An Update

I feel a little bit better about not updating this blog since, unlike many people who do this sort of thing, I have NOT disappeared. In fact, if anything I’ve become more visible. Look up Pinkerton’s Ghosts; I write and narrate the Sean Russo stories. I also comment under various usernames all around the net.

As for this blog, the simplest reason for why I’ve neglected to update it is that I don’t feel my opinions on politics, religion, or current events are really worth a damn. No, this was not a traumatic thing for me to realize; it’s true of the vast majority of people. Just a matter of me growing up. I did start this blog as a teenager after all.

Personally, I’m doing fine. Writing-wise, things are going up, up, up, and I expect 2022 to be a big year.

I may swap blogs to a writing-centered blog I started awhile back and never updated, The Mechanical Dragon, because while I’m no expert author I am a working author. I come out with a written and narrated short story once every three weeks after all. And I was even paid once for it! Real money too.

I owe a debt of gratitude to the superversives, who have changed my life in a variety of ways and who I count among my friends. You know who you are; I’m glad you exist, and I thank you.

If I swap blogs I’ll update it here and let everyone know. No fanfare – nothing sad, no major change of direction. It’s just focusing on what I should have been focusing on all along.

Here’s to a better 2022, ladies and gents!

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A comment on voting

It is easy to say, and true, that we can’t vote our way out of this and a uniparty is running everything.

That said, as well and good as it may be in the abstract, when the people in charge are directly affecting me and how I live my life, it is hard to ignore it as irrelevant theatre. When the play ends I can go about the business of living; not so after the election.

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Calling a Spade a Spade

What I’m about to write may be the single most controversial thing I have EVER written, but here goes anyway.

Saying that the novus ordo is “just as valid” a form of the Mass as the TLM and that preference for one or the other is just a matter of opinion is misguided. Here is the real truth:

The historic traditional Latin Mass of the western church is more reverent, more holy, and more beautiful than the novus ordo, when both are performed as reverently as they could possibly be.

And what’s more, this is incredibly obvious to basically anybody who has been to both.

I’m tired of being gaslighted on this point. Yes I have been to reverent and beautiful novus ordo Masses. They are nothing – absolutely nothing – like a truly reverent TLM.

The galling part is the latin has almost nothing to do with this! Sure it’s a fancy sounding language and learning a whole separate language for the liturgy does show a certain respect absent if you’re just using the vernacular. But I have been to Divine Liturgies in English that have had none of the issues of English novus ordos. Nobody is calling for the Divine Liturgy to be said only in their native languages.

They don’t need to, because the english version of the Divine Liturgy is just the regular Divine Liturgy, only spoken in English.

People who are pretending – and I see a lot of people like this – that this has to do with Latin are missing the point, and probably intentionally. It really has very little to do with Latin. It has to do with the fact that the historic Mass used for 1000 years by the majority of western Christianity was gutted in the 60’s in an attempt to be made more like Protestant worship services, with the predictable result that the new version is much less reverent, much easier to abuse, and much less holy than the traditional latin Mass.

The main thing, I think, is the music; low Masses don’t hit the same as high Masses, and I can confirm this having been to both. The Gregorian chant is truly gorgeous, and while a good choir is a blessing it’s nothing to beautiful Gregorian chant.

But that’s not the point. The point is that really, the whole thing is disingenuous. At Vatican II they obviously didn’t believe that the TLM was a “valid alternate expression of the Mass” or they wouldn’t have created an alternate version, then spent the next several decades trying to eliminate it. If the concern was the language, why not simply do as they did with the Divine Liturgy and translate the Latin to English?

We know the answer.

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The one and only defense of the Pope’s newest letter I’ve seen

Here you go.

Why am I completely unsurprised it’s Dave Armstrong? Those who read Dr. Feser probably recognize the name.

