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♦ “New Yorkers are so rude ,” declared our midwestern friend. Who, it turned out, had never been to New York. She knew New Yorkers are rude because everyone knows New Yorkers are rude.

That has not been our experience, as recent immigrants to the city. Brusque, okay, especially in commercial exchanges. Usually unwilling to natter on with strangers, yes. Not likely to become your best friend a week after you’ve met, true. Given to complaining about other people loudly enough for those people to hear, sometimes.

But look, we’ve witnessed this scene many times: Someone walking by a bewildered tourist looking at a map asks him if he needs help getting where he wants to go, and even takes him part of the way. We’ve seen this twice: Someone else then jumps in to offer the tourist what he thinks is a better way to get where he wants to go.

Men give up their seats on the subway to women. Young women offer theirs to an older bearded man we know. People chase other people down the sidewalk to return something they’ve dropped.

Rather the opposite of rude.

♦ And talk about glass houses. We were walking up Broadway one afternoon, trying to get to a meeting, when we came up behind a couple walking hand in hand, stretching themselves two-thirds of the way across the sidewalk.

They were (we’re not making this up, cross our heart and hope to die) the easterner’s image of a midwesterner: plump (we’re being polite here), clothed in shorts and knit shirts with white ankle socks and trainers, slowly walking duck-footed down the sidewalk, open-mouthed, as their heads rotated from side to side taking in the sights—which, at this point on Broadway, were entirely small stores. No one could get by, the remaining third of the sidewalk being filled with people coming the other way.

Another day, we waited in a long line at a deli while a woman with a thick non-New York accent tried to have a friendly down-home talk with the young man at the cash register, who finally looked over her shoulder and said “Can I help you?” to the person behind her. We heard her complaining to her husband about rude New Yorkers as she walked out.

Blocking sidewalks is rude. Holding up the line is rude. So let’s be tactful and call this one a draw.

♦ As some readers will know, the townhouse in which some of the editors live caught fire the Sunday before Christmas last year. As those who were home paced the sidewalk outside, a neighbor with a child in a stroller came over to ask if she could help. The editor she approached thanked her and said that things were being taken care of.

“Mommy, why did you ask that man if he needed help?” asked the child in the stroller. “Because he needed help,” she said in a matter-of-fact voice as she started to push the stroller down the sidewalk.

As we said, rather the opposite of rude.

♦ Our founder was, famously, not all that fond of the New York Times . To take the first reference to the newspaper that a web search pulled up, he referred to the newspaper’s “hysteria” about Republican electoral successes as, “although pathetic, not without its entertainment value” and mentioned the “frothing and floundering of the Times in reaction to new ideas and new forces in our political culture.”

The newspaper hasn’t changed much, if at all, but we’d like to see what RJN would have said in response to the New York Times Company’s new president, Mark Thompson, former head of the BBC. Interviewed last spring, he calls himself a practicing Catholic and, more than that, “a critical realist in religious matters.” By that, he means “that the truths of the Christian faith are objective truths, rather than being entirely subjective.”

Not that this necessarily helps Christians. Thompson admits that he would not have approved the broadcasting of Jerry Springer: The Opera , with its blasphemous treatment of Jesus, as he did at the BBC, had it been about Muhammad instead.

He worries that Muslims in the United Kingdom “may already feel in other ways isolated, prejudiced against, and . . . they may well regard an attack on their religion as racism by other means.” Programming decisions depend upon “whether the level of offense that’s likely to be caused . . . is justified by the intended artistic expression involved.”

So because the group is marginalized for other reasons and is easily offended, Thompson protects their religion in a way he will not protect Christianity. We can guess what RJN would say.

♦ We came across the preceding item through the very interesting website called A Journey Through NYC Religions , a site exploring the postsecular city.” The site mixes broader analyses of religion in the city with close reporting of religious groups of all kinds. It can be found at

♦ Of course we all have our biases and blind spots, and every publication has a point of view, but there is something about the Times ’ style and tone that suggest a loftier-than-usual view of their own objectivity and insight. If you’re the national “newspaper of record,” you might try to be scrupulously objective, but you might also assume that you are objective because you’re writing for the newspaper of record.

