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February 11, 2013

Holy Crap!
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:07 PM * 492 comments

Pope Benedict to resign.

Pope: “I recognize my incapacity.”

This hasn’t happened since the fifteenth century (and Dante put that guy into the Inferno as “he who made the great refusal” for doing it). [UPDATE/CORRECTION: The fifteenth century was the last time a Pope resigned. Dante’s guy was in the thirteenth century.]

To say this is a surprise is rather an understatement.

Rather than look for nefarious reasons, I think that he got the Word from the Bird: “Popes serve at the pleasure of God Almighty. God is not pleased.”

“Striking me dead wasn’t an option?”

“Yeah, it’s traditional, but We like to shake things up every now and then.”

Or, perhaps, he wants to keep on writing about theology and doesn’t want his personal opinions to be misinterpreted as the Official Catholic Position (no matter how many times he might say, “See that chair? I’m not sitting in it.”) Recall when his last book about Christmas came out and it was all The Pope Doesn’t Believe in Christmas! even though he was mostly saying that traditional Christmas carols are mostly of recent origin.

Well, we’ll see. Looks like Cardinals all over the world are making plane reservations for the first of March.

Comments on Holy Crap!:
#1 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 12:31 PM:

Does he remain a Cardinal? Can he vote for his successor?

If he can, would he?

#2 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 12:45 PM:

Last I checked, only cardinals under 80 can elect a Pope, so he wouldn't be eligible to vote even if he wanted to.

I believe he can technically still change the voting rules between now and when he steps down, but I don't expect him to do that. I'd seen a few people mention online that he's long held that church officials should step down when they become too old to exercise their office effectively, though I don't know specific cites for this offhand.

#3 ::: Lars ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 12:50 PM:

Why would cardinals be making plane reservations? They're birds, they have the ability to fly without the necessity of mechanical intervention.

Funny to think that the identity of the next Slave of the Slaves of God will be decided by a collection of little red fringillids. But they've been at it for centuries, they must know what they're doing. Just hope that the Curia has laid in a good stock of birdseed. Cardinals particularly like oilseeds, I'm told.

#4 ::: anchorhold ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 12:53 PM:

Hi, I'm new here...

In answer to John at #2, there's this quote from 2010:

"When a Pope arrives at a clear awareness that he no longer has the physical, mental, or psychological capacity to carry out the task that has been entrusted to him, then he has the right, and in some cases, even the duty to resign." (Benedict XVI, Light of the World, 2010)

Not a source for his views on cardinals or officials in general, but interesting that he was putting it that way as early as three years ago.

#5 ::: gaukler ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 12:54 PM:

Dante died in 1321, so it's unlikely he meant Gregory XII, who abdicated in 1415.

#6 ::: gaukler ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 12:57 PM:

The Refuser (not named in the poem) is probably Celestine IV, who abdicated in 1294.

#7 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 12:57 PM:

gaukler #5:

You're right. Dante was referring to Pope Celestine V, who resigned in 1294.

#8 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 01:02 PM:

Actually, Dante was referring to Celestine V in the late 13th century; the fifteenth century case had to do with the Great Schism and was after Dante was dead...

#9 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 01:31 PM:

I suppose he figures walking out while he can is better than leaving feet-first. (I will say that in the last few pictures of him that I've seen he looks unwell.)

#10 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 01:32 PM:

The best headline I've seen for this news is "Pope Benedict Gives Up Papacy for Lent" (from, I believe, comedy central).

#11 ::: protestant lurker ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 01:32 PM:

It makes one wonder if he sees the benefit of being able to influence the choice of his successor by still being alive to lobby for his preferred candidate. I mean, in the traditional case, the college of cardinals would have full freedom to address any perceived excesses of his tenure by going in a very different direction. This way, though, there's bound to be some discomfort with making any choice that could be perceived as critical.

I also think it's interesting that he apparently made the verbal announcement in Latin, which hasn't been the church's official language in about four decades.

#12 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 01:33 PM:

My thoughts, a few hours into the drama, are that the reasserted right of a Pope to resign shifts quite a lot of power to the man himself (he can now trigger a Vatican General Election whenever) and to the abstract office of Pope (fewer long declines into incapacity and consequent 'regencies' where the bureaucracy runs on autopilot and the factions bicker). This is probably the biggest totally-unheralded surprise the Vatican has pulled off in many decades.

#13 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 01:41 PM:

Leaving feet-first is part of The Deal. Incapacity is different, and it's about time the Church took the issue seriously- we don't know what's wrong with the current incumbent, but incapacitating neurological or mental illness is bound to hit some Pope eventually. Relying on divine medical intervention seems presumptuous at best.

#14 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 01:41 PM:

And here's Giovanna Chirri, who seems to have been the first journalist to realise what the announcement in Latin actually meant. Learn Latin, get the scoop of the year!

#15 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 01:46 PM:

Regarding his ability to influence the choice of a successor, one news article I read noted that he appointed 67 of the 118 cardinals currently eligible to vote. On the other hand, Benedict also evidently changed the voting rules from simple majority to 2/3 required. So six of one, half a dozen of the other. It does seem unlikely that there would be support to go in a radically different direction than the current retro-conservative death-spiral that the upper echelons are locked into.

#16 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 02:16 PM:

The clunking sound you heard at 11am GMT was thousands of priests who thought they'd got their Ash Wednesday sermons nicely tied up in advance all reaching for the whisky bottle. Presumably an Official Position on the announcement is propagating down the hierarchy right now.

I wish the soon-to-be-ex-Pope well. If his health permitted I'd be damned interested to read an inside account of the papacy from him—not a scandalmongering tell-all autobiography, just an honest description of what it's like, of the sort that one gets from senior retired C of E clergy.

#17 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 02:19 PM:

Two very different headlines:

Pope Resigns With Cardinals
Pope Resigns, With Cardinals

#18 ::: Heteromeles ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 02:35 PM:

One suspects that the Pontiff received some bad news from his doctors in the not-too-distant past.

The other things I wonder about are the rumors about Vatican politics in the last days of John-Paul II. He was clearly incapacitated, and the Vatican bureaucracy was doing God knows what in his name while he declined. Since that wasn't very long ago, any people that were involved in that last interregnum are still likely in the Vatican, ready to cause even more hypothetical trouble.

Remember, this isn't just about priests and sex abuse. The Vatican Bank isn't doing very well, and who knows what their secret service is up to that won't stand up to daylight?

It may simply be a combination of Benedict not wanting to preside helplessly over a bunch of bureaucrats running wild, plus the knowledge that, if he didn't abdicate, that he'd be doing so this year.

#19 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 03:00 PM:

I think he heard the word from On High: Dude, you're done. He's old and sick, bored with administration, and monumentally tired; he wants to spend his last years writing theology, playing the piano, and hanging out with his cats.

#20 ::: JBWoodford ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 03:14 PM:

It's a cheap shot, I know, but I had to laugh at Hank Fox's comment: "He never really recovered from that fight with Yoda."

#21 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 03:28 PM:

I was the target of an interesting and well-done con last year.

It went like this:

One month, there was an ACH confirmation debit on my bank statement (the typical $0.01 debit from setting up an ACH account). I thought it was probably related to my employer changing paycheck processors and ignored it.

The following month, there was an "monthly recurring debit" from the same processor (which I didn't recognize) for $29.95.

Now it gets interesting. I looked at the transaction record image, and it had a customer service number. I called that number, and got a very polite, almost-certainly-American rep almost immediately--who was happy to cancel the charge, but was extremely vague about how it had been incurred. (First he was evasive, then with some persistence he said it was for "adult materials", and declined to give any more specifics because of "privacy concerns.")

I tried to report it to my bank--but since it had been cancelled, they didn't think it was worth pursuing. I looked online, and there were lots of reports of the same thing (same phoen number and amount).

Now--what proportion of people balance their checkbooks every month? Since anyone who notices can get the charge cancelled, there's no crime to report--but I'm going to bet that expensive call center and all, that scam makes a fair amount of money.

#22 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 03:29 PM:

Sorry--above is posted in the wrong thread.

#23 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 03:34 PM:

SamChevere @21 & 22:

Yes, but now you make me long for a classic con called the Resigning Pontiff. I reckon it would be the theological version of a distraction trick, sort of three-card monte played with the College of Cardinals...

#24 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 03:54 PM:

abi @ 23

you make me long for a classic con called the Resigning Pontiff.

I think it should feature Borgias. The pontiff who resigned got Valencia for his troubles, but has been stranded in Avignon and needs an advance of funds to be sure that on his arrival he is properly welcomed.

Meanwhile, your help in needed in conveying this marzipan into the Sistine Chapel.

#25 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 03:55 PM:

Or a variation on the Spanish Prisoner. Benedict’s squirreled away a bunch of Vatican treasure, and is resigning so he can enjoy it. But he needs your help to get it out of Vatican City. He’ll give you a cut if you help him — it’s just a small investment on your part…

#26 ::: Q. Pheevr ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 03:56 PM:

There aren't all that many other jobs out there where the norm is to die in office. If we are to have popes and monarchs at all, I don't see why they shouldn't be able to retire like anyone else; the Dutch approach seems pretty sensible to me.

#27 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 04:22 PM:

abi @ 23

you make me long for a classic con called the Resigning Pontiff.

I think it should feature Borgias. The pontiff who resigned got Valencia for his troubles, but has been stranded in Avignon and needs an advance of funds to be sure that on his arrival he is properly welcomed.

Meanwhile, your help in needed in conveying this marzipan into the Sistine Chapel.

#28 ::: protestant lurker ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 04:32 PM:

I can totally understand the allure of retirement to a constitutional monarch whose hands are stringently bound already. What doesn't compute for me is how a "divinely ordained" and "infallible" pope can slip quietly from the limelight.

I'd love to be otherwise educated, since I'm not Catholic, but the logic part of my brain can't seem to simultaneously grock with the idea that a pope is infallible and the concept that, once he steps down, God somehow miraculously strips that power and bestows it onto his successor.

#29 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 04:37 PM:

Q. Pheevr @26 -- yes, but the Dutch approach is predicated on having offspring.... yep, need Borgias!

#30 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 04:40 PM:

protestant lurker @28: two ways immediately spring to mind (and I'm not religious in any understandable sense).

First, the Pope is only infallible when speaking ex cathedra, which means he's not invariantly infallible. So there's no contradiction in him recognizing that he's not up to taking on the ex cathedra part of the job any more.

Second, even if he were completely infallible in all things: that would mean that he could know that as of X date, he would no longer be infallible, for whatever reason. And know that it was appropriate for him to stop doing that part of his job.

Those are actually similar ways, but each one works under a slightly different belief system.

#31 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 04:52 PM:

Actual instances of ex cathedra pronouncements are extremely rare, so it's more of a debating point than a practical matter. But at any rate it's not like Super Power, and adheres to the office, not the man. Ratzinger isn't (potentially) infallible; whoever-the-pope-is is infallible.

#32 ::: protestant lurker ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 04:52 PM:

Tom Whitmore @30: Thanks. That helps. I've spent the better part of today trying to wrap my brain around how not to insult loved-ones with my inability to understand how Super-Pope could suddenly loose his powers in any way that made sense.

#33 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 05:27 PM:

Protestant Lurker @32, the Vatican has a stash of gold kryptonite.

#34 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 05:30 PM:

Protestant Lurker @32: suddenly loose his powers

Also, as the heir of St Peter, the Pope has the power to bind and loose.

#35 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 05:35 PM:

So this spring the Cardinals have to pick a new captain, while their heavy hitter goes into free agency?

#36 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 05:38 PM:

It's true. Nobody expects the Papal Resignation.

#37 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 05:43 PM:

As far as I'm aware the Pope has only asserted infallibility twice since there's been a papacy, and both dealt with the Blessed Virgin. The first was the Immaculate Conception: Mary was conceived without Original Sin. The second was the Assumption: Mary did not die but was instead assumed into Heaven.

The Pope is only infallible when speaking ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals. I see no contradiction at all when the man decides that he will no longer speak ex cathedra.

Speaking of the Borgias... The Borgia Family.

#38 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 05:59 PM:

What does Joe Dante have to do with the Pope?

#39 ::: Dave Crisp ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 06:15 PM:

I think a case can be made that Celestine V was the last pope to abdicate entirely of his own free will.

IIRC, Gergory XII was basically given an ultimatum by the Council of Constance - "resign, and we'll recognise your Papal line as the legitimate one and confirm all the cardinals you've created. Otherwise, you're gonna get deposed like the other two"

#40 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 06:18 PM:

I wrote this as a comment to another blog, but think it's interesting enough to post twice. Beg pardon for the repetition - if I violate some etiquette, it's out of ignorance rather than malice, and I'm happy to be corrected.

I am not nor have I ever been religious, let alone Catholic, but the area I live in is very much Roman Catholic, so this is important news to me. I'm pleased to see Benedict II step down, for the reasons you mentioned.

I'll also admit that my first thought was "Brother Guy for Pope!" but that'll take *ahem* a miracle. Not to mention that from our brief interaction, he'd probably not want the job. My second thought was to do a bit of research, and apparently un gars de chez nous is one of the frontrunners for new pope. I've not found out much about the man himself, but in principle a Canadian Pope strikes me as a good thing. That might just be patriotic goggles.

A Québecois, even, which is nice because Québec tends to swing left of the Canadian average on social issues (granted, the Canadian average is influenced the other way by Alberta!)

This is according to the CBC, who are admittedly not unbiased when it comes to finding The Canadian Angle (tm). http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2013/02/11/canadian-cardinals.html Googling indicates that among the betting houses laying odds on the papacy, Marc Ouellet is the favourite. Further research indicates that his views on abortion are fairly inline with Catholicism in general* and that he views Catholicism as being persecuted in Quebec (which, what? Sorry? You can't walk a block in Montreal without passing a Catholic church. Very pretty, too, for the most part). The part I find encouraging is that he a) doesn't actually want to be the Pope (I'm generally of the opinion that someone who wants to have a lot of power should be automatically disqualified from having a lot of power) and b) He wrote this letter (http://www.diocesequebec.qc.ca/babillard/documents/alarecherchedelafiertequebecoise.pdf), which is a public apology for the misdeeds of the Catholic Church which promoted "promoted "anti-Semitism, racism, indifference to First Nations and discrimination against women and homosexuals." (list is from Wikipedia).

I'm not going to entirely like any candidate for Pope, because they're all going to be very devoutly Catholic (one presumes) and Catholic doctrine contains a lot of stuff I think is very ugly. With that said, one who at least recognizes that the Church has screwed up big time in the past would be a good thing.


*that said, he criticized people who are against abortion in all circumstances but who don't provide support for mothers who might otherwise have chosen to terminate their pregnancies. That's more ethical than the "screw 'em all!" stance.

#41 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 06:27 PM:

Em @ 40... "Brother Guy for Pope!" but that'll take *ahem* a miracle.

When I first met Brother Guy, he was wearing a t-shirt that said 'Ask me about my Vow of Silence'.

#42 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 06:30 PM:

Serge@41

If there is one thing the Vatican sorely lacks, it is funny T-shirts.

#43 ::: Jon Baker ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 06:48 PM:

Brother Guy found out, not through inside channels, but when Boston writer Michael Burstein asked him for his reaction. Here's his tweet:

"In the loop? I heard about #Pope resigning from @mabfan – my source for Vatican news is a Jewish science fiction writer in Boston!"

#44 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 06:56 PM:

I did think of Brother Guy when I noticed that Benedict is set to retire 'to Castel Gandolfo' for some period of time before continuing on to reside in 'a monastery in Vatican City'.

#45 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 06:59 PM:

This of course led to the amusing visual in my mind of Br. Guy going about some daily Astronomerish business and happening across Benedict crossing a courtyard in house slippers, holding a newspaper, or some such.

The image arises because for about 5 years of my pre- and teenagerhood, (at that point very RECENTLY) former Illinois Governor Thompson moved into my grandparents' condo building, so if I went down in the morning to get the mail I might run into him in PJs. Most disconcerting -- he's supposed to be a face in the TV saying very important things!

#46 ::: Lars ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 07:08 PM:

... he's not invariantly infallible...

In other words, works 100% of the time, six times out of ten.

This is one of my reasons for leaving the Church in my late teens. Not my only reason, or even a major one, but a real burr under the saddle for an empiricist. Even a young and impressionable one.

#47 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 07:17 PM:

No worse than surveys, that are moderately accurate, most of the time. Which ones are wrong? Only xkcd knows...

"at least we know how accurate we are sort-of-accurately going to be!" I love statistics (says the ex-grad school cryptographer).

#48 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 07:31 PM:

In other words, works 100% of the time, six times out of ten.

Actually, no.

Works 100% of the time. Each and every time, two out of two. When the Pope says "This is infallible," it really is.

If that's why you left the Church, maybe time to reconsider?

#49 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 07:46 PM:

This is good news. This has been building for a while; his opposition to any hint of gay rights, equality for women, etc. has hurt his status. Also, his rehabilitation of a Holocaust denier and his alienation of Muslims (with whom the previous Pope had been establishing good relations) haven't helped. A bad Pope in many ways.

But I think perhaps the opening of a new HBO documentary, "Silence in the House of God" about the priestly sex abuse of deaf boys in a school, may have been the last straw. I'm not sure it was news to everyone, but it was to me, that back when he was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (that is, the Inquisition), American bishops sent him pleas over and over to unfrock pedophile priests, and he refused again and again, sending them letters urging compassion for the priests...but little for the victims.

I think he may have been urged to this action, or even threatened.

#50 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 07:52 PM:

Well, it looks like one of the front runners is a Nigerian (Cardinal Francis Arinze), while the other is a Ghanan (Cardinal Peter Turkson). So the three front runners for the papacy are all non-European, and two out of the three are non-white. Unless we're suddenly confronted by a dark horse candidate from the College of Cardinals, we could be looking at what I think might be the first non-European pope, which might be interesting to watch.

#51 ::: David ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 08:34 PM:

@39 - Dave: Celestine did NOT resign of his own free will. He resigned because his lawyer either coerced or persuaded him, and because he was a total disaster as a pope. Of course his lawyer became the next Pope.

Also, I probably have a CNN essay coming out on Celestine and Benedict by sometime tomorrow, if you believe their editors. Which I do. I always believe my editors.

@49 - The child rape scandals have rocked the faith of the faithful (I'm a Jew, I just work for Catholics, fwiw). The anger I hear from lay Catholics in my line of work is frequent, real, and permanent. That said, it's a mistake to judge the papacy based on what we think is important in America. Ratzinger has been holding the line against the rape scandals for a long time now, and no HBO documentary is going to break that camels back. The Church is global and the issues vary across the continents.

#52 ::: David ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 08:37 PM:

One more comment that might interest folks here (it's not every day a medieval historian with a sub-speciality in the papacy, hagiography and canon law is relevant!): It's clear, in hindsight, that Ratzinger has been thinking about this for some years. He opined that a Pope might resign back in '04 or '05, speaking about JP2. He wrote the passage quoted above in #4. His two visits to the tomb of Celestine V in '09 and '10 seem to have real significance, now.

Around my university, the sense of the vowed sisters (who generally dislike Benedict's policies) is that this resignation is courageous and sets a precedent for the church going forward, necessary in the face of modern medicine which can keep us (especially rich folks like the Pope) alive but not fit for work, for decades. YMMV.

#53 ::: GiacomoL ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 08:52 PM:

protestant lurker at #11: it's interesting that he apparently made the verbal announcement in Latin, which hasn't been the church's official language in about four decades.

Hardly surprising, if you've followed his career. One of his first moves as pope was restoring the primacy of Tridentine Mass, which is the "classic" Latin mass; any other language is used on discretion of local clergy.

To most people this act confirmed, right out of the bat, that Ratzinger would have been an über-traditionalist pope; in practice, after the first couple of years, he's been fairly restraint. In any case, he certainly viewed Latin as the official language of the Church.

#54 ::: GiacomoL ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 09:08 PM:

David at #52: he was the most powerful figure in the Vatican under JP2, he's seen all what was happening around an ill pope who took years to die - the court running wild under a frail king. Last year's scandals, which revealed how he could not trust even his closest friends, probably surprised him and confirmed that it was time to go if he didn't want to end up like Wojtyla. As you say, he already knew he'd abdicate at some point anyway (it's been rumoured almost since his election, and the fact that he left his pallium on Celestine V's sarcophagus a few years ago was a bit of a giveaway).

#55 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 09:10 PM:

"It's clear, in hindsight, that Ratzinger has been thinking about this for some years"

Tiny Making Light angle to this story: sometime ML reader and occasional commenter Andrew Brown (who inadvertently inspired John M. Ford's Entropy Sonnet) was evidently the journalist who broke the news that former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams knew Benedict's plans before Christmas.

#56 ::: David ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 09:12 PM:

@53 - There was a great story about a Vatican reporter who knew Latin and so was the first person to realize he was resigning, and scooped everyone waiting for a translation.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/11/giovanna-chirri-pope-benedict_n_2662975.html

Go Latin!

I read the resignation in Latin to make sure that "shaken" modified "world" in the original.

#57 ::: O.G.N ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 09:15 PM:

@49 - It's not like he did nothing about the allegations, he sent a stern letter to all bishops threatening excomminucation should they in any way cooperate with secular authorities.

www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/apr/24/children.childprotection

#58 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 09:31 PM:

Last resignation of a Pope: 4 July 1415
Battle of Agincourt: 25 October 1415

Coincidence? I don't think so. There will be an epic battle with arrows in 5½ months, mark my words. And in 361 years a new nation will declare independence!