Helpfully, Armstrong writes out his argument in list form for me in the article, so all I need to do is quote it. Obnoxiously, my laptop is just not letting me copy-paste from this site, so I’ll have to paraphrase to a point. The argument goes like this:

  1. Both traditionalists and radical Catholic reactionaries desired a return to the pre-1962 Mass
  2. Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI agreed to grant wider availability and access to this Mass, under the logic of “Worship and let worship”
  3. Summorum Pontificum was the most notable effort along these lines
  4. Pope Benedict XVI saw both Masses as valid expressions of the liturgy, and by attending one this was not meant to be a license to thumb your nose at the other
  5. This is, however, what happened; the freedom of worship has lead to too many people having a quasi-schismatic attitude towards the new Mass, leading to people denigrating the novus ordo as objectively inferior to the TLM or even in the most extreme cases calling it invalid
  6. After undertaking a study, Pope Francis decided there was too much increasing division, elitism, and rigorism, and many people used the TLM Masses and parishes as an excuse to reject Vatican II,
  7. Therefore, to try and keep the Church more unified, he is restricting the celebration of the TLM.

The argument is eloquently made, and seems an accurate summary of what the Pope was saying. I of course have an issue with it, as you could probably guess.

Obviously the TLM is open to that sort of abuse. But why?

Seriously. Ask yourself this. What was causing people – in theory the people MOST faithful to the Church, who MOST loved the Mass – to have these sorts of reactions?

You’re gonna have to trust me here, and I think most of you will, but the novus ordo is incredibly easy to abuse. If anything there are probably almost as many Masses of the novus ordo performed improperly or disrespectfully as done well. And in these parishes, you get modern priests – like mine – straight up denying that something like the flood COULD even have happened, and openly speculating about alternate theories for why the story was included, in the homily. In a parish where we have maybe 20 parishioners per Mass – naturally my congregation has shrank – still we have extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.

So respect for the Eucharist is dropping, to say nothing of the horrifying statistic that over half of American Catholics don’t believe in the Real Presence.

NONE of these are issues in TLM Parishes. And not only that, instead of shrinking they are growing. Indeed, they are bursting at the seams, and entirely organically. I went on a random Sunday once and was forced to stand. Not Christmas. Not Easter. Just Sunday Mass. I have literally never seen that anywhere else except the time I saw a Mass said by Cardinal Burke.

And it is THESE parishes and THESE Masses being targeted. This is the serious problem Pope Francis – and the bishops! – are seeing that is causing the Pope to act. He said not a word about the Panchamama incident – scratch that, he apologized after someone threw the statue in the Tiber – he refused to say a word to clarify his weird footnote in Amoris Laetitia, he refused to elaborate on any of the odd and frankly contradictory things he’s said about gay marriage despite Cardinals issuing statements because THEY were concerned Catholic teaching was being misrepresented, he has shuffled around rumored sex abusers and done next to nothing to the German bishops…

…But people having an issue with Vatican II and pointing out hey, maybe the novus ordo is way too open to abuse and the TLM was the historic liturgy of the western church for 1000 years *for a reason*, espite the fact that the people attending these parishes and attending these liturgies are MORE orthodox and faithful on average…

…Well, that’s DIVISIVE!

Well, no duh it’s divisive. It’s divisive to point out that yes, what you are offering is actually, in fact, more holy and more faithful than the watered-down stuff next door is. Because it is, obviously.

We currently have in office a very bad pope. This is not new; it’s happened before. The difference now is we have the internet. But let’s just call a spade a spade here – the pope is bad, and this was a massive mistake that is only going to lead to a schism.

What this just did, was turn moderate traditionalists celebrating their Masses into radical extremists. If Pope Francis wanted to calm down the dissent, then needless to say *confirming the Vatican’s hostility to traditionalists by cracking down on the celebration of the latin Mass* was probably the wrong way to go about it.

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Chastek and Crude on Parallel Churches

Crude recently commented on James Chastek’s article on the upcoming rumored suppression of the FSSP.

Short answer: I agree with Crude, and have some of my own commentary to add. Note that would respond to Chastek directly, but he does not allow it. C’est la vie.

Chastek says this:

As a rule, the lived experience within a traditionalist parish is of leaving the diocese, which latter is often caricatured as a Sodom of clown Masses, modernism, and Masons.

Hmmmmmmm. Well, my local parish, which I am mostly quite fond of, is not like that. I would go as far as to call my Priest a very good man. He is also a man who once gave a homily on Noah’s Ark that straight up said that God would never kill anybody in a flood, the very idea was preposterous, God was a God of love, so there must be some other reason the story was included. This happened; I was there. It was no caricature.

