Tuesday, 19 June 2007

On Ad Hominem Attacks (Updated March 25, 2008)

Miss Linda Diane McMillan of Austin Texas has sent us the following comment on our post ‘Reply to Maggie Ross’:

Rowan The Dog has left a new comment on your post "Orthodox Monasticism 9 — Reply to Maggie Ross":

I believe it is appropriate to refer to an Anglican solitary as Sister, not Miss. That is, unless of course you intend to infantilize and diminish the vitality of her presence. Then ‘Miss’ would be appropriate. Of course, only a very sad and flaccid little man would want to do that.

I am certain it was an inadvertent error.

Linda Diane McMillan


When we originally drafted the post, we automatically put ‘Miss’ without thinking about it. Much later, we realized that we hadn’t put ‘Sister’ and we thought about going back to the post and changing it. However, since it seems to us that ‘Maggie Ross’ is a lay name and not a name in religion—i.e. a name received in a formal service of tonsure—we had no way of knowing:

a. If Miss Ross had ever been formally tonsured. We are not aware of her saying so anywhere, but we obviously don’t know everything.

b. If Miss Ross’ name in religion is ‘Maggie’.

So we left the post ‘as is’. When we receive objective confirmation from Miss Ross, or even objective evidence Miss McMillan, that Miss Ross is a formally tonsured nun in the Anglican Church, or even another Church, and what her name in religion is, we will change the post. In the meantime, ‘Sister Maggie’ is ridiculous.

(Update, March 24, 2008. On her own blog, as accessed on March 24, 2008, while discussing a radio appearance, Miss Ross refers to herself as follows:

In one of the programmes, to be broadcast March 26 [2008], host John Lloyd (of "Spitting Image" fame), comedian Bill Bailey (the "curator" of the museum) and guests John Gribbin (cosmologist), comedian Alan Davies, and Maggie Ross (using her other name, Sr Martha Reeves) discuss whether their donations of The Big Bang, Epping Forest, and Silence should be included. [Emphasis added.]

Whence we conclude that Miss Ross’ name in religion is ‘Sister Martha Reeves’ and that she is indeed a tonsured nun in the Anglican Church—somewhere on the Internet it says, under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Moreover, it appears from the University of Tulsa website, as accessed on March 25, 2008, that Miss Ross is actually “Martha Reeves, a visiting professor of religion at The University of Tulsa” and that, moreover:

[Martha] Reeves is [the University of Tulsa’s] Distinguished Visiting Professor of Anglican and Ecumenical Studies. Reeves, writing under the name Maggie Ross, is known for her books on spiritual theology. She has lectured at Oxford University and has made presentations in parishes and monasteries on both sides of the Atlantic. A life-long ecumenist, she spends her summers fishing in Alaska.

Whence we conclude that ‘Maggie Ross’ is Sr Martha Reeves’ pen name. Under the circumstances, it doesn’t make sense to change our previous posts, or this one, to read ‘Sister Martha Reeves’ instead of ‘Miss Maggie Ross’.)

While it should be obvious from our post that we have serious reservations about Miss Ross’ stated views, anyone who has read through this blog knows that we make an effort at elementary Christian courtesy. If we have failed in that, we apologize. Anyone who detects anywhere in this blog a lack of Christian courtesy or an element of Christian courtesy that is hypocritical should let us know about where that is to be found, and we will consider whether we are on the right road. After all, Christian love, which extends even to enemies, includes an element of love that is expressed as courtesy. And we do take our vocation as a Christian quite seriously.

In this regard Miss McMillan might reconsider her insinuation that we are sad and flaccid little men who wish to infantilize and diminish the vitality of Miss Ross’ presence.

With best wishes,

—Orthodox Monk

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