Picky, picky, picky.

Before anyone gets twisty knickers, let me begin by stipulating that Roger Ebert was a fine, fine man and deserved a glorious funeral fully celebrating his amazing life. But I keep coming back to this essential conflict. Ebert, on March 1 of this year:

I consider myself Catholic, lock, stock and barrel, with this technical loophole: I cannot believe in God. I refuse to call myself a atheist however, because that indicates too great a certainty about the unknowable.

Roger Ebert’s funeral was Monday at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago.

It so happens his statement pretty much describes me, although I wouldn’t go with the “lock, stock and barrel” part. My morals and values were shaped by my Catholic upbringing, but I can no longer say with confidence there’s a God watching over us all. I, too, stop short of atheism, because it requires the same certainty. If anyone asks, I say I’m a hopeful agnostic who welcomes a sign from on high, as long as it falls short of Job’s. Well short.

This is what I have always called cultural Catholicism, which is like secular Judaism — yes to the Seder, no to the synagogue. Catholics and Jews have suffered historic prejudice, and this may be why people can shed the belief, but keep the tribalism. Whatever. I don’t go to church anymore, ask very little from it and admire the good works the church still does, bringing God to some truly godforsaken places.

But when I made inquiries about having Kate baptized in the One True, I was presented with a series of conditions — membership in a congregation, my marriage affirmed by the priest, and only then would the original sin be expunged from her baby soul’s criminal record.

And I considered this and decided, you know, I don’t even believe this stuff anymore. And that was that. Guilt dogged me into bringing her back for a while when she was around 2 or 3, and still, the flame could not be coaxed to grow. And then the Scandal broke, and it was game over.

I still feel Jesus out there from time to time, but I don’t mistake it for religion.

So Roger Ebert’s funeral was yesterday. I asked the internet, via Twitter, how a man who wrote, “I cannot believe in God” qualified for a cathedral sendoff, and the best answer I got was, “because he was a member.” He certainly lived a life many Catholics would find admirable, full of kindness and charity and love and joy. But every Mass that is celebrated contains the profession of faith, the Nicene Creed, which begins with these lines:

We believe in God, the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
and all that is seen and unseen.

Ebert also said this, about death, in a blog entry after his disfigurement:

I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear…I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state.

Those must have been some very strange prayers Monday, for the soul that animated Ebert’s life and consciousness, and especially the Nicene Creed, which ends:

We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.

I hope someone had enough of a sense of humor to add, “Or, y’know, whatever.”

And if you’re wondering why I can’t turn my head to this mild inconsistency, this is what was going on in the Archdiocese of Detroit yesterday:

A Detroit professor and legal adviser to the Vatican says Catholics who promote gay marriage should not try to receive holy Communion, a key part of Catholic identity.

And the archbishop of Detroit, Allen Vigneron, said Sunday that Catholics who receive Communion while advocating gay marriage would “logically bring shame for a double-dealing that is not unlike perjury.”

Never ever ever ever ever going back.

Neil Steinberg attended the funeral, and asked much the same question:

Mass was officiated by a trio of priests — Monsignor Daniel Mayall, parish pastor of Holy Name, the Rev. Michael Pfleger, St. Sabina’s firebrand and the Rev. John F. Costello, special assistant to the president of Loyola University, who delivered a homily that showed off his Jesuit training by explaining — without ever drawing attention to the fact he was explaining — a question perhaps on the mind of many: how Chicago’s most famous agnostic and public doubter of all doctrines ended up being delivered up to heaven at the city’s preeminent Catholic cathedral.

The answer: He found God — well, a version of God, Costello said, “a new God, one of ironic compassion, of overpowering generosity, of racial love” — at the movie theater.

Change of subject!

I think I may have mentioned, Kate’s bass teacher, Dan Pliskow, is well into his 70s and a wealth of information about jazz history in this very jazzy city. He played in the house band at the Playboy Club for a time in the early ’60s. He recently started uploading his vast photo archive to the Internet, and I asked if he had any Bunny pictures. He did:


Click to enlarge, gents. But he also had this in the file:

11,728 PLAYBOY

Speaking of Catholic priests. When the club opened, it was announced that the Bunnies would work for no base wage, tips only. The unions responded by picketing the club during its preview run, and a few malcontents slashed tires and convertible tops of visiting guests. They didn’t screw around. Although you should spare no tears for the Bunnies, who earned dolla dolla bills, y’all, for as long as they could tolerate the heels, the smoke and the mobsters.

Everyone always looks at the boobs in those outfits. I think what makes them is the cuffs and collar.

