Joan Rivers' hate couture

Joan_riversHere are two tidbits — something old, something new — from the weeklies that arrive at my snail-mail address.

First the old. From the Sept. 27 Newsweek, the hideous verb re-up has now entered the realm of surrogate motherhood:

“We had all of these embryos left over,” [Joan] Lunden told Newsweek. “Jeff and I have been banking these embryos for a while. It’s funny, you pay freezer storage on embryos and I got the ‘Do you want to re-up on your freezer storage?’ and Jeff and I said, ‘Oh, there’s a little sibling in there somewhere very, very cold.”

A rhetorical question that was too pregnant with meaning for Newsweek to address on its Newsmakers page: What the ethical implications when would-be parents choose not to “re-up on your freezer storage”?

Now for the new. From the Oct. 1 issue of Entertainment Weekly, comedian Joan Rivers continues her work as an ambassador of love:

Resplendent in a silver jacket, luxe fur scarf, black pants, and rhinestone-studded heels, Joan Rivers is angry as ever. As she frenetically paces the stage at the Stardust in Las Vegas, the crowd eats up her barbed mots on this steamy night in June. She tosses out a few zingers about Donatella Versace’s face — punctuating the joke by scrunching up her own famous enhanced visage — and Rosie O’Donnell’s hygiene (not printable in a family magazine) before directing her rage at born-again Christians. “I hate Jesus freaks,” she declares. “They’re ugly, she seethes, her huge cocktail ring bouncing sparkles around the room with every pointy gesticulation. “‘Jesus loves me,’ they say. If he loved you so much he would have given you a f—-ing chin.” If anyone in this blue-hair Vegas audience is offended, their qualms are buried by a room exploding in laughter.

A blue-haired Vegas audience bellowing at cheap-shot humor? Can it be? And if poor beleaguered Brad Stine were to do that last joke, aiming it at any other faith and its adherents and (of course) substituting freaking for Rivers’ F-bomb, how long would his next Promise Keepers gig last?

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The gauche that haunts me

Not sure how kosher it is to mention our own work on this website but I’ve been up late for the last few nights pounding out a few drafts of a story on the Deal Hudson flap for the website of The American Spectator. The tawdry tale is of interest for several reasons, including a few which have yet to be explored by the senior bloggers of this site.

For what it’s worth, I agree with Jeff Sharlet that the media has not given enough coverage to this story, both when it first broke in August and now in what appears to be its final act.

In August, the New York Times covered the story but it did so by assigning conservative primatologist David Kirkpatrick to do the honors. I have nothing against Kirkpatrick (fine reporter, interesting writer, etc.) but by tapping its man on the conservative beat to cover the story, the Times effectively said that it wasn’t interested in digging any further.

This time around, the Washington Times had a great story by Julia Duin and the Washington Post ran a brief item on page A9, buried under a notice about Senator John Kerry’s gains among Jewish voters. A restricted Nexis search for “Deal w/1 Hudson” for the last 60 days turned up only 44 items, many of those brief items in religion news digests.

It’s a shame that more reporters didn’t dig deeper because the best conflicts tend to be religious squabbles. Two things I tried to capture in my Spectator piece:

* The National Catholic Reporter scoop was made possible not by opposition researchers at, say, Catholics for Choice, but by conservative Catholics with axes to grind. Once Hudson’s charges of partisanship have had time to settle, it’s pretty clear that Deal was done in by his own crowd’s willingness to stick in the dagger.

* The revelations brough out some interesting — some would say troubling — strains of traditionalist Catholic thinking.

On this second point, Mark Shea wrote an article for the Catholic Exchange that is worth quoting at length:

I suppose, from a purely journalistic perspective, untrammeled by all that stuff about the Sacrament of Confession, teaching against the sin of detraction, teaching on charity, the centrality of the family and the rest, a reporter could evoke the all-excusing genie of the “Public’s Right to Know” as a “reason” for this contemptible hit piece written with no other object in mind than to destroy somebody whose politics are inimical to the editorial posture of the National “Catholic” Reporter.

But the National “Catholic” Reporter is supposed to be, well, Catholic. It is supposed to shed the light of Catholic Social Teaching so that those Awful Right-Wingers who practice the politics of personal destruction will understand true Peace and Justice. Yet viewed from a Catholic rather than a purely journalistic perspective, I can see no justification whatsoever for this shameful slime job. None.