#59 ::: brotherguy ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 09:36 PM:

I'm amused to see my name taken up by a few readers here; I didn't realize I had made so many enemies!

My own schedule has been a bit topsy-turvey because I am on an observing run in Tucson, so Michael Burstein's 5:30 am (Tucson time) e-mail asking me about the resignation and its affect on our work arrived as I was falling asleep.

As with the passing of John Paul II, which occurred when I was in California, I will be out of Rome for all the upcoming historic events and unable to give even a distant first-hand account. (After the observing run come a series of talks in California, Chicago, Pennsylvania, and the British Isles.)

Not that we ever really see much close-up stuff. Back when we actually lived in the Papal Palace itself (which sounds great until you realize that a 500 year old building is challenged for modern heating, plumbing, a/c, or internet) there were indeed occasional times when we would unexpectedly meet... about once every ten years.

Back then, my office was one floor directly above the papal apartment, and I liked to remind people that I was the one person in the Church who was above the Pope. With a move to new quarters in the Castel Gandolfo Papal Gardens in 2009, I've given up that punch line in favor of a modern meteorite lab and far more comfortable living and working conditions.

Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI were great friends of our work, and I can only hope that future pontiffs support astronomy as well. Of course, that's the case in any change of administration (see how the NASA budget varies with election cycles).

#60 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 09:48 PM:

Brother Guy: "Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI were great friends of our work."

Despite my disgruntlement with both gentlemen on several fronts, I believe this. I also distinctly remember hearing that Benedict went to some trouble to slap down the remaining shards of Catholic opposition to the teaching of evolution as scientific fact. Wish I could remember the source.

#61 ::: Rose/yarnivore ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 09:49 PM:

@51, and others -- long ago, far away, I was a teen Dantista. A favorite professor of mine told a much-loved story of Celestine V and Boniface VIII in his survey class every year. Jim Hardy portrayed Celestine as a kind of "scaredy pope" who was easily influenced by others; he claimed further that Boniface even rigged (or had rigged) the speaking tubes in the palace, so that it was possible for him to whisper, urgently, late at night, "Abdicate, Celestine! Abdicate!"; Celestine thought that God on high was telling him to step down. Of course, once Celestine had, who better for the job than Boniface?

Along about this time, I had a pet mouse in my dorm room. We named the mouse "Dante", because, well, *kids those days*. Sometime later, after I'd moved into an apartment building, we found a stray kitten. Since this was clearly a threat to Dante Mouse (as he was ever called), we named the cat Boniface, after Boniface VIII (who had it in for Mister Alighieri). Bonnie wasn't *much* of a threat to Dante, as it turned out, but was a fine young kitten nevertheless.

A few months after *that*, we found a very young cat in miserable condition in the apartment building courtyard. After determining (an even longer story) that she'd been mistreated by the Awful Tenants, we stole her away. She was extremely timid after the months of abuse by the Bad People, afraid of us, her own shadow, and definitely afraid of That Other Cat. So this scaredy cat became our very own scaredy pope, Celestine.

Happily, Celestine and Bonnie each lived into ripe old cat age, and Celestine was calm and sweet after she recovered. Dante Mouse fell first to blindness (after which time we called him Milton Mouse), and then to old age.

So this is why, when I heard that the pope had resigned, I was immediately able to give an example of another time a pope had stepped down, despite not even being Catholic. :)

PS -- I'm very surprised that my Chrome spellchecker knows "Alighieri" but not "Celestine"!

#62 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 10:14 PM:

Rose/Yarnivore:

(1) I shall ever be in your debt for the phrase "scaredy pope."

(2) I trust you saw the rollover on the Sidelight about British English? And how are you otherwise?

#63 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 11:15 PM:

#42: If there is one thing the Vatican sorely lacks, it is funny T-shirts.

Actually, I hear they have a huge collection hidden in the vaults, but no one but Cardinals is allowed to see it.

#64 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 11:18 PM:

My friend John Y. came up with the best title for this (or told it to me, anyway): "Ex-Benedict"

I was partial to "Rat Leaves The Ship" myself, but the RCC isn't actually sinking. And "Ex-Benedict" is funnier.

#65 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 11:24 PM:

Apparently, lighting struck St Peter's today, if MSNBC can be believed.

Y'all get to supply your own punch lines.

#66 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 11:28 PM:

Before or after, P J?

#67 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 11:46 PM:

Xopher, I don't know, but I think after.

#68 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 11:50 PM:

Drat.

#69 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 11:53 PM:

Xopher, here's a link to a picture of it:
http://weather.aol.com/2013/02/11/photo-lightning-strikes-the-vatican/

#70 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 01:33 AM:

Surely lightning strikes St. Peter's fairly often, though? It's a high point, and one presumes the top of it is made of metal. Someone taking a picture of it doesn't mean it's an unusual event - I'd assume it proves the opposite, in fact, that lightning strikes St. Peter's often enough for it to be sufficiently predictable for photography.

#71 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 01:49 AM:

PJ: on the cover page of the Guardian today. Guy, it doesn't have to be you. Any Jesuit will do. I DO trust they have been scheming about this, right?

#72 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 06:48 AM:

Might I point out that the pope's address was to his "dearest brothers" (fratres carissimi) and was thus an abdication? A resignation would have had to be addressed to the holder of a higher office. That chap would have been addressed as "Domine".

#73 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 07:52 AM:

He resigned in Latin rather than using some provincial vernacular so that *everyone* would understand.

It would be so great if before he goes he'd reinstate Latin. I'm sure it would be very popular.

Well, it would be with me.

#74 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 08:36 AM:

Jo @73:

Unfortunately (and I speak as a Latinist myself), Latin has become associated with the ultra-conservative right wing of the church. These are the guys who want us all back on the bus rather than around the table, hate female altar servers, want women to stfu and cover their heads, and think everyone should defer to the clergy. This is not a direction I'm hoping the church will go, and I'd rather he didn't throw that lot any more bones than he has already.

I hope and trust that one day we can have that particular nice thing again. But right now, even the thought of the message that reintroducing Latin would carry fills me with deep despair.

And, as I said, I'm a Latinist.

#75 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 08:43 AM:

A horse walks into a bar.

"Too late," says the bartender. "We're joking about the pope now."

"He's right," sighs Richard III.

#76 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 08:58 AM:

It is, alas, very unlikely for a Hadrian VII scenario to occur. I wonder what Frederick Rolfe would make of Ratzi's decision?

#77 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 09:14 AM:

Every once in a while, my four years of high school Latin (and I never became actually fluent; I still had to translate with a dictionary and sometimes a sheet of endings to hand on my last day of class) comes in very handy.

And then I took Spanish at community college and discovered that if you've had a year or two of Latin, Spanish is A FREAKING CAKEWALK (though watch out for false cognates, of which there are lots). They only have one conjugation -- and it's FIRST conjugation, minus the T's! The nouns don't decline at all! So restful. :->

#78 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 09:21 AM:

My favorite headline so far: "Benedict Gives Up Papacy For Lent".

#79 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 09:44 AM:

The article P J Evans links to @ #69 has a lot to say about the "incredible timing" of the lightning strike, by which it means that the lightning struck at some point on the same day as the event they presume it's a response to.

This strikes me as the same class of "incredible timing" as the event Xopher describes @ #58.

#80 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 09:45 AM:

abi @ 74... as I said, I'm a Latinist

Romanes eunt domus!

#81 ::: Q. Pheevr ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 10:47 AM:

There's nothing quite like the prospect of a papal conclave to make it painfully obvious that my local paper does not actually have a house style that it bothers to impose on wire-service items. If the CP is talking, then the Archbishop of Toronto is Thomas Cardinal Collins; if the AP is talking, then he's Cardinal Thomas Collins. On the same page.

(Speaking of Tom Collins, I think there should be more high-ranking clergy named after mixed drinks. Harvey Cardinal Wallbanger, anyone?)

#82 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 10:54 AM:

Martin Cardinal I?

#83 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 11:02 AM:

Ah, some days I miss our very own Cardinal Sin.

#84 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 11:14 AM:

79
I do believe it was the timing, and not much else - but they did get a very good picture of it.

#85 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 11:14 AM:

#59 brotherguy

So, you're being a Proper Astronomer and observing the goings-on from Far Away in space and with a time delay?

#86 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 11:31 AM:

The Pope Prophecy: allegedly made in 1139, first published in 1595, it predicts all the Popes until the very last one. That would be the next one . . .

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prophecy_of_the_Popes

#87 ::: Bjorn ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 12:12 PM:

Apparantly the photographer who got the lightning picture waited for 2 hrs for the thunderstorm going on to oblige and hit the lightning rod on top of St Peter's. And even then he missed the apparantly much bigger one just before the one he got.

So, it was patience, not chance.

#88 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 12:13 PM:

I used to like Cardinal Zin, myself.

#89 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 12:25 PM:

It is a pity, really, that the use of Latin has become a marker for ultra-conservatism -- a case could be made for the idea that, given a multinational and multicultural organization like the Catholic Church, the truly inclusive thing to do would be to have its official language be the first language of none of its members.

(Episcopalians have a related problem, in that it's difficult to be both doctrinally liberal and liturgically conservative, which has left the ECUSA stuck with a number of uninspiring revisions of the Book of Common Prayer.)

#90 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 12:26 PM:

Cardinal Temple... As in Shirley Temple...

#91 ::: Lars ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 12:49 PM:

@48 Jim
Works 100% of the time. Each and every time, two out of two. When the Pope says "This is infallible," it really is.

But is he being infallible when he says that he's infallible? Or is it only the infallible statement itself which is infallible?
This sounds flippant, I know, but I am really uncomfortable with the whole idea of de facto inerrancy. On anyone's part.


If that's why you left the Church, maybe time to reconsider?

No...I appreciate the invitation, but my agnosticism is the result of considerable thought, not something arrived-at lightly, and not something that I am willing to give up.

#92 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 01:00 PM:

It's only the infallible statement which is infallible.

Infallibility has only been invoked when a question could be debated endlessly. It's a theological "The buck stops here."

#93 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 01:27 PM:

Regarding #51:

Professor Perry's rumination on the legacy of Pope Celestine V has indeed appeared, on the day prophesied, at CNN.

#94 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 01:43 PM:

Doyle @89: It is a pity, really, that the use of Latin has become a marker for ultra-conservatism -- a case could be made for the idea that, given a multinational and multicultural organization like the Catholic Church, the truly inclusive thing to do would be to have its official language be the first language of none of its members.

It really is, and that case could indeed be made. (I'd fancy the idea of reclaiming Latin from one particular faction and restoring it to general availability if wanted.)

#95 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 02:19 PM:

re 89: Well, use of the vernacular was presented as a liberal position, just as abandonment of Jacobean English was presented as a liberal position. I'm told that at Taize a lot of times they do use Latin precisely because it puts everyone at the same disadvantage (it being a distinctly multiligual place otherwise). The bigger Episcopal Church problems on the language are that (a) the driving force behind further liturgical revision is almost entirely feminist/political and therefore theologically adventurous, and that (b) those driving change have no literary taste whatsoever. Thus we now have a parallel set of perpetual "trial" rites which are terribly written (managing to be banal and florid at the same time) and which a huge swath of the church refuses to use. Judging by the latest Roman English translation, they don't care about how it sounds either, even if it is "orthodox". There actually is a fairly large socially-liberal-but-liturgically-conservative group in ECUSA, and it tends to run young, but having run off most of the Anglo-Catholics they barely have enough clout to keep things from getting much worse, and not enough to undo the damage that has been done.

#96 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 02:23 PM:

In #11 Protestant Lurker writes:

I also think it's interesting that he apparently made the verbal announcement in Latin, which hasn't been the church's official language in about four decades.

It hasn't? I had not heard of this. But then, I may well have missed something.

One of the results of Vatican II (1962-1965) was that the Mass and other liturgies, celebrated for ages in Latin, switched to "the vernacular," meaning the language spoken by the local congregation.

(In training as an altar boy, I learned all the correct responses for the Mass in Latin-- then, before serving my first Mass, had to learn them all over again in English when the reform came out.)

As far as I have known, though, Latin remained the official language of the Holy See for documents and such.

If this has changed, I'm confident that some of our correspondents here will be able to enlighten me.

As it happens, last Sunday I attended Mass at the parish of Św. Józefa Robotnika, er, Saint Joseph the Worker, in Wheeling, Illinois. Upon arrival I learned that the liturgy was in Polish.

There were about 300 worshippers. This parish has a couple of Masses in Spanish every weekend, a couple in Polish, and a bunch in English. There were prayer books in every language available, so I was able to follow along somewhat.

(I didn't know a word of Polish; on the page, it sure doesn't look like it sounds, and I can only conclude that the transliteration rules are different from the languages I'm familiar with that also use the Roman alphabet.)

I can manage responses in Spanish and Latin, if a missal is available. Pax vobiscum.

#97 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 03:03 PM:

Jim Macdonald @ 48.

I don't know why Lars @46 left, but I know why I left. I did try to go back recently, but got bounced right back out for the exact same reasons. Only this time it was much more in my face than before.

I'm actually relived that the current pope is stepping down.

#98 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 06:21 PM:

Bill Higgins @96 - I grew up Methodist, so our liturgy was mostly in Anglican 1600s-1700s dialect, and between church and school did a lot of church music in Latin (as well as taking a couple years of Latin in public school.) So I can follow Mass pretty easily in Latin, but the English version was translated a few centuries later and occasionally just doesn't sound right.

#99 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 06:36 PM:

I certainly like singing in Latin. Our choir director (Episcopal church) knows it's a way to keep me happy so I won't piss and moan about all the gospel music HE likes! (It sort of works.)

rea, that's why I said that about Peter the Roman.

#100 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 06:52 PM:

The more I hear, Xopher, the more I yearn to someday sing harmony with you. :->

#101 ::: venus ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 06:57 PM:

I was raised Catholic, but don't attend, because I'm queer. I hope the pope's departure will open the way for a more sensible leader. I'm also still furious about the abuse coverup, which is just--wrong. And the nun issue. And--yeah. But it does seem that the pope's departure is a hopeful sign. (A friend keeps trying to talk me into going Episcopalian, but it's just not the same to me.)

Speaking of Latin. If anyone is interested in learning it, CJ Cherryh has a great little 'intro to Latin' class posted on her website.

#102 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 07:08 PM:

Serge Broom #90:

Not as in Paul Temple?

#103 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 08:19 PM:

Venus, #101: "I was raised Catholic, but don't attend, because I'm queer."

I hear you. For the record, you're welcome in my parish, and many, many other parishes that I'm aware of. I don't think you need to apologize for anything, and I categorically deny the authority of the people who call you and yours "defective." I'm pretty sure a very large number--what you might even find a startlingly large number--of American parishioners, and clergy, and other church officials below the highly-politicized, Vatican-scrutinized level of bishop--agree with me about this.

I don't expect that saying so fixes everything. Or even anything. Personally, given the behavior of the hierarchy, I wouldn't blame you for turning your back forever. But I feel like it needs to be said. Just as a marker, and possibly a start.

#104 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 08:44 PM:

As an atheist Jew, I don't have a dog in this fight. But given that the College of Cardinals has been packed by Benedict and his predecessor, I can safely say that whoever gets the puff of white smoke, it's not going to be someone who favors married priests, contraception, homosexual rights, or a greater role for women in the Church.

For the sake of irony, I favor the name Pius XIII.

#105 ::: Joy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 09:00 PM:

This is possibly too silly to mention, but I've been chuckling since yesterday evening, when I caught sight of the "What Will Siri Say" daily calendar a family member gave us for Christmas (my daughter LOVES Siri). The idea is that each day it suggests a question to ask the iPhone's digital assistant, Siri. Some questions are prosaic and others ("Siri, tell me a story") can be pretty funny.

The question for February 11, 2013: ""Siri, how long will the Pope live?"

When I saw it, I had a vision of the Pope waking up, tearing off the previous day's question, seeing that question, and deciding on the spur of the moment that life is just too short and he should retire. :-)

#106 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 09:01 PM:

I got tired of feeling abandoned by the RCC. So now I'm an Episcopalian. I find the ritual similar enough to nourish, and the fact that as a layperson, I have responsiblities in church governance (We're picking a new rector! Wish us luck!), amazing.

Also amazing - the two weddings I have been to in church have been for gay couples, and our former rector was a woman.

#107 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 10:34 PM:

I just saw a headline about Benny the soon-to-be-former Pope having a pacemaker. Possibly he was told to get out now. By his doctors.

#108 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 11:31 PM:

#104 Theophylact: There's still some hope. The College has been surprised before at how Popes end up. John 23 was supposed to be a nice quiet timeserver.

#103: Amen.

#109 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 12:31 AM:

Patrick 103: If you don't mind, I'd like to quote that a lot.

Also, this seems to be a pattern with organizations that have a big official hierarchy...and also (and in contrast) people who deal with, you know, actual other people down at the street level. The Boy Scouts of America is the other one that's been like this; many, many local councils have been ignoring or defying the national organization on the gay issue.

Is the BSA comparable to the Roman Catholic Church? No, of course not. Except for that structure that divides the lofty "authority" from the people on the ground.

#110 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 03:57 AM:

Venus @101:

What Patrick @103 says about the American church is also true in Europe. My (Dutch) parish is certainly entirely calm about gays, though that mostly comes out in death announcements ("$MALENAME, who lived on $STREETNAME died on $DATE. He is survived by his partner $MALENAME. The funeral will be on $DATE at $TIME.")

I shouldn't, of course, have to cite evidence when asserting some parishes in the Roman Catholic Church are not entirely awful. We shouldn't be here. We should be somewhere more just and more loving, and as a Catholic, I'm sorry that the fact that we're not has hurt you.

From what I know of organizations, where the leadership's status is tied to its unquestioned rightness, I doubt that the hierarchy will directly give in to pressure to change these matters. So I'm hoping for a new Pope who's just phoning it in about sex, but is passionately engaged in economic issues and social justice (a liberation theologian in all but name). Because then, when all of the attention is on the New Shiny Thing, maybe we can get some improvements on these issues.

re languages:

I'm going to a church where services are not in my native tongue. As it happens, I'm about at the same skill level with both Dutch and Latin: they both require about the same amount of intellectual energy to comprehend. It's giving me some interesting insights into pre-Vatican II Masses for non-Classicists.

(Also, I was already here when the English liturgy was rewritten, which means I completely put my foot in it every time I go to church in an English-speaking country.)

#111 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 07:55 AM:

Em @ 42... Stephen Frug @ 63...

Weren't the Vatican's funny t-shirts the subject of Dan Brown's "The Bible Dress Code"?

#112 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 09:32 AM:

thomas @ #108: Garry Wills has given up hope, and his reasons are pretty cogent.

#113 ::: David ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 10:12 AM:

@ #93 - Thanks for noticing Bill. :) I even managed to get an error or two fixed.

#114 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 10:44 AM:

Bill @96, Polish is written exactly as it sounds, but then people say that about Hungarian as well, so there ya go.

"Sz" is pronounced "sh" and "cz" as "ch" and "w" as "v" (this last like German), while the l-with-a-bar is close to our "w," the z-with-a-dot like "zh", and the vowels-with-hooks as slightly more nasal versions of the vowels we English-speakers know and love. Stress is always on the penultimate syllable.

Sounds like it was a fascinating experience nevertheless.

#115 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 11:42 AM:

Like abi and Patrick, I'm a Catholic in a relatively liberal parish. I know there are gay people who find a home there. I am sorry that our church does such a lousy job making people like Venus at home, and I wish I knew how to make it better.

If I found that I could no longer be a Roman Catholic (and that has occurred to me as a real possibility), I am not sure what I would do. I suppose I would try to find some other home, even if I would probably feel like a man exiled from his home country and living out his life in some foreign land. Which is weird, because I joined the Church as an adult, but it was the first spiritual home I ever found as an adult. Reading the bible and praying I could do on my own (and did, as a kid), but being at home in a parish or church, that was new.

#116 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 12:00 PM:

Albatross@115: ...even if I would probably feel like a man exiled from his home country and living out his life in some foreign land.

Maybe we need a new term to go along with the likes of "ex-Catholic" and "lapsed Catholic" -- something like, maybe, "expatriate Catholic."

(But I'm only an Episcopalian, so I wouldn't really know.)

#117 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 12:57 PM:

I am a Catholic who recently left my parish of 12 years, the one where younger daughter had her first communion and both kids were confirmed, the one whose summer day camp welcomed younger daughter and her special needs, the one where I lectored and loved it, where I packed in with a standing-room-only crowd at noon mass on the Friday after 9/11/2001, where I might not know everyone but I knew lots of people.

The pastor's attitude toward gays was the first blow, shortly after his arrival several years ago. That was the point when I stopped reading his column in the bulletin and began to tune out his homilies. The next blow, near-fatal, was the homily that included the phrase "phoney-baloney war against women," uttered with withering contempt. That was the point when I stopped lectoring, because I didn't want to find myself in a position of sitting by the altar appearing to agree with such a statement and because I wanted to attend masses where he was not scheduled to be the celebrant. But I didn't want to leave, and after that, I heard nothing inflammatory for months. I began to hope that we could endure until the pastor was transferred.

The final straw was an announcement in the bulletin last fall that the church would be holding a novena leading up to the election, with prayers for - I've forgotten the wording - something like prayerful consideration of our choices and wise exercise of our right to vote. And I thought, what a healing statement, something that we could all agree on despite political differences. And then I read the rest of the paragraph, where God's political agenda was laid out for Him. No mention was made of candidates or parties, but by the issues, apparently God was a right-wing Republican.