Sorry for no update yesterday. We were invited to a “Mad Men” party and it ran through my blogging time. And so the week begins.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events |

53 responses to “Picky, picky, picky.”

  1. Dexter said on April 9, 2013 at 1:54 am

    What a strange day Monday was. Thatcher died. http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/04/08/the-real-thatcher-what-she-really-believed-in-was-not-liberty-but-power/

    Annette passed away.

    Michigan was just outplayed by the best team in the men’s NCAA basketball, Louisville, and lost by a couple baskets.

    My Black Lab doggie saw a poodle on the other side of the big front picture window and smashed a football-size hole in the window. Goodbye,what? $800? I’ll know soon enough. Damn…what a strange day.

    I have no opinion as to how Roger Ebert’s funeral should have been conducted, or where. I do know my brother and his wife have Roger’s childhood dresser in their guest room, bought oddly enough at a garage sale held by Roger’s relatives a few years ago.

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  2. jerry said on April 9, 2013 at 3:39 am

    Picking up on yesterday’s comments on Thatcher’s death.

    It would be a major mistake to think that there is a single, coherent view of Thatcher and her legacy here in the UK.

    Many people, myself included, believe that she did great harm to British society. She emphasized the primacy of the desires of the individual over the needs of society and the individual’s responsibility to others. She believed that everyone was capable of (and should aspire to) being an entrepreneur. She destroyed our manufacturing industry. She ruined public housing. And increased inequality.

    She maintained the belief that Britain was still a world power – and here I’d agree with Prospero that we would be better accepting our great past does not mean we are a major player anymore. As for the Falklands – should we have been there? Quite possibly not but the fact is that the population was overwhelmingly in favour of being British and had no desire to be part of Argentina. Whether or not you think the recent referendum made sense over 50% of the total population voted in favour of the status quo.

    There are plenty of people here who think she was a devil and plenty who think she was wonderful. There will be a major funeral with public obsequies but certainly I shan’t be taking part – not that I’m invited, you understand.

    My sympathies are with her children who will have what should be their private grief turned into a public spectacle. But I shall not be grieving for her myself.

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  3. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 9, 2013 at 7:03 am

    You forgot “and the tail.” The bunny tail, I mean.

    I like your “I still feel Jesus out there from time to time, but I don’t mistake it for religion.” Stay in touch, Jesus says. I teach and preach religion as a pastor NOT because I believe you can’t be part of God’s everlasting glory and have a life with meaning that goes beyond the personal without a membership card from the right joint, but because without a community of fellow worshipers/believers/practicioners the odds that you will persist in your best (or at least better) intentions without such a connection, or ligament, or ligature to bind you together when the winds on the mountainside get nasty, a re-ligature to bind you back together with the fellow climbers, a religion of some sort or another . . . you fall, you fall harder, and you fall alone.

    All the debate about the Ebert honor vs. other decisions to exclude are perfectly fair and appropriate. I suspect if Roger had lived in Detroit, celeb or not, he wouldn’t have been granted a cathedral service. There’s more difference between dioceses than most, even most Catholics realize. Chicago has always been much more of a “hey, if you don’t show up and shout at the pulpit, and register in the parish, you’re a Catholic no matter what” kind of place. (Well, don’t shout at the pulpit when the Channel 2 cameras are there.)

    As for saying you believe in the faith in sum, but not in God in particular, I’ve wondered about that, too. Like bazillions, I had all of two exchanges with him electronically. He had, in the early days of his blog, a very long lived thread about creationism and agnosticism. Since I’ve ended up on panels multiple times over the years debating evolution, with me being the token clergy “yes” speaker, I had a few standard responses which I pitched into the discussion. In one of the two side interactions with Roger, he said “Whatever it is I believe in, I don’t believe in their kind of God.” I agreed with him then, and do so now. His other comments lead me to believe that he didn’t think a personal, personally interested God granted specific wishes or prayer intentions, but that gratitude released something in the working of the cosmos that worked to everyone’s advantage. So I’ve long thought of him as a “deist-plus.”

    God be good to him. I’m sure he was in heaven half an hour before Gordon Black knew he was dead.

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  4. David C. said on April 9, 2013 at 7:17 am

    The best way I’ve seen my views of religion expressed was by writer A.J. Jacobs who said he’s Jewish in the same way that The Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant. The heritage is somewhat there, but in the end, no it isn’t. So that’s the way I refer to my religious beliefs. I’m Christian in the same way that The Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant.

