The other day I wrote about “Church-haunted” Quebec being a little like Flannery O’Connor’s “Christ-haunted” South. The occasion was a report that unconsecrated communion hosts had become a favorite munchie for couch potatoes. Now it turns out that the report, perpetrated by the Toronto Globe & Mail , was less than accurate. A great deal less. Father Thomas Dowd, a Quebec priest and blogger, sets the record straight:

The original name for this product is the retailles d’hosties . These were the cuttings left over from the production of round hosts from a flat sheet of bread, and they were sold by the nuns in bags to the faithful. This is a very old practice, one which goes back to the days when Quebec was more Catholic than the Pope, and it never raised any eyebrows. The article is quite wrong when it states that this food product was “seen only at holy communion”.

Where the article *is* correct is in stating that these were not originally sold in wafer form to the faithful. But the product that is being produced today, contrary to the statement above, is not “unconsecrated communion wafers”. Among other things, the typical supermarket product has had sugar added, to appeal to the well-known Quebec sweet tooth. These “communion wafers” do not taste the same as hosts, and would never be valid matter. In addition, the baking process quite often causes the added sugar to caramelize in the oven, so the bread changes colour to a golden brown.

My point? The typical retailles d’hosties that one sees today usually does not look like a communion host (whether due to shape or colour), nor does it typically taste like a communion host. It certainly does not have a cross or other pattern stamped into it. Quite simply, it is just a fancy sort of sweet potatoe chip with a name reminiscent of a snack food the ancestors ate.

Fr. Dowd corrects me also on the nature of caesaropapism in Quebec. He’s right. I was thinking chiefly of the twentieth-century Duplessis era. The story of church-state relations in Quebec is somewhat more complex. Fr. Dowd’s blog is titled “Waiting in Joyful Hope” (the required posture for all of us), and to learn some things worth knowing about our Francophone neighbor to the North, you can find it here .


One might think that everything that needs to be said has been said about Jeffrey Hart’s Wall Street Journal essay in which he contended that conservatives need to reconcile themselves to the permanence of the abortion regime of Roe v. Wade . Reader Elyce Santerre, however, offers a perspective that urgently needs to be part of the discussion:

For the question remains, do women want abortion? Not like she wants a Porsche or an ice cream cone. Like an animal caught in a trap, trying to gnaw off its own leg, a woman who seeks an abortion is trying to escape a desperate situation by an act of violence and self-loss. Abortion is not a sign that women are free, but a sign that they are desperate.
—Frederica Mathewes-Green

You were right that Jeffrey Hart’s response was well worth reading, if only for shock value. The tone was so condescending towards women, almost to the point of insult, that it nearly made me forget my resolution not to lose my temper during Christmas, which still has several days to go. Although many far more eloquent writers, including yourself, have already commented, I hope you will permit me to share a few observations from the perspective of a woman who has managed to have a successful career as an attorney and as an officer in the Army (now retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the Alaska Army National Guard), without ever feeling the least hampered by my absolute rejection of the abortion license.

My overall objection to Mr. Hart is his unspoken, but painfully obvious, assumption that Woman’s success in modern society is inextricably linked to her willingness to sacrifice her fertility in pursuit of a career. He treats a woman’s fertility as if it were a disease and a hindrance to be controlled. That is a profoundly anti-woman position, and it is not at all excused by his pretense that he is only saying that women want, not his own preference. If he really cared what women want, he wouldn’t be supporting abortion. He’d be out championing medical coverage for pregnant women, day care on campus, flexible schedules in education and employment, flexible workplace proposals, and greater responsibility by fathers ¯ and I don’t mean just money. If he’s really in support of women, I want to know (if he is married) how often he does the dishes, the laundry, and the dusting.

With that said overall, please permit me to share a few responses to his more outrageous comments:

Women in the educational process, pursuing careers that may take years of preparation and also are later very demanding of their time, are going to demand ¯ in fact are demanding ¯ control of their reproductive capability.

I grow very wearing of hearing abortion described as "control" of "reproductive capability." "Control" more accurately describes Natural Family Planning, not chemical eradication of a woman’s fertility, backed up by surgical destruction of anyone who gets by the chemical gauntlet. In my own case, between winter weather and a pending military move, my husband and I wanted very much to have our second child between late February and early April. Her actual birthday was mid-March. I doubt very much anyone ever achieved that sort of real control with oral contraceptives.

For a free people, such as ours, who make the laws under the Constitution through their representatives….

Oh, would that were still true! I privately think of Roe as "the decision that disenfranchised North Dakota." I realize that it disenfranchised voters in all the States on the abortion issue, but it was particularly painful to those of us who were in North Dakota at the time, and had just succeeded in overwhelmingly rejecting abortion at the polls in November, only to see our hard work go for naught in January.

The actuality in elective abortion is that the woman is not willing to derail her life because of an unwanted pregnancy . . .

See the quote I put at the top of this missive. The real "actuality" of elective abortion is that our society fails women daily by not providing real options to abortion. A majority of women who undergo abortions do so, not because they "want" an abortion, but because they are convinced they lack the financial and emotional resources to care for a child. Many or most of those women would not have an abortion "if only" ¯ if only their partner/parents/employer supported them, if only their parents/partner/partner’s parents/ employer were not pressuring them to have the abortion, if only their college health insurance covered childbirth as well as abortion, etc.). We recognize that "your money or your life" means robbery, but our society tells young women "your unborn child or your life/career/education" to the tune of about a million women a year and calls that "control of their reproductive capability."

Such use of language as "unborn child" does not advance analysis. For analysis to get anywhere, there must be agreement on the meaning of the words being used.

I actually have some sympathy with Mr. Hart here, but I would start by banning the use of the word "fetus" in any conversation in which we do not also refer to the pregnant woman as a "gravida." The casual use of a previously obscure Latin medical term obscures, rather than "advances" analysis.

But a woman knows what a "child" is and what it is not.

Which explains why pregnant women nearly always refer to their unborn child as a "baby."

Now, no woman is obliged to have an abortion if her convictions are opposed.

This is one of those "what planet is he from?" moments. The reality of women coerced into abortions by their partners is documented and appalling. One would have thought at the very least Mr. Hart would have noticed the news stories of women actually murdered by their partners for refusing to have an abortion.

The women’s revolution happened. It is not going to be repealed.

Abortion is not about liberating women (in my more cynical moments, I believe it is all about liberating womanizers, but that would be a topic of several more pages). The leading early feminists (you know, the ones who got women the vote) opposed abortion. The social changes that enabled me, for example, to go to law school were well on their way before 1973. Title IX and Title VII deserve the credit, not Roe. Overturning Roe will not send me, or anyone else, back to the 50’s. It’s long past time for men to stop claiming they support women by supporting abortion. Abortion is not good for women, and it never was.


In addition to which :

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