Archive for the Catholicism Category


I have never been a member of the Roman Catholic Church. In whatever is left in my life, I do not expect to ever become a member of that faith. The leader of that faith calls himself a pope

When it comes to doctrine, I must cite my profound belief in principles. For example, I do not believe that there is any such thing as eternal life. I also do not believe that there is a heaven up there in the sky, nor do I believe that Satan presides over a realm wherein people like myself are condemned to spend eternity in torment. It is my view that when we live out our life span, death will occur and that basically is the end of it all.

Joseph Ratzinger, formerly of Munich, is the head man of the Roman Catholic faith. The views of Herr Ratzinger and myself, both veterans of WWII, cannot be reconciled. I would view Herr Ratzinger with more understanding if he were to provide a cogent and convincing account of why, during World War II, he joined the SS during his tour in Hitler’s German Army. As you may recall, the SS (Schutzstaffel) was in charge of wiping out Jews from the lands that Hitler’s Nazi’s had conquered.

During his years as Pope, Herr Ratzinger has not provided any explanation but has tended to glide over this significant fact as though it never happened.

Now we find that the Vatican has announced a crackdown on American nuns. The crackdown does not apply to Norwegian nuns, Costa Rican nuns, etc., but it is aimed solely at American nuns. It is for this reason that the title of this essay, “How Colossally Dumb Can You Get?” is applicable.

According to an announcement from the Vatican, it has launched a crackdown on American nuns. If my understanding is correct, when nuns enter their vocation, they take an oath of poverty, chastity, and obedience, which accounts for the title of this essay. But now this business of obedience comes into play.

The news says that the Vatican has launched a crackdown on the umbrella group that represents most of the 57,000 American nuns. This group is the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). The Vatican sources say that the group is not speaking out strongly enough against gay marriage, abortion, and women’s ordination in the Catholic faith. The eight-page statement was issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the same organization that has survived all of these years since the Inquisition. It was led for 25 years by none other than Joseph Ratzinger, who now styles himself as Pope Benedict XVI. He says that the American nuns are being led astray and must return to Catholic orthodoxy.

May I make this point eminently clear? If the Catholics or any other religious group wishes to have an internal squabble, that is quite all right with me. In all of the years when I have been a non-believer, I have never ever attempted to convert someone to my beliefs or lack thereof. But this squabble is different because it involves nuns.

In the actions of the Vatican, Ratzinger is attacking the most noteworthy practitioners of the Catholic faith, which brings to mind the question, “How colossally dumb can you get?” Ratzinger has pitted the nuns and his idea of Catholic orthodoxy in a battle which he seems to think he will win. My own view is that Ratzinger is thoroughly out of date in that in the long run the nuns will prevail. Justice is on their side.

I am not given to religious disputes on either one side or the other. But in this case, the ham-handed Ratzinger is attempting to destroy the nuns and their good works. I repeat, how dumb can you get? In 1965, there were 185,000 nuns in the United States. Today that number is down to 57,000. Who would enter a vocation in which the likes of Herr Ratzinger is in charge?

I have located the headquarters for the Women’s Religious group and have written them offering my support. If they need a few dollars, I will provide that as well. As far as Herr Ratzinger goes, I must say that the Second World War has not ended. If I were to give Herr Ratzinger any advice at all, it would be to lay off the nuns who are doing a wonderful job. Secondly, he should concentrate on trying to straighten out the pedophile priests in his ranks. And with that, my sermon from the mount is herewith ended.

April 20, 2012


I like that Pop defends the nuns — reminds me of the woman in the lobby of his old AT&T building that Killingsworth threw out. Gotta stand up for the nuns.

Anyway yes, it’s incredibly dumb to target the people who are really at the front lines of your organization, especially when everyone else (aside from the preachers) is basically just management. Sometimes, church leadership should align with the people who are actually spreading your faith, instead of trying to push everything from the top down.


Sunday evenings were never meant to be enjoyable. People go to bed early after a weekend of eating drinking and other assorted activities. Monday mornings come soon enough.

During the summer months, ESPN has Sunday baseball at 8PM Eastern Time. That is often a life saver in a desert of non-entertainment. As a general rule, the announcers are Joe Morgan, the old Hall of Fame second baseman, and Jon Miller. Morgan is black and is pretty straight forward with his analysis. Jon Miller is a white fellow and has been around the announcing business for a long time.

These two men seem to like each other. Jon Miller is often playful, but that does not deter Joe Morgan from delivering the most trenchant baseball analysis on television or in the newspaper business, as well.

Morgan was a teammate of Pete Rose when the Cincinnati Reds led the National League for several years. He was never involved in any scandal whatsoever. Rose, on the other hand, has courted scandal with his long time gambling addiction. After 15 years, Rose finally admitted gambling on baseball. He claims that he never bet against the Reds. Simply put, this 75 year observer of major league baseball does not believe Rose. When Rose chose to admit he gambled on baseball, a cardinal sin against the game, he elected to include it in a book by a Pennsylvania publisher called Rodale Press, in which he and the publisher hope to make a lot of money.

But Joe Morgan has nothing to do with Rose and his gambling. Joe has made his living by telecasts since he retired from the game. My ball playing grandchildren have been told to listen to Joe Morgan. From him they will learn solid baseball. It is a pity that there are not more teams broadcasting baseball like Joe Morgan and Jon Miller.

But after a time, when two uninspired teams are playing in the games broadcast by the Morgan-Miller team, there is a need to look elsewhere for information and occasional entertainment. And it should be born in mind that the baseball season lasts only from April to October. That leaves an enormous void to fill during the Winter months.

As a general rule, books are the choice here. But from time to time, some of the charlatans on religious TV broadcasts on Sunday evenings need checking out. When you read what the charlatans have to say, it is my belief that you will agree with my assessments that they are frauds and fakers. This is entertainment, pure and simple. It has nothing to do with religion.

Let us start with a preacher who appears on Sunday evenings and maybe two other evenings during the week. There is no record of this fellow ever attending a seminary for formal religious training. His name is Womack. In recent years, he eschews using his regular given names because he calls himself Bishop Shammah Womack. In other words, as a Bishop, Womack started at the top.

His meeting place is in East Orange or a similar Newark suburban location. Womack never seems to refer to his place of worship as a church; he refers to himself. From what can be observed over several years of TV viewing, there is no choir and no prayers seem to be offered. His services consist of him haranguing his listeners about subjects that he knows very little about. Often, he will put an article on the lectern and will read from it. This past week, he read about the nature of man and his emotional side. He claims to understand all this information, but it is very doubtful that he has much of a clue about it.

Womack got his start from his father, Donald Womack, a run of the mill TV evangelist. He established the church Womack inherited when his father died a few years back from a heart attack. In his formative years, the current erstwhile Bishop was a morgue attendant in Newark. He put his foot in the door in a venture with his father into fruits, nuts and vegetables in a market near the church.

Young Womack announced the cure for nearly all diseases. He contended that heart trouble could be cured by eating pears because pears are shaped like the heart. Do you have a brain tumor? No problem. Eat walnut or pecan halves whose shape, according to young Womack, is exactly like the brain. Unfortunately, this inspirational market had a short life as the authorities cited lack of licensing. There is no record of how many cases of heart trouble or brain problems were alleviated by the ministrations of young Bishop Womack.

When his father died, young Womack became the leader of the congregation. Dissatisfaction with his given name, led him to adopt the name of Shammah. Apparently, he adopted a Biblical name of Jesse’s third son. Chronicles and Samuel of the Old Testament list at least four or five different spellings, but scholars agree that they are referring to Shammah, Jesse’s third son.

With his new name, Womack began to wear collars like priests wear. No one knows what they signified, but after a short time, plain old Shammah Womack became Bishop Shammah Womack. All this is done in a small black church in the suburbs of Newark. Bishops usually have other churches to look after. But it appears, the East Orange church, the only church in his diocese, will have to be it.

Bishop Womack has given up priestly collars for now, but he retains this new found given name and the Bishops title he awarded to himself. And he continues to harangue his listeners to get right with God. His saving grace, is that he does not seek contributions from his TV viewers. There would be no reluctance on my part to send him a few dollars for the entertainment he provides. He dresses in stylish clothing so any contribution might be used for extensions to his large wardrobe.

Further out in the suburbs, in Whippany, New Jersey, is the home of the Abundant Life Worship Center. The preacher doesn’t use his name on his telecasts as Bishop Womack does. His name is Joe Arminio and he is the main attraction on his Sunday evening broadcasts. It is not fair to include Pastor Arminio under the heading of charlatans where, my next example of charlatans, Mike Murdock, clearly belongs. It would be a pleasure to have Joe Arminio living next door to me.

Aside from my fascination with his four button suits, Joe Arminio keeps me interested because of his animations. For example, when he reads a scriptural reference to Jesus walking on water, Pastor Arminio wades around the pulpit as though he is walking on water. When he urges his followers to aspire to heaven, he uses an imaginary ladder. He spends a minute or two climbing this imaginary ladder. This past Sunday, he was a helicopter with his arms in motion around his head.

The theology of Pastor Arminio escapes me because my mind is pre-occupied by his animations. But my thought is he is a big hearted, Italian guy and if he lived next door, there would be some compulsion to see if my neighbor needed something.

Now we go to a TV preacher who calls Denton, Texas his base of operations. Denton is a town with 66,000 inhabitants, according to the most recent census figures. It is a town maybe 50 miles north of Fort Worth. No one has ever considered Denton or Fort Worth as media capitals in the United States.

The Reverend Mike Murdock who uses Denton as his home base claims to have published 1500 books and to have written 500 religious songs. Whether all the books and songs were published in Denton is not clear, but with this volume of material, Denton must be accorded some sort of prominence in publishing circles. Those 1500 books seem to include many pamphlets which Murdock calls books.

Murdock’s theme is promoting his “Wisdom Keys.” The books and the songs are all in keeping with his Wisdom Keys. He is willing to send you some of this philosophy providing those of us in the audience send him some cash. Listening to his Sunday night cable TV pitch, it is clear that he wants to hook his viewers with weekly contributions over an extended period of time. My memory tells me that one such proposition was for $20 per week over a 50 week period. The 50 week period was chosen because it had some religious significance. Well 20 bucks a week for 50 weeks is, in the end, one thousand dollars, no matter how you cut it. Clearly, it is better for Murdock to ask for $20 than for $1,000. The people snared in his schemes apparently do not figure these things out.

Now what is offered in exchange for your $1,000 gift is some of Murdock’s Wisdom Keys and the near guarantee that things will improve in your business and in your love life. Every week Murdock prints letters with no surnames or towns that tell how a contractor who had no money suddenly was awarded a million dollar construction contract after he was in the 50 Week Club. All of this great good fortune is ascribed to adopting Murdock’s Wisdom Keys. If money is sent to Murdock, good things will happen to you. Maybe not immediately, but some time soon.

There are so many schemes offered by Murdock that it is difficult to keep track of them. A week or so ago, Murdock announced some new books and pamphlets which discloses – for the first time ever – the 48 secrets of Jesus. Only Murdock knows the secrets of Jesus and he will be willing to tell you about them if you send him $20, plus sign up for a series of future disclosures, all at a cost to the ones who want to know the secrets. As always, his followers are promised great rewards for investing in Murdock’s schemes.

Murdock is a car enthusiast which he has made known to his viewers. The bigger the car, the more he likes it. His cars are all painted black on black. There is no way for the uninitiated to know what black on black amounts to. But Murdock claims that in his garage are three cars with this paint job. One is the largest model from BMW. Another one is a similar model from Mercedes with the third one being something like a Jaguar or a Rolls Royce. You will notice that none are of American manufacture.

