Tuesday, August 21, 2007


I couldn't really find the image I was looking for, but here's a really cool Lucas Cranach engraving of a werewolf, 1512.

A post on Wonkette led me to this article in the LA Times about the pastor and former national leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, Wiley S. Drake. Apparently, Drake used his church letterhead to endorse Mike Huckabee for president, and Americans United for Separation of Church State asked the IRS to investigate the church's tax status. Drake responded by asking his followers to use imprecatory prayer against two leaders of that organization -- specifically to pray that misfortune would come to them. He suggested Psalm 109, which includes the following:
When he is tried, let him be found guilty,
and may his prayers condemn him.

May his days be few;
may another take his place of leadership.

May his children be fatherless
and his wife a widow.

May his children be wandering beggars;
may they be driven from their ruined homes.

May a creditor seize all he has;
may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.

May no one extend kindness to him
or take pity on his fatherless children.

May his descendants be cut off,
their names blotted out from the next generation.

May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD;
may the sin of his mother never be blotted out.

May their sins always remain before the LORD,
that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth.

Pretty strong stuff. Drake feels justified:

Drake said Wednesday he was "simply doing what God told me to do" by targeting Americans United officials Joe Conn and Jeremy Leaming, whom he calls the "enemies of God."
"God says to pray imprecatory prayer against people who attack God's church," he said. "The Bible says that if anybody attacks God's people, David said this is what will happen to them."
It's hard to know where to begin to comment on this. The obvious point is that someone has to get Drake and people like him a copy of the New Testament and have them sit down and read it. His hubris strikes me as well -- getting his tax status investigated is an "attack" on God's church? Comparable to, say, the Diocletian Persecution? There's really no need to comment any further.

Except, of course, to say that the medievals always did these things better. I couldn't help thinking about Lester Little's book Benedictine Maledictions, about how Benedictine monks, faced with grave dangers and threats to life and property, developed liturgical curses, some of them involving a very elaborate ritual (here's a good review by Constance Bouchard). These curses were sophisticated and made sense given the context -- a far cry from Drake's approach.


cowboyangel said...

Armaments, chapter two, verses nine through twenty-one: And Saint Attila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, "O Lord, bless this thy hand grenade, that with it thou mayst blow thine enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy." And the Lord did grin.

crystal said...

I saw this on Ben Witherington's blog too :-) ...The real disaster in this whole situation is the complete failure to follow the teachings of the NT when it comes to dealing with one's tormentors or persecutors. You may remember these words from Jesus-- "love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you."

Anonymous said...

Does the Church today endorse and use imprecatory prayers?

Liam said...

William -- Ha!

Crystal -- Thanks, that's basically what we're dealing with here.

Anonymous -- I haven't gone through the Catechism on this, but I can't imagine that it does. The curses Little wrote about were a thousand years ago.

Jeff said...

Awfully nice of Mr. Drake to wish ill upon the wives and children of his critics. Couldn't he have just wished for their tongues to cleave to the roofs of their mouths, or to have coals heaped on their heads and be done with it? That's more coloful rhetoric anyhow.

Interesting people being attracted to Huckabee's campaign. Did you hear about the Tim Rude / Sam Brownback flap?

crystal said...

Liam, are you very busy now with school about to start - aren't you teaching a class?

Liam said...

Yes, I'm trying hard to get some dissertation writing done and prepare for the humanities class I'll be teaching. Busy, busy, busy...

Anonymous said...

A relative of mine gave me the name of this space to ask a question. I am 24 and going to marry Catholic girl in a few weeks. We've been in some training program and I'll have to go to confession. I have never done this. Do I give details, or just stay vague; do I name names, some of the questions might be embarassing. My friend well my uncle said you might know some answers. Please take this as serious I am very nervous. Glenn

Liam said...

Are you Catholic? If you're not, you shouldn't be going to confession -- it's a sacrament. Have you been baptized and never gone?

If you are going to confession, you might want to go to the priest and ask him to help you prepare for it before you go. There are good priests and bad priests, but if it's a good priest, he will be asking you what you believe your sins are, not interrogating you. Good priests have told me that you don't have to answer any question you don't feel is appropriate.

I hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I am becomming a catholic, but before I go in the church I have to go to confession. I'm embarrased to ask my girl friend what to do. Can you say anything else i guess we have all done bad things. Glenn

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir my uncle said to be open. I was methodist but am becomming catholic. I live in a very small town and some of my buddy's say the preist ask questions about private parts. What do I say. Glenn

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir the buddy's are not catholic maybe they are teasing me but I have read things in the paper that kind of scarre me. yours truly Glenn

Liam said...

Have you talked to the priest? If you're going to become Catholic, you would have to be confirmed first before you go to confession.

