Total Depravity: The Thieving Fornicating Priest Edition

A Roman Catholic priest who fell in love with his housekeeper defrauded his parish of more than £50,000 while lavishing her and her daughters with gifts. Father John Reid, 70 was supposed to live a simple life, but spent £1,200 on a canteen of cutlery, was a member of the Sunday Times Wine Club and spent £80 on oysters and smoked salmon while holidaying in Scotland.

Jane Waugh, prosecuting, said the priest, now living in Stockton, had joined the parish in 2009 and accounts showed spending increased fourfold in some areas after he took over. She said “female clothing” had been found in the bedrooms and passports belonging to the housekeeper Gillian Leddy and her two daughters had been found in the safe.  The court heard that Fr Reid told police he had fallen in love with Gillian Leddy, and saw her daughters, Veronica and Alice, as “the family that he never had”.

During the inquiry, it emerged that the priest gave property and money to the Leddys on a “large scale”, buying two homes each for Veronica and Alice, a car each and financing a cafe business for them. He also gave them both substantial amounts of cash. But Ms Waugh said the money for these gifts came from an inheritance of the priest, not the result of fraud.  Fr Reid accepted taking the Leddys out to eat “a few times a week”. Over the four years he was at St Cuthbert’s, his basic remuneration should have totalled £31,455.

Etc.  Ick.

Great News From the Genizah Research Unit

From their facebook page-

A new search tool which facilitates the exploration of the Taylor-Schechter Cairo Genizah Collection is now available.

The keyword metadata provides a new way of searching and browsing the Collection both across broad subject areas and around distinctive items of vocabulary or key concepts. Furthermore, the interface is able to suggest similar items that might be of interest to the user, based on the similarity of the accrued data.

You can find the search slider here: by scrolling to the bottom of the page. A login is required (various login options are given).

To read more about the project through which this tool was developed:

Expertise Matters

Read this.

The attack on expertise was given its most visceral form by British politician Michael Gove during the Brexit campaign last year when he famously claimed, “people in this country have had enough of experts.” The same kinds of issues, however, are also at stake here in the U.S. in our discussions about “alternative facts,” “fake news” and “denial” of various kinds. That issue can be put as a simple question: When does one opinion count more than another?

By definition, an expert is someone whose learning and experience lets them understand a subject deeper than you or I do (assuming we’re not an expert in that subject, too). The weird thing about having to write this essay at all is this: Who would have a problem with that? Doesn’t everyone want their brain surgery done by an expert surgeon rather than the guy who fixes their brakes? On the other hand, doesn’t everyone want their brakes fixed by an expert auto mechanic rather than a brain surgeon who has never fixed a flat?

Every day, all of us entrust our lives to experts from airline pilots to pharmacists. Yet, somehow, we’ve come to a point where people can put their ignorance on a subject of national importance on display for all to see — and then call it a virtue.

Read it all.

World Health Day, Depression, and Luther

Today is World Health Day and the focus this year is on depression.  Luther knew a bit about that subject so it might be worth sharing this observation of his:

“And after I had made the profession [of obedience to the Augustinian Order] I was congratulated by the Prior, convent, and Father-confessor on the ground of being now an innocent child, returning pure from baptism. And certainly I could most willingly have rejoiced in the glorious fact that I was such an excellent man, who by his own works (so that was the popular view in spite of all the dogmatic warnings against it), without Christ’s blood, had made himself so beautiful and holy, and that so easily too, and in such a short time.

But although I listened readily to such sweet praise and splendid language about my own deeds, and let myself be taken for a wonderworker, who in such an easy-going way could make himself holy and could devour death and the devil to boot, etc., nevertheless there was no power in it all to sustain me. For when even a small temptation came from death or sin I succumbed, and found there was neither baptism nor monkery that could help me; thus I had now long lost Christ and His baptism. I was then the most miserable man on earth; day and night there was nothing but wailing and despair, so that no one could keep me under restraint.…

God be praised that I did not sweat myself to death, otherwise I should have been long ago in the depths of hell with my monk’s baptism. For what I knew of Christ was nothing more than that He was a stern judge, from whom I would have fled, and yet could not escape.”

Accordingly, then, after his departure from Papistry, he could remark to his dinner companions-

“When I was in spiritual distress a gentle word would restore my spirit. Sometimes my confessor said to me when I repeatedly discussed silly sins with him, ‘You are a fool. God is not incensed against you, but you are incensed against God. God is not angry, with you, but you are angry with God.’ This was magnificently said, although it was before the light of the gospel.

“Right here at this table, when the rest of you were in Jena, Pomeranus sometimes consoled me when I was sad by saying, ‘No doubt God is thinking: What more can I do with this man? I have given him so many excellent gifts, and yet he despairs of my grace!’ These words were a great comfort to me. As a voice from heaven they struck me in my heart, although I think Pomeranus did not realize at the time what he had said and that it was so well said.

