The Pathos of Flowers
Here's a little Rorschach-y test for you

Has Christopher Hitchens Been Bitten By a Rabid Animal?

That would be a charitable explanation for this bizarre statement:

"Yet here [in the Catholic Church] is an ancient Christian church that deals in awful certainties when it comes to outright condemnation of sins like divorce, abortion, contraception, and homosexuality between consenting adults. For these offenses there is no forgiveness, and moral absolutism is invoked."

Even a superficial knowledge of Christianity ought to be sufficient to keep one from saying something so preposterous. But of course Hitchens has been raving this way for a long time, so an illness like rabies, which either passes away or kills its victim in a fairly short time, is probably not to blame.

Hitchens and his similarly-minded pal Richard Dawkins have, you may have heard, launched a plan to have Pope Benedict arrested for "crimes against humanity." The immediate occasion for this is the recent round of publicity about sexual abuse by Catholic priests. But can anyone doubt that Hitchens and Dawkins would hate the pope, and the Church, just as much if the scandal did not exist? That's the way bigotry is. It doesn't really need much justification, and it never, ever succumbs to the temptation to be fair or rational.

I've subscribed to The Atlantic for ten years or so now, and have recently been considering letting my subscription lapse. One of the reasons I've kept it has been Hitchens' literary criticism. But now I wonder whether I should take it at all seriously. I know he's capable of speaking utter falsehood and nonsense with supreme confidence on the subject of Christianity, so how can I know whether he is doing so when he talks about literature?

The context of the above remark is here. Two of many, many responses (not necessarily to this piece in particular, but to Hitchens' attacks at large) are here and here

In general the current anti-Church frenzy, though rooted in very grave problems, has been and still is the occasion of shameful journalistic malpractice; see here for specifics on that charge. As bad as the abuse and coverups were--and make no mistake, they were abominable--the Church as a whole has, finally, responded vigorously. And the press deserves a lot of credit for bringing it all to light. But a Catholic facility today, at least in this country, is probably one of the safest places in the world for children and adolescents. The fury of these attacks is rooted in something else. There is a quality of blood-lust about it, especially where the pope himself is concerned.


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There's a link on Thursday Night Gumbo to this article by Richard Dawkins. And now it's here!

There cannot be, can there, any possibility that these men believe that they are telling the truth, or that the media in general doesn't know that they are publishing a bunch of lies? I think their willingness to do this is frightening.


I think they're in that state of indignation that's like drunkenness--they don't even allow themselves to think, in the sense of using their reason, about whether it's true or not.

TNG is another blog I'd gotten behind on because of all the attention mine was taking. Thanks for pointing this out.

It says a lot about the current climate that RD can not only say things like this, but still be respected and honored. "...the whole profiteering, woman-fearing, guilt-gorging, truth-hating, child-raping institution..." is a good instance of what I mean about the scandals having little to do with their rage. If you removed "child-raping" from the list, the sentiment would not be changed at all.

I think you are spot on about everything here (Dawkins, Hitchins, media, drunkeness) except for one point.

the Church as a whole has, finally, responded vigorously

The Church has indeed responded vigorously to the sex abuse among the clergy. However, the bishops have gotten away with horrible stuff, and I see virtually nothing in the works to hold them accountable for their past misdeeds.

While it is a rare thing indeed for a priest to be a pedophile, nearly every bishop has so many priests that nearly every bishop has had to deal with at least one pedophile priest. Nearly every one of those bishops shuffled the pedophile off to another parish saying "Oh, he's been to the psychologist and has been cured now."

That excuse works the first time.

After the same bishop has seen the 'cure' be completely ineffective time and time again, the bishop had to know that some poor child was going to be raped yet again in the new parish. It is nothing less than complicity to rape. And this wasn't rare among bishops, the complicity was systematic. It will not happen again, but the Church has done *nothing* to punish bishops for things they did in the past.

No, the Church has not yet responded vigorously. Dawkins and Hitchens are terrible liars, but the Church will never be perceived as more credible as long as it continues to harbor guilty bishops.

Still Mac, I realize that this wasn't the main thrust of your argument. With that, I am in full agreement.

There cannot be, can there, any possibility that these men believe that they are telling the truth, or that the media in general doesn't know that they are publishing a bunch of lies?

Not a hope, surely.

For these offenses there is no forgiveness

Well, I was not aware of these being the Unforgivable Sin, were you?

Yet here [in the Catholic Church] is an ancient Christian church that deals in awful certainties when it comes to outright condemnation of sins like divorce, abortion, contraception, and homosexuality between consenting adults.

Ah, the crux of the problem. If the Church would only roll over on these important "freedoms" no one would pay us any attention at all. Not in the media and not anywhere else.

It all comes down to What I Want To Do With My Pink Bits.

I agree with what Dave says, eg when he writes,

However, the bishops have gotten away with horrible stuff, and I see virtually nothing in the works to hold them accountable for their past misdeeds.

I am probably wrong about this, but I feel so strongly about this that it even annoys me when the Pope says the Church should do penance. As far as I can see, most members of the Church outside the episcopate have nothing to do penance about. They were not responsible. The laity didn't and do not move priests around; the laity have next to no say in whom their parish priest shall be, and the abuse by definition is practised by clergy, and most of the time, the victims are lay. I don't see why we should do penance for being the victims of clericalism.

I am probably wrong about this, but I feel so strongly about this that it even annoys me when the Pope says the Church should do penance.

Yes, actually, I rather agree with you there, Francesca. Did the Pope mostly just mean the clergy involved (and the incompetent bishops?) I'm only asking b/c that is how I have instinctively interpreted it.

And yes, I think that something needs to be done about the bishops concerned. At least the worst cases.

Funny you should say that Francesca. A colleague of mine, an atheist and a DINK, asked me about the whole business yesterday. Her reaction to the penance remark was the same as yours. Like Louise, I instinctively thought B16 meant the church leadership.

Louise, I would be satisfied with making examples of the most egregious bishops. Whisking Cardinal Law off to the vatican just as he was about to be indicted by civil authorities is of course, the exact opposite.

The bishops are aging of course. I don't doubt that some of our leadership is merely stalling in hopes that natural attrition will make that go away.

Oh, and thanks for the 'pink bits' remark. I'll be chuckling about that all day - to myself as I'd be too embarrassed to share it with anyone.

The "vigorous response" I referred to was the effort to keep this stuff from happening anymore. I pretty much agree with you, Dave & Francesca, about the lack of accountability for bishops. I'm not sure what punishment should have been given them. What I would have liked to see--would still like to see--is some self-punishment. "I have disgraced my office. I am asking the pope to appoint someone else to my see and will retire to a monastery for the rest of my days."