That said, the Priest at the Blue Army Shrine to Our Lady of Fatima is staunchly traditionalist, yet only says one Latin Mass a week. It varies, but traditionalists are not making up what they see.

Chastek also says this:

My wife and I couldn’t break into our last traditionalist community simply because – as far as we could tell – we were in perfect agreement with everyone about everything except homeschooling, exclusive traditionalism, or attending the parish school. 

This paragraph strikes me as extremely strange. There are a couple of things to note about it:

  1. Chastek emphasizes homeschooling as a major source of disagreement
  2. At the same time, he also mentions separately from homeschooling attending the parish school

Something very weird is going on here. The parish can’t BOTH be incredibly intolerant about homeschooling AND incredibly intolerant about people not attending the local parish school. That would be straight up contradictory! So Chastek can’t be right about this – they’re clearly very much okay with people choosing to opt out of homeschooling.

What they have an issue with – and this is speculation on my part, but educated speculation – is the decision for children to attend public schools. My guess? Chastek didn’t want to pay to send his kids to private school, but also didn’t have the ability to homeschool, and got heavily criticized for this.

The problem I have with Chastek’s response is that this is not a small issue! This is not some tiny insignificant detail that you can just agree to disagree about. How you raise your children is critical to the very core of the entire traditionalist project. Chastek’s reaction of “I don’t get it! That’s all we disagree about and they still have a problem with me!” in fact gets to the very heart of the problem – he doesn’t even grasp WHY the traditionalist movement has an issue with putting children in public schools. In fact, having your children indoctrinated for 35-40 hours a week by public servants is something the traditionalists ABSOLUTELY should have a very vocal issue with – in fact, I’m rather heartened to hear that they didn’t let it go.

I don’t really have anything else to add, except I fully co-sign Crude’s commentary. Just wanted to make a point about this aspect of it.

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Part 3: The Best Evidence Against the Thesis

I take no pleasure, none whatsoever, in the theory that Joan of Arc died having denied her voices. It is a depressing end, more depressing than the burning.

Still, there are things that point away from it. The testimonies of Manchon and Ladvenu are often cited by people who believe Joan kept her faith in the Voices to the end; Francis Lowell, who wrote the wonderful biography I keep linking to and referencing, claims she had regained, or possibly never lost, her faith in the Voices because she called on St. Michael while in the flames.

Not to be rude to Mr. Lowell, but this strikes me as a particularly pathetic defense. One does not need to believe they are being spoken to by Voices to pray to Saints. It is a defense that could only have been penned by a non-Catholic; I can imagine myself doing much the same as Joan did.

But there are real points against this. Ladvenu is her Confessor, and he claims twenty years later Joan did not deny her Voices; it’s possible she revealed as much to him in her final days.

We also have this classic quote from Joan:

 “Ah, Rouen, I greatly fear that you will have to suffer for my death.”

This was said on the day of her execution, and in it we see some of Joan’s old confidence. It relates to the case like this:

Clearly, Joan believes she is innocent, and more than that, is convinced she will be vindicated after her death. Surely such an attitude doesn’t fit with the revelation that Joan admitted her Voices could not be trusted. Right?

The main stumbling blocks here are twofold:

  1. Accounts that say Joan did NOT deny her Voices only appear 20 years after the fact
  2. The last word we get from Joan herself on the Voices is her saying she will no longer trust them

These are big issues. Manchon may not have known about the denial (though I’m skeptical of this) but Ladvenu certainly did; indeed, he played a very big part in inducing it.

And yet this is the best evidence we have that Joan did NOT deny her voices: Ladvenu definitely knows all of the facts, was there for her final days, and still says Joan did not deny her Voices; and Joan is definitely convinced of her innocence even in the very hour of death.

It is certainly plausible Joan said something to Ladvenu that convinced him she still held faith in the Voices; but of course it is equally plausible Ladvenu saw the writing on the wall regarding the results of the trial and left of the bit that made him look the worst.

