This is a kind of kiss and tell book that both attracts (for the gossip I confess but also the sheer wonder at how on earth he managed to get away with so much) and also repells. Is anything private – what of the seal of the confessional?
We find him rubbing shoulders with a dazzling range of celebs – Cynthia Payne appears on the same page as the Duchess of Kent; Peter Stringfellow jostles for position with Lord Longford, Rolf Harris, the Pope and Cilla Black. The good father makes no distinction between the Queen and Ronnie Corbett so long as they are newsworthy. He magnanimously informs readers that he does know some good, ordinary people, but they are not the subject of these “diaries”.
In what sense the book is a real diary we do not know. The text bears all the hallmarks of having been dictated to an illiterate scribe (presumably to Noel Botham, named in the text as a friend and on the title page as co-author). Thus we find the father speaking of his “endearing” love for Ann Widdecomb.
While not actually betraying the secrets of the confessional, this star-struck busybody loves to repeat conversations which a discreet clergyman would have deemed inappropriate for public consumption.
What a coincidence that wherever Father Seed has been officiating, the press so mysteriously turns up. At Widdecombe’s reception into the Roman church, we read that “the cameras never stopped clicking or the bulbs flashing”. Fancy that – “word had got out”. God had presumably been at His old tricks of blabbing to the press.
One of the fascinations of this book, which manages to be repulsive and ridiculous, is the question it poses about the author himself. What impression does he think he is creating, for example, by the cringe-making cheekiness of the chapter headings – “Mother Teresa Comes A-Callin'”, “When the President Patted the Queen’s Rump” and so on.
He records previous cardinals exploding with rage at Seed’s indiscretions but they did not sack him. He has now left Westminster Cathedral but he will surely not have left the public stage. Where two or three Hello!-style celebs are gathered together, Father Michael Seed will surely be there in their midst, managing to be both clumsily sycophantic and intrusive.
What next for this publicity hungry priest – and for myself – I am slightly ashamed at having bought the book. Anybody want it??