Shea went on to argue, in all seriousness, that the Reporter‘s reporting violated the Sacrament of Confession. Over at the Envoy weblog (which doesn’t have permalinks) Patrick Madrid didn’t go quite as far but raised questions that the story might promote the sin of detraction.

Right now, most everybody who voiced objection to the Reporter story is backtracking but the opposition to the the idea of the story even being exposed in the first place was both real and deeply felt. Interviewing Patrick Madrid for the story (and I’d like to break from journalistic objectivity for a second to say that he came across as the nicest guy) I asked him if there was a tension between Catholicism and journalism. It is to his credit, I think, that he paused and then answered honestly: “I don’t think there’s a tension between Catholicism and good journalism.” Later in the same exchange, he said that he spoke up because he wanted to discourage “needless trafficking in the details” of the story, particularly the salacious aspects.

Rod Dreher, outspoken crunchy conservative Catholic assistant editorial page editor at the Dallas Morning News, had a different point of view. In an e-mail he replied to Shea’s original broadside:

What it gets down to is this question: Can one be both a good journalist and a good Catholic? I fail to see why a journalist, Catholic or not, has to pay any attention to whether or not a public figure like Deal Hudson has gone to confession over his sins. The issue in this case was the sordid and abusive past of a conservative Catholic leader who had placed himself in an advisory capacity to the president of the United States, specifically in an effort to get him re-elected by telling him how to appeal to Catholics. That’s a news story.

You think?

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About Jeremy Lott

JeremyLott.jpgJeremy Lott has written about religion for many periodicals, from The Washington Post to Christianity Today to the late great Linguafranca. He is a contributing editor to Books & Culture and his feature story on the Christian culture industry, “Jesus Sells,” was collected in The Best Christian Writing 2004. His career so far includes stints at several magazines, from Reason to The American Spectator, and his journalism has appeared in a number of foreign publications in Canada, Australia and the Netherlands.

Jeremy is a convert to the Catholic Church. He divides his time between Lynden, Washington, a small Dutch Reformed town near the Canadian border, and Fairfax, Virginia. His bachelor’s diploma in biblical studies from Trinity Western University arrived in the mail after he accidentally graduated.

Jeremy wrote for GetReligion from September 2004 to July 2005. He is now writing a book about hypocrisy.

The American Spectator
Books & Culture
The Christian Science Monitor
Colby Cosh
The Economist
“Jesus Sells”
Mark Shea
The Spectator (U.K.)

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Path of the Storm II: Was it something we did? Or said?

JeanneAll together now: Charley and Frances and Ivan and Jeanne.

It kind of sounds like a Cold War-era Southern sex farce movie from the 1960s, doesn’t it?

Suffice it to say that people down here in the fifth or sixth ring of Florida are not laughing at the moment. Hurricane Jeanne has turned straight toward us and may hit as a Category 4. I think I read somewhere that Texas was hit by four hurricanes in 1886 or something like that. This will be number four for Florida. One more and we can chant: We’re number one. We’re number one.

Therefore, it’s time to start asking ultimate questions, such as: Are we absolutely positive that the governor of this state’s name is Jeb and not Job?

Here is the end of one of the waves of Hurricane Jeanne stories down here:

“After this I don’t want to hear the word hurricane ever again,” said Anna Faustini of Port St. Lucie, who lost her rental home to Frances and fears Jeanne will finish off her worldly possessions. “I stacked all my stuff that wasn’t ruined in the driest part of the house, the garage, and covered it with a tarp, but I don’t have anywhere to move it to.

“If I can’t find another house I can afford in St. Lucie County, my daughter will miss out on her senior year at Westwood and our lives will be destroyed,” said a teary Faustini, who is living with friends in Lake Worth. “I’ve called everywhere, and no one has anything for $650 a month. It’s in God’s hands now.”

God shows up in quite a few of the news stories during hurricane season, but, so far, no one has put in print the question that you actually hear down here on the sidewalks and in the pews. The question is simple: Why is this happening? Close behind that question is this one: Why is God doing this to us? And then this one: Was it something we did? Why is Pat Robertson mad at us this time?

I would try to write that column myself, but I don’t think that I’ll have power much longer. In Hurricane Frances, I sent out some emails linked to a question I asked here at GetReligion: For what should people pray when in the path of a storm? That turned into a Scripps Howard column a few days later — just in time for Hurricane Ivan. Here is some commentary on some of these issues from Father Joseph Wilson of St. Luke’s Catholic Church in Whitestone, N.Y.

