Saturday, February 26, 2011

Why, Spiling Maters

"I don't care what they say about me, as long as they spell my name right." That line has been variously attributed -- P.T. Barnum, perhaps, but who can say? Still, no matter who said it, the remark is perennially true. If we ever have our fifteen minutes of fame, we want our name spelled correctly.

So it is that we Eggers extend our condolences to Fr. James Corgee, of South Florida's Luther Memorial Church. For more than one reason.

First, and by all means foremost, because Fr. Corgee and his church were party to a truly terrible event last Wednesday. A young man, clearly deranged, burst into a Bible study wielding a knife and threatening people. The police were summoned. An officer shot, but did not kill, the young man. All in all, it must have been a terrifying event, and we hope that all parties will seek and receive the appropriate care, both spiritual and psychological.

But then, in the aftermath, a nice reporter from the local Fox News affiliate showed up to interview the pastor. The resulting broadcast and print article is mildly interesting. We don't really learn anything about young Johnathan Shae (if that is indeed the correct spelling of the knife-wielder's name). We do learn that, in the pastor's opinion, "there's definitely something wrong with this guy," but to be honest we had expected as much. We also learn that the pastor "has been pastor at the church for nearly a decade and a pastor for more than 30 years

This is true, but not entirely revealing. Corgee was ordained rather more than forty years ago. We know this because he was, for many years, a part of our synod. He served one of its largest parishes, and we ourselves assisted his successor. We own his cast-off biretta.

We also know that his name is Corgee, with an "r," not -- as the Fox Article says -- Congee. It says this no fewer than seven times, by the way. And in this incorrect form, thanks to the simultaneous rise of the internet and decline of fact-checking, the poor guy's name has now been spread all over the planet. He may as well have it legally changed, now, for all the luck he will have getting it corrected. (Incidentally, the broadcast version got it right. The mess-up is confined to writing.)

Yes, yes, we are aware that the local affiliates have little or nothing to do with the national news organization. But pardon us for observing that this does seem like the familiar strategy of the screech media: report a fact incorrectly, and then repeat it so often that the truth is obscured.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Narcissistic Nutcase Mocks College Kid, Threatens to Run for President

Serial adulterer Newt Gingrich likes to pretend he might run for president, and he gets mighty huffy when a college kid mentions that he is, well, a serial adulterer.

Per HuffPo, the less personally insulting part of his response was this:
"I've had a life which, on occasion, has had problems," Gingrich said. "I believe in a forgiving God, and the American people will have to decide whether that their primary concern. If the primary concern of the American people is my past, my candidacy would be irrelevant. If the primary concern of the American people is the future... that's a debate I'll be happy to have with your candidate or any other candidate if I decide to run."
Problem here, Newt, is that your past tells us some important things about you. For example, you don't learn from your mistakes. You can't govern your animal urges. Getting what you want is more important to you than keeping promises or basic moral conduct. You don't care much about other people, up to and including the person supposedly dearest to you.

Oh, and you lie like a freaking rug.

Sure, these things are in the past. But they would have a significant effect on our collective future if some freakish and frankly unimaginable chain of events landed you in the Oval Office.

Ordinariate Demographics

Fr. Hunwicke observes that those CofE priests who have entered, or who are known to be entering, the Ordinariate of O.L. of Walshingham tend to be middle-of-the-road Anglican conservatives, rather than fire-breathing Anglo-Catholics. As he says, this will probably disappoint those who had hoped that the Ordinariates would "clean out" the Church, taking its eccentric malcontents and leaving behind those who could, more or less, live with such evils as the ordination of women.

What entertains us most about his post is the observation that "It is what you might call the Grantleys rather than the Arabins who now who sidle up to you and shyly, proudly, tell you that their dossiers have come back from the CDF marked with a great big tick."

In the same spirit, we might mention that we have recently de-friended the fellow this blog refers to as Mr. Slope. Long story, and not one that makes anybody look especially good, but the bottom line is that as we keep saying, there seems to be a pernicious impulse among middle-aged clergymen to treat facts as the product of opinions, rather than the reverse.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Strong as Death and Hard as Hell"

That is a description of love, according to a character in Andrew Davidson's wonderful first novel The Gargoyle. She has the line tattooed onto her body, and attributes it to Meister Eckhardt. She is almost right; and the "almost" hints at our one doubt about the book.

Briefly, The Gargoyle is about a nameless man who is brutally burned in an automobile accident. In the hospital, his body mutilated and his life changed forever, he meets a sculptor named Marianne Engel, who claims that she knows him -- and that she has known him for 700 years. She also claims that, long ago, they were lovers; and, not incidentally, that she receives messages from her "three masters," a group of medieval mystics including Eckhardt, who command her to carve gargoyles and other grotesques out of stone. A psychiatrist says that she is schizophrenic, and you can see why.

As the narrator begins to heal -- as much as he will ever be able to heal, given the extent of his injuries -- Marianne Engel tells him stories. Some are about their supposed adventures together; others are about love, found and lost, in different times and places -- Italy, Iceland, England and Japan. All the stories are beautiful and spooky, and all of them are sad.

We'll try not to give anything else away, because the story is almost compulsively readable. A blurb on the cover says that it "reads like a thriller," and this is true, both in the better sense and the worse one. Like the best of the airport-lounge paperbacks, The Gargoyle moves quickly, and sucks you along with it. And, also like most of those books, it does so with a plain, even unremarkable kind of prose. (There is one appearance, we regret to say, by the word "finalize.") This is surprising, since Davidson is clearly trying to write "serious" fiction, and has taken the time to fill the book with the sort of trivia-buff showpieces that are the mark of literary ambition in the Internet era. Significant bits of dialogue are reproduced in Japanese and Icelandic, and one loses track of just how many fonts the author chucks in. It is a little pretentious, and might very well have wrecked the book -- and yet it doesn't. It is as if Davidson set out to mimic the style of "ambitious" writers, but was pulled back to the straightforward storytelling of a good detective story.

This is a good thing. It means that he cares more about his story -- his characters and their lives -- than his reputation among the MFA set. We do too, since it's a good story and they are good characters.