♦ Thousands and possibly tens of thousands of Christians die for the faith every year, notes Daniel Philpott, writing in the Jesuit magazine America . They have died in India, Vietnam, Iraq, Colombia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Mexico, Eypt, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Sri Lanka, China, and Indonesia, most killed by Muslims. More Christians were martyred in the last century than in all of Church history before 1900.

Their deaths, Christians know, bear much fruit. Writing in America , Dan, who teaches at Notre Dame and wrote “Peace After Genocide” (June/July 2012), offers four ways in which the modern martyrs advance the Church’s work of justice and reconciliation.

First, their deaths testify “to the justice that is violated in their very murder: that of religious freedom.” Second, their deaths “afford church communities the chance to recognize in each other what all Christians regard as the truest devotion to Christ—following him in his death on the cross.”

Third, and similarly, “martyrdom witnesses to friendship not only among Christian churches but also between religions,” because “members of different faiths recognize holiness in martyrdom.” Finally, martyrdom invites forgiveness, which for the Christian not only cancels the debt but invites others to conversion and reconciliation.

Martyrdom, Dan concludes, is an act of remembrance, like the Eucharist, in which “we make the past present,” and is an act we should perform often, and with gratitude. We would add that the highest form of gratitude is imitation.

♦ After centuries of “good and truly brotherly relations,” things have gotten rough”there are “tangible difficulties,” in the diplomatic language of church statements”between the Russian Orthodox Church and the churches of the Anglican Communion, and the Orthodox insist it’s the Anglicans’ fault. So writes Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the Russian Church’s ecumenical officer, to the newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

He brings up women priests and bishops, the blessing of same-sex “unions” and “marriages” (he uses the quotation marks), and the ordination of homosexuals. These “deviations from the tradition of the Early Church . . . increasingly estrange Anglicanism from the Orthodox Church and contribute to a further division of Christendom as a whole.” He hopes the Anglicans will listen and that “good fraternal relationships between us will revive.”

We presume he’s not holding his breath.

♦ There are some causes, we admit, we don’t understand, and legalizing marijuana for general (as opposed to medical) use is one of them. Or rather, we don’t understand why, of all the issues in the world that need to be addressed, some people”not, apparently, themselves druggies”support this one with such passion and so much money.

Writing in the New Republic , an editor of the libertarian magazine Reason reports that supporters of legalization in Washington raised $6.2 million, while opponents raised only $15,995 (over half of that contributed by companies selling medical marijuana, worried about their clients being arrested for driving under the influence). Peter Lewis and George Soros between them funded half of the effort. In Colorado, supporters raised $2.39 million, their opponents $577,410.

Perhaps smoking weed is, like gay marriage, a luxury good for the upper classes, and they’re happy contributing to behaviors that keep the poor poor, and therefore useful.

♦ Speaking of Reason , in his “Careless Consumerism” last month, Wesley Smith quoted Reason magazine’s science writer Ronald Bailey on the nature of what women are doing when they freeze their eggs for future use. Unlike Wesley, Bailey thinks it’s just a-okay.

After considering the dangers to the mothers and their children, which he thinks negligible, he considers the objection that “this technique furthers the medicalization and commercialization of women’s bodies.” Well, that’s not a problem, he argues, because the women choose it themselves, and doctors should get paid just like everyone else.

Anyway, since social policies haven’t made it easier for women both to have children and to work, “egg freezing actually promotes equality between the sexes.” (His sole evidence is that, in France, women work less than men, despite programs “aimed at easing the burdens of child rearing”—as if they might not want to work less.) It “should be celebrated as another way in which technological progress is reducing and ameliorating inequalities between women and men, reproductive and otherwise.”

That’s as far as secular libertarian ethics can get you. The problem, we would say, is not just the commercialization of women’s bodies but the instrumentalization of sexuality and of children.

♦ The distinguished Catholic historian Eamon Duffy is “a theologically liberal ultramontanist,” in his fellow Catholic historian William Tighe’s striking phrase, used in a short review we published in November. Bill tells us that he heard one TLU insist that before breakfast the pope could declare that women could be ordained and then after breakfast ordain as many of them as he liked.