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  5. Deborah said on April 9, 2013 at 7:27 am

    What a great post today, Nancy, one of the best yet. I suspect there will be more good comments too. I’m not, never was Catholic and I too don’t go to church anymore after having been very involved in it when I was younger. I still consider myself a “Christian” not an Atheist all though I don’t exactly know why. I’m sick and tired of the “my buddy Jesus” type of religiosity, I just don’t feel that way.

    Jerry, loved you Brit take on Thatcher, very well said.

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  6. Deborah said on April 9, 2013 at 7:29 am

    your Brit take, not you Brit take.

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  7. alex said on April 9, 2013 at 7:44 am

    I suspect the One True takes good publicity wherever it can get it these days and claiming Ebert as one of its own is great PR.

    I don’t have much trouble with my certainty because I didn’t have a bunch of wishful thinkers pounding their subjective reality into my tiny little head from infancy. When people ask me if I’ve found Jesus, I’m one of those who can answer in all earnest that I wasn’t aware he was missing.

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  8. Suzanne said on April 9, 2013 at 8:00 am

    I, as someone who comes from conservative Lutheran roots in which there is little belief wiggle room, have always felt that Catholic and Jews have a better grasp on unbelief. It’s what I loved about Jacobs’ Biblical living book. In the end, he still didn’t really believe in God, but started going to religious services anyway because he saw meaning in the rituals and traditions. Evangelicals Greater C’mon in and Raise the Roof for God type churches don’t get that at all, I think to the detriment of religion in general.

    I don’t have a decisive opinion one way or the other on Mrs. Thatcher, but I did read in the paper this morning that she refused to meet with Sarah Palin a few years ago, believing that it would be demeaning and the Sarah P was “nuts”. So, maybe I like her a little better than before.

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  9. coozledad said on April 9, 2013 at 8:07 am

    If my faith were a major religion, there’d be heaps of dead everywhere. You probably couldn’t get a shirt cleaned or reliable garbage pickup, and good luck getting that cab.

    On the other hand, you wouldn’t have any trouble quitting smoking, if you were alive, because everyone in the tobacco industry would be in one of those heaps.

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  10. coozledad said on April 9, 2013 at 8:19 am

    The Playboy Bunny picture made me wonder if lac bugs were ever used in the production of hairspray. Apparently not.

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  11. BigHank53 said on April 9, 2013 at 8:31 am

    Actually, yes, shellac was used in the earliest hairsprays:


    They switched to cyanoacrylate–superglue–in the seventies.

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  12. coozledad said on April 9, 2013 at 8:39 am

    BigHank53: I wonder if that accounts for the high incidence of cancers among cosmeticians. I can’t remember if uncured cyanoacrylate is a mutagen, but it seems like I read somewhere you want to avoid inhaling it.

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  13. BigHank53 said on April 9, 2013 at 9:37 am

    The problem with superglues (and related compounds) is the isocyanate they give off when they’re curing. Methyl isocyanate is the base of several pesticides, and more famously the compound Union Carbide wishes it had never heard of following Bhopal. That’s not the isocyanate used in hairspray, of course, but one of the things that chemical manufacturers don’t mention often is that lungs are an ideal environment for chemical reactions: they’re warm, they’re wet, and they’ve got a surface area of a tenth of an acre coated with membranes designed to facilitate ionic gas transfer. Some microscopic fraction of the isocyanates breathed in are going to run into the wrong neighbors down in your lungs, get hitched, and proceed to wreak havoc on cellular machinery.

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  14. Julie Robinson said on April 9, 2013 at 9:44 am

    It strikes me that the Bunnies would be considered overweight by today’s standards probably couldn’t get a job at the Playboy club anymore. Or wait–are there still Playboy clubs?

    If my church treated me in such an unloving way I wouldn’t be there either. Luckily, mine welcomes all comers as equally in need of mercy and grace.

    And now, for something completely different: at the musical the other day, I visited the ladies’ room during intermission and almost walked away when I saw the length of the line. An usher assured us we would all get in, that there was an attendant inside who kept things moving quickly. I decided I had to see how it worked, and the answer was, incredibly well. She directed us to wait here, or there, stand outside this stall, or come on around the corner. The result was that the second you opened the stall door, the next lady went in, and everybody got their chance during the brief intermission.

    So I have to ask, has anyone seen this elsewhere? I’ve seen many attendants who hand you a towel and expect a tip, but this was the first one who was actually useful. And what title would you give her? Potty wrangler? Mistress of the chambers?

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  15. Lois Marquart said on April 9, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Nancy,you might be like the dyslexic agnostic insomniac who lay awake all night wondering if there really was a dog.