Murdock claims that these black on black cars showed up unexpectedly at no cost to him from viewers who were blessed by good fortune after enrolling in one of the Wisdom Key schemes. Without being asked, these viewers bought cars costing in excess of $100,000 and gave them to Murdock due to the excessive blessings they had received from Murdock’s promotions.

It is my belief that if Murdock is telling the truth about the cars and his other good fortunes, he has a racket going that is somewhat better than stealing. Murdock has my admiration for his obvious rip-off schemes. As for his listeners who contribute to his success, one can only shake your head. It has been said that there is always a sucker for every such scheme to get rich. And now we see charlatans like Murdock using it to fleece their listeners all in the name of religion. Wringing hands is about all that can be done about Murdock’s propositions because it is clear that Texas authorities have no intention of intervening. So we wring our hands and cluck our tongues and the rip-offs continue.

Well, there are three thumbnail sketches of some Sunday night preachers. The Muslims go to mosque on Fridays and people of the Jewish faith attend synagogue on Saturdays, so they are unrepresented here. And as far as can be determined, neither faith appears on television broadcasts, so they are not being intentionally overlooked. The three preachers we have considered so far appear to be Protestant Christians. If they belong to a denomination on the protestant side of things, they have failed to make such designation known to this casual viewer.

But having dealt with the Protestant viewpoint, it appears, in the interest of fairness that Catholics be considered. To a large extent, Catholic broadcasters are in one group known as the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). The Catholics present a wide set of personalities on EWTN, but not a single word has ever been uttered in the two years of the priestly scandals involving young children. No criticism is ever offered. Cardinal Law of Boston may lose his job, but there is no comment. There are now something like 800 complaints about the clergy in Los Angeles, but not a single word of comment. The Bishops meet to talk about things including charges of priestly misconduct, but EWTN has no comment whatsoever. And in the future, there seems to be no proposal of any analysis or comment. Members of the faith seem to be unguided in their reaction to charges of misconduct.

But EWTN presents some interesting personalities. One is Father Frank Pavone who runs a group he calls Priests for Life. When all the rhetoric is put aside, Pavone is rabid on the subject of abortion. He claims that his Priests for Life is a vast organization; but he seems to be the only priest who appears on his telecasts. Pavone often conducts an interview with a woman who is identified as an employee of Priests for Life. There is no indication of any other employee.

Interviewing this woman employee about her views on abortion is about as illuminating as interviewing a fireman on fires. Of course, he is against fires just as the woman employee is against abortion. On top of all that, she is being interviewed by her boss so it comes as no surprise that she opposes abortion.

Pavone went off the reservation at least once in talking about Purgatory. How Pavone came into this knowledge is beyond my powers of imagination. According to Pavone, apparently a newly dead person was sent to Purgatory. He ran across some people who had died many years before who were also in Purgatory. The newcomer was condemned by an attack from one of the long term residents of Purgatory saying, “You guys did not pray hard enough for me to get out of here.” Again, it is hard to say how Pavone came into this knowledge, but he is a TV priest on EWTN and perhaps that is enough for him to know these sorts of things. At least, he had my attention.

Another EWTN mainstay is Mother Angelica who had something to do with the establishment of the so called network. It is a so called network, because it only embraces one station. It is not like CBS or ESPN.

When Mother Angelica was active, she was all over the EWTN programming selling religious figurines or reciting the rosary with her nuns from Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Alabama. Fortunately, her sales pitches and her endless recitations of the rosary were recorded and are played again over and over on EWTN broadcasts. Mother Angelica suffered a debilitating stroke on Christmas Eve two years age, but she appears now with no explanation that this is a broadcast of an old tape. But at Christmas and other religious holidays, Mother Angelica shows up to hawk figurines and crosses and rosaries for sale, all taped of course.

Some months ago, Mother Angelica stopped her rehabilitation and speech therapy sessions saying she is content to live her life in whatever condition the Lord wills for her. She is missed because she lent spark and life to otherwise dull broadcasts.

With Mother Angelica out of commission, her place has been taken by Father Mitch Pacwa. Pacwa is a pleasant sort who is having trouble filling the void in programming left by Mother Angelica’s departure. For many of of his broadcasts, Pacwa uses a large book which must come from the writings of the Pope. Pacwa will read a sentence and then set off to explain it to his viewers. This is a monstrous book. In one broadcast, he only deals with six or eight sentences so it gives him a script for the next 100 years. In the meantime, Mother Angelica has recited the rosary so many times, that this old non-Catholic and nonbeliever can now recite it. “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, etc.” With that, it is time to go to Johnnette.

Johnnette has a last name. It is Benkovic, but she seems to favor her given name. It had been my impression that this approximately 50 year old lay person, who wears the latest fashions, was the consummate, uninvolved virgin, but then one of her interviewers caused her to say that she has a son of 26 years. It had always appeared to me that a man would be below her lofty thoughts. Whether she still has a husband or a lover is not for us to determine. Johnnette is the ultimate when it comes to Catholic decorum.

She runs an effort called “Living Life Abundantly.” Her book and pamphlets are hawked under the Living Life Abundantly label.

When one of her guests used the word “Hell” on two occasions, Johnnette said, “Oh, you mean the place down there,” pointing down to the floor. Her view of decorum would not permit her to utter the word “Hell” in any form. It is a pity that Johnnette never tried to spread her doctrine to Lenny Bruce.

Johnnette takes about four breaks in her hour long broadcast. Those breaks don’t go to waste as Johnnette appears on tape to sell her latest books and pamphlets. When a break occurs, there is applause, but there is no audience. Such fakery does her lofty image no good. When interviewing a guest, she never says tell us about what happened or tell us about your views. Tell us has been banned. In its place is “Share with us” your views or what happened.

On endless broadcasts, Johnnette who regards Evangelical Protestantism as a mortal danger, interviews a like minded person who writes a column or is involved in schools. In any case, there is extended discussion of the mortal danger of New Age Philosophy. No one has told me that Evangelical Protestants are into New Age thought, but Johnnette and one of her female friends think this is absolutely the case.

Johnnette and her cohort claim to know all about the New Age movement and they are here to warn that it is perilous. The philosophers of the New Age, according to these two women, are Carl Gustav Jung and Sigmund Freud. Here we are in the year 2004 worried over Jung and Freud who are long since dead and gone. Freud cashed in his chips in 1939. Jung followed in 1968.

Well, there is hope for the world. If you watch EWTN at 10PM on Monday evenings, there will be a chance to buy one or more of Johnnette’s inspirational books and pamphlets. Old Johnnette is issuing books and pamphlets about as fast as our author in Denton, Mike Murdock. Murdock has been divorced once and he owns these classy black cars. It is hoped that he will form a perfect union with the ultimate prissy cat of EWTN who refers to “hell” as that place down there.

There is one more EWTN character whom you ought to meet. He is Doctor Professor Scott Hahn of a Catholic college in Stuebenville, Ohio. Some of Hahn’s religious claims are largely outrageous. He often conducts an exchange with a person who may be on the staff at Stuebenville. In any case, this person is in charge of lobbing soft ball questions to Hahn who seems to have made a study of the Bible and its history his life’s work. On two occasions, Hahn had his wife as the third person at the table.

Not long ago the subject of living in an obedient Catholic marriage came up. With his wife there, he seemed to lecture on the superiority of men in a marriage. According to Hahn, God created MAN who was given dominion over all things on earth. Apparently, according to Hahn, the game began and ended with man.

Later, we don’t know how much later, this gentleman whom we assume was Adam, became lonely. Hahn says God put Adam to sleep on a Monday or Tuesday until he awoke on Sunday morning to find he had a playmate – now get this – a WO-MAN. Hahn says Adam assumed dominion over this WO-MAN just as he had enjoyed dominion over animals.

Hahn explained that God named the female a WO-MAN because she was constructed from a man. Hahn contends and instructs that WO-MAN embraces the name of her creator, man. Man gave her the title. From what Hahn said, the same relationship is destined to appear through out the ages, the WO-MAN takes her name from MAN.

Apparently, God spoke only English when he created Adam’s companion. Woman appears to embrace man as the second syllable only in English. In German it is MANN and FRAU. In French, it is HOMME and FEMME. In Italian, it is UOMO and DONNA. In Spanish, it is HOMBRE and MUJER. In Czech, it is PAN and ZENA. As we must deduce, God spoke only English. It is unknown how Hahn in his doctoral studies could have made such a discovery that God spoke only English.

There was one other case where Hahn got carried away in front of his wife. While his program on this interview segment is called, “First Came Love,” love has very little to do with his teachings. The love part is directed toward God or to the church. On this occasion, somehow or another, the subject of family planning and birth control came up and as usual, Hahn spouted off at length about it. Apparently in the early days of his marriage, Hahn used the Catholic manner of birth control which calls for complete abstinence during a woman’s fertile period. The name for this is “Rhythm.” Some observers have concluded that the Rhythm system works perfectly if one or both partners are sterile. Hahn has a houseful of kids, which may tell you a little bit about the Rhythm system.

With his wife sitting there and with the TV cameras rolling, Hahn says he and his wife have now adopted the practice in their intimate relations, a means that always provides for the transmission of life to occur. It must be assumed that no birth control system is used, not even the Rhythm system. He describes their current intimate sexual life as “thrilling beyond belief” because it is always open completely to the transmission of life. Hahn says his wife joins him in the “thrilling beyond belief” description. He spoke for her even though she was sitting at the table with him. She did not speak.

Well, perhaps we ought to mark that one down to man being given dominion over women, and animals as well. It is suspected that no woman who heard the “thrilling” episode would want to take part of such an adventure with Hahn. And what would Mother Angelica or Johnnette Benkovic say about this dalliance and the broadcast of intimate details being heard on EWTN? All that can be said by this old EWTN viewer is, don’t ever send your kid to Steubenville College to be educated.

At the beginning of this essay, it was said that some charlatans would appear to greet us. In Pat Robertson we have a consummate charlatan and a fraud to boot. Only Jerry Falwell exceeds him. Robertson runs the 700 Club on morning television and was involved in a gold mining scheme in Liberia in partnership with Charles Taylor, the ousted dictator of that rundown country.

Robertson made the news this past week, because he said that he had “heard from the Lord.” Bush will win the 2004 election in a “blowout” because “the Lord blessed Bush.” He went on to say, “It makes no difference what he does, good or bad. God picks him up because he is a man of prayer and God has blessed him.”

This will come as great news to the Democratic hopefuls wading in the snows of Iowa and New Hampshire. Think of all the money they will save.

God may bless George Bush, but Robertson is still a charlatan and a fraud. Let us hope we are spared any more messages from God via Pat Robertson. If God has something to say about the 2004 election, he or she ought to communicate with each American voter individually. That, my friends, is the American way.

January 12, 2004


That’s it for the 2004 essays — all of them are now up on the site. Onto 2005!

For the record, this is the 659th essay published on this site so far. Given that the absolute total is somewhere around the 700 mark, it’s really not far to go now. Feels weird to think about the first essay was published here way back in 2012. At the time, I thought that completing the site would take “one to two years,” which in retrospect was a Bush-esque misunderestimation. It will be very strange to get to the end of the line.

On the topic at hand (and I think I’ve expressed this before) I do have to wonder why Pop would steadfastly refuse to consume any fictional media, but would spend hours watching people who he hated talk about subjects that he didn’t believe in. What did he get out of that?

S O D – O – M Y

Once in a great while, the United States Supreme Court issues a decision that causes a good deal of public controversy. At the end of its 2002 – 2003 term in June, a six to three ruling was published having to do with sodomy. It ruled against a Texas statute barring sodomy.

This essay is not devoted to the intricacies of sodomy. Quite to the contrary, it intends to deal with the bleatings of Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court jurist, with Pat Robertson, the television evangelist and a string of other characters who hold that miscreants violating the Texas law against sodomy ought to be severely punished.