This liberal ultramontanism helps explain the hatred some dissenting Catholics (not Duffy) have for the pope, writes an English priest, Fr. Ray Blake, on his weblog. “They seem to have the idea that anything they object to is the personal responsibility of the pope, that he alone is the brake, holding back their own vision of the Church. This is the terrifying Spirit of Vatican I that really sees the Church as the pope’s personal fiefdom and him as its master rather than its servant.”

♦ In this month’s “Public Square,” the editor refers to conservatives who find themselves “evolving” from a belief in marriage as the union of a man and a woman to approval of the more expansive definition. Charles Murray and John Podhoretz, for two.

In a pair of tweets sent out on election day, Charles Murray wrote, “So I stared at MD’s [Maryland’s] gay marriage prop, greatly conflicted between strategic objections and gay friends in loving relationships, and then . . . said, ‘What the hell,’ and voted yes. The gay couples I know behave as the Jonathan Rauches of the world said they would. So I gave up.”

A few days later, the editor of Commentary revealed that, “as it happens, like our president, I was for a long time an opponent of gay marriage. I am not any longer—indeed, I am relieved that on Tuesday night citizens of four states chose freely to allow gay marriage within their borders rather than having such a thing imposed through judicial fiat.”

“Nor is Commentary institutionally hostile to gay marriage,” John Podhoretz continued. “Indeed, one of the foremost backers of gay-marriage initiatives in the United States, Paul E. Singer, is a valued and honored member of Commentary ’s board of directors.”

♦ A few days after the election, the editors of the Wall Street Journal wrote an apparently neutral editorial referring the matter of gay marriage to the electoral process. Better than the courts, one thinks. But the ending was revealing: “Americans don’t need or want court orders. They’ve shown themselves more than capable of changing their views and the laws on gay marriage the democratic way.”

In other words, the editors suggest without saying so that Americans would need to be pushed by the courts if they didn’t approve gay marriage without being pushed. The wording tips their hand. A truly neutral conclusion would have said that Americans are capable of expressing their views the democratic way.

♦ In Nevada, the last non-zero number in the selling price of a house is a lucky seven 37 percent more often than in the rest of the country. 777 is used three times as often as it is anywhere else. Real estate, explains the Wall Street Journal , “can be a numbers game in which superstition plays a role.”

In neighborhoods with a majority of Asian people, the asking price for homes ends in the lucky number eight 20 percent of the time, compared with 4 percent in other neighborhoods. And getting a home with a street number ending in eight is even better, with buyers paying 2 percent to 3 percent more for the house than they would otherwise, while people selling a house whose address ended in the unlucky number 4 lost 2 percent.

In the south, prices include the number 316 27 percent more than in other parts of the country and—you’re not expecting this one—include 666 39 percent more often.

♦ For people who think that your yes should be yes and your no, no, the calculated manipulation when pricing houses seems more than a bit dodgy. “Using precise numbers can give the sense of a bargain, he [a Cornell marketing professor] says, because precise numbers are usually used for lower-cost purchases, like a grapefruit, while round numbers are reserved for bigger purchases. ‘You can list a house for $500,000, or you can list it for $505,550,’ he says. ‘The second one seems like a better deal.’”

And then there is the classic use of nines, as in $19.99. “People mentally round down, dropping the cents off of $19.99 and seeing it as $19 and not $20,” explains another marketing professor. The majority of asking prices for homes under $1 million end in nine, but only a quarter of those more than that.

An economist suggests that buyers associate the number nine with mass consumer goods, meaning that people buying very expensive real estate avoid the number. In any case, as he points out, “It’s harder to make a $3 million home sound inexpensive.”

The costs of a one-, two-, and three-year subscription to First Things , 35 are $39, $71, and $98. So we may be guilty with the first, innocent with the second, and half-guilty with the third.

♦ Look at suicide bombers, the guy at the other table was saying. They show what happens when you believe in heaven. The other guys at the table nodded or grunted in agreement.