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  16. John C said on April 9, 2013 at 10:14 am

    I’m Catholic, and still go to Mass. But my beliefs are very much along the same lines as yours (Nancy) and Ebert’s. I would add a caveat that’s become clearer in my mind in recent years, perhaps coinciding with the onset of curmudgeonliness. It has to do mainly with “the scandal,” but really started with abortion. It is this: I am a Catholic who wrestles with doubts about my faith. After 16 years of Catholic education, 8 of them at the hands of the Jesuits, I think I have a pretty good idea of what that means, both the Catholic thing and the doubt thing. And I’ll be dipped in shite if I’m going to let mother-effers who run the place drive me away. The church is bigger and far, far better than those douchebags.
    As for how Ebert got his funeral, I would try to imagine what the good priests I’ve known – and I’ve known good and bad – would say. He had doubts, but never left. We all have doubts. So who are we to judge?

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  17. Michael said on April 9, 2013 at 10:22 am

    it is unspeakably sad to see the church that gave me many of my current values and taught me to pay attention to an informed conscience is devolving into a hate group. using the consolation many people drive from communion as a weapon in the culture wars is, well, unconscionable.

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  18. MichaelG said on April 9, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Joyce once said “It’s not that I believe in God, it’s that I’m afraid there might be a God.” I’m pretty much the same as Nance. I was once an altar boy but haven’t been to church in years and years.

    Ken Levine on Anette: http://kenlevine.blogspot.com/

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  19. Prospero said on April 9, 2013 at 10:53 am

    When confronted with a picture of women in Bunny costumes, I’m inevitably put in mind of Gloria Steinem. Steinem was a hero of my youth, along with Angela Davis. We’re going to see the Angela Davis doc this weekend in Savannah, and I hope to see 42, the Jackie Robinson biopic. I have a photo of my mom playing catch with Jackie in Vero Beach when she was six months pregnant with me.

    Songs about Margaret Thatcher. Shipbuilding, presented here by somebody else, is a gorgeous song by Elvis Costello, so he’s on the list twice. Declan really disliked the PM.

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  20. Charlotte said on April 9, 2013 at 10:57 am

    I had to bury my brother in the One True — in part because he’d said, in passing when we were discussing the death of a local woman in a car crash “well I’m not a very good Catholic, but it’s the only thing I am.” Had a nice, low-key, service here when I lucked out and got the older, reserve priest while our awful drunk of a priest was on retreat. The spare was a Vatican II type, with a great sense of humor and who recognized a room full of flighty ex-Catholics when he saw one. Then back to Lake Forest — there is a certain comfort in your home parish, but the service was so awful, and as the priest was reading the Gospel message about how “God’s ways are not your ways and you just have to trust Him” all I could think was “this is the logic of the abuser.” But my mother was happy in her red skirt suit and her big Jackie-O sunglasses playing her favorite role — the Victim of Tragedy (this was round 2, we lost my youngest brother to cancer in 1972 — which is truly awful, but she’s unpleasantly comfortable in the role). I fled. Never went back. Even tried a few times. But it’s all dead to me now. One of my mother’s nicest friends said to me, trying to be comforting, that my brother was “in heaven with Mary and Jesus and the angels” and it was all I could do not to ask “are you five years old? You really believe that?” On the other hand, my aunt, the former mother superior of the Catholic girls school was a great help … but yeah. It’s all gone.

    As for Ebert — Holy Name wants to think it’s still THE central place where everything happens in Chicago. Of course they had his funeral there. Plus, it’s a big space, you can get a lot of people in …

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  21. Heather said on April 9, 2013 at 11:24 am

    I always thought I was lucky to mostly escape Catholic indoctrination–my mother, who had the classic Catholic school upbringing all the way through college, left the church after she got divorced. I didn’t even know we were Catholic until I was about eight or so, when she announced that we would be going to Mass every Sunday and I would start working toward my first communion right away. It was totally confusing, and even more so since she was very clear about not believing the literal truth of Mary’s virginity, Jesus as the son of God and all that. But even for a quasi-Catholic like me, that stuff stays with you. It was only a few years ago that I realized I was constantly beating myself for not being perfect, like the Perfect Son. I am much happier since I embraced and accepted my imperfection. I think the Church does some wonderful things and I have known some wonderful Catholics. Are those things overshadowed by the horrible things it has done? I still wrestle with that one.

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  22. MichaelG said on April 9, 2013 at 11:40 am

    That should be “Annette”

    I remember all the “Free Angela Davis” bumperstickers back during my Berkeley years. Then one day I saw one that read “Free Angela Davis with every ten gallons”.