We recommend the book highly. Is that clear? Good, because now it is time to explain our hesitation. Quite a bit of The Gargoyle dances around the edges of theology. Much of the action takes place in and around religious communities -- a Cistercian nunnery, a Beguine house, the outskirts of a parish church in what sound like the Canadian suburbs. Dante and his Inferno are central to the story. Some of the key figures are priests and nuns; Eckhardt's name, along with those of some less famous contemporaries, gets thrown around pretty freely. And yet for all his meticulous research -- How is a burn victim treated? What does Icelandic sound like? -- neither Davidson nor his characters have much to say about God. Especially not the God worshiped in, say, Cistercian nunneries. So far as we noticed, the word "Christ" occurs one time -- just like "finalize."

In most novels, this wouldn't bother us at all. We don't much care about the religious convictions, much less practices, of Jake Barnes or Jay Gatsby. But when you write a novel about people whose lives are largely shaped, if not by their personal faith then by the faith of their age and their own practice of the same, it seems to us that leaving this stuff out is a dereliction of authorial duty.

The novelist Alan Gurganus once remarked, in a class he was teaching, that it wasn't just prudishness to leave out the sex lives of your characters, but weak writing. Where, he asked, do people reveal themselves more completely than naked and in the bedroom? In our society, at least, religion may not be quite so basic, but it is even more intimate -- and revealing.

Davidson comes close. His narrator is an atheist, which can be used to explain some level of omission, not to mention ignorance. But Marianne is pretty nearly possessed by spiritual fervor; she talks about, and sometimes to, theologians of piercing brilliance. But none of their belief, and little of hers, ever sees the light of day.

That remark from Eckhardt is typical. She has, for pity's sake, had it stitched into her own flesh with needles; it must be pretty important, huh? And it is -- the line comes from a sermon on the child Jesus teaching in the Temple. Eckhardt is quoting, loosely, from the Song of Songs ("Love is strong as death and jealousy is as severe as Sheol," NASB; the latter clause rendered dura sicut infernus aemulatio in the Vulgate). Google can tell you this in 0.025 seconds; none of Davidson's characters mentions the Biblical source, much less tries to describe Eckhardt's complex thinking about love.

Now, there is one possible rationale which -- if true -- is rather exciting. We said that the Inferno is a central part of the story. What else would you expect, when the narrator has been burned alive? It occurs to us that this is one of the other works of art in which the Christian faith is an essential subtext, and yet Christ himself is not named. Souls in Dante's Hell are so separated from God that they cannot name him. Perhaps Davidson was trying to make this point. But if so, he has fallen just a bit short. By the end, his narrator gives every evidence of having been saved, redeemed by love; and yet he still cannot account for that love with any clarity. This seems awfully like authorial cowardice.

Love is everywhere in The Gargoyle; it is a story about the redemptive power of love. And yet, even though central characters are moved by a particular and distinctive vision of love, made flesh and suffering on a Cross, the novel shies away from engaging that vision with any specificity. This is an opportunity lost, and both the novel and its readers are poorer for it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wild Horses

Despite the name, Planned Parenthood is about a lot more than planning parenthood.

Debbie Hines has a straightforward HuffPo piece about the recent House vote to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood. It includes this useful point:
It is estimated that 3 million women go yearly to 800 Planned Parenthood centers across America. 97% seek services for annual exams, breast and cervical cancer screenings, contraceptives, well woman health visits and health education. Well woman health care allows a woman to be assessed for other health issues such as diabetes and hypertension. And then Planned Parenthood ensures that they receive care elsewhere, if needed.
In other words, for many underinsured and uninsured women, Planned Parenthood is a primary health care provider.

So. Is this a big deal? There can't be that many American women without insurance, can there? Try 27% of all American women between 19 and 24. And a staggering thirty-eight percent of all black women, of any age. (This, at least, is what the National Institute of Reproductive Health says).

Hines also finds a nice irony in the fact that Rep. Dan Burton,* Republican of Indiana, has
... introduced a spending bill amendment aimed at promoting contraception use by horses to control and save the population of wild horses. Burton's amendment would prevent the Bureau of Land Management from holding wild horses in pens and offers "immuno-contraception" to the horses as an alternative.
Yes, friends, that's the novus ordo seclorum. No pap smears for poor women, but all the horse-condoms you could ask for.**
*For the record, Rep. Burton has a 100% rating from the national Right to Life Committee and, ironically, an A rating from a handgun owner's lobby. He called Bill Clinton "a scumbag," and re-enacted the death of Vince Foster in his backyard with a pumpkin. Class act, right? He is also one of those autism-from-vaccination people we at the Egg love so much for their commitment to scientific rigor.

** And yes, we know that immuno-contraception uses chemicals, not condoms. It was a moment of rhetorical frenzy, okay?

Fratricidal "Brother"

Arrival: The Libyan leader emerges from his plane followed by his bodyguards at Ciampino Airport
One hesitates to speak of "Africa's craziest leader," for much the same reason that one does of "America's craziest Congressional representative." The competition for such a title is simply too stiff. Still, one must at least give a nod toward Muammar al-Gaddafi, he of the unspellable name and the gradual transformation into Mickey Rourke.

Since taking power in a 1969 coup, Gaddaffi has said and done any number of implausible and eccentric things. Also some evil ones. He sleeps in a tent when he travels abroad, which is eccentric. In the same category are his wardrobe, chesty Ukrainian "nurse," and crack security team made up entirely of luscious virgins, an idea clearly lifted from Ian Fleming.

He has labored, with no particular success, to fuse Maoism, Islam and pan-Arabism. This qualifies as implausible. So much so, in fact, that he has even tweaked Islam itself, in ways that are widely regarded (at least in Islamic circles) as heretical. For a long time, he offered a spiritual home -- as well as guns and money -- to anybody with a "liberation movement" of any kind, so long as they hated the West. This is where the evil starts, and it continues through some other ugly bits, including -- in the late 80s and early 90s -- blowing up passenger jets over Scotland, Chad and Niger. (In fairness, he got roughed up pretty badly during those years, but you can't say he didn't have it coming.)

In recent years, Brother Leader has taken a softer line toward the wicked West: offering up his apparently irrelevant WMD program for inspection, signing an agreement with Berlusconi (the West at its most comically wicked) and -- of signal importance to Americans -- extraditing the Lockerbie bombers.

Where most leaders of military juntas promote themselves to general, Gaddafi has modestly remained a colonel, adding as an additional title "Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution." (Okay, he has also styled himself the "King of Kings of Africa," which is a bit showy for our taste). He has declared that "Libya is ruled by its people," while himself ruling it longer than anybody since the 16th century.