We've registered in a neighboring parish that we'd occasionally visited before. Not once in months have I heard a homily that makes me wince and shut down; I've heard several that made me think deeply. I look forward to mass again; I hadn't realized how braced I always was against the next barrage. I'm lectoring again.

And still there's a feeling of loss for the community we had. I use that to estimate the sense of loss I would feel if I were driven out of the church altogether, and I don't know how I could go. I was raised Episcopalian and I've joked for years that I could always be one again if the church managed to annoy me enough, but when it stops being a joke, I am not willing. It is just as much my church as it is the church of the hierarchy, and I do not intend to be the one to go.

I do not know how much the best of popes can do to change directions on the supertanker of the church, but I pray we get one who can. We need him.

#118 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 01:49 PM:

I'm surprised nobody has linked to Bruce Schneier's article on the difficulties in hacking a Papal election. I found it fascinating for the details of how the election is done (and clearly, the best way to hack it is a rigged chalice with a replacement set of ballots already in it and a compartment that switches when it's shaken -- requires only a single substitution, and most magicians know how to build such a device in a way that would make this easy -- it's done with mirrors...).

#119 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 02:02 PM:

Tom @118:

Patrick sidelighted it.

#120 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 02:24 PM:

There's a funny novel by David Lodge, How Far Can You Go? (US vt Souls And Bodies) about English Catholicism from the 50s to the 70s, the great era of regeneration or degeneration, or both, or neither, depending on how you see it. It's very good social history: what it felt like to be caught between the last gasp of the Tridentine and the concrete-church-and-guitars era. I read it quite a few years ago and it confirmed to me that I still identify myself as Catholic internally; externally I prefer a quiet life and tend not to identify myself as RC for the sake of a quiet life and not having to explain No, I don't agree with what Cardinal Keith O'Brien says about same-sex marriage actually. (The Scottish Catholic Church's campaign against SSM was so unhingedly mean and obsessive that the 'anti' campaign throughout the UK was basically screwed from the start.) In practice there's a sort of don't-ask-don't-tell attitude from the hierarchy towards GLBT Catholics which is more nuanced than the impression given by the news, though not necessarily much better.

#121 ::: UrsulaV ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 02:33 PM:

Some days I wonder if Catholicism has a genetic component or something...my family was very Catholic, but for various reasons of moving, marriage, ill-health on the part of the family matriarch, etc, our formal involvement with the church mostly tapered off before I would have been confirmed. (To this day, the solemn rituals of Christmas for me include Chinese food and saying "This year we should definitely go to Midnight Mass." "Absolutely!" and then going to bed early. I have still never attended Midnight Mass and have no plans to do so, but the call-and-response is important!)

I thus did not exactly have much Catholicism to lapse, I've next to no interest in practicing Christianity in general, but there is nevertheless something about saints--particularly saints!--that sort of punches me in the back of the head. I can take or leave God, Jesus, Mary, etc, but you will pry my icon of St. Francis out of my cold dead birdseed-filled hands.

I do like the idea of "ex-pat Catholic," but we really need a saint-only subscription model.

#122 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 02:41 PM:

OtterB at 117: so sorry you had to leave your home parish, and so glad you found another. I have been very fortunate in my parish; our current pastor does not seem to have a political agenda. Only once in the past 11 years has a homily brought me close to walking out, but the celebrant was a visiting priest, and so I stayed in the pew, telling myself that I would probably never encounter him again, and indeed, I have not.

#123 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 03:21 PM:

I am a former Catholic who never felt quite spiritually at home there ... but apparently I am sufficiently CULTURALLY Catholic as to be almost unmistakable in the proper contexts.

I have repeatedly shocked (in a good way) my GM in a roleplaying campaign, for example, where my character grew up very Catholic and at one point was seriously considering a vocation in the priesthood (but then Plot Happened). I'll make what seem to him to be the most obvious conversational responses to a situation and she'll blink-blink, then grin, and observe how characteristically Catholic whatever-it-was just was ... and I didn't notice, because it seemed obvious to me that that is what he'd do?

That said, growing up Catholic and in Catholic contexts, it was widely known in my parish and among my local authority figures that the On-High Pronouncements from above are in fact official policy, but that a great proportion (perhaps a majority) of US congregants deeply disagree with them.

Luckily, I grew up in Chicago, under a parish priest deeply involved in social justice and working with the poor, who was himself under Cardinal Bernardin, who was more than happy to grant dispensations for whatever was reasonably needed, policy-wise -- including female altar-servers at my parish, because there were exactly 5 boys past Confirmation age in my entire parish school (and two of them WERE NOT interested in serving at altar), which is far from enough to handle the full slate of Masses at the time.

Which is how I managed to be both a Girl Scout and an altarboy (though not in the same years, as it happens).

Then I went to a Jesuit high school (which is, for those who don't know, VERY DIFFERENT than going to an ordinary Catholic high school -- start with 'Jesuits adore questions' and move on from there) that was very interested, institutionally, in the Liberation Theology hijinks then occurring in South America. We discussed for several class periods on end the latest developments in the topic, and were utterly shocked when the petitions for martyrdom of those poor nuns were dismissed out of hand because, according to the Vatican, they weren't killed for their religion, but for their [unauthorized and deeply !!shameful!!] extracurricular political buttinski-ness. OH MY RELIGION TEACHER WAS PISSED. And so were half the priests at my school. Petitions Were Sent. Bernardin signed one of them. Then he died.

Dammit.

I still think Bernardin's absence (and its sequelae) had a lot to do with Ratzinger's eventual accession, and the general trajectory of the church into reactionary directions; he was one of the big movers, in the American church, trying to build bridges behind the scenes to increase justice and happiness for all.

Fuck cancer, dammit.


.... so yeah, I'm clearly an ex-pat. Who still perks up when I see news from The Old Country in my local newsfeeds, y'know, even though technically I have no more right to comment?

#124 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 03:45 PM:

Elliott Mason @123, I've been regretting the loss of Cardinal Bernadin the past few days also. (Former resident of the Chicago western suburbs here.)

Lizzy L @122, thanks. The only other time I'd come close to walking out on a homily was more than 20 years earlier, and I didn't do it then out of respect for my MIL, whose parish we were visiting. I've been bored, I've been annoyed, I've been confused - but there are very few times I've been infuriated.

#125 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 03:48 PM:

Whenever I've been involved in security training, it's always very clear (even if not stated, which it usually is) that all the steps involved are directly related to a specific, usually real-world, attempt.

One of my colleagues went to $COMPANY, that has significant financial risk of fraud (as in, one of the top N companies with said risk). The fraud course, which he as a vendor was required to attend and pass, was 3 days long, and effectively was a "how to defraud people" course, with "here's the part of the process that stops this attack, and here's how it stops it". Basically, the process is heavily laden, redundant and seemingly random in its appearing "bureaucracy" quotient. The course is to point out that you do it the $COMPANY way, and it's not bureaucracy bullcrap, even if it looks like it. I wish I could take that course.

Bringing this back to Papal elections, the process seems similarly meaningless process-laden; which means that there has been a lot of fraud in Papal Elections. Given Papal history, especially when the temporal power of the See was at least as large as the spiritual power, I'm not surprised.

#126 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 03:51 PM:

OtterB @124: I was not the only person who had a visceral, negative reaction to the appointment of George in Bernardin's place. The difference in views between the men makes the appointment very nearly a personal insult to the dead, imho.

#127 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 04:07 PM:

Lapsed Catholicism is the Established Church in Ireland these days.

#128 ::: Lars ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 05:57 PM:

Elliott Mason @ 123
...start with 'Jesuits adore questions' and move on from there...

My experience was more, um, nuanced, so much so that I have frequently wondered what it is that people find so wonderful about going to a Jesuit school. We didn't move far beyond "Jesuits adore questions" at all. No, perhaps not fair - I had a couple of excellent teachers there, one of whom drew the best performance ever from me in what I found (and still find) a difficult subject, math (partly because he was a terrifying bugger, but mainly because he was unremittingly fair and had not a scrap of meanness in his constitution, and because of the carefully-hidden but subtly evident signs of his simple joy when one of us got something right).
But Fr. Beaudois was an exception - I found that most of the Jesuits on the faculty were only interested in questions of the right kind, asked by the right sort of boy, and if this didn't apply to you, well, there was something wrong with you, and this had to be subtly but persistently brought to your attention. I hasten to add that the sorts of questions that I was interested in had to do with the place of humanity in the natural world and matters of that ilk, not questions concerning human sexuality or other such squishy issues - this was in the late 60s/early 70s, when nobody seemed to be able to think about anything else, at least at our school.
It wasn't until I got to University that I realized what a narrow and constricted footpath our educational shepherds had been herding us along.

#129 ::: cofax ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 07:18 PM:

I was not the only person who had a visceral, negative reaction to the appointment of George in Bernardin's place. The difference in views between the men makes the appointment very nearly a personal insult to the dead, imho.

The new Archbishop of San Francisco is the bishop who was one of the major movers in support of Prop 8 in California.

How's that for spitting in the eye of the local community?

I am not a formal member of a parish anymore, but I go to mass with my sister sometimes, and her priest is lovely and loving, and I wonder how it is possible to have such good people and such horrible people come out of the same institution.

#130 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 11:50 PM:

OtterB 117: That was very moving. Thank you for that.

I've been known to toss off remarks about "if you don't support the Church's position, leave it!" and crap like that. When I read things like this, and Patrick's comment earlier, I'm deeply ashamed that I (who ought to know better and of whom better behavior is expected (as a Wiccan Priest I should know that spiritual paths are not to be trivially discarded even when they cause pain)) have ever been so stupid, callous, and hurtful.

I'm angry at the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy for any number of things. I particularly hate the soon-to-be-former Pope, and did for many years prior to his being elevated. That's absolutely no excuse for saying such things to my Roman Catholic friends.

All I can do is try to do better. Essays like this one (your 117) and Patrick's earlier statement, make it easier for me to do that, because they make it easier to remember what the Church means to the people at the ground level. I thank you for that.

UrsulaV 121: Some days I wonder if Catholicism has a genetic component or something...

Actually it's the classic example of a familial trait that is NOT genetic.

I have still never attended Midnight Mass and have no plans to do so

That's so funny! I go to Midnight Mass (albeit at an Episcopal church) whenever I'm in town at Christmas. Singing carols while holding candles helps me get through the otherwise-bleak season.

cofax 129: The new Archbishop of San Francisco is the bishop who was one of the major movers in support of Prop 8 in California.

Wow, yeah, that would be Pope Rat saying "We hate you gays," pretty bluntly. Clearly he sees the Archbishop as a warrior AGAINST gay people. What a POS that guy is. (It IS the Pope who appoints Archbishops, right? AND elevates Cardinals?)

#131 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 12:14 AM:

130
Yep. And that particular archbishop has already ticked off one of the parishes that's mostly LGBT by telling them they can't do drag in the parish hall. (I don't think God objects. She made them, didn't she?)

#132 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 12:17 AM:

There's a segment of the radio show This American Life from 2009 by Dan Savage, called Our Man of Perpetual Sorrow. When I originally heard it on the radio, I laughed and cried. This thread made me recall it, 4 years later.

He explains that he grew up Catholic, and has lapsed but still has enough vestiges of belief to make him a "hypocrite and an ingrate." He explains how he came to leave the church, and how the (then) recent death of his mother …sort of… brings him back. Judging by what he said, I'm more lapsed than he is.

#133 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 09:16 AM:

I'm surprised there hasn't been a major schism, but that probably proves I just don't understand Catholicism. At this point, I'm modelling the situation as two large factions which don't agree on homosexuality, abortion, birth control, women priests, how to help poor people, and how to deal with pedophile priest, but agree strongly that there should be just one Catholic Church.

I can see some fraction of the practical difficulties of a schism, but can only understand the emotional costs in theory.

#134 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 09:19 AM:

Xopher @#130, maybe I've just been spending too much time over on the Dysfunctional Families Day thread, but I see a real parallel between the "if your church annoys you, leave it" and the similar situation with families. In both cases, you have the tension between sparing yourself interaction with a few toxic individuals/aspects and holding on to the ones who are dear and nurturing to you. And (I speak from personal experience here), if you do leave the church you grew up in, you may be able to find some kind of substitute/new family, but it's by no means guaranteed; and what you grew up with will shape you to some extent going forward, even if you vigorously reject it.

And of course, in both realms there are clear-cut "get the hell out NOW" cases, clear-cut "despite that particular clusterfuck, these are your people and they are good for you in the big picture" cases, and everything in between.

#135 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 10:12 AM:

as a Wiccan Priest I should know that spiritual paths are not to be trivially discarded even when they cause pain

Not trivially, no. But if the path you're on causes pain to you, or to others, shouldn't you give some non-trivial thought to choosing another path?

This is not intended as a criticism of OtterB or anyone else who would rather try to reform the church (or any church) than abandon it. I wish him/her all possible success. I'm not optimistic about the prospects, but I certainly wouldn't mind being proven wrong on that point.

But walking away may be the right thing or the necessary thing for other church members, and I don't think you should feel ashamed for suggesting it.

#136 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 10:37 AM:

Lila, #134: What I'm seeing in much of this is a very clear parallel to the behavior of Wall Street. The people at the top are completely divorced from everyone else's reality, and have arranged things so that they can do whatever they damn well please and never have to face any consequences from it; in the meantime, it's the rank and file who suffer from their ill-advised and selfish behavior.

The cure in both cases, I suspect, is the same -- get rid of the people at the top and put in an entire new slate of officers that's less corrupt. And that's just about as likely to happen in the Catholic Church as it is at Wal-Mart or Citibank.

#137 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 10:55 AM:

chris @ 135

Indeed, just last week I suggested that a friend's church was behaving like an abusive boyfriend, and she should look into leaving it. But I was talking about a particular congregation, not the whole denomination. I suggested that she look into other congregations, or congregations of closely-allied denominations, instead. Seriously, when she was describing her church to me? That was one messed-up dynamic! "You're an abomination. Oh, and you need to do all this extra unpaid work for me. But you're still an abomination. Which we'll tell you, in public, with no warning, at a prayer meeting." What's she an abomination for? Beliefs that she used to hold back in her past. Apparently her congregational leadership doesn't believe in growth, forgiveness, redemption, or grace. Very Christian of them, don't you think? (I don't.)

#138 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 11:48 AM:

Nancy:

Those issues don't cluster too well, though. My informed impression is that even among involved Catholics--folks like me and my wife, who volunteer for lots of stuff at church and are there all the time--hardly anyone follows the Church teachings on birth control. (You can see this by looking at family size--healthy couples who married in their 20s and are now in their mid-40s would usually have more than two kids without it.). By contrast, we get a lot of turnout for pro-life events, and a much more tepid response to anti-gay-marriage events and petitions and such.

A bigger problem is that while there's a lot of the Church teachings most Americna Catholics don't agree with, outside of birth control, I'm not too sure how much of a consensus there is to oppose it. On married priests or women as priests, say, I am sure American Catholics as a whole are much more on board with those things that the hierarchy is, but I don't know that there's anything like a consensus there.

And, as you said, a lot of the value of the Church is that it's one Church, across centuries and nations. The same Church in suburban Maryland and a farming village in El Salvador. I don't know that I can describe why that seems so important, but it does.

#139 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 12:04 PM:

It's a detail, but possibly worth noting, that the Pope, as head of the Catholic Church, is committed to the view that married priests are acceptable. Priests must be celibate in the Roman-rite churches, but that's a Roman, not a Catholic, position. Maronites have married priests; married Anglican priests can convert to Catholicism and remain priests and remain married (under Pope Benedict's "Anglicanorum coetibus").

#140 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 12:31 PM:

The married priesthood is not a matter of defined doctrine. The question was raised (and tabled) at the Council of Trent, and can be asked again at any time. Any number of saints have been both priests and married (starting with St. Peter).

Recall that the celibate clergy was a reform to avoid certain clerical abuses.

If I am made Pope (could happen!) I think I'll start requiring that priests come from the retired community, folks who have a long history of working in the world, where their habits will be easily ascertained and where they'll have been exposed to some reality. It's great that we have guys going to the seminary at age 16, but some of them won't know how they really feel about, say, small boys.

#141 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 12:33 PM:

Jim @140:

If I am made Pope (could happen!) I think I'll start requiring that priests come from the retired community, folks who have a long history of working in the world, where their habits will be easily ascertained and where they'll have been exposed to some reality.

Would we give 'em new green bodies? Just asking.

#142 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 12:47 PM:

protestant lurker @28: my brain can't seem to simultaneously grok with the idea that a pope is infallible and the concept that, once he steps down, God somehow miraculously strips that power and bestows it onto his successor.

It's the pointy hat. It serves as a focusing antenna.

#143 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 01:21 PM:

my brain can't seem to simultaneously grok with the idea that a pope is infallible and the concept that, once he steps down, God somehow miraculously strips that power and bestows it onto his successor

Since God miraculously gave it to him in the first place I don't see the difficulty, any more than I have a problem with the notion that ex-presidents can no longer sign bills into law.

#144 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 01:23 PM:

143
That power clearly resides in the papal throne.

(It makes more sense that way.)

#145 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 01:28 PM:

It is not true that the Papal throne has a cut-out in the seat used to prove that the Pope has balls.

#146 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 01:45 PM:

albatross, #138: While Catholicism wasn't the dominant religion in the middle-class suburban neighborhood where I grew up, it wasn't an outlier either. My high-school class included at least 3 people who were members of 8-child families; there may have been more who I didn't know about because we weren't friends. And I had other Catholic friends whose families were the 2- or 3-child norm for the area.

I wonder how many such families are represented in this year's student body? Fewer, I would suspect.

#147 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 01:49 PM:

Jim MacDonald@145: Now you need to get into the story about the female pope (rumored to be one of several candidates, probably just a smear, but entertaining nonetheless.)

#148 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 01:59 PM:

Elliott Mason @77: if you've had a year or two of Latin, Spanish is A FREAKING CAKEWALK

See also: Russian (except for the alphabet).

#149 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 02:05 PM:

Lila 134: Exactly.

chris 135: I used the word 'trivially' advisedly. The statements I shouldn't have made were cavalier.

The spiritual tradition people were raised in resonates most strongly for them. If it also hurts them, it's a terrible strain, and they may have to go elsewhere; but it's never a light or easy thing to do.

As a Wiccan Priest I'm committed to the idea that no one spiritual path is right for everyone, and that only an individual can decide what spiritual path is right for them. It's wrong to tell people "that path is wrong, don't follow it." Now, there are extremes, like human-sacrifice religions, but there's a huge gray area, and it's better to err on the side of caution—which also happens to be the side of courtesy.

#150 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 02:46 PM:

There was an interesting article in the Irish Times last year about the greying of the RC Church in Ireland. It seems likely that in a few decades there just won't be many priests; the laity will be doing much more of the day-to-day work of the Church for themselves unless either vocations pick up astonishingly quickly or the resurgent Third World church can give the Old World some of its surplus clerics (which is not out of the question).

Jim Macdonald@140: is there still anywhere in the world where the old Catholic school => junior seminary => seminary => priesthood route still sets young men on the path to priesthood in their teens? I know this used to be the norm in the UK and Ireland but I thought it was a given now that vocations come much later...

Two good accounts of the old system of priest-making: A Path From Rome by Anthony Kenny (ordained 1955, laicised 1963) and John Cornwell, Seminary Boy (dropped out of seminary). Both are well worth a read. I was very impressed by just how much Latin a candidate priest had to have under his belt in the old days.

#151 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 02:48 PM:

145
Jim, I heard that it was a special piece of furniture, not the throne. (Not sure, now, if it was a stool or a chair.)

We had RC families in my neighborhood with two to four children, and one with ten. That was before the Pill was available.

#152 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 03:01 PM:

rea @86: it predicts all the Popes until the very last one. That would be the next one

"What, the world is ending agaaaiin?"

Jim Macdonald @92: It's a theological "The buck stops here."

Or: "Because I said so."

#153 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 03:18 PM:

I'm curious what the data is on people leaving the Catholic church (but not quite curious enough to spend time searching myself). I'm one of 5 siblings raised in a Catholic home, attending parochial schools. Of the 5, two are now atheists, two are Episcopalians, and one's an observant (and liberal) Catholic.

I wonder if the option of side-stepping into a Protestant church in which women can be priests, gays are treated as equal human beings, etc. has resulted int the makeup of Catholic congregations become more conservative over time?

#154 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 03:58 PM:

And of course, "The Pill" was invented by a Catholic doctor to help Catholic women regularize their periods and help them to use the rhythm method (approved by clerics) properly. He even ran it past bishops before publicising his product.

And then, later, it was decided that ALL INTERVENTION IN THOSE REGIONS IS RONG, and now the Pill is held up as a horrible anti-Catholic thing ...

#155 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 04:50 PM:

Comments on Latin here have been running through my head while I listen to Taizè chants that a friend turned me on to. Good stuff.

Lee @146: albatross, #138: While Catholicism wasn't the dominant religion in the middle-class suburban neighborhood where I grew up, it wasn't an outlier either. My high-school class included at least 3 people who were members of 8-child families; there may have been more who I didn't know about because we weren't friends. And I had other Catholic friends whose families were the 2- or 3-child norm for the area.

One of my classmates came from a family of eighteen living children. It was seen as big, but not freakishly big. But working farm families, at that time anyhow, had different needs than middle-class suburban families, so her family's Catholicism was probably just one factor among several affecting family size.

#156 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 05:02 PM:

Xopher @130 I've been known to toss off remarks about "if you don't support the Church's position, leave it!"