This old essayist, a straight man with no deviances except glaucoma and baldness, believes that the ruling striking down the Texas statute was long overdue. The debate about that ruling is what this essay is all about. But the title of the essay posed a great problem.

In the Spring of this year, it seemed to me that the antics of Rick Santorum, the junior Senator from Pennsylvania, deserved some comment. Santorum is the third ranking Republican in the Senate, so some people actually listen to his words even though what passes for thought with Santorum is really an illusion. He has no original thought processes of his own, as far as I can see.

In the Spring the Supreme Court of the United States was considering Lawrence et al. v. Texas involving imposition of the Texas law barring sodomy. Santorum got into the act late in April, 2003 with the thought that he deplores homosexuality and he also deplores the privacy doctrine established by the Supreme Court in 1963, which struck down a ban on the use of contraceptives, even by married couples. Santorum wants everyone to play by his antediluvian rules which would not only do away with contraceptive devices but with Planned Parenthood and similar organizations as well. Because of Santorum’s quaint views on sexuality, it was first proposed to call this essay, “More Catholic Than The Pope.”

A little later in the Spring, on June 26, the Supreme Court issued its ruling on Lawrence et al. v. Texas which struck down the Texas laws on sodomy. This set off a monstrous firestorm by right wing conservatives. The ruling came out as a six to three vote. Conservatives had reckoned that the vote would be at least five to four to uphold the Texas law. The response of conservatives when the ruling came down was marked, as you might imagine, by excesses. A member of the Family Research Council said that the court would now not even bar sexual relations “between a mother and an adult son.” In other instances, the conservatives said that under the new Supreme Court ruling, people had the right, among other things, to be involved in bestiality. That struck me as silly in the extreme. Perhaps the right wing folks envisioned sexual relations between humans and bears or horses or between humans and ducks and dogs. Several commentators invoked bestially as one of the drawbacks to the new Supreme Court ruling striking down the Texas sodomy law. I still had no title for this essay. I really could not use the title of “Don’t Be Beastly” for the serious essays that I might attempt to write. I thought then that Pat Robertson might provide an appropriate title.

In the middle of July, 2003, we have a comment from Pat Robertson to which we must all pay close attention. Pat runs the Christian Broadcasting Networks 700 Club which is a device for calling attention to himself and for his own fundraising purposes. Less well known is Pat’s partnership with Charles Taylor, the dictator of Liberia, in mining operations for diamonds and gold. Pat has offered millions of words on the “700 Club” broadcasts, but he has yet to say a word about his partnership with Dictator Taylor. As you might imagine, Robertson is one Republican who is anxious for United States troops to impose order in Liberia which Bush seems reluctant to do.

This past week, Robertson started a 21 day “Prayer Offensive” directed at the Supreme Court because of its ruling on the Texas sodomy law. On one of his broadcasts, good old Pat said that the ruling “has opened the door to homosexual marriage, bigamy, legalized prostitution and even incest.” I’m lost. What does a law striking down sodomy in Texas have to do with bigamy, or homosexual marriage or legalized prostitution or incest? I’m afraid old Pat has involved a string of non-sequiturs here.

But that is beside the point. The object of the 21 day “Prayer Offensive” is to get three of the six Justices of the Supreme Court who had voted to ban the Texas law, to retire or to resign or perhaps to die. I suspect that Pat and his followers can pray as hard as they can for the next three weeks and the vote on the Supreme Court will not change. The Supreme Court Justices are in adjournment until October.

I couldn’t change the title to a “21 Day Prayer Offensive” because Robertson made no sense. And so, by default, it has been elected to call this essay SOD-O-MY. The hyphens are mine to make it easier for full fledged right wing conservatives to spit out the word sodomy. So SOD-O-MY it is.

My Merriam-Webster dictionary gives a very chaste definition of sodomy. It says, “Copulation with a member of the same sex or with an animal: unnatural copulation with a member of the opposite sex.”

As I said, this is a very chaste definition of sodomy. It is one that could be used in monasteries or in a nunnery or possibly in a home for retired Protestant preachers. Without arguing the point, I suspect that millions, or perhaps billions, of happily married people and lovers throughout the world may practice “unnatural copulation” and do so with innocence and great joy. So much for the Merriam-Webster Company which publishes dictionaries in Massachusetts, the home of the Red Sox, book banning and Cardinal Law.

What we have here are two gay men named Tyron Garner and John Geddes Lawrence. These two men lived together in Houston in an apartment. There is no evidence whatsoever that these two men engaged in blatantly homosexual behavior in public. All things considered, they went to work every day and shopped for groceries the way everyone else does. Their main offense was that they were gay and the Texas authorities set out to punish them. Being gay in Texas is an occasion for calling the cops.

In 1998, the cops broke into the Garner-Lawrence apartment and arrested the men in their bedroom because they were allegedly “performing a homosexual act.” Obviously, the arrests happened in Texas so they were convicted. They elected to appeal the convictions to higher Texas courts which, as you might expect, upheld the law. In 2003, some five years later, it wound up in the Supreme Court.

In spite of all the fuss made by Texas legal authorities, Garner and Lawrence were only fined $200 with no jail time. It might be argued that their case was a matter of much adieu about nothing.

Newsweek Magazine in its July 7th issue, says the Supreme Court decision was really just catching up to public opinion. In 1986, only 17 years ago, the Court in Bowers v. Hartwick, had upheld a Georgia anti-sodomy law. At that time, 25 states had such laws. Some 17 years later in 2003, only four states banned sodomy between homosexuals. Curiously, there are nine other states with laws that are rarely enforced, barring sodomy between any sexual partners, whether married or not.

Now we return to our hero Senator Rick Santorum who was active in the run-up to the June decision. He was the subject of an article by Cathy Young in the April 28, 2003 edition of the Boston Globe. Cathy Young quotes Santorum as follows: “If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery.”

Among other similar statements, Santorum goes on to say that he has “nothing against anyone who is homosexual,” but he has a great problem with gays acting on their sexual orientation. In short, Santorum says homosexuality is alright provided it is kept invisible. In the same interview with Ms. Young, Santorum believes the state should be able to jail people for having the “wrong kind of sex” in their bedrooms. Santorum has not told us what is the right kind of sex. Would it have to do, for example, with priests taking advantage of altar boys?

Finally, he tells Ms. Young that he sees nothing wrong if states should ban birth control. He explicitly believes that it is the proper role of government to curb “individual wants and passions.” Remember, we abandoned the title for this essay called, “More Catholic than the Pope.”

And of course, Santorum deplores the right-to-privacy doctrine established by the Supreme Court in the 1963 Griswold v. Connecticut ruling, striking down a ban on the use of contraceptives even by married couples.

That’s what Rick Santorum thinks, and remember, he is the #3 Senator among Republicans in the Senate. While he may be the third ranking Republican in the Senate, most observers consider Santorum as something lighter than a light weight.

In the history of the English language there is a perfect term to fit Santorum and his light-weightedness. It refers to an insect, an ant, who flits from one object to another and never ever makes an impact. According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, the proper term in this case is pissant or piss ant or piss-ant. They say such an insect or person contributes nothing of importance, an insignificant person.

My mother, who was born in 1882, used pissant regularly. And she was a genuinely religious person. She used it to describe someone who today would be called a complete jerk. I believe pissant and jerk accurately describe the junior senator from Pennsylvania, the Honorable Rick Santorum.

The decision in June when the Supreme Court ended its session for this year, has stirred up impassioned protests from the right wing. The New Yorker Magazine in its July 7, 2003 issue commented on the fuss as follows:

With surprising firmness, the Court struck down the remaining laws against sodomy thus bringing the United States to where Canada was a generation ago. Those laws in Texas and other states, had rendered it a crime, until last Thursday, to make love in the way that, for anatomical reasons, are gay folks’ sole option. It was a strong, solid decision, six to three, with only the hard core right – Antonin Scalia, joined by William Rehnquist and Clarence Thomas – dissenting. In his dissent, Justice Scalia accused his colleagues of having ‘signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda.’ And what is that so-called agenda? Daisy chains on the church steps? Compulsory drag shows at school assemblies? ‘Eliminating the opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct’ seems to be Scalia’s own definition? No, it is worse than that. Just like in Canada, some of these people want to get married.”

So gay marriage is somewhere at the root of right wing objections to the Court’s ruling? Hard to believe, but that is one of the main objections causing all the agony.

So let’s see what Scalia had to say in his impassioned dissent. On Page 21 of Scalia’s dissent, Scalia says, “State laws against bigamy, same sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers’ validation of laws based on moral choices.” Bowers was the case in 1986 when the Court upheld Georgia’s anti-sodomy law.

Notice that Scalia said “adult incest” and “bestiality.” And now do the conservatives wish to outlaw fornication, masturbation and adultery? And Nevada, a Bush stronghold, has legalized prostitution in several cities. Does that have to go as well?

On page 25, Scalia adds to the list of crimes by saying, “States continue to prosecute all sorts of crimes such as prostitution, adult incest, adultery, obscenity and child pornography.” I am a careful reader of the New York Times and the Newark Star Ledger and the Boston Globe when I can get it. I can’t ever recall someone being charged with adult incest, adultery and obscenity. Maybe in the New York–New Jersey area, we must live in a virtual snake pit and we have to thank Scalia for bringing these matters to our attention. And once more, I am troubled by Scalia’s pointing to “adult incest.” If two 15 year olds are involved in an incestuous relationship, does that mean they are not involved in Scalia’s prohibition against “adult incest”? What is adult incest? Is it the sainted Rudy Giuliani being married to his cousin?

On page 26, Scalia throws a blanket over all sin by preaching against, “fornication, bigamy, adultery, adult incest, bestiality and obscenity.”

On page 27, Scalia again rails against, “adultery, fornication, adult incest” and laws permitting homosexual marriage.

Scalia is absolutely right. Now that he was on the losing end of the Lawrence decision, I must say that I now have an urgent desire to fornicate with a beast, such as a New Jersey bear. If the bear wishes to marry me, that would cause me to be guilty also of the crime of bigamy and polygamy. Scalia is right again. But if the bear were a male, perhaps that would be the first same sex marriage to take place in New Jersey. Just like Scalia said. I hesitate to make this confession, but I am quite certain that Scalia will feel better knowing that a New Jersey liberal has capitulated to his dire warnings. And once the bear and I are married, we probably will indulge in adult incest. Scalia was right on every count.

Now that I have made my abject confession, my spirits are greatly improved and I can tell you what other right wing critics have had to say.

Neil Lewis of the New York Times did a round-up of responses by some outspoken right wingers. Jay Sekulow (Chief Counsel to the American Center for Law and Justice), a group founded by Pat Robertson, says that the affirmative action and the anti-sodomy decision by the Court “reflect a political approach to the law that we deplore. It was a grand slam homer for the other side”. When the right wingers complain about a “political approach to the law”, they have it backwards. Don’t they remember the Supreme Court ruling that gave George Bush the Presidency by a 5 – 4 vote and some mystical justification by their hero, Justice Scalia?

Neil Lewis quotes the affable Jerry Falwell as saying that, “This is probably as bad a day as the court has had on social issues since Roe v. Wade. They put the right to privacy ahead of respect for community standards for morality that have prevailed for many years.”

At least Falwell did not immediately complain about bestiality, fornication and adult incest. Is he a closet liberal now?

Then Neil Lewis quotes Ken Connor, President of the Family Research Council as saying the decision was “a classic judicial activism arrogance.” He quotes Connor as saying that the decision, “Opens the door to bigamy, adult incest, polygamy and prostitution.” Sound familiar? And then he quotes Connor as saying that the decision opened the door to sexual relations “between a mother and an adult son.” That’s what Connor said. On one hand Connor railed against bigamy, polygamy and prostitution, and then he turned to a mother having relations with an adult son. What about a teenager? And what about an illicit relationship by a father and a daughter? Is Connor unconcerned about juvenile incest?