You don't see that kind of honor *anywhere* these days.

I assumed, too, that "the hierarchy" was what was meant by "the Church" in the pope's statement, and hadn't even thought about it till y'all mentioned it. That's sorta sad.

It didn't occur to me that he meant the hierarchy. If he did, it's a weirdly restricted use of the term 'Church'.

I don't think they should just punish the worst offenders amongst the episcopate. I think that the sex abuse crisis is an extreme example of a very general syndrome, whereby Bps and religious orders shift around 'difficult' priests, and parishes have no say at all in which of these characters is landed on them. There are dozens of much less egregrious ways in which a PP can be a dud other than being a child abuser!

I think that over time they should change the way in which parishes are 'given' their priests. In The Voices of Morebath, Eamon Duffy describes pre-Reformation English parishes as effectively hiring their own priests, and being capable of 'firing' them if they were duds. With Trent came a much greater centralisation. That worked so long as the Church was very hierarchical, and priests did as they were told. Since VII, bishops seem to have lost such control over their priests. I'm not saying that is entirely a bad thing, and I'm not suggesting we should 'go back' to it. Rather, it seems we should go forward toward parishioners having some say in who their priests are.

I have an American Rad Trad friend who, after the Proprio Moto, went round his Rad Trad friends and acquaintances and got them to agree to tithe sufficiently to support a Rad Trad priest. He then presented his Bp with a deal - they'd pay for the guy, etc. The Bp was happy with it. There's a story about it somewhere on New Liturgical Movement if you want to look it up in their archives.

I doubt if that situation could ever be the norm, since not *that* many parishioners want as much involvement as this. But it could be sufficiently common to influence less activist parishes, to the degree that all parishes have *some* say about who their priest is.

To me it is two quite different things:

1) the real stories about episcopal cover-ups and mismanagement, including the recent reports into the behaviour of the Irish Bps. I really doubt if these stories all relate to the past - I think it is a continuing problem.

2) the horrific lies which have been spread about the Pope over the past few weeks.

The laity is certainly suffering in many ways from the actions of these priests and bishops and sometimes I get very irritated by the hoops that I have to jump through to teach 5 children in a room where people can see me all the time. And the fact that the money that we give to support the work of our diocese (including ministry to the poor and suffering) is being used to settle these law cases is really infuriating. How does this punish the perpetrators?
However, I wonder if when the Pope talks about the Church doing penance something like 1 Corninthians 12:21 doesn't come into play. And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee: or again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
A member of my family did something a few years ago that, in some sense, will cause all of us to suffer everyday for many years. This isn't fair, but we are doing penance whether we like it or not. We can just rail against it, or we can offer it up for his redemption and for the healing of our family. So, I'm thinking that this is similar to what we are called to do wrt the bishops, pedophile priests, etc. We are members of a Body--and so are they. We suffer from them and with them whether we choose or not. If we choose, we can turn that suffering into penance, which is really the only thing we can do about the situation.

Yes, I understand that we're a single body. But morally, the laity took very few or none of the decisions which led to the abuses, and were the main victims of the abuses. (I keep saying 'were the main victims' because it is said that in some seminaries in New Foundland and Ireland there must have been an inculturation into abuse by older priests). And, in order to take practical action to prevent such behaviour recurring, one has to specify which part of the body is responsible for the ills, and alter things. It's no good just saying, 'we're all one body'.

Moreover, when St Paul says that the eye can't say to the foot, I have no need of you, he is thinking of eg charismatics can't say they don't need down to earth preachers, and inspirational preachers can't say they don't need people who remember what all the rules and regs are. The point of his statement is not that victims of crimes are morally responsible for crimes perpetrated against them.

Down toward the end of Lent, when I hadn't seen a paper or a blog for a long time, a colleague started ranting at me about the 'hypocrisy' of the Church objecting to 'divorce' when the Church shelters abusers. Hitchens' piece must have been the source of his 'thinking' on this topic.

I don't think that's what Janet is saying, though she can correct me if I'm wrong--there's the concrete response of the institution, and the personal response of, e.g. Mac Horton, particularly my spiritual response. I think her view of the latter is correct, but doesn't remove the need for something more concrete in the former.

Yes, that's exactly what I was going to say.

I didn't say that we were morally responsible. I said that we suffer nevertheless and that there is something that we can do about that which is to offer that suffering in reparation. Just because Paul is talking about charisms in that particular situation does not mean that the analogy does not hold for other situations.


I agree we can offer our suffering, but, to me, that is not the same as doing penance.

Just because Paul is talking about charisms in that particular situation does not mean that the analogy does not hold for other situations

I can't agree that 'we all need one another's different gifts' can be generalized to mean 'we are all equally morally responsible for one another's crimes' or even 'we are all morally responsible for one another's crimes'

I never said, Francesca that we are all morally responsible. I said that the sins of other members of the body make us suffer.


I agree we can offer our suffering, but, to me, that is not the same as doing penance.

I didn't see this before, and that's a good clarification. Maybe I'm thinking reparation. I guess we can't do penance for what other people do.


I would entirely concede that Benedict's attitude here is entirely exemplary. Here he is, not just innocent of the charges lately laid at his door, but actually the reverse, being the Bp who has done most to try to root out the causes of abuse. And he sweetly accepts all that, and says, 'let's do penance'.

My own attitude is un-exemplary. I'm pretty angry, not only about the Bps' collusion in abuse (eg in Ireland), but about its being symptomatic of the disenchfranchisement of the laity with respect to their own PPs. As I see it, the wider episcopal attitude underlying 'shifting around child abusing priests' is 'shifting around any kind of difficult priest', and dumping him on a different parish for a while. My reaction to this is not ideal, and certainly not Christ-like, like Benedict's. But, since Easter, starting with Keith O'Brien in Edinburgh, Bps have been saying, 'we all need to do penance for the sins of the Church', and it simply annoys me.

I'm afraid that the problem with letting parishes choose their own priests is that most of them would choose charismatic (in the TV sort of way) priests who reinvent the liturgy and make everyone feel happy. Not that I'm against being happy.


I read this at Easter

Cardinal O'Brien, who first apologised for the scandal in 2002, will say the actions of those who failed to report the abuse "brings shame on us all".

"Crimes against children have indeed been committed and any Catholics who were aware of such crimes and did not act to report them, brings shame on us all," he will tell his congregation.

It made me think, 'speak for yourself, mate.'

Well, I think it does bring shame on us all.

No doubt at all of that.

I confess, I'm pretty closely aligned with Francesca's reaction (I think). I am inclined to the "speak for yourself" POV.