“Those who are troubled with melancholy,” he [Martin Luther] said, “ought to be very careful not to be alone, for God created the fellowship of the church and commanded brotherliness, as the Scriptures testify, ‘Woe to him who is alone when he falls.’ etc. [Eccles. 4:10]. To be gloomy before God is not pleasing to him, although he would permit us to be depressed before the world. He does not wish me to have a long face in his presence, as he says, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked’ [Ezek. 33:11] and ‘Rejoice in the Lord’ [Phil. 4:4]. He desires not a servant who does not expect good things of him.

“Although I know this, I am of a different mind ten times in the course of a day. But I resist the devil, and often it is with a fart that I chase him away. When he tempts me with silly sins I say, ‘Devil, yesterday I broke wind too. Have you written it down on your list?’ When I say to him, ‘You have been put to shame,’ he believes it, for he does not want to be despised. Afterward, if I engage him in further conversation, I upbraid him with the pope and say, ‘If you do the same as he does, who is your pope that I should celebrate him? Look what an abomination he has prepared, and it continues to this day!’ Thus I remind myself of the forgiveness of sin and of Christ and I remind Satan of the abomination of the pope. This abomination is so great that I am of good cheer and rejoice, and I confess that the abomination of the papacy after the time of Christ is a great consolation to me. Consequently those who say that one should not rebuke the pope are dreadful scolds. Go right ahead and inveigh against the pope, especially if the devil disturbs you about justification. He often troubles me with trivialities. I don’t notice this when I’m depressed, but when I feel better I recognize it easily.

“Well, then, our furious foe has done us much harm. I know that I shall see him and his flaming missiles in the last day. As long as we have pure teaching he will not harm us, but if the teaching is wrong we are done for. But praise be to God, who gave us the Word and also allowed his only Son to die for us! He did not do this in vain. Accordingly we should entertain the hope that we are saints, that we are saved, and that this will be manifest when it is revealed. Since Christ accepted the thief on the cross just as he was and received Paul after all his blasphemies and persecutions,38 we have no reason to despair. As a matter of fact, all of us must be saved just as the thief and Paul were. Good God, what do you think it means that he has given his only Son? It means that he also offers whatever else he possesses. We have no reason, therefore, to fear his wrath, although we must continue to fear on account of the old Adam, who is still unable to understand this as it ought to be understood.

If we had only the first three words of the Creed, ‘I believe in God the Father,’ they would still be far beyond our understanding and reason. In short, it does not occur to man that God is Father. If it did, man could not live for a single moment. Accordingly in this infirm flesh we must have faith, for if we were capable of fully believing, heaven would already be here. There is therefore no reason to fear, in so far as the object of fear is concerned, and yet we cannot understand and are compelled on account of the weakness of our flesh to suffer assaults of fear and desperation.

Thus the catechism remains lord, and there is nobody who understands it. I am accordingly compelled to pray it every day, even aloud, and whenever I happen to be prevented by the press of duties from observing my hour of prayer, the entire day is bad for me. Prayer helps us very much and gives us a cheerful heart, not on account of any merit in the work, but because we have spoken with God and found everything to be in order.

“Having been taught by experience I can say how you ought to restore your spirit when you suffer from spiritual depression. When you are assailed by gloom, despair, or a troubled conscience you should eat, drink, and talk with others. If you can find help for yourself by thinking of a girl, do so.

“There was a bishop who had a sister in a convent. She was disturbed by various dreams about her brother. She betook herself to her brother and complained to him that she was again and again agitated by bad dreams. He at once prepared a sumptuous dinner and urged his sister to eat and drink. The following day he asked her whether she had been annoyed by dreams during the night. ‘No,’ she responded. ‘I slept well and had no dreams at all.’ ‘Go, then,’ he said. ‘Take care of your body in defiance of Satan, and the bad dreams will stop.’

“But this you ought to know, that other remedies are suitable for other persons. Copious drinking benefits me when I am in this condition. But I would not advise a young person to drink more because this might stimulate his sexual desire. In short, abstinence is beneficial for some and a drinking bout for others. Augustine says wisely in his rule, ‘Not equally for all because you are not all equally strong.’ So he speaks about the body and so we can speak about illnesses of the spirit.”

The Bee Stings the Mall-ish ‘Church’

After shopping for over three hours Sunday afternoon, the Gibson family suddenly realized they were actually on a megachurch campus, and not at a local mall as they had originally thought, sources confirmed.

The family came to the realization after they made a wrong turn near a vendor selling T-shirts and hats, leading them into the church’s auditorium rather than the fair-trade, artisan coffee shop they were trying to get to.

“I told you we should have taken a shortcut between the skate shop and book store,” one of the Gibson boys reportedly told his mom. “It clearly said on the mall map back there that was the fastest way to get over to the food court.”

