There’s a stretch of a hundred-odd miles to points northwest of Reno where the only station I can reliably tune into on my car radio is an Immaculate Heart Radio translator out of Quincy. It’s telling that religious organizations are the only ones showing any interest in high-wattage broadcasting over so many practically unpopulated swathes of the country, in the hope of reaching passing motorists who don’t have other entertainment options immediately at their disposal.
Usually these stations are obnoxiously Protestant. Immaculate Heart Radio is obnoxiously Catholic. A number of its on-air personalities are the sorts of zealous blowhards and busybodies who drive cradle Catholics out of the Church. These are members of a frankly small and extreme faction of the Roman Catholic Church who strenuously insist that they are of one voice with the entire true Church and transcend all faction. I certainly can’t blame anyone for getting fed up with their nonsense and wandering away, or even running for their lives. The mix of straightforward aggression, passive-aggressiveness, moral panic mongering, tautological appeals to authority, false modesty, and all-around high horsemanship that dominates the programming is not, shall we say, appealing to a catholicity of tastes. It isn’t even anything like a mass, a perpetual adoration chapel, or a confessional, although it can be reminiscent of encounters with the minority of priests so meddlesome or simply off that it’s time to look for a different parish. These men are present in the priesthood, unfortunately, although I’m happy to say that I’ve only rarely encountered them. They’re certainly present on Catholic radio, and at Fredonyer Pass, it is not time to look for a different radio station, as there won’t be one yet.
Much of Immaculate Heart Radio’s recent programming has been devoted to extended memorials for the late founder of EWTN (its parent organization), Mother Angelica, who died on Easter of this year. One of the reminiscences was by a priest, a minor celebrity in present company, it seemed, whose manner of speech I can best describe as William F. Buckley but more so. His accent wasn’t one that I could identify as naturally occurring anywhere in the English-speaking world, even among the Adamses and the Cabots. It was mostly a sort of hybrid of the Midwestern and the High New English, but every sentence or two it was levied with an odd pronunciation of exactly the sort that one would expect of a dipshit American trying to hard to talk like an Oxford don. This fellow had extensive comments on Mother Angelica’s holiness, and I had equally extensive, but much more inchoate, thoughts on his use of our common language. Mind you, I’ve heard some damn strange accents from priests, throwbacks to Altoona in 1930 and what have you. This was different. This priest’s accent was not internally coherent.
It’s worth mentioning some of Immaculate Heart’s other programming for context. Much of it functions as a bathetic counterpoint to whatever priestly erudition the hosts are able to dredge up: Patrick Madrid having open-ended conversations with himself and “Mr. Producer” about the time he saw the original Star Wars franchise at the theater right when it came out, for example. But there’s worse. Not long ago, I listened to a couple of blowhards (Terry and Jesse, I think) talk about how, now, we don’t like to have political opinions, because it’s not our place to have political opinions on this show, but [omg we totally have piles of political opinions that you should have, too]. At least when I have the opinion that Acting Sheriff Kwesi Millington should help the assembled at Torch Lake properly observe his country’s national holiday, followed by my country’s, in an uninterrupted week of electrifying observances, I say so forthrightly. I’m not a fucking weasel about how, don’t get me wrong, I respect your right to vote and all, but maybe you should examine your conscience about voting for candidates who are not Republican extremists because abortion is still a thing. Don’t get me wrong, Bill Bentley would light your white ass up like the First of July, too, but it just wouldn’t be as entertaining.
Here’s the disturbing thing: I’m less coarse than Mother Angelica was. No, I’m not kidding. I recognize that Monty Robinson has turned into something at least resembling a guilt-wracked unfortunate mess of a drunkard (more on this before long, if I get around to examining North America’s woke cops, but this will be revealed, or not, at an hour that even I do not know). Not cracking wise about the righteousness of a wife telling her adulterous husband and his mistress to go to hell, in some of the most earnest language possible, is an improvement over “because that’s where they’re trying to get to.” Adultery jokes in Reader’s Digest, a disappointing discovery in their own right, are more refined than this. “But I don’t have a thing to wear!” “Nonsense, honey! [Opens closet.] See? You have a red dress, a blue dress, oh, hey Larry, a green dress….” A bitch can usually recover from Jonathan Josey ninja-slamming her flat on the pavement, even if the lieutenant has poor taste, owing to predatory cowardice, in bitches who could do to horizontally express their vertical entitlement. Wishing an eternal Muadh al-Kasasbeh of the soul on mere adulterers is a further, uglier horizon. It is a frontier that I try to have the decency not to explore.
Mother Angelica sounded like a hard old bird. Those remembering her waxed eloquent about her sense of humor, which sounded dreadful from the clips that they played of it. It was barely any more amusing than my late maternal grandmother’s, which consisted of little more than an oft-repeated joke about a newly hired servant woman who, having been instructed to address the lady of the house with “yes, ma’am,” “no, ma’am,” and “ma’am, if you please,” barged in from the kitchen and asked, “Yes ma’am, no ma’am, ma’am if you please, is it up the duck’s ass that I stuff the green peas?” Probably not, but there’s worse in British cooking. That was the extent of my grandmother’s joke, just barely over the Russian threshold of the anecdote and a far cry from “Raz Putin, Dva Putin….” Mother Angelica’s jokes, as rebroadcast last night, were much coarser than a servant girl’s comment about the ass end of a duck carcass being retold by the daughter of landed Ulster Scotsmen for transgressive badassery, and devoid of any suggestion that, hey, some of this shit is just gonna bomb because frankly it sucks. Paul Prudhomme probably would have just counseled the servant girl to cook the peas in some butter, maybe a splash of Tabasco and a dash of Cajun all-spice, and some more butter. Mother Angelica bragged of having told a political-cum-religious enemy that she’d “blow the damn station up before I’ll let you get your hands on it.” Easy there, van der Lubbe; we get your drift.