I don't know if this has brought shame on me (I have not abused children or aided and abetted anyone else), but it certainly has brought pain and suffering. I agree that I can and should offer it up.

I must say, it helps me to focus on Christ. I have had lots of personal struggles lately and I have felt the need to focus on His stripes, as in, "with his stripes we are healed."

Interestingly now, if the Church's attackers are challenged about their apparent lack of concern for survivors of non-clerical sexual abuse (e.g in the Polanski case) they have taken to saying, "yes, but Polanski doesn't set himself up as a moral authority" etc. Now that may or may not be true (he is a movie director and it seems to me that they can be very moralising), but it doesn't change the fact that these people are more interested in attacking the Church than in defending children, which one can easily show. I have several links to local child abuse cases where there is surely judicial incompetence, or at least a lack of moral outrage in the media. This stinks and seems to point to the fact that it's not the Church's position as a moral authority that is the problem, but the actual morals she teaches.

The classic case was that listed here by Francesca, about the 'hypocrisy' of the Church objecting to 'divorce' when the Church shelters abusers.

I don't know whether the person who said that is a divorcee (and particularly a divorcee who left their marriage, but I don't see how the evil of child abuse somehow excuses those people who throw away their spouse like a piece of garbage. It's a tu quoque argument (isn't it?) How would my being the Spawn of Satan, for example, make it okay for someone else to divorce? (I am assuming no Domestic Violence etc, btw).

Here we see where the attackers' motives are.

That is not to say that there aren't real concerns - particularly these rotten bishops.

Francesca, I was very interested in what you had to say about parishioners having more say in the priests they receive. I never knew that was more the case in the past. I do know that our Archbishop will retire some time in the next year and many of us are writing madly to The Powers That Be begging for the best man they can possibly give us. Otherwise, barring a miracle, our diocese will surely die right out in the next couple of decades.

I see I missed some comments this afternoon, when I was pretty busy for a while. The "shame" aspect of this to me is not personal, or not directly so, but institutional: I am ashamed of the behavior of this institution of which I'm a a part. When that bishop or cardinal says "we are all shamed" I think "yeah, and your behavior is what we're ashamed of."

There's a scene in A Man for All Seasons where More dismisses the trumped-up charges of bribery (I think it was?) against him and roars that everyone knows the reason he's on trial is "because I WOULD NOT BEND TO THE MARRIAGE!" Something like that goes through my head when I read people like Dawkins on this matter. They hate the Church for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with child abuse, mostly having to do with sexual morality among grown-ups, and would hate it just as much without that excuse. I wonder if Dawkins has ever slipped and referred to this as God's gift to his anti-Catholic project. :-)

The "shame" aspect of this to me is not personal, or not directly so, but institutional: I am ashamed of the behavior of this institution of which I'm a a part.


I wonder if Dawkins has ever slipped and referred to this as God's gift to his anti-Catholic project


The guy in question is separated from his wife, but, to be fair, she left him.

Also to be fair to my other colleagues:
my office window faces the setting sun, so I have a 'sun-screen' of about 25 pieces of A4 (high windows in Kings College). In the past I had printed pictures of French cathedrals on all of them. In the past 10 days, it did seem to be yellowing rather, so I pulled it down and replaced it with 25 A4 pictures of papal triple crowns. I've had nothing but sympathetics looks from all other colleagues, and one tried (unsuccessfully) to explain to me how to print them out as A3, to make it more discernible from ground level.

Louise: I had that impression of the laity more or less hiring and firing their clergy from Eamon Duffy's The Voices of Morebath. I'm not a mediaeval church historian, so I don't know how full a picture it is. It does seem that after the Reformation the relation of laity to clergy changed, with the clerics more, so to say, on a pedestal. If Chaucer had published the Canterbury Tales, with its mildly satirical portraits of many kinds of cleric (he satirises not all, but several of the clerics on the pilgrimage), in the 18th or 19th century, one can easily imagine it getting onto the Index. Eamon Duffy's clerics are all called 'Sir'. According to one Dominican friend, it was first the Jesuits who wanted to be called 'Father', then the Franciscans copied then, then 'everyone wanted to be called Father'.

Janet suggests that, if parishes had more say in their PPs' selection, it would all be 'feel good happy clappy' priests. I don't know. I don't think my idea will ever happen as a 'program' imposed from above. But I think it may well happen as a matter of practical realities. With more TLM parishes and Anglican Use parishes, and, with the increasing numerical diminution of clerics in relation to laity, it may be that, in many instances that parish members will be much more consciously aware that they are the ones supporting their PP. To put it another way, they will know that that, unless they support and 'buy in' a PP, they won't have one. There will always be episcopal oversight of what happens.

With the Presbyterians (Church of Scotland), once a minister is trained, in order to get a job, he applies to a parish, and if they like him, he is 'called in'. I think it's the same with the Presbyterians in Canada. The reason is, it's a matter of principle for them, that they have a church run by laity and 'elders'.

I don't think it was a matter of principle for Catholics in the middle ages that parishioners had some ability to hire and fire their clergy, and I doubt if it will be so in any future in which selection of priests is
'mediaevalised'. Our concept of the 'priesthood of believers' is different from the protestant one (it doesn't include theological anti-clericalism).

So I don't really think Janet's fear is grounded. 1) a *truly* sappy happy-clappy parish is not going to have the backbone to pay for its own priest, and will therefore (with clerical shortages) either die out or have a priest imposed on it in the old fashioned way. 2) there will always be some episcopal oversight amongst Catholics. 3) I'm thinking of something that 1st happens amongst TLM and Anglican Use types, and in areas where the priest shortage is so dire it forces parishes to become proactive and then influences other places a bit. IE, something that happens in a patchwork way, not systematically, as a matter of principle. I'm thinking by analogy of the way the liturgy looks to becoming more diverse from parish to parish.

That would be *way* too many triple crowns for me, Francesca.

The tendency (really it's stronger than that) to put the priest on a pedestal is something that's totally foreign to me. I don't know how much of that is being a convert from Protestantism, and how much is just me, but I really don't share it at all, and the more extreme manifestations of it, that all but forbid any criticism of a priest, are creepy to me. I've noticed with some cradle Catholics of my age and older that there is a really deep reluctance to cross Father in any way, I mean a timidity about even disagreeing with him, much less speak ill of him. And to a certain point that's good, but it often seems to me to go past that certain point. I think that's reflective of the mind-set that allowed those monsters to get away with it: on the lay side, that deference, and on the clerical side, a feeling that the deference was proper--ok, maybe--and deserved--not really ok.

They don't call us *ultra* montanists for nothing!

Europeans often find American RCs extremely clerical. It's partly because (against the steriotype) Americans are more polite than Europeans.