Like divorce, it's not something to be undertaken lightly. As Chris says @135, it's not trivial, but it may be right or necessary. What brings it to that point may be different for every person.

I find questions about why I am still Catholic hurtful only if they are couched in phrasing or tone that implies that Any Right-Thinking Person would have left long ago. "Why don't you just leave?" trivializes the decisions. "Why don't you leave" implies that the step is obvious. "What keeps you from leaving?" would open a dialog.

I'm not going to stand in judgment on those who found it necessary to leave; I'd prefer they didn't stand in judgment on me. (general statement, not directed at anyone in this thread in particular)

Lila @134 and Cally Soukup @137 both mentioned the church or a specific congregation as abusive partners. I've thought of the analogy with the DFD threads also. The pastor whose political views drove me away said in his homily on Mother's Day, with all apparent sincerity, that the church was our mother and that if she corrected us, she did so in love. And I could only think that he was modeling a deeply dysfunctional parent-child relationship for us. ("I love you! Come back so I can lovingly tell you how unnatural and disgusting you are!" No. Just ... no.)

albatross @138 mentioned that part of the value of the church is that it is one church, and that's one of the things I value also. The community of the faithful is a very real thing to me. (Which is not at all to disparage my relationships with others who are not Catholic.)

Jim @140 on priests from the retired community ... that sounds like the background of most of the permanent deacons I have met. They're usually not retired yet, but they are at midlife and have jobs, homes, families. Perhaps they should be the priests of the future.

Jacque @142 on the power of the pointy hat, snerk.

janetl @153, that's an interesting thought, that more liberal Catholics may be siphoning off into other denominations leaving the residue, so to speak, more conservative. One of the recent essays in the Washington Post talked about "roamin' Catholics," a phrase which amuses me.

#157 ::: Merry ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 05:18 PM:

Will the College of Cardinals make him Pope Emeritus?

#158 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 05:45 PM:

Like we used to say in the Fleet, "If you get out because of all the assholes there'll be nothing but assholes left."

#159 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 06:23 PM:

Elliott 154: My understanding that it was to prevent ovarian cancer, since by then it was known that women who had fewer periods (until then, chiefly through repeated pregnancies) had a much lower risk of ovarian cancer. And I also understand that he was so embittered by the Church taking a stand, in his view, against women's health and in favor of maximum reproduction (for men), that he left the Church.

OtterB 156: I find questions about why I am still Catholic hurtful only if they are couched in phrasing or tone that implies that Any Right-Thinking Person would have left long ago. "Why don't you just leave?" trivializes the decisions. "Why don't you leave" implies that the step is obvious. "What keeps you from leaving?" would open a dialog.

That's a very useful insight. It seems obvious once you say it. I've been trying to say things like "does the Church still nourish you spiritually?" but that's a pretty indirect way of getting to it.

Jim 158: According to my friend who just got out of the Navy that process has run to completion. But he's not bitter.

#160 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 07:41 PM:

In #73, Jo Walton writes:
He resigned in Latin rather than using some provincial vernacular so that *everyone* would understand.

It would be so great if before he goes he'd reinstate Latin. I'm sure it would be very popular.

Well, it would be with me.

In #74, Abi replies:

Unfortunately (and I speak as a Latinist myself), Latin has become associated with the ultra-conservative right wing of the church.[...]I hope and trust that one day we can have that particular nice thing again. But right now, even the thought of the message that reintroducing Latin would carry fills me with deep despair.

Remember this? On 15 September 2001, Patrick Nielsen Hayden wrote:

I'm a patriot. I love my decadent, cosmopolitan, self-indulgent, racially-mixed, godless, intellectually dilletante, drug-abusing, promiscuous, queer-loving country. And its flag is the Stars and Stripes.

I don't speak Latin. But it seems clear to me that Latin does NOT belong to the ultra-conservative Catholics.

Latin does not belong to the taxonomists, either, though bless them for using it.

Latin belongs to everybody.

Abi, Jo, everyone who loves Latin: It's yours, just as much as it is theirs. Spread the word.

#161 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 08:37 PM:

I would just like to point out that if you mix red, white, and blue you get -- lavender. Ha!

#162 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 08:55 PM:

Jim, #158: Quite. I fought a valiant rearguard action for several years for just that reason, attempting to save my favorite Usenet newsgroup from exactly that fate when people started jumping over to LiveJournal. I continued to post; I encouraged interesting people I knew from other newsgroups to come over and hang out there.

The attempt failed. Eventually it got to the point where even I had to recognize that it was a lost cause. The root of the problem was that in an unmoderated forum, there was no way to keep the assholes and trolls from drowning out everyone else -- a situation with which I know you're familiar.

#163 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 10:25 PM:

Bill Higgins @ 160... Latin does not belong to the taxonomists

Wile E. Coyote - Carnivorous Vulgaris

#164 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 12:18 PM:

About the mass in local languages: I spent the my junior year (1964-65) in Rome in the middle of Vatican II. The council was on a break (though the bleachers-like seating remained set up in the middle of St. Peter's), but they had been trying out the new liturgy, both the language and the contra gentiles--facing the people--layout. Somebody in the program had connections, so one Sunday an archbishop gave us a preview of the new liturgy: a draft of an English-language mass conducted with the celebrant facing the congregation. I still considered myself a Catholic at the time, and I remember finding the service quite moving, both in language and dramatics. I knew the Latin mass well (high-school Latin and a missal with a facing-page translation), but this version, particularly with the priest looking at us, made it clear that the entire congregation was doing this together. Years later, after I had lost all sympathy for the Church, I took my grandmother to mass, and the language of what had become the official American English mass struck me as flat and banal, and the music (it was the height of the guitar-mass period) sounded like a bad night at an open mike, with lyrics that amounted to "Gee, God, we like You a lot." So I never had to put up with even the slightest bit of mixed emotion about my apostasy--whatever aesthetic appeal the liturgy might have had was erased.

BTW, to echo Lars @ 128: I am also Jesuit (college)-educated, but what I learned in my year in Rome was that Jesuit-sub-1 is not Jesuit-sub-2. I came from LeMoyne College, at the time a hotbed of lefty theological and political attitude (Dan Berrigan was on the faculty), but Loyola of Chicago, which still runs the Rome program, was much more conventional in its theology and philosophy courses. And there was a joke about St. Louis U--that it was where the bones of Thomism were stored. The mainstream Jesuit curriculum was just as Catholic as the Baltimore Catechism, only with the apologetics turned up to 11. But even at an ordinary Jebbie school, the dedication to high performance was a good thing. Add to it the wiggle room that LeMoyne offered in the 60s and you get some very interesting Catholics--and, I suspect, some well-armed and armored apostates. (Though for the latter it might help to start with someone with large chunks of WASP in his theological/cultural DNA.)

#165 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 03:41 PM:

OK, there's stuff all over the web today saying that the Pope resigned to avoid prosecution for crimes against humanity (or something). Probably bullshit, but it sure is out there. Any grain of truth to it?

#166 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 04:03 PM:

How would not-being-pope make him LESS vulnerable to prosecution? I would presume as (a) the head of a major religion and (b) a head of state, the very position has a protective aspect against international condemnation.

#167 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 05:02 PM:

Yeah, it does seem weird. Not sure what the theory is there. Maybe if he's a head of state they can get the international community involved in a way they can't if he's just an ordinary citizen?

Most likely, of course, it's just a conspiracy theory.

#168 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 05:06 PM:

Elliott: I think the only logically supportable explanation would be that this was a deal: we're going to prosecute you unless you resign.I still agree that even if aiding and abetting fits the definition legally, there's no way anyone is going to prosecute the Pope.

Also that sort of motivation for resigning is one that Benedict's earlier writing specifically rules out as allowable. Being cynical about his actions is one thing, but presumably he believes something, and the unprompted and contra-tradition parts of his theological writings must be some guide to what.

#169 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 07:02 PM:

I hadn't seen the prosecution rumors, but my first thought on reading Xopher's and Elliott's comments is that one sometimes reads of executives facing allegations of misconduct resigning so they can 1: devote their efforts to defending themselves, and 2: avoid collateral damage to their organization. I could imagine Benedict facing some sort of prosecution, and deciding that by trying to simultaneously defend himself and carry out the duties of Pope, he'd be hurting his defense, short-changing the Church, and dragging it into the mud with him.

#170 ::: Lars ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 09:42 PM:

Could he claim ecclesiastic sanctuary as the head of his church, or would he have to be a private citizen?

#171 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 10:04 PM:

Any grain of truth to it?

No, because resigning would not grant an ounce of immunity.

#172 ::: Dori ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 10:30 PM:

resigning would not grant an ounce of immunity.

Which doesn't mean some kind of backroom deal didn't take place (e.g., Richard Nixon's resignation/pardon).

#173 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 11:10 PM:

Given the cascade of scandals and disorders they've faced and still face*, I know the temptation of the conspiracy theories is strong for onlookers. However, it's possible that he knows he's old, in failing health, and unable to effectively handle the problems he's facing. He's gone on record as supporting this sort of action, and putting his money where his mouth is would make sense.

I suspect he wasn't the best choice for some the administrative tasks he was handed, but lacked, by temperament, the ability to go against the pressure placed on him by JPII while he was alive. Authoritarians do not just expect to be obeyed; they also expect themselves to obedient. This may be the first time since he stopped being a college professor that he's dared to ask himself what he wants to do instead of what he's supposed to do, and having asked that question, realized that the answer was probably in the best interests of the church.

*Yes, own-goals, virtually all of them.

#174 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 12:39 PM:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/15/us-pope-resignation-immunity-idUSBRE91E0ZI20130215

"(Reuters) - Pope Benedict's decision to live in the Vatican after he resigns will provide him with security and privacy. It will also offer legal protection from any attempt to prosecute him in connection with sexual abuse cases around the world, Church sources and legal experts say."

#175 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 05:03 PM:

HelenS: But that's not by comparison with being Pope, that's by comparison with being ex-Pope anywhere outside the Vatican.

He's got immunity as head of state now, which he would lose on resigning, but the Lateran Treaty guarantees that the Vatican can protect him if he stays on their territory.

#176 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 07:59 PM:

Thing is, if the example of General Pinochet is any guide, he cannot be sued for what he did while he was Pope. The legal question is whether he did anything before he became Pope, and that would be a tricky question. Was he following the instructions of his predecessor as Pope?

"Just following orders" isn't a guarantee, not since Nuremburg, but he hasn't lost a world war. And open season on former heads of state would not be approved of.

#177 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 09:10 PM:

No, but neither does being a former head of state protect him absolutely. It might be OK if the bastard can just never set foot outside the Vatican for fear of immediate arrest.

Better for him to end his days in prison, but that's way out of reach.

#178 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 11:41 PM:

#165 ::: Xopher

I think that's standard knee-jerk anti-Catholicism.

#179 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2013, 12:37 AM:

Jim, how would you tell the difference between anti-Catholicism vs. cynicism about everyone in authority?

#180 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2013, 10:07 AM:

Nancy@179: how would you tell the difference between anti-Catholicism vs. cynicism about everyone in authority?

I can't speak for Jim, but from where I'm standing, the former has a certain savor of malice to it that the latter doesn't.

(Somebody -- I don't remember who -- once referred to anti-Catholicism as the last respectable prejudice of the American intellectual class. From time to time, speaking as an outside Episcopalian observer, I'm moved to believe that there's at least a bit of truth in that comment.)

#181 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2013, 12:10 PM:

Debra Doyle @180: That was Tom Clancy, in a brief 10-questions-style interview with Time back in 2002. Here’s the full question, and his answer:

Q: I ASSUME YOU'VE BEEN FOLLOWING WHAT'S BEEN GOING ON WITH THE CHURCH...?
A: With great sadness, yeah. You know, anti-Catholicism is the last respectable prejudice. You can't hate black people anymore, of course, and you can't hate homosexuals anymore, but you can hate all the Catholics you want.
And it got redeployed in First Things back in 2007, also in a defensive reaction to news coverage of the child-molestation scandals, which goes on to favorably invoke Bill Donohue.

Just so you know where that quote has been.

#182 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2013, 12:59 PM:

Wait, I was able to find an earlier citation than Clancy.

Still, most of the usages I was able to find seemed to be from people resentful of the criticism the Vatican was getting over the abuse scandals. Or occasionally, resentful of the popularity of Dan Brown’s books. I think the latter resentment is more justified.

#183 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2013, 01:02 PM:

I'm not going to blame anyone who thinks they've found the last acceptable prejudice-- it's hard to keep track.

However, I don't think there's a last acceptable prejudice. There always seems to be more.

Prejudice against fat people is barely starting to get eroded. Prejudice against teenagers and children seems to very acceptable.

When I asked about anti-Catholic prejudice, I was thinking about the way the Abramoff scandal was reported. There seemed to be a little too much about him being an Orthodox Jew, and I couldn't even make a plausible guess about whether it was anti-Semitism or taking some pleasure in seeing a very religious person do something disgraceful.

#184 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2013, 05:17 PM:

Yeah, the "last acceptable prejudice" line has been used too much by white racists, Christians who think separation of church and state is a violation of the first amendment instead of the fulfillment of it, etc., to be a credible thing for anyone to say about anything now.

That said, there's certainly a fair amount of anti-Catholicism around. But I think the thing they were saying about Benedict was about his participation in the coverup of clergy sex-abuse, which is something real (whether he's guilty or not is a separate issue). So that's not quite so knee-jerk as all that.

#185 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2013, 07:29 PM:

This has been a terrific conversation, and yet another example to me that just because I have an opinion about something does not mean I should express it. Particularly if that opinion is very common.

That's a hard lesson for a fan to learn, but it's proven valuable.

brotherguy (#59): Back when we actually lived in the Papal Palace itself (which sounds great until you realize that a 500 year old building is challenged for modern heating, plumbing, a/c, or internet)....

I laughed, because my wife and I live in a house that's _fifty_ years old, and we often complain about similar things: It's cold in the winter, and Wi-Fi doesn't travel well from one side of the house to another.

So, yeah, a building that's literally ten times older would have the same problems, magnified, and more.

#186 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2013, 08:34 PM:

Mitch Wagner @185: And the Papal Palace is probably more than 10 times as large, making the problems doubly larger.

#187 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 09:41 AM:

The obvious solution is to appoint J.J. Abrams as the next Pope...

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2013/02/j-j-abrams-to-reboot-catholicism.html

:-)

#188 ::: Michael I gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 09:42 AM:

Possibly for a url in the text of the message.

#189 ::: Bill Stewart offers the gnomes some spam ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 09:49 PM:

Clarice? And it's Estrela's only post.

#190 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 11:46 AM:

we could be looking at what I think might be the first non-European pope, which might be interesting to watch.

Er, St Peter wasn't European. He was Palestinian.

That was Tom Clancy, in a brief 10-questions-style interview with Time back in 2002. Here’s the full question, and his answer:

Q: I ASSUME YOU'VE BEEN FOLLOWING WHAT'S BEEN GOING ON WITH THE CHURCH...?

A: With great sadness, yeah. You know, anti-Catholicism is the last respectable prejudice. You can't hate black people anymore, of course, and you can't hate homosexuals anymore, but you can hate all the Catholics you want.

Tom Clancy was being interviewed by Death? That was the edition he guest-edited, right?

#191 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 12:51 PM:

Ajay, I'm pretty sure DEATH doesn't ask questions. He's a statement-only kind of, uh, literary personification.

#192 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 12:54 PM:

HuffPost article suggesting that the "hiding from prosecution" theory is more of an urban legend/speculation than a real possibility.

#193 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 01:52 PM:

Nancy:

I remember a lot of discussion of the Madoff scandal centering around Bernie Madoff's involvement in Jewish charities and causes. My impression was that this was partly shock that a guy who was apparently so respectable was so dirty, and partly an explanation of where he met and won over the folks who put their money into his hands. For all I know, it could also have been motivated by some level of anti-Semitism. I'm not sure how you'd tell.

My guess is that it is almost impossible to distinguish acceptable and unacceptable motives from outside someone's head, and often not too easy to distinguish even from *inside* your own head.

One thing I do know: most of the time, the shift from discussing "is X true?" to discussing "what evil motives lurk behind the question of whether X is true?" does not lead to a better discussion or smarter people at the end of the discussion. In the context of the Church sex abuse scandal, some of the people accusing the Church of sheltering priests who'd abused kids may very well have been anti-Catholic, but the most important thing about those accusations was that they were substantially true.

#194 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 02:32 PM:

The discussion of Madoff didn't strike me as possibly anti-Semitic the way the discussion of Abramoff did, possibly because Madoff wasn't as observant.

#195 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 04:27 PM:

albatross #193, Nancy Lebovitz #194: I recall a public letter by some prominent rabbi ripping into Madoff, in part because the rabbi expected that Madoff's crimes would empower anti-Semitism. Might have been linked from a sidebar here, for that matter.

#196 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 05:14 PM:

Oh, Death asks questions, all right -- but he usually knows what the answers will be. See, for instance, Lords and Ladies, when the blacksmith shoeing his horse asks him, "What would I see if I took off this blindfold?"

"WHAT DO YOU REALLY, TRULY, BELIEVE IN, DEEP DOWN?"
*beat*
"Right now? I really, truly believe in this blindfold."


Very flip anecdote, prompted by mention of Midnight Mass up above.

I've only been once. My parents were absolutely uninterested in going, so I was left to imagine what a lovely, solemn ritual it must be that my friend down the block attended every year. And I converted to Wicca before I left my parents' house, so I've never had much incentive to investigate the Catholic parishes where I've lived since. So I finally attended a Midnight Mass for Christmas 2011 when my friend's boyfriend was singing in it. (Not part of the congregation. His ensemble does church gigs.)

Turns out, this was in fact an Antiochian Orthodox Midnight Mass.

Now, as I was raised in post-Vatican II Catholicism, there are certain things I am used to, and certain things I am not. I'm definitely used to a more streamlined experience, even for Easter and Christmas. So I was having a fascinating time mentally cataloging the similarities and the differences, and cautiously reminding myself that maybe some of the really elaborate things that I found odd were also done at the Midnight Christmas Mass in St. Angela of Merici Catholic Church in Metairie, LA, for all I knew.

But by the time we got to the sacrament of the eucharist and all the ritual surrounding the transubstantiation, the bells and the censer, the mythically resonant repetition of all the elements, well, it was going on 1:45 AM, I was getting sleep-deprived punchy, and I guess it was inevitable that my smart-ass side would finally get the better of me. So I leaned over to my friend and whispered, "Is it Christ yet?"

I take full responsibility for how close she came to yelping for the whole church to hear. I am a bad, bad puppy.

#197 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 06:20 PM:

Nicole @196 So I leaned over to my friend and whispered, "Is it Christ yet?"

Snerk. I have almost six weeks before the Easter vigil to forget that I ever read this.

#198 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 06:39 PM:

#195 ::: Dave Harmon

I was worried about Madoff contributing to anti-Semitism, and when I say worried, I mean consumed by obsessive rage at him.

I'm pleased to say that I now have clear evidence that America isn't hair-triggered for anti-Semitism.

#199 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 07:13 PM:

My first and only exposure to midnight mass was when one of my closest high school friends invited us with his family. I'm Jewish, and my parents were sensitive to Christian proselytization. They wouldn't let me participate in a Nativity play my Cub Scout pack put on.

But to my surprise my parents were delighted to let me go to Christmas Mass. It's beautiful! they said. Everyone should see it at least once!

The friend who invited us now lives in Brooklyn with his husband.

Nancy Lebovitz - America just doesn't have a history of anti-Semitism on a broad scale. Not compared with Europe and, well, pretty much everywhere else. And not compared with American's history of prejudice against Asians, blacks, and American Indians.

#200 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 08:02 PM:

Just before Christmas, Bernie Farber of the Canadian Jewish Congress had a lovely article on being Joseph in the Nativity play and recognizing Santa. Huffington Post has a version

#201 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 08:17 PM:

Ajay @190, I avoided Pratchett’s work for years because jokes in fanzines (and later, on Usenet) had led me to believe that there was a prominent character who spoke in all-caps. I was relieved to eventually discover that Death’s dialog is actually presented in small-caps, and Pratchett’s novels hadn’t been typeset by barbarians.

(Weird thing is I had already read The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, in which Death appear, but had forgotten about his appearance.)

Sadly, it’s tough to do small-caps in HTML. You either need to support the SPAN tag and assign some CSS, or use the SMALL tag. I’ve just added SMALL to the list of allowed tags, but it doesn’t seem to have taken yet. Maybe the server needs to be rebooted or something. The SPAN+CSS method is actually better from a separate-structure-from-presentation perspective, but worse from a prevent-malicious-code perspective.

#202 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 10:54 PM:

Avram @201, I'm curious; is there an opposite-of-a-<small>-tag? That is, if you want to start a sentence or whatever with an extra-large capital (the first letter of a chapter in some books is typeset thusly), without invoking a different font? I'm only semi-literate in HTML, I'm afraid, and it occurs to me that perhaps such a thing would be too rarely needed to be coded, but, as I said, I'm curious.

#203 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 11:17 PM:

A Pagan friend of mine went to (Episcopal) church with her mother, and at the Peace (when people go around shaking hands and saying "Peace of the Lord" to each other) she whispered to her mom, "I thought the pieces of the Lord were later."

"You're horrid," replied that lady, "I love you, but you're horrid."

#204 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 11:20 PM:

Avram - Interesting. I'm writing a story now in which characters speak in all small caps. The story is a bit of a tribute to Blish's, Cities in Flight, in which characters do that. I didn't realize Pratchett used the same technique.