It seems that the Libyan people now want to exercise some of that as-yet-notional rule. And -- surprise! -- Big Brother doesn't like it. Of the protest movements now setting fire to North Africa and the Middle East, the one in Libya seems to have been the deadliest so far. Although the details are scanty, hundreds are reported dead in Benghazi, as the armed forces have fought back with comparative ruthlessness. Despite this, Benghazi is now controlled by the protesters, whose movement has spread to Tripoli.

Two Air Force colonels have defected to Malta.

Libya's UN reps have called their supposed boss "a genocidal war criminal."

Al Quaeda has established an "emirate in the northeastern part of the country.

Venezuela denies the rumor that Gaddafi is on a plane, seeking refuge with Latin America's craziest leader.

And meanwhile, Gaddafi's son swears that he and his loyal troops "will fight to the last bullet." Sadly, this is probably true. As both America and Britain know all too well, civil wars are often the bloodiest and most hate-filled wars of all. Their effects linger for generations and even centuries. We would not wish such a thing upon any country in the world.

But neither would we wish a Gaddafi government on any country in the world. Our hearts and prayers are with the protesters. We wish them success in driving out their crazy old leader; we pray for their safety, and the safety of those who oppose them; and we pray that they will not replace Gaddafi's bloodthirsty madness with the still more bloodthirsty madness of Al Qaeda.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Latin Masses Cancelled Forever!

Well, probably not.

As readers surely know, Benedict XVI endeared himself to a certain element of the faithful with his 2007 motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum. Briefly put, SP loosened the reins on the use of the 1962 Missal, which is often (and inaccurately) called the Tridentine Mass, and more accurately the Extraordinary Form. John Paul II had issued a 1984 indult and a 1988 motu propriu which moved in the same direction, but SP has widely been treated as a stronger statement.

Benedict has not, so far, achieved the rock-star status that his predecessor enjoyed with the mass media, and he probably never will. But among enthusiasts of the pre-Vatican II liturgy, he is Elvis and the Beatles combined. We ourselves, who have no dog in the the fight of Romish liturgical law, find his Spirit of the Liturgy a profound and provocative book, as illuminating as it is frustrating.

Imagine, then, the shockwaves in the traditionalist interwebs as a rumor spreads that there are plans for an official Instruction on Summorum Pontificum, which would "interpret" the document in such a fashion as to strip it of any meaningful effect. The rumor seems to have surfaced on Rorate Caeli, which has issued an "urgent call for action." Such action was originally proposed to be a campaign of letters to various officials, and has now taken the form of an online petition, in several languages (of which Latin, ironically, is not one).

Hunwicke signed the thing, even though he's (still) an Anglican. We ourselves will not, both because we don't really care and because it is none of our beeswax. Still, our Papist reader -- if indeed we have one -- might want to look into this.

It should be noted that the entire discussion is, thus far, of a rumor. There may be nothing to it. And indeed, it seems unlikely that the same very bright fellow who wrote SP would then turn around and eviscerate it. But who knows what goes on in the bowels of the Vatican? Sometimes, when dealing with the mysteries of the Curia, "rumor" is another word for "trial balloon." But sometimes it is just something somebody made up, and there's no good way to tell.

As good Evangelicals, we don't believe that worship is properly a matter of law at all, and we most certainly do not believe that Christian unity requires ceremonies instituted by men be everywhere alike. Honestly, we don't even want them to be. But we are interested in this story, for several reasons. First, because we love to see the traddies get their knickers in a twist; second, because we truly are interested in the emerging shape of Roman Catholic worship in the new century; and above all, because we ourselves have seen several iterations of liturgical reform, some of which now stand in urgent need of reconsideration (ELW Psalter, anybody?), and we'd like to see how somebody else handles it.

" ... Send Me Home ..."

Playing an Iranian mother abused by her Islamist family in the Closer's 2005 episode "L.A. Woman," Marina Sirtis said (and this is from memory, so it may be off): "They don't want to send me home; they want to send me to the seventeenth century."

Actually, Iran in the 17th century seems like a comparatively pleasant place -- the Savafid dynasty peaked, securing the frontier, and then entered a gentle decline, marked by monument-building and high living. It is really for Christians in Europe that the 1600s were a disaster: on the Continent, the Thirty Years' War; in Britain and Ireland, Cromwell and the Commonwealth. Death, disease, and religious intolerance ruled the Western world.

And yet, perversely, many Christians feel an aching nostalgia for the 17th century. It was, after all, the age of the King James Bible, of John Donne and George Herbert, of Thomas Browne and John Bunyan and lots of other people we like. And that's just in England. For us Evangelicals, the 17th century saw an explosion of theology and, especially, hymn-writing. Much of what we sing most heartily, or did until a generation or so back, comes from those days.

So, almost despite ourselves, we tip our biretta to The Repristination Press, which since 1993 has earned its pittance by keeping the likes of Johann Gerhardt and Nicolaus Hunnius in print. They actually began with the cream of the 19th century -- Wilhelm Loehe and C.P. Krauth -- and worked their way backward. The catalog is deeply tempting, and the books are not outrageously priced.

And yet. Like that Irianian mother, and despite our fascination with the past, we have no real desire to live there. We can't help thinking that this separates us from the editors of the RP, who are connected to one of the Lutheran micro-denominations, the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America. (The website seems to be updated every year or two, literally). Founded in 2006 and counting 14 pastors, the ELDoNA appears to consist of unhappy ex-Missourians. You can imagine how attractive we find such a prospect. And in fact, along with its gems, the catalog does include a neat little pamphlet on "Woman Suffrage in the Church" by W.H.T. Dau. Oh, joy.

Still, the catalog is more than worth a look.

Cheesehead Government

We at the Egg are classic fiscal conservatives, by which we mean compulsive tightwads. We have been known to spend an afternoon walking the dusty streets of third-world villages, looking for the best price on a haircut. (We paid under a dollar in the Dominican Republic, and were very pleased with the cut; don't ask us about India, we still have bad dreams). We believe that governments should live within their means, at least over the long term, and that doing so will often involve unpopular decisions.