Everyone knows that. It’s the Time / Vanity Fair / line. Religion lets people do horrific things to other people “in the name of God.” Belief in heaven makes people reckless. The world would be safer without it.

Of course, speaking with all due respect, this is stupid. Recklessness goes both ways. If you believe in heaven, you’ll also sacrifice pleasures in this world, and maybe even your life, for the good of others. All those Catholic hospitals didn’t get built by people like the guy at the other table.

It’s a matter of drawing out the timeline far enough. If you think, and really believe, that your life lasts through eternity, the cost of giving up even life itself shrinks to nothing.

Look at it this way. You’re twenty years old and someone tells you that if for just one day you work like a dog with a psychopath for a boss, being alternately baked in the Sahara desert and frozen in Siberia, and being eaten by mosquitoes and horseflies the whole time, you can cruise through the rest of your life without a care in the world. You’d take the deal.

At the crassest level, the level the theological expert at the next table should understand, belief in heaven makes saints as well as suicide bombers. We’d just point out that it’s produced a lot more saints.

♦ We hear much about the “war on science” that moral conservatives are said to be waging when they merely ask that scientists not make moral judgments beyond their competence. This charge extends the idea, which the president frequently invokes, that issues like the morality of embryonic research are matters for “science” to decide—which is to say, though he won’t say this directly, that they are not really issues or questions at all but self-evident goods that rational inquiry accepts on sight. A morality is being smuggled into the public debate, disguised as an only-a-fanatic-would-think-different defense of science.

Back in the fifties and sixties, the average American, including the average American conservative, trusted science as the benign and moral agent of progress and scientists as the truly disinterested servants of truth. It was the left that upset this vision, partly through a kind of methodological relativism (an early form of postmodernism), but more lastingly by pointing to the connections between business interests and scientific work. There was science, and there were scientists, and one couldn’t bet that the second were always pursuing the first.

But that was then, and this is now. When cultural conservatives note the corrupting effects of self-interest—the scientist’s interest in being a moral authority whose rulings let him do what he wants, for example—the insight the left once understood becomes “the war on science.”

♦ In an article on English women becoming Muslims that we quoted a couple of issues ago, the author mentions a Vatican statement on interfaith marriages. The one paragraph that mentions the subject appears in a 2004 statement titled The Love of Christ Towards Migrants .

Since you’re probably as ignorant of the thing as we were: It says that marriages between Catholics and non-Christians “should be discouraged, though to a varying degree, depending on the religion of each partner, with exceptions in special cases in accordance with the norms of the CIC and CCEO [i.e., canon law].”

It closes with a quote from John Paul II: “In families where both parents are Catholic, it is easier for them to share their common faith with their children. While acknowledging with gratitude interfaith marriages which succeeded in nourishing the faith of both spouses and children, the Synod encourages pastoral efforts to promote marriages between people of the same faith.”

♦ “Abortion,” writes the political director of the Huffington Post UK , “is one of those rare political issues on which left and right seem to have swapped ideologies: right-wingers talk of equality, human rights and ‘defending the innocent,’ while left-wingers fetishize ‘choice,’ selfishness and unbridled individualism.”

We think that’s much less of a surprise than he does, but to his credit Mehdi Hasan rejects the cultural left’s “my body, my life, my choice” line, writing in the New Statesman . “Such rhetoric has always left me perplexed. Isn’t socialism about protecting the weak and vulnerable, giving a voice to the voiceless? Who is weaker or more vulnerable than the unborn child? Which member of our society needs a voice more than the mute baby in the womb?”

“I consider abortion to be wrong because of, not in spite of, my progressive principles,” he concludes. “That I am pro-life does not make me any less of a lefty.”

♦ On the other hand, while searching the web for something, we once came across the Planned Parenthood “Republicans for Choice” site. (It’s now called “Republicans for Planned Parenthood.”) It included as a pull-out quote these words from Barry Goldwater: “A lot of so-called conservatives today don’t know what the word means. They think I’ve turned liberal because I believe a woman has a right to an abortion. That’s a decision that’s up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the religious right. It’s not a conservative issue at all.” Goldwater, a recent article on the site reports, founded the Planned Parenthood Arizona chapter.

