Not Your Mother

Not Your Mother December 11, 2012

My autopsy of Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary, this Christmas’ assault on the gospel from our now utterly predictable Manufacturers of Culture.  Just a little taste:

In terms of content, the book is a by-the-numbers hatchet job written in sensitive, spare, and poetic diction for the delectation of UK and New York Chattering Classes and dipped in a bath of relentless, willful sadness and bitterness. The basic premise is that it has been 20 years since the crucifixion, and Mary is one pissed-off hag, sounding for all the world like a nun in iron grey, short-cropped hair and sensible shoes who has seized the microphone in a We Are Church group process breakout session and is now on the third hour of an extended free association monologue, grousing bitterly about the patriarchy.

Enjoy the rest here, if “enjoy” is the right word.

"Mark 16;15 "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach ..."

Dear Prolife Suckers
"I suggest you start discriminating between anecdotal evidence and history, and I also suggest you ..."

Where Peter Is has a nice ..."
"I'll tell you another weakness you have. You tend to overreact to criticism of or ..."

Where Peter Is has a nice ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Are you sure we can’t burn people at the stake?

    • DTMcCameron

      Pretty sure there’s a burn ban; drought, you know.

      Didn’t enjoy the read, though I’m glad there’s someone there to skewer that trash. Disgusting effluvium from a disgustingly spiteful man.

    • Nate

      But we must be careful with these sorts of comments. Because the author will fish them out of comment boxes and yell, “I’M BEING REPRESSED! THEY ARE THREATENING ME!”

      Just like Dostoyevsky stood in front of the firing squad, so must this author endure these vile THREATS from the theocrats!

      Before you know it, they’ll be making Lifetime Movies about the whole ordeal.
      Hopefully they get Brad Pitt to play me–the evil comment box persecutor.

  • Harry Piper

    There is another one quite like this called “The Liar’s Gospel” (Soooo provocative) published in the UK recently, with a star Guardian review and well produced BBC radio adaption. Basically the same content- Gospel is rubbish, religion is lies. And practically the same rapturous reception.

  • Alexander Anderson

    I have no idea how the Chattering Classes can’t get tired of the 30th year in a row of the same script. Are they really such bores that they will clamor over and praise any empty piece of fiction that sets itself against Christian piety? Are they really all such small, inane, spiteful people?

  • Stephen J.

    It always puzzles me that stories about being “liberated” from religion’s “shackles” are always so angry and miserable even in the midst of some (often legitimately felt) relief, while stories about finding faith are always so joyful even if they’re painful in equal measure.

    Kudos to Mark for labouring through this cloaca, and I hope he was fitly compensated.

  • Chris M

    “She sounds for all the world like an Episcopalian matron who had her consciousness raised by reading Eat Pray Love and is now auditing the Queer Theory portion of the Women’s Studies course at Ephesus Community College. ”

    I actually did a spit-take. Yes, really.

    • dominic1955

      I know, that was a good one. Kudos Mr. Shea!

  • EBS

    I read the review and find myself feeling very depressed. Lesbians with short haircuts always depress me.
    At least The Da Vinci Code was slightly comical with the deranged albino monk and the really corny Hollywood movie (I didn’t like Tom Hanks greased back hairdo).
    I find comfort in knowing that history does not lie and this book won’t even get a blimp on the radar for great scholarly reads, and the author will long be forgotten. God won’t be mocked by anyone who tries to pass sensational muck for great intellectual revelations. Besides as you stated anyone can make up anything these days about the Gospel, be labelled “brilliant”, even my 5 year old daughter. Except my 5 year olds story wont leave you feeling depressed like this one because hers will have rainbows and unicorns and Mary will be wearing pink with long golden hair!
    Christians are such easy targets and we all know he’d be in hiding for a decade if Toibin attempted this one on Mohammad and Fatima.

  • EBS

    Bleep , not blimp

  • David

    I was nearly sickened when I heard this guy on NPR and was hoping that someone would put him on blast. Thanks for doing such a masterful job!

