Original Sin

Illustration by Susan Coyne

This Week: Clerical Errors— with James Carroll, Lisa Cahill, Fintan O’Toole, Emer Martin, and Mike Rezendes. Listen today at 2pm on WBUR or anytime on our website.

RP and MM: The Catholic Church is in peril, and Pope Francis is floundering, in the wake of allegation after allegation of systemic sex abuse. The 2002 Spotlight investigation, now chronicled for the big screen, kicked it all off, but the story’s the same everywhere, Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo’s character in the movie) told us.

Rezendes being interviewed for Open Source (left); Mark Ruffalo as Rezendes in Spotlight (right).
Mark Ruffalo as Mike Rezendes in Spotlight

It was a kick to meet Mike, a reporter’s reporter in every way. What a stah he is for the hometown team. Mark Ruffalo nailed him!

Jim Caroll

Jim Carroll is another; we rely on Jim’s steady voice on so many topics, and none more than this one. He and BC’s Lisa Cahill contextualized the scandal within an institution founded on a set of poisonous ideas about sex. While they disagreed on theological historical details (don’t quiz us on those), they did agree on the urgent need for feminism to save the day.

Here’s how Jim wrapped the show:

The temple is destroyed. What allows for the survival of faith is the inbuilt transcendental longing of every human being. Every human being has the experience that there’s more to life than this. There’s more to live than the mall. There’s more to life than success. There’s more to life than a happy family even. What is it? And how do we put words around it? And the tradition of Jesus Christ has been one of those precious traditions that has offered, eloquent, true, beautiful, trustworthy language, again and again and again snagged by the human condition falling into sin, falling into betrayal. We’re living through a horrible moment of that now. The temple is being destroyed. Roman Catholicism will never be what it was. And that’s good. The Reformation is over. The modern church, modernism, this 200 year-old phenomenon is over. The Catholic priesthood as we know it is over. The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church is over. What’s coming? All we know for sure is that people who remember Jesus are going to continue to find ways to gather, break bread, share a cup of wine, tell the story and find hope and motive for being of service to the world

Emer Martin (left) and Fintan O’Toole (right)

With help from Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole and Irish novelist Emer Martin, we used Ireland as a case study in how the Church loses control. Rebecca introduced us to another young Irish writer, Sally Rooney, whose debut novel, Conversations with Friends, depicts a post-Catholic Ireland—the only mention of the Church is, fittingly, in a conversation among friends:

We got into a short discussion about the government and the Catholic Church. Melissa asked us if we were religious and we said no. She said she found religious occasions, like funerals or weddings, “comforting in a kind of sedative way.” They’re communal, she said. There’s something nice about that for the neurotic individualist. And I went to a convent school so I still know most of the prayers.

We went to a convent school, said Bobbi. It posed issues.

Melissa grinned and said: like what?

Well, I’m gay, said Bobbi. And Frances is a communist.

I also don’t think I remember any of the prayers, I said.

We can’t wait to dive into Conversations With Friends. Rebecca will report back on Sally’s newest: Normal People. Check out this show we did that featured other Irish writers like Colm Toibin, Colin Barrett, and Brenda McKeon, and this issue of Granta that featured them. Sally Rooney’s story, “Mr Salary” was one of our favorites.

Emer Martin took us into the dark world of Ireland’s laundries, institutions run by the nuns and overseen by the Catholic Church to house Ireland’s “fallen women.” Martin reminded us these were operating in Ireland as late as the 1990's!

Women working in a Magdalene laundry in Ireland
Children in an Irish Magdalene laundry

Chris reminded us of the film, Philomena, starring Judi Dench and directed by Stephen Frears, about the laundries and another aspect of those stories — the adoption of the Irish children by U.S. families after they were taken from their mothers.

Stuff we learned this week:

Yale Law School professors coach female students on how to dress when interviewing for clerkships… which means this 1990 passage from Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth isn’t outdated yet:

Octopuses are cuddly when high. The big-tent “Resistance” is counterproductive (Michelle Alexander’s debut NYT column). We need a better definition of “neoliberalism.” Atossa Araxia Abrahamian reviewing Adam Tooze and Quinn Slobodian on the global economy and the economic crash:

The biggest mistake made by journalists and academics attempting to explain what, exactly, happened in 2008 is imagining that neoliberalism stands for a belief in self-regulated markets without borders — and further, that we live in some version of that world. Tooze’s and Slobodian’s books bring this hazy picture into sharper focus. Globalists rectifies the theory, demonstrating that contrary to popular assumption, Mises, Hayek, and many of their heirs did not actually trust capital to manage itself unimpeded: The economic “freedom” they desired, in practice, required extreme, top-down measures to curtail democracy.

Liberal elite “voices of reason” are pretty coddled, too… and they’re swerving to the right. From Moira Weigel:

As more and more Americans, especially young Americans, express enthusiasm for democratic socialism, a new right-liberalism answers. Its emerging canon first defined itself in reaction to new social movements highlighting the structural or systemic elements of identity-based oppression. By deriding those movements as “clicktivism” or mere “hashtags”, right-liberal pundits also, implicitly, expressed frustration at how web platforms were breaking up their monopoly on discourse. In January 2015, weeks after a wave of massive Black Lives Matter protests, Jonathan Chait decried Twitter as the launch pad of a “new pc movement”. In the conclusion of The Once and Future Liberal, Lilla singled out Black Lives Matter for special condemnation, calling it “a textbook example of how not to build solidarity”. Andrew Sullivan has criticised “the excesses of #MeToo”. Just last week, Harper’s and the New York Review of Books published long personal essays in which men accused of serial sexual harassment and assault defended themselves and described their sense of persecution by online “mobs”.

Maggie Doherty on millennial memoirs. Who is Maeve Brennan? The most depressing piece on climate change I’ve ever read and which has inspired me to spend more time in nature because well what else is there left to do?

Next Week: Jill Lepore

Jill’s new American history book, These Truths, is simply amazing (and while the reviews have generally been good; it deserves even higher praise). Chris’s interview will blow all the others away. Stay tuned for this one!

That’s all for now. Please listen, comment, donate and get in touch at radiopensource.org

Til next week,

The OS team



An American conversation with global attitude, on the arts, humanities, and global affairs, hosted by Christopher Lydon. chris@radioopensource.org

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Radio Open Source

An American conversation with global attitude, on the arts, humanities, and global affairs, hosted by Christopher Lydon. chris@radioopensource.org