Still, there is a difference between "living within your means" and "screwing people out of sheer meanness," a distinction that seems lost on Wisconsin's feckless governor, Scott Walker. In response to a modest budget shortfall, Walker hopes to strip state workers of their right to collective bargaining. In other words, he wants to break the union -- no surprise there. And he's pretending that there is a "crisis" when in fact there is, by the standards of California or New Jersey, barely a problem. As TPM tells the story,
... the state's fiscal bureau -- the Wisconsin equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office -- concluded that Wisconsin isn't even in need of austerity measures, and could conclude the fiscal year with a surplus.
Worse yet, what little "crisis" Wisconsin actually faces was created by Walker's own financial incompetence:
In fact, they say that the current budget shortfall is a direct result of tax cut policies Walker enacted in his first days in office.
Yes, it's just another case of the well-known Republican strategy, which is to argue that government is the problem, and to prove the case by governing badly. This strategy, and the case at hand, simply elevate an abstract theory -- "taxes/unions are bad" -- over the commonsense details of government -- "the trash gets picked up and the roads get repaired." But this instance is so overtly, even cynically, deliberate that it deserves special attention.

We wonder whether Wisconsin, like California, has a provision for recalling its governor?

Naive Reporting

The emerging protest movement across the Muslim world is thrilling and disturbing at the same time. Surely, it is also confusing for Western "experts," the people who are paid to have opinions even though as outsiders they can have only the most limited knowledge of what is really happening. We will not, then, think any less of journalists or intelligence operatives if during this astonishing time they miss a few tricks.

Still, we do need to wag a finger at Nick Kristof in the Times. He's writing about Bahrain, and his stuff is touching. His work is a reminder that it is a strong boots-on-the-ground presence that makes the best news organizations -- NYT, BBC, NPR -- as good as they are. But it also seems a little ... naive. Aren't foreign correspondents supposed to be world-weary cynics? Consider this:

As a reporter, you sometimes become numbed to sadness. But it is heartbreaking to be in modern, moderate Bahrain right now and watch as a critical American ally uses tanks, troops, guns and clubs to crush a peaceful democracy movement and then lie about it.

This kind of brutal repression is normally confined to remote and backward nations, but this is Bahrain. An international banking center. The home of an important American naval base, the Fifth Fleet. A wealthy and well-educated nation with a large middle class and cosmopolitan values.

Really, Nick? Are you honestly so surprised that the US is in bed with a tyrannical government hated by its citizens? Because, frankly, we're surprised (and delighted) every time it isn't. Or are you really surprised that a nation run by incredibly wealthy plutocrats will do anything -- anything -- to preserve the status quo?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Conservative Reformer

It would be unfair to call Charles Porterfield Krauth an "unsung hero of Lutheranism in America," or anything like that. He has been pretty well sung over the years. Most pastors recognize his name, and not a few possess precious copies of his best-known book, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology. The library of the Philadelphia seminary is named for him.

Sill, we wish he were sung a bit more.

Fact is, the guy played a crucial role in the life of the Evangelical movement, and especially in its Catholic corners. All the history books tell us that he was a leader in the Confessional revival of the mid-19th century; that he led the charge against Samuel Simon Schmucker; and that he helped to create both the General Council (boo-yah!) and its seminary at Mt. Airy. These alone would be very fine things. (He also promoted the Akron-Galesburg Rule, which sounds worse than it really was.)

But Krauth -- whose name, by the way, was Anglicized, and is pronounced Krawth, not Krowt -- did something else, which is not described as well by the standard textbooks. He helped to turn Lutheran theology ad fontes, allowing a generation to understand not only the Confessions but Luther's own writing, and indeed the Reformation as a whole, in their proper context -- not only as the beginning of modernity, but also and primarily as the climax of the Middle Ages.

In an age that saw Luther as The First Protestant, and freely remodeled him to sound like a liberal Presbyterian of the 1830s, it was Krauth who put up a hand to say, "No! Luther wore vestments and celebrated Mass; Luther treasured the Eucharistic presence and the baptismal gift of new life; Luther took for granted not merely the Virgin Birth but the Perpetual Virginity." In other words, Krauth applied to Luther a hermeneutic that would be instantly recognizable to 20th century scholarship, from Gritsch and Jenson to David Yeago. It is commonplace now, but it was revolutionary in its day.

Mind you, Krauth was not brilliantly original in this. He was inspired by J.W. Nevin and Philip Schaff, the controversial faculty of the German Reformed Seminary at Mercersburg; and they -- especially Schaff -- had been inspired by the theological faculty in Berlin, especially those liberal icons, Friedrich Schliermacher and Augustus Neander. Curiously, the Berlin theologians helped to inspire a wave of Romantic theology across Europe and America, and were then discomfited by the theologically conservative turn that it often took. (Neander went on record as opposing "Puseyism," which is funny since he had helped create it.) The difference is that Nevin and Schaff, faced with the geometrically more difficult task of applying this hermeneutic to Calvin, generally failed; they have had little lasting impact on the life of the Reformed churches. Krauth and his team helped to transform the Evangelical ones.

And we do mean to tip our biretta toward the rest of his team: his daughter Harriet; his son-in-law, Adolph Spaeth; colleagues like Beale Melanchthon Schmucker. They get a great deal of attention as reformers of the liturgy; we often think that they are undervalued for their joint contribution to the "feel" of Lutheranism in the United States, from worship to architecture to foundational theology.

Do not mistake Krauth for a mere "confessional conservative," promoting a repristination of the Reformation as he imagined it. There is plenty of that in our church, but Krauth's vision was more expansive -- and, despite that Galesburg Rule, more ecumenical. Consider his description of Lutheranism's creedal orthodoxy, from an 1850 Evangelical Review article:

It will be observed, that the orthodoxy which we now assert, is not a symbolical orthodoxy; it is not that of the Book of Concord, it is not the orthodoxy of the Lutheran church in some of its most peculiar elements. It is that orthodoxy which the Reformers found existing in the Church of Rome, derived from the primitive ages, which they could not discredit, and which was received by them and others.

Your see why we like this guy? Those words are practically a battle cry for evangelical catholicism, in its purest and least cloying sense. We will stand by them any time.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Why Mrs. Nesmith Got Rich

As we recall, the mother of Michael Nesmith -- one of the Monkees -- invented Liquid Paper. Older readers will no doubt remember it: that white paint that you used to cover up typing mistakes. She made a lot of money, before the typewriter industry up and died.

(Seriously, one of the many cool things about our current TV obsession, Fringe, is that the greatest scientific minds of two universes communicate using an IBM Selectric. Those things were amazing, in their day.)

Anyway, Liquid Paper is hard to come by these days, even if we still owned a typewriter. But we still make mistakes. Even a casual reader will see that the Egg is full of misspellings and unfinished sentences, the inevitable errors that result from writing very fast, squeezing things in between the breviary and confirmation class.