I'm not sure that I'll stick with small caps, though, because I'm not sure they'll render properly in ebooks.

#205 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 11:31 PM:

Cassie B @ 202, there used to be a BIG tag. In the latest version of the HTML spec, the SMALL tag is still there, but BIG is gone. If you need to, you can do this:

<p><span style="font-size: 200%;">B</span>lah blah blah.</p>
But here’s a better way.

#206 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 11:40 PM:

Mitch Wagner @204, I just found an interesting-looking work-around for getting faux small-caps to work on a wide variety of e-readers. (Scroll down to Option 3 on that page.)

#207 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 11:47 PM:

Well, having experimented, I can say that the font size="x" tag does NOT work. (I thought it used to; I'm pretty sure I remember using font size="1" here at least once to produce tiny text.)

#208 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2013, 01:41 AM:

Here’s a list of the tags that ought to work in comments right now:

  • <a href>
  • <b>
  • <blockquote>
  • <br /> (probably regular old <br> will work, too)
  • <cite>
  • <code>
  • <dd>
  • <dl>
  • <dt>
  • <em>
  • <i>
  • <li>
  • <ol>
  • <p>
  • <pre>
  • <small>
  • <strike>
  • <strong>
  • <sub>
  • <sup>
  • <tt>
  • <ul>
Be aware that if you’re going to use BLOCKQUOTEs or lists, Movable Type does some weird paragraph formatting. You’re probably going to have to strip out all of your line-endings and submit the comment as one big paragraph. At least you can use Preview to tweak things.

#209 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2013, 05:19 AM:

I remember a lot of discussion of the Madoff scandal centering around Bernie Madoff's involvement in Jewish charities and causes. My impression was that this was partly shock that a guy who was apparently so respectable was so dirty, and partly an explanation of where he met and won over the folks who put their money into his hands.

The latter is certainly true. Madoff was a classic example of affinity fraud - like so many other Ponzi schemers, he preyed on his own kind. The question that any con artist has to be able to answer is "if this is such a good deal, why are you offering it to me, a humble Salvadorean taxi driver? Why don't you take it to J.P. Morgan?" And an excellent answer to be able to give is "Because I, too, am a humble Salvadorean taxi driver, and I want to give my buddies a hand up."

Substitute the name of any other subgroup for the Salvadorean taxi drivers. (For example, the notorious "Women Empowering Women" scam of the 1990s.)

#210 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2013, 08:57 AM:

Avram @205, I'm not confident enough in my HTML to mess with CSS tags, but I can certainly manage a <span style="font-size: 200%;">. I'll test it to see if it works on my Sony Reader. (And even it it doesn't, it'll surely work on later-generation replacement readers....) Thanks!

#211 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2013, 09:37 AM:

Avram #208: I generally resort to separately <blockquote>ing each paragraph.

SO, WE CAN HAZ SMALL CAPS? Yup, looks like it works!

#212 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2013, 10:47 AM:

Dave Harmon @211

Just checked with Opera, Chrome, and Firefox.

I don't see a significant difference. A slight change in font size There is nothing I would recognise as clearly small caps.

WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

Oh, nothing of significance...

[I am actually seeing a larger font-size for text which is tagged <small>]

#213 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2013, 10:52 AM:

Xopher@203: A Pagan friend of mine went to (Episcopal) church with her mother, and at the Peace (when people go around shaking hands and saying "Peace of the Lord" to each other) she whispered to her mom, "I thought the pieces of the Lord were later."

You have to work harder than that to scandalize Episcopalians. It was an Episcopal priest of my acquaintance who once referred to the Eucharist (in a confirmation class, no less) as "a piece of God that passeth all understanding."

#214 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2013, 02:09 PM:

Debra, the church where I sing uses real bread except when all efforts to obtain it have failed, when they resort to the evil-tasting little wafers.

Sometimes it's particularly good. I've been known to comment (quietly) that "Jesus has a really tasty body today!"

(Yeah, I take communion (not the wine). At that church it's what it means to the individual that counts, and for me it's symbolic of my membership in the community there. I discussed this with them and my own conscience at length before doing it, and I don't take communion from a celebrant I don't know, in case they might not be OK with it.)

#215 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2013, 08:24 PM:

Xopher @214,

One Easter morning a few years ago, the (Presbyterian) church where I'm a handbell-ringer served communion... as pastries. Little bite-sized pieces of cake and danishes.

It made me smile.

#216 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2013, 11:58 PM:

Thanks, Avram! I'll take a look.

#217 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 12:00 AM:

And now I've looked, and I need to figure out if I want to work that hard for my hat-tip to James Blish. My system on generating ebooks so far has been to rely on automated tools as much as possible.

On the other hand, damni, those characters sound in my head like they're talking in small caps.

#218 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 12:02 AM:

Two conversational threads tying together: In addition to Cities in Flight, James Blish wrote not one but two of science fiction's relatively few novels about the Catholic Church.

#219 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 02:40 AM:

Blish wrote this really stupid book called A Case of Conscience, where the humans take over and devastate an alien planet (with typical environmental trashing*), and the "solution" at the end is for a priest to exorcise the alien planet, which he does by pointing a cross at it remotely via a monitor and praying in Latin.

The planet explodes.

What?

Yeah, I know. The entire alien race were creations of Satan, apparently. It's bloody ridiculous. And a really cheap and tacky (forgive me) deus ex machina ending for the book. Even in 8th grade I rolled my eyes at that one.

*Come to think of it, cutting down a major, culturally important tree is a big plot point. The same thing in Avatar could be a coincidence, I suppose.

#220 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 04:26 AM:

Xopher: it was better as a novella, when it didn't have the exorcism, but still a bit odd. Even from a strictly Catholic viewpoint, the last place you'd expect to find someone with the views of the protagonist is in the Society of Jesus (as I think Br Guy has pointed out).

#221 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 05:27 PM:

I remember A Case of Conscience as being brilliant. But what do I know -- I'm a Jewish agnostic. And I haven't read the book in more than 30 years.

#222 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 05:48 PM:

I read it even longer ago, and my reaction at the time (raised as an agnostic by a former-Baptist father and a former-Catholic mother) was "WHAAAT?!?! That makes no sense at all."

#223 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 05:49 PM:

But then, I liked the Lithians (if I recall the spelling correctly) better than the humans, by a lot.

#224 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 06:45 PM:

I just finished The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, a much better novel of Jesuit space exploration.

What was Blish's other Catholic book?

#225 ::: J Homes ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 06:50 PM:

To be fair to Blish, he does (if memory serves; it's been a long time for me too) set the thing up, in that the human conquerors, for bad but not alas implausible reasons, decide that Lithia is an ideal place to conduct some very imprudent experiments in nuclear physics.

We are of course invited to believe that it is not a co-incidence that these experiments might go horribly wrong just as the exorcism is carried out.

The details of the experiments would not pass muster today, but I would consider them not unreasonable for their times.

J Homes.

#226 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 07:29 PM:

J Homes - Your memory serves well. Unless mine also fails.

Allan Beatty - Blish's other Catholic book was Doctor Mirabilis, about Roger Bacon. Or at least I think it was a novel about the Church. I may be misremembering.

Also, Black Easter/Day After Judgment, in which the contemporary military brings about Judgment Day. So that's three books. Or two. Or four. Depending on how you count them.

#227 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 07:58 PM:

J Homes #225, Mitch Wagner#226: Actually, I recall that as being the Lithian's own experiments (possibly based on a hint from the humans), and the disaster was telegraphed way early.

(shifting to ROT13 for spoilers)
And the religious issue was gung jvgu gur cevrfg nyernql jbaqrevat vs abauhznaf unq fbhyf, gur Yvguvnaf nterrq gurl qvqa'g -- naq nyfb qvqa'g unir nalguvat erfrzoyvat ybir, vapyhqvat sbe snzvyl.

IIRC, A Case For Conscience was one of three religious-themed novels, the second being the combination of the novellas Black Easter and The Day After Judgement. Apparently (WP) the third was Doctor Mirabilis, about Roger Bacon, but I don't seem to have read that one.

#228 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2013, 11:48 AM:

Dave Harmon - As I recall, the priest's crisis was that the Lithians seemed to have evolved a paradise while being atheists. And, as you note, soulless.

#229 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2013, 09:24 AM:

.... aaaand Cardinal O'Brien resigns, leaving Britain without any representative at the convocation.

#230 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2013, 09:46 AM:

At least he resigned, instead of stonewalling, bad-mouthing his accusers, and generally being a jerk about the issue.

The timing isn't ideal. But if I draw a line between the Catholic Church as it is now and the institution that I would like the it to be, this point is on it: high-ranking official, accused of sexual misconduct, resigns; hierarchy accepts his resignation and acknowledges complainants' courage in coming forward.

Every step in the right direction is better than standing still.

#231 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2013, 01:23 PM:

Cardinal O'Brien was already resigning as Archbishop because of his age. The paperwork was in. When the resignation would have taken effect, we can only guess. He is still a Cardinal.

According to the rules, he would be expected to participate in the Conclave. It is very unusual that he is not.

It does seem a rather significant move.

#232 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2013, 02:25 PM:

From further down in the article:

Father Albert Cutie, an Espiscopal priest who studies the Vatican, said it would be impossible to exclude every cardinal with a hand in the church's vast sex-abuse problem. "Unfortunately, if you were going to tell me no one can go to the conclave who has part in any type of cover up, you would probably exclude every cardinal in the church, because unfortunately that's the way the church is operated," he said.

Words fail me.

#233 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2013, 08:45 PM:

From C.Wingate's link: Scandal is threatening to eclipse the poignancy and pageantry of Benedict XVI's historic final days as pope.

Well, it should. He took part in the scandalous behavior bigtime.

#234 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2013, 10:16 PM:

Suppose, for argument's sake, that there is a smoking gun, and Benedict is aware of its existence. Suppose it can be demonstrated that he was presented with unimpeachable evidence of the systematic, regularised sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy, and that he specifically ordered that the abusers be protected, that the victims be threatened with excommunication if they spoke out, that any civil investigation be stonewalled or evaded and denied.

What then?

#235 ::: Dave Luckett has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2013, 10:47 PM:

Don't know why. I can offer a Riverina peach, in propitiation.

[Three spaces in a row alert the gnomes. -- JDM]

#236 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2013, 01:13 PM:

News reports say he will switch from red to brown shoes after he leaves office. Clearly not a Zappa fan.

#237 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2013, 04:24 PM:

Bruce @236--or an Elvis Costello fan, for that matter.

#238 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2013, 03:45 AM:

There is that old term from the Cold War: Kremlin watching.

Some things don't seem to change.

#239 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2013, 06:05 PM:

Black Smoke From the Chimney. AIUI, a compromise pope is looking more likely.

#240 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2013, 08:00 PM:

I don't think anyone expected white smoke the first time. This is the vote where people really DO vote their conscience, after all. Now everybody knows where the first vote stands, the politicking can get going in earnest.

I must say, I'm glad they finally sorted out the whole "making the black smoke BLACK" thing. I remember previous conclaves where everyone looked at the grey smoke and said "umm, is that a whitish grey or a blackish grey?" I hope the stove has a good draw, though; it would be a shame for the relatively-newly cleaned frescos to get all smoky again.

#241 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 02:27 AM:

Slightly blatant shilling for very old and newer friends:

Karen, my partner, has just published a review of Magnificat by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, a novel about the first (openly, at least) female Pope being elected. It's also interesting for being one of the first e-books, and it's never had a print edition. It seems relevant here.

#242 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 07:35 AM:

Even the relatively quick election last time, when Cardinal Ratzinger was apparently kind of obvious from the start, took four rounds of voting.

The pundits are saying the hope is for getting a Pope elected by the weekend. Which seems rather modern. If they don't get a result by the weekend the rules seem to allow for a pause, when I suppose there will be an intense round of informal discussion, possibly on subjects such as the Kentucky Derby.

Black smoke this morning, still not really a surprise.

#243 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 08:43 AM:

Thankfully, I do not quite have sufficient chutzpah to rewrite Fugue for Tinhorns to fit the Papal election, but if anyone wants to take the idea and run with it....

#244 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 09:39 AM:

The Conclave, as depicted with Peeps. Because Peeps!

#245 ::: David Wald ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 11:36 AM:

Adding to the continuing collection of overly specific domain names, the Guardian has given us istherewhitesmoke.com.

#246 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 12:59 PM:

Dave Bell: Thankfully, I do not quite have sufficient chutzpah to rewrite Fugue for Tinhorns to fit the Papal election, but if anyone wants to take the idea and run with it....

I've been humming "Too pooped to Pope" off and on ever since the initial announcement.

#247 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 02:12 PM:

News alert that there's white smoke and the bells of St. Peter's are ringing.

#248 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 02:17 PM:

Yep. Pretty lively in the square, on the NYT live feed.

Habeamus papam, I guess.

#249 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 02:21 PM:

We find out in an hour, I understand. (First they have to pick people up off the floor.)

#250 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 02:40 PM:

New Pope, yo!

Waiting to find out who it is.

#251 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 02:42 PM:

Standing by my telephone, waiting for the phone call from the Vatican....

#252 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 02:46 PM:

I'm sure the Swiss Ninja Guard strike team has already been dispatched, Jim. Better head for the bomb shelter now.

#253 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 02:46 PM:

251
Calling for you or for Doyle? Or are you going to be a tag team?

#254 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 02:47 PM:

I note that we haven't heard anything from Teresa.

#255 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 03:00 PM:

That should be habemus, up there. Although the subjunctive form is perhaps appropriate especially for these minutes while we wait for the announcement.

#256 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 03:07 PM:

My friend Rob Downes expressed hope that Cardinal Scola would be elected, because a Pope Scola would be very refreshing. That's a lot!

#257 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 03:07 PM:

I'm following Rachel Donadio's twitter feed for updates. She's the NYT bureau chief for the region, and seems to be doing a good job of covering.

#258 ::: Elliott Mason got gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 03:08 PM:

Probably for linking to a thing that is twitterpated. Without the pated.

["Link to Twitter, see a gnome," is our motto. -- Candulo Ruop, Duty Gnome]

#259 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 03:09 PM:

So the Pope is asleep in his chambers, it's three o'clock in the morning Vatican time, when a cardinal rushes in and shakes him awake.

"What is it?" the Pope asks.

"Your Holiness," the cardinal says, "I have some good news for you and some bad news."

"Tell me the good news."

"Jesus has returned to earth, he's on the phone right now and asking for you."

"That's wonderful! What could possibly be the bad news?"

"He's calling from Salt Lake City...."

#260 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 03:11 PM:

I always wanted Cardinal Sin to be pope.

#261 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 03:16 PM:

The pope is Argentinian. There will now be bulls in Lunfardo.

#262 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 03:16 PM:

Well, there he is, the new pope: previously Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio

Didn't catch his new name. Franciscum?

#263 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 03:17 PM:

Francis I

#264 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 03:17 PM:

Pope Francis I. The first pope from the Americas. ¡Vaya cambio!

#265 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 03:18 PM:

And the first Jesuit pope, ever.

#266 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 03:18 PM:

Pope Francis the First

"Brother Sun, and Sister Moon..."

#267 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 03:22 PM:

And a thousand thousand people google "Bergoglio." (Wikipedia had updated it in the four seconds between announcement on live feed and my clicking over there.)

Hm. So far, I am not encouraged, but one never knows.

#268 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 03:25 PM:

I can't tell if he's speaking Spanish or Italian (either would be a political statement). I'm guessing his Latin isn't good enough to do an off-the-cuff speech.

#269 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 03:27 PM:

The Wikipedia page is being updated at the rate of about four times a minute, which is probably about as fast as the system can support.

#270 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 03:29 PM:

Most interesting-to-me fact on Wikipedia; Cardinal Bergoglio served as ordinary for Eastern-Rite Catholics in Argentina. (And so has very likely had married priests under his direct and immediate jurisdiction.)

#271 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 03:51 PM:

Elliott Mason @ 268... I'm guessing his Latin isn't good enough to do an off-the-cuff speech.

Have him call President Bartlett.

#272 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 03:55 PM:

Spoken Italian and spoken Spanish are very similar.

And Argentine Spanish is ... weird.

#273 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 04:01 PM:

I saw a hopeful quote on the Wikipedia page:

"As Cardinal, Bergoglio became known for personal humility, doctrinal conservatism and a commitment to social justice. A simple lifestyle contributed to his reputation for humility. He lived in a small apartment, rather than in the palatial bishop's residence. He gave up his chauffeured limousine in favor of public transportation, and he reportedly cooked his own meals."

Of course, he has all the crappy views on ladies and gays, but I feel taking the bus is a step in the right direction.

#274 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 04:01 PM:

Yeah, I was one of those people racing to Wikipedia. First thoughts, worth what you're paying for them:

He's 76, (which is, damn it, OLD) and conservative.

He's made some very unpleasant public statements about gay marriage and about homosexuality.

He's a Jesuit, which argues that he's not stupid. (The Jesuits don't keep them if they can't keep up.)

He's taken the name Francis, which is -- different.

As Gregor Vorbarra is so fond of saying: Let's see what happens.

#275 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 04:06 PM:

And the Guardian claims that he "he takes a slightly more pragmatic view on contraception, believing that it can be permissible to prevent the spread of disease."

#276 ::: Naomi Parkhurst is begnomed ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 04:07 PM:

So it goes. Tea?

#277 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 04:11 PM:

Cite needed: do we actually have a source for that Francis? He IS a J-boy, after all.

#278 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 04:12 PM:

From the BBC site, dated 8/8/01, during a strike by public workers:

Speaking at the church dedicated to San Cayetano, the patron saint of work and bread, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio spoke of the contrast between "poor people who are persecuted for demanding work, and rich people who are applauded for fleeing from justice".


#279 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 04:22 PM:

The other St. Francis, the Jesuit one, who was a member of the most alarming papal family ever.

#280 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 04:24 PM:

And we now have the inevitable edit war on Wikipedia over "Francis" vs. "Francis I".

#281 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 04:26 PM:

No, the OTHER J-boy St. Francis, the one anybody cares about.

#282 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 04:28 PM:

Direct quote from Wikipedia that will surely be changed by the time anyone sees this:

"He supports the use of contraception to prevent the spread of disease, meaning he is not a completely hidebound prude."

#283 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 04:34 PM:

280
IMO he doesn't get the numeral until there's a second Pope Francis.

#284 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 04:35 PM:

C. Wingate @281--I cheerfully concede the point, but the thought of a shout-out to the Borgias in this context was irresistable, even if it is most improbable.

There's a rumor that St. Francis Borgia was offered a cardinalate, and declined it, and that as Superior General of the Jesuits he was mentioned as a possible pope, for about 10 seconds until everyone had a chance to think what it would be like to have another Borgia in the Vatican...one with children.

Nevertheless the highly-travelled St. Francis Xavier is a better match for a pope who's trying, like Sherwin Williams, to cover the world.

#285 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 04:45 PM:

Apparently, when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the Pope said the follwoing about same-sex marriage:

“Let’s not be naive, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

The Prince of Lies?
Karl Rove?

#286 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 04:51 PM:

I didn't know there were THREE Saints Francis. That's interesting.

This election is less appalling than the last one. The new guy is a homophobe, but not a famous, egregious one, universally hated by the gay community for 20 years before his election like Pope Rat.

Francis also seems to have other, better priorities, like caring for the poor. He also appears to be humble (at least compared to some). And the fact that he's a Jesuit speaks well for his intellect. (Though from what *I* hear, half his order is gay, so it's not clear to me why he's such a homophobe...unless he just wants to keep gays from marrying and adopting so they'll become Jesuits!)

Overall, an improvement. Not going out and buying a Pope Francis t-shirt.

#287 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 04:54 PM:

I didn't know there were THREE Saints Francis. That's interesting.

Including St. Francis Borgia.

#288 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 05:09 PM:

Yep, that's the one I didn't know about.

Either he's different from the other Borgias, or the canonization process was more subject to blackmail and extortion than it is today.

#289 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 05:20 PM:

St. Francis Borgia was the son of the illegitimate daughter of Ferdinand II of Aragon (husband of Queen Isabella I of Castile) by his long-term mistress Aldonza, and the illegitimate son of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia (later Pope Alexander VI).

St. Francis Borgia (a Jesuit), otherwise known as "the Holy Don," was by all accounts a pious man.

#290 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 05:28 PM:

fidelio #244: A Pope for Peeps?

So... conservative on reproduction and homosexuality, but also friendly to the poor, and a Jesuit. And likely short-term, given his age. So not a disaster, but the cardinals are still trying to kick the big crisis down the road.

#291 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 05:32 PM:

No. Not "Pope Francis" nor "Pope Francis I."

This is the digital age, people!

Pope Francis 0000

(That should be plenty of digits.)

Please . . . hold the uplifted mule jokes until the white smoke has dispersed.

#292 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 05:42 PM:

John Paul I was so from the very start.

#293 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 06:05 PM:

Jim 289:

Wait, is that Fernando's long-term mistress we've already seen in Isabel, or some later long-term mistress?

#294 ::: Jon Baker ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 06:14 PM:

The Catholic Encyclopedia lists five Sts Francis:

Francis Borgia, Saint - Long essay on the dramatic life of the Duke of Gandia turned Jesuit

Francis de Sales, Saint - Biographical article on the Bishop of Geneva, and Doctor of the Church, who died in 1622

Francis of Assisi, Saint - Long article on St. Francis, founder, mystic, perhaps the most beloved Catholic saint of all

Francis of Paula, Saint - Founder of the Order of Minims, d. 1507

Francis Xavier, Saint - Biographical article on one of the first Jesuits, and missionary to Asia, who died in 1552

#295 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 06:16 PM:

#293 ::: albatross Wait, is that Fernando's long-term mistress we've already seen in Isabel, or some later long-term mistress?