And that's fascinating about the less deferential attitude in the middle ages. I can't speak to the history, but I do remember thinking something along those lines while reading Kristen Lavrandsdatter. I've sometimes wondered about the use of "Father" and just assumed it went back to the very early Church (Nicea-era at least).

I think you're greatly underestimating the problem of parishes going wacko, at least in this country. We already have parishes that are pretty far gone in that direction. It might be a reasonable trade-off, but it would definitely happen.

As I may not need to point out, but will anyway, the congregationalist-style thing, which the Baptists here have, where the people "call" their minister, has major problems, in that the minister becomes unable to speak with authority to the congregation, esp if the message is at all unwelcome, because he's got to stay on their good side. This is even more true if, as is the norm, he's married & has a family to support.

The son of my Finnish friend recently visited this country (Atlanta) and came back positively annoyed at American politeness--apparently heard way too many "excuse me"s to suit him. But then she (his mother) says Finns are rude...

I wonder if he would have thought the same if he went to Chicago or New York instead of Atlanta.


This is about NYC, 40 years ago. As ex-pat children in Manhatten, my brother and I once told our visiting aunt & uncle that English people had more 'manners' than Americans. They said it was not so: for instance American men would take their hats off if a woman got into a lift ('elevator'). Of course that that example no longer stands, but, including the many PC and 'commercial' forms of manners (like 'have a nice day!' from salespeople) I would still say that Americans seem to be trained, one way or another to be polite.

Mac, your comment about wacko parishes reminds me of Eve Tushnet saying that 'Kirk type conservativism' would not work in the US, because America is too weird, and your own remark, when we were discussing the NHS, and perhaps US health reforms, that a NHS would not work in America, because it's too crazy (I think I had said we had the NHS here in the UK and it didn't automatically lead to enforced euthanasia or some such, and you said some American would demand it as a legal right).

I'm neither proposing nor predicting that all RC parishes in 50 years time will be autonomously self-supporting by parishioners, with no episcopal oversight. My analogy is TLM and Anglican Use parishes, not because I happen to prefer them, but because they are actually becoming a reality, and are (in some cases) self-supporting. It just seems likely or possible that, with such parishes around, their example will spread. So that (as will happen pretty soon in Europe), when a diocese becomes very short of priests, a parish may be enabled to take matters into their own hands and 'hire' one. News spreads very fast with the web. Suppose you are in the far North of Scotland, and have read that story about my TLM friend on the web, and your parish is losing its priest and he's not being replaced, you might be emboldened to get together with your friends, and agree to tithe, and advertise for a priest. And if you got one, your Bishop might be quite happy with the situation. And then, further, a more 'central' parish would see that that had happened, and realize that just being told who their PP is to be by the Bishop 'doesn't have to be the way it is'. I'm talking about small steps away from a 'central command' distributing of priests, in which parishioners have no say at all.

Of course, in the late middle ages, if I'm reading Duffy right to be saying that English parishes had rights of hiring and firing, there were entirely separate mechanisms for dealing with priests and others with heretical opinions. Cue for a 'no one expects the Spanish Inquisition' joke. Such a mechanism today could not be any kind of inquisition, since that seems to require a kind of church-state collusion which no longer exists (I am glad to say). But mechanisms outside the lay parish structure for dealing with heresy could be envisaged.

If I may say, the American Bps do not seem to be operating very well at present as such a mechanism.

Saying that many parishes in the future might develop a 'post-modern mediaeval' degree of responsibility for their own PPs doesn't mean that they would have the right to decide whether their PP would be RC or not.

I don't know if I agree about Baptist ministers (and other Protestant) speaking to their congregations with authority. I know of Church of Scotland ministers who are pretty tough, but retain the respect of their congregations. It's a bit like tough professors. If one is seen to be tough but fair, one is admired. We have a very stringent and hard-marking German professor (I mean, a professor of German nationality, not a professor of German), who gets course evaluations such as 'Prof S is a legend'.

I'm not saying your scenario is implausible or undesirable, but it will inevitably sometimes work out in ways that none of us would much like. I can think of a couple of parishes I know of where "liberal" parish and "liberal" priest have been together for many years, in a development pretty much like what you describe with AU and TLM parishes.

What would be ideal, to me, would be most parishes 'hiring and firing' their PP, and, simultaneously, institutional mechanisms for restraining actual heresy which are independent of that.

Within such an ideal, not to say utopian, situation, parishes would range from the liberal to the conservative broadly within the framework of Catholic orthodoxy.

We may be using the term 'liberal' differently. Or it could be the case that it works like 'conservative': my brother says that, any American conservative is 180 degrees to the right of any English conservative. Similarly in a British context, a liberal priest is generally a bit of a 'wet', but not someone who regularly takes the pulpit to denounce the pope or the church's teachings.

By 'liberal' in this context I mean a priest (and congregation) who have some heretical ideas, or at least sit lightly to orthodoxy in some areas, but who are not actively *promoting a program of heresy*. I know for instance a priest who has lately celebrated his 50th anniversary as a priest, and who is deeply beloved hereabouts, because of his profoundly charitable character. The truth is, if you talk to him for any length of time, you can see he's fairly 'liberal' in the above sense. But I've only ever once or twice heard him say something really off-base in a sermon (One of these times he was directly contradicting something I'd written. I had said in an obituary that a man 'would probably not have long for purgatory', and he said at the funeral mass, looking straight at me, that the chap *is in heaven now*. Several Protestants later questioned me about his statement, and it was embarrassing). Still, I'd have to agree with our Abbot, who calls him a holy man. Priests who are liberal in the sense in which I'm using usually preach on a (relatively narrow) range of topics, where they are not of line with the Church's teachings. There is another 'liberal' priest in our diocese (whose work for the homeless and for African charities I immensely admire) of whom one lady lately said to me, 'his only sermon is on the prodigal son'. Well, it may not do his congregation that much good, but I don't think it actively harms them.

In other words, within my use of the term 'liberal', I am willing to tolerate a patchwork of liberal, conservative and etc parishes for the sake of parishioners being able to take responsibility for their PPs.

What about within your use of the term 'liberal' - which I think includes actively promoting heresy as a program?
Given that the present situation, with Bps depositing PPs willy-nilly on parishes produces situations with a symbiosis between liberal PP and liberal congregation, and allows for chaps like the Father Pfleigerer who has been in the news this week, I don't see how parishes hiring and firing would specifically make it worse.

It could be improved if Bps took heretical priests in hand, or if some other institutional mechanism for doing so were created (some sort of local CDF process. I'm not saying, 'let them hive off and be heretical if they pay for their own heretical priests'.

I'm saying, the present means of distributing PPs by Bps has done nothing to prevent heresy for some time.