But some errors are bigger than mere typos. Sometimes, and today was one of those times, we spend a significant amount of time writing a post that we think is worthwhile, but which -- upon re-reading it -- turns out to be junk. Or, if not precisely junk, then junkish: rambling, unclear, unfunny, and quite possibly mistaken.

Yeah, we wrote a piece called "Stupid Things," which was up for several hours. It was about religious epistemology, as well as the connections between the Birther movement and Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza. It mined our favorite vein these days, the fascination (especially among middle aged clergymen) with spreading falsehoods. And, as you can probably guess from this brief description, it was a mess.

So you know what we did? We deleted it. There's a "delete" button on Blogger, which just lets you make the piece of bad writing disappear forever. It's like the biggest and most effective bottle of Liquid Paper on earth, and it doesn't even dry in little lumps on the page.

Sorry if you read the damned thing. Truly, we are sorry, and wish that we could give you those three minutes back. The only solace we can offer is the assurance that nobody else will ever have to suffer as you did.

Mainline Decline is Over!

Not really. But things are comparatively stable at the moment.

This, at least, according to the membership numbers gathered by the National Council of Churches and described at the Religion News Blog. To summarize their findings in a sentence: all the familiar trends in American Christianity continue, but slowly. For example, the number of Roman Catholic faithful increased by .57% this year, apparently on the strength of disaffected former AELC pastors. The Southern Baptist Convention declined by .42%, probably because Richard Land talks too much. And so forth.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America declined by 1.96%, the Missouri Synod by 1.08%. We expect the Steadfast types are gloating over their victory.

Now, these numbers are notoriously tricky. They depend upon self-reporting by the denominations, which isn't consistent. Different groups define and measure membership in different ways. Several of the largest denominations, notably African-American, Pentecostal and Greek Orthodox church bodies, declined to provide updated membership figures at all. And "membership," at least in the short term, is quite different from active participation in the life of a congregation. We Lutherans will (eventually) delete from our rolls those members who have neither communed not contributed for several years; others may not. And so forth.

A couple of standouts:
  • The biggest winners among the top 25 church bodies were the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Seventh Day Adventists, increasing membership by more than 4%.
  • The Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. was the biggest loser, on paper, at a stunning 59.6%. It's not that the faithful are fleeing the pews, just that the denomination has changed its reporting standards. Most parish pastors have experienced something like this, when they "clean out the rolls." It's a blow to the ego, but you get over it.
  • The Presbyterian Church USA lost 2.61% of its membership, a fact which is put into perspective by the Episcopal Church's loss of 2.48% in the middle of a schism.
Anyway, there's lots more where this came from, but you have to pay $55 for the NCC Yearbook.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Revolt of Islam

In youth, we liked Shelley and spurned Byron. This is natural enough -- what middle schooler does not respond by instinct to lofty-sounding metaphysics and fantasies of universal freedom? And what middle-schooler can appreciate wry reflection upon what are, in every sense, adult affairs?

We are grown now, and then some, so just as naturally our tastes have reversed. It is Byron by a mile. Shelley's beauties, such as they are, seem shadowed-over by his endless mooning, not to mention his antagonism to our faith. But we wouldn't know, because we really don't read Shelley anymore. Perhaps we should. And if we do, we might begin with The Revolt of Islam.

We will not stoop to the obvious Fox News joke, that Islam certainly is revolting these days -- oops! we stooped -- but in fact it is, and in a good way. In Tunisia, Egypt and once more in Iran (and -- update! -- Bahrain as well), citizens tired of their thuggish governments are rising up. The House of Saud and its Valentine's-Day-hating theocops are probably quaking in their proverbial (jack)boots. Whether or not the revolts are Islamic in nature is something about which wise heads may choose to argue; but clearly Muslims make up the vast majority of the citizens seeking those fundamental freedoms presumed by the very word "citizen."

Shelley's Revolt, of course, has precious little to do with Islam per se. It is a fairy tale about revolution, in which the principal villain is a Christian, the "Iberian Priest," allied with an Islamic "Tyrant." The heroes are an incestuous couple who wind up being burned at the stake. It isn't the least promising premise we've ever heard, honestly. As readers know, we at the Egg consider Christianism and Islamism to be alternate sides of the same ungodly coin, and we are eager to see both done away with. So maybe we really are spiritual kin to Shelley. We'll tell you when we get back from a quick sail to Livorno.

Here, by the way, is an interesting little essay on Byron's ambiguous relationship with the real Islam.

At the moment, though, we are less interested in moony Romantics than in the ongoing struggle of the protesters in North Africa and Persia. It is serious stuff, and a day-to-day display of courage which we ourselves would be hard pressed to muster. Consider this powerful first-hand account posted on the PBS site:
3:30 pm marked a painful visual landscape for me that I will never forget: the Basijis and the Revolutionary Guards had brought children in the street. They gave them clubs and were directing them for the attack, which happened right at that crossroad. The kids were probably 15 or 16 years old but their eyes were filled with hate. "Good Islamic teaching, right?" I heard an elderly man say in an angry but muffled voice.

I called my family to tell them where I was but the phones went dead around 3:45 and this was when the bikes rolled into the sidewalks and started beating people. I was separated from my friends in Enghelab Square but kept on going. The energy of the people and especially of the women and the elderly was like an electrical charge. I could not feel the beatings anymore and the clubs kept on coming on our heads, shoulders, legs, and knees ....

When I reached Eskandari Street it looked like a war zone: smoke, dust, teargas, screaming people, flying stones, and regular attacks by the well-equipped motorcycle-riding guards. A petite young girl with a green wristband and a small backpack was walking to my left. Just before we reached Navab Avenue the guards charged from behind, one of their clubs hit my left leg but three of them attacked the girl relentlessly. She screamed and fell to the ground, but the guards kept hitting her. I ran towards them, grabbed the girl's right hand and released her from the grip of the guards. She was in a daze and crying unstoppably. I pushed her north into Navab Avenue towards Tohid Square away from Azadi Avenue when the guards charged towards us. This time the crowd fought back and stones of all sizes were directed back at them. This gave me a bit of time to ask one of the restaurants to open their doors and let us in. The girl was in shock and pain. I got her some water and asked how she was. Her clothes were dusty, her backpack was torn and her hands were shaking. "Why?" she kept asking.

Wow. Meanwhile, the Voice of America reports that Mousavi is under arrest, there have been roundups of key leaders, and that some legislators are calling for protestors to be charged with sedition, which carries the death penalty. Of course.