    I don’t think the bunnies are overweight although some of the hair and makeup is a little iffy.

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  23. John (not McCain) said on April 9, 2013 at 11:48 am

    I actually miss church and wish I could still go, but I was still getting panic attacks last time I tried years ago. Being a gay person raised Baptist will do that to you. Even the most gay-positive church I can’t make it up the steps without sweating and freaking out. I will never forgive those bastards for taking that away from me.

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  24. Bitter Scribe said on April 9, 2013 at 11:54 am

    I think Alex is on target about the RCC recognizing good publicity when they see it.

    As for that monsignor (do those still exist anymore?) picketing the Playboy Club, I wonder if his Joe Hill routine would have extended to teachers in Catholic schools seeking to unionize.

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  25. Jakash said on April 9, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Jeff (tmmo),
    “because without a community of fellow worshipers/believers/practicioners … you fall, you fall harder, and you fall alone.” An eloquent and compelling argument, as usual. Though I myself am not an active participant in such a community.

    As with so many others, I fall into the “raised Catholic, but just can’t believe what I’m supposed to (and/or used to)” category. But, boy howdy (an exclamation I believe I’ve only ever seen used by somebody on here and Roger in his autobiography) there’s certainly a reason why the Church practices infant baptism and maintains the system of parochial schools. Disengaging oneself completely from a belief system that has been inculcated in one since birth is not a simple matter.

    I’m surprised that, given his beliefs with regard to a Creator and afterlife, Mr. Ebert WANTED a funeral in the Cathedral. But, particularly in the case of those (like him) who enjoy a well-performed spectacle, I guess one should never underestimate the possibility that many people remain somewhat enamored with the Church because it knows how to put on a good “show”. I simply can’t understand how he could make the statement quoted at the beginning of the post, though I certainly can identify with the “Olive Garden Christian” concept that David C. suggested.

    I do, though, want to share a little story that pertains to your comment about the easygoing attitude of the Catholic Church in Chicago, Jeff. On Easter, we attended a Mass at a North Side parish — in a neigborhood filled with young families, as well as yuppy singles. Definitely not a conservative area, nor, from my previous understanding, parish. When it came time for the homily, I was expecting the usual, uplifting, glorious Resurrection / new life / Alleluia remarks. Instead, the majority of the priest’s commentary was directed toward reacquainting (or informing) those in attendance (needless to say, many of whom were not Sunday regulars) with the “Five Precepts of Catholicism”. http://catholicism.about.com/od/catholicliving/tp/Precepts_Church.htm His primary purpose in doing this, at this particular time, was to let all the Cafeteria Catholics, not to mention the Vending-Machine Catholics, know that they really were not welcome to receive Communion at this service. Because, and he spelled this out, if you haven’t been to Mass every Sunday (unless you had a really valid excuse), you’d committed a mortal sin. And you are not to receive Communion with your soul in a state of serious sin. The way to rectify this, of course, is to go to Confession. So, he helpfully suggested, those in such a situation should refrain from Communion on Easter, take the opportunity to go to Confession during the week, and then they’d be all set to receive Communion the NEXT Sunday. And wouldn’t that be swell?

    Now, I (having had an old-fashioned Catholic education) am well aware that those are the “rules”. What is interesting to me is how many of my many Catholic acquaintances have either forgotten, or never learned these rules. Because, based on what I’ve observed, there are NONE of my regular Church-going friends or family members who maintain this standard for whether or not to receive Communion. Anyway, I was very curious to see whether or not this pep-talk would have any effect. As far as I could tell, given that almost everyone in the Church DID go to Communion that morning, and I don’t imagine they’d all been to Confession recently, it didn’t sink in too deeply with the folks in the pews.

    I apologize for what a long, tedious comment this must be for the regulars here. But I just found this to have been a pretty interesting experience that pertains to the main topic of today’s post by NN.

    “I was presented with a series of conditions…” It seems to me that YOU were thinking, “hey, maybe I should have the ‘original sin be expunged from (my) baby soul’s criminal record.’ The Church should be happy to do this, given that THE BABY hasn’t done anything wrong, and is destined for limbo otherwise if something tragic were to happen.” What you DIDN’T seem to be considering when approaching the Church with your inquiry was “What’s in it for them?” Because, as is set forth in the link I added above, “The fifth precept of the Church is ‘You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church.'” Unless you’re coming through with your contribution each week, I’m sure they might wonder why they should be doing you (or your baby) any favors… Hmmm, I don’t recall much about quid pro quo in the Gospels, but maybe I’m misremembering.

