the return Eurostar.
But mostly, an extraordinary afternoon in the French House pub in Dean Street, on the very day of the monstrous attack on New York’s Twin Towers.
Fr Michael had been commissioned by Noel’s saintly wife Leslie to conduct an exorcism in the basement of the Soho pub. She believed that evil spirits had been unleashed by a flood, later rectified by Thames Water.
Michael descended the stairs on 9/11 to declare:
“From anger, hatred, and all ill will, from all lewdness, from lightning and tempest, from the scourge of earthquakes, from plague, famine, and war, from everlasting death, by the mystery of your holy incarnation, by your coming, by your birth, by your baptism and holy fasting, by your cross and passion, by your death and burial, by your holy resurrection, by your wondrous ascension, by the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, on the day of judgment, from all evil, deliver us, O Lord.’
It was truly moving and I was privileged to be one of four who witnessed his exorcism. He may have over-indulged in the drinks department, sucked up to the powers-that-be and innocently betrayed Basil Hume’s confidences. But I truly believe that Fr Michael, diminished though he is, is a good and decent man.

 


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