Yeah, I should have explained: by putting 'liberal' in quotes I meant to imply going beyond the legitimate liberalism you describe into pretty clear heresy.

" I'm not saying, 'let them hive off and be heretical if they pay for their own heretical priests'."

No, I didn't think you meant that, but it would be a likely UC (unintended consequence). But you're quite right, it would still be the bishop's duty & prerogative to ride herd on that stuff. The Baptists lack that kind of at-least-in-principle structure of authority.

But still, theoretical pros and cons being as they may, I lean toward what Janet originally said: it would be hard for me to muster much enthusiasm for this sort of arrangement in my actual situation, today in the USA, because the chances would be pretty good that it would "enable" or "facilitate" the more tiresome tendencies of American Catholicism.

I wonder who appointed presbyters in Apostolic times?

The legend is of course that lay people were pushed to be priests, and priests were physically pushed into becoming
Bishops by congregations. One hears that a popular man could be dragged forward. Eg, such is said of Augustine. But my knowledge of early church history is what I learned as an undergraduate.

I have as yet to savour the joys of American Catholicism, but I cannot muster Janet's and Mac's fears, because if the idea is that we must have Bps distributing priests to filter out the heretics, well, that idea is not currently very persuasive. They are not currently filtering out undesirables, from the criminal to the heretical to the inert. I can't work up any enthusiasm for the notion that the Bps are currently performing an indispensable role by selecting our priests for us.

I sometimes wonder if there has been some legal or canonical change in the relationship between Bps and priests in the past 50 years. I wonder if there is some empirical reason why, in the past, if the Bp said jump, the priest said, how high, and today if the Bp asks a priest to do something he doesn't want to do, the priest tells him to jump in a lake.

Still, my suggestion assumes that now, as in the past, secular clergy are under obedience to their Bishop (not to their congregations).

I recalled this morning how anthropologists distinguish between shame and guilt. An anthropologist named Ruth Benedict wrote a bk in the '50s claiming that the East has a shame culture whereas the West, under the influence of Christianity, has a guilt culture. I've never read it. I was reading a bk during Lent called 'The Geography of Good and Evil' which argues that this isn't quite accurate, because, whereas Protestants have just guilt, Catholics have both guilt and shame. The author argues that shame is about 'honour' or how other people perceive one, whereas guilt is personal, about sin.

That distinction helps me to understand this discussion. In that sense, I'd agree that all Catholics have been 'shamed' by the abuse crisis. After all, we are publically members of a well known institution which has been dishonoured in the eyes of the world. It was O'Brien who said we'd all been shamed, and I can see that. At the same time, I wouldn't agree that 'we are all guilty'. It was the Pope who said we should all do penance, and penance seems to me to connect with guilt, not shame. There I don't agree.

It was the Pope who said we should all do penance, and penance seems to me to connect with guilt, not shame.

Yes, I figured out that our misunderstanding boiled down to that distinction. I'm pretty sure that none of us think we incur and guilt from the behaviour of others. I'm left wondering if we can do penance for others. I'm thinking we can't, although we can certainly offer reparation for their sins. I'm also wondering if there is a translation problem here. What language did he say this in and did what he actual say mean penance?

I also wanted to say something about "sir" and "Father." In the middle ages "sir" meant something more than the mushy thing it's come to mean these days, i.e. any man who is older than you or has more authority than you do. It was much more of an honorific and wouldn't "Father" have been a lesser title? I don't know--just asking.


I will have to look at my copy of the book. You have stirred the thought that it was not 'sir' but 'master'. If 'Father' was an invented title in the 16th century, it wouldn't be more or less honorific than any secular title. If it was brought in as what to call Jesuits, then Franciscans, then any priest, it would just be 'what to call a priest', in distinction from anyone else, not ranked against 'master', 'sir', or any secular title.

Also wrt parishes selecting their own priests, I'm not really talking about the filtering out of heretics. My concern is that in almost every parish in the US, the majority of the parishioners have no idea what the Mass is supposed to look like (or sound like). They don't know that the priest isn't supposed to be rewriting the text as he goes along or, for example, that we aren't supposed to be using breakable vessels for the Precious Blood or why. They don't know that we shouldn't be singing hymns that imply that Jesus is present alongside of the bread and wine. And so, they will more than likely be apt to choose the priests that smiles and tells jokes before the one who is trying to follow the rubrics (oh all he cares about is the stupid rules) and teach what the Church teaches. I would imagine that all parishes except the ones that have Latin Mass congregations would end up--well, would continue to be--mired in liturgical mush. And my experience is that the priests that say Mass this way are the same priests that are unwilling for you to teach anything with any meat in the catechism classes. It's not necessarily that people are learning heresy; it's that they aren't learning anything at all.

Of course, I think that shortly this will be a moot point because I don't think there are many of the happy, slappy kind of priest being formed in seminary these days.


I seem to have turned everything into italics and I don't seem to be able to fix it.


Wow, everything is italics! How did you do that? You could never have done it if you tried!

Supposing as you say that happy-slappy priests came out of a certain seminary formation, and that this kind of deformation is less and less happening in seminaries. I think that is true, and I think it does to show that many other 'causes' go into what makes a priest then who selects him for a particular parish. If parishes were conscious that they themselves financially support their PP, and had some say in his hiring and firing, all those other causes or factors would still be there. The priest's formation, his theological education in a seminary, his obedience to his ordinary, mechanisms for preventing heresy - all these and other shaping factors would still be there, if it became impossible for Bps to deal with 'difficult' priests by shifting them around because parishioners had a say in who their priests are. There would still be 'difficult' priests, from the criminal to the heretical to the inert, but a parish could refuse to take one, if they didn't like the look of him or knew of his record. It might become the norm, for example, for a parish to be told of a potential PP's 'record' and assent or dissent from taking him as their priest. It might become the case that priests whose difficulty especially included inertia and criminality would thus become unemployable, because no parish would take them, and that, therefore, holy orders was not necessarily entail paid employment for life.

I fixed the italics.

The idea of the prospective parish being told *everything* about the prospective priest makes me wonder whether that would be possible in the present U.S. legal climate. Many employers now, for instance, will not answer requests for references on former employees beyond dates of employment, because their lawyers have told them not to, out of fear of being sued. It certainly raises some questions. If the priest had been charged criminally, I think there would be legal requirements to make it known far and wide. If not, there could be legal requirements, or at least disincentives, against telling.

Here's another question: Peggy Noonan and others have asserted that if women had more of a role in church affairs the coverups wouldn't have happened. I'm not so sure. Maybe sometimes, maybe not. One reads of mothers refusing to believe their own children reporting abuse by a relative. What do y'all think?