The very same long-term mistress. She had four children by him.

#296 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 06:22 PM:

Lizzy, #274: "Unlike other cardinals, he has been untarnished by the various scandals rocking the Catholic church, and is thought to want to make reform of the Curia a priority." (From the article linked by Naomi @275.)

I'm seeing a certain parallelism here with the situation of a progressive WRT Obama. Given the choice between a guy who's good on some of the things you want and bad on others, and a guy who's not good on the things the first guy is good on and just as bad on the ones the first guy is bad on, you take what progress you can get.

lorax, #282: *snerk*

#297 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 06:54 PM:

Obligatory unexpected Spanish Inquisition:

"We have two Saints Francis, Borgia and de Sales... and Assisi. Three. We have three Saints Francis, Borgia, de Sales, and Assisi... and Paula. Amongst our Sanctities are such diverse Francises as..."

Congratulations to all Pope Francis I's coreligionists on the swift selection of a new and possibly less divisive leader. May he build more bridges between the establishment and individual believers than those who came before him and lead your church's ministers toward greater acceptance and honesty.

#298 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 07:41 PM:

Bergoglio? Is he the guy standing next to Jon Singer?

#299 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 08:11 PM:

294
A more complete list of Sts Francis is here. There are quite a few, even leaving out the linguistic variations.

#300 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 08:25 PM:

Lizzy @274: I love that you're quoting Gregor Vorbarra on this situation.

Bill Stewart @298: :goes off in giggles:

#301 ::: elise has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 08:25 PM:

Wah de doo.

#302 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 09:24 PM:

He's been accused of having ties to the generals during Argentina's Dirty War. No idea whether there's any merit to the allegations, though. Links in my blog.

#303 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 09:47 PM:

Bill Singer @298: Of course! Jon Singer knows everybody. Even Kevin Bacon knows his Singer number.

#304 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 10:25 PM:

Francises? Shouldn't the plural of Francis be Frances?

#305 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 11:00 PM:

I dunno, is "franchese" the plural of "franchise?"

#306 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 11:31 PM:

I thought the plural of 'franchise' was 'francheeses'. Mouse > mice > meeses, yes?

#307 ::: MacAllister ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 11:36 PM:

May God grant Pope Francis all the wisdom, compassion, and courage he'll need, and joy, besides.

#308 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 11:57 PM:

I note that Pope Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, does not have "Peter" anywhere in his name, and is about as non-Roman as a cardinal can be. I wonder how many of the cardinals deliberately took that into account when casting their votes.

#309 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 12:12 AM:

A pity, Chris, but you're right. They missed an opportunity there.

#310 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 03:56 AM:

There is, regrettably, this:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2011/jan/04/argenitina-videla-bergoglio-repentance

I have no idea how true it is. If it's got any truth to it, it's seriously horrible.

#311 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 08:23 AM:

A thing that makes my teeth itch: people who are not Roman Catholic saying "habemus papam." NO YOU DON'T, you are not part of that "we." Gay Episcopalian friend who does not hang out here, I'm looking at you askance.

#312 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 08:40 AM:

TexAnne @311, my Latin is execrable; it consists of odds and ends of vocabulary and grammar that I've picked up over the years, mostly from singing Latin masses, with a healthy admixture of "if-this-were-French....". What would be the correct way to say "They have a pope"? <curious>

I was wondering this yesterday when I emailed my husband; I ended up saying "white smoke" instead because "habemus papem" seemed wrong for the very reason you cite.

#313 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 08:45 AM:

Jim Macdonald #272: Argentine Spanish is pretty ordinary, as Spanishes go (Colombians, for examples, say "go away" for "come in"). Lunfardo -- the Cockney of Buenos Aires -- is weird.

#314 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 08:46 AM:

Cassy, 312: "You have a pope" = "habetis papam." "They have a pope" = "habent papam." (Note that "papa" is first declension, not third: papam, not papem.)

#315 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 09:00 AM:

re 308: Not as un-Roman as all that: he does apparently speak decent enough Italian, which I have to think helped boost him into the throne.

#316 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 09:23 AM:

TexAnne @314, Thank you(exclamation point)

(I'm taking gnome-evading measures. <grin>)

It remains to be seen how soon I'll get to use either phrase. Pope Francis isn't young, but he appears healthy...

#317 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 09:29 AM:

Jim @289--I think you may have skipped a generation; Wikipedia says Juana was Ferdinand's granddaughter, and the Catholic Encyclopedia concurs.

By all accounts, Francis Borgia was legitmately canonized and not a ringer; he didn't have to enter the Jesuit order, and is supposed to have turned down the offer of a cardinalate, preferring field work, as it were, to administration. They managed to bully him into management eventually.

He composed sacred music, too.

#318 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 09:29 AM:

I went into the kitchen and said "Habent papam" to Emmet as soon as I'd seen it announced. And I've said "Habes papam" to Brother Guy this morning already.

But Texanne, maybe all those non-Catholcis saying "habemus" are poised to convert if only Francis I were to reinstall Latin as the operating system.

#319 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 09:56 AM:

TexAnne @ 314... Why did the phrase "Romanes Eunt Domus" just pop into my mind?

#320 ::: Stephen Rochelle ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 10:00 AM:

Per this interview with Cardinal Dolan, Francis of Assisi is the intended reference.

#321 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 10:36 AM:

Actually the more I think about it the more I think "habemus" is actually correct for everyone and it's wrong to exclude people from that. We, the whole world, have a new pope, whatever that means to us -- more to some than to others, indeed. But there he is, look, ecce, habemus papam novam. Even from outside.

#322 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 11:03 AM:

Fidelio #317: Jim @289--I think you may have skipped a generation; Wikipedia says Juana was Ferdinand's granddaughter, and the Catholic Encyclopedia concurs.

That's what happens when I try to remember medieval Spanish history off the top of my head rather than looking it up.

Not that Wikipedia counts as a source.

#323 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 11:12 AM:

Jim @322-There's a reason I double-checked with the Catholic Encyclopedia...

#324 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 01:06 PM:

As a tumblr my sister follows put it, "Argentina is, like, the MOST ITALIAN part of South America, so it's not really all that surprising." :-> They don't completely NOT have a point.

#325 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 01:15 PM:

Jo Walton @316: I suspect there are some that would convert if the Church went back to Latin, others who would should the Church modernize its views on contraceptives, and still more should Mother Church decide to ordain women.

The likelihood of ANY of those happening is pretty faint. However, there is the fact that His Holiness chose a name that's a break with tradition...

#326 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 01:30 PM:

And apparently he took a car (refusing a limo) to his hotel to pick up his luggage and pay his bill (which he was not obliged to do).

I like Cardinal Turcotte's description of the scene:

"He was there at 9, all dressed in white. And the kitchen personnel and those who did the washing and so forth went crazy like hell."

#327 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 01:52 PM:

Jo Walton @321: I think what's happening there is basically a use-mention distinction. If I take the word Pope to mean a person who actually is the earthly embodiment of the Holy Spirit or some other semi-divine being, and I don't believe such a person exists, then I should not say "Habemus papam." If I take the word Pope to refer to the title of an individual irrespective of the meaning of that title (a form of mentioning), then I should certainly say "Habemus papam." As with so many disputes in the world, it's very much about what level I'm looking at.

#328 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 02:10 PM:

Jo, 321: I see your point. However, as a Christian in the Anglican tradition, I can say to my RC friends, "Hurray! Habetis papam!" without conceding that he is *my* Pope. Because he really, truly isn't.

#329 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 02:50 PM:

There's been an update of the piece in The Guardian Dave Luckett posted the link for in #310 above. This corrects the references to Verbitsky's book about the Dirty War, El Silencio.

#330 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 02:53 PM:

Anne, you are my go-to source for proper latin. Thank you.

I imagine that the miraculous effigy of St. Francis Xavier over at San Xavier del Bac Mission will be getting some extra action this weekend. I'd go see, but it will probably be crazy.

I'm not a catholic of any flavor, but I am a long-time Vatican watcher; I am enchanted at the thought that Pope Francis might refuse many of the Imperial flourishes that Benedict XVI seemed to so enjoy.

#331 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 03:43 PM:

Perhaps an Anglican should say, "Habemus Episcopum Romanum", unless one were making a point of being low church, in which case it should be said that "There is a new Bishop of Rome."

#332 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 05:27 PM:

Beth, 330: Thank you! But you should probably go to Fade and Abi first.

#333 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 06:45 PM:

Tom at 327: any Catholic who believes that the Pope is the earthly embodiment of the Holy Spirit, and therefore semi-divine, is tragically misinformed about the doctrine of his or her church. Never in its 2000 years has the RCC said that.

But you know this, right...?

#334 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 06:53 PM:

“Optimus Papem” = incantation to transform into the new Popemobile.
“Habañero Papadam” = a spicy appetizer.

#335 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 07:24 PM:

Lizzy @333 -- yes, I know that, but I didn't know how to state precisely the difference I was pointing to. Do you have a better statement?

#336 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 07:37 PM:

Tom, are you trying to point to the difference between the vicar of Christ on earth and the bishop of Rome?

#337 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 07:47 PM:

I'm trying to point to the difference between the person who holds the title of "Pope" and the person who fills the role the Pope plays in Catholic religious doctrine (and is presumed to hold that role for non-Catholics by some Catholics). That may be what you're pointing to, Jim, but I do not have a specific set of words that embodies that difference.

It's quite clear to me that we (as a world) have a person who has the title of Pope; as a non-Catholic, it's not clear to me that there is anyone who can fill the role the Pope is said to have for all the people of the earth. Does that make any sense, or am I displaying my ignorance most fearfully?

#338 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 07:50 PM:

Tom, what I think we have here is the case of the proverbial atheist who was asked if he believed in Baptism, who replied, "Why, yes. I've seen it done."

#339 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 08:27 PM:

What's Latin for "There is a new Pope"?

I deeply hope that next time I'm in an Indian restaurant I can remember to say "habemus papadum" when it arrives. (Hmm, what ending should really go on that, assuming 'papadum' is nom. sing.? Alternatively, if 'papadum' is already in the right case there (accusative?) what would the nom. sing. be?)

The other night someone commented that the way they revealed the new Pope was "like the Miss America pageant." I replied "with Bert Parks singing 'Habemus! Habemus Papam!'" (sung to the tune of "There she is! Miss America!" of course).

#340 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 08:45 PM:

Xopher: If papadum is third declension (most likely) it's already in the accusative. It could be either papadus or papadum in the nominative, depending on whether it's masculine or neuter.

Jim: approximately true. And what I'm trying to point to, if we're not going into a version of "Who's on first" instead of communicating.

#341 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 08:58 PM:

Xopher @339: My guess would be "Papam erat," or even just "Papam." with an understood is.

You could check out how they did it in translating Hamlet's soliloquy; that first couple verbs in there are the ones we want (though possibly inflected differently).

#342 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 09:08 PM:

Tom Whitmore @337: It's quite clear to me that we (as a world) have a person who has the title of Pope

A number of them, if you’re familiar with Discordianism.

#343 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 10:18 PM:

Xopher, 339: Papa novus est. (First declension masculine, like nauta, agricola, poeta.)

"Papadum" feels like a second declension neuter. "Habemus papada," in that case. But if it's a second declension masculine, "habemus papados." (I'm assuming we are at the nice kind of Indian restaurant where the nouns in question arrive by the basketful.)

#344 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 10:22 PM:

Xopher, on second thought I think it might be "ecce papa novus."

#345 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 10:28 PM:

I would construe "Papa novus est." into English as "The pope is new." I would construe "Ecce papa novus" as, "Hey! Look! A new pope!"

#346 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 10:34 PM:

Avram, Tom Whitmore:

At least two popes -- even the Roman Catholics acknowledge that the See of St Mark in Alexandria used the title before the See of Peter in Rome, and the Coptic Orthodox Pope is entitled to that appellation.

#347 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 01:26 AM:

Thank you, Latinists. I will pick the one that lets me say "habemus papadum."

Avram: Yes, and I've been hoping they'd pick a Mome this time.

#348 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 02:15 AM:

OK, I've heard a rumor I want to check.

It goes something like this: When Francis was an archbishop or Cardinal or something in Argentina, he found out that some bishops or priests had been refusing baptism to babies born out of wedlock. He told them they had to baptize the babies, so this isn't a story that reflects badly on Francis.

What weirds me out about that story is that it seems deeply out of character for the RCC (of which, you may be aware, I am not a fan). Even if you believe in slut-shaming, sending little babies to hell because their mothers were sluts* seems like something no Roman Catholic would do or believe in doing.

Is that story pure anti-Catholic propaganda?

*That's not how I see "unwed mothers," you understand. I'm saying that even Roman Catholics with that point of view probably wouldn't want to send the babies to hell.

#349 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 02:51 AM:

Xopher,

I can't provide specific information, but, as you suggest, that would be extremely uncharacteristic behaviour. The Catholic institutions that mistreated unwed mothers on an industrial scale were set up with the express purpose of 'rescuing' their innocent children.

One technical point: the view that unbaptised infants go to hell wasn't ever consensus doctrine -- theologians have been uncomfortable with the idea since at least Augustine, and that's one reason Limbo was invented. The 1905 Catechism supported Limbo, and that's what you'd expect that sort of uncharitable traditionalist to follow as authority.

#350 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 02:53 AM:

Thanks thomas. But even sending them to Limbo...!

#351 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 03:03 AM:

Xopher:

A second thought. It is, unfortunately, conceivable that a priest might have said that an infant couldn't be baptised if it remained in the care of its unwed mother -- since she couldn't be trusted to provide proper instruction in the faith -- and that the infant could only be baptised if it were given up for adoption.

I've never actually heard of this happening, and I'd prefer to think that it didn't, but it would at least have internal narrative consistency.

#352 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 03:11 AM:

thomas, that still doesn't sound much like RCC behavior to me. Granted I'm not the most familiar with it, but it clashes with what I do know.

#353 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 03:13 AM:

Yeah, me either.

It's the closest thing I could think of to the claims you mentioned that I find even conceivable. As a marginally ex-Catholic I'm glad you also don't find it that convincing.

#354 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 03:25 AM:

And while we're on the topic, one of the theologically progressive actions of the previous incumbent was to ditch Limbo. The current position is that early baptism of infants is an important precaution, since it's the only means of salvation with clear biblical support, but that it's reasonable to hope and believe that God will save them on his own if necessary.

#355 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 04:44 AM:

Limbo: an afterlife where the newly dead are expected to pass under an ever-lower series of barriers in the hope of being released to something better.

#356 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 05:05 AM:

Thomas @354

It's not that simple. Officially, nobody knows, but there are good theological reasons for hope that unbaptized infants will be saved. The Limbo of the Infants is one answer to the problem, but the only certainty is that Baptism should not be denied or delayed.

What I think this does mean is that any Priest who refuses Baptism is in serious hot water (or maybe even hot sulphur) especially in light of Mark 10:14.

#357 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 05:57 AM:

Re baptism, the issue is that it's not just a transaction between the priest and the infant (or even the priest, the infant, and God). It involves promises by the parents on the child's behalf to raise the child in the Catholic faith. I have an online friend who is the baptism coordinator for her Catholic parish. While more conservative than I am, I know she would be horrified at the idea of a blanket refusal to baptize children of unwed parents. But she occasionally runs into parents who want the baptism as a cultural thing, or to appease their own parents, but who aren't even slightly engaged in the church themselves and don't seem likely to actually follow through on raising the child Catholic. The decision about what to do goes to the pastor at that point. Most priests are going to lean in the direction of baptizing anyway. But I'm guessing the problem Francis dealt with in Argentina was priests who believed that an unwed parent by definition is not following church teaching and therefore won't raise the child in the faith. His position at the time is evidence of his social justice orientation. I am cautiously optimistic that it helps confirm that he defines "morality" as larger than "sexual morality."

#358 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 06:38 AM:

Some aspects of Catholic theology seem to falter in situations where the Roman Catholic Church doesn't have a monopoly on salvation. Of course, they have the One True Answer, but in terms of logic that is an axiom. It's a question of Faith what the axioms are.

If the teaching is that infants must be Baptised to be assured of Salvation it's arguable that the beliefs of the parents are irrelevant. If they're making a promise to bring the child up as a Catholic, and have no intent of keeping that promise, that's their problem. They're the oathbreakers, not the child.

All these stories about Priests refusing Baptism seem a bit dodgy. Even if the intent of the parents is suspect, what about the Godparents? If they're requesting Baptism for an essentially social reason, is there something about that web of relationships that stops the child being brought up right?

My gut reaction would be to give the parents a stern warning, and Baptise the child.

#359 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 08:13 AM:

Avram #334: As I have had occasion to point out in the past, the pepper (and anything else having to do with Havana) is a habanero. Until such time as the Cubans change the name of their capital to La Habaña the Scotch Bonnet pepper is a habanero, and the aria 'L'amour est un oiseau rebelle' is a habanera.

Su atendo servidor,
El Enojado

(Not, I hasten to add, El Eñojado)

#360 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 08:59 AM:

re 348: It doesn't seem to be a rumor at all, as I've found dozens of news stories on it, including a bunch from last year.

#361 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 09:00 AM:

From what I've been able to pick up here and there of the story, the reasoning for refusing the sacrament of baptism was that as the mother was unmarried, she wasn't following church teachings, and so was not likely to raise the child in line with the precepts of the church. The counter-arguments (I have to do that; we're talking about a Jesuit here) are 1) the woman decided not to get an abortion, so whatever her errors in becoming pregnant, she's deserving of respect and assistance for not taking the easy way out instead of insult 2) baptizing the child can help encourage the parent(s) to live their lives in line with church teachings, and we should not set ourselves up the block their redemption, with a possible side of 3) what has the child done to not deserve the same chances we were given?

Priests can refuse sacraments any time they think it's the right thing to do, starting with baptism and going all the way through to the end of life. Sometimes they're trying to resist marrying people when they can see it's going to be a trainwreck, sometimes they are unwilling to absolve rotters who are entirely unrepentant of the evils they have done, sometimes they're trying to keep a religious sacrament from becoming a purely social event without religious significance to those participating (baptisms, first communions, marriages). Also, sometimes they are being jerks because they are memebers of the human race.

Refusing to baptize a child born out of wedlock probably was, at one point in time, a useful social tool for encouraging the parents to marry (one hopes that this was so that the mother and child could be sure of financial support and not just in the interests of decorum) because everyone in the community would know who and what and why. But in much of the western world that stopped being terribly useful forty years ago.

#362 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 11:50 AM:

On baptism -- am I mistaken, or doesn't the RCC accept lay baptism?

I'll have to look later, but one of the prayer books I have HAS instructions on baptizing someone if a priest isn't available.

(Why yes, I'm a pagan, but I was confirmed* many long years ago, and religions fascinate me...)

*Methodist, for anyone who'd like to know.

#363 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 12:13 PM:

Lori, I know that the Episcopal/Anglican church does; theoretically it's for emergencies, but technically any baptized person can baptize, and any reasonable approximation of the correct words + water is valid. (The 1559 Book of Common Prayer has a lovely procedure for going over an emergency baptism afterwards to see if it "took" or should be re-done once the emergency's over.)

I took advantage of this loophole to baptize my third child, in part as a means of reconciling myself to the fact that having a third child derailed my preparation to enter seminary--which turned out to be a blessing for both me and the Church, not to mention the wonder that said child's existence has since added to the universe.

#364 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 12:25 PM:

Yes, in the Catholic church any person can perform a valid baptism.

#365 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 12:42 PM:

Lay baptism of an adult is absolutely recognized if it is properly recorded and there's doubt about whether it was intended or used the proper form. If there's NO doubt that either of the latter was lacking (e.g. a baptism by a group known to use an improper form) then a regular baptism may be performed; otherwise the alternative is a conditional baptism or the baptism is recognized. The prohibition against anabaptism is incredibly strong, to the point where when Carolyn Irish was elected Episcopal Bishop of Utah, there was a commission formed to determine whether she would need a conditional baptism, since she had only been baptized as a Mormon.1

With an infant baptism the question is a little murkier, because of the intent issue. It's the intent of the baptisand that matters, but in an infant baptism the sponsors (parents and godparents) are acting in proxy for that, so I can see the possibility of doubt over intent if there were a question of the parents' taking the matter seriously had they baptized their own kid after being refused by the priest on this basis. A refusal to accept such a baptism simply because the parents were or had been living in sin is Donatism and is Right Out. Again, though, the
response is a conditional rite and not just ignoring what was done before. I would imagine that most bishops would decide that if the parents did the rite on their own in defiance of the priest, that would count as sufficient intent, and they would direct that the baptism be recorded and be treated as fully valid.


1They decided to accept her Mormon baptism unconditionally given that it had the right form. I personally would have registered doubts about intent to baptize into the church, and I suspect the Catholics would have conditionally baptized on that basis, if not just rejected it outright. The fact that she was baptized by the Mormons, however, is immaterial to the Catholic case: they don't hold that you have to be a Christian in order to baptize. It's germane to the Anglican case, but if they recognize Mormon baptisms due to form and intent then it follows that Mormons are (heretical) Christians and therefore are valid ministers. The Orthodox would say, "you've got to be kidding" and would have (re)baptized her unconditionally.


#366 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 12:51 PM:

re 365: first sentence should read "and there's NO doubt", dangit.

#367 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 02:06 PM:

I'm sure Miss Teresa will be along to comment soon, but, as I recall, at least in Brooklyn, Mormon baptism was depreciated and a baptized Mormon counted as a Virtuous Heathen for baptismal purposes.

#368 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 02:19 PM:

From what I recall, Miss Teresa told me they actually had to send away to Rome to find out, and the answer came back as "Virtuous Heathen." Which was my first exposure to that phrase, and one I recognized immediately as applying to me!

C. Wingate, I'm unclear on something. If parents baptize a child in defiance of the priest, you think that DOES mean they're serious about it, right? Some of your sentences seem to go one way and some the other.

#369 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 02:53 PM:

Sorry, Xopher, I put too many double negatives in there. I believe that a bishop would tend to view baptizing one's own kid as a sign of positive intent, yes.

The hair-splitting about the Mormons is because the Mormons don't intend to baptize into the Church, but into their own church which they definitely think of as being something different from the C/catholic Church. Anglicans et al. do have that intent; they just, um, miss, as it were. Anglicans, like the Orthodox and pretty much everyone else except the Catholics, expect that the proper minister is another Christian. The Orthodox are much pickier about intent to baptize into the Church: it has to be their church, so they don't accept Catholic or Protestant baptisms. There is a difference of opinion over the solution, since they don't as a rule do conditional baptisms: most groups in the USA fix defects in intent with chrismation as an act of economia, but some groups just (re-)baptize. In the case of Bp. Irish I think it would have been wiser all around to have just done a conditional baptism and ordination and removed all doubt, but for whatever reason someone decided they needed to get all theological about it.

#370 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 02:58 PM:

Looks like the Vatican ruled in 2001 that Mormon baptisms were not valid by Catholic standards.

The Catholic Church does recognize many Protestant baptisms, but there has to be a certain degree of common form and intent (as well as common matter, water in this case). It looks like the main issue with Mormon baptisms was that the "Father", "Son" and "Holy Spirit" invoked in Mormon rites do not adequately correspond to the Trinity as defined by the Catholic Church, and therefore the required form and intent for baptism as understood by Catholics are not present in a Mormon baptism. Here's the full explanation that ran in L'Osservatore Romano.

#371 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 03:04 PM:

Thanks, C. And everyone, actually: it's very reassuring.

There are some good things (actually, a LOT of good things—I tend to forget that in my focus on the bad things) about the Roman Catholic Church, and this (baptism of babies is a sincere priority) is one of them. Having it called into doubt, even with a group of renegades, was surprisingly disturbing to me.

#372 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 04:11 PM:

Stamping out Donatism these days in a constant battle. I had to point out to numerous people that the consecration of Gene Robinson was at worst inadvisable, but was in no way invalid; but of course his opponents couldn't settle for calling him a bad bishop. They had to have him magically not be a bishop at all.

#373 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 04:32 PM:

Same thing that leads to Birthers.

#374 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 05:01 PM:

C Wingate @ 372... Stamping out Donatism

Robert Donat, or Peter Donat?

#375 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 05:17 PM:

Serge@374

Or Dunkin' Donat?

#376 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 06:09 PM:

When I "converted" to Episcopalianism, I did so in an Anglo-Catholic parish (high church smells 'n bells, pro-lady, pro-gay) who most assuredly did not recognize my Mormon baptism. A former Mormon and now More Anglo-Catholic Than THou member insisted that they were wrong, specifically citing Bishop Carolyn Irish. They didn't take a terribly hard line though - I was permitted the Eucharist without any raised eyebrows. In the end, I was more than happy to have my sins washed away again. After all, when the Mormons did it, I was only 8 and hardly had any decent sins worth washing away. At nearly 40, I feel I got my money's worth this time.

#377 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 06:22 PM:

Years ago in an argument on rasseff, I said that Mormons weren't Christians and really upset some Mormons. When I said they didn't accept the Nicene Creed, they agreed that they didn't. When I said my definition of Christian was "people who accept the Nicene Creed" they said that wasn't their definition. Since then I've said that Mormons are not Nicene Christians and we've all been happy. On these grounds, their baptism may be Christian but it's not Nicene Christian and needs to be done again.

If Teresa were ever moved to write a companion essay to "God and I" about how she ceased to be a Virtuous Heathen, I'd be really excited to read it.

#378 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 06:35 PM:

Pope Francis was ordained in 1969, on the cusp of vernacularization, so if he ever habitually celebrated routine masses in Latin he can't have done so for very long. The use of Latin is probably far down his checklist of Things To Look At, but I wonder what his opinion is.

#379 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 06:36 PM:

One tricky point about Mormon Baptism, if my understanding is anything like correct, is that you can be baptised into their church without having to know about it. You can even be dead and become, by their rules, a Mormon. (It's a part of why they're so big on genealogy.)

OK guys, if you want to assure my salvation, even rescue me from Hell, thank you for your kind thoughts. But this seems to lead in the direction of a Soul being in two quite different Heavens at the same time, and I don't get it.

#380 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 07:11 PM:

That particular fact is my biggest sticking point with Mormonism, which I suppose is silly of me given how many other good reasons there are to dislike it. But I'm *really really not* OK with the idea that someone might be trying to forcibly yank my soul around, even after I am dead.

The only thing that stops me wandering around in a state of perpetual creeped-outedness about it is that I don't believe a baptism that I wouldn't consent to were I aware of it will have any effect on me.

#381 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 07:41 PM:

379/380
The Mormons say that people proxy-baptized after death have a choice. They've also caught a lot of flak for doing it for Jews.

#383 ::: protestant lurker ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 07:45 PM:

#338 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 07:50 PM:

Tom, what I think we have here is the case of the proverbial atheist who was asked if he believed in Baptism, who replied, "Why, yes. I've seen it done."

I'm sorry, but I think you do a great disservice to anyone who is not of the Roman faith with this statement.

While I have high hopes for all those I love who were brought up as Catholics, the belief that no-one else can believe in the redeeming power of baptism is insulting in the extreme.

Meanwhile, I hope that the new Pope will ring in a new era of openness, sanctity, acceptance, and, most of all, the remembrance of all that Christ taught.

#384 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 08:02 PM:

protestant lurker @383: I think you're misreading Jim there. He didn't intend to imply that the only people who disbelieve in baptism are atheists, or that the only people who believe properly in baptism are Catholics: he was merely pointing to an old story that features an atheist. Beliefs of any others were not intended to be disparaged (nor, even, were beliefs of either side in the story, though they're very different). I say this as a fairly devout agnostic.

#385 ::: protestant lurker ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 08:31 PM:

Tom Whitmore at 384:

The reason I have trouble with both your statement and with Jim MacDonald's is that baptism predates Christ himself.

It was, and is to many, a symbol of regaining purity through cleanliness, something even the most destitute homeless person can appreciate.

You don't need to be Catholic or Protestant to grasp that concept, although it has been the source of many of the great schisms within Christianity.

But ask any Jew about ritual cleanliness, or Hindu or Budhist, or just about any religion under the sun and I think that they will agree with the common man who just needs to feel clean again that there is no feeling quite like the sensation of being bathed in clear water.

And that is the reason I find the comment offensive -- because it defiles the very heart of the ritual of baptism.

#386 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 08:40 PM:

I'm not quite following you. I really do not see how any of what we've said attacks the idea of regaining purity through cleanliness. I don't see any of that in what either of us has said at all. Is this an argument you've had before, with other people? If so, I think you're reading something into our statements that neither one of us (if I'm reading Jim correctly, and I'd bet I am!) intends at all.

What we were looking at is the "use-mention" distinction, rather than at baptism itself. And I think you may be mistaking our mentions of baptism for the use of the concept.

#387 ::: protestant lurker ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 08:46 PM:

#386 ::: Tom Whitmore

I'm familiar with many uses of the word baptism. Baptism by fire, baptism through trials, baptism by sprinkling, baptism by immersion.

But why don't you just let Mr. MacDonald do his own explaining, since you don't seem to grasp my meaning?

#388 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 08:50 PM:

protestant lurker @ 385 : I can't speak to the Christian use of baptism, but I can speak to the Jewish views on ritual cleanliness - while there's a historical argument to be made that ritual immersion in a Mikvah is likely the predecessor to Christian baptism in all its forms, I read your most recent comment on this as a bit of an overextension of what lies at the heart of using a Mikvah.

I'll note from the start here that I'm coming at this as, essentially, an academic topic within Judaism; I've spent a fair amount of time discussing the intricacies of minhag with fellow Jews more religious than I am, but it's a topic of academic interest to me. If a Fluorospherian knows more about this than I do, please sing out.

Yes, the more traditional denominations of Judaism do have a strong belief in ritual purity and the utility of ritual immersion towards that end, but - to my understanding - the idea that immersion in Mikvah would wash away one's sins is incorrect. Full immersion in a Mikvah is used to reachieve a state of ritual purity, but even in the case of conversion, it's not considered to wash away sin.

The ritual might be mechanically similar, but your comment sounds to me like you're treating Christian baptism and Mikvah immersion (not to mention any other non-Christian form of ritual immersion) as directly equivalent, which doesn't make sense to me. I'd say, in Judaism, Yom Kippur fills much the same as baptism on a yearly basis, but that's a separate discussion (and is a gross oversimplification of the Day of Atonement); it's very much not an automatic forgiveness of sin the way I understand baptism to be.

#389 ::: protestant lurker ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 08:58 PM:

#388 ::: Benjamin Wolfe

I am hardly an expert on modern interpretations of Judaic law, but I think that you will find that there are multiple examples of full-body immersion cleansings that were required as either cures or as precessors to God's service in what Christians call the Old Testament.

I should also note that most Christians believe that baptism can and should only occur once within a lifetime, which seems in keeping with the rarity and special nature of these events in the Old Testament.

#390 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 09:08 PM:

389
most Christians believe that baptism can and should only occur once within a lifetime

Which may be reading more into it than most Christians do, especially when there are examples in this thread that show it isn't universal doctrine.

#391 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 09:12 PM:

Carrie, #380: Seconded. It trips both my "non-consensual = wrong" trigger and my "coercive magic = black magic" trigger, and several others having to do with personal boundaries and respect thereof as well. The fact that they not only don't see anything wrong with it, but consider it an important part of their religion, says things about them that I don't believe they want to be saying.

Avram, #382: *giggles* No, I hadn't, and I needed that laugh.

protestant lurker, #383/385: What I saw in that story was a clever bit of wordplay, taking advantage of the fact that "believe" has two rather different meanings. The question was asked using one of them, and answered using the other.

It's rather akin to my favorite response to the question of whether I "believe in" evolution, which is to ask, "Do you believe in that [chair, or other object in immediate environment]?" -- although that involves a somewhat different play on words.

#392 ::: protestant lurker ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 09:24 PM:

#390 ::: P J Evans

I am fully aware that some churches require re-baptism as part of admission to their sect. To which, I can only refer you to Scripture (and, with Wikipedia -- for all its flaws -- and other sources available, why should I make it easy for anyone to confirm their own prejudices by simply reading the texts they have been taught?) There is an accepted text, albeit in many languages and even in different versions based on the denomination. Do the research.

#391 ::: Lee

Baptism is such a central part of every Christian's faith that I say again: it is for Jim MacDonald to explain his words. Nothing else should be acceptable to anyone who calls himself a Christian.

#393 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 09:34 PM:

Michael I @ 375... "Donat forske me, oh my darling"?

#394 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 10:09 PM:

protestant lurker @383: While I have high hopes for all those I love who were brought up as Catholics, the belief that no-one else can believe in the redeeming power of baptism is insulting in the extreme.

I suppose that would be a pretty insulting thing to say. Fortunately, Jim didn’t say it, or anything that even vaguely resembles it, so he’s got nothing to apologize for.

Your own comment about having “high hopes” for the Catholics you know, on the other hand, is a bit odd. What exactly is it that you’re hoping for them?

#395 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 10:10 PM:

392
If you're the only one that doesn't seem to understand what he said, then you may be the one who has the problem.

#396 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 10:16 PM:

Dear Protestant Lurker--

Surely any literate reader ought to be able to tell the difference between believing in the existence of a particular religious rite as practiced by the adherents of a certain faith, and believing in one baptism for the remission of sins.

The wordplay involved in Mr. Macdonald's comment derives from the fact that the querent is using the phrase "believe in baptism" in the second sense, but the respondent is answering as if the term was used in the first sense.

(If humorous wordplay involving the sacraments disturbs you, you really don't want to know about the Episcopal priest of my acquaintance who once referred to the Eucharist as "a piece of God that passeth all understanding.")

#397 ::: Mea ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 10:34 PM:

#392 statement

"Baptism is such a central part of every Christian's faith"

Hm.

I've met a lot of Christians that didnt consider baptism central to their faith. Of course, that depends on how you define Christian, and how you define baptism.

It is my understanding that the "sprinkle with water" baptism isn't one that Quakers do. At least the unprogrammed ones that had such lovely and peaceful services when i was in college, and reponded to my questions by saying that belief in God was entirely optional.

But I'm commenting from a perspective of not labeling myself a Christian, so others who do so self- identify may have a better handle on the scope of diversity.

#398 ::: Mea gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 10:35 PM:

Have a biscuit?

#399 ::: protestant lurker ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 12:18 AM:

I suppose there is something to be said for the number and determination of Mr. MacDonald's defenders, no matter how many times it has been said that that a pun is the lowest form of humor.

The challenge remains.

#400 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 01:37 AM:

Dude, was that an open acknowledgement that your comments at 383 & 385 were not a request for clarification, but an attack?

Because I can tell you that what I said was only what I said -- my understanding of what the joke was -- and not a "defense" in any normal sense of the word. And if you say I meant something else by it, then I will take umbrage.

#401 ::: GlendaP ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 01:51 AM:

protestant lurker @398: no matter how many times it has been said that that a pun is the lowest form of humor

Oh my, you really don't have any idea what community you've wandered into.

#402 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 02:14 AM:

"Puns are the lowest form of humor - unless you think of it first."
- Seamus Zelazny Harper

#403 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 02:20 AM:

In #377, Jo Walton writes:

If Teresa were ever moved to write a companion essay to "God and I" about how she ceased to be a Virtuous Heathen, I'd be really excited to read it.

Amen.

#404 ::: protestant lurker ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 03:03 AM:

#400 ::: GlendaP

I'm sorry, was that meant to be a threat?

I would be happy to respond with the appropriate lawsuit if anyone affiliated with this website should happen to try to use the information I allegedly type in as a means of proving that I am, indeed, a real, human being.

As for any defenses by sockpupets, I have discounted them for what they are.

Mr. MacDonald, I await your apology.

#405 ::: GlendaP ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 03:32 AM:

protestant lurker @403:

Paranoid, much? No, that wasn't a threat. It was an amused observation.

Word play -- including puns -- is considered a high form of art here.

#406 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 03:54 AM:

I've always thought of puns as being among the highest forms of humor: nobody gets hurt, nobody is denigrated, the joke is at nobody's expense, and all can participate in building to higher levels of absurdity and amusement.

Lower forms of humour might include Blonde jokes, racist jokes, Newfie jokes, FAIL macros, slapstick, pratfalls, and laughing at the cluelessness demonstrated by posts by "protestant lurker" in this thread.

#403 ::: protestant lurker, isn't that a bit of a misnomer? It's hard to believe you could write as you do after being a lurker here for very long.

#407 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 04:09 AM:

protestant lurker In response to your comment at 398, allow me to refer you to our gracious hosts' welcome message "The moderators are Avram Grumer, Jim Macdonald, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland." I believe we have many exceptionally good reasons for our collective defense of Jim Macdonald; we value what he does here as a moderator and, more importantly, as a member of the Fluorosphere. None of the other commenters in this thread found his comment at 338 offensive and we have collectively undertaken to try to explain why we, collectively, find his comment to be, in fact, inoffensive, amusing - gasp, even funny - and very much in the general spirit of Making Light.

I posit that the Fluorosphere is, collectively, quite comfortable with making jokes about religion, religious practice(1) and the like. We even like puns(2) here. Furthermore, I would say that your putative challenge is rather nicely refuted by Debra Doyle at 396. To make it abundantly clear, the community does not appear to find Jim's comment offensive. Speaking for myself, I'm still happy to have a discussion - since that's what we do here - but I'd want a real discussion, which isn't what you've been doing tonight.

--

1: What's the difference between leather bondage and wrapping Tefillin? The former is consensual, the latter is a commandment.

2: I want to hear some good puns, jokes and the like on Judaic ritual practice. That said, I do know the one about the Mohel's tip.

#408 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 04:39 AM:

#396 : Debra Doyle

And here I thought that the Holy Spirit was the the piece of God that passeth all understanding....

#409 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 05:06 AM:

Jim and Debra:

Can someone point me to the piece of God that doth not pass understanding?

Asking for a friend.

#410 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 05:22 AM:

Bob Webber, I really like your explication of low vs. high forms of humor. Specifically I like the higher valuation of victimless humor.

All: Someone over at Slactivist actually had quoted Bergoglio regarding the refusal of baptism to babies born out of wedlock, citing this article at The Guardian. Here's the relevant quote:

"In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don't baptise the children of single mothers because they weren't conceived in the sanctity of marriage. These are today's hypocrites. Those who clericalise the church. Those who separate the people of God from salvation. And this poor girl who, rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it into the world, must wander from parish to parish so that it's baptised!"

#411 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 06:23 AM:

Lurker in the Australian sense, I think: "one who has a nefarious purpose", often used jocularly, as in "What's your lurk these days?", which is the equivalent of "What do you do for a crust?"

Crust, of course, comes into it, both ways.

#412 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 07:48 AM:

Huh. I'm all out of Infrapont Chow.

abi @ #409, good point.

Anyone besides me been following Pat Rothfuss's "The Story Board" on YouTube? Ep 5 is my favorite so far (Scalzi, Wheaton AND the Bloggess!), but they've all been good.

#413 ::: protestant lurker ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 08:43 AM:

#408 ::: Jim Macdonald

Had a public figure made such a "joke," I can only imagine what your response would have been.

And yet, you are, by your own design, ambition, and every sign of attempt, a public figure yourself.

Still you hide behind others who assert that "it was just a joke" or that there was a double meaning that I simply missed.

So state it for yourself: what did you mean, why did you say it, and what responsibility do you have to those who took your words to heart?

#414 ::: protestant lurker ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 08:48 AM:

#407 ::: Benjamin Wolfe

I seem to be missing the source of that quotation. Could you give me a bit of guidance?

#415 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 09:19 AM:

protestant lurker @413:

I had hoped you would come back wiser than you went away, having slept off whatever mood or chemistry it was that caused you to post in that fashion. I'm disappointed.

I've read over the entire exchange with Jim, and I don't see any way in which he owes you any kind of apology. Can you please quote, precisely, with reference to comment numbers, the exact text that you feel is problematic, and then explain, clearly and unambiguously, what causes you to think that this text is an offense to you, personally?

Another question to answer—or at least, ask yourself—is, what is your intention in this? What are your long-term goals in this conversation, and in your relationship with this community, and how are your current actions furthering those goals?

Also, the text Benjamin Wolfe @407 quotes is just above the box where you have been typing your comments. Read it. I'm the Abi Sutherland referenced therein, and I'm about the nicest and most sympathetic of the moderators at the moment.

Unfortunately, you haven't managed to convince even me of your good intentions in this conversation. In particular, the contrast between your desire to be spoon-fed information about papal infallibility and your insistence that everyone research baptism and come to agree with your opinions on it does not speak well for your interest in a genuine engagement with others here. What looks to me like egregious fight-picking (though I am willing to see it otherwise if you convince me) and the rather odd "public figure" argument aren't helping either.

It's possible that the charism of this community is not one you share; you strike me as having very little space for respecting the religious choices of others. That's not an approach that will fly here on Making Light. And that's fine—there are many other communities on the internet where you may find yourself more comfortable. In which case, I would suggest that you go find them and make yourself at home.

If, however, you desire to remain here, please do clarify your position so that we can see whether we can live with you.

#416 ::: protestant lurker ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 09:34 AM:

#415 ::: abi

I thought that, simply from my name, that it was clear that I do not believe in the doctrine of Papal infallibility in the slightest.

I also think that, if you spend the time to read my posts in this thread, that you will find likewise.

Further, I feel that I more than adequately explained my objections to Mr. MacDonald's post immediately when I made them.

My refusal to engage in what I feel have been a series of mean-spirited and disingenuous defenses of a moderator are, of course, for you to judge.

I stand by my original accusation: what Mr. MacDonald said was cruel to non-Catholics, indefensible as one who considers himself a great wordsmith, and is thus deserving of an an apology from any human being.

#417 ::: protestant lurker ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 09:42 AM:

#415 ::: abi

By the way, at the risk of seeming excessively literal, it wasn't the listing of moderators that I questioned in the post by #407 ::: Benjamin Wolfe.

It was the editorial, which seems to have the owners of this site according Mr. MacDonald with a status equal to Christ himself.

#418 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 09:50 AM:

protestant lurker @416:

The issue was never whether you believed in it; you simply had not bothered to discover what Catholics believe until it was spoon-fed to you. That's something you could easily remedy, no matter what church you belong to, but you chose not to.

I'll take your further comments as an inability to find any actual text to support your eager lunge at the martyr's palm, and bid you farewell. I'd wish you happiness, but with your desperate desire to find offense where none was present, I don't hold out much hope for it.

And @417:
It was the editorial, which seems to have the owners of this site according Mr. MacDonald with a status equal to Christ himself.