Then there is a final word from Jerry Falwell. He says that the courts may now approve bestiality, prostitution and the use of narcotics. When I made my confession about messing around with beasts, I forgot to mention that since the Texas law on sodomy was struck down, I had smoked dozens of marijuana cigarettes and had popped about 150 narcotic painkillers. All because of striking down the Texas law. That is what did it.

Before we close up shop, we must hear from the Attorney General of the Great State of Alabama, William H. Pryor. His nomination to the Federal Appeals Court has set off a storm of editorials about his views on religion and the law. In a recent brief, Pryor argued that sex between homosexuals would open the door for legalized, “necrophilia, bestiality and even incest and pedophilia.” I am greatly pleased that he opened up a new front with his assertion that necrophilia and pedophilia and bestiality would result if homosexuals made love. (Small note. My chaste dictionary says that necrophilia is, “obsession with and usually erotic interest in or stimulation by corpses.” Remember, you heard the warning here first.)

All of the right wingers cite bestiality as one of the outcomes of the Court’s June decision. As a practical matter, if the beasts were bears or buffaloes, how would an ordinary low life reprobate like me tell the difference between male and female beasts? Or are the conservatives saying that liberals like me would take a unisex approach? I will have to do some more research before I am able to take full advantage of the freedom now found under the Supreme Court’s decision.

Finally, we come to Bill Frist, the Republican leader in the Senate. He is so aroused about the Supreme Court decision that he wants to see a Constitutional Amendment against gay marriage. Very few people have responded to Frist’s efforts, but he thinks it of great import to guard against gay marriage such as obtains in that suburb of Hell, Canada.

In the final analysis, Frist ought to know that this country was founded on the principals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Being married to an amiable spouse would seem to fit under what our founding fathers had in mind. Frist should read the Declaration of Independence. If homosexual couples wish to avail themselves of those rights, who is Bill Frist to tell them nay. My hope is that his constitutional amendment dies a sudden natural death.

My feelings on this whole question of sodomy agrees with that of the New Yorker Magazine where they say that the law in the United States is now similar to Canada after the lapse of a generation. It is about time. And on the greatly feared issue of gay marriage, it will have absolutely no effect on anyone except the gay couple. If gays and lesbians want to establish their relationships through marriage, they have my best wishes.

Now before we close up the SOD-O-MY essay, there is one other urgent matter to deal with. On July 14, 2003, Pat Robertson appeared on his 700 Club broadcast with eyes tightly closed and with his fists clenched to announce his 21 Day Prayer Offensive. While you have been reading SOD-O-MY, time is slipping away from us. The 21 day Prayer Offensive will soon run out of time.

I believe there must be some divine inspiration to Robertson’s Prayer Offensive because it expires on August 4th, which happens to be my birthday. Robertson’s people tell me the August 4th termination date was not an accident. Pat himself found a citation in the Book of Ezra which requires the prayer offensive to reach its climax within the first four days of harvest time, which is, of course, August. My first name is that of the Old Hebrew scribe of Jerusalem. Obviously, this is a matter of Biblical prophesy. I find that inspirational just as Scalia’s reading of the law now permits me to engage in previously forbidden conduct with bears or orangutans. We all have Texas to thank for giving us the Lawrence case.

July 24, 2003


It never ceases to amaze me how Republicans can be simultaneously so in favor of “small government” but also so tenacious at trying to regulate people’s bedrooms. Also, the sexual slippery slope arguments are always just so excellent — all roads lead to gay sex with animals.

It’s been pretty soundly established that some of the loudest anti-gay-rights voices over the years have come from deeply closeted people. I wonder if the dudes who somehow find excuses to shoehorn bestiality into all these discussions are similarly closeted? I can honestly say I don’t think nearly, nearly as much about sex with animals as all these legislators seem to.

These are the same guys and gals currently freaking out about transgender people and bathrooms. Are they all just horribly repressed? It would be sad, except they have power, so it’s scary.


My wife, Ms. Judith Chicka, says that the title of this piece is a non-sequitur. And she is a descendent of the Serbian royal family so she should know what she is talking about. On the other hand, it is my belief that the title is nothing more than an oxymoron.

The Bishops of the American Catholic faith are meeting in Washington this week. Their annual meeting has been held in Washington for many years. When I worked as a lobbyist for AT&T in the last half of the 1960’s, the meetings were covered in great detail by religious reporters from the Washington Post and the Washington Star. I have always been an avid reader of newspapers so I followed the developments at the Bishops conference with some interest. In spite of the fact that I am not a member of the Catholic faith, it was interesting for me to read about the dialog that took place at the conference.

Several years after I left Washington, I began a long standing wrestling match with an ailment called aphasia. That ailment makes it very difficult to call people’s names to mind. It seems to affect other nouns as well. To recall certain names to mind, I am obliged to use other references. For example, the word persimmon did not register easily in my brain for more than three years. I finally connected it with Simmons mattresses, so I can now recall persimmons to mind. Recently I had a problem with the words “inferiority complex.” In that case, I remembered Sherwin-Williams paint which said that their paints were superior. The opposite of superiority is inferiority and from that I have been able to figure out the term inferiority complex.

Now to go back a few years, my reading of the Bishops conference led me to believe that they had an active interest in purgatory. Purgatory gave me fits trying to recall that name recently. I am now able to do that by thinking of the Black Draught purgative, now called laxative, which then leads me into the word purgatory. I know this is a long way to get from here to there, but that’s the way it has to be done for those of us who have lesions in the brain resulting from a stroke and seizures. For those with long memories, Black Draught came in a small yellow package and a small amount was mixed into a glass of warm water. My recollection is that the purgative produced almost immediate results.

Now that I can remember some of the words that have to work in this essay, we can proceed to discuss celibate sex.

In the Bishop’s conference this year, there seemed to be extensive debate on sexual matters. The first had to do with homosexuals and the second had to do with contraceptives.

It took a long time, perhaps centuries, for the church to acknowledge that homosexuals existed. It took them another eon to admit that some of them were Catholic. In my own view, I find this amusing because some of the most creative people known to me were homosexuals.

In any case, the Bishops debated about homosexuals again this year and decided, by a vote of about two to one, that homosexuals were acceptable provided that they did not have homosexual relations. In other words, gay and lesbian folks are accepted by the Bishops so long as they don’t engage in the relations of their sexual desires. I do not know what the Bishops would conclude if a homosexual person set out to enjoy heterosexual sex. That aspect apparently did not occur to the Bishops.

This is a little like inviting a fat man to a banquet and telling him that it is okay to stand around or perhaps even to sit at the table, but please don’t eat the food. Homosexuals are moved by the same desire for relations with other like-minded people, much as heterosexual people are also moved.

I wonder what the Bishops would say to a young heterosexual who engages in what we call normal sexual relations. Is he less sinful than the homosexual who engages in gay or lesbian sex?. I am a bit confused by the Bishop’s vote which turned out to have a substantial minority. Were the minority voters simply saying that homosexuals had no right to be in the church or were they saying that it is permissible to have homosexual relations? It is probably well that no Americans of Irish descent such as myself should be a pope because we would say that it is hard to find the sin. Folks of our sort would say, “Be happy” and come to church every Sunday and don’t miss the Parish bingo games each week.

Now we turn to the second part of the Bishop’s discussion this week which had to do with the use of artificial contraceptive devices. As expected, the Bishops came down foursquare against the use of those instruments to prevent pregnancies. My inquiring mind would turn to a question of whether a heterosexual male would have sexual relations with a heterosexual female and use one of those dreaded and evil contraceptive devices. The question would seem to be how many violations of the Church rule are involved.

Does having sexual relations outside of marriage constitute a sin?. Secondly, if the couple were to use the devices, would that constitute a second sin?

The Bishops conceded that only 4% of married Catholics actually use the approved natural birth control methods which rely upon relations outside the females fertile period. It seems to me that the natural method works best when one or both parties are sterile. But whether this is the case or not, I am amazed at the amount of time that the aged celibate Bishops spend on sexual matters. I would have thought these things would have been furthest from their minds. In my own view, the Bishops should return to debating about purgatory. What is it? How long do people have to stay there? Do some sins keep you in purgatory longer than others?

I am intrigued by all of these matters when I think of Monsignor William Clarke, the former Rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, who had a so-called “secretary” who worked for him over a period of more than 20 years. In the divorce proceedings involving his secretary and her husband, it was agreed that the woman spent weekends with the Monsignor and often took vacations with him. There was no claim that Monsignor Clarke and the secretary refrained from sexual relations. We simply don’t know what happened. On these long weekends and vacations, are we to understand that the Monsignor and his secretary were only discussing details of life in purgatory? In the final analysis, I suspect that she was guilty of adultery, but is that where it ends?

If the Monsignor and his secretary engaged in relations using an artificial birth control device, does that constitute two sins? Would it have been better for them to produce a child outside of marriage? Or several children?

Monsignor Clarke, the former Rector, also had a home on Long Island where he spent his weekends. I assume that any children that he might have had would be given a parochial education and would grow up to be good citizens. But now we have the question of whether his secretary was guilty of adultery and was he guilty of violating his vow of celibacy?

I am, at this late date in life, longing for the Bishops to go back to discussing all the aspects of purgatory. I think that they are out of their depth and in over their heads when they begin to discuss matters of a sexual nature. I am at a loss to know why they do this but I suspect that the director of the annual Bishops conference must use the sexual matters as fillers. In other words, if he has a gap in the proceedings, the director of the Bishops can call for a discussion of gays and lesbians and those who are intent on lovemaking among heterosexuals.

What the Bishops conference should address is whether Msgr. Clarke ever eventually made an honest woman out of his alleged secretary or did he send her out on her own to pursue her skills at shorthand and typing. Ahh, but the Bishops are hung up on gays and lesbians and those evil, wicked condoms. But no matter how you cut it, the Bishops have provided me with excellent entertainment for the past 40 years. For that I am truly grateful.

November 16, 2006
Essay 217
Kevin’s commentary: The way I see it, the purgatory question and the contraceptives question have a lot to do with one another. If a sin is a sin, then for instance lesbian sex which doesn’t involve contraceptives would be just as bad as heterosexual sex with protection, right? I get that the ten commandments and other such sins would have a certain weight to them, but once you get past those then how do you compare the gravity of one sin to another? Thankfully, the answer is whatever you want it to be because the concept of sin is bullshit. Phew.

On a different note, I read somewhere that when stroke victims regain things like speech and mobility, the process of doing so necessitates the brain to form brand new cognitive pathways around disabled tissue. So I think that in a way, connecting persimmon to mattresses in order to recall it is an example of this reformed pathway in action. The part of Pop’s brain that used to let him access that word is dead/disabled/fused, but now he can get to it through a different route. That route may have one more step but at the speed of neurotransmitters that difference is imperceptible.


Those of you who have long memories may recall that there were a series of essays three or four years ago that were entitled “Random Thoughts While Shaving.” Now similar random thoughts continue to occupy my alleged mind. I had hoped that they would be transient in nature, but unless I record them, they will stay in my mind when I actually wish for them to become, as the Army says, “permanent party” elsewhere.

None of these thoughts have anything to do with any of the other thoughts that are recorded here. They are independent thoughts and stand on their own two feet. And so I offer you some random thoughts that have been occupying my brain for perhaps the last six months or a year.

This afternoon, April 15, the Roman Catholic Pope has arrived in the United States. I gather that he is going to offer a mass at the new Washington National Baseball Stadium in the capital of this great country, to be followed by another mass at Yankee Stadium in New York. This shows that the Pope is conversant with American affairs in that his mass in Washington will be delivered in a National League stadium while the one in New York will be delivered in an American League stadium. There is great rivalry between the National and American Leagues, so it becomes clear that His Holiness wishes to offend no one, even Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Baseball. It is doubtful that his mass at Yankee Stadium will allude to the designated hitter rule, which is the main bone of contention between the two leagues.

