Archive for January, 2013

Lions and Tigers and Catholics, Oh My!

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

There’s nothing that unites people like a common enemy, and enemies are often rooted in  fear. Enemies often pose threats to us for whatever reason–we fear losing power, losing a loved one, or even simply feeling inferior.  However, there is safety in numbers, so when there’s a common enemy, people need to stick together.

In America, we have many common enemies (though we don’t necessarily liek to talk about it because “everyone is equal” (HAHAHA YEAH RIGHT!)).  During the first world war, it was Germany.  The second world war we pretty much hated anything Asian, and post-9/11, the enemy was anyone remotely Arab-looking (Airport profiling, anyone?).

However, one common enemy has stuck with us through it all, and that enemy is: The Catholic Church.  Why do they pose such a threat, you might ask?  Well currently the threat is with its refusal to fund Planned Parenthood, but I won’t get into that now [in fact, it is my opinion that as their own religious entity, they have the right to do with their funds what they wish, but, like I said, I won’t get into it].

America was founded on rebellion–good, old-fashioned, rule-breaking.  The enemy a that point was the British.  They represented a hierarchical, monarchical, rule-based society.  And let’s be real, folks, we weren’t having it. Catholicism is all of that, and more.  Hierarchical (priests, cardinals, the Pope), monarchical (followers listen to the Pope’s “infallibility”), and rule-based (i.e. sins, mortal sins, Catholic guilt, etc.).  Plus, there was a time when the Catholic Church would bleed their members dry for funds, and America’s never been to keen on that either.

Though the Maria Monk account is absurd, what’s not absurd is the reasoning behind it being written.  Protestant pastors at that time saw Catholicism as a huge threat to society.  Catholicism was anti-American.  It was anti-Protestant. It was anti-everything-good-‘ole-Christian-America-stands for.  Writing a false account in the name of God and freedom is not half as absurd when you start to see Catholics in the eyes of the writers.  Not arguing that “Maria Monk” was in the right (or whomever her sources actually were), but from “her” perspective, The Pope is Hitler, and Catholics are Nazis.  Wouldn’t you want to do everything in your power, false or not, to take down “Hitler?” Just a thought.

Deception, Lies, and a Convincing Story

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

What the Ministers created was a work of art.  A story that convinced many people that the Catholic church was brewing great evils behind the walls of their convent.  The Catholics were also worshiping a king, something that post revolutionary US was not appreciating.  They were also taking young women out of their homes and putting them behind walls in which family members were unable to see them.  However, all these ‘problems’ aside, why were the Ministers able to create a narrative of horror and captivate so many individuals?

It is a simple notion of fear, fear that played right into the hands of a newly formed government and society.  Post revolutionary US was trying to find identity in whatever form that she was able.  Thus, the way that the US found foundation was through the aggressive democracy and anything that did not live up to the litmus test created was harshly attacked.  A perfect example of this is the Catholic church which had deep roots in the value of the Pope, a king at the time.  As these catholics prayed through the Pope to god then they were legitimizing the popes authority over them.  Or so the Ministers believed.

Hence, why individuals in this ‘new’ society believed deeply in preserving  democracy as well as attacking any form of authority that did not aline with these new values.  Therefore, for the Ministers to create a narrative surrounding the horrors of the Catholic Church was not difficult, and it was also not difficult for these individuals hearing the story to believe it.

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013
sound of music

SOMEONE had to make this reference

Reading The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk was probably the highlight of my week.  Sex, lies, adventure:  it was all there!

That being said, The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk was actually very boring to read.  The alleged experiences of Maria weren’t boring (come on, there were sexually-deviant priests and babies being thrown into lime pits), but what seemed to be the intent of the manuscript was nothing new.  The accounts of the monastery were more than just miserable; they were full of every type of corruption one could have imagined in 1836 (or whenever this was written).  Shortly after its publication, it was discredited.  However, whether they were true or not was unlikely to have any impact on the people who purchased the Awful Disclosures because they already suspected that the Catholics were up to no good.

The New Testament gospels contained much of the same type of slander;  mud-flinging is the best way to rally support from your own troops.  The same techniques are employed today.  Earlier this month, my cousin posted to facebook about a “secret bill” President Obama signed into legislation that banned free speech.  In fact, the bill had been passed unanimously through the House and had received only three “nay” votes in the Senate (I might have those two mixed up) before it made it to the President’s desk, which is, ladies and gentlemen, how our government works.  Anyway, the point here is that sensational, anger-invoking, outrageous claims about people are almost always eaten up by those who already believe the worst about them.

In short, The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk do seem pretty awful, but hardly believable by anyone who doesn’t already despise Catholics.  The lesson to be learned here is that if you’re trying to discredit someone, do so within the limits of reason!