If protecting the life of the unborn is not conservative, we don’t know what would be—or, alternatively, why anyone would care to be a conservative. And if “do-gooder” is an insult, as it seem to be, Goldwater has taken a position that the man of basic, of normal and merely human, moral awareness does not take.

♦ Readers may know that the Society of St. Pius X, the group that sort of left the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council (the theology of communion and schism is a subtle one), has ejected one of their four bishops. Already infamous for his Holocaust denial, Richard Williamson led the opposition to the reconciliation with the Church offered by Pope Benedict. He apparently refused to obey the group’s superior general and his council and wrote an open letter demanding that the superior general resign.

The SSPX, headquartered in Écône, Switzerland, has insisted that the current pope is the pope but that the Church he runs is somehow deeply defective and “modernist.” They are, they say, true Roman Catholics, faithful to the Church as she really is, without the deformations brought by the Second Vatican Council (all of whose documents their founder signed). Theirs is “the Rome of the ages,” as they like to put it.

The group’s announcement said that “this painful decision has become necessary by concern for the common good of the Society of Saint Pius X and its good government, according to what Archbishop Lefebvre denounced: ‘This is the destruction of authority. How can authority be exercised if it needs to ask all members to participate in the exercise of authority?’”

The SSPX demands more obedience to its leader than it is (at the moment) willing to give the pope it acknowledges as the pope. But perhaps Williamson could say that despite all appearances he really and truly still belongs to the SSPX because, though he disobeys “Modernist Éc”ne,” he is faithful to the “Écône of the Ages.”

♦ Last month, we quoted a convicting description of boycotts and the spiritual dangers thereof. There’s one more thing to be said: We find it easy to boycott things because in our society of abundance we can always find good substitutes.

♦ Some animals are homosexual, said the young man, mentioning two male penguins who reportedly raised a chick together, though the one news story we saw did not say whether the two were, um, romantically involved. Conservative activists had long used the supposed absence of such actions among animals as a moral argument against such actions by humans, which seemed unwise and has proven to be so.

Their understanding of the Fall was deficient, and their identification of “natural” confused a way of thinking about who we really are and how we ought to act, with “natural” meaning the life we observe in nature. Using that logic, homosexualist activists now invoke these animals as a moral argument for the good of human homosexuality.

“Duh,” noted our friend Gregory Laughlin of Samford University’s law school, who grew up on a farm. “I’ve seen two boars ‘together.’ So what? Animals also viciously kill one another, even their own kind. Does that make murder ‘natural’ and, therefore, licit among humans?”

It gets worse: “Many animals have multiple sex partners, and the male is often uninvolved in caring for his offspring. Does that make adultery, promiscuity, and paternal abandonment ‘natural’ and, therefore, licit among humans?

“Animals go into a frenzy when fed, pushing others out of the way and even trampling others to get to the food. Does that make greed, gluttony, covetousness, and theft ‘natural’ and, therefore, licit among humans?”

And there’s that verse about the dog returning to its vomit . . . .

♦ As we write, the Catholic Church in the English-speaking world is finishing the first year using the new translation of the Novus Ordo , and everyone seems happy. No one complains, anyway, and everyone we hear around us at Mass seems to have learned the new responses. There’s not an “And also with you” to be heard. Okay, there was this one elderly man sitting behind us one Sunday who bellowed out all the old responses, and he certainly looked angry, but just one man on one Sunday.

Not what some people expected. Back before the American bishops finally approved the new translation, the bishop of Erie, former head of the bishops’ liturgical committee, warned that it might lead to a “pastoral disaster.” In a major public lecture, Donald Trautman declared that “as a text for public proclamation, in many instances it borders on failure . . . . As it stands, the New Missal is not pastorally sensitive to our people . . . . Our liturgy needs not a ‘sacred Language’ but a pastoral language.”

The bishop smuggles in a lot of dubious ideas in that distinction between “sacred” and “pastoral,” and his understanding of “vernacular” is more than a little biased. He overlooks the problems with the previous version, which is a little like ignoring the approaching white light when you’re standing on a railroad track.