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  26. LAMary said on April 9, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    I always liked Jonathan Miller, the guy from Beyond the Fringe, explaining his faith. He said he wasn’t a Jew. He was Jew-ish.

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  27. del said on April 9, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Jerry on Thatcher, well said. And amen to JTMMO’s remark about the “ligaments or ligatures” binding people to churches, and to Alex’s observation that Ebert’s claiming by the church is a PR coup.

    Maybe there’s a loophole in the Creed for Ebert too, a true “savings clause.”

    If there is no God, how can one believe in him while also professing belief in in ALL that is seen and unseen? If one believes in everything that is, how can one believe in something that is not? They’re not mutually exclusive but what good is a creed of belief in things that exist and things that do not exist? Yahweh translates to I Am Who Am, not, I Am Who Is Not.

    God’s existence is irrelevant to humanity anyway, unless, as Christopher Hitchens would say, we know someone who is able to “ventriloquise the divine.”

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  28. beb said on April 9, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Speaking of PB bunnies being only paid with tips, I wonder if there was tip poolimg back them or whether the busboys, matre de, etc. also got a cut of the tips, as seems to be common today? Tips don’t stretch very far when everybody gets to nick a chunk out of it. It’s, also interesting that in 1963 the priesthood was more interested in social justice (living wages)than they were in condemning “immorality.”

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  29. Jeff Borden said on April 9, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    I’m a retired Catholic, too, though hopeful that perhaps the new Argentinian pontiff might bring a little more humility to the grand palaces of Vatican City. I had ten years of Catholic schooling –not a single male teacher and only one lay teacher in grades 1 through 8– and two years at an all-boys high school, but when I worked to reach Catholic pulpits for an anti-war event in 1971, not one would commit to even mentioning the event we were pushing. I was already pretty lax in my commitment to the church, but that nailed it for me. I cannot foresee a time when I find any value in religion, but I’m only 61. Maybe as age advances my fears of eternal fire will return, but for now, I look at the One True mostly with disgust.

    And yet. . .

    One of my poker group guys was a retired Chicago police commander, a widowed father of four whose kids all wound up in law enforcement. He was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease and became so embarrassed by his condition he would not let any of our group visit. Eventually, he arranged for all of his kids to be running errands, then used his service revolver to take his own life.

    The Catholic priest chaplain at his service assured all of his kids that his act of suicide would not keep him out of heaven. I thought this was a very generous and compassionate act by that priest. I imagine some of the prigs in Rome would’ve happily told his kids their father was in the arms of Satan himself. Instead, this priest was moved by his humanity. If there were more like him and fewer like Law, Mahoney, Dolan, JP II and Benedict, the world might be a better place.

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  30. nancy said on April 9, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Jakash, you raise a very good point. I really was not thinking it through. I believed that baptism could be almost an ad hoc sacrament, based ont he fact I’ve known many, many people who’ve treated it as such, not to mention the other biggies — marriage, funerals, etc.

    I don’t fault the priest for laying out the bargain; it just made me accept that I really and truly wasn’t a Catholic anymore, and Kate would never be. (Most likely.)

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  31. Sherri said on April 9, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Julie @14, I encountered similarly helpful restroom attendants at the Paramount in Seattle. Old theatre, packed house, one bathroom, long line, but they kept that line moving and got everybody in and out during intermission.

    I was raised Southern Baptist, not Catholic, but many of you have laid out the reasons why when I decided that I wanted to try on some ligatures again, in Jeff’s words, the One True was no more an option than was Southern Baptist. I ended up Episcopal, and nobody tells me what I must believe in order to stay.

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  32. brian stouder said on April 9, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Julie also made an excellent point about the bunnies fuller-figured bodies from 50 years ago. The boobs are nice (although a few of ’em could put an eye out), but look at those legs!

    non-sequitur; laughed at the news (in the crawl) on msnbc that Cher fans were in a tizzy over a new Twitter name:


    which is actually related to PM Thatcher’s demise, and not the half-breed.

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  33. brian stouder said on April 9, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    (to be clear, I think the non-starving women in nancy’s photo are ompellingly beautiful; curves are good!)

    (and indeed, we’ve now had bunnies for two days in a row in nn.c-land. Maybe tomorrow we’ll see a beaver, eh?)

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  34. Connie said on April 9, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Shame on you Brian.

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  35. Prospero said on April 9, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Neo-urbanist architecture as stunning artwork.