“What’s this big room for?” Mrs. Gibson asked. “Maybe they have concerts or something on weekends. Oooh, or maybe this is where Santa comes to take pictures with the kids.”

But suddenly, the family realized in horror they were standing on a church campus rather than a shopping mall, causing them to flee the property, driving out of the parking lot to the identical mall across the street.


A Damning Non-Partisan Evaluation of Donald Trump’s Mendacity

“Politifact, the non-partisan, Pulitzer Prize winning fact checking organization, has determined that Donald Trump is the most dishonest politician they’ve ever evaluated. Of the unique statements he has made, 70% have been deemed to be some sort of lie. Of the 30% remaining, most of those statements were deemed to be at least partially dishonest as well — leaving only 4% of what Trump has said to be completely true.

That means the man tells some sort of falsehood 96% of the time. Only a fool would believe the words that come out of his mouth. He is the most dishonest President in American history. He may be the most dishonest person in this country. If anyone else lied 96% of the time that words came out of their mouth, we would sincerely assume they had mental health challenges. If he makes 100 statements, 96 of them are at least somewhat dishonest. That is not normal. He is not normal.

So, when he says these airstrikes were motivated by his compassion for Syrian children, I don’t think that statement falls in his tiny 4% window of truth. I just don’t.”

-Shaun King

The Bee Stings the Marginally Committed

Once again, nail on the head.

Local father Trevor Michelson, 48, and his wife Kerri, 45, are reeling after discovering that after 12 years of steadily taking their daughter Janie to church every Sunday they didn’t have a more pressing sporting commitment—which was at least once every three months—she no longer demonstrates the strong quarterly commitment to the faith they raised her with, now that she is college-aged.

Trevor Michelson was simply stunned at the revelation. “I just don’t understand it. Almost every single time there was a rained-out game, or a break between school and club team seasons, we had Janie in church. It was at least once per quarter. And aside from the one tournament in 2011, we never missed an Easter. It was obviously a priority in our family—I just don’t get where her spiritual apathy is coming from.”

“I can’t tell you how often we prayed the prayer of Jabez on the way to a game,” added Janie’s mother.

“You know, the more I think about it, the more this illustrates how the church just keeps failing this generation,” lamented Trevor, citing a recently-googled study by Barna or someone.

The Michelsons further noted plans to have a chat with the pastor of their church after their younger son Robert’s soccer season calms down a bit.

Yup.  Legion.

Michelle Bachmann: Winner of This Week’s Dilly Award

Politicians should never pretend to be theologians.  Because they aren’t.  And Bachmann is a prime example.

While speaking last week on the Last Days radio program “Understanding the Times with Jan Markell,” former GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann linked political advocacy on the left with the rise of the Antichrist.

Bachmann said that Donald Trump’s opponents, much like the people who built the Tower of Babel, are rebelling against God to bring about “the creation of a manmade, one-world system. And scripture tells us that in the End Times, that is what Antichrist will be, he will be a part of a one-world system.”

“There are people who reject Judeo-Christian truth and instead want to insert and usurp control of all of our lives with a global, economic and political government,” she said.

Here’s your Dilly.  You certainly deserve it.

From Rome to Zurich

97463From Rome to Zurich, between Ignatius and Vermigli brings notable scholars from the fields of Reformation and Early Modern studies [together] …. Touching Protestant scholasticism, Reformation era life writing, Reformation polemics – both Protestant and Catholic – and with several on theology proper, inter alia, the essays collected here by a group of international scholars break new ground in Reformation history, thought, and theology, providing fresh insights into current scholarship in both Reformation and Catholic Reformation studies. The essays take in the broad scope of the 16th century, from Thomas More to Martin Bucer, and from Thomas Stapleton to Peter Martyr Vermigli.

Contributors include: Emidio Campi, Maryanne Cline Horowitz, A. Lynn Martin, Thomas McCoog, SJ, Joseph McLelland, Richard A. Muller, Eric Parker, Robert Scully, SJ, and Jason Zuidema.

The volume is comprised of the following:

Introduction: The Editors

  • Reminiscences:
    I. An Irish-American Jesuit in the Madison Mafia. A. Lynn Martin
    II. Joseph McLelland
  • Bio-Bibliography O’Donnelly