But we agree with him in calling for a translation, faithful to the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy , “that is accurate, inspiring, reverent, proclaimable, understandable, pastoral in every sense—a text that raises our minds and hearts to God.” We just think that’s what we’ve got now.

(See, for a definitive explanation, Anthony Esolen’s “Restoring the Words” in the November 2011 issue.) It hasn’t been, at any rate, a pastoral disaster.

♦ A couple of months ago, we mentioned Chesterton’s insight into art, that the essence of the picture is the frame. A recent New York magazine profile of Tom Wolfe, a writer with a distinctive and career-making style, gives an example.

The young Wolfe started writing for the New York Herald Tribune ’s Sunday supplement. “You get one chance with a Sunday supplement,” he explains. “People pick it up, look at one piece”that’ll be yours”and throw it away. So I began to think up techniques.”

The magazine continues: “To imitate the sound of a roulette wheel, he repeated the word, ‘Hernia hernia hernia? . . . ’ just enough times to force the reader to turn the page. He opened another story with a catcall. The repetitions, the ellipses, the onomatopoeia: All the markers of Wolfe’s stylistic DNA were adaptive mutations to a competitive climate, SEO optimization for the typewriter age.”

♦ Wolfe, the magazine reports, “bristles at the consensus that he’s a conservative.” He says that he’s “voted for every winner since [he’s] been old enough to vote,” except for the time he voted for Ross Perot instead of Bill Clinton.

He hadn’t (the article appeared in mid-October) decided who he would vote for this year, but he didn’t seem to think it mattered much. “Our federal government is like a train on the track. There are people on the right and people on the left, they’re yelling at it. The train has no choice; it’s on its track! Everyone gets forced to the center, which is fine with me . . . . I read all these things about the country fading, but if you really think about it, we’re still giants!”

♦ Another writer appropriated by conservatives feels pretty much the same way. Wendell Berry, reports National Review ’s John Miller, “certainly doesn’t view himself as a conservative, and he seems both puzzled and amused that his work would find favor with conservatives. ‘Mostly I’m a Democrat,’ he says. ‘I’m a child of the New Deal. My family have always been Democrats.’” He says he voted for Barack Obama in both elections. He’s given money only to a few Kentucky Democrats and Dennis Kucinich, the left-wing congressman who once ran for president.

“I’m pro-life, in lower-case letters,” Berry told Miller, who went to his home in rural Kentucky to interview him. “Abortion for birth control is wrong. That’s as far as I’m going to go. In some circumstances, I would justify it, as I would justify divorce in some circumstances, as the best of two unhappy choices.”

Asked for his opinion of Sen. Rand Paul’s views on foreign policy, Berry cannot answer. “The liability in talking to me about politics is that I’m not a close student of politics. That’s because I don’t expect very much from politics. But I know humans and greatly discomfort myself by expecting a lot from them. So far, I haven’t met a perfect human, but I’ve encountered enough of them who have seemed to me admirable.”

There seems to be no principle Berry will think through to its conclusion”what the killing of an unborn child actually means, for example. Instead, he avoids the hard questions of political commitment with appeals to human imperfection and human hypocrisy (next item).

The article is titled “A Jeremiah for Everyone.” He’s really not.

♦ “I’m in favor of it,” Berry says of homosexual marriage. “It’s really only because they’re being denied the benefits of inheritance and so on—otherwise I don’t think it ought to be the government’s business.”

He adds: “I really don’t understand how you can single out homosexuality for opprobrium and wink at fornication and adultery, which the Bible has a lot more to say about. The churches are not going to come out against fornication and adultery because there are too damn many fornicators and adulterers in their congregations.”

We doubt how many churches outside the mainline churches actually wink at fornication and adultery. Serial monogamy and contraception, yes, but not fornication and adultery. But granting (for the sake of argument) that conservatives are hypocrites, this doesn’t affect the question of what marriage is about. That’s another question that needs to be traced to its conclusion.

♦ As my friend Judy Warner (no, not that Judith Warner) says, “Funny how people who claim they don’t fit into a political category always vote Democrat.”