Roman Catholics have long wrestled with these issues in liturgies, he said. The altar missal includes a rich variety of “Masses for Various Needs,” including prayers about the weather and harvests. The “Procession for Averting Tempest” begins with church bells, a litany of the saints and the following:

“Almighty and ever living God, spare us in our anxiety and take pity on us in our abasement, so that after the lightning in the skies and the force of the storm have calmed, even the very threat of tempest may be an occasion for us to offer You praise. Lord Jesus, Who uttered a word of command to the raging tempest of wind and sea and there came a great calm: hear the prayers of Your family.”

Finally, the priest makes the sign of the cross and sprinkles the surroundings with holy water. At that point, quipped Wilson, “I guess everyone assumes the crash position.”

OK, that’s kind of funny.

But the whole point is that these issues are timeless. Believers who ask these questions are in good company. The question I want to ask is more mundane: Is this a story? Should reporters down here be interviewing sacred and secular thinkers and putting this issue in the headlines?

UPDATE: The fine religion writer Ann Rodgers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was hit with hurricane-related stress all the way up north. She has posted an interesting reflection on religion news and disasters on the blog she does for the Religion Newswriters Association. Check it out.

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Wallace_shawnRichard Major has filed a report for The Tablet on Archbishop George Carey’s visit to Truro Episcopal Church (beret tip: Simon Sarmiento). It’s a basic but flawed narrative of what has transpired in the broader Anglican Communion since the consecration of Gene Robinson as the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop.

The problems begin in the lead:

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, last week flew to the United States to confirm 300 Episcopalians who have refused to recognise their own bishop. The parishioners at Truro Church in Fairfax, a wealthy suburb of Washington D.C, believe that Peter Lee, the Bishop of Virginia, has lost his authority because of his support for the consecration of Gene Robinson, the Bishop of New Hampshire, by the Episcopal Church of the USA (Ecusa). The consecration in November last year has effectively split the Anglican Communion.

So they’ve refused to recognize Bishop Lee’s authority and they met in a wealthy suburb of Washington? They must be obscurantists.

The deepening division within Anglicanism over homosexuality took a critical turn last summer when a Canadian diocese authorised the blessing of same-sex unions. Soon afterwards, Robinson was confirmed as bishop by Ecusa’s general convention despite the pleas of the Anglican Primates, as well as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to refrain from doing so.

Mainstream Anglicans, in America and elsewhere, regarded these acts as a formal repudiation by Ecusa and the Canadians of received Christian teaching on sexuality, and the agreed position of the Communion.

So they’re not obscurantists, but mainstream Anglicans. As Terry is fond of reminding us, even if conservatives are outnumbered in most U.S. dioceses, they do stand with the majority of the Anglican Communion.

[The Anglican Communion's 38 primates] also insisted on intervention in the affairs of such provinces, calling on them to make provision for ‘episcopal oversight of dissenting minorities . . . in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury’. Dr Williams then set up a Commission, chaired by Archbishop Robin Eames of Armagh, to resolve how such oversight might work.

In the meantime, he has appealed for a period of restraint. This has largely been honoured, although some American Episcopal parishes have tried to secede to African provinces, risking legal action by their bishops.

Here is the worst problem in Major’s report. Notice that only conservatives stand accused of disregarding Robin Eames’ plea for a period of restraint, though Eames has explained that he meant the plea for the entire spectrum of Anglicans.

There’s no mention of the Diocese of Vermont, like Canada’s Diocese of New Westminster, distributing rites for blessing gay couples — one of the very actions that led to the Lambeth Commission’s creation.

There’s no mention of Los Angeles Bishop Jon Bruno blessing a gay priest and his partner, or Bishop John Chane of Washington, D.C., doing the same. (Yes, General Convention has declared that such actions are “within the bounds of [the Episcopal Church's] common life.” But if General Convention’s votes were the last word on the matter for the whole of the Anglican Communion, the Lambeth Commission need not exist.)

There’s no mention of bishops railing against the American Anglican Council and the Anglican Communion Network as if these bodies are openly attacking the Body of Christ.