Her bravery at the end is undeniable, of course: She dies looking at a Cross, calling on the name of Jesus and the Saints. I have seen some sources scoff at the account of the executioner who claims he fears greatly that he will be damned, because he has burnt a Saint; however this is brought up in multiple places, and it seems quite probable that it happened.

So what were Joan’s last thoughts on the Voices?

I’m a broken record here, but the answer is “We aren’t sure, but probably she denied them.” C’est la vie.

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Thesis Challenge: Father Ladvenu

Father Ladvenu, a Priest sympathetic to Joan, provides arguably the greatest challenge to my thesis that Joan died denying her voices, and I apparently missed him completely. Like Manchon, Fr. Ladvenu claims Joan held fast that her voices came from God until she died; but there are several things about Ladvenu’s testimony that make it distinct from Manchon.

First and most importantly is this:

On the day of her death I was with her until her last breath.

So Ladvenu is much closer to Joan than Manchon. He is also, of course, her Confessor, and has a unique insight into Joan’s soul that is impossible for Manchon to share.

He has this to say:

When I was with her, and exhorting her on her salvation, the Bishop of Beauvais and some of the Canons of Rouen came over to see her; and, when Jeanne perceived the Bishop, she told him that he was the cause of her death; that he had promised to place her in the hands of the Church, and had relinquished her to her mortal enemies.

Up to the end of her life she maintained and asserted that her Voices came from God, and that what she had done had been by God’s command.

There are a couple of very interesting aspects to this little quote. Joan famously says to Cauchon that “I die through you” when he sees her, which seems to be what Ladvenu is referring to. What is often left out of adaptations, however, is that this was not the end of the exchange. Cauchon takes this moment as his opportunity to get Joan to deny her voices. He manages to at minimum get Joan to admit she was deceived by them; according to the Lowell biography she at least stopped short of claiming they were demonically inspired, but it was a moment of major victory for Cauchon nonetheless. This is the reason he allows Joan to receive Confession and Eucharist – it is tantamount to her admitting that she is submitting to the Church’s (meaning him and his men’s) judgment on the voices.

But there is more to take away from Ladvenu’s testimony at the original condemnation trial:

Replied: Pierre Maurice, Nicolas Loyseleur, and I exhorted her to save her soul, and asked her if it were true that she had these Voices and apparitions? She replied that it was indeed true, and she continued so to tell us up to the end, but without stating decidedly, at least, so far as I understood, under what form the apparitions came to her. All I remember is that she said they came to her in great multitude and in the smallest size [in magna multitudine et quantitate minima]. Besides, I did at this time hear Jeanne say and confess that, inasmuch as the Clergy held and believed that if they were spirits who came to her they proceeded from evil spirits, she also held and believed as did the Clergy, and would no longer put faith in these spirits. And as it appeared to me, Jeanne was then of a sound mind.

Something is very weird here. This is the same person saying on one hand that Joan held “to the end” – and he was there at the end – that the voices came from God, and on the other hand he claims that Joan said she would “no longer put faith in these spirits”. Which is true? Is there a contradiction?

One way to explain it is that, like is possible with Manchon, at the nullification trial Ladvenu is simply leaving things out that make Joan look bad. This is not implausible.

The most I can say about Fr. Ladvenu in particular is that as Joan’s Confessor and, at the end, her constant companion, his words regarding her attitude towards the Voices do carry particular weight – and it is possible Joan revealed something to him in Confession, or in private conversation, that convinced him that Joan did not repudiate her voices. As is, it’s definitely the best evidence we have for that particular position, and I was mistaken for not including it.

With that said, if you want my personal opinion – unsubstantiated though it is – 20 years on when all favor was towards Joan of Arc, in her nullification trial, I think Fr. Ladvenu simply left out the bits that made Joan look bad. Look, it’s not as if it would have changed the outcome of the retrial. It just…makes Joan look a little better.

And perhaps more importantly, it makes HIM look a little better. Now that it looks as if Joan is going to be declared innocent, manipulating Joan in a moment of terrible emotional weakness, having just learned she would be burnt at the stake and excommunicated, into denying Voices sent by God is perhaps not how you want people to remember you.