Perhaps the Pope is conversant with Walter Johnson, one of the greatest pitchers of all time who played in Washington for the Senators, and with Joe DiMaggio, the great center fielder for the New York Yankees. I intend to ask my wife to read the full transcript of the Pope’s remarks to see if the Pope notices that the Washington Nationals and the New York Yankees have produced less than stellar records so far in the 2008 campaigns. But the Pope is from Bavaria, where soccer is the major interest, and he may think that Joe DiMaggio was only a former Mayor of New York.

The Pope has arrived at the same time that the Dalai Lama is conducting a series of conferences in the Pacific Northwest on compassion. Bishop Tutu of the Anglican Church is attending the sessions led by the Dalai Lama and may offer a South African thought or two. The best I can tell is that the Pope has taken no notice of the conferences led by the Dalai Lama. It seems to me, as an objective observer, that the Pope is missing an opportunity to meet with one of his brethren in the preaching business. I am fully aware that the Dalai Lama is not a practicing Catholic. Neither is Bishop Tutu. But I believe that the Pope is missing a glorious opportunity to get together to trade war stories. There is even the possibility that if the Pope plays his cards right, he may convert the Dalai Lama and Protestant Bishop Tutu to the Roman Catholic faith. I doubt that this will happen, but to an objective observer such as myself, it would seem worth a try.

Yesterday I spoke with my old and treasured friend, Howard Davis, who lives in Yorkville in New York. Howard Davis comes from a clan of preachers where the family business is spreading the gospel. Mr. Davis reports that from one of his windows he can see a Roman Catholic church called St. Joseph’s. If Howard Davis’s reports are accurate, the Pope will visit that church. A good many years ago that church was located in the heart of a German community. But as time has gone on, the Germans have moved away, intermarried with Protestants, and left Yorkville to millionaires such as Mr. Davis. At St. Joseph’s, the Pope may deliver his homily in his native German language. If that is the case, I suspect not many people in the congregation will understand what he has to say.

But there is a footnote to the Pope’s visit to St. Joseph’s Church in Yorkville. Mr. Davis reports that the block in front of that church has been repaved. If His Holiness is driven to St. Joseph’s in his Popemobile, he may be moved to tell the people in New York that the streets here are smoother than the Via Veneto in Rome. And to think that the street was paved at the behest of Mayor Bloomberg, a practicing Jew. I am here to tell you that ecumenism is in the air everywhere.

Now that we have delivered our thoughts on religion to start this sermon, let us move to another subject or two. Both have to do with times that are long since past.

Some of you who may recall American football as played in the 1930s or 1940s, will remember a maneuver called the drop kick. In those days, the football was much more round rather than the slim version that we find today. When it became apparent that professional football had a big future, efforts were taken to make it easier to pass the ball, which would result in higher scoring to please the fans. To accomplish this end, the football was reduced from a sort of oval shape to a long slender shape so that quarterbacks with small hands could get their fingers around it and throw spirals. This made for easier passing, which the owners sensed that the patrons wanted to see. But when the football was elongated to make it easier to pass, it became much more difficult to drop kick the ball.

For those of you who remember the early football games, drop kicks were accomplished by a single kicker standing in the backfield who dropped the ball on the ground and kicked it immediately after it bounced. If the ball went through the two goal posts, it was a field goal worth three points. At that time the goal posts were on the goal line, not ten yards back as they are today.

I have a personal interest in this in that as a child growing up with few companions around where I lived, I became fairly proficient in drop kicking. But the slimmer elongated ball made drop kicking an obsolete art. When dropped from the hand, the new balls would bounce erratically. So to place kick the football now requires two men to accomplish. One is to hold the ball while the other kicks it. This means that only nine men hold off the opposing team, whereas in the former days the drop kicker, who kicked alone, had ten men to guard against those who wished to block his kick.

As luck would have it, I have fairly large hands, which could produce a spiral when passing even with the older ball. But the fans must be served so we now have the elongated ball which makes drop kicking a lost art. I lament the passing of this great art. But I know that drop kicking will never return while I am alive, and so regrets and laments are in order.

While we are addressing things of the past, there is the matter of watch pockets which used to be placed in men’s trousers. As I was growing up, nearly every man carried a round watch which was placed either in the pocket of his vest or in the watch pocket in his trousers. The trouser watch pocket was located just below the belt line and men would pull their watches out using a fob. You may recall that in those days there was a ring around the mechanism that wound the watch. The fob was attached to that ring.

A fob exists for the sole purpose of withdrawing the watch from the pocket of the vest or the trousers. It has no other use. Some are very fancy and others are very plain, but in both cases, the fob hangs outside the pocket and exists for the purpose of pulling the watch from the pocket.

Generally speaking, my recollection is that the foreman on any job requiring manual labor would carry the watch in his watch pocket. The foreman would take out his watch and when it reached say eight o’clock he would tell the men to go to work and when it reached noon, he would tell them to knock off for lunch. At 4:30 or 5:00 PM, the foreman would pull the watch out of his watch pocket and announce that it was “quitting time.” In those days men who performed manual labor did not wear wrist watches. It would be incongruous for a man performing some sort of manual labor to have a wrist watch. He would rely almost entirely on his foreman to tell him when to go to work and when to quit.

As I was growing up, my father carried a watch which he had acquired during his work on the Illinois Central Railroad. There were many makes of watches but this one was called an “Illinois” Railroad watch. The watch was produced by a company entirely separate from the railroad. The watch had a sweep second hand which I thought was a mechanical marvel. My father also believed that any man who wore a wrist watch was less than a full-fledged man. In those days, gayness connoted happiness. My father never heard of the word gay being attached to a man with homosexual tendencies. He might have heard of the term queer being used in those circumstances but my father generally believed that a man wearing a wrist watch was something less than a real man.
He also believed that cigars were the only proper smoke and that anybody who “sucked cigarettes” was peculiar. With the prevalence of lung cancer now afflicting the smoking public, perhaps my old man had it right all along.

But with the coming of wrist watches, watch pockets on men’s trousers have tended to disappear. None of my trousers has a watch pocket. However I do have a pair of blue jeans which has a small pocket inside of the larger front pocket. That particular pocket is of no great use, and if a man had a watch with a fob on it, he would find it totally useless.

For many years during my working career I did not use a watch at all. I used watches only when I traveled or when I had a speech to make. But nonetheless, I regret that trouser makers no longer provide a watch pocket.

When I passed my 40th year with the Bell system, the Long Lines Department of AT&T presented me with a watch. I chose a round watch, somewhat similar to my father’s, in anticipation of that anniversary. But the truth is that men’s vests have largely gone out of style. And the further fact is that there are no watch pockets in men’s trousers. I have one suit with a vest but as time has gone on, I find that there is no place to wear it. So the watch with its fob and gold chain lie in my top dresser drawer, with no one to appreciate their talents.

I regret that there are no more watch pockets in men’s trousers, just as I regret the thought that drop kicking is a lost art. If I had the opportunity to address the Pope, I suspect that he would agree that my lamentations are well placed. But in the end it may be that His Holiness will tell me to simply get used to it.

Finally, we come to a random thought that if it talks like a duck and walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck. Your old essayist has been around so long that he understands what an economic depression is. When people refer to our fortunes in this downward economy and call it a recession, it is nothing more than a euphemism. Our current situation has all of the dimensions of a full-fledged depression.

As in the 1930s, banks are failing and people are being laid off from their work. This morning one of the largest banks in this country, Wachovia, has announced such large losses that it may well go under. Last month, 80,000 jobs were lost, while in February there were 70,000 jobs lost. To complicate matters, there is the matter of inflation. Anyone who shops for groceries will tell you that their bill is somewhere between 30 and 40% greater than it was a year ago. There was a time when we made jokes about $4-a-gallon gasoline. Today the price of crude oil is at $117 per barrel. It may be that in the future, if someone is able to buy $4-a-gallon gasoline, it will be considered a bargain. If the price continues to rise, before long American consumers will be paying at least $5 per gallon.

Then we have the housing crisis with property being foreclosed and people being pushed out of their houses. This was a hallmark of the great American Depression that lasted from 1929 until 1942. We have an administration in Washington that does not seem to care much about people losing their houses. Their attitudes were summed up in the beginning by saying that if you signed mortgage papers for more than you could pay, it was your tough luck. The fact is that no one was overseeing the lenders and that they had eyes on rapacious profits.

Now we have one other aspect that did not exist in the 1930s. That is the disastrous war in Iraq. We are squirting away $12 billion per month, with no end in sight. Respectable elements in the financial community expect that we will spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 trillion before this war is concluded, if it ever is concluded. Our expenditures on the war in Iraq have led directly to the failures in the American economy. The dollar is at record lows, which enables foreign investors to buy our manufacturing base. And this country, which used to produce so many miracles, cannot produce an automobile that will compete with the Japanese or the Koreans.

In the meantime we are told by this administration and by the prospective Republican nominee for president, Mr. McCain, that the answer is in lowering tax rates. By lowering tax rates, we are obliged to borrow money to support the Iraq war from, of all people, the Chinese. This is bad news from beginning to end.

I do not have a limitless number of days to hang around in this life of mine. I regret that the current situation has happened so late in my lifetime. But no amount of cheerleading can fix this situation. The people who got us into this situation ought to be run out of town and/or jailed.

In the final analysis, these are lamentable facts. To call this a “mere recession” is nothing more than a euphemism. As one who has lived through the long depression of the 1930s, may I assure you that it has all of the dimensions or, in the language of Donald Rumsfeld, the metrics of a full-fledged depression. When you next buy gasoline or groceries, you may tell the attendant that this is a mere recession and that prices will return to normal in a few days. That might provide everyone with an uproarious laugh.

Well, there you have four completely random thoughts. None relates to the others, as I have promised. But it is good to have them dictated and soon to know that they are in print. That will let the random thoughts know that I have taken them seriously and that they have been fully recognized.

I will retire now and listen to radio and television accounts of the Pope’s visit. I have great hopes that he will mention my name in one of his homilies at the baseball stadiums or perhaps even at St. Joseph’s Church in New York. But the Pope and I are both veterans of the Second World War and are advancing in age. I will know that if he overlooks my name in his preaching, it is just an old-age oversight. As we would say in American basketball, “no harm, no foul.”

April 15, 2008
Essay 306
Kevin’s commentary: I had no idea that footballs used to be round. What I do know, though, and what Pop may be pleased to discover, is that “drop kick” is still absolutely a term used in sports. It simply is used in MMA fighting or fake wrestling instead. To preform a drop kick now is to jump at an opponent, orient oneself sideways, and kick out both legs at them like a kangaroo. Of course when one executes this technique he will generally fall on the ground himself, being that he has no legs to support him at the conclusion of the jump. However if done right this delivers a massive amount of force to the opponent’s core, which is a good thing in MMA fighting.
I’d also like to point out that punting can still be done with one person, and does not require a ball holder, so that’s a plus. I think. I actually don’t completely know, but yeah. I’ve seen people kick a football by themselves before. It works alright.

Lastly, I hope the new Pope will consider coming back to visit — he seems like an all-around better dude than the last one. Too bad he’s eschewed the Popemobile, though. I always did want to see that thing.


Around the middle of October, the Roman Catholic Pope in the Vatican made a very surprising announcement. On that occasion he invited the Church of England, which had been separated for 478 years from the Catholic Church, to rejoin his flock. As an inducement, the Pope said that married preachers could remain married and, after a period of retraining, they would be welcome in the Catholic Church. Another inducement had to do with hymnals. Apparently the Anglican hymnals will be accepted on a restricted basis in the new Catholic Church after the Anglicans rejoin.