Maclin, Francesca noted that the more "whacko" parishes would run out of priests as they wouldn't be ble to pay for them. I say not able, but I really mean, not willing. The plain fact is (I believe according to actual research) that more orthodox believers and probably even more so the traddies and Anglican-use Catholics etc tend to give money quite sacrificially to the Church, but dissenters are not renowned for it.

Even from merely a "business" POV, our clergy ought to see that orthodoxy is more lucrative!

So in theory, one could expect that dissenting parishes could hire their dissenting clergy, it's not very likely to happen going by current trends in donations to parishes.

Peggy Noonan and others have asserted that if women had more of a role in church affairs the coverups wouldn't have happened. I'm not so sure. Maybe sometimes, maybe not. One reads of mothers refusing to believe their own children reporting abuse by a relative. What do y'all think?

Sheer bullshit, I'm afraid. Ms Noonan must have been out to lunch that day.

From personal experience in another setting: I had tended to think that women doctors (particularly obstetricians) would be much nicer or somehow more "caring" than male doctors.

Nup. No such thing. They were more bitchy and more condescending and more manipulative.

Harsh? Maybe, but that was my experience. Now midwives are another matter. All midwives I've ever had were women and some were complete bitches and some were veritable angels from Heaven.

Women are sinners, plain and simple, so how things would work out in any given situation, would depend entirely on the person/people you're dealing with.

I fairly long for a window covered in triple tiaras!

I agree with Louise on all three points 1) I think wacko parishes are unlikely to pay to support a wacko priest (aren't the Canadian and American Episcopalian churches going bankrupt?); 2) I'd like to think if women were involved things would have been different, but it's not so. Like Louise, I've met female docs who are bitches (and also really good ones). Like Maclin, I remember the story about a boy who told his mother about abuse, and she slapped his face. 3) I'd love to cover the entire window with triple tiaras(so far, standing on a chair on a table, I've covered about 9 feet of it), but the final stretch is too high for me to reach. I may enlist one of my tall American conservative Protestant students!

But I'm not talking about parishes full of dissenters. I'm talking about parishes full of pleasant, faithful (in the sense that they come to Mass and whatever else the parish does), and ignorant people who think that this is what the Church is supposed to be because they haven't been taught anything else. This is my parish. They are relatively poor. They are very generous. They love the parish.


Let me add, since I put my last name on here--they are ignorant per se--just in church matters.


We know you really mean they are not ignorant per se! Anyway, I am trying to imagine what a parish full of non-dissenting parishioners might look like. I've never seen one. Although St Benedict's in Canberra came pretty close I reckon.

I suspect, Francesca, that things really are very different in the US than either here or in Europe/UK.

I will also add that actually I really like the folks in my parish, but they are more than merely ignorant re: Church matters (although there is that too).

Francesca, manifestly you need a really tall ladder and one of those convenient and tall Protestant student thingies.

OT - this is a cack! I have just posted it onto FB, but I thought Francesca might like it too.

Sir Humphrey is haraguing the Minister as usual, but Bernard hops in with the most hilarious pedantry from about 3:10 - 4:30. Very amusing.

Watching this kind of thing makes me rather nostaligic for the programming of the ABC (our public broadcaster, similar to the BBC) in the 70s and 80s.

Francesca, one gets the depressing impression that the UK has gone badly down the tubes in the last couple of decades - is that accurate, do you think? My Nick was there recently and didn't see anything terribly alarming.

Things are definitely worsening here in Oz.

"It's not necessarily that people are learning heresy; it's that they aren't learning anything at all."

Yes! That's a tremendous problem! I can't help wondering whether seminarians learn anything much at all, these days.

The seminaries in the US seem to have really turned around. All the most recently ordained priests around here seem to know their stuff and to be very orthodox.


Our chaplain stayed in a seminary in Spain for English speakers three or four years ago, and was terrified by it. No one was teaching or learning anything of substance. The liturgy & the liturgical theology were dismal. He came back thinking that if that was typical of our seminaries, the church can't last in this country. This guy is not an archconservative. There is a decent number of English speaking conservative theologians today, between say 30 and 50: I suspect the problem is that none of them want to teach in seminaries. A really good relatively younger (early 40s) theologian wants to be a university professor, not a seminary lecturer. I suspect that our generation is more conservative but also more worldly.

Louise, we have a TV comedy series which some call a contemporary version of 'Yes Minister' - 'The Thick of It'. It is extremely funny, and consists in ministers letting off endless streams of violent language at hapless civil servants, and presents ministers and their shadow counterparts as hapless tools of spindoctors with little or no conviction. The UK seems in that sense a much nastier place than the Britain of 'Yes Minister'.

It would be very improbable that one would find a church full of 200, 300 or 400 dissenters, because it would be unlikely to find that many people in the same place sufficiently interested in theology to be dissenters. So therefore, most people in a liberal parish are passive sheep. But at the same time, there is usually one or two people there who have some kind of animus. They could be in charge of music, or in charge of the readings, or running the lay eucharistic ministry thing. In a large parish, with 500 people, there might be enough people with a bit of a bee in their bonnet to have taken over all three.

This question of the decline of the UK interests me greatly. As I think I've mentioned before, we often get a picture here of terminal decline. But that comes mostly from fairly pessimistic conservatives, sometimes expats, like Theodore Dalrymple/Anthony Daniels (I can't remember which is the pen name) and I take it with at least a bit of skepticism. The impression is of a feckless elite selling the country down the river to EU bureacrats, making eventually fatal concessions to Islamists, etc.

It always affects me with total paralysis when Americans ask me general questions about the UK. The worst (I'm not comparing Mac's question to this) was always, 'How do Brits view Mrs Thatcher?' Well of course, leftist Brits detested her guts and right wing Brits thought the sun shone out of her arse! Part of the paralysis is that such generalised questions must bring out the worst of the academic in me, part of it is that it makes me feel a fraud to answer 'big' questions about the country I live in, and part of it is just that, it depends on who or what is looking at it. There's also partly the sense that we often mean different things by the same words.

For instance, in ref to your q. about decline. My mother lived with me in the north of Scotland last summer, and now she is in the South of England. She can't get over how much more polite and 'old fashioned' the Scots are than the Southern English. Of course, the Scots will eventually become like the English, but I've lived up here 15 years now, and can't 'speak for England'.

I do see the loss of any sense of shame, marked by our city centres, full of drunken young men and women at the weekends, as a sign of great decline.

There are always some monsters, but 95% of the students I teach are nice, hard working polite kids. They are not very literate (to put it mildly), but they do their best with the moderate skills they have absorbed in their very poor schools.