We still don't care for Shelley. But, reading stories like this, we are moved once again by his passion for liberty, both intellectual and political. We hope that the heroes of these revolts do not wind up those of his Revolt.

Van Goghing, Goghing, Goghn

(Yes,we know it's supposed to be pronounced "Fan [Cough into your hand]," but this was funnier).

Anyway, there is shocking news for lovers of Van Gogh's paintings. One of his signature colors -- a brilliant combination of chrome yellow and white -- is rapidly fading to brown. (It is summarized by io9 and the BBC, and reported in technical detail by Analytical Chemistry). Until a remedy is discovered, the paintings, and especially those famous sunflowers, must be protected from ultraviolet radiation, meaning daylight.

This will be a shock to collectors, who pay the GNP of small nations for a chance to own one of Van Gogh's paintings. It is also a cause of sadness to us at the Egg since, despite our general disdain for works of "serious" art created after 1650 -- if there are any -- we confess a tolerance for Van Gogh which, sometimes, morphs gently into affection.

The story has scientific as well as artistic interest, since an understanding of the oxidation process at work required x-ray blasts from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, which we believe -- correct us if we're wrong -- used to be Blofeld's secret headquarters.

Bottom line: those sunflowers must never again see the sunlight.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fool's-Gold State

The death foretold in the early months of the economic crisis was that of high finance. It has turned out instead to be California’s. Like the larger recession, the crack-up of the country’s wealthiest, most populous state has been long in the making. After many years of disguising its financial frailty with housing booms, California seems poised to collapse.
So begins a grim essay on the condition of the not-so Golden State. It's by Nikil Saval, and appears in n+1.

The essay isn't great; ideas run together, prose gets sloppy, analysis is dubious. And then there's this lame effort to channel Oscar Wilde:
By 2003, one could read Joan Didion claiming that California spent more on its prisons than on education. It wasn’t true, but it was — like much of what Didion writes — more true than the truth.
But. Still. For all its flaws, Saval's essay paints a disturbing picture. Over two or even three generations, politics has failed in California -- politics, mind you, both conservative and, despite Saval's liberalism, liberal. Tough choices have not been made; realities have not been faced.

The picture is disturbing for two reasons. First, because California has for so long served as the wet dream of American optimism, the extant proof that every fantasy is achievable. From hippie poets to aerospace engineers, from dot-commers to movie stars, California was the land of over-the-top-success.

Heck, once Jed Clampett struck black gold, where did he go next?

So the collapse of California is a terrifying blow to the optimistic, imaginative, confident worldview that has done so much to shape America. This leads into the second reason it is disturbing: because, while the rest of the country hasn't been as over-the-top as California, we have all shared a little bit of its exuberance. All our states have been, to varying degrees, overly confident; all our different governments have pandered, and put off hard choices, and relied on crazy schemes to support themselves (build prisons! run a lottery!). We have tolerated and even encouraged a freakishly bipolar political climate in which thoughtful moderates are punished and crazed extremists rewarded - not because it is good government, but because it is entertaining, and we have secretly believed that government was good for nothing more.

Even now, we all believe that somehow, magically, the future will be brighter than any sober forecaster would promise.

In other words, we are all Californians now.

Surprise! Hotel Room Butt Surgery A Bad Idea

We hate this business of not knowing whether to laugh or cry.

A British woman died recently, after buttock-enhancement surgery went bad. The surgery was performed in her Philadelphia hotel room, where (per 9MSN) she "was injected with industrial sealant instead of the more expensive silicone normally used in legal breast enlargements."

So, yes, the evil red devil on one shoulder is laughing maniacally about this. One more triumph for the gene pool, and so forth. Because, honestly, did a hotel room seem like the right place? Or hardware-store glue the right tool?

But there is also a little glowing angel on our other shoulder, giving us a dirty look and telling us to take this seriously. Which we should, and here's why:

The woman died in agony, hours after the "surgery," when the silicone found its way into her vascular system. Died in agony. And why? Because she wanted to be in a music video, but was rejected because her bottom wasn't big enough. So, according to friends, her confidence plummeted; she started wearing padded pants. And then this.

We desperately wish that we lived in a world where people, and especially women, understood that there are all kinds of beautiful. That God never meant for us to all look the same. And that you can't, or rather mustn't, let some idiot with a camera make you think otherwise.

Years ago, a friend of ours -- a young man, and by no means the sharpest tack in the bulletin board -- pursued a career in modeling. He was tall, and had regular (if unremarkable) features. He was a bit on the slender side, though, and this proved to be an obstacle. The last time we saw him, he explained to us that an agent told him he might have a future -- if he allowed a surgeon to cut open his chest, crack his ribs and spread them so that they grew back more widely spaced. We were appalled, but he described it with almost philosophical abstraction.

We hope he's okay. And we hope that if he did find a surgeon, it wasn't some butcher in a hotel room using a band saw.

Mad Dogs Turn on Each Other

By which we mean the posturing of Republican candidates for the presidency has begun.

Or, rather, would-be candidates, soi-disant candidates, faux candidates. At this stage, the serious people are sitting quietly in their bunkers, or at least making highly-paid speeches to small groups of wealthy people. A few may even be earning something, somehow, although it doesn't really seem that politicians have jobs any more.

What the serious people are not doing is the media dog-and-pony show. It is far too early for them to expose themselves that way. Instead, they send in the rodeo clowns, the headline-grabbing character actors with no realistic possibility of being elected. And this week, the clowns are getting nasty.

Consider Rick Santorum, who may, or may not, have snarked on Sarah Palin, when he suggested that she wasn't at the Conservative Political Action Conference because there wasn't enough money in it for her (or, weirdly, because she was busy taking care of her kids, which only raises the question of why father-of-7 Santorum wasn't out fishing with little Jimmy himself). Or consider Sarah Palin, who definitely snarked on Santorum, when she said, and we quote (via the ChiTrib):
I will not call him the knuckle-dragging Neanderthal. I'll let his wife call him that instead
Or consider Donald Trump, who showed up at CPAC threatening to run. This is an empty threat, since he won't run. The truth is that Trump has spent years pretending to be a wealthier and more successful businessman than he is; what little appeal he enjoys among the mass public would evaporate the moment his financials went public. (Gawker's version is funny, and the comments say the rest).

