Opponents say readers of diary will be nauseated

Outrage over spoof book on Virgin Mary

Jonathan Wynne-Jones

A spoof diary of the Virgin Mary has caused outrage among members of the Church.

The diary is written by the Rev. David Wilbourne, in the style of Bridget Jones, and opens with Mary being violently sick, before she complains that the Sabbath is a day for “trudging off to the synagogue and having the law wailed at you.”

The chairman of the Prayer Book Society, Anthony Kilminster, said that Mr. Wilbourne’s new book is “outrageous in the hope that people will buy his book,” adding that they will be so “nauseated by his rather schoolboy approach that they will drop it like a hot cake.”

Mr. Wilbourne, a vicar in Helmsley, North Yorkshire, said that he had been inspired by Sue Townsend’s Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾, and his own three daughters. “I didn’t set out to be offensive. I hope people see Mary as flesh and blood. That was the aim of it,” he said.

However, Father Graeme Rowlands, of the Society of Mary, said: “This book will not help in any way towards making Mary a real person, if that is what it is genuinely trying to do, which I might question.”

The book, which is endorsed by a bishop and archbishop, is written in a conversational tone, and is set in a modern context, with references to pizza, Viagra, underarm deodorant, passive smoking, Guinness and mentions of Diana, Princess of Wales.

It describes itself as the “recently discovered” journals of “a quirky Palestinian girl, already bewildered by a peculiar conception.”

When Mary tells her parents, who run the local pizzeria, of her pregnancy, her mother showers her with pizza pans, while her father promises to sort out the Roman soldier he assumes is responsible with a “circumcision surprise.” Subsequently, Mary worries about Jesus as a small child and dreams that her son founds a multinational wine company with the slogan “Emmanuel, Wine for the World.”

At one point she declares that she is fed up with “having to do guest appearances at dumps like Lourdes and Walsingham.”

David Wilbourne, who is a former chaplain to the Archbishop of York, has also written a behind-the-scenes portrait of a year in the life of Dr. John Habgood, and defends his book by explaining that he realises that it “is a touchy area, but if a book doesn’t take a risk, then it’s probably not worth writing.”

He has sought the support of the Archbishop of York, Dr. David Hope, and his predecessor, Dr. John Habgood, and the Suffragan Bishop of Whitby, the Rt. Rev. Gordon Bates.

From The Church of England Newspaper, 13 August 1999

A Virgin’s Diary was published by SPCK on 23 September 1999

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