About the Muslims, I'm afraid I'm rather 'liberal'. I like Muslims. I was mugged on a Saturday night at the end of February. I didn't mention here, since I was off line for Lent. I'm a bit scared to go out at night at present, and I'm scared when I walk past larger guys at night, and even sometimes in the day. One time, I had to walk past the place I was mugged, and en route, I saw three Indian students, so I asked them to walk with me. I don't feel scared if I see an approaching 'larger guy' is evidently from the subcontinent. More broadly, to most English and Scottish people, Indian (Islamic) immigration doesn't just mean mosques, but also means excellent curry take-aways. I think many people share my broadly benign view of Muslims. I was in a curry house during Ramadam last year, and everyone had to wait a bit, because the cooks were getting their first 'feed' of the day. A crowd gathered, waiting to be served, and the atmosphere of patient and respectful. I sometimes read about the 'Muslims taking over Europe' or the 'Muslim demographic', and 95% of the time the author is American. That doesn't mean it isn't happening. It may mean that our perspective on the topic is different.

Well, I had a really good example of what these folks (Daniels are talking about a day or two ago, but I've forgotten where I saw it and can't take time to look for it right now. But in general it's concessions to Muslim sensibilities alongside attacks and crackdowns on Christian ones. Daniels btw more or less agrees with you about the general civilizedness of the Asians. He's more worried about the moral collapse of the natives, as evidenced in the now very-well-publicized public binging.

Dalrymple/Daniels is writing from a specific perspective. He seems to have been a doctor in a bad slum, and then in a prison. He has developed a literary speciality in describing the sordid side of British life. He describes life amongst the British underclass. It is horrific. But I think it's fair to say that if you came and lived here, unless you actually lived in a bad slum or worked in a prison, you might never encounter the kinds of people and situations he describes.

The world Daniels describes is perhaps analogous to the Baltimore you see in the Wire. You've seen it, and we know the series is 'truthful', in the sense of being based on a documentary style novel. But, would you say that the Baltimore of that series is like the America, or the Alabama of your daily life? There are parts of any big city, in Europe or America, where it is dangerous to walk, especially at night! But most Americans don't daily encounter gangsters or heroin-sellers or heroin addicts.

As far as concessions to Muslims go: I haven't read Daniels on this. I do read Charles Moore in the DT, and he sometimes expresses indignation about money or such given to Muslim councils which contain extremists. There are many issues about extremists preaching in mosques, which are problematic. What I'm trying to say with my 'curry take away' example is that the Muslims of most British people's daily experience are not the Muslims of conservative crusading journalism, even though this latter may contain many truths.

"But, would you say that the Baltimore of that series is like the America, or the Alabama of your daily life?"

Yes and no. It's not an *immediate* part of my daily life, but I certainly get glimpses of it. And literally not a day goes by without a few stories in the daily paper about events in that world--robberies and shootings, a fair number of them fatal. My wife referred the other day to "neighborhoods in Mobile where everybody gets shot at least once a week." So, while I can live my life almost all the time without being directly affected, there is a definite sense of damage to the community. Whether this constitutes a decline or not, in the sense of detectable downward movement, is partly a matter of sensibility. And of course where you live.

Sorry to hear about your mugging, btw. I hope you were not injured?

Well, I didn't expect that answer! Obviously not a good example to make my point. What about the Sopranos? Do you often meet Mafia Men:) I assumed that the Wire would be recognizable but still exotic to most Americans.

I ran after the mugger and fell, and that is when I was hurt. Unfortunately, it meant I couldn't go on the camino to Compostella, which I was looking forward to. Plus, I just realised that if I'd been away in Europe last week, I'd still be there! A friend of mine, a prof in Bristol, is 'stuck' in Florida!

I ran after the mugger and fell, and that is when I was hurt.

You are a classic, Francesca. I'm sorry you were hurt and more sorry you were mugged, but you are a legend!

I'm sorry you didn't catch up with him and belt the living daylights out of him. I take it you are not a pacifist?!

We are going to have to call you Kung Fu Theologian.

It always affects me with total paralysis when Americans ask me general questions about the UK.

What about when Aussies ask?!

I was busy this afternoon and didn't notice your reply to my last comment, Francesca. No, I don't know any Sopranos. But I could say a lot about my relationship to people like the ones in The Wire. Not that I've been close to that level of criminality and violence, but I certainly recognize the sort of people. That's a big subject...

Here's a very ordinary daily news item:

I don't want even to look at that item, Mac, given my future plans!

Louise, I gave him a good hard kick before he made off with my handbag. I chased him but tripped and fell downhill onto cobble stones. Luckily, my wallet fell out of the handbag during the chase, and the police found it where we ran the next day (the handbag had the habit of upturning), and, perhaps because I'd eyeballed him for a good 45 seconds, the mugger threw away the handbag, his hat and jacket and these were found by a police dog within an hour or so. The DNA on these matched a known felon, so he has been charged and the trial is in August.

Great. A place with carjackers.

This item by David Hart might cheer up those who do not enjoy Christopher Hitchens' writings

Louise, I have never met an Australian who asked me a question such as, 'what do Limeys think about politics these days?' Australia is not my favourite culture but it has some things going for it!

I'm glad you got in a good kick on the mugger.

Btw, going back to something a good many comments ago, about whether women in positions of influence/power would have helped prevent the coverups: I actually think it might have helped some. Certainly not a guarantee, though. Also, about female docs etc.: my wife had women OBs for 3 of her 4 pregnancies and if I remember correctly was very very happy with 2 of the 3. She definitely sought out female doctors and I'm pretty sure would say that she would do so again. Her main doc now is a woman, though she had another woman doc she didn't get along with. Point is that she would say a woman is probably but not necessarily preferable. And similarly, perhaps women would have tended to find the abuse scenarios more alarming and be more concerned with preventing them.

I agree that, in general, I prefer a woman doctor, though, like Louise, I and my mother have both encountered some bad ones. OTOH, so far as the abuse is concerned, some women were involved in abuse themselves. In the first place, I could be wrong but I believe I recall that some of the stories in the Irish documents over the past year relate to sisters beating children. I don't mean slapping or caning - in those days, most teachers did so. I mean savage beating. Outside of Ireland, in Aberdeen, there was a law case in the late 1990s about the Nazareth Sisters. I actually met someone who had been beaten up by them. Quite an embittered man, and he wasn't talking about the slapping with a tawse which was common in Scottish schools until the 1970s. In the second place, what about the Irish 'Magdalen Homes' which were run by Sisters? You could say, this is abuse, not cover-up, and Glendon's claim is specifically about the latter. But it's hard to see how sisters can abuse without covering up for each other.