Anyway, the point is that Trump gave a speech, in the course of which he suggested -- to a supporter of Ron Paul -- that Paul could never win the presidency. Oh no he di'n't! This, of course, means that Ron Paul supporters will by now have declared Trump an enemy of the Constitution, and targeted him for deportation to the Soviet Union.

Perhaps, at this comical stage in the loooong run-up to November 2012, it is time to remind readers that our Mom once dated Ron Paul. It is an irrelevant fact, which serves no purpose whatsoever save to drive up our click-through rate, but -- unlike much of what the rodeo clowns will be passing off on us for the next year or so -- it is at least a fact.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

East Meets West Meets Prison

A guy in Buffalo cut off his wife's head. Now he's going to jail. The story is disturbing for oh-so-many reasons, but two grab our attention: (1) the killer, Muzzammil "Mo" Hassan is a prominent Muslim businessman; and (2) straight through his trial, Mo claimed that he was the real victim. As opposed to, say, his late wife.

Hassan and his wife Aasiya Zubair Hassan founded Bridges TV, a cable network described by its website as "the first channel of its kind that offers a broad range of lifestyle oriented programming that aims to foster a greater understanding between the West and MESA (Middle Eastern/South Asian) religions, its cultures, and diverse populations." Um, right. One of the founders killed the other. So much for greater understanding.

Aside from cheap irony, the truth is that Hassan's crime helped to undermine East-West understanding, by playing into one of the readiest anti-Muslim cultural tropes. Soon after he walked into the police station in February 2009, speculation began that the murder had been an "honor killing." This interpretation has been firmly rejected by the victim's own family, and was not part of the prosecution's case against Hassan. As reported by the Buffalo New here and here, the case was far less exotic. Hassan abused his wife for years, both physically and emotionally. She filed for divorce, so he killed her. Same thing happens in trailer parks and suburban split-levels all over America.

(On the subject of speculation, note this: In one of the emails presented as evidence, Aasiya claimed that her husband suffered from narcissistic personality disorder. The district attorney commented that during the trial, Hassan displayed "an incredible lack of self-awareness," which extended to firing his attorney and representing himself -- poorly. Let those who know our preoccupation with narcissistic church leadership hear and shudder.)

So Hassan's religion is less relevant to the crime than to public perception in a society primed to explode with rage against Islam. On the other hand, his persistent claim to be the victim provides a different comment on our times. Sure, its the usual self-serving narcissistic crap, made more frightening by the fact that he probably believes it. But take note of the language Hassan used to express the idea:

He also said the judge, prosecutors, police officers and medical professionals who testified against him did so based on their preconceived notion that only women can be abuse victims. In closing arguments, he referred to their adherence to a "religion of patriarchy."

He told jurors he stands against this gender-biased model of "false beliefs" the way Gandhi stood against colonialism, the way former President Ronald Reagan stood against communism and the way one-time South African President Nelson Mandela stood against apartheid.

Set aside the grandiosity of a murderer comparing himself to Gandhi. Focus on "gender-biased" and "religion of patriarchy." It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to appropriate the language of academic feminism to justify killing your wife. Not to mention that "lack of self-awareness" we were talking about.

The truth is that, based on these press reports, Hassan would have been better off pursuing some form of diminished-competence plea. You know, the insanity defense -- arguing that he couldn't distinguish right from wrong. It's a long shot, thank heaven; and frankly, we're glad he didn't waste the court's time with it. The guy belongs in jail.

Which is where he will spent the next 25-to-life. The trial was delayed for nearly two years, but the verdict wasn't. The jury deliberated for under an hour -- one of the speediest verdicts the lead prosecutor had ever seen. Sentencing is March 9. Hang 'em high, Judge Thomas Franczyk.

Monday, February 07, 2011

About Like This

People often wonder what our day-to-day life is like. You know: "What do you do the rest of the week?" It's a tough question to answer, especially since we moved to Romania, but this little video clip gives a fairly good sense:

We're going to offer it as our report to the synod assembly in May.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

George W. Bush is Chicken

Dear Former President Bush,

Call their bluff! Otherwise, we're calling you a chicken.

Word on the street is that you have canceled a speaking engagement in Switzerland, out of concern that you might be arrested there for war crimes.

Those lame-o bleeding hearts at Human Rights Watch say they plan to submit a case against you to the Geneva courts on Monday. About the waterboarding thing, obviously. or as they call it, "torture." They say the complaint is going to run to 2,500 pages. But big whoop, dude. You've probably issued signing statements longer than that. High five.

Sure, HRW has pursued effective legal actions against Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet and Hissene Habre of Chad. But those guys weren't Americans. Frankly, we don't think the Swiss have the cojones to arrest you. One of their nameless bureaucrats even said as a former head of state, you would enjoy "a certain diplomatic immunity." Yeah, sure, Pinochet was a former head of state, but he was from Latin America, not the real America. Wrong side of the Rio Grande. Rules are different south of the border. You know what I mean, right?

But here's the thing. You back down this time, it's just gonna happen again. Next thing, you can't visit Spain, or Belgium. Not that you want to visit Belgium, obviously, but it's on the way to places. For all we know, Merkel is still sore about that backrub. If you don't nip this legal-action-for-torture baby in the bud, you won't be able to get off a plane anywhere. For that matter, neither will Unca Dick or his buddies 'Berto and "Squinty" Yoo and that guy with the beard, David Addingmachine. You gotta look out for the team, here, pal.

So call their bluff. Sure, it's a little risky. Sure, worst case, you wind up in prison. But, dude, it'll be a Swiss prison. That's gotta be more luxurious than the regular kind. Little chocolates on the pillow, and we're talking Swiss chocolates.

Come on, then. Go to Switzerland. Otherwise, we're all gonna think you're some kind of scaredy-cat mama's boy.

The Egg

Pondering Incivility

We don't know Pr. Earl Janssen, nor have we spent much time reading his blog, Pondering Pastor. But like most of our colleagues, he seems bright, faithful and good-hearted, than which we ask no more of a priest or a believer.

Still, we think he's been getting some mail intended for us.

Back in August, Pr. Janssen wrote a piece about the Ten Commandments. Seems than Glenn Beck had suggested that they were acceptable to all Americans, and Pr. J argued that this was a little off-base. Atheists didn't care much about, say, keeping the Sabbath holy. The Commandments are universally applicable only within a community of faith.

This is a cogent argument, and we're glad he made it, not least because we get a bit tired of the natural law enthusiasts trying to argue that their pet indefinable figment is somehow magically enshrined in the Decalogue.