  • Mourning in Lonely Exile: the Irish Ministry of William Good, S.J. – Thomas M. McCoog, S.J.
  • Man of Conscience, Martyr, and Saint: Thomas More’s Life and Death in the Memory of the English Catholic Community – Robert Scully, S.J.
  • Thomas Stapleton: Loathes Calvin; will travel – Gary W. Jenkins
  • Sixteenth- and Early Seventeenth-Century Ideas of Imagination – Maryanne Cline Horowitz
  • Calvinist Thomism Revisited: William Ames (1576-1633) and the Divine Ideas – Richard A. Muller
  • ‘Saint Dionysius’: Martin Bucer’s Transformation of the Pseudo-Areopagite – Eric M. Parker
  • “Protestant Monasticism between the Reformation Critique and New Monasticism” – Jason Zuidema
  • Cognition and Action: Conversion and ‘virtue ethics’ in the Commonplaces of Peter Martyr Vermigli – Torrance Kirby
  • Was Peter Martyr a grandfather of the Heidelberg Catechism? A relecture of Questions 47 and 48 against the background of Peter Martyr’s Christological controversy with Johannes Brenz – Emidio Campi


As is the case with every Festschrift, the essays here collected aim to honor aspects of the honoree’s academic contributions.  This one highlights the vast interests of its recipient which extend quite widely to include such topics as Vermigli and monasticism and Calvinism and anti-Calvinism and others besides.

And like all such collections there are good essays and excellent essays.   Three here stand out.  First, Gary Jenkins’ wonderfully written explanation of Stapleton’s hatred of Calvin and Calvinism is superbly entertaining.  Jason Zuidema’s investigation of Protestant monasticism is both eye opening and enlightening.  And Emidio Campi’s work on the Heidelberg Catechism and Brenz is, as is the case with all of Campi’s work, a demonstration of the apex of historical knowledge.

Time is too short to engage with every essay so I would like to spend the remainder of the review engaging Jenkins’ work on Stapleton.   Stapleton, like so many figures in the history of the Church, is, I confess, a person previously unknown to me.  Jenkins’ chief accomplishment in his essay is to bring to life and light a man who clearly despised the heretic Calvin and was unafraid to speak his mind about him and his teachings.

As Jenkins notes:

For Stapleton, a prime evil afflicting Calvin was the notion of certitude (p. 78).

Calvin, in short, annoyed Stapleton precisely because Calvin was so sure of his views and so certain of his correctness.  Jenkins also observes

While Stapleton spent enormous effort in defending both Catholic Eucharistic doctrine and the Catholic doctrine of the authority and jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff and the Church herself, the question of justification held the primary place in Stapleton’s mind as explanatory of the errors of Protestantism (p. 77).

And quite interestingly

For Stapleton, Calvin had so twisted the truth of Christianity that it was impossible to believe that he even worshiped the Christian God. In short, Calvin was an atheist, for he had so wildly corrupted the moral order that it stood unrecognizable in Stapleton’s mind as anything Christian (p. 74).

What I find so intriguing here is the fact that Stapleton, and English Catholic, had many of the same attitudes towards Calvin that our own modern day Arminians (Weslyans) do.  It’s passing odd that Catholics like Stapleton and Arminians like Wesley could find common ground in their unhidden disdain for Calvin.

There really is nothing new under the sun.  Not even hatred of Calvin.

Jenkins entire essay is a case study in English Catholic contempt for Calvinism.  It is no accident, then, that the concluding lines nicely summarize the situation:

It probably did not help Calvin’s standing in his [i.e., Stapleton’s] eyes that so many of his fellow English looked to Calvin, though ironically, many, like bishop Jewel, looked to Zurich. This Zurich turn of course was not the case when he wrote “contra Guillelmum Whitakerum Anglo- Calvinistam.” It is no jump, therefore, to assert that Stapleton the Catholic apologist saw in Calvin the star guiding so many of those who effected both his vagabond life and the odyssey of the exile English Catholic community.

Calvin, for Stapleton, was the root cause of all his struggles.

This is a very useful collection and I commend it to you and recommend it for inclusion in your University or College library (the cost being rather prohibitive for personal libraries unless researchers are engaged in examining a rather slim and concentrated period of the history of the Church).

Trump and the Syrian Babies and the Blood on American Hands

Donald Trump has rightly expressed concern for the children of Syria (though he seems to care nothing for the adults of that country being systematically exterminated by the butcher Assad).  So, in response to Assad’s war crimes what does Trump do?

  • He informs the Russians that he is ordering a strike.
  • The Russians inform their Syrian allies.
  • The Syrians move their equipment from the strike site.
  • Trump’s strike is carried out.
  • Trump can boast that he is doing something for the ‘Syrian babies’.
  • Trump’s gullible followers can applaud his decisive leadership.

The fact is, this strike was a publicity stunt.  Did Trump truly care for someone other than himself he would throw open wide the doors of America and airlift Syrian children and their parents who live in areas where Assad’s butchers are killing them into our country.

But Trump won’t do that.  Because Americans love war.  They are impressed by it.  Even if it is waged as a diversionary farce by a man who never should have been elected Commander in Chief.  Consequently it isn’t just Trump who has hands covered with the blood of Syrian children (and their parents) it is all those who have enabled and continue to enable him to carry out his vile policy of hatred as manifested in his (and their) refusal to welcome Syrian refugees.