Thursday, September 10, 2009

Keep its nose out of morals

"I don't know why the Catholic Church doesn't stick to politics and
keep its nose out of morals."

Muriel Spark, quoted in this week's London Review of Books. I thought
that was rather funny. Spark was not just a fine writer, but also a
wit of uncommon dexterity and aplomb. Take, for example, Barbara
Vaughan, the heroine of Spark's The Mandelbaum Gate, who finds herself
in Bersheeba,

"the place where the patriarch Isaac, blind in his old age, mistakenly
gave his blessing to Jacob, who had posed as his elder brother Esau.
The old man, uneasy, felt the son's hands and arms, which were gloved
in the hairy skin of a goat, and was taken in by the disguise. 'The
voice is the voice of Jacob,' said the old man. He felt the arms and
hands. 'But the hand - ' The mighty blessing, once bestowed, was
irrevocable. Smooth Jacob, not tough, hairy Esau, got the spiritual
inheritance and took the place that the Lord had reserved for him
among the Father's of Israel, such being the ways of the Lord in the
Middle East. Barbara reflected that God had not been to Eton. Jacob
would have made a marvellous Jesuit."

You can hear the story of Jacob and Esau told here: