Follow-up question for Anne Rice

Do you ever wish that you could have been present during an interview between a major newspaper and a major newsmaker or popular personality? This happens to me when I read a really amazing quote and then think to myself, “OK, if the reporter didn’t follow up on that by asking this question, he (or she) should be abandoned in journalism purgatory.”

anne riceThis past week, the Baltimore Sun ran an interesting feature on novelist Anne Rice by reporter Anne-Marie O’Connor. Clearly, we are still in major publicity mode for “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.” By all means, read the story for yourself, because it has some interesting material in it.

I have been interested in the dueling themes in the press coverage of this book. Stories tend to say (a) the book’s take on Christianity is amazingly orthodox, given Rice’s past, and conservatives are rather pleased with it or (b) Rice has come back to Catholicism on her own terms, which blend personal faith with progressive takes on moral issues. In other words, she is a brave Catholic reformer. Some people have tried to say (a) and (b), which is tricky, but possible.

Thus, I was fascinated by this section of the Sun piece:

Rice favors gay marriage. She believes the church position regarding birth control is a grievous error that is not supported by Scripture. She repudiates what she sees as intolerant, “sex-obsessed” church leaders and says she does not find support in the message of Jesus for their focus on sexual orientation or abortion. She argues for a more inclusive church.

“Think of how the church bells would ring and the pews would fill if women could become priests and priests could marry. It would be the great resurgence of the Catholic Church in this country,” Rice said recently, seated in front of a roaring fire, in the La Jolla, Calif., mansion she moved to after she left New Orleans.

OK, so what is the very next question that the reporter could have, or even should have, asked?

Here is my clue for you. It is closely related to the question I have sent to Andrew Sullivan several times and he has never answered. It would start: “Ms. Rice, are you familiar with the statistical trends …”

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Bob Smietana


    Instead of wishing you there during the interview, why not call Rice and ask her the followup question yourself, and post the results of your conversation here or write about them in your column? Her email is public — — and as the Times pointed out, she’s been willing and open to doing interviews about the book and about her conversion and theological understandings. It would be a fascinating interview and would show–rather than tell–how good religion reporting is done.

  • Will

    “Desmond Morris says the Lepchas are obsessed with sex. (The Lepchas say Desmond Morris is obsessed with sex.”) — John Sack, REPORT FROM PRACTICALLY NOWHERE

  • The Waffling Anglican

    Ms. Rice has made a big jump from vampires to Catholicism – more power to her! It is unfortunate that her celebrity defines her in the mind of the press as a spokesperson for the Church, when she is really at the stage of being a (relatively) new convert. I hope and expect that as she grows in Christ, she will grow in her acceptance of church doctrine.

  • Jeff

    In a uniquely American way, Ms. Rice successfully demonstrates that she understands little about Catholic teaching, how it came to be, why it came to be, and the scriptural basis for it’s conclusions.

    Please, Ms. Rice before you become the next Pope, it may help you to read the Catechism and go to an RCIA class.

  • Kyle

    Good point, tmatt. The kids do love them some orthodoxy these days.

    Methinks that it’s the priests and profs educated in the sixties and seventies that haven’t quite gotten the memo yet…

  • Joe Perez

    I believe the correct answer to tmatt’s query is “Given your disagreements with the Roman Church, why didn’t you join the Episcopalian Church?” tmatt has asked Andrew Sullivan this, but says he’s received no reply.

    That said, I don’t know what statistical trends has to do with anything. tmatt or anyone?

    I think tmatt’s question is a good one. But I wouldn’t stop there. I’d get a reaction from Roman Catholic bishops, or Rice’s own parish priest. Question: Do you believe that Ms. Rice should be… (answer on my blog, or you can fill in the rest on your own if you prefer)

  • Tope

    Joe – I think what tmatt was getting at is that the churches which allow female pastors/priests, blessings of gay unions, and other similar things are, how shall I say it, not exactly *thriving*.

  • Daniel

    Well, Orthodox and liturgically conservative denominations–which don’t allow female pastors/priests, don’t bless gay unions, and other similar things–aren’t exactly thriving either.

    The churches that are thriving are nondenominational, Pentacostal, and non-liturgical fundamentalist/Evangelical churches.

  • Joe Perez

    Tope: Well if that WAS tmatt’s question to Rice, and we’ll find out soon enough I’m sure, then it’s remarkably uninteresting. What convert looks to the statistical trends and opinion polls to see if he/she is joining the most popular religion available?

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  • Jim Burns

    “Think of how the church bells would ring and the pews would fill if women could become priests and priests could marry. It would be the great resurgence of the Catholic Church in this country”…. it’s quite clear Anne Rice is unenlightened and the above quote proves it. I hate to break the news to her but the pews would empty and church bells fall silent if Rome ever allowed women to become priests and priests to marry. Protestant and Evangelical churches now number over 28,000 denominations (and more being added every day) principally because its believers kept seeking a church that fit THEIR belief, culture and ideology and if the one they were in was unacceptable or uninclusive of or just plain unappealing they moved across town and started a new one. I for one don’t want to see the day when the Roman Catholic Church starts down that dark path by giving in to popular culture and we someday see on the street corner a sign saying “First Reformed Catholic Church – the Reverend Mr and Mrs John Doe, co-pastors.

    No, I’m not being narrow minded, bigoted or sexist. I’m being true to Rome who is true to Jesus who is true to the Father. Long live our one, holy, catholic and apostolic church!