How things have changed in the way RCs view their own church! Years ago, there was a film about the Magdalene Sisters, and I thought it was just anti-Catholic propaganda. These days I assume it's all true, unless its really *obviously* made up propaganda.

Surely there were women working in those diocesan offices that knew what was going on.


Janet, I don't think Mary Ann Glendon (who is usually so smart) can have been completely awake when she wrote that. Our Bp has a very big housekeeper/secretary from whom he must take advice, whether he wants it or not. Maybe that wouldn't be so common in big American dioceses, but in little places, the Bp's housekeeper has his ear and clearly doesn't simply keep her mouth shut all the time. Whether that's good advice or not is another question, but certainly, women have been involved, both as abusers and as advisors.

I was thinking specifically of the sexual abuse, not things like beatings. Definitely women are more than capable of the latter, but I think much less likely to engage in the former.

"Mary Ann Glendon"? Did you mean Peggy Noonan, whom I referred to earlier as pushing this idea? Noonan is often good but has a sort of flaky sentimental streak.

Also going back a day or two (sometimes I'm busy and miss things), about that UK political comedy series: I'm unable to come up with the name of it right now, but a month or two ago my wife and I watched a very funny but rather appalling BBC thing that sounds a little similar. I'm not sure whether it was a movie or a mini-series, but it involved a crazed foul-mouthed PR guy leading a politician around by the nose, and had a series of international incidents driven by ignorance, accident, and grandstanding. What was the name of it...?....

My bad - Peggy Noonan. Again, I'm not sure but I think the kids here in Aberdeen did claim to have been both physically and sexually abused at Nazareth House.

The series is called "The Thick of It". It is the most foul mouthed item I've ever watched on DVD. The reason is that the expletives and verbal violence are aimed at other characters on screen. Most of the time in the Wire, for instance, there may be endless bad language, but it's like, 'pass me the fricking cigarette', not 'I will shove a fricking ipod up your ...' or 'You will look like Mel Gibson's Jesus if you don't...' as in The Thick of It. Part of the reason it is funny is that it's felt to be true. Alistair Campbell, for instance, Tony Blair's spin doctor, did speak like this, as, apparently does Charlie Whelan.

In the Loop is the name of the movie. The foul-mouthedness is very much in the same vein that you describe. Here's the description from Netflix:

"When the U.S. president and the U.K. prime minister decide to invade a certain Middle Eastern country, skeptical American and British operatives do their best to stop the runaway train to war in director Armando Iannucci's scathing political comedy. This Oscar nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay stars Tom Hollander as a British international development chief, James Gandolfini as a U.S. general, and Anna Chlumsky as a well-positioned intern. "

It's really very funny but I hope it's not very realistic. Although the obscenity undoubtedly is. It mostly comes in a strong Scots accent from a guy who reminds me of a cross between a non-comic Mr. Bean and Rahm Emanuel (notoriously nasty Chicago political wheeler-dealer (and Obama advisor)).

I heard of that movie, but I sees it not. Armando Iannucci was also the author/director of In the Thick of It.

I was thinking specifically of the sexual abuse, not things like beatings. Definitely women are more than capable of the latter, but I think much less likely to engage in the former.

Yes, I'm pretty sure this is true. And perhaps it might have led to fewer cover-ups had women been more involved in the running of the local churches, but I just don't think it's necessarily the case and strikes me largely as unprovable cant.

Francesca, I can't tell you how glad I am that your purse was found and that you kicked the mugger before he ran off! Good for you!

I have never met an Australian who asked me a question such as, 'what do Limeys think about politics these days?' Australia is not my favourite culture but it has some things going for it!

Yes, well, we mostly don't give a bugger about politics. Probably b/c we are forced by law to vote. And we're anti-authoritarian and fairly apathetic in general blah blah blah

I was thinking more along the lines of someone (possibly) asking you whether the UK has (culturally speaking) gone down the tubes. I mean, we are never backward in believing the worst of the Brits!

My current mantra (based on nothing but sheer pig-headedness) is that England has crap beer, crap weather and a crap cricket team!

Well, the *weather* is undeniably bad, but...

Having said all that, I must say it saddens me no end to see that the land which was once known as Our Lady's Dowry seems now to be overrun with PC-ness etc.

Mind you, I get the impression that the Catholics who bother going to Mass are pretty committed (more or less by definition). That is generally the case here now.

Louise, English ale is the best in the world! I mean, cold, fizzy drinks are all right for children (and for those whose taste has failed to keep pace with their growth), but for proper beer you can't find better!

I'm not a connoisseur (wow, I spelled that right the first time!) but I would certainly side with Paul against Louise on the question of English beer.

In reckoning the relative degrees of progress and decline in American culture over the past 50 years or so, one undeniable bit of progress is in the fact that we now produce some really good beer that's widely available. It's not just watery Bud, Miller, Falstaff, etc. anymore.

But then we also invented (I guess we invented it--certainly popularized it) the foul thing called "lite beer."

I just realized, Francesca, that you're saying that the same guy made the tv series you were talking about and the movie I was talking about. Since you like the series, I feel confident in saying you'd like the movie, too.

On the question of whether women in positions of influence might have been helpful in stopping the abuse-transfer-coverup pattern, I just read this news story:

which mentions the involvement of women in running underage prostitution rings. And I'm reminded that the madam does not traditionally seem to have been viewed as an especially sympathetic figure.

I saw a documentary a few years ago about the traffic in forced prostitution, especially out of eastern Europe. It was so painful as to be almost unwatchable. And I was particularly appalled to see women running some of these operations. Obviously it's terrible that anyone would do it, but you would expect it more of brutal men who have no conception or care of the harm they're doing. But you'd think--I would have thought--it would be a vanishingly rare woman who could inflict such things on another woman.

"But you'd think--I would have thought--it would be a vanishingly rare woman who could inflict such things on another woman."

If I understand it right, in Eastern Europe it has been the norm for women to have several abortions. And I don't think these women are the frightened, cowering women you see being "escorted" by their boyfriends into the abortion clinic in Saturday morning in America. Women who have been inculturated into disregarding the value of life so routinely certainly aren't going to hesitate to inflict other women in the way described here. Or am I being unfair?

But then we also invented (I guess we invented it--certainly popularized it) the foul thing called "lite beer."

And draft beer in a bottle.


Yet more on the women-would-have-put-a-stop-to-it idea, at Inside Catholic:

LOL! How did I know that remark about the beer would set off an International Incident?!

Of course, Paul, cold fizzy drinks are essential in a land which has a summer!

And to be perfectly fair, I have never actually tasted English beer seeing that I was only 9 when we visited there. But I wasn't claiming anything other than wild prejudice and, like, blatant tribalism!

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