Friday, May 23, 2003


To: The Rittenhouse Review
From: Chris Lark
Date: May 22, 2003

Could you please elaborate more on your beef with "Buffy The Vampire Slayer"? [See "There Truly is a God," TRR, May 19.]

Was it actually worse than "Xena:Warrior Princess," "Sabrina The Teenage Witch," "La Femme Nikita," and "Charmed"?

Also how do you argue with this point I constantly hear from Buffy's female fans?: It gave young women a role model to identify themselves with on TV. Buffy was a true modern heroine who wasn't a slut or a bimbo.

Am I fan of Buffy? Not exactly. Will I take her over, oh, let's say Ally McBeal? Oh yeah.

One last question before I go, how come Joss Whedon and David E. Kelley get to make big TV shows and we don't?

Chris Lark

Jim Capozzola of The Rittenhouse Review responds:

I don't know why you don't make "big TV shows," but the reason I don't is because I'm just too damned lazy.


To: The Rittenhouse Review
From: Bruce Webb
Date: May 22, 2003

Although my graduate training was in medieval history, my particular emphasis was Britain before 1066, and so while I am not an expert on the subject of Icelandic priestly celibacy and marriage or cohabitation, I do have some background in this area. [See "Married Priests in Iceland," The Rittenhouse Review, May 20.]

First I would refer to you this article, which explains that Pope Alexander VI, elevated in 1490, was the father of the Borgias -- yes, those Borgias -- and openly secured riches and lucrative offices for his many children.

And while the Icelandic Bishop Jón Arason may have been ignorant of the finer points of the Second Lateran Council, presumably some of his near-contemporaries at the Vatican were at least vaguely aware of the strictures incumbent on priests.

Although Alexander VI was not typical for Roman Pontiffs he was fairly representative for the clergy at the time. The point you have missed, but one that is clear on first examination of the texts, is that clerical celibacy is not at all about sex, it is about marriage. And even more clear is that in medieval Europe marriage was not about sex, it was about legitimacy, which means inheritance.

The one constant of medieval history is the attempt by king and bishop alike to keep property from being permanently alienated from their control. Property rights that initially were granted in return for a specific service (whether war or preaching) were constantly being transformed into inheritable property. While on the whole this was a losing battle for kings, who gradually had their income base shifted from property to taxes, it largely was won by the Church.

Property that accrued to the church remained under its control. And while there are multiple examples of "nephews" of high clergy being granted lucrative clerical offices, the principle of clerical celibacy prevented large chunks of property being permanently alienated.

To your specific example, note that your quote was "priests commonly lived with women and had children." Now there is nothing in that that implies "marriage." And my reading leads me to conclude that priests openly cohabitating and procreating with women was rather the norm than the exception in Western Europe, particularly as you move down the income scale. And, generally, where property rights were not at risk, the Church really didn't care.

Bruce Webb
Everett, Wash.

Jim Capozzola of The Rittenhouse Review responds:

Thank you for your interesting and informative letter.

As relates to the example of married or cohabitating Icelandic priests in the 16th century, as discussed in A Brief History of Iceland, by Gunnar Karlsson, I presumed, probably incorrectly as you imply, that the phase "priests commonly lived with women" implied marriage.

However, lacking access to Karlsson's text in the original Icelandic, I cannot offhandedly determine what the author actually wrote. I suppose I am filtering the English translation by Anna Yates through a decidedly 21st century view, keeping in mind that this is a book that runs to just 72 pages, implying a need for Yates to be brief and concise.

I think a definitive finding on this matter would require an investigation into the prevalence of cohabitation in Iceland during the period, among the clergy and the populace at large, but that is a topic for another day.

I must disagree, however, with your point that "clerical celibacy is not at all about sex, it is about marriage." This may have been true centuries ago, but I don't think this notion applies to the Church today. But that, too, is a topic for another day.


To: The Rittenhouse Review
From: Mark Gisleson
Date: May 20, 2003

I'll keep reading The Rittenhouse Review, but I'm sorry I gave in and started checking out TRR, per your cajoling.

Now that I know you didn't like "Buffy The Vampire Slayer," I will always think less of you and your opinions. [See "There Truly is a God," TRR, May 19.]

In a one-on-one contest with Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), you'd have my vote (if I lived in Pennsylvania), but otherwise I have to question your decision-making process.

If you are saying that 99.99% of all TV is rot, that's one thing, but "Buffy" was clearly in the top 0.01%.

Let me stand in solidarity with my young blonde comrade, as you should as well: vampires, demons, Satan, Karl Rove, the GOP...What's the difference?

Mark Gisleson
St. Paul, Minn.


To: The Rittenhouse Review
From: Michael Siegel
Date: May 21, 2003

There is a historical parallel to what which recently has been going on in the Catholic Church that has been largely ignored. [See "Married Priests in Iceland," The Rittenhouse Review, May 20.]

A very similar situation occurred in China and Japan in Buddhist monasteries. (A good account is given in Bernard Faure's The Red Thread.) Priest and monks often took young boys as sexual partners.

Now, the interesting thing is that in many sects, Japanese monks and priests are now allowed to marry. This perhaps solved the problem of molestation, but introduced new ones as well.

Traditionally, the teacher had passed his lineage on to his best student. Once monks had families, however, it became a matter of course to pass it on through the family. Priesthood became a fairly lucrative profession, a "trade" like anything else. Many say this has degraded the practice.

Michael Siegel
Newton, Mass.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003


To: The Rittenhouse Review
From: Curtiss Leung
Date: May 21, 2003

I'm glad someone is willing to go against the grain and say out loud what I've been thinking for a while: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is garbage. [See "There Truly is a God," TRR: The Lighter Side of Rittenhouse, May 19.]

It's teen porn with intellectual pretensions.

I visit your main site regularly, but this is the first time I've looked at "TRR The Lighter Side." I'll make a point to be back.

Curtiss Leung
Brooklyn, N.Y.


To: The Rittenhouse Review
From: Andrew W. Cohen
Date: May 21, 2003

The timing of Warren Buffett's recent Washington Post op-ed may be spot on. [See: "A Rational Voice Amid the Cacophony of Absurdity," The Rittenhouse Review, May 21.]

I assume he's trying to get fellow Nebraskan Sen. Ben Nelson (D) to change his vote on the bill that comes out of conference.

Andrew W. Cohen
Assistant Professor of History
Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
Syracuse University
Syracuse, N.Y.

Jim Capozzola of The Rittenhouse Review responds:

Ah...Very good point. I think you're right. And I hope it works!

Tuesday, May 20, 2003


To: The Rittenhouse Review
From: "Kaspu"
Date: May 20, 2003

Never in all my born days, have I ever, ever, seen a more self-referential blog than yours.


Jim Capozzola of The Rittenhouse Review responds:

Thanks for visiting the site. And so often! I'm glad you're enjoying it.

"Kaspu," by the way, for readers unaware, is a psuedonym for a little -- and I mean that -- swamp monster otherwise known as the Babylonian Sewer Rat, who, despite his self-styled he-man insult-flinging, likes to hide behind fake names. When and why the little rat developed his unrequited schoolgirl crush on me has not yet been determined.