You may recall that the Anglicans left the Roman Church after a dispute involving King Henry VIII. It seems Henry had a collection of wives, some of whom he wanted to divorce; others he executed. The Roman Catholic Pope would not agree to a divorce for Henry VIII from his first wife, Katherine of Aragon. That set the stage for Henry establishing his own church for England. Not only that, but he specified that the reigning monarch would be its head. In effect, the Anglicans could have their own pope. As a matter of interest, he was the reigning monarch at the time, so he in effect became the new pope of the Anglican church.

And so for the better part of 500 years, the Anglicans have gone their own way, separate from the mother Church. Apparently the Pope is intent upon collecting the low-hanging fruit. There is an ongoing dispute in the Anglican Church. The dispute involves naming females as bishops and the existence of a gay bishop in New Hampshire of this country. The calculation seems to be that a sufficient number of Anglicans will be turned off by female bishops and the gay bishop and will move toward the Catholic Church, abandoning the Anglican Church.

I am not a Catholic or an Anglican. However, the Pope’s move to welcome back the Anglicans on a limited basis seemed to me to have material for possible comment in these essays. For a week now, I have been pondering whether to treat this lightly or as a matter of great substance. I confess that after a week of pondering my thoughts are still askew. But the problem was solved on Sunday, October 25 when Maureen Dowd, op-ed columnist with The New York Times, published her column. Bear in mind that Ms. Dowd is a practicing Catholic who, I presume, is still in the good graces of the Church. I have always admired Ms. Dowd’s prose and in the instant case, I decided that I could do no better so I would use Maureen Dowd’s column. Without further ado, here is what she wrote on Sunday, October 25.

October 25, 2009
The Nuns’ Story
Once, in the first grade, I was late for class. I started crying in the schoolyard, terrified to go in and face the formidable Sister Hiltruda. Father Montgomery, who looked like a handsome young priest out of a 1930s movie, found me cowering and took my hand, leading me into the classroom.
Sister Hiltruda looked ready to pop, but she couldn’t say a word to me, then or ever. There was no more unassailable patriarchy than the Catholic Church. Nuns were second-class citizens then and — 40 years after feminism utterly changed America — they still are. The matter of women as priests is closed, a forbidden topic.
In 2004, the cardinal who would become Pope Benedict XVI wrote a Vatican document urging women to be submissive partners, resisting any adversarial roles with men and cultivating “feminine values” like “listening, welcoming, humility, faithfulness, praise and waiting.”
Nuns need to be even more sepia-toned for the über-conservative pope, who was christened “God’s Rottweiler” for his enforcement of orthodoxy. Once a conscripted member of the Hitler Youth, Benedict pardoned a schismatic bishop who claimed that there was no Nazi gas chamber. He also argued on a trip to Africa that distributing condoms could make the AIDS crisis worse.
The Vatican is now conducting two inquisitions into the “quality of life” of American nuns, a dwindling group with an average age of about 70, hoping to herd them back into their old-fashioned habits and convents and curb any speck of modernity or independence.
Nuns who took Vatican II as a mandate for reimagining their mission “started to look uppity to an awful lot of bishops and priests and, of course, the Vatican,” said Kenneth Briggs, the author of “Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church’s Betrayal of American Nuns.”
The church enabled rampant pedophilia, but nuns who live in apartments and do social work with ailing gays? Sacrilegious! The pope can wear Serengeti sunglasses and expensive red loafers, but shorter hems for nuns? Disgraceful!
“It’s a tragedy because nuns are the jewels of the system,” said Bob Bennett, the Washington lawyer who led the church’s lay inquiry into the pedophilia scandal. “I was of the view that if they had been listened to more, some of this stuff wouldn’t have happened.”
As the Vatican is trying to wall off the “brides of Christ,” Cask of Amontillado style, it is welcoming extreme-right Anglicans into the Catholic Church — the ones who are disgruntled about female priests and openly gay bishops. Il Papa is even willing to bend Rome’s most doggedly held dogma, against married priests — as long as they’re clutching the Anglicans’ Book of Common Prayer.
“Most of the Anglicans who want to move over to the Catholic Church under this deal are people who have scorned women as priests and have scorned gay people,” Briggs said. “The Vatican doesn’t care that these people are motivated by disdain.”
The nuns are pushing back a bit, but it’s hard, since the church has decreed that women can’t be adversarial to men. A nun writing in Commonweal as “Sister X” protests, “American women religious are being bullied.”
She recalls that Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, who heads one of the investigations, moved a meeting at the University of Notre Dame off campus to protest a performance of “The Vagina Monologues.” “It is the rare bishop,” Sister X writes, “who has any real understanding of the lives women actually lead.”
The church can be flexible, except with women. Laurie Goodstein, the Times’s religion writer, reported this month on an Illinois woman who had a son with a Franciscan priest. The church agreed to child support but was stingy with money for college and for doctors, once the son got terminal cancer. The priest had never been disciplined and was a pastor in Wisconsin — until he hit the front page. Even then, “Father” Willenborg was suspended only because the woman said that he had pressed her to have an abortion and that he had also had a sexual relationship with a teenager. (Maybe the church shouldn’t be so obdurate on condoms.)
When then-Cardinal Ratzinger was “The Enforcer” in Rome, he investigated and disciplined two American nuns. One, Jeannine Gramick, then of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, founded a ministry to reconcile gays with the church, which regards homosexual desires as “disordered.” The other, Mary Agnes Mansour of the Sisters of Mercy, headed the Michigan Department of Social Services, which, among other things, paid for abortions for poor women.
Marcy Kaptur, a Democratic congresswoman from Toledo and one of Bishop Blair’s flock, got a resolution passed commending nuns for their humble service and sacrifice. “The Vatican’s in another country,” she said. “Maybe people do things differently there. Perhaps the Holy Spirit will intervene.”

As far as I can tell, there is no move to lift Miss Dowd’s membership in the Catholic Church. She is a much better writer than I could ever hope to be, and so I will let her column speak for itself. When I can write as well as Maureen Dowd, which may take another 478 years, I will let you know.

October 26, 2009
Essay 415
Kevin’s commentary: Welcome to 2014! Feels very weird to say it. I wonder when Pop was a young man, what he thought would be the latest year he’d get to see would be. Connor and I were talking about it today — I think I’d be very happy to make it to 2080.

By the end of 2014 I should be near the end of this project. In total there are seven hundred and something essays, and I post at the rate at about five to six per week. Especially if I pick up the pace a little bit then we are looking at a tentative end time of around April 2015. I’m pretty sure that’s a safe bet.

More topically, the Catholic church is full of assholes, our new Pope is a million times better than ol’ Ratty (though he does have his own flaws,) and you can read more of Pop’s views on nuns here.


There are two or three thoughts that must be established before we proceed into this essay.  The first has to do with vows that Catholic priests embrace, saying that they will live a life of poverty, obedience, and chastity. 

Secondly, your old essayist has never claimed to lead a life based on these three concepts.  Poverty is to be avoided at all costs.  Obedience to any religious authority has never troubled my aged brain.  And, finally, if chastity equates to male celibacy, I find that to be a foreign thought.

Thirdly, if the Book of Genesis is to be believed, it counsels us to go forth and multiply.  (See Genesis 1:28)  I am told that there are six verses in Genesis that advise us to go forth and multiply.  So you see, in my case I am only doing my priestly duties.

And, finally, if you have not guessed it thus far, I am not a practicing Catholic.  My belief is firmly rooted in the doctrine of unbelief.


With those forethoughts out of the way, let us proceed to the main event.  There is a priest in southern Florida named Alberto Cutié.  As you know, southern Florida abounds in seaside beaches.  As it turns out, Father Cutié has a girlfriend to whom he shows affection.  Unfortunately, the Catholic hierarchy has come into possession of a photograph where Father Cutié is holding his girlfriend on a beach, which suggests that they are in love.  There is no copulation involved here, which I will avoid because Ezra’s Essays are devoted to high-flown concepts.

Because Father Cutié was shown holding his girlfriend, all kinds of inferences have been drawn.  The most serious one is that Father Cutié has violated his vows of chastity and/or celibacy.

I have no idea what Father Cutié and his girlfriend did or did not do, but from this photograph there is no reason to infer that he has committed a grave sin.  Father Cutié has declined to comment as to whether this display of affection led to more serious involvement.

The good Father from southern Florida freely admits that he is in love with the woman who appeared in the photograph.  In effect, Father Cutié asks, “What is wrong with a man being in love with a woman?”  From what we are told, this priest is a virile young man whose age is in the thirties.  I suspect that he is at the height of his sexual prowess, and he seems to feel a need to demonstrate that function by romancing a young woman.

As far as I can determine, the main beef about Father Cutié has to do with inferences.  There are no eye witness accounts and the good Father and his girlfriend are saying nothing.  But a good many of the Church folks are upset by the inferences that have been drawn from this photograph of Father Cutié and his girlfriend.

Now comes an op ed piece in The Washington Post, published May 15.  The author of the op ed editorial is Father Kevin O’Brien, who is a professor at Georgetown University and also performs the services of a chaplain there.  Obviously, Georgetown is a Catholic university.  The title of his piece is “The Gift of Celibacy.”  Presumably, the gift given to priests comes from a heavenly figure.  If this is so, I would ask those heavenly figures not to give me such a favor in the future.  Father O’Brien, presumably a good Irishman, has said that he took the vows of poverty, obedience, and chastity when he was 29 years of age.  The implication is that he enjoyed sexual pleasures before taking up the priesthood.  That is only an inference, and we all know what inferences can do to us.

Having been raised during the Depression, I suspect that I know all there is to know about the issue of poverty.  When it comes to obedience, I was always obedient to my teachers and in many respects, to my parents.  But when I reached my mid-teen years and discovered the joys of sex, I completely ruled out celibacy.

There is something here that Father O’Brien did not state.  For the first 1100 years that the Christian faith was in existence, the Popes in Rome or in other locations were married men.  Apparently the Popes collected gifts with considerable value.  Upon the deaths of these Popes, their wealth was transferred to their children rather than to the Church.  It is now clear that for the last 900 years of the Catholic faith, the Church has demanded chastity from its popes.  Apparently the Church concluded that if its leader, the Pope, was supposed to be celibate, all the other male members of the clergy should also be celibate.  And so for the last 900 years, its new rule has been covered by a euphemism which is called “the gift of celibacy.”  Once again, if this is a gift, I would hope that in my case, the Superior Being would avoid further generosity in terms of gifts.

And then there is the Biblical injunction found in Genesis that advises all of us to be fruitful and to multiply.  Obviously Church authorities would want this fruitfulness to take place in a married state.  This draws no objection from anyone, but it seems to fly in the face of priestly celibacy.

In the final analysis, this old essayist is a bystander in this dispute.  It has always been my intention to give and to receive love openly.  I gather that Father Cutié is well beloved by his parishioners.  And on the other hand, Father O’Brien of Georgetown is stating a belief held by the Church for 900 years.  Neither Father Cutié nor Father O’Brien has consulted me about their respective positions.  But being a free agent on matters of the heart, it would be my counsel that Father Cutié should do what his heart tells him to do.  If that is to marry this woman, so be it.  I also hope that in time, sooner rather than later, the Church will permit married priests.

But as I said at the outset of this essay, I am not a practicing Catholic.  Furthermore I am not an “un-practicing” Catholic.  So the movers and shakers at the Vatican will probably dismiss my thoughts on this matter of love.  I hope that Father Cutié, one way or another, keeps his parish and also his girlfriend.  And if Father O’Brien wishes to call the “gift of celibacy” something to be desired, he is welcome to his views.  But in the end, my heart will always be with Father Cutié.  On the other hand, if Father O’Brien were introduced to the romance of the Florida beaches, he might fall in love as well.  It is a long shot but that is what horse racing and love are all about.



