Objections

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Wildfire Spreading
Over Distributist Founder Eric Gill


Brief chronicle

In May 2005, Patrick Odou wrote an article exposing the corrupt morality of Eric Gill (Eric Gill, the Pedophile Founder of Distributism). It happened that, by coincidence, when the article was posted on the TIA website (May 14), the March issue of The Angelus magazine was being sent to its subscribers with an article by Eric Gill on education.

Odou presented Gill as incestuous, a pedophile, and a pornographic and blasphemous artist; The Angelus, on the contrary, praised him. Its biographic note on Gill noted that he "not only had a distinguished career as a thinker, social critic, and art philosopher, but he was a skillful engraver, sculptor, and typographer."

The editor was proud to announce that Gill "designed the Gill Sans typeface often seen in Angelus Press Publications." Further, the magazine advertised an essay by Eric Gill  -  Painting and the Public. That is, the magazine gave an unreserved endorsement to Gill and his works.

The public that received this issue of The Angelus, some of whom are also readers of the TIA website, found themselves in the crossfire of two blatantly different interpretations of a founder of Distributism, Eric Gill.

It is not difficult to understand that many parents were shocked to find an article on the education of children written by a man who was a notorious adulterer, eroticist, and pedophile. Some were quite perturbed to read the unrestricted eulogies by The Angelus of a man who they discovered was a pornographic and blasphemous artist.

A torrent of questions and replies, objections and defenses, indignant critiques and desperate defenses followed on a traditional Catholic list, RomanCatholics@yahoogroups.com. List member Patrick Odou also entered the arena to provide more facts and give his opinion.

TIA's correspondence desk selected the most significant of these e-mails and reproduces them for you. Read them below.




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Ruth is the Moderator of the traditionalist Catholic list
RomanCatholics@yahoogroups.com


        Defense of Gill

Dear Ruth,

The following was passed on to me by email concerning the recent article [by Patrick Odou] circulating about Eric Gill. Some may find it interesting so I thought I would share it here.

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"I certainly hope Patrick Odou never reads the "Song of Solomon" (or do we Catholics call it the "Song of Songs" or the "Psalm of Psalms"? I can never remember.), he might completely lose his faith. The fact is that God chooses to explain His relationship with the Church as that of a Husband and wife. The pictures that Odou finds so offensive, "Christ Descending" and "Earth Receiving" are probably correct according to this metaphor, but my does he use incendiary language! Christ is "fornicating!" How can Christ fornicate? That is ridiculous and offensive. The Church, however, is described as "The Bride of Christ" and my understanding is that the Greek word translated as "The Apocalypse" as the title of the last book of the Bible refers to the unveiling of the bride immediately before the consummation of the marriage. So it would seem obvious to me that the woman that Patrick Odou finds so mysterious in "Earth Receiving" is probably a reference to the Church Herself.

Apparently Mr. Odou is also unaware that there have been married saints, which must be why he finds the idea of two saints having married relations so offensive. Maybe what he actually finds offensive, like many rigorists, is conjugal love itself. This love, in the proper relationship and with the proper intention, however, is pleasing, not displeasing, to God and could perhaps be described as hallowed. This seems strange in our eroticized culture, but remains true none the less.

This is not to say that it is prudent to display or view the images that Eric Gill has produced, but the artist is a strange creature. Walker Percy's novels, and even Evelyn Waugh's, are full of impurities, but they are still an extremely effective tool for conversion in the hands of a Dr. White. Perhaps Eric Gill's art rendered sensible some of the teachings of the Gospel to people who would not have comprehended or converted if they had not beheld them.

Patrick Odou's argument seems to boil down to: Don't read distributist writers because they dined with publicans and sinners (Like Mr. Gill). Hmm, where have I heard that before?"
blank.gif - 807 Bytes Anonymous

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Attack on Gill


Keith,

After reading the justification for perverse blasphemous art from your friend, I can see why he wishes to remain anonymous and have you do his dirty work. If you have seen the works in question (www.EricGill.com), I am stunned that you would have any part in defending it.

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Attack on Gill


Dear Keith,

I hope the person who sent you the email is not a close friend. Eric Gill slept with his sister, his two older daughters and his dog. I find this enthusiasm for such a pervert to be nauseating in any decent man, Catholic or not. Please urge your friend to reconsider his sympathy for Gill which is very misplaced. He should instead be sympathizing with the sister, the little girls, and the dog.

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Defense of Gill


Ruth & Mary,

Frankly I do not see any value to discussing the personal sins of Gill or anybody else. What is interesting, and perhaps worthy of discussion, is the question of what makes art "blasphemous". Sorry you did not like the prior post but I would be interested to hear from any art experts on this matter since I am not one myself.

