Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Poor Mad Old Thing

Just finished an absurdly thick book about the history of Salisbury (good grief! was it really necessary to start the thing at the end of the Paleolithic?) and am now back to my normal rule: "Thin books are good books".

I'm reading The Sin Eater, by Allis Thomas Ellis.

She was a Trad Catholic and pretty acerbic about NewChurch. I have to say, I'm not sure that this is not the best description of the wreckage I have yet heard.

Bit long, but I thought y'all would enjoy it.

Rose is a Catholic who has lapsed because of the Changes. The book was published in 1977.

She is asked "How do you become a Roman Catholic?"

"You don't," said Rose without hesitation.

Ermyn was unrebuffed. Like a drunk, she persisted. "No, how?"

"Nobody does any more," said Rose.

"They must," said Ermyn. "They must."


"You'd never get in," Rose said, "past the people falling over themselves to get out."

"Oh, why?" asked Ermyn, leaden and hopeless. Since her day as a bridesmaid she had thought of the Church as a last resort, a final sure goal, to be taken when all else failed.


"They modernised it," said Rose, taking up the thread. "They fell victim to the municipal line of thought that goes: 'That's beautiful. It must be old. We'd better knock it down.'"

"Yes, I know," said Ermyn, thinking of the building site in the fields below. "Don't you to to church any more?"

"No," said Rose, "I don't. Certainly not."

"They want you to kiss the person next to you," she said...

"At the consecration," she said dreamily, "they do a sort of advertiser's announcement. You think for a moment they're telling you God's blood is untouched by a human hand, a sort of guarantee of wholesomeness - though I'd always been led to believe it was feet. But they're actually explaining it is made by human hands. They're very honest you see. They don't want to feel they're putting anything over on anybody. I think it's meant for the enlightenment of the credulous, who previously thought it came straight from Heaven in vast ethereal tankers. And they're creeping up on Transubstantiation, circling it with a net. It'll be the next to go, and then heigh ho for the gates of Hell."


She scowled. "The last time I went to Mass - and it was the last time - there was the PP facing the congregation, standing behind his table and joining in the singing of the negro spirituals and pop songs and Shall-we-gather-by-the-river. There has always been a hint of catering about the Mass, but previously the priest had the dignity of a master chef busying himself with his specialite. Now he seems like a singing waiter in charge of an inadequate buffet. One is tempted to stroll up and ask for a double martini and enquire who on earth forgot to put the doings on the canapes. I wonder why they didn't keep the real Mass for me and just bring in this one for the kiddies and the mentally subnormal?"

"To do him justice," said Rose, "he does still dress in the proper fashion. He hasn't taken to going round in jeans and a T-shirt and a little cross on a chain round his neck imploring people to call him Roger, and he hasn't left the church rto marry and devote his life to rewriting theology to conform with his own lusts and itches, and drivel on about the self-transcending nature of sex, like all those treacherous lecherous Jesuits mad with the radiant freedoms of contemporary thought. But it isn't enough. Now the Church has lost its head, priests feel free to say what they think themselves, and they don't have any thoughts at all except for some rubbish about the brotherhood of man. They seem to regard Our Lord as a sort of beaten egg to bind us all together."

She began to make mayonnaise, requesting the Holy Souls not to let it curdle. "It is as though," she went on, "one's revered, dignified and darling old mother had slapped on a mini-skirt and fishnet tights and started ogling strangers. A kind of menopausal madness, a sudden yearning to be attractive to all. It is tragic and hilarious and awfully embarrassing. And of course, those who knew her before feel a great sense of betrayal and can't bring themselves to to see her any more...


Anonymous said...

Brilliant - is the rest of the book this good? I might just leave off reading Bleak House - it's much too thick...

HJW said...

I have tried five times to read BH. With thick books it is my habit to take a little break about page 350 or so, and read a thin book in between. Every time I have tried this with Bleak House, I end up forgetting who all the eight hundred and sixty-five characters are and have to start again.

Dickens was an annoying writer.

IBU2 said...

"Dickens was an annoying writer". Yes?

The only thing annoying about Dickens was that he was English, from the land of the mad old wizard Francis Bacon, and Malthus, Marx (in library), Russell, Hitchens (the bent bum, not the brother) and the whole rest of the mad eugenicist limeys pretending to be scientists in the wake of Henry VIII. The poor Brits couldn't even smack down Hitler without their bankers creating him first.

But Dickens tried to humanize the limey brutes. So watch your tongue.