Or maybe Ladvenu knows something we don’t, and can’t reveal it, due to his role as a Confessor. That also isn’t implausible! I leave the question open to your consideration.

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Did Joan of Arc denounce her voices?

So I am going to make a shocking claim here, and before I do I want to be clear what I’m saying.

Joan of Arc is a Saint, and deserves to be a Saint. Her trial was a hatchet job, and Joan handled herself with courage and grace during it. She died with courage and was a model to emulate to the end.

I also think – I’ll talk about why later – that the voices really were the voices of the Saints.

But let me make my case:

The ending of the trial has become infamous due to movies and books portraying it frequently. The popular account goes thus:

Joan, due to fear of the fire, is half-tricked, half-frightened into signing a paper where she denounces her voices as false and agrees to wear women’s clothes. She may think she’s been promised release, but she certainly thinks she’s going to be moved to a Church prison, to be guarded by women. But she is betrayed, and moved back to the regular prison with male guards.

The next day they come back to make sure Joan has changed her clothes. She has not – and furthermore, when questioned, she says that the voices talked to her again, told her that she did something wicked in denying them, and she believes the voices came from God.

This is enough to lead to Joan’s execution. She is allowed Eucharist and Confession despite being excommunicated, against the norms of the Church, and goes to her death having kept her faith in the Voices to the end.

A moving and brave ending. But there are two problems with it.

  1. What is Cauchon’s plan? So the common story is that Cauchon needed Joan to abjure in writing, and then he needed her to recant the next day, so he got the abjuration on paper to discredit Joan AND had a good reason to burn her.

    But if you think about this it makes no sense. Why would Cauchon WANT Joan to recant? Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of the signed abjuration?
  2. Why is Joan allowed to receive Confession and the Eucharist? Mark Twain theorizes in his “Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc” that Joan is permitted this because Cauchon felt some fear for his soul, but this is unconvincing at best. It doesn’t fit with the character of Cauchon or his actions thus far; he’s been quite unashamed of himself.

Is there an answer to this? Actually there is, and we’ve known it all along. The answer is this: After Joan is found, having not changed her clothes, the day after her signed abjuration, Joan claims she believes the voices have deceived her. Cauchon had intended for Joan to say this all along, and it was a main component of his plan.

So Cauchon’s plan is actually this:

  1. Trick/scare Joan into signing the abjuration
  2. Betray Joan, leading her to get fed up with her treatment, refuse to change clothes, and go back to listening to her Voices
  3. After it is too late, and Joan refuses to change her clothes and refuses to denounce the voices, convince Joan that the voices MUST have been deceiving her, and get her to admit it

This is exactly what happens. Because Joan denounces the voivrd – but too late for it to matter as to her final fate – Joan is permitted to receive Confession and the Eucharist. And Cauchon wins totally: Joan has not only given him the signed letter, but she goes to her death with her last word on the voices being her finally admitting that they were deceiving her.

A bold claim, I know. Do we have any evidence for this?

Not only do we have evidence for this, it’s really quite easy to find. Here you go:

Jacques Le Camus, priest, canon of Reims, aged about 53 years, witness produced, sworn and examined on this day, said and deposed under oath that in the morning of Wednesday, the Eve of Corpus Christi last, he accompanied us the said bishop to the room where Jeanne was detained in the castle of Rouen, and heard this Jeanne publicly confess in a voice audible to all those present that she Jeanne had seen the apparitions come to her and had heard their voices, promising that she should be delivered; and since she recognized that they had deceived her she believed they were -not good voices or good things. A little while later she confessed her sins to brother Martin of the order of Preaching brothers, and after receiving the sacrament of confession and penance, when the said brother was about to administer the sacrament of the Eucharist to her, and held the consecrated host in his hands, he asked her, “Do you believe this is the body of Christ?” And the said Jeanne answered, “Yes, and He alone can deliver me. I ask for it to be administered to me.” Then the same brother said to her, “Do you still believe in these voices?” She answered, “I believe in God alone, and will no longer put faith in these voices, because they have deceived me.”