Does your girlfriend know the priest well?

One thing about confession -- whatever anyone has done, the priest has heard worse. If you feel like what you have done is wrong, you should be able to confess it. If you don't feel it's wrong, you shouldn't confess it. Still, you are entitled to more preparation before you receive the sacrament.

Liam said...

Glenn -- an important question. Who told you you had to go to confession before you became Catholic?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Liam I guess I all mixed up. Our little catholic church does not a full time minister-preist. they are four of us in a class preparing to be catholics. I am coming from another church . I was babtized as a methodist. The lady who teaches the class says we will be confirmed at Easter but will have to go to confession before we become part of the church and take communion. I hope I don't sound to dumb, but the three boys in the class feel rather backeards about asking questions. That is why we are asking you. My girlfriend does not really know the preist that well although she knows him. I was for sure the teacher said we had to go to confession before we came in church and took commenion. Glenn. I am Frank and I am sure we have to go to confession. I am Brett and I thought the same as Glenn and Frank. I know you think were rubes.

Liam said...

Guys, I certainly don't think you're rubes. You have some good questions. I just looked at this link and it seems baptized Christians who go into full communion with the church do have to confess first.

I think it would be fair for you to ask the woman who is preparing you to give you more information about how to prepare for confession. Also, it is some time until Easter. If you do get a chance to meet the priest before then, you might want to speak to him casually so that you are more comfortable about him.

According to the rules, you have to confess only mortal sins. There are two ways of looking at how serious a sin is. Some people will make a list (murder, adultery, etc.) of specific actions. I tend to think more about attitudes. I mean, few of us commit murder, but everyone acts hatefully every now and then.

The important thing is that you confess what YOU think are sins, that keep you away from God. It may or may not be very personal, but like I said, most of us are similar and priests have heard everything.

I wish I could tell you that every priest out there will be sensitive and respectful, but there are a few bad apples. Most likely it will be a good experience for you.

Here's a couple of links from the Franciscans that I think are helpful.

I'm signing off now, but feel free to leave more comments or email me at wrm2002@columbia.edu.

Anonymous said...

Hello Mr. Liam can you read this?

Liam said...


Anonymous said...

Dear Sir this is Frank, I am afraid Glenn has messed it up to I will try. You probly think we qre really out of it but maybe I can clarify.
J and A are Glenn's relatives. Sonce there kids are gone they let us visit them any time in the large city. Frankly we are from the sticks, 5000 pop. Last winter when we were visiting them, on a sunday when it was snowny we went with A to her catholic church. She had never ask us to go. We were very impress with the church and the mass. But most important no one ask us if we were saved or given our life to God. The preist was very nice and made no effort to ask about our religion.
Since then we have gone back many times with A. We ask A if she could get us a book on catholics she said she would if our parents approved. They did approve since we had not been to church more than a half dozen times since highschool. Glenn may have misled you the class he talks about starts in 3 weeks. It will be taught by a former teacher of us 3.
We are not prudes but remember we are from very small town and you are from New York Ciry. @ years ago I broke my foot bad at J and C and had to stay with then 10 days. J is a great guy, real smart, a former coach of our jr. hi football team but he has been ill. So A took care of me. Since I could not get in shower she kept me clean. I think she know every part of my body from toes to head. Yes that made me a little nervous.
This week we are visiting them all week and thought maybe J could help us with our confession problem. He said guys i would love to but maybe i am not the right one. So he set up the computer and here we are.
I bolder than Glenn but read between the lines.
Since jr. hi we have done something which catholics think is a sin we think. It is a private thing. We think you can guess. We have also gone over what the church thinks is right with girls. And we have used on at least one ocassion each aprotective device, i guess you would call it, which the church thinks is a sin.
At a confession would we volunteer this information. What if we were ask, if we say we don't want to discuss it isn't that the same as saying we have done all these things. I probably did worse than Glenn. Signed. Frank, Glenn, Brett. Of course Glenn has no choice because he is marry a catholic. But Brett andI very much want to be in this church, except this one thing scares us. You are in New York City and we have never benn within 400 miles of that city. Please be free with your advice,
We should have used e-mail but were afraid we could be identified. We thank you.

Liam said...


Okay, I think I see what you're getting at. First of all, I don't think anything you have to confess would be something the priest hasn't heard a thousand times before. Especially considering you're confessing for your whole lives up to know. So the priest won't be at all scandalized. Second of all, the priest can never tell anyone what he has heard in confession, ever. If he does, he is automatically excommunicated. Priests take this very seriously. Thirdly, if you volunteer the information, there would be no reason for him to quiz you on it. He certainly won't ask you to name names (if he does, you can refuse, but that's very unlikely). So if the problem is embarrassment, don't worry too much -- the priest won't be scandalized or look down on you. If you're worried about your reputations or about implicating someone else, you really don't have to, since the confession is about your sins, not someone else's (you don't have to name names) and the priest can never tell anyone.