  • Mark R

    I will be the first to admit my difficulties with the institutional Church and with the subsidiary groups stage Left and Right vying to pull her one way or the other like a stubborn donkey, but this book just sound mean. Mary never harmed or hurt anyone so why go after her to make her a proverbial nail to hang one’s own hurtful opinions? By all means, go after the real culprits and the Church will be all the better for it. It would be hard to call this an attack on the Gospel as it was in its inchoate form in Mary’s lifetime. It would be almost as easy to call it anti-semetic.

  • I’m sorry you even had to read it.

    • Mark Shea

      You and me both, sister.

  • Morgan

    Well done Mark. It’s easy to be insulated in our Catholic communities and forget how deeply opposed to the Truth the rest of the world can be, even stooping so low as to try to pervert the real Blessed Mother into a sort of anti-saint of the “enlightened”. The conflict between Mr. Tóibín’s pride and (it seems to me) unacknowledged self-loathing seems to have blinded him to the reality of Mary’s loving motherhood to us all. Of course we all know sin has a tendency to cut us off from what is good, so I can’t say I’m surprised. We should pray God changes Tóibín’s heart and forgives him BEFORE he’s standing in front of Christ fumbling to explain the blasphemy he wrote (and profited from) about the His Blessed Mother. I’m sure Mary is praying for him as well.

  • Liam

    I’m looking forward to the novel about the humble Colm Tóibín whose message of chastity and obedience was hijacked by psychotic followers and was misrepresented by the media as a fanatical anti-Catholic bigot.

  • dominic1955

    I get annoyed when people trot out their own so-called “credentials” or those of others when they are about to villify the Church. As if 12 years of “Catholic School” means one actually learned something, especially if those 12 years were anywhere between 1965 and now.

    Having been in the seminary (and I claim no feigned authority on account of it other than personal experience), not everyone that’s ever graced those august institutions have even a slight claim of knowing anything about Catholicism, again, especially if they were there post-1965.

    We did a rather good job in the Counter-Reformation of presenting ourselves as some unassailable fortress. Our enemies still assume our institutions are somehow churning out Catholic shock troops of orthodoxy despite their (assumed) knowledge from all their heretic media darlings. Mad world out there!

  • GregC

    From the comments on the article, “Joe Biden Catholics” is about the worst thing I have ever heard.

  • Charles E Flynn

    Saint Patrick is proud of Mark O’Shea.


    Blessed Virgin, Holy Mother
    Tabernacle and protector,
    Hear us when we speak your name,
    To whom an angel glory came

    All around you heaven-light
    For those who have not lost their sight,
    The brightness that the poets knew,
    The draftsmen of a splendor drew

    Workers into paint and clay
    Of music that musicians play,
    Sculptors of a harmony
    That even sightless eyes can see

    You are my patroness as long
    As in my promise love is strong,
    For so I swore to you my oath:
    Obedience and labor both

    Immaculate and faithful one
    The honor of your Lord and Son,
    Renew our hope as we renew
    The vows of love we made to you

    December 6, 2012

    • Once again, thank you for posting your poetry, Pavel.

  • Caroline

    What Merton wrote deserves attention.

  • ED

    [What people find to say about her sometimes tells us more about their own selves than it does about Our Lady.]

    Yes, so true… and St. Louis de Montfort would *certainly* agree:

    An infallible and unmistakable sign by which we can distinguish a heretic, a man of false doctrine, an enemy of God, from one of God’s true friends is that the heretic and the hardened sinner show nothing but contempt and indifference for our Lady. He endeavours by word and example, openly or insidiously – sometimes under specious pretexts – to belittle the love and veneration shown to her.

  • Beadgirl

    You know, I’m inclined to argue that this book represents the opposite of feminism, by taking the strong, brave, powerful-mediator, Queen-of-Heaven Mary and turning her into a agency-less, bitter victim. I also get the impression (Mark, correct me if I am wrong) that she is pitted against disciples who are all male. Does the author ever mention Jesus’ female followers, or does he ignore them?