♦ For the last two elections, and several of the last seven, conservatives have had to talk themselves into liking the Republican presidential candidate more than they had before, because he was not the liberal Democratic candidate. Older readers will remember the Stephen Stills song whose chorus runs “If you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with! [whanging of guitars] Love the one you’re with! [more whanging] Love the one you’re with!” It could be the Republican establishment’s theme song for conservatives. It’s also the theme song of the male who wants intimacy without commitment.

♦ Last month, we published English barrister Paul Diamond’s report on official bigotry against Christianity in England, which uses the Public Order Act and its outlawing of speech that is “threatening, abusive, or insulting” as an excuse. As it happens, a recent issue of the Spectator includes more evidence.

Starting with the absurd. A man in the north of England was arrested and convicted under the act for . . . even the Anglophobes among you won’t believe this . . . growling at some Labrador Retrievers. Oh yes, and saying “Woof.” The conviction was later overturned. It only cost the English £8000.

More worrisome, writes Melanie McDonagh, the respected writer Matthew Parris, a Tory, reported listening to a pro-life Member of Parliament and noticing the man’s name, checked his religion. Finding out that the MP was a Catholic, he dismissed his argument because “he presumably believes that . . . almost any termination after conception is not just a sin but a mortal sin.”

McDonagh also mentions the criticism that a professor of psychiatry at University College Dublin received for not declaring her Catholicism when writing on abortion for the British Journal of Psychiatry . No one called for a pro-choice foundation to admit its bias in a recent paper on the same subject. “It’s religious belief that appears to undermine the validity of your research and your academic integrity,” she notes. “Secular prejudice doesn’t count.”

Finally, James Delingpole mentions that his niece told him that whenever students at her state school mention Muhammad, they are required to add “Peace Be Upon Him,” though they’re allowed to say “PBUH” instead. “You can imagine the fuss,” he writes, “if at every mention of the name Jesus Christ all children of whatever creed were forced to raise their arms in the air and add ‘Our Lord and Saviour, He is risen, Alleluia.’”

The act, argues Rod Liddle, source of the first story, “is used . . . to criminalise people who express inconvenient political views.” And also against anyone “who has been a bit arsey to the fuzz and they can’t get him on any other charge.”

♦ We’re sure he’s a good man, even so. Thomas Wayne Hoover of St. Louis writes in response to an item last month: “The warped and twisted Mr. David Mills really ought to confine his perverted remarks about cats to whatever low quarters he frequents outside the First Things , 35 editorial offices. It is certainly true that those who know the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob do not actually worship that perfect and unfallen species, but it can be no accident that the holy and glorious word ‘Catholic’ is (intentionally?) reminiscent of ‘catlike.’”

♦ Much to be commended was this year’s conference of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, held on Long Island. It offered several plenary addresses, including one by Robert P. George on “Conscience and Its Enemies,” and seventy break-out sessions on subjects ranging from the accuracy of New York City’s crime numbers to Fatima to the sociology of architecture to labor law.

For more information on the SCSS and its work, see

♦ And to help with our work, please send a contribution to: First Things , 35 East 21st Street, New York, NY 10003. It will be much appreciated and used well .

while we’re at it sources : Catholic Times :, November 11, 2012. Martyrs: America , November 12, 2012. Russian warnings:, November 13, 2012. Paying for weed:, November 16, 2012. Egg ethics:, May 22, 2012. It’s the pope’s fault:, November 15, 2012. Evolving conservatives:, November 6, 2012, and, November 10, 2012. The pushy Journal : Wall Street Journal , November 8, 2012. Lucky numbers: WSJ , November 9, 2012. Mixed marriages: Pro-life lefty:, October 11, 2012. Obtuse Goldwater:, August 29, 2012. No, October 26, 2009. Wolfe’s frame: New York , October 29, 2012. Liberal Berry: National Review , July 30, 2012. Turn to Zen: The Presence of Grace , ed. Carter Martin. Repressive England: The Spectator , October 20, 2012.

wwai tips : Stephen Barr, Mark Barrett, Graham Hutton, William Tighe, Judy Warner.