    Maybe it was the week long huge buildup from TeeVee critics, but I found that two hours of Mad Men kinda lackluster. And I now have more good feelings about Walter White than I do about Don Draper. What a whore. It dawned on me during the season before last that I just don’t buy the basic premise that advertising requires some sort of intellectual or artistic gift or genius. I can’t think of a single thing I ever bought because of an ad, but there are things I have boycotted for years because of obnoxious ads (Energizer batteries, anything manufactured by Baron Bich, I always rooted for his yachts to sink in America’s Cup races.)

    This may be overly doctrinal, but I remember clearly being taught that the Sacrament of the Eucharist includes an implicit aspect of the Sacrament of Penance. Id est: partaking in the Eucharist brings absolution for sins if the communicant is properly penitential. In other words, my sins are between me an God, no middle man required. I never bought into confession even as a little kid. I’d tell the nuns I went on weekends with my parents when they’d bring us to chapel on Friday p.m., and tell my parents the nuns made me go on Friday pm. The Parish priest at St. Hugo in Bloomfield Hills, Fr. Stack, had suffered a stroke on the golf course back then, and would frequently repeat sins being repented in a decidedly audible voice. It could get pretty embarrassing. I also recall that we were taught that in an emergency, anybody can perform a Christian baptism.

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  36. LAMary said on April 9, 2013 at 2:34 pm


    Here’s Hawthorne, NJ homie and playboy bunny, Debbie Harry.

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  37. LAMary said on April 9, 2013 at 2:36 pm


    Debbie Harry when she was in Hawthorne High School.

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  38. paddyo' said on April 9, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    Thank you from another “fallen away” Catholic (I’ve always loved the imagery in that descriptor; I imagine hands outstretched and flailing, mouth agape, eyes wide, all disappearing into the void) for a great post and plenty of knowing comments, regardless of denomination.

    I guess I am now agnostic, though I’ll always have that “Catholic” watermark floating there on the passport of my inner life. I’ll go as far as to hazard that some force — whether it be God, or Eternal Watchmaker or whatever — must have set All This in motion, evolutionarily speaking. But no puppetry, and no Heaven or Hell, at least not as most religions describe.

    Culturally, Catholicism was a useful tool in raising me and my six siblings to be reasonably good citizens, etc. But I doubt if any of us is still current and fully accredited in Jakash’s Five Precepts, I the least of all. I only participate now (that is, show up in a church) for weddings and funerals. Because I was a well-trained Catholic boy — including five years of seminary in my teens — I’ve never taken Holy Communion since checking out of Confession and the other sacraments back in the 1970s. Not even at occasional seminary reunions, where the rest of the guys still seem rather observant. Their game, their rules, no apologies.

    Like John (not McC), I still miss it — especially the Holy Saturday Easter vigil of my seminary youth, with its pagan/druidic roots in water and fire, darkness and light. The music was pretty grand, too. And the Stations of the Cross were, well, a cross to bear back then, but I am oddly fond now of that Lenten ordeal. And the Rosary, said nightly while walking the quadrangle of St. Francis Junior Seminary in threes and fours.
    Again, love the culture — and hate the shaming, the thou-shalt-not’s, the judging, the marginalizing.

    I’ll quit before I ramble more. Besides, if we’re here to talk life and (mostly) death, there’s that fab Mad Men season premiere to discuss! Dante’s Inferno, anyone?

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  39. mark said on April 9, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    My problem with church (most any old Christian church will do) is that they keep wanting me to consider and act upon God’s will, and I’m kind of looking for a place that will help me implement my will.

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  40. Mark P. said on April 9, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    My religious belief is expressed in the name of my blog, caniconfidimus.com, wherein I speak of dogs but not of gods.

    But that was not always the case. I grew up in a Baptist Church (prior to the ascendancy of the moronic right), and believed in god like most people who grow up in a church. From about the middle of high school I spent considerable mental effort trying to convince myself that god existed. In fact, a teacher at the once reasonably-well-thought of Baptist college where I spent one year still remembers a theme I wrote on that subject about 45 years ago. Despite all my effort, I was never able to convince myself that any god existed, much less the christian god. And everything I have learned since has brought me further towards the positive belief that there is no god.

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  41. Prospero said on April 9, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    The apotheosis of David Brooks’ asinine schtick:


    The fight for same sex marriage was self-defeating. Gay marriage limits personal freedom ultimately, because getting married is akin to putting oneself in shackles. If that weenie is married, I hope the little woman (the old ball and chain?) burns him a new one over this. As Randy Newman says of Mr. Sheep: Jesus, what a jerk.