Google Image search results are weird

Google Image search results are weird

The Devil’s in the Details

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

The story of Maria Monk is fascinating.  A scandalous tale of illicit sex and torture, The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, more than anything else, reveals the genuine fear Americans had concerning Roman Catholicism and Catholic immigrants.  If such debauchery and unbridled degradation happens just north of us, what’s to keep immigrants coming into our country from conducting themselves in the same manner?  Of course, many of these fears were simply unfounded but, human psychology being what it is, the true nature of things hardly matters when fear and paranoia dominates the mind.  Why else would this piece have been so very popular and remained widely disseminated, read, re-read, and enjoyed even after it was soundly proved to be a fallacious and salacious work of pure fiction.  Not only did her description- her is here perhaps strong given this piece was written by a male minister- of the convent prove false but her description of the various local order of nuns and their peculiar habitues was wrong.  But the damage was done.  People wanted to believe Catholics were as bad as devils and corruptors of goodliness and godliness.  This is so masterfully written into the text that, on occasion, as I was reading I forgot that the story was false.  The accounts were so dreadful that I fell into believing they must be true.  Her use of her femininity, playing herself off as frail and fragile, in saying such a thing as her modesty wouldn’t permit her from detailing all the particular sexual and brutal occurrences works wonders for the imagination.  She allows for the readers imagination to run free and concoct and contort some awful and shameful story to fill in the strongly suggestive gaps in her account.  This device must have been powerful in her day as people reacted so strongly to it but the effect is not lost on a modern audience either.  In short, I believe The Awful Discourses of Maria Monk to be an excellently well crafted piece of anti-Catholic propaganda which Maria Monk- or that pesky minister- utilized to play on the prevailing fears and assumptions of Americans during the early and mid- 19th century.

Spectacular, Spectacular!: Sensationalism and Maria Monk

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Whenever I go to the grocery store, I am overwhelmed by all the magazines and little newspapers that litter the check-out aisle.  Among this week’s headlines:




As usual, the National Enquirer only reports the hard-hitting news stories.  Sensationalism is all over the media.  Every trial (take the Casey Anthony case for example) gets blown up on both sides of the argument.  Even if there is only one scrap of truth in an article, the public eats it up.  The public loves scandal.  Trashy journalists appeal to the lowest common denominator of readers, the gullible sort who eat up drama-infused articles like they were Red Lobster cheddar biscuits.

Sensationalism has been around a lot longer than the National Enquirer.  Way back when, some Protestant ministers decided to rile up some rumors about the Catholic Church and its practices in nunneries, all wrapped up in a straitjacket and labeled “The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk.”

According to these awful disclosures (which, mind you, were discredited quickly), Catholic nuns were in the habit of killing babies born in the convent, having sex with priests, and imprisonment of other nuns.  This text builds and builds, fabricating scandal after scandal.  For anyone who loves drama and thrills, Maria Monk is a dream come true.  I’m pretty sure if they made a sensationalized musical of it, it would go something like:

Just take out the epic love triangles and singing sitar and add infanticide and rape.

But then again…

Here’s the thing to remember: Things are not always what they seem.  Maria Monk didn’t even write these disclosures but guess what?  People ate it up.  Even if you didn’t believe what she wrote, you can’t get out of your head the image of the nuns dragging one of their own to be smothered by a mattress.  Sure, it’s not real, but that’s how sensationalism works.

An easy example is a horror movie:

images (2)


No, scarier:

images (3)


Better.  So a bunch of kids start seeing this guy Freddy in their nightmares.  Freddy starts killing them in their dreams, so the kids try to stay awake to escape him.  Now, we all know it’s impossible for something in a dream to kill you.  But after watching this movie, there were a couple times I caught myself thinking of Freddy Krueger and his knife-hands and it scared the bejezzus out of me.  I know it’s not real, but when something plants a seed on your mind, it’s hard to weed it out.

I think that’s the biggest issue with Maria Monk.  We know it was written by a bunch of dudes.  But they go through such lengths to make it sound believable.  They describe, in great detail, the apartments of the nuns, the horrors that happen, and in some passages, they even say, “You may not believe me.”  They set up the text so that if anyone said, “Hey, that’s not how the convent looks,” Maria Monk would answer, “Oh no worries guys, it might have changed and I’m a woman and frail so obviously I can’t remember everything!”


No matter how true or horribly false a story can be, if a writer is good, the public will buy into it.  National Enquirer is probably the best modern day example, considering it started in 1926 and it’s still going.  People are still buying it because people love a good story.  And that’s what Maria Monk’s awful disclosures are.  They are good stories that are easy to read and easy to imagine.  In the case of sensationalism, sometimes the difference between fact and fiction is a hard line to draw.

The Awful Delusions of Maria Monk, Is More Like It

Monday, January 28th, 2013

She looks angry, must have found out Maria Monk’s stories were a lie!


So, in reading this delightful piece aloud to my children at bedtime. *laugh* Just kidding, I did not read this to the kids at bedtime.

But, I was struck by how disturbing this piece was.  The vivid accounts of rape, murder and sexual abuse presented by Maria Monk was enough to make the reader eerie of Priests, Nuns, convents and the like.

However, one universal truth about this piece that I kept referring back to is the fact that Maria Monk was eventually discredited for her account.  So I again, ask myself: Where in the world did this woman get these accounts from? The two most disturbing stories were:

  1. The births of babies in the covenant, who were eventually baptized but then drowned under the assumption that they would somehow be granted immediate entry into heaven.
  2. The execution of a nun at the hands of her fellow sisters via strangling by what seemed to be a leather belt strap?