Master Nicolas Loiseleur [Malcolm note: One of the blackest villains in the trial, Loiseleur pretended to be a Priest from her hometown, so Joan would confess to him; however, this was a trap, and the Confession was set up in such a way that others would be able to overhear it and use that testimony in the trial. Real salt of the earth sort of guy] said also that often, before master Pierre, the two Preaching brothers, ourselves, and many others, he heard Jeanne say that she really had received revelations and apparitions of spirits; that she had been deceived in these revelations, which she well recognized and perceived because although they had promised her deliverance from prison, she saw only the contrary; upon whether these spirits were good or evil she referred to the clergy, but she put and would put no more faith in them.

He said that he exhorted her to destroy the error she had sown among the people, to confess publicly that she had deceived herself and the people by putting faith in such revelations and exhorting the people to believe in them; he exhorted her humbly to ask pardon for this. Jeanne answered that she would willingly do so, but she did not imagine that she would remember when the proper time came, that is when she was in judgment before the people; and she asked her confessor to remind her of it and of other things tending to her salvation.

More here, I encourage you to read this: Joan of Arc – Maid of Heaven – The Trial of Joan of Arc Chapter 34

So what do we make of the words of Manchon? Manchon, the only honest notary at Joan’s trial, has this to say in his testimony at the nullification trial of Joan:

What she had said in the abjuration she said she had not understood, and that what she had done was from fear of the fire, seeing the executioner ready with his cart.

[Asked, why they had administered the Sacrament to one declared excommunicate and heretic, and if she had been absolved by the forms of the Church, Manchon answered:] There had been much discussion among the Judges and their Counselors, whether they should offer her the Holy Sacrament, and whether she should be absolved at the place of execution; but I did not see any absolution granted to her. I was so disturbed that for a month I remained terrified.

She never revoked her revelations, but maintained them up to the end.

Joan of Arc – Maid of Heaven – Trial of Nullification (Rehabilitation) Rouen Testimony

Do you notice something?

Manchon never even mentions the examination by the Priests that occurred after Joan was found wearing men’s clothes!

My conclusion: Either Manchon did not know about it, or he intentionally left that detail out. Either way, as the link above proves, it is extremely well-attested that Joan did in fact lose faith in her voices at the end, and told this to multiple people. Manchon leaves this out, and this actually leads to a weird inconsistency in his testimony – we don’t know why Joan is allowed the Sacraments. But this is a detail easily explained if Joan did, in fact, recant her faith in the voices.

Moreover, I want to note a couple of other things:

  1. Joan had slowly been losing faith in the voices for awhile. Not long before her abjuration, she is still claiming the voices comes from God, but hedges her bets: She says that the responsibility for what she did due to them is hers, and not Charles. She will risk her own life on the voices, but not her King’s reputation. As this wonderful biography of Joan of Arc by Francis C. Lowell puts it:

    Once more her voices prevailed. “I will answer you,” she said. “Let my deeds and words be sent to Rome to our holy father the pope, to whom, and to God, first of all, I trust myself. As for the words and deeds I have done, I have done them by the command of God.” Doubt had entered her mind, however, and it found characteristic expression. “I hold no one responsible for my acts,” she went on, “neither my king nor any one else, and, if there is any fault, it is mine and not another’s.” She was still willing to stake her own salvation on the truth of her voices, but not the reputation of her king.

  2. Joan absolutely believed she would be rescued, and that the voices promised her she would be rescued. She was absolutely and definitely expecting a literal rescue, and not a symbolic rescue via martyrdom. That this did not happen bothered her deeply.

With this in mind, is it a shock that she finally believes the voices were deceiving her.

There is another point to address. Did Joan regain her faith in the Voices while in the fire? The Lowell biography seems to think so. It says this:

She had not lost her faith in her voices, or else it came back to her in the fire, for those standing near by heard her speak the name of St. Michael, who had appeared to her in her first vision in Domremy.

Indeed it is true – Joan calls on the Saints who appear in her visions at the very end, according to a couple of different sources.

But let me ask a different question: What does this have to do with her trust in the voices?

Joan was still very definitely Catholic. In fact, her Catholicism is probably what lead her to denounce the voices: Priests and Bishops are telling her to submit to them and she is refusing!

