Tuesday, January 7

You know, these Protestant mega-churches are fascinating places and ripe for corruption. The bigger they get, the harder they fall. Last fall, a pastor of a huge church in Minnesota resigned because of an adulterous affair, and over the past few months there's been controversy about the pastor of the biggest church in the region of California that includes Palm Springs, a controversy which includes financial improprieties (natch), nude hottub photos, a few resigned staff members and lots of supportive churchgoers (natch.)

And you thought this kind of stuff was only for Monty Python and Indiana Jones:

Knights Templar still looking...

For centuries the intricately carved stones of Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh have tantalised historians, archaeologists and devoted Christians.

A labyrinth of vaults beneath the 15th-century home of the Knights Templar is reputed to contain dozens of holy relics, including early gospels, the Ark of the Covenant, the fabled Holy Grail – and even the mummified head of Christ.

[But..uh...wouldn't that mean...never mind.]

More than 550 years after the first foundation stones were laid, modern technology is about to put the legend to the test.

A group of Knights Templar, successors to the warrior monks who sought asylum from the Pope by fleeing to Scotland in the early 14th century and fought for Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn, are to make a "non-invasive" survey of the land around the chapel. They will use the latest ultrasound and thermal imaging technology in the hope of finding evidence of the existence of the vaults......

....One theory suggests that one of the ornate columns, known as the Apprentice Pillar, may contain a lead casket in which is hidden the legendary cup used by Christ at the Last Supper and later used to collect his blood, the so-called Holy Grail. "Once we understand the introduction page we will begin to understand what this book in stone means," Mr Ritchie added. "We hope to start as soon as possible and get a load of readings from it. We hope to at least find this burial place and maybe the Holy Grail itself."

NARAL changing name, building warchest.

Reader Julia sends along this cartoon:

..and deliver us from evil...amen.

from today's St. Louis Post Dispatch, along with a link to an editorial with interesting jumps in logic.

And here's a letter to the editor critiquing the reporting of this story:

The data from which Smith draws his conclusions are based on a select group. Less than one-quarter of the orders (123 out of 538) agreed to participate in the survey, and of those that did agree, less than half of their members (1,164 out of 2,500) responded to the survey. Without additional information about those who refused to participate in the study, it is simply impossible to estimate the level of victimization.

This leads one to wonder why the Post-Dispatch reported the results of a non-representative survey on the front-page of the Sunday paper. A look at some of the sub-headings of the story is revealing.

The front page subheading states "An estimated 40 pct. were victimized, some by priests, other nuns, survey found." However, nowhere in the article is there evidence for this 40 percent estimate. According to the tables in the article, 18.6 percent of the nuns who responded to the survey reported that they were sexually abused as children, and the majority of these incidents were at the hands of family members. The percentage reporting any instances of sexual exploitation or harassment during their religious life is lower (12.5 percent and 9.3 percent). Thus, the 40 percent claim and its association with "priests and other nuns" appears to be deliberately misleading.

Another subheading alleges that the study has been "kept quiet," when in fact, the results had been previously reported in two religious research journals. To attribute one's own lack of awareness to an alleged conspiracy when the research has appeared in print twice is both bizarre and suggestive of serious bias.

Catholic novelist Ron Hansen has a new book out, a departure for him (although, if you know his work, really not one of his novels is just like another of his novels...Hitler's Niece ...Mariette in Ecstasy...Atticus...all remarkably different).

A NYTimes review of Isn't It Romantic

Ron Hansen's unexpectedly airy new book is about Natalie and Pierre, an amorous young French couple on a summer vacation. They might have gone to the Côte d'Azur, which is the sort of spot that Pierre favors. But Natalie, a librarian specializing in Americana and a confirmed watcher of "Little House on the Prairie," has something different in mind.

Thus begins a jaunt across the American Midwest, where corn detasseling is said to be a tourist highlight and the famous name liable to be dropped is that of Slim Pickens. "I am so excited to be here," Natalie declares upon reaching Omaha. Someone replies, "Compulsory politeness compels me to ask why."

Here's the Amazon link to the book.

In case any of you were wondering what happened to Kevin (he with the clean feet below), an intrepid reporter from NC turned up his record and found that he's been incarcerated in that state since 1998 on a felony conviction of indecent liberty with a child. He's due to be released by August at the latest, although he comes up for parole at the end of this month.


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