Fr David Moyer, leader of Forward in Faith in North America, told The Tablet that at the minimum Eames must ‘sternly rebuke Ecusa for its go-it-alone attitude’ and offer ‘immediate provision of security for the life and witness’ of conservative clergy. But he said Ecusa had become ‘irreformable’: liberals are in ‘tight control’ of the ship, he said.

At the other end of the spectrum, Integrity, for 30 years the lobby group for Episcopalian homosexuals, refused to believe that Ecusa could be ‘voted off the Anglican island, as in Survivor‘. Its president, the Revd Susan Russell, said that ‘prophetic ministry always comes at a cost’. ‘The Church is stronger, the Gospel better served’ because of its change of mind about homosexual acts, she told The Tablet, adding that it was ‘incomprehensible’ that the presence of practising homosexuals in the episcopate might make people feel obliged to secede.

Russell’s use of imcomprehensible is reminiscent of Vizzini, Wallace Shawn’s character in The Princess Bride, and his fondness for the word inconceivable.

And let’s not forget Inigo Montoya’s perplexed response: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

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Sex & the Ghost III: Niches 'R' Us at the multiplex

Brownbunny_2I think it was about 10 years ago that I first heard traditional Jewish and Christian contacts in Hollywood start talking about the new movie era of grand slams and singles and the implications of this trend for religion in mainstream film.

First, let me define some baseball terms. The basic idea is that major-studio executives have, in the post-Star Wars decades, started focusing most of their attention on the creation of “event films,” those box-office grand slams that may cost $100-150 million to produce, but are going to still make loads of money if the whole culture shows up, more than once, to see them. You have to make $250 to $400 million, of course. You can’t afford to tick off too many people.

Note the emphasis on the phrase “whole culture.” This means that the movies must be hits in mainstream America as well as in elite zip codes. In other words, the movies must sell in red theaters as well as in blue theaters.

The trend associated with this is the rise of the PG-13 blockbusters, those flashy roller-coaster video rides that have enough zip for adults — that touch of Spielbergian hot sauce — yet are “safe” enough to sell to video-saturated pre-teens. Violence seems to be OK. Vivid sex is dangerous.

The losers in this scenario? People who built careers making that Hollywood staple — the sexy R-rated movie with a budget somewhere between $40-80 million, with the goal of making about $60-100 million. Once, these films were released in waves.

If the event films are grand slams, these old adult-market films were supposed to be doubles or triples. But times changed, noted the Christian Science Monitor in a recent story on sex trends in film.

A 2003 study by the Christian Film and Television Commission analyzed the box-office returns of 1,120 films over four years and found that the more explicit films sold fewer tickets.

Many would argue with that opinion and the groups that preach it. But something has been driving the decline in R-rated product.

Which brings us to films that “hit singles.” What exactly is a “single” and why is this concept important for those covering faith and film? Or sex and film?

A single is a small-budget movie that targets a smaller, but solid niche of people who are interested in a certain subject or set of beliefs. You make the film for $10-30 million and, if the script is good, you bring in $40-100 million. If the movie fails, the studio has not invested loads of cash that it could be using to make “Aliens 666.” Singles still add up to real profits, especially when something amazing happens. Think “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” or even “The Passion of the Christ.”

So what are these smaller, but solid niches of ticket-purchasing consumers who cheer for singles? Some of the niches have been around for some time now. We should be seeing green lights for more smaller films targeting women, African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians. The future is bright for gay and lesbian cinema, for marketing reasons as well as cultural reasons.

And, in the heady days post-Passion, we have seen signs that Hollywood executives might be willing to produce more films for the more traditional religious consumers in what some people are now calling the Grace Hill market (a tribute to the trailblazing Grace Hill Media publicity company). After years and years of terrible Christian films from low-budget, low-talent, low-buzz operations, there is some chance that actual studios may start making stronger films that wrestle with faith issues and decline to bash people who do not cross their fingers when they read the Bible. OK, that’s a bit of a cheap shot, but you get the idea.

But here’s the point of the headline and the art with this post. Church people are going to have to realize that this same trend in technology and marketing is going to lead to renewed interest in another very, very dependable niche subject — sex. To stay with the baseball analogy, we are going to see lots of sexy singles — like the soon to be infamous movie, “The Brown Bunny.” Here’s the Chicago Tribune on this trend:

Got sex? That could be the art-film circuit’s new slogan as explicit sex has returned to the big screen with a vengeance.

