- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 11, 2004

Quote of the week

“Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one; the other is the quite different question — how far Christians, if they are voters or members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for everyone. I do not think that.

“At least I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognize that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.” — C.S. Lewis, from “Mere Christianity.”

What an extraordinary contrast to some in the current religious right.

Gluttony nation

You don’t need to read the latest report on higher and higher rates of life-threatening obesity to know that this country has a problem. Just walk through any airport and observe the throngs barely able to move or breathe or sit in a regular chair. I’m a libertarian kind of fellow, so I see no need to get harrumphy about this. The experience of obesity cannot be in any way pleasant for the person involved — physically, psychologically or emotionally. It must be a prison for many; and the huge profits to be made from diet pills, diet fads and exercize programs reveal the extent and tenacity of the phenomenon. So what’s to be done collectively?

I have an idea: nothing. If people want to eat themselves into misery and early death, it really isn’t anyone else’s business. If businesses want to cater to getting people fat and then helping them get thin, and no one is committing outright fraud, what’s the problem? It’s a free-ish country, and the gluttony and vanity industries are part of what keeps this economy going. Of course, on a personal basis, you can and should express sympathy, help, support and so on.

But a national anti-obesity crusade? Count me out. I fear, in fact, that Big Food is soon going to be getting the same treatment as other perfectly legitimate industries, such as Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol. McDonald’s has already removed its Super Size options. Who’s next? Ben and Jerry’s? Friendly’s? The usual scolds are already prepping their jeremiads. “If the government said, ‘You really ought to cut back on soft drinks and juice drinks,’ those lobbyists would go berserk. They don’t want to take on the food industry,” Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition and public health at New York University, told The Washington Post last week. Uh oh. I hear a new lobby rising out of the mire.

Kerry’s annulment

One important issue in John Kerry’s past has been studiously avoided this election season. It’s the annulment of his first marriage to Julia Thorne. The Catholic Church declared the marriage void — despite the fact that it lasted 18 years, produced two children, and the annulment was fiercely contested by his first wife. How can such a marriage be understood to have never taken place, as annulments imply? Here’s how a story in the Washington Blade explained it last week:

“Political opportunity arose again after Paul Tsongas announced his retirement from the U.S. Senate in 1984. Kerry won the race to fill that seat and entered into what current wife Teresa Heinz called his ‘gypsy phase,’ commuting between apartments in Washington, D.C. and Boston, and dating actresses Morgan Fairchild and Catherine Oxenberg as well as a former law partner. Kerry and Thorne finalized their divorce in 1988. After Thorne requested an increase in alimony in 1995, Kerry sought an annulment of their marriage from the Catholic Church, a move observers saw as retaliatory. Kerry eventually received the annulment from the Boston diocese despite Thorne’s vehement objections. Past media reports did not indicate the grounds on which Kerry sought to annul his marriage of 18 years, after it produced two children, and the campaign also declined to provide any explanation.”

Of course, there may not be anything untoward about Mr. Kerry’s annulment. They are increasingly common among Catholics. In the early 1960s, there were about 300 a year in the United States. Now there are around 60,000 — around 10 percent, by some estimates, of all Catholic marriages! Eighty percent of the world’s Catholic annulments occur in America. All that’s worth remembering when you hear Catholic bishops speak of the sanctity of marriage and the impermissibility of divorce. There’s an escape clause. Mr. Kerry strolled right through it.

Great moments

Hard to beat this one from the New York Times:

“The Mirror account was written by Bill Borrows, an editor at large for Maxim U.K., who said in an interview that he could not recall, exactly, where he got the information that Charlie [Churchill’s alleged parrot] used to swear about Hitler, but that he might have read it on the Internet. He said he had not met Charlie in person, but had tried, unsuccessfully, to conduct a telephone interview. ‘The bird didn’t say anything, but I’ve had worse,’ Mr. Borrows said.”

Jayson Blair has a future, if only he’d cross an ocean.

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