The Common Good
September-October 2012

An Author's Cry for Help

by Ed Spivey Jr. | September-October 2012

Please Vatican, censor me. I deserve it.

AS AN AUTHOR whose book sales have, shall we say, peaked, I took particular interest in the rising popularity of Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, by Catholic Sister Margaret Farley. Until recently, her book had enjoyed only modest success, the predictable result of a title that gets the public’s blood racing with “sexual,” then quickly disappoints with the word “ethics,” the marketing equivalent of taking a cold shower while wrapped in a wet blanket. Toss in the word “Christian” and your sales possibilities are further reduced to a half dozen seminary students still looking for a thesis topic.

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All of which violates the advice my grandmother gave me years ago: “Put sex in a book title, honey, and it’s money in the bank.” At least I think it was my grandmother.

But then a miracle happened. When officials at the Vatican read the book—between pensive walks in long robes (that’s what they do in the movies)—they were shocked and stunned, and immediately (six years later) declared it scandalous. This caused sales of Just Love to skyrocket. (Which proves the other thing my grandmother said: “No wait. I got it wrong. Have the Vatican criticize your book and then it’s money in the bank.”)

Vatican officials objected to Sister Farley’s frank theological exploration of modern sexuality which, anyone could have told her, is just not done when affiliated with a powerful religious institution that thinks “modern” means “the most recent part of the Middle Ages.” And back then, people didn’t talk about gay marriage or masturbation or any of the other issues Sister Farley thoughtfully ponders, not without enjoying the church’s hospitality sitting in wooden stocks for a few days.

To her credit, Sister Farley had vetted her writing with members of the Vatican’s Doctrinal Department—it’s on the third floor, I think, just past the restrooms marked “MEN” and “ALSO MEN”—who insisted that the book must conform to church doctrine. But this would have limited the author’s subject matter to:

• papal infallibility
• the wisdom of bishops
• angels

So she decided to write about sex instead, prompting the Vatican to denounce her “defective understanding” of theology, and sending her book sales through the roof.

WHICH IS WHY, after much prayerful consideration, I must confess that my own book, A Hamster is Missing in Washington, D.C., also suffers from a defective understanding of theology. Worse, my book oozes with sexual innuendo and other decadent musings, not to mention the grievous doctrinal heresies that make Just Love look like The Poky Little Puppy.

In fact, the original title of my book was going to be A Sexy Hamster is Missing in Sexy Washington, D.C. But at the last minute, I regained a shred of decency and changed it. The text inside, however, has not been altered from its appalling deviance, and I call on Vatican censors to reject it with due vigor, and to publicly—I can give you a media contact list—denounce it.

Only the stern hand of the One True Vatican can guide me from the twisted path I have chosen, and return me to where true righteousness dwells, at or near the top of Amazon’s best-seller list.

And then church officials can get back to what they do best: keeping the scourge of equality out of the church.

AND SPEAKING OF equality, Sojourners’ “Thank-A-Nun Day” campaign has helped support Catholic sisters censored by their church hierarchy, and it’s been a big success. Although our “Thank-A-Bishop Day,” not so much.

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners and author of A Sexy Hamster is Missing in Washington, D.C.

Image: Syrian golden hamster, Nikolai Pozdeev / Shutterstock.com

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