I do not like the writings of the Anchoress, Elizabeth Scalia, over at her First Things blog. I know that blogging invites hyper-ventilation, in part because of some of the ridiculous things one reads on other blogs, but hyper-ventilation is Scalia’s only note. It is as if all Bach’s chorales or all Beethoven’s symphonies were in one key, and a boring key at that, say, C Major.
But, yesterday, Scalia outdid herself when she chose to take on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s remarks about praying to St. Joseph on his feast day. She writes: "I’m sorry. Almost nothing that has come from this woman’s mouth has infuriated me like this." She then has a clip of the Speaker saying she is praying to St. Joseph the Worker on his feast day and notes that it is a special day for Italian-Americans. This is what put Scalia in a tizzy. She notes that the feast of St. Joseph the Worker is actually on May 1, which is true, but it is the same St. Joseph nonetheless. She says that Catholics do not pray "to" the saints, but ask the saints to pray for them. Our friends at Vox Nova have devastated this ridiculous claim: In common parlance, Catholics always say they pray "to" this saint or that, even if they do not get into the theological niceties that so upset Scalia. Oh yes, she also displays her evident Christian charity by calling Pelosi a "glammed-up guttersnipe" and says of Pelosi that "[h]er ignorance is almost sublime."
But, then Scalia displays her own sublime ignorance. Actually, she doesn’t. What she does is make a statement, readily understandable, but not quite factually accurate, in short, the kind of thing Speaker Pelosi did. At the end of her post Scalia writes: "The US Council of Catholic Bishops Issues a Request of Catholics, on Health Care Reform." She provides the link. I was unaware that any of the three Plenary Councils of Baltimore, all of which were held in the nineteenth century, dealt with the issue of health care. The current organization of the U.S. Bishops is called the U.S. Conference, not Council, of Catholic Bishops. In fact, in the early 1920s, there was a bit of controversy about what to name the organization and the Vatican specifically objected to any use of the word "Council" because of its canonical significance.
Scalia’s mistake is an easy one to make. As easy as confusing the feast of St. Joseph the Worker with the Solemnity of St. Joseph. The difference, of course, is that Scalia is paid to be some kind of expert on Catholic issues. Some expert.
Michael Sean Winters