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Attack on Gill


Keith,

I showed a traditional priest the post from yesterday defending Gill and it was he who said, "Any attempt to justify Gill's kind of perverse art reveals a poorly developed Catholic moral judgment." It does not take an art "expert" to determine obscenity - just Catholic sense. In an issue on art a few months ago, The Angelus said that art should be uplifting. Depicting nudity and sexual acts by God and His saints is not uplifting but rather, blasphemy.

As for Eric Gill and his "personal sins," he kept a record of his debauchery in his personal diary. His distributist village included "free love" and rape of his daughters. In fact, his daughters were the models for the nudes he drew. Why do you consider it irrelevant to expose the public sins of a degenerate who is tied so integrally to the distributist movement and whose essays are used to promote it?

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Defense of Gill
Ruth,

I had the same reaction as the priest, however, I wonder if there are any objective guidlines (e.g., canon law, etc.) in place regarding art or if we simply rely on our "Catholic sense" (i.e., the natural law) as the moral criteria on these questions.

For example, the "decency" of the artwork in the Sistine Chapel has, I think, been a matter of some debate among Catholics for years. I think it was even covered at one time and has only been uncovered in recent years.

Also, I must reiterate that I see no point (or good fruits) from talking about Gill's sinful life. It actually has no bearing on "distributism" itself. If that line of argumentation (ad hominem) was valid then who would be Catholic given sinfulness of some of its highest members?

The question on what makes art (painting, literature, music, etc.) blasphemous seemed like an interesting one to me. If it is not considered a "decent" question then we can drop it.

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Attack on Gill


Keith,

Good to hear from you again. I share your discomfort with the topic. As I recall from my logic classes many years ago, ad hominem arguments are invalid, but do not necessarily lead to incorrect conclusions. And of course, contemplating the sins of another raises all kinds of red flags.

I think that relying on our Catholic sense is the best way to judge art. We "know it when we see it." When I saw Gill's art, there was no question that it was indecent. An artist who would produce such art does not need to be recognized by The Angelus.

Which leads to further questions. Why WOULD The Angelus publish a mediocre article on education by someone who was NOT an educator? Further, why would the Angelus publish such an article from someone with a body of work which is, at least subjectively, offensive? Is the Angelus so intent on Distributism that it will ignore the qualifications of an author and publish ANYTHING as long as it is by a Distributist?

It's a bit unfair for me to ask these questions to this forum. Instead, we need to ask these questions to the folks at The Angelus.

I intend to do so.

blank.gif - 807 BytesFormerMethodist

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Attack on Gill


Blasphemous art is any work of art that is insulting to God and the Christian truth or that shows lack of reverence towards God.

Some of the works by Andres Serrano, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Andy Warhol were clearly blasphemous - Crucifix in a jar of urine, for example. Certain scenes in the movie, The Exorcist, were blasphemous - the same for the movie Dogma and Maria, Full of Grace, and The Last Temptation of Christ.

The Statue of the Virgin Mary covered in cow dung recently is blasphemous because it is insulting to the Mother of God, and shows lack of reverence for her purity, charity, humility and high place in God's order.

Works of "art" by Eric Gill that depict a fully nude Jesus with an erect p---- are clearly blasphemous. A lack of reverence towards God.

Much art, whether painting, literature, movies, or music, has become increasingly blasphemous over the last few centuries. Some of this clearly stems from Martin Luther and the so-called Reformation, but also the French Revolution, not to mention the Modernist salons of Paris, London, and Greewich Village.

Keith, Gill's sins do not cancel the idea of distributism. But I believe that the nature of his sins and his apparent constancy in that behavior disqualifies him as a spokesman for anything. There are plenty of other writers who defend distributism, and they are not serial incestuous pedophiles who produce pornographic "art." It is those writers who should be presented, if one wants to defend distributism.

Putting Gill out in front of anything "cancels out" - by appearance and association - whatever it is one is trying to promote. It's like putting one of those notorious pedophile priests on the cover of a book about Catholic morality. It won't work. An incestuous, pedophiliac pornographer cannot be taken seriously on any topic.

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Attack on Gill


Dear Keith,

So are you saying we should never mention Judas or Pontius Pilate, or Barabas, or Julian the Apostate, or Arius, or Martin Luther, or Henry the VIII, Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin, or any of the other historical figures who caused scandal because what they did is scandalous?

We should just ignore the evil they did and separate out anything that wasn't sinful and only pay attention to that when we speak of them?

We should look at the influence they had in their own time and on future generations only from the standpoint of the good things they did?

That's what we're being asked to do in the case of Gill.

God bless you and greetings to your Guardian Angel.

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Defense of Gill
Stella,

That's not quite what I am saying. My point is that one should be very careful before dealing out judgement and also there should be a proportionate reason (e.g., souls in danger) for making such a judgement in the first place.