May 16, 2009

Essay 385


Kevin’s commentary: Dumb dumb dumb.  People are going to be people, and if you stop them from doing that, a lot of them are going to turn to the alter boys and do all sorts of other weird shit.

That said, the “Pope’s gifts go to the Pope’s kids” rule would be pretty insane so I guess it’s good that they’ve gotten rid of that. Maybe we just have celibate popes? Or we hand down Popely gifts from Pope to Pope?


There are some observers who might regard the heading of this essay as a provocative statement.  However, to Pope watchers such as myself, the statement is justified by a sharp drop in the Pope’s voltage which may be due to a short circuit.  Two particular statements have led me to conclude that this octogenarian Pope has reached his dotage.

The Vatican publishes a daily newspaper which is called L’Osservatore Romano.  Last August the Pope summoned a reporter from that newspaper to his summer residence, which is called Castel Gandolfo.  When the Pope is ready to make a statement, there is no give and take as would be the case when an American President, for example, is interviewed.  The Pope simply reads his statement from his paper and then the paper is given to the reporter, who is responsible for reproducing it in type.  There are no follow-up questions, nor are other questions permitted.  In the statement last summer, the Pope said that he wanted to take his Church back to the second century in the current era.

Why he selected the second century is a great mystery which the Vatican newspaper did not explore.  If he had mentioned the first century, he could have met Jesus himself.  He could also have met Peter, upon whose rock his Church is founded.  He could also have met Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and the rest of the Jewish disciples.  In the first century he may also have met Judas and perhaps even Satan.  But why the Pope picked the second century as opposed to the first century is a matter of great puzzlement.

Then last week, there was a development involving the Archdiocese of New York City.  You may recall that seven or eight years ago there was a priestly scandal in Boston involving altar boys.  That case was settled by the Boston Diocese paying enormous sums to the litigants that brought the diocese to the brink of bankruptcy.  One of the priests involved in that affair was named Edward Egan.  One way or another, he was transferred to the Archdiocese in New York City where his performance over the years has been quite colorless.

But now Egan is retiring and is being replaced by the Archbishop of Milwaukee, who is named Timothy Michael Dolan.  On one hand, Archbishop Dolan shows signs of promise in that he went to the curb in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and ordered a hot dog from the vendor there.  The vendor instructed the Archbishop in how to eat the hot dog because he saw that Archbishop Dolan was not accomplished in such culinary delights as the vendor’s hot dog.  The fact that Dolan made friends with a hot dog vendor in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral tells me that he has lots of promise.

On the other hand, it appears that Dolan’s appointment was used by the Pope to tighten the right-wing bonds that govern the conduct of the faithful in the New York City diocese.  For example, the headline in the New York Times said that under Dolan there would be strict adherence to the rule against all forms of birth control.  Secondly, Dolan is obliged to observe that there will be no abortions during his term in office.  Even if a young virgin is raped by a lunatic from the insane asylum with a venereal disease, Dolan is obliged to tell that young woman that she must carry the fetus to term.  Divorce is prohibited.  Beyond that, the Pope told Dolan to be vigilant against divorce, same-sex marriages, and especially any cracks in the wall on priestly celibacy.  The facts are that Dolan would not have gotten the New York City job unless he agreed to the Pope’s ultra-right-wing agenda.  Whether Dolan agrees with all these restrictions is of no consequence because he has agreed to carry out the Pope’s agenda.

There was a great puzzlement about the Pope wanting to return to the second century in the current era which was never answered.  In the case of the right-wing restrictions, it is obvious that events on the ground make the Pope’s views fairly obsolete.  Consider the ban on all birth control devices.  In this case, the Church specifies that every act of sexual intercourse must be open to the transmission of life.

Aside from the strain that this would put on population increases, there are individual considerations that must be observed.  Let us say that there is a young 28-year-old married couple who reside in a two-bedroom apartment in New York City.  When the husband suggests sexual intercourse, the wife may readily agree provided that the husband bear some things in mind.  In the second bedroom, there is a crib with a six-month-old child in it who shares that lodging with his brother, who is now 19 months of age.  The wife may point out that the transmission of life doctrine might cause them to have another pregnancy, resulting in their having to look for a larger apartment.  She may also show the amorous husband their checkbook which details the payments for pre-natal care as well as for the hospital delivery.  Beyond that, she may remind the husband that the public schools in New York City are more than inept in some cases, which means that whatever children occur in this marriage must be privately schooled.  The cost for private schooling now runs more than $20,000 per year.  At the grade school and high school levels, the cost may well approach $25,000 per year or even more.

A Catholic university such as Boston College is now flirting with the $50,000 a year cost for tuition, board, and lodging.  Even Hofstra, a local college which is not Catholic, is now charging a bit more than $50,000 a year to educate its pupils.

By this time the husband gets the message that it is “not tonight, dear.”

There are many other drawbacks in the line that poor old Dolan will be charged with enforcing.  When a man and a woman in a marriage dislike each other intensely, are they to be expected to live together until the end of their lives because the Church refuses to recognize divorce?

There are other interesting aspects to the Pope’s line that Dolan will be involved in enforcing.  I have been led to believe that those who embrace religious thought say that we are all created in God’s image.  For purposes of argument, I am willing to accept that premise.  That is all well and good as long as we are talking about heterosexual couples.  Whether we like it or not, there are people who love others of the same sex.  I cannot find it in my heart to say to a homosexual couple that their love is not as great as the love that exists between a heterosexual couple.  Are we to contend that when God made homosexual men and women, there was a terrible mistake committed?  May I say that when the Church discriminates against homosexual men and women, it is being ungenerous and not in keeping with Christian ethics?  Gay people have as much need for love as do any of the rest of us.

In the Pope’s directive to Archbishop Dolan, we also find an admonition against any crack in the wall of priestly celibacy.  This rule strikes me as being particularly insane.  Why is the Catholic clergy shut off from intimate contact with more than half of the earth’s population?  Married clergy in the Catholic faith are not unknown.  It could well have existed in the second century of the current era.  Beyond that, there are scholars who offer convincing proof that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.  I cannot understand why the Church, at its highest levels, forbids marriage and restricts women who serve the hierarchy to cooking the meals, making the beds, and emptying wastebaskets.  I am firmly convinced that if the current Pope were married, his wife would tell him that the ban on all birth control devices was totally silly.  But he is not married, and he associates himself primarily with other celibates.  From the Church’s standpoint, this is a recipe for disaster.

Bristol Palin, the 18-year-old daughter of the Governor of Alaska, recently produced a love child.  Miss Palin has enunciated a doctrine that ought to be of considerable use to the Pope in his endeavors.  Bristol Palin has said, “Abstinence is not realistic.”  This Bristol Palin shows great promise as a philosopher.  I would urge Dolan and the Pope to put her to work on such things as the ban on birth control and priestly celibacy.  Also, I would argue that the Pope’s insistence on taking his Church back to the second century may indicate that his dotage is upon us.  When it is followed by the rigid restrictions that he has asked Archbishop Dolan to perform in New York City, it becomes clear that, as the British say, he may have “gone around the bend.”

I have taken this opportunity to offer my thoughts on the German Pope because the Pope insists that his is the universal Church.  If it is universal, that means that it covers me regardless of my untoward views of religion in general.  But if I am covered by the universal Church idea, it would be too much to expect that an Irish essayist would have nothing to say.  Beyond that, my last essay had very kind words for three Catholics.  They were John XXIII, Bishop Fulton Sheen, and Mother Angelica, who formerly headed a group of nuns in Alabama.  So you see my remarks are not anti-Catholic at all.

The Pope and I are veterans of the Second World War.  As the war drew to a close, the Pope was drafted to serve his nation.  His nation, of course, was Germany.  During his period of service, the Pope, whose maiden name is Joseph Ratzinger, joined the National Socialist Party, which is commonly called the Nazi Party.  If we were ever to meet, say in a Munich beer hall, it would lift my spirit of puzzlement to hear the Pope’s explanation for taking his Church back to the second century.  I would also be greatly interested in why he insists that Bishop Dolan impose restrictions on Catholics that come from that era.  And I would like for the Pope to tell me that joining the Nazi Party was a foolish mistake which he made prior to his seventeenth birthday.

I would find it incumbent upon me to tell the Pope that he had lost his virginity by interfering in the American presidential elections of 2000 and 2004.  When the current Pope headed the Office of the Inquisition as a Cardinal, he was visited by George W. Bush.  Later on when he became the Pope, in the election of 2004, George W. Bush visited him again.  As a consequence, the Pope instructed American bishops that any candidate who did not grow livid in his denunciation of abortion could be denied the sacrament of communion.  For example, one wire service in the U.S. reported that a woman who had voted for John Kerry, went immediately to the confessional booth to be relieved of her great sin.  The bishops of Newark, St. Louis, Scranton and Denver were quick to announce that John Kerry would be denied the sacrament in their diocese.

Was there a quid-pro-quo in this arrangement?  We will never know, but when Bush assumed the presidency, he banned stem cell research and the over-the-counter morning-after pill.  The juxtaposition of the two events is very interesting.

The number of World War II veterans is growing slimmer by the day.  So I invite my readers, Catholic, Protestant, heathen, Jew or otherwise, to be prepared for the outcome of my meeting with the Pope.  It may be historic, but in the final analysis, who knows?

February 28, 2009
Essay 371~~~

Kevin’s commentary: How very odd. I don’t really get the 2nd century thing at all. Though I guess that’s round about when the bible started actually being put together, unless I’m mistaken. So maybe he wanted to get in on that? Who knows. In any event I can say with confidence that the current Pope is way, way better than ol’ Ratty.

It’s also funny that Palin and the love child are mentioned here because they are back in the news again four years later; the father is suing for half custody. Sarah called him a deadbeat.

Finally, especially considering the essay mentions the war, I’d like to wish Pop a happy veteran’s day. I’m publishing this of course on 11/11/13 even though the date that you may see on the top of this post is somewhat behind schedule.



There is an oxymoronic quality to this essay which I hope will meet with your favor.  The oxymoron has to do with a writer whose belief is in non-belief, who then publishes an essay in praise of preachers.  But that is what I intend to do in this essay about preachers.

For more than 66 years, I have paid attention to preachers who provided intelligent thoughts.  It may well have started when, in my 18th year, I became an avid listener to the Mormon Hour Broadcast on Sunday morning radio.  There was a speaker there named Richard Evans, who delivered a five-minute sermonette that was not sectarian in nature.  At the time, I was paid $17 per week by Ed Williams, the owner of a filling station, but I devoted part of my wages to buying the works of this Mormon fellow, Richard Evans.  From that time forward, I have continued my interest in preachers who tended to make sense.  From my point of view, a goodly proportion of preachers preach nonsense.  This essay is dedicated to those who speak in logical terms that can be accepted by thinking listeners.


John Shelby Spong was the former Episcopal Bishop of Newark, New Jersey.  Bishop Spong has authored perhaps 35 books on religious matters.  His writings are believable because he does not contend that the Bible is the unmistakable inspired transcript of God’s remarks.  Bishop Spong points out that the Bible was written over a period of 300 to 400 years and that in some cases it became a political instrument, as in the case of the King James Version.  There are those who have said that Bishop Spong is not really a Christian because he does not accept all of the biases and superstitions of that faith.  But for my money, Bishop Spong is an intelligent speaker and preacher, which is why he is included in this essay.

There is a schism in the Episcopal Church having to do with the Bishop in New Hampshire named Robinson who has been living for many years in a homosexual arrangement with his lover.  Bishop Spong argues that Bishop Robinson’s conduct has no bearing on whether Episcopalians will be admitted to heaven.  I agree with Bishop Spong, but in passing I must state that my lowly social status never qualified me for membership in the Episcopal Church.