Never mind that the porn industry has migrated from grungy theaters to home video and the Internet. …
The cinema is in the midst of its own sexual revolution, flouting taboos and exploring sexuality more brazenly than ever, even if American filmmakers have been slow to pick up the mantle and explicit sex remains an anathema to mainstream theater and video chains as well as the Motion Picture Association of America.

You know something’s going on when Brian Grazer, Ron Howard’s producing partner, is preparing a sexually graphic documentary about the cultural impact of ’70s porn film “Deep Throat.”

The Tribune is not alone in seeing this trend in the culture-war age in which, to quote the story again, “outrage over an exposed breast” is “sandwiched between ads addressing sexual dysfunction.” But this neo-porn chic actually makes financial sense. The new sex films don’t cost a lot and it is actually good (from a Hollywood perspective) if their strong content actually offends some Americans.

This is precisely the same argument that many Christian filmmakers are going to be making in the years ahead, sitting across giant desks from Hollywood players. There is a case to be made for Christian singles, as well.

It is a strange time in Hollywood. Sex sells and everyone knows it. But high-quality films about faith may sell, as well. They stir passions as well, with a large “P.”

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Jimmy Swaggart and the hairy swamp monkey

Ferriday_trio_1Jimmy Swaggart has apologized, in the classic “I’m sorry if anyone was offended” style, for saying about gay men, “If one ever looks at me like that, I’m going to kill him and tell God he died.”

The Associated Press reported:

On Wednesday, Swaggart said he has jokingly used the expression “killing someone and telling God he died” thousands of times, about all sorts of people. He said the expression is figurative and not meant to harm.

“It’s a humorous statement that doesn’t mean anything. You can’t lie to God — it’s ridiculous,” Swaggart told The Associated Press. “If it’s an insult, I certainly didn’t think it was, but if they are offended, then I certainly offer an apology.”

Swaggart’s telling the truth about his history of overheated language. Swaggart recorded many teaching LPs in the early 1970s, including two that are still occasionally available through eBay: The Plague and The Ring of Fire.

On these records, Swaggart holds forth on Vietnam, the anti-war movement, movies, Madison Avenue, rock & roll and the prodigal ways of his cousin Jerry Lee Lewis. Two moments on The Ring of Fire stand out:

Swaggart on The Beatles

You boys and girls that have Beatle records at home, this is the most rotten, dirty, damnable, filthy, putrid filth that this nation or the world has ever known. And you parents that would allow this filth to be in your home, you ought to be taken out somewhere and horsewhipped, you hear me. And I mean it, my friend.

Swaggart on sex ed

I saw pictures the other day of what they’re wanting to show our kids. And I want to tell you, if I ever hear of one teacher that shows my boy that filth, I’m going to get in my car and go to that school and pull off my coat, and when I get through with him, his face is going to be rearranged.

But let’s get back to Swaggart’s words of this year. As Ted Olsen of Christianity Today’s Weblog wrote earlier this week, “One might think that someone who has publicly experienced brokenness in his sexuality might be a bit more careful in his words. In this line of thinking, wouldn’t the prostitute that Swaggart hired have been justified in killing him?”

One might think it indeed. But Swaggart’s national humiliation in the late 1980s hasn’t stopped him from offering his insights on “Spiritual Adultery” (“It’s a sobering thought to realize that most Christians don’t understand the Cross, and despite all their efforts otherwise, are consequently living in spiritual adultery”) and “Catholicism and Pedophilia” (“On this CD, we tell you why the problem is rampant in the Catholic Church. We also give you the Biblical cure”).

No writer has better captured Jimmy Swaggart than Steve Chapple did in the July/August 1986 issue of Mother Jones (alas, I cannot find it online). Remember, this is before Marvin Gorman’s son released the notorious photos of Swaggart entering and leaving a motel room with a prostitute. Chapple, author of Burning Desires and several other books, understood Swaggart’s conflicts with sex long before any other journalist. Chapple indulges some of the habits of judgment that normally earn a writer a place in our Creeping Fundamentalism category, but he does so with a flourish that makes him a pleasure to read.

Consider these paragraphs, and remember the strange days when Pat Robertson was running for president:

I talk to two well-dressed women in rayon blouses, high collars, full bras, severely pulled back hair, and the requisite long skirts. They refuse to give me their names. One is the ex-manager of a modeling agency. “Jimmy Swaggart tells it like it is,” she says. “Other ministers try to be proper. He feels the fire.”