Joan would still obviously believe in the intercession of the Saints. Calling on Saint Michael and believing St. Michael is appearing and speaking to her are two extremely different things. Despite what this biography says, one does not imply the other.

There is really no other conclusion to draw here: Joan of Arc’s last words concerning her voices are to denounce them as deceptive, and claim she would put not more faith in them. More than that – we have no evidence that at any point between her saying that and her death that she ever changed her mind again.

The Lowell biography also reports this, by the way, despite its desperate attempt to save face for Joan at the end:

In her distress Maurice thought that another appeal might move her, and he pointed out that her voices must be those of lying spirits, since, in promising her deliverance, they had deceived her. This horrible thought had been present to her mind for days; she could not be sure that Maurice was wrong, and he persuaded her to say that she had been deceived. Probably she meant to admit only that she had misunderstood her voices, but the churchmen took her to mean that the voices had betrayed her. 

My own note: It really, really doesn’t read to me like Joan was admitting she only “misunderstood” the voices.

Cauchon saw her agony, and, dissatisfied with the efforts of Maurice, himself attempted to bring her to submission. “Listen, Joan,” he began; “you always told us that your voices promised you that you should be delivered; you see how they have deserted you. Now tell us the truth.” Again Joan was forced to admit that she had been deceived. Cauchon triumphantly declared that she must understand that voices like hers could not be those of good spirits, nor could they come from God; if they had come from Him, they could neither deceive her nor lie. To this Joan made no answer, and they could get nothing more out of her, except rather vague professions of devotion to the church and of willingness to submit to it.

So I will note here that again I think Lowell is trying to avoid the obvious conclusion, which is that Joan is reluctant to say outright that the voices are evil spirits but she certainly no longer trusts them.

The evidence seems clear to me. So why is this version of the story never the one we see in movies and books?

I think the answer is obvious. It ruins the symmetry of the story!

Think about it. Do you really want to hear the version of the story where Joan admits she’s being deceived and doesn’t trust the Voices anymore? Where Cauchon wins utterly until the 20 years later reversal?

Of course not. Far more inspiring if Joan goes to her death proclaiming the rightness of her cause. But that simply is not what happened. The extraordinarily well-documented historical record does not support it.

So were the Voices the Saints? I’m going to answer…probably, yeah.

The reason is pretty simple. On every prediction the voices were not only accurate, but extraordinarily accurate, to the point of specifics, up to this point. Joan predicts specific injuries, Joan predicts her own capture, Joan promises a sign to prove herself and then lifts the siege of Orleans, Joan promises the king crowned and the king is crowned. She claims a disaster will befall the English in 7 years, and in 6 years and eight months Paris falls to the French. She says the English will be driven out of France, and it happens during the reign of Charles VII, albeit 20 years later. It’s extraordinary.

So why was Joan not rescued if the Voices promised it? I think the answer is simple enough. Joan simply misunderstood. The Voices did also tell her to prepare for her martyrdom. Quite probably they were speaking obliquely to spare Joan her fear of the fire for as long as possible, while also gently trying to prepare her for the inevitable end. It’s the most elegant solution to the dilemma.

Last point: Why am I laboring this point? Because there are several facts here:

  1. The trial was still a hatchet job
  2. Joan was still innocent
  3. Joan was still an incredibly devout Catholic
  4. Joan still strove to do the will of God in all she did
  5. Joan is still a Saint, and a deserved one

So why focus on this one point about the Voices?

Well…because this isn’t the West, Sir. When the legend doesn’t fit the facts, we don’t print the legend. The version of the trial we actually get is certainly not as dramatically satisfying as the Hollywood version, but it is the truth.

If anyone thinks I’m interpreting things incorrectly, please say so. I’d love to be wrong.

The highly recommended Lowell biography: Joan of Arc – Maid of Heaven – Joan of Arc By Francis C. Lowell

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Joan of Arc Heresy

For various reasons, I’ve been on a Joan of Arc kick recently (actually, d’Arc is more accurate, since Joan is from the village of Domremy and “d’Arc” is literally her father’s surname, but it’s a bit late now to fight that battle, I think). I’ve read Mark Twain’s “Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc”, watched a half hour of the 1928 silent film “The Passion of Joan of Arc”, and watched the 1948 Ingrid Bergman “Joan of Arc”. My thoughts:

Twain’s Joan of Arc is superb. He really gets across, very strongly, that Joan of Arc was a teenage girl. She is very much that in Twain’s version of the story, and this more than any other aspect of her character shines. This was obviously very important to him, and I can see why for reasons I’ll get to in a bit.