Next among intelligent preachers we come to a pair of Presbyterians.  The first is Benjamin Franklin Hall, who was the pastor of the Central Presbyterian Church in Clayton, Missouri when I became aware of him.  Dr. Hall became famous in the St. Louis area because he delivered cogent sermons and he finished the business at hand by the stroke of noon on Sundays.  In the winter of 1941, I invited a young woman to attend a service at Dr. Hall’s church.  That was what we call a “two-fer” in baseball parlance because it impressed her as well as her mother.  Before long, this young woman became a singer in the choir at the Central Presbyterian Church.

As time went on, I joined the American Army and in August of 1945, I was given a short furlough prior to my leaving for Greenwood, Mississippi to prepare for the invasion of Japan.  Fortunately the war ended before my departure and it was many years before I was able to see the beauty of Japan.  Upon this furlough, before we knew that peace would be declared in the war with Japan, it was determined by my prospective wife, her mother and, most forcibly, my sister that we were to be married by Dr. Hall on August 16.  Dr. Hall was attending a conference in Holland prior to this great occasion when he received an urgent message from his church.  It seems that one of the choir sopranos had concluded that she was pregnant by Dr. Hall and she wanted the world to know about it.  Unfortunately, Dr. Hall panicked and resigned the pastorship that he had worked so hard to achieve.  As a result, our wedding was conducted by Herman Schusler who could most aptly be described as a lost ball in tall grass.

As it turns out, the choir soprano misinterpreted the feelings in her womb.  There was no child there at all.  But the cat was out of the bag and Dr. Hall had resigned with his reputation in tatters.  He returned to his native North Carolina where he began to sell books to the school boards there.  Legend has it that he became a champion book seller and probably earned much more than the Presbyterians would ever pay him.  But the moral is clear and consistent.  Never trust a soprano on affairs of the heart.


The second Presbyterian is Peter Marshall.  Dr. Marshall had the pastorship at the Presbyterian Church on New York Avenue in Washington DC.  In the 1940s, the Republicans invited him to become a Chaplain of the United States Senate whose duty it was to recite a prayer before each session.

I became aware of Dr. Marshall and followed his remarks as closely as I could, given the distance between Washington and St. Louis.  But, fortunately, his remarks were published in several books, all of which I bought.  In one prayer to the United States Senate, Dr. Marshall used these words: “Save us from the sin of worrying lest stomach ulcers be our badge of lack of faith.”  Dr. Marshall uttered those words more than 50 years ago, but they aptly describe the situation we find ourselves in today, facing a downturn in the American economy that rivals the Hoover depression of 1929.

Peter Marshall was an intelligent man whom I suspect Bishop Spong would have liked.  Time Magazine did a piece on Dr. Marshall in 1949, which is attached to this essay.  I hope you will take time to read it because the writers at Time Magazine produce prose that is clearly superior to my own.


Thus far, we have introduced my readers to a Mormon, an Episcopalian and two Presbyterians.  Now, it is time for the Catholics.  When it comes to intelligent expressions, few people spoke more lucidly than Pope John  XXIII.  It was John the twenty third who dragged the Catholic Church from pre-historic times into the late 19th or early 20th century.  Among other reforms, Pope John authorized the Masses to be said in local languages rather than in Latin.  Pope John XXIII was an exceedingly bright man who could laugh at himself and whom I hope is well on his way to sainthood.

There was a second Catholic named Monsignor Fulton Sheen.  At the end of his career, I believe that the Pope promoted Monsignor Sheen to a bishop.  Some of you with long memories will recall that Bishop Sheen always wore a floor-length cape and that his midriff was covered by a black satin cummerbund.  I liked Bishop Sheen’s comments because they were delivered with a bit of a flair and showmanship.  He did not persuade me to abandon my efforts at birth control, but Sheen had the Irish ability to laugh at himself.  For all of his showmanship, Bishop Sheen was an intelligent man who represented the best that the Catholics could offer.


In more recent times, I found that there was a program originating in Birmingham, Alabama on the The Eternal Word Television Network   (EWTN).  The glue that held the ETWN broadcast together was a woman in her sixties or seventies called Mother Angelica who headed an order of nuns.  She never thundered at her audiences that unless they paid attention to her, they were all heading for Hell.  She said simply, “Here is the right thing to do.  I hope that you do it.”

It seemed to me that Mother Angelica must have had as much as five hours of face time on the ETWN broadcasts.  Between her sermons, she also sold religious articles such as bookmarks and other paraphernalia that were associated with the Catholic Church.  But most importantly, while I did not become convinced of her theology, she was able to laugh at herself.  Although she was in her seventies, Mother Angelica was a giggler.  I was not about to adopt her theology, but from time to time I found her fascinating.


The unfortunate part is that five or six years ago, Mother Angelica had a stroke which left her totally speechless.  She is now confined to a nursing home where performers from EWTN regularly visit her room to console her.  For a woman who was gifted when it came to communication with others, the stroke must have come as a very cruel blow.  But, again, she was an intelligent person because she could make fun of herself.


Well, there you have a Mormon, an Episcopalian, two Presbyterians, and three Catholics.  Their speeches did not inspire me to take up their theology.  For example, the Presbyterians used to believe that the instant a child was conceived, it became the subject of predestination.  Before the lovers could depart from the bed or the back seat of a car, the child that they had conceived was headed to Heaven or to Hell and nothing could be done about it.  That was the essence of predestination which Presbyterians adopted.  I thought a great deal of Peter Marshall and Benjamin Franklin Hall, and I never heard them preach on this subject.  But that’s what always lurks in the back of my mind.


On the other side of the coin, there are preachers that are instant turnoffs.  Consider Jerry Falwell from Lynchburg, Virginia and Pat Robertson, who is given to announcements straight from God.  Robertson announced after Hurricane Katrina that it was God’s answer to women appearing with their breasts exposed during the Mardi Gras parade that year.  Perhaps the most sinister is James Dobson, who has a radio program from Colorado, and bragged during the Bush administration that Karl Rove had him on his speed-dial telephone.

Taking one thing with another, it would appear fair to a person such as myself that preaching in this country comes from only a handful of intelligent men.  What disturbs me most is that a good many preachers do not respect the dividing line between church and state.  That is eminently true of the Falwell, Robertson, and Dobson trio.  They are sinister men whom Barack Obama ought to ignore.

In this essay, I have not quoted any remarks by people who subscribe to the Jewish faith.  I have neglected to do so because I am not as familiar with that faith as I should be.  That faith has existed for more than 5,000 years and its wisdom is completely undeniable.  I am a non-believer in religious affairs.  On the other hand, if I were ever to become a believer, I trust at the moment that the Jewish faith might be an appropriate place to go.  In the meantime, I am being schooled by two excellent teachers.  They are Mrs. Frances Licht and Mrs. Eva Baker.

When I am ready for my Bar Mitzvah, I will let all of you know so that you can come and celebrate with me.



February 23, 2009

Essay 369


Kevin’s commentary: I actually went to church with my girlfriend the other day because she was going to a new one for the first time, and the preacher there had some really reasonable things to say. She was also a women, so I would contend that the “handful of intelligent men” statement isn’t entirely accurate. Of course this sermon was immediately followed by the kinda cultish chanty baptism of a 3 year old — boo — but the sermon itself was well done.

The Pope mentioned in this essay and the current Pope are also pretty great, as far as Popes go. The current one is even okay with atheists, which is neat.


Those of you who have followed my career know that I have spent my full time in study and in contemplation of the great theological works.  In spite of the fact that I have spent nearly 88 years in the study of theological works, I was astounded to find that there was a religious word to which I was thoroughly unaccustomed.  This is a Roman Catholic word which is used almost exclusively in Vatican circles. The word is “delict.”  How I could have spent the better part of eight decades in the study of theological works and contemplation and have missed “delict” is a mystery to me.  But apparently that word describes a very grave condition in the Roman Catholic faith.

If a person is convicted of committing a delict, he can be excommunicated or, if he wears the robes of a priest, he can be unfrocked.  As best as I can determine it, unfrocking a priest includes removing his clerical collar and perhaps making him turn in his black suit.  There is no reason to suspect that the unfrocked priest will be reduced to his skivvies.  I know very little about unfrocked priests because there have been so few of them in recent years.  But I suspect that the Church will permit the unfrocked priest to keep his tee shirt and his jockey shorts.

All of this came to light in a dispatch from Rome dated June 17, a Saturday.  The Roman Catholics are catching on to American reading habits; they know that bad news is to be conveyed in time to reach the Saturday newspapers.  This was an art, mastered by the Nixon administration and carried forward by all of the succeeding administrations, which reserves bad news for release on Friday afternoon and evening.

As most of you know at this late date, the Roman Catholic Church has been embroiled in scandals having to do with pedophilia.  Pedophilia is a fancy word.  What it really comes down to is that the priests were buggering altar boys and other youngsters placed in their care.  Buggering is nothing more than a form of rape.  This is no laughing matter in that the Church teaches that the priest speaks with the authority of God.  Therefore, when a ten-year-old or a younger person is told to disrobe before the buggering takes place, he assumes that it is a function of piety.  In short order he will learn that piety has not a damn thing to do with it.

On July 15th, the correspondent for The New York Times has offered us these lines to cover the change in Church law.  It reads:

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican issued revisions to its internal laws on Thursday making it easier to discipline sex-abuser priests, but caused confusion by also stating that ordaining women as priests was as grave an offense as pedophilia.

The decision to link the issues appears to reflect the determination of embattled Vatican leaders to resist any suggestion that pedophilia within the priesthood can be addressed by ending the celibacy requirement or by allowing women to become priests.

Excerpted from:

Vatican Revises Abuse Process, but Causes Stir



What all of this boils down to is that if someone wishes to ordain women in the Roman Catholic Church, he will find massive resistance from the Vatican.  I think that it is thoroughly astounding that a Church equates the ordination of women with the rape of young boys.

Other religions, such as the Protestants and the Jews, seem to have no trouble with the ordination of females.  If I were a Catholic – which I am not – I would have no trouble whatsoever in receiving the final rites of the Church or communion from a female priest.  I must ask Joseph Ratzinger, who now styles himself as the Pope, “What is wrong with the mysteries of the Church being explained by a female rather than a male?”

There is a curious fact here that may need some more explanation.  The New York Times has also discovered in earlier dispatches that when Ratzinger was the Cardinal in Munich, it was alleged that he covered up priestly misconduct of this sort.  Curiously, there seems to be no denial of that accusation.  Now, a few weeks later, here we have a new set of bylaws that say that the ordination of women and the buggering of little boys are delicts.

If someone were to go through my writings, he would discover that for many years, I have been a staunch defender of females.  I think that they get the short end of the stick, whether they are in the clergy or in everyday business.  To equate their fate with rape of little boys is to me a thorough insult.  I must say at this point that I am not a Catholic nor do I propose that I would ever become one.  However, it seems to me that the coupling of buggering and ordination of women is a strained construction and an insult.  If the Church is opposed to the ordination of women, as it has been for 900 years, let that fact stand on its own feet.  To tie it to the buggering of little boys is demeaning to the females in the faith and, I should think, to the Vatican in its entirety.

That is my sermon for this week.  I got off on this subject because of my failure to understand the word “delict.”  Now that I have a full explanation of what delict means, I can tell you that, in spite of my years of study of theological matters, I am still repulsed by the idea of delicts being used to equate the ordination of women with the rape of little boys.

So now, as we say in the preaching business, go now in peace.



July 17, 2010

Essay 474


Kevin’s commentary: Well, I suppose that makes two of us who have recently become aware of that word, because I certainly didn’t know it. More importantly though, the fact that there is even a remote comparison between the ordaining of women and the molestation of children is mind boggling. What century are these people living in?