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  42. Jakash said on April 9, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    I appreciated your comment and perspective. I certainly hope that when you attached my name to the Five Precepts, it wasn’t because my remarks somehow implied that I subscribed to them, or thought that the homily I was referring to was a good idea.

    “Their game, their rules, no apologies.” I think that is an honorable way of looking at it for somebody who has left the Church. But, though I’m pretty much in the same place as you are with regard to belief or lack thereof, I know many who are still involved in the Church but wish the “game” and “rules” were different, and better. And that the rules took into consideration the world of the 21st Century, rather than insisting on emphasizing theology based on an understanding of human behavior rooted in the 1st or perhaps 13th Century. And that they were more concerned with the primary message of the Gospels, rather than with enforcing more peripheral doctrines. When one looks at the attitudes toward women, gays, and sexuality in general, among other issues, it seems to me that one cannot help but inquire where, when, how, by whom and to what purpose were the rules put in place?

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  43. brian stouder said on April 9, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Debbie Harry is great; ever since that Richard Gere movie that she sang “Call Me” for, she’s been a fave.

    The one famous person that went to my high school was Shelly Long (of Cheers)…and come to think of it there was basketball star named Willie Long, from the late 1960’s…but I suspect there’s no relation

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  44. nancy said on April 9, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    One thing I am sensitive to is, I think religion should be a religion, not just a social thing. I can’t tell you how many kids I’ve seen baptized, first holy communioned and confirmed, and never see a church again. (And not many times during that process, either.) I realized all I really was doing, seeking baptism, was continuing a family tradition that I wasn’t really interested in anymore.

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  45. Dexter said on April 9, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Brian: “Well hello there handsome!” http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/6b/American_Beaver.jpg/220px-American_Beaver.jpg

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  46. MichaelG said on April 9, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    It’s a sad commentary on the current state of Catholicism that there are so many former Catholics in this small group of people. My guess is that the majority of those who remain with the Church go their own way on the subjects of birth control and tolerance towards gays, not to mention choice and equality of women. You’d think the clergy and the bishops and Rome would take the clue and act accordingly.

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  47. paddyo' said on April 9, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    Jakash — no, no, of course not. Just giving credit to your thought-provoking post, that’s all . . .

    BTW, I agree with your friends about “games” and “rules”. . . I just decided it wasn’t worth fighting about anymore. Before long, I became a cultural-only Catholic. Yes, many church people and some institutions and even missionaries-with-a-small-m (giving aid but not as a quid pro quo for conversion) have done and continue to do great works of human goodness in the name of the Roman Catholic Church.

    But the institution’s hierarchy and structure (not to mention the deep, ongoing and shameful treatment of women, gays, children, etc.) are rotten, avaricious and, ultimately, irrelevant. Old men playing queen-of-the-castle dress-up but treating their billion or so “followers” as medieval serfs — nay, as pre-Christianity slaves.

    The new pope may understand some of this image problem, which is perhaps why he’s on a run of sensitive-new-age-guy behaviors that catch attention of the masses and infuriate the dickish RC extremists. But really, it’s all just window dressing, like that shop storefront in Rome where they display the white cassocks and trimmings that one family of tailors has made for the new pope for a century or two. The game has been rigged for close to 2,000 years (though the worst has been in the past 1,000 or so), and they’re not about to give up control.

    Michael G — Sad commentary indeed. I also remember being amazed early in my newspaper career at how many fellow journalists were “lapsed” Catholics . . .

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  48. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 9, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    This warrants posting for the correction.


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  49. Henry Hank Chapin said on April 10, 2013 at 5:18 am

    As Philosopher George Santayana, an atheist, said when asked why he continued to go to Catholic Mass, “There is no God, and Mary is his mother.”

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  50. brian stouder said on April 10, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Dexter – a very handsome beaver, indeed!

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  51. Jean S said on April 10, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    yet another backslid Southern Baptist weighing in….Nancy, like you, I think that if you’re going to join a church, JOIN the church. And kids pick up on any ambivalence, anyway, so it’s better to be honest about what you think and believe.

    I agree with the guess that having Roger Ebert’s funeral in Holy Redeemer had its PR benefits, but I also wonder whether Chaz Ebert is a Catholic–or, even, whether one of the leadership @ Holy Redeemer is a member of AA and thus an old pal of Roger’s.

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  52. Jean S said on April 10, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    Holy Name. Jeez, you think I would remember; I lived in Chicago long enough.

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  53. Henry Hank Chapin said on April 10, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    Whaddyaknow? I have a file called “Blogs I Like.” Right after NancyNall.com, I listed Roger Ebert’s Journal.

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