I can't see that anywhere in the post you cite. I think you're having some serious textual interpretation problems right now. I do hope they're transient.

#419 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 09:52 AM:

No explanation is sufficient for someone determined to take offense.

When asked, as I sometimes am, if I believe in UFOs, I always reply that I do, for I have seen many flying objects I cannot identify. I do not, however, believe that Earth has been visited by aliens during recorded history.

#420 ::: protestant lurker ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 09:54 AM:

Goodbye and may you all have the deserves toe seem to desire.

#421 ::: protestant lurker ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 09:58 AM:

#419 ::: beth meacham

That's the problem. No explanation was ever offered.

To all those reading this who have not commented, I offer this suggestion: it is not only politicians, clergy, and other genuinely famous people who have feet of clay. The moderators of this blog do as well.

#422 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 09:58 AM:

And with that last, brave appeal to his brethren in Clan Lurker, who will no doubt be supporting him in the emails, protestant lurker has made his exit. He will no longer be gracing us with his presence.

I'd like to point out that it would be unchivalrous to kick a fellow when he can't kick back, and superfluous to add too much rubric to his already well-exposed position.

(Flounce scoring, however, is fine.)

#423 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 10:03 AM:

"Rhode Island passes."

That's from '1776' and is it a pun?

#424 ::: protestant lurker ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 10:19 AM:

I can't help but notice that you keep amending your post.

As my e-mail is supposed to be kept private, I can only question your own "mood or chemistry."

Just an observation.

#425 ::: Idumea Abacoochee Cowper, Duty Gnome ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 10:40 AM:

Report from Gnome Tower:

Protestant lurker appears to be having a spiritual moment. Unfortunately the spirit in question is l'esprit de l'escalier.

On the whole, I prefer penis extension spam. It leaves less of a miasma around the place.

#426 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 10:44 AM:

Flounce scoring: I deduct a style point or two for not bothering to make the flounce the last comment of the set. Saying "Goodbye forever!" and then immediately continuing the conversation as if nothing had happened does rather ruin the effect.

#427 ::: Teka Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 10:46 AM:

While this particular lurker seems to have missed most of the dustup, she would like it known that she found the baptism joke funny.

@377: I believe that Dorothy Heydt also concluded that Mormons are "Christians, but not Nicene."

#428 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 11:01 AM:

Paul A @425:

As Idumea @424 mentions, he kept trying to post even after I put his comments to the moderation queue. I've banned them completely now. It's amazing how quickly these sorts of things become tedious.

I do hope he finds someplace more to his liking. I'm willing to be charitable and assume he has a best side; maybe he can find an online community that brings that out. But this wasn't it.

#429 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 11:08 AM:

I particularly appreciated this gentle reminder from
#406 ::: Bob Webber

I've always thought of puns as being among the highest forms of humor: nobody gets hurt, nobody is denigrated, the joke is at nobody's expense, and all can participate in building to higher levels of absurdity and amusement.

Lower forms of humour might include Blonde jokes, racist jokes, Newfie jokes, FAIL macros, slapstick, pratfalls, and laughing at the cluelessness demonstrated by posts by "protestant lurker" in this thread.

Ave atque vale, protestant lurker.

#430 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 11:33 AM:

beth, #419: My response to people who ask if I believe in UFOs is twofold: (1) I point out that if they insist it's an alien spacecraft, then it's not an "unidentified" flying object, now is it? and no, I don't believe in flying saucers; (2) no, because as a science fiction reader I understand the difference between science fiction and fantasy.

#431 ::: Local secretary, Union of Lurkers and Allied Commentin Trades ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 11:49 AM:

abi @422: you do realise that the local agreement specifies time and a half for providing email support services after midday on Saturday don't you? And double-time on Sundays?

#432 ::: Edmund Schweppe ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 11:49 AM:

abi @422: (Flounce scoring, however, is fine.)

Fourscore and seven flounces ago ...

#433 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 11:54 AM:

Secretary Brother Lurker @430:

I'm not in your union. I don't see how it's my problem if there are extra email-support costs.

#434 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 12:21 PM:

Aw, I missed the piñata!

However, I'd like to publicly admire Dave Luckett's snark @411.


Also, I've heard a version of Jim's atheist/baptism joke from the Ozarks, where an old man was asked if he believed in infant baptism. In that case it's funny because Christian sects that practice this are less common there than the Baptists and their cousins, who hold out for baptism of adults, for reasons which make good sense in their context.

I expect it's a good thing our visitor isn't around to react to that one either.

#435 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 12:47 PM:

Some of the things above remind me of the time I mentionned the agonizer of Star Trek's Evil Universe, but I misspelled it agnoizer.

#436 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 01:02 PM:

Did anyone ask the guy if he wrote poetry?

And what timezone are the union rules applied in? Have they taken into account the modified time difference between Europe and the USA that currently applies?

(I'm all right. When somebody asks me what time it is, I have written down on this piece of paper.)

#437 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 01:03 PM:

Andrew Brown, whose name is not unknown round these parts, has an interesting post here. Quote: "If you're a religious news journalist most of your job consists of talking to Christians so that they can tell you lies about each other."

(Found here and not intended as a comment on the argument about baptism. Even if you're not interested in religion, do reload the site a few times to get the benefit of the Thomas Hardy Plot Generator in the right sidebar.)

#438 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 01:08 PM:

Serge Broom #423: Only if it's red.

#439 ::: odaiwai ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 01:10 PM:

Dave Bell @ 435 http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/014827.html#1282491: (I'm all right. When somebody asks me what time it is, I have written down on this piece of paper.)

*cough* Well then, what time is it Eccles?

#440 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 01:20 PM:

A quick question: in the past (Algol/Starship vintage), there was a customary paragraph for the letters column that was designed to be a legal release for mail sent to the letter column. I thought that on-line postings had been established as having that release built in? (Mr/Mrs. Lurker, who seems to have lost their Protestant in an industrial accident, comes off as someone who needs to start reading Ken at Popehat to get an idea as what can and can't work involving legal action against online activities.)

#441 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 01:24 PM:

Our dear recent visitor's last two messages were published in error, and have been unpublished again. Not because of the content, but because when I kick someone out the door, they are out the door.

Also, now I need to buy chocolates for Idumea, who was glad to see them no longer stinking up the Gnome Tower and isn't all that delighted to have them back.

#443 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 01:32 PM:

Of course there is a Pagan version of the joke -- or at least, a version of the joke which a prominent Pagan (Starhawk, I think) has told:

Q: "But don't you even believe in the Bible?"
A: "Believe in it? Hell, I've seen one!"

I think she turns it around to describe Wiccans as not "believing" in witchcraft for the same reason that one doesn't "believe" in rocks.

And of course Terry Pratchett's Discworld witches do not believe in the Gods because "it only encourages Them."

(Belated follow-up comment which I hope will not come across as dogpiling: I fervently recognize that "Well, I'm not offended!" isn't sufficient proof of the absence of genuine offense. But this non-Catholic is genuinely confused as to where offense could possibly be perceived, and wishes she understood. I mean, I am capable of being rubbed the wrong way by comments made by well-intentioned Catholics about/to those who have chosen not to be Catholic, but in the just-past-current interaction I simply can't see it.

(Still, there are many unsolved mysteries in life, and I suspect this, for me, will be one of them.)

#444 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 01:42 PM:

Nicole @442:

My best guess was that he felt that the fact that Jim quoted a proverbial atheist as implicitly disbelieving in the redemptive power of the presumptively-in-the-anecdote Catholic baptism was somehow an imputation that non-Catholics aren't Christians. Being a non-Catholic but very much not an atheist, I think he felt slighted.

But that seemed a somewhat...strained reading of the plain text, so I asked for clarification. Didn't get it.

I'm more curious how he got the idea that Patrick and Teresa have conflated Jim with Christ from Benjamin Wolfe @407. There, I have no clue.

#445 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 02:29 PM:

Believe me, abi, I have no idea either.

Would the Gnomes accept tasty cookies in recompense? I can't imagine that troll spoor improves their tower any, and my Amazing Girlfriend and I need a baking project.

#446 ::: praisegod barebones, who is up-to-date with his Union dues. ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 02:47 PM:

Just speculating, but perhaps the verbal echo of Ps 121.3 in the last line of the rubric.

#447 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 02:53 PM:

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little @442: I'm afraid my husband and I have a similar response when confronted with the Barnardo's "Believe in Children" campaign. Believe in them? Of course we believe in them - we can't help but believe in them - we see them around all the time!

#448 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 04:43 PM:

abi, #443: There is a point beyond which "posting from the middle of a nine-day bender" becomes pretty much the only plausible explanation. We've seen it here before now, and we doubtless will again.

#449 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 05:11 PM:

Yet another puzzled Protestant here; I thought Jim's joke was entirely appropriate in the context and didn't see anything negative to anybody about it (especially since anybody who lurks here for longer than one pun-thread can see that there's a wide range of religious diversity and mutual tolerance.)

I'm from the side of the house where baptism is viewed as a symbolic public statement that you're making about salvation, not a ceremony that's necessary to become saved, so it was interesting to see the entirely different analysis that the Catholics have over "does Mormon baptism count?" There aren't many places where you can have a deep discussion on spiritual issues that springs out of a bunch of Latin puns on "who's got the Pope?" and "papas con habaneros".

#450 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 05:34 PM:

abi @ 443... Patrick and Teresa have conflated Jim with Christ

Coming soon, "Monty Python's Life of Jim"?

#451 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 05:45 PM:

Bill Stewart @ 448... "papas con habaneros"

What's that about Irene Papas?

#452 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 05:46 PM:

For that, wouldn't we want "He's Not The Messiah"?

#453 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 01:31 AM:

I just don't hear Patrick and Teresa singing "Jim was a Dreidl Spinner" somehow...

#454 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 01:50 AM:

Dammit! I take ONE DAY to enjoy a Downton Abbey marathon, and miss a whole piñata party! Also, that's what I get for writing comments as I go through a thread...all my remarks at "protestant lurker" have to be deleted now. Drat, drat, and double drat, as some cartoon villain or other said.

Does anyone know what "the deserves toe seem to desire" was intended to say? For that is what I am doing.

Lee 391: Yes, 'believe in' is ambiguous—or actually multiguous if you want to get technical. I "believe in" chanting in front of an idol every morning before breakfast, in the same sense that I believe in brushing my teeth twice a day. I "believe in" the Goddess in the same sense I believe in the keyboard on which I'm typing these words—that is to say, it's a stretch to say you believe in something when in fact you experience it directly.

I "believe in" baptism in the sense that it does occur, and I've observed it. Do I believe it does anything? Yes, in fact I do, but it doesn't seem to do much for babies except make them cry (they get over it fast...except when they're allergic to the chrism and get a red, cross-shaped welt on their forehead, which I've seen happen and which no one but me seemed to regard as Not Boding Well, even though the mother's name was Rosemary*). It does a LOT for the parents and family and church community where it happens.

*Yes, I'm kidding. I have no idea what the mother's name was.

#455 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 02:02 AM:

I'm pretty sure none of us were singing this about Jim: You're the one (from He's Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy)). If you've not seen the whole thing, it seems to be available via Youtube for free (with interstitial ads).

#456 ::: protestant lurker ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 02:16 AM:

#453 ::: Xopher Halftongue

If he's really as smart as he thinks he is, tell him to look up the story of Ruth.

#457 ::: protestant lurker ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 02:18 AM:

And thus apparently the ban has been lifted for me to again call for an apology.

#458 ::: Xopher Halftongue sees banned commenter ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 02:18 AM:

He's baaaaack.

I will refrain from engaging, since he's only here until a mod wakes up.

#459 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 02:20 AM:

He still shows up in View All By, annoyingly.

#460 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 02:34 AM:

I believe he has been sent to dwell with the Gnomes. Woe is he, but not are we.

#461 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 02:34 AM:

<cleans off fly-swatter>

#462 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 02:35 AM:

Thanks, Avram.

#463 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 02:44 AM:

I'll second that - thanks, Avram. Thank the Gnomes for me, if you would.

#464 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 03:21 AM:

Xopher @453: Does anyone know what "the deserves toe seem to desire" was intended to say? For that is what I am doing.

I believe that's "Because for that is what I am doing." It makes a difference, somehow. Gives it weight.

(And no, I can't parse the toe line. Nor even toe it. All your deserves toe belong to us.)

#465 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 03:36 AM:

I too have been puzzling over "Goodbye and may you all have the deserves toe seem to desire."

The best I've been able to come up with is "... have the desserts you seem to desire." There may also be some confusion between "deserve" and "desire". I sometimes do that, where I'll mix a couple words together to try to come up with something that blends their meanings, and then unintentionally scatter some of them into places in the sentence where they don't really belong.

And I don't want to talk about how my brain got to "toe preserves".

#466 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 05:56 AM:

It rather deomonstrates something that an allusion to having the time written on a piece of paper can be picked up by the Fluorosphere, but a certain lurker's thinking, and his responses to requests for clarification. leads ultimately to disdain.

I am not entirely sure what it demonstrates, but I can recognise the buttered side of the toast.

#467 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 07:34 AM:

@463 I am not entirely sure what it demonstrates, but I can recognise the buttered side of the toast.

There is community, and there is confusion, and the distinction between them is left as an exercise for the readers?

#468 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 07:51 AM:

Jeremy Leader @ 462: And I don't want to talk about how my brain got to "toe preserves".

Via toe jam, of course.

Back to the recent trolling: I think it also demonstrates how extremely tenacious a misapprehension can be, if the misapprehending person feels strongly about the subject. I have observed this tendency in myself.

#469 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 07:54 AM:

I think it demonstrates that politeness helps in online interactions.

#470 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 08:42 AM:

At risk of feeding the troll:

protestant lurker #387

But why don't you just let Mr. MacDonald do his own explaining, since you don't seem to grasp my meaning?

I don't grasp your meaning either. Nor, it seems, did any of the several who commented to ask what in the world you were on about.

What I wrote was, (#338):

Tom, what I think we have here is the case of the proverbial atheist who was asked if he believed in Baptism, who replied, "Why, yes. I've seen it done."

Any offense you found in those words you put there yourself.

You were offered many opportunities to explain what you meant. You were offered many explanations of the plain, obvious, simple, interpretation that any reasonable, rational, individual would put on my words.

You have lost the ability to comment here, due entirely to your own continued boorish behavior, despite the clear warnings you received. Therefore you can no longer explain what you meant, assuming such an explanation was ever possible.

Here is what you've been waiting for: I do not owe you, or anyone, any kind of apology for my comment. Nor shall you receive one, now or ever.

I do not expect, nor do I desire, any kind of reply from you, here or anywhere else.

Good day to you, sir.

#471 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 11:47 AM:

Papas con habaneros? Why, yes, extra-spicy home fries sound like a wonderful idea! With onions, certainly. And bacon, cooking them in the bacon grease? Or just doing them in olive oil? And then poached or over-easy eggs served over them.

Alas, I'm the only one with a high enough heat tolerance in the house, so I won't be making them. :(

#472 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 12:11 PM:

"Papas con habaneros" makes me imagine the Pope wearing a large pepper-shaped hat along with his robes.

#473 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 04:33 PM:

#469 ::: Erik Nelson:

If Cardinal Keith O'Brien had been elected to the papacy, his mitre might've been a Scotch Bonnet once he had donned it, ipso facto.

#474 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2013, 12:51 AM:

Rikibeth, I understand olive oil isn't a good one to cook potatoes in. I'm told they tend to soak up a lot of it, which doesn't sound bad, but apparently it's too much to enjoy.

Why olive oil should do this with potatoes and other oils don't is a complete mystery to me. And I haven't tried it myself.

#475 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2013, 02:03 AM:

I'd say that cooking potatoes in olive oil is a very tasty idea, Xopher - a Spanish tortilla is, as I understand it, exclusively cooked in olive oil. Here's a recipe from Mark Bittman at the Times, if you're curious.

I've made a lot of those over the last few years; I never use a cup of oil (more like a few tablespoons at most), but they're a good solution for the problem of needing something tasty, cheap and filling. I'll probably wind up making at least one over Passover, since there's no issue with potatoes and eggs.


#476 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2013, 03:00 AM:

I have a suspicion that some elements of the media have been trying to dig out dirt on the new Pope. Here in Britain, in particular, any mention of Argentina can provoke an excess of oral froth in some quarters. And out oh-so-clever Prime Minister seems to have responded.

There has, over the last few years, been an increasing level of political rhetoric about the Falklands/Malvinas from Argentina, and so a referendum was held in the Falklands. Conclusion: 1513 votes for no change, 3 votes against the status quo.

A couple of days later we have a new Pope from Argentina. Now, whatever you might think, or want to think, about his nature, it is pretty obvious that he has learned his politics in a very tough school, and he doesn't say anything. What gets dug out is what he said at a memorial service for the Argentinian dead of the war, and I reckon that it would have been pastorally ill-advised for him to have said anything different: the dead believed they had right on their side.

It's a standard enough piece of thinking in any war.

Going by other things he has said, over the years, I doubt he would dismiss the referendum result in the way that the politicians of Argentina are.

Meanwhile, David Cameron cracks a joke about white smoke over the Falklands.

Remember, there's no Papal word on the question, just an assumption that, because he was born in Argentina, he will follow the line of the Argentinian politicians.

I don't think much of our Prime Minister, and this doesn't change my opinion. But I remember how he looked better in his early days in the job.

That almost-adulation of the new leader is another one of those constant features of politics. But I think I have reason to be hopeful about the Pope.

David Cameron is just another sociopathic corporate lickspittle, apparently incapable of finding a solution to a problem that doesn't inflict pain on people. And that is beginning to look like another constant of politics...

Polite words sometimes fail me, but at least we have a Pope.

#477 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2013, 11:49 AM:

Xopher at 471: I use olive oil when I cook potatoes, and have never noticed a problem. Cut 'em up, drizzle with olive oil, spice as you wish, roast them at a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes. Yum.

#478 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2013, 12:01 PM:

Dave:

The problem is not so much that a particular leader is a sociopathic corporate lickspittle. Instead, it's the large scale political system that ensures that those who make it to the top are pretty much always sociopaths willing to lick the spittle of anyone who can help them advance or stay in power. I can't really say for certain this applies to the UK, as I don't know your politics as well as my own country's, but it's a major feature of US politics.

#479 ::: David Wald ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2013, 12:27 PM:

I've often roasted potatoes in olive oil as well, with no problem beyond eating too many tasty potatoes at a sitting. The only difficulty I can think of with olive oil is that its flavor can permeate your food; but that's only a problem if you didn't want the taste of olive oil in your food.

#480 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2013, 12:52 PM:

David W., #476: And if you do have issues with the flavor of olive oil, light sesame oil makes an excellent alternative. I can't stand the appetizer (commonly served in Italian restaurants) of small bread slices with olive oil for dipping, but there's a Middle Eastern place here that does the same thing using sesame oil and I have to keep myself from pigging out on it.

#481 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2013, 01:41 PM:

With apologies for extending a digression, but I think the issue with potatoes and olive oil is specific to deep-frying--olive oil starts to burn below the optimal frying temperature, so frying in olive oil (like frying in any too-cool oil) gets the potatoes to soak up too much fat.

#482 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2013, 06:01 PM:

Dave Bell @ #463

Of course, advances in technology will eventually make that joke even less comprehensible - they're halfway there with e-ink and flexible displays already.

ObSF Would Miles ever have referred to the ambrosia as "Buggy Whip"?

#483 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2013, 06:04 PM:

SamChevre@478, smoke point can be a big issue with frying, so you're probably right. Extra virgin olive oil has a fairly low smoke point (Wikipedia says 375F), but light refined olive oil has enough of the interesting parts removed that its smoke point is 468F. Refining other oils similarly makes a big difference (as does making ghee out of butter.)

#484 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2013, 06:08 PM:

Olive oil and potatoes: SamChevre has the issue right.

#485 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2013, 07:53 PM:

Xopher, SamChevre: that makes sense. I'm not in the habit of deep-frying, but if I were, I'd never consider using olive oil for it. Soybean, canola, peanut oil... not olive.

But for pan-frying or roasting potatoes, olive oil is my go-to.

Except for shredded hash browns. Those? I use butter.

#486 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2013, 09:44 PM:

So this thread has gone from the Vatican to the frying pan?

#487 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2013, 12:06 AM:

Serge, mea minima culpa.

#488 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2013, 05:17 AM:

Bruce E. Durocher II @466: I think it demonstrates that politeness helps in online interactions. Well, yes. And I've noticed it also helps in RL conversations. In particular, I've had a couple of interactions in which a group I lead has been in potential conflict with other groups for use of particular parts of a shared, public space. Imminent confrontation rapidly turned into fruitful working together to resolve the problem, simply by my being polite and friendly, and expressing good will and intent of real engagement. Amazing how effective that can be.

#489 ::: Fragano Ledgister hath once more been Gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2013, 08:51 AM:

Given the entry of Olive Oyl, can Popeye be far behind?

#490 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2013, 08:52 AM:

No, I have not been gnomed. I didn't notice the header until it was too late. My apologies to the Gnomes and their home in Zurich.

#491 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2013, 03:39 PM:

Pope Francis tasks cardinals with studying reform of Catholic Church

Pope Francis has appointed a group of eight cardinals from around the world to look into ways of reforming the Catholic Church, the Vatican said Saturday.

Avoiding impropriety is not sufficient. It is also necessary to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

#492 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2013, 04:24 PM:

488
It's somewhat impressive that only one of the cardinals involved has anything to do with the Curia as it currently exists.
I think Frank-the-pope intends actual reform of at least some things.

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