Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mencken on Doubt

I was once told by a Catholic bishop that whenever a priest comes to his ordinary with the news that he was begun to develop doubts about this or that point of doctrine, the ordinary always assumes as a matter of fact that a woman is involved. It is almost unheard-of, however, for a priest to admit candidly that he is a party to a love affair: he always tries to conceal it by ascribing his desertion to theological reasons. The bishop said that the common method of dealing with such situations is to find out who the lady is, and then transfer the priest to some remote place, well out of her reach. If, after a year or two there, he still harbors his doctrinal doubts, he is permitted to withdraw quietly from his sacerdotal office and to marry her in a respectable manner, though without the blessing of the church.

— Henry Louis Mencken

From “Minority Report: H.L. Mencken’s Notebooks”, by H.L. Mencken; Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1956, note #93.

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