I mean what kind of woman sits back and think of these tall, gruesome tales.  I wonder if Maria Monk was ahead of her time.  I mean something written like this in the 21st century would be considered a cake walk considering what is published now and is presented to viewers on television.  It was interesting to hear her intricate tales of how there were secret trap doors which the superiors used to navigate through the rooms of the nuns, stating that “they were often in our beds before we were.”  (Chapter XII)

So it got me thinking, where did this woman get her ideas if her story was not true? Rumor has it that Maria Monk is said to be a former prostitute.  One interesting fact is that after she was discredited it was rumored that  “she was later arrested for picking the pocket of a man who had paid her for sex, and she died in prison on Welfare Island, New York City, in 1849.”  (“Maria Monk”)

Maria Monk’s alleged demise got me thinking even further.  Was it because of the current societies disposition to sex and sexuality that this washed up prostitute had to disguise her lifestyle as some tall tale in order to get attention?  It’s not like Maria could come out express herself as a prostitute, or was she just so me batty lady filled with delusions?

Also, I had to ask myself, how did the public soak up this story?  I did some research via the internet and I found that her story was believable because there was a lot of anti-Catholic rhetoric being circulated.  Those who hated the Catholics around this time specifically, were the English colonists or the Puritans.  My research also further pointed me to the rise in anti Catholic sentiments as linked to the rise of Catholic immigrants i.e. from Ireland who were entering the United States through such ports as New York. (“Catholic Culture”).

So I have to wonder if maybe this woman was not crazy, that she knew that the public would soak it up and that she would someone receive a big pay day because of her story.

Work Cited

“Library : Maria Monk – Catholic Culture.” Library : Maria Monk – Catholic Culture. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2013. <>

“Maria Monk.” Maria Monk. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2013. <>.




I have an alias, and it’s all good!

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

I just want everyone to know, in case I wasn’t clear about it in class, that I am Sarah A. Foote.

Got that? Arrrbuckles=Sarah. Yay hooray, internet personalities!

Okay, back to homework now…

Maria Monk…the WORST Recruiter Ever

Friday, January 25th, 2013

The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk told of some horrific practices among convents. She claims that they were doing things that would make some modern day criminals queezy. Strangling and throwing newborns in a pit certainly doesn’t paint the church in a positive light. She exposed the sin going on within the convent, like the fornicating priests and the murders of nuns. However, the fact that her entire book was discredited is highly important when considering her work. I wonder if she was merely trying to give the church a bad name, or maybe she was seeking revenge on a place where she claimed she was made ignorant of the true world. The biggest thing that Maria Monk overarchingly claimed throughout her book was the hypocrisy within the church. Although her work as a whole has been discredited and proved false, perhaps not all of her accusations were incorrect. Things like promiscuity and lieing could have really been taking place in the convent, and perhaps she just blew things out of porportion because she was angry or wanted to make a statement.

One thing that she continually remarks upon is the state of helplessness that the nuns were in. She gives examples of how nuns who wanted to run away were horrifically killed, and shows that after her own acceptance of the veil, she has no other choice but to comply with what the other nuns and priests are telling her to do. Since we did not read past chapter 19, I am unsure of how she claims she escaped the convent, but if she and a select other few whom she mentions could escape, then why was it purely an involuntary, alomost hostage-like situation? If  such things were actually going on in a convent, how could there be absolute prevention of word spreading among outsiders? She makes some wild accusations that could be based on certain less mortifying instances, but were proved to be false crimes.

Anne Hutchinson and Maria Monk: From Heroine to Victim?

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Just a quick reminder that for next week, you need to read chapters 6-12 and 14-19 of The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk.

If you missed class on Thursday, you missed the best video interpretation ever of Anne Hutchinson. Watch it, and enjoy!

Don’t you know questions are bad, Anne?

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Image from

Image from

Anne Hutchinson, a woman who could be the representative for many silent women in the seventeenth century, chose her fate when she intimidated religious leaders in the court and threatened Puritan theology by doing things “unfit for her sex.”

Confident in her own morality, she challenged the church leaders when she would not give in to their own pleas of her guilt, and instead continued to prove her innocence. Ultimately, she was not allowed to be a Puritan anymore, because she questioned the intentions of the society and felt there might be a need for something to change in order to better the society as a whole. However, the leaders of Puritan society exclaimed that this bettering of society should not include giving women a less inferior role, because that is against God’s law. Therefore, according to these same leaders, Anne Hutchinson broke the law of God and no longer deserved to be a part of their society.

Anne Hutchinson, no matter how much these men pushed her guilt, would not give in, which in turn made her punishment to be banned from Puritan society absolute to them. In order to maintain some control over the situation, the court had to banish her from their society, with their excuse being that she was “unfit.” She was not acting in accordance with Puritan law when she found problems within the society she would like to fix.

Anne Hutchinson, although she “lost” the battle with these leaders, attempted to give women a voice under Puritans, and in that case at least caused a little turbulence in the not-so-pure society. Even though she no longer existed to the Puritans, she made a major effect, or else we would not know who she is today.