With News International finally admitting that its employees were involved in hacking the mobile phones of many public figures, further details have been emerging of their victims. Previously believed to have included celebrities, politicians and sportsmen, it has now transpired that the News of The World’s targets also included several top clergymen. “How else do you think the Murdoch press has stifled any moral condemnation of his empire other than by threatening to blow the lid on what’s really going on in the Church of England?,” asks former News International reporter Harry Spanks, who claims to have heard recordings of several incriminating phone conversations between Anglican Bishops. “Apparently, he’s obtained some sensational phone conversations between the Archbishop of Canterbury and one of his top Bishops, making sexist comments about women priests. In one, the Archbishop jokes that women priests shouldn’t be promoted as they don’t understand the difference between the immaculate conception and the virgin birth. If that was ever released, it would completely destroy Rowan Williams’ liberal credentials!”

According to Spanks, there are even more sensational recordings, including at least one, which, if made public, would rock the Church of England to its foundations. “I wouldn’t have believed it myself, if I hadn’t heard it with my own ears,” he says. “But they got one of the most senior clergyman in the Church of England on tape, admitting that it’s all a sham – that God doesn’t exist! He admits that they just made it all up!” Despite the Church of England’s denials that any such conversations had ever taken place, the former News of The World horoscope writer maintains that the distinctive tones of the Bishop of Wincanton – a leading liberal Bishop – can be heard on the tape, telling a colleague that Christianity would be an easier sell if only they could ‘drop all the mystical bollocks’, and adopt a more charismatic figurehead than Jesus. “That beard and sandals Guardian reader look just won’t cut it anymore – we need to appeal to today’s parishioners, who expect management to be clean cut and wear sharp suits,” he reportedly said, before going on to suggest that God himself had a makeover. “I mean, really, what’s with that big beard? They are such a cliché amongst deities and prophets, most people can’t tell the difference between them – they just see all that facial fuzz. Now, if we had a clean shaven God, that would allow us to differentiate him from all the rival gods in our marketing.”

But the Bishop of Wincanton’s stolen telephone conversations went beyond simply discussing marketing strategies for the Anglican church, claims Spanks. “On one tape he goes on about how they have to make heaven seem more appealing, as it’s about the only thing they have to offer potential customers,” he explains. “He reckoned they could pretty much promise anything they liked, as nobody could possibly complain that it wasn’t true, as there was no afterlife, it was all a myth!” The rogue reporter also alleges that in another recording, an obviously inebriated Bishop of Wincanton enters into a rant as to how stupid the church’s followers are. “They’ll believe anything, the gullible bastards,” he supposedly says. “We should take more advantage, get God to tell them to gives us more money, or oral sex, but only on Sundays in the choir stalls! It wouldn’t be difficult – we make up all that stuff on God’s behalf anyway. He hasn’t spoken to anyone except nutters since the twelfth century at least!” Judging by later tapes the journalist claims to have heard, the Bishop apparently followed his own advice with regard to abusing his congregation. “There’s one conference call where he and a bunch of other Bishops seem to be organising some kind of sex orgy – they go on about getting the ‘birds from the Women’s Institute’ drunk on communion wine,” he reveals. “They were going to lure the women there with promises of snorting some ‘white powder’ – you can hear the Bishop of Wincanton laughing over the fact that it was just crushed communion wafers. When one of other Bishops complains that he’s short of women for his next orgy, Wincanton tells him he’ll send a load of hot nuns round to his cathedral to ‘get the party started’.”

Other illegally eavesdropped conversations involve the Bishop describing his drunken sex antics to colleagues. “He boasts about how he stood naked in the pulpit at one of his sex orgies, shaking his erect penis like a censer, showering his congregation with his jizz,” says Spanks. “He also talks about using real dog collars for holy bondage sessions involving him being strapped to a crucifix and whipped by women dressed as Roman soldiers. It was shocking stuff, I can tell you!” For his part, the Bishop of Wincanton has denied all of Spanks’ allegations, pointing out that the journalist has no physical evidence of the supposed recordings, beyond a set of handwritten transcripts.

Undeterred by such scepticism or, indeed, the threat of legal action, Spanks has continued with his bizarre allegations, claiming that New International had also targeted the Roman Catholic church. “It went back to when Tony Blair was in Downing Street – Murdoch knew he was a closet Catholic and decided to hedge his bets, just in case he brought in a counter-reformation,” he declares. “But as everyone knows, those left-footers don’t like technology, so it would have been pointless to try and tap their mobiles, as they’ve banned them for being sinful.” Instead, he claims, the newspaper group employed mediums to try and tap into senior Catholic clergymen’s conversations with God. “What we heard was shocking,” says Spanks. “It was pure bile, they seem to spend all their time calling on God to strike down parishioners who waste their time with boring, non-scandalous, confessions, or to make sure some nag they’ve bet the entire church roof funds on to come first in the three-thirty at Haydock.”

The more senior the clergyman, the more offensive the prayers, Spanks alleges. “I’m telling you, that Brendan O’Fugh, the Bishop of Skibereen, he was one of the worst,” he recalls. “You should have heard what he was telling the Lord about rival religions – the Protestants are all fornicators and anal fetishists, the Jews masturbate over effigies of Christ and as for the Muslims, well what he said was quite unrepeatable. He called on God to send down angels to kill them all – and fellate him if they still had time after all that genocide.” A furious Bishop O’Fugh has, naturally, refuted these allegations. “You just wait until I get my hands on the little bastard,” he declared, upon hearing of Spanks’ claims. “I’ll give him a penance his arse won’t be forgettin’ in a hurry!” News International have also been quick to pour cold water on Spanks’ claims, pointing out that if they were interested in uncovering ecclesiastical wrong-doing, they’d hardly need to tap priests’ phones. “With the number of choirboys’ backsides being penetrated behind the altar, and children being sold into slave labour by nuns, it’s hardly a secret,” says a spokesperson for the media giant. “They’re virtually doing it in the streets, for God’s sake!”