An Open Letter to John C. Wright

(44 comments)

The tl;dr here is that Recursive Occlusion, my interactive occult overview of Doctor Who, is now available for just $8.99 from Amazon and Amazon UK. An altogether more impish version of this announcement follows:

Dear John C. Wright

I don’t think anybody should murder you. I just thought I’d open with that, since it seems like what passes as courtesy in your depraved sickness of a worldview. 

Also, my name is Philip Sandifer, with an I, and not an O, which I can’t imagine you don’t know, despite the fact that spell it as Sandofer literally every time you write it on Vox Day’s comments thread. You might like to know that my full name is Charles Philip Sandifer, and that my actual schoolyard bullies called me Charles. You know, just in case you want to up your game.

Anyway, I just wanted to respond to a couple of things you've said on Vox Day’s comment thread, like where you say of me:
As I suspected, he is not a real pagan, not old-school, but one of these modern post-Nietzsche types who regards the gods as instruments to be used, if not constructed out of his own thinking. He is playing with occultism as a diverting bit of entertainment. To him it is an abortive psychic technology: something he wants to get something out of, not something he wants to serve.
He would not die for Odin or castrate himself for Cybele.

Sir, a real pagan would kick your ass.
Mr. Wright, are you completely out of your skull? I mean, let’s be clear here: you are currently condemning me for not chopping my dick off for an Anatolian mother goddess. This is not a normal thing to fault someone for. I am reasonably confident that, out of seven billion people on this planet, you are literally the only one who, on June 12th, 2015, faulted anybody for not castrating themselves for an Anatolian mother goddess.

That said, I will concede the point, there are essentially no circumstances under which I would castrate myself for Cybele, or, indeed, die for Odin, who’s frankly an egotistical wanker better left to the myths. But I want to get at a larger issue here, because I really think you’re just not understanding me.

Of course occultism is not something I want to serve. The whole reason I hated One Bright Star to Guide Them was the fact that it was a heavy-handed and unsubtle paen to blind obedience of unseen forces you don’t understand. That is literally the entire point of why I started picking a fight with you and your overly vocal god: because I think your valorization of obeying orders whether or not you understand them is morally abhorrent.

So no, my occultism isn’t about unquestioningly serving pagan gods. But given that we both agree that serving pagan gods is a terrible idea (we just disagree about whether unquestioningly serving your god is also one), I’m not sure why you’re framing this as a criticism. You’re absolutely right: I am not evil in the same way that Richard is in the second chapter of One Bright Star to Guide Them. That’s precisely why I found that chapter’s sneering dismissal of the occult so noxious. 

Also, you switched from third to second person there.

Anyway, in another post you say:
I have been an atheist and been a Christian, and I have studied occultism more deeply than you. Christianity has the monopoly on wonder and appreciation. It is fun being a Christian. You get to talk about things like kings and angels and the splendor of creation and the horrors of hell and mean every word. My life is clad in purple and gold. Yours is a cesspool, and you think if you dive bravely enough beneath the shit, you will find some wonder among the mud sloughs and little fish bones at the bottom.
Wake up. Stop fooling yourself. Go to confession. I eat God every Sabbath morning, and our magic is stronger than your magic, and we have joy.

You have nothing but self loathing, and grinning, mirthless dead-eyed face of the Prince of Darkness waiting for you.

We have joy. You have crap.

Atheists talk about themselves and mean every word. Witches talk about devils and talk and talk and talk about themselves and mean nothing.

Wake the hell up, you half wit, before you wake up in hell. Everything you ever wanted is right in the Church you most sincerely hate, and she is the only one who can cure your hate and your self hate.
There is much I could say here. I could point out the strangeness of the sentence “I eat God every Sabbath morning,” and on the weird way in which it focuses on the carnality of Communion. I could point out how this goes hand in hand with your strange concoction of abortion/sex rituals in One Bright Star to Guide Them, or your apparent