Problem is, of course, that in the current cultural environment, you can't step on Glenn Beck's toes and expect to go un-abused. Or perhaps the problem is that, much as we hate to say it, there is a streak of vituperation in the Lutheran spirit. Either way, some fellow calling himself "LUTHER" (as well as, comically enough, a couple of other names) wrote in to argue with Janssen. Or, really, to vent spleen in his general direction.

In a newer piece on the subject of civility, Janssen observes that, in the ensuing exchange, he has been called:

  • bitter
  • condescending
  • elitist
  • all-knowing
  • small of heart
  • socialist
Hmm. So far as we can tell, this doesn't describe Janssen. And yet the accusations sound eeirily familiar. We left Pr. Janssen a note, suggesting that his reader has simply sent those comments to the wrong address.

We Have a Dream

Ordinarily, we at the Egg do not share our dreams in public, nor voluntarily consort with those who do. Last night, though, our subconscious dreamed up a whopper, and we want to share one or two highlights, for the amusement of those who know the players.
  • In one sequence, our late former bishop William Lazareth was leading a synod ministerium. This year, he advised us magisterially, would be a bit different. Then he led us, crawling like babies, down the corridor of a high school, and took us on a tour of the different science classrooms. We were all expected to choose one for the coming semester.
  • In another, we dropped in on bookstore readings by J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis, two writers who have -- sorry, people! -- never interested us much at all. Lewis turned out to be a heavily overweight woman in her late 50s, who interrupted a lot and didn't like Lutherans. When we mentioned politely how much her writing meant to many of our friends, she exclaimed: "So you should give me money!" Playing along, we pulled a couple of greenbacks from our wallet, which she folded up like origami and left on the sidewalk as bait. For ... something.
There's a lot more where that came from, but you get the idea. It was a weird night. We've gotta lay off the fried foods.

Nun Dare Call it Tedium

That was our main response to the 2011 Survey of Women Religious Professing Perpetual Vows, submitted to the USCCB. First we read here that the "mainstream press" didn't have much interest in "the sort of story." Then we read an official summary, and didn't have much interest ourselves. But, just in case we had missed a golden nugget, we plowed through the whole document.

Dullsville, baby. The bottom line is that there aren't many new nuns, they tend to be middle-aged,well-educated, and come from (get this!) large Catholic families. Color us shocked.

A total of 79 new professions were reported. Of the 300+ "institutions" which responded to the survey, 84% reported no new professions at all; 13% reported one, 3% reported two or more. (The report doesn't say which orders or houses were scoring the big numbers, which is a shame.) The average age 43. Many have attended Catholic schools. Most have served in some combination of liturgical, catechetical and social ministries. Most were also encouraged by another religious sister.

Move along, people. Nothing to see here.

Except, perhaps, for this. The USCCB site includes a tab labeled "You Might Be Surprised to Know That I ...," and this is cool. The sisters have a chance to speak for themselves, if only in a sentence or two. They are like little postcards from the newly-professed, and we find them as amusing, touching and evocative as the usual "Wish You Were Here" cards.

Here are some of our favorites:

... have traveled to every continent.
-- Sr. Lucy Slinger, FSPA

... teach religion by creating raps and songs that highlight different biblical stories, dogma or vocabulary.

-- Sr. Angela Gertsema

... was undocumented and a farm worker. Eventually, by the grace of God and my mother's strong will, I became a resident and completed my education to teach. I feel blessed to have been assigned, after final vows, to ministry with the migrant community where this journey started. Never be afraid to follow Jesus, even if you can't make sense of what you are experiencing rest assure that He knows what He is doing. So hold on strong and enjoy the adventure.
-- Sr. Rosa Maria Hernandez Casillas

... came to DC after high school graduation to become the president, but instead converted to Catholicism and discovered my vocation to religious life (and changed my major!).

-- Sr. Mary of the Incarnate Word, SSVM

... travelled to China and studied at Oxford University in the search for a meaningful life to which I could entrust myself. Wherever I travelled or whatever education could offer, only Christ Himself could fill my heart and offer the path to true happiness in His service.
-- Sister Alexandra Prosser
But, really, they're all worth a read. This is the story the "mainstream press" (if there still is one) ought to pick up.


One more bad-priest scandal in a world too full of them.

In 2007, Sean Hannity hosted a segment with a Roman Catholic priest, Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, who ran an organization called Human Life International. It seems that Euteneuer somehow managed to stand to right of Hannity -- Hannity! They differed on the always-difficult matter of just how evil abortion really is. Euteneuer accused Hannity of being soft on the baby-killers, and when asked affirmed that he would indeed deny Hannity Holy Comunion.

To which the host answered, "Wow."

The confrontation even provoked a little online apology from CNN's priest-in-residence, Fr. Jonathan. (The next day, he also apologized, almost, to Euteneuer's fans for seeming to dismiss their hero. A profile in courage, that guy.)

A little background: Euteneuer is a well-known figure in the world of abortion opponents and also, perhaps more idiosyncratically, in the world of exorcists.

The ministry of deliverance is customarily been, um, exercised with the utmost stealth, as far under the radar as the practitioners and authorizing bishops could keep it. People need to know that it exists, of course; but they don't need to know too much else about it. This strikes us as generally wise. But is it our imagination, or have exorcists been coming out of the closet lately, speaking more and more freely about their work?

Euteneuer cetainly does. First he wrote a book called Exorcism and the Church Militant, which won a blurb from no less than EWTN's own Benedict Groeschel, and moved one Amazon reviewer to exclaim that "Father Tom is the faithful of the faithful." He went on to made a strong connection between his two ministries in a book called Demonic Abortion.

Flashing forward a couple of years from the Hannity brouhaha, it seems the Euteneuer is in big trouble. Not for threatening to deny the sacrament to public figures, mind you -- that remains a popular tactic among the Papist right. No, Euteneuer has quit/been fired by HLI for "violating the boundaries of chastity with an adult female who was under [his] spiritual care." His former employer suggests that there was more to it than just this. (His statement is here. HLI's statement is here.)

The details are murky, and apparently there have been a lot of whoppers floating around on the interwbs. The "violation" apparently did not include "the sexual act," for example, and no demonically-possessed persons are living in the home of Euteneuer's parents. Not that we thought they were.

But it does seem that "spiritual care" here means, specifically, that he performed an exorcism on on her, and perhaps more than one. So, um, sexually abusing the possessed -- just how demonic is that? We're saying pretty darn demonic.