On a side note, it is true that the Church is officially against birth control, but I've read that as many as 95% of American Catholics use it anyway. I'm not condoning or condemning it, but the important thing is to realize that there's more than one way to approach what the Church decrees. The sites I recommended above from the Franciscans are very good. I suggest that you print them up and read over them.

One more thing -- going around the internet you may find Catholic sites set up by people who are very rigid -- they focus a lot on obedience and are quick to criticize others for not being "really" Catholic. Our Church is very broad and its name means universal. Those people have no more right than you or I to decide who's a good Catholic.

I hope this helps, let me know if you have any more questions.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Liam. For some reason Frank wants to tell you this story.
When I was hurt and my foot and 3 toes were broken I stayes with J and A. That evening when I got home from the hospital my medicine wore off and my pain was really bad. Bad almost to point of teres. The doorbell rang and the person at the door was a preist from As church. A ask him how he knew I had been hurt.The man said someone told him. He came over to the bed and put his thumb on my forhead and made a sign the cross, I guess. He said guy how you doing. I said alright a lie. J was frantically trying to get hold of the doctor to get some medicine to help the pain. The priest said guy we are going to help you I promise. He left the romm and within 20 minutes the doorbell rang with medicine. The preist had called someone. boy was I thankful. The preist stayed with J and A until I fell asleep. When I got back to my little town and told my bad this story my dad a faithful baptist said maybe some day you can be in his church the preist church.

Frank thinks this is important to tell you. You can tell we do not come from a real educated family like J and A, and we thought yoou would push us away, but thanks from all three of us.

Liam said...

Thank you guys. That's a beautiful story.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, if we get in trouble or confused we will be back. Frank, Glenn, Brett.

Liam said...

You're always welcome here.

Anonymous said...

Dear sir. Am I still welcome...am Back in the big city. My uncle Jack not really my uncle Glenn uncle but we call him uncle has only a day or two to live, Alice set this up to ask you question. Alice ask us three young men if we would be pall barriers at funeal. Hus funeral will be at Episocal church. as you know we hope to become catholic. We have been to his church once, they have communion, but we understand their communion is not valid. What do you recommend. In your opinion if we refuse to take communion would that not be cruel to Alice. Alice is very angry at some writer she felt insulted uncle Jack, but still encourages us to become Catholic evem though writer was Catholic. Just a few minutes of your time would help. Sincerly Frank. Can we use anonnymous. Some writers on blogs say that is not fair. If you say so we will not use it but we are not signed up bloggers

Liam said...

Dear Frank --
You're always welcome!
I'm a little confused -- did you say Jack has only a few days to live?
You can certainly be pallbearers at an Episcopalian funeral.

As for communion -- I can't speak for the Episcopalians, but nobody should take communion if they don't feel up to it. You can do this respectfully while still being at the Mass.

The Episcopalian and Roman Catholic Churches have been working for some time for reconciliation. My uncle, who is a de la Salle Brother, often preaches at Anglican Churches. Officially from the Catholic point of view, Catholics shouldn't take communion at an Episcopal church (I'm not sure if it's officially considered "invalid," but let's not worry about technicalities here). A lot of Catholics do take communion when they visit an Episcopal church. I certainly wouldn't judge you one way or another.

I'm sorry someone was cruel to Jack. Some people think they speak for Catholicism when they only speak for their own narrow version of it.

A lot of bloggers dislike anonymous comments because some people use them to make cowardly verbal attacks. That is obviously not your case, so as far as my blog goes, you are welcome to post anonymously.

Take care.

Anonymous said...

Dear sir yes uncle Jack is about to die. Would we get in trouble with catholic priest if we took communion? There will be catholic priest at funeral because jack knew many of them and Alice and family are catholics. Frank


Liam said...

I'm very saddened to her about Jack. You will all be in my prayers.

Do you feel obliged to take communion? It might be better, given what you've told me, not to. Have you talked to Alice about it?

Anonymous said...

I know we are driving you crazy. Alice would like for us to take communion, and we would like to. Will we get in trouble with priest? Frank

Anonymous said...

We are talking about catholic priests who will be at funeral and know our hometown priest, Promise I will shut up. Frank

Liam said...

Well, if Alice wants you to and you feel you want to, you should. If the priests have a problem with it, they will tell you -- but they should understand the situation. Don't worry about it too much. Taking care of Jack and Alice is the most important thing right now.

I'm always here to help.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Frank, Glenn, Brett