Despite having a somewhat mixed overall reception, I quite liked the Ingrid Bergman Joan of Arc film. Bergman shines as the title character, convincingly pulling off Joan both as the frightened teenage girl on trial and the inspirational leader guided by God. She is obviously too old for the role but this is really only something you think about in retrospect; as you watch it Bergman manages to suspend your disbelief. Jose Ferrer as Charles VII is standout.

Now here is my Joan of Arc heresy: I realize I am literally the only person in the wold who has ever said this, but I don’t think Renee Falconetti , from the 1928 silent film, makes a particularly good Joan of Arc.

There are a couple of reasons for this. The first isn’t really Falconetti’s fault, but she is clearly in her 30’s. Joan died at the age of 19. I recognize that this may sound somewhat hypocritical after talking about the also way-too-old Bergman, but they at least TRIED to make her up and dress her in such a way that she seemed younger. Falconetti LOOKS her age, and it’s distracting. This is especially glaring after reading Twain’s distinctly teenage Joan.

More directly though, I don’t think Falconetti’s acting fits the person of Joan of Arc.

Hear me out here. Falconetti – whose performance has been universally praised as one of the greatest in cinema history – is flawless as a lonely, frightened girl struggling to keep her courage and her sanity while surrounded on all sides by terrible and uncaring men. Her face is expressive, her ability to conjure up a single tear apparently on command almost eerie. I have no criticism of her acting of the character she’s portraying. My issue is with that character.

There is no confidence to Falconetti’s Joan. Those who have watched the 1928 film – and it is worth a look – answer me honestly: Does Falconetti’s Joan look like she could have ever commanded an army? No, right?

Can you imagine Falconetti’s Joan locking her jailer in her cell and escaping prison, only to be caught by the sentry? Of course you can’t. The very idea is absurd; she oozes helplessness, it’s practically her defining character trait. Yet the real Joan of Arc did exactly that.

Falconetti’s Joan looks hysterically upset at practically everything. A paper is shoved in her face, and she is in tears, her eyes wide and panicked. It’s expressive, it’s infused with personality, it makes you feel horrible for the poor girl. It isn’t Joan of Arc.

I don’t know. I’m really on an island here. Next up will be the Bresson film from the 60’s, “The Trial of Joan of Arc”. I’ve heard he also wasn’t a big fan of the 1928 silent film, but I don’t know why. I wonder what his Joan will be like.

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Yes, an annulment really does mean the marriage never happened

Every now and then I see articles from well-meaning/guilt-ridden Catholics where they are quick to point out that an annulment is not the same as saying “a marriage never happened”.

I get why people are saying it. It’s a big, even huge thing to say.

It is also the truth. An annulment means the marriage, as in specifically the sacarament of Holy Matrimony, never actually happened. You thought it did, and you were wrong.

“Does this mean my children are actually bastards?”

Yes, it does.

[EDIT: No, apparently, not according to canon law. I suppose the legitimacy of the children is a legal issue the church had to settle, and they came down on legitimacy of the children being easier to enforce]

“So all of the sex we had was…wrong?”

Yes, it was.

I found this through an old friend, articles from Catholicmatch. Bizarrely, this article says one thing, then links to another article from the same site that directly contradicts it!

Look, it isn’t just me. Article one says this:

 It is not the Church saying you were never actually married

But look at that link! It links to an article with this exact quote:

“An annulment declares that your marriage never existed.”


If this seems upsetting and frightening, good! If you need an annulment, it means you failed in a very large and visible way. It SHOULD frighten you. It SHOULD upset you. It means you were inadvertently living in sin, having bastard children, against the will of God. This is a big deal.

I dunno. Nothing prompted it except this bizarre series of articles linking to each other as if they agree despite the fact that they contradict each other. Whatever.

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