Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Post on a Sentence

In the third year of my history undergrad, a professor indicated that a part of education consists in exposure to bad scholarship. I won't say that since then I have become an expert in that field... but his words did, obviously, have a lasting impact on me.

In light of this maxim, I customarily assign bad scholarship so as to enable my students to pick up on the differences between the good and the bad; in other words, so that they may train themselves not to believe everything in print.

It's December now, so I thought I would hand out the theologyofdad 2010 award for the worst sentence of the year. It is to be found in Michael S. Patton's article, "Suffering and Damage in Catholic Sexuality" in the Journal of Religion and Health (1988). Here is the sentence found on pp. 131-2:

Researchers report that the Inquisition of the Middle Ages ordered by the Sacred Congregation of Doctrine is responsible for the 'sexual holocaust' in which hundreds of thousands of Catholics were publicly burned alive or persecuted in Switzerland and Germany for various sexual experiences believed to be caused by demons.

 I did not make this sentence up, honestly. It would be easier to count the truths than the errors in that sentence. Truths: there was a Middle Ages - I guess that's true. As for the rest:

1) researchers - no researcher with a university job would ever say something like that.

2) The Inquisition was begun at the very end of the Middle Ages.

3) The Sacred Congregation of (the) Doctrine (of the Faith) came along in 1965 - not the Middle Ages. It was a recreation of the old 'Holy Office' which was established in 1542 - again, not the Middle Ages.

4) hundreds of thousands of Catholics were not killed by any Roman or quasi-Roman entity in the entire history of the Church cumulatively. Recent research estimates the number of people killed by the Spanish Inquisition (under the control of the King of Spain, not the pope) to average about one execution per year. So, unless I am mistaken and the Spanish monarchy is 100,000 years old, then this number is just plain wrong.

5) People were not killed for sexual sins. Ever.

6) Why specify Germany and Switzerland?

7) If the devil caused it then it's not even a sin.

But anyway, for displaying the greatest idiocy that I have come across in 2010, here is your long-overdue theologyofdad 2010 award for the worst sentence of the year:


A further example of his terrible scholarship. He indicates that St. Augustine lived from 380-450. In fact, he was born in 354 and died in 430 - but what's twenty years give or take?


  1. Where do you find those pictures? I take it my kids behaved themselves in absence of mommy? Thank you to A-M.

  2. I just go to google images. I always find something good there.

    Your kids are angels.

    Hope you are enjoying your visit. Dave clings to his sanity.