Her audience loved that shit, though. They ate it up. The most sonorous priest with the affected accent, I believe it was, made a comment about how reformist bishops who went too far with Vatican II tried to start their own competing cable network, but “it was a flop.” What this really goes to show is that if two competing networks are established with equally poor production values and equally boorish messages, the one catering to the organized bloc of authoritarian personalities will have the greater success, while the one catering to pluralists who aren’t guilt-ridden for having watched MTV will more likely fail. Mother Angelica’s funeral mass was celebrated by Archbishop Charles Chaput, a premier episcopal lodestone for Katie-bar-the-door ultraorthodox revanchists in North American Catholicism. A funeral mass should not be politicized; it’s just unbecoming and scandalous and distracting; but all things Chaput are politicized, largely as a function of the archbishop’s own deliberate wading into the fray of low politics. He represents the entire Catholic Church in the same way that Jonathan Josey represents the entire Philadelphia Police Department, except Josey doesn’t have a dedicated band of noisy partisans on his side, defending him as an exemplar of old-school orthodox policing.
Mother Angelica had a running beef with another group of American bishops, apparently centered around Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles. Mahony published a commentary on the Eucharist that Mother Angelica construed as somewhere between muddleheaded and dangerously close to promoting consubstantiation, Mother publicly rebuked the Cardinal’s authority, the Cardinal demanded an apology and then ecclesial punishment of Mother and her order for insubordination, and around and around it went. This beef had all the dignity of the Timmy-Jimmy cripple fight, minus the dignity of truth that even the most undignified can claim as their own by admitting that they’re really just two cripples whacking one another with the one cripple’s polio braces. In case you have a life to lead and want a summary of this match before making the time commitment to watch it, that was it: two Crips for Life going at it on a gym floor with the one guy’s gimp sticks. It was less of a waste of time than the Cardinal Mahony-Mother Angelica spat, though. It’s just that people who act like that shouldn’t dress up their petty beefs in the righteousness of authority, and that those who claim authority shouldn’t behave so embarrassingly in their public lives.
This is the kind of shit you see at academic conferences, blowhards who have conflicting models to explain the precise mechanism of the evolution of dinosaurs into birds and consequently won’t say hello to each other when they’re forced to share an elevator. Not long ago, I watched some white trash asshole who looked like he never washes the grease off his person when he showers cursing out a Maverick cashier for not breaking a hundred-dollar bill on a ten-dollar purchase, and the cashier cursing him back because assholes are always coming in demanding change for a hundred on a burrito. This embarrassment to Nevada had incalculably more dignity than nun-bishop showdowns over pastoral letters concerning the Eucharist because no one was there for anything more transcendental than sammich. I have to say, though, Maverick’s buffalo chicken burrito is far from what Cardinal Mahony might call “these simple gifts.” It is rather a complex mixture of different gifts, all in one burrito. Also, I don’t go on the fucking radio and try to shout at entire counties about it. So far today, I’ve had only a single cheddarwurst with kraut, chipotle mayonnaise, and regular mayonnaise for breakfast, since I ate an entire loaf of whole-clove garlic bread within 22 hours on my way back south yesterday, on top of Carl’s Jr., Indian food out of a hot case, peanut butter cookies, a quart of creamed coffee, and half a gallon of sweet tea, but I’m not angling to get anyone’s order excommunicated because I’m butthurt about some television that I find insolent.
It figures that Mother Angelica wielded prostitution as a cudgel against third parties not engaged in the trade. One of the exchanges the memorialists played was between Mother and a fellow who sounded like a pornographer (Larry Flint, maybe?), in which Mother repeatedly demanded to know what he’d think of her accusing his daughter of being a prostitute, as opposed to “a good woman.” “Why the fuck would you give a shit, you meddlesome scold” would be a good start. Of course it’s the immodest who go around accusing others of immodesty. Hookers are rarely the ones using crude, salacious language in public and butting into the sex lives of third parties. Maybe if there were more whores in church there would finally be some meaningful pressure on the sex scolds to get a room and stop using that kind of language before the entire congregation. Like, there’s a place for “ooh, big wiener,” but this ain’t it.
The proper response to salacious scolds like Mother Angelica isn’t to abuse clerical authority in pursuit of an administrative Chill Cullen on uppity nuns, or to wish for them to retire into the excruciating silence and isolation of a shut-in, as Mother did for most of the last fifteen years of her life on account of a debilitating stroke, but to use More Speech (TM) to encourage them to shut up when they get obnoxious and meddlesome. Mother’s fugue is as heartbreaking as a movie about an old dog suffering and being put down. We don’t need more of that in the world. We do need more prostitutes in government.
Maybe, dare I say it, your daughter should run for city council. She’d have to run against Kevin Faulconer not to be assured of my vote. It was amateurs who chose David Brame as police chief, unless I’m missing something important. When the shame seeps north from Spanaway, it usually does so in the streets, not in the sheets. Unless the local Backpage boards have been taken over by sockpuppets, Tacomans are classy as shit behind closed doors. Of course, the Sound and Pound crowd is awfully modest for politics, or for the radio. There’s a lot less power in being a prostitute than in accusing another woman, one’s political enemy’s daughter, of being a prostitute. Still, there’s something refreshing about the prospect of “big wiener” being used to describe something other than a member (heh) of Congress.