We’re onto something here. Like so many things in the Jimmy Swaggart story, this is a case of having your cake and eating it too. Jimmy Lee gets to play the rock star and sing for the Lord at the same time. He is a minister of the Gospel yet is allowed to go cat-[expletive] with his Louisiana mouth.

“I hate — hate — those droning old mausoleum churches! They’d kill a dead man in a graveyard at midnight!” growled Jimmy Lee during last week’s television crusade.

Can you imagine a minister of the Unitarian/Episcopalian/Catholic/Reformed Jewish faith talking like that? And Swaggart stands apart too from the other major TV evangelists — Robert Schuller, Pat Robertson, Tammy and Jim Bakker, Jerry Falwell — slimy, unctuous poseurs all, if we may be frank, so patently false they would cause a stuffed dog to bark out.

To the big media — Time, the networks, The New Republic,and so on — Jerry Falwell and now Pat Robertson, since Robertson is running for the Republican presidential nomination and has been discovered to have a former U.S. senator for a father, seem more appropriate targets of coverage than Jimmy Lee. This is partly because the U.S. media rarely understand anything west of Riverside Drive or east of La Cienega Boulevard and partly because these secular humanists have, shall we say, a distant relationship with Christ. Yet it’s Jimmy Lee the American people, God help us, really seem to juice for. Jimmy Lee is more than a marshaler of conservative votes and a denigrator of issues liberals hold dear.

Jimmy Lee lives movies like Poltergiest and The Exorcist. Jimmy Lee has beaten back the Devil/Bear/Beast in the middle of the night. Jimmy Lee Swaggart understands the hairy swamp monkey of fear and desire that is the American subconscious, because Jimmy Lee feels the fire.

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Deal Hudson II: Duin has the smoke and the fire

Deal_hudson_1As anyone who has been near a good Catholic blog today knows, there’s big news in the story of Deal Hudson, the outspoken conservative who used to be active in White House efforts to woo traditional Catholics. Veteran religion writer Julia Duin at the Washington Times has broken the story that Hudson has been forced out as publisher at Crisis.

There is no need to dwell on the story so far, which involved an old sex scandal in Hudson’s past and a slash-and-burn, but sadly accurate, report on that scandal in the fiercely partisan National Catholic Reporter. Readers can check out all the links in this previous GetReligion item.

As usual, Duin’s hard-news reporting is crisp and factual and nails the facts you need to know at this point in the story. Some conservatives may question — loudly, I predict — her use of an anonymous source for some damaging information. But anyone who reads on can see that she had multiple sources and one of the most prominent is on the record. Duin has the smoke and she has the fire. The bottom line: five major Crisis columnists wrote a letter that said enough is enough. They threatened to resign.

According to two scholars familiar with the letter, the columnists were angry about an Aug. 19 National Catholic Reporter (NCR) expose on Mr. Hudson’s sexual liaison with an 18-year-old student in 1994, an action that cost him his tenured professorship at Fordham University and a $30,000 settlement. In addition, specific accusations of more recent sexual misconduct had come to the board’s attention, one scholar said.

“This was not about one incident 10 years ago,” he said. “It’s surprising it was held down as long as it was. I haven’t gone out of my way to track Deal Hudson’s improprieties — I could be doing nothing else. But you began to wonder after a while if they are true.”

And who are the columnists? It is an all-star team, led by the magazine’s founding editors: Michael Novak of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and University of Notre Dame philosophy professor Ralph McInerny.

“He withdrew from being an adviser to the White House, so one could conclude he should leave Crisis,” Mr. McInerny said. “If his presence had a negative effect on a Catholic campaign effort, certainly it’d affect a Catholic magazine.”

The columnists who spoke to Duin add more names to the mix. Crisis insiders sought input from papal biographer George Weigel, Father Richard John Neuhaus of First Things and Dr. Robert George of Princeton University. Superstar speechwriter Peggy Noonan canceled a banquet speech for Crisis and declined an award from the magazine. Duin reports that many of Washington’s best-known Catholics boycotted the dinner.

It’s a long sad story and it will be interesting to see what the National Catholic Reporter and other publications do to chase this report. As Jeff “The Hulk” Sharlet at keeps reminding everyone — this is a major news story.

Meanwhile, the comment pages are on fire at Amy Welborn’s Open Book site.

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