As I said earlier, has all of this discussion really served to "protect us from scandal"? If we are not careful it may have the opposite effect. blank.gif - 807 Bytes

blank.gif - 807 BytesKeith

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Attack on Gill


Dear Keith,

I truly don't understand you. To use this Mr. Gill to further an agenda is exactly the same thing as it would be to use any of those others I listed.

He's not an St. Augustine, nor is there any concrete proof that he either repented of the evil he perpetrated on canvas or that he attempted in any way to destroy the blasphemous works. I'll forego any mention of all the other allegations.

Kindly explain to me please, how it is good to use a person who had done such publicly scandalous and heinous atrocities, to further a cause that is at best controversial?

Dear Keith, Catholics have never used inappropriate persons to further any cause that could be remotely good or holy. This is a cause for great concern for the souls who will be influenced that such a thing is happening now.

My dear friend, "dealing out Judgment?" Keith, that is a very worldly point of view. As Catholics we had better be cautious yes, but we had also BETTER judge. We don't judge this man, not one person on the list has condemned him. You know that. The judgment has been made against his work. His work is blasphemous and evil.

We'd better be judging continually in our lives between good and evil. Playboy is bad. Gill's work is bad. That is a judgment.

By all that is good and holy I pray this man repented of his evil deeds and is in Purgatory or better yet, in Heaven. I will pray for him and hope, but judge his works I certainly will.

It is a creeping poison from the world that tells us not to judge. It is a false and dangerous thing to cease judging what is holy and what is evil, what is good and what is bad, what is right and what is wrong.

Furthermore we'd better be teaching our children to judge for the sake of the salvation of their souls.

It is protestants and the NO [Novus Ordo Catholics] that use the refrain "judge not lest ye be judged" to shield that which is wrong.

Dear Keith, I know you know I speak the truth here. I've seen enough of what you write in the past couple of years to believe that you have a genuinely Catholic heart.

Open the eyes of your heart dear friend, and judge.

God bless you and greetings to your Guardian Angel.

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Defense of Gill


Dear Ruth and the usual gang of ladies,

There you go again bad-mouthing the dead. Perhaps Ruth you should read some of the 'Spiritual Bouquets' you post each day and learn from them. You always seem to want to accept the worst story about someone of whom you disapprove. Do you not consider that the sculptures and paintings to which you refer may have been his early work before becoming a Catholic or better Catholic even. Did you know, for example, that the beautiful Stations of the Cross in Westminster Cathedral, London are by Gill. The pre-War English hierarchy was about the least liberal that you could get and no way would have they commissioned Gill to do them if he was still doing the other works you mention. Would you have judged St Mary Magdalene on her previous life only and not given her a chance to repent?

The rest of the calumny you mention is from the highly suspect book on Gill by Fiona McCarthy supposedly based on his diaries. It is very easy to write this trash when someone is dead and not able to defend themselves. There is absolutely no evidence that it is true and not a single one of his acquaintances backed up what this book said. I doubt very much whether the saintly Fr Vincent MacNabb would have given him such encouragement were there a hint of scandal.

Perhaps we should indulge in gossiping and back-biting less in these discussion groups or is it a natural consequence of them? In any case we should all spend much less time on them and more time on our knees. To be even more radical(!) should a discussion group like this be moderated by a lady as she is in a position of authority over men - just a thought!!

Finally two little epithets that you may like to include in your spiritual bouquets - "Be hard on ourselves, but soft on others" and the common French saying "To know all is to forgive all."

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Attack on Gill
Patrick Odou Responds to Chris Terros


Dear Ruth,

I read with interest the pro and con reactions concerning my article on Eric Gill. It is really amazing that a man so filthy can still have some admirers. I am considering either answering the objections in a coming article on Tradition in Action’s website or just posting my responses on this topic. But allow me to say a few words regarding the last e-mail you sent me that is signed by a Chris Terros (an attempt at Cristeros?) I believe that his reply does not have any intellectual value. It is an ensemble of sentimental conjectures – coming from a man whose feelings are deeply hurt – that lack all conditions for a serious debate.

Terros starts with an “if” – if Gill had painted and sculpted his pornographic pieces before his conversion, how can you judge him?… etc. His “if” is baseless. Gill converted in 1913 and made his immoral works both before and after his conversion. In fact, most of his obscene and blasphemous works were created after his conversion. The works mentioned in my article are from the 1920’s.

The second “if” of Terros follows: How can you possibly think that the English Catholic Hierarchy before WWI would approve Gill’s Stations of the Cross if it knew that he was obscene, an adulterer, a pedophile, blasphemous, incestuous, etc? This argument using the absurd as a probability is also void. If he really was perverted – and his works prove that he was – the approval of the Hierarchy does not cleanse the man. Depending on the circumstances, perhaps it could even muddy the Hierarchy.

The third “if” is also quite feeble. Terros attacks the well-documented book by Fiona McCarthy saying that the book is not documented. So we have the word of a man nobody knows – Terros – most likely a fake name, who wants us to believe that he is right and that a widely known author is wrong. Furthermore, we should believe in him even though he doesn’t offer us any valid evidence of Gill’s innocence. Mr. Terros, alias Mr. “If,” presents only an imaginary “proof”: How can you think that Fr. Vincent MacNabb would approve of Gill if he were as bad as McCarthy says? This argument is also void, since no one can be judged innocent by the virtues of a friend. Gill did not become saintly by his contact with the possible virtue of “ saintly Fr. MacNabb,” as Terros describes him. Friendship with evil or good people can lead to a probability, nothing else. And a probability cannot oppose valid concrete facts. Applying this apologetic rule to this case means that Mr. “If” is just appealing to sentiments and no longer to reason.

The fourth “if” is discourteous. It is very unpleasant to see Terros treating ladies rudely. At the beginning of his letter, he referred to the members of your list as “the usual gang of ladies,” and on two or three different occasions, he tried to offend you and other ladies. Why such rudeness? Is it because you opposed his personal admiration for his degenerate idol? So then, Mr. “If” is expressing only his hurt feelings without any consideration for the truth. But I ask you, is this characteristic of a man? I don’t think so. At any rate, his implied argument is: You can only criticize Gill if you are saintly, otherwise you should be spending more time on your knees. Again, a bad argument, because everyone is called to condemn a public scandal. The public execration of a scandalous man is one of the healthy ways that society has to prevent morality from being corrupted. Therefore, everyone should criticize Gill, and you and the ladies that did so are to be commended. I think that they should be indignant with Gill and express their righteous anger over this perverted man. It is their way to keep their families from being infected.

Mr. “If” also adds arrogance to his intellectual emptiness. He pictures himself as someone in a position to give spiritual advice to you and your audience when you oppose his idol. Would he perhaps be a priest using a fake name?

In conclusion: no intellectual value, no concern for the truth, no courage to sign his real name, hurt feelings, a feminine approach, a disgusting rudeness to ladies, and a barefaced arrogance. This kind of attack just shows that some bad people are trying to smuggle Gill in as a Catholic leader who should be followed, and that our common action is helping to stop this maneuver.

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blank.gif - 807 BytesPatrick Odou

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Defense of Gill


Mary et al,

I think the "Chris-terro's" main point is that we should not be so quick to judge and that we should always seek to give others the benefit of the doubt whenever possible.

If we are so quick to condemn Gill and those who publish his writings then why not condemn all of his former associates who knew him much better than we do?

We should be aware that there could be more to the story.

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Attack on Gill


Dear Chris,

Excuse me, but where is your righteous indignation at moral evil? Have you ever thought that perhaps the failure of SOME atholic men causes the women to have to pitch in to defend the high moral standards of the SSPX? Instead you give us the strange twisted vision of a "Christerro" fighting Catholic women and defending a pervert.

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Defense of Gill


Aparently the burden of proof is on Gill to prove his innocence rather than the other way around. We are told that it is our duty to protest "public scandals". The odd thing is that nobody ever heard of this scandal until the Odou article appeared on a website.

Are we really "protecting ourselves" from scandal - or are we finding scandals that we can relish in?

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Attack on Gill


Keith wrote:
"The odd thing is that nobody every heard of this scandal until the Odou article appeared on a website."
Keith, that is not accurate. I've known of Gill's weirdness for as long as I've heard about distributism and read of his distributist "experiment," Ditchling, that afforded him total sexual license. His deviances are well documented. He was sufficiently depraved to keep diaries of his perversions which can be found in the Gill collection in the Library at UCLA (Fiona MacCarthy's source). In England, in 1998, because of his known pedophilia, there were public protests in England to have Gill's stations removed from Westminster Cathedral (see article here).

[Keith also wrote]:
"Are we really 'protecting ourselves' from scandal - or are we finding scandals that we can relish in?"
The subject of Eric Gill would not have come up had not a respected Catholic journal presented him as an authority on education. Tell me, Keith. If a Catholic magazine published an article on education written by Larry Flint, would you consider it "relishing in scandal" to protest it?

blank.gif - 807 BytesRuth

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Attack on Gill


Dear list,

Has anyone YET answered the question of WHO is responsible for finding these David Ho and Eric Gill type people and their "art" and how they made their way into a traditional Catholic paper??

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Attack on Gill


Nope. Only continual justifications and reprimands for asking questions. Oh, and inferring that our questioning is sinful scandal.

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