When our trade papers arrive each week I often turn first to my favourite writer, Catherine Fox. I love her dry humour, the way she points out nonsense and tarradiddles, her irony and the fact that this arises out of genuine faith. In the latest issue she’s mulling over the story of the future mother-in-law who sent her son’s fiancee an email detailing what she considered to be good manners.
‘I dread to think what kind of email the mother of St Joseph might have sent to Mary if computers had been around back then. “When you are engaged to be married to a young man, it is very bad manners to become pregnant by someone else. This is simply not done in polite circles. Nor is it acceptable to claim that you don’t know how it happened, because you have never slept with another man, and that it must have been an act of God. It is rude to drag God’s good name into this. God, as we all know, is a stout upholder of morality, and would never cause pregnancy to occur out of wedlock. Your wild talk about angelic visitations is self-aggrandising to say the least. I suggest you stop and think for a moment. Ask yourself, why would an archangel visit a nobody like you? I’m sure you won’t mind my venturing to hint that a busy archangel has far more important calls on his time! I can only hope that you will learn your lesson and count yourself jolly lucky that my son (who is far too generous for his own good) has not cast you off! His father and I are very worried about the child you have so rashly decided to bring into the world. Given the moral fibre of his mnother, who knows what he’ll turn out to be! … Trust me, it will end in tears. This kind of thing always does.” ‘
As an exposure of the kind of attitudes that refuse to accept truth because it does not fit into preconceived categories, this is hard to beat.
(from Catherine Fox’s ‘A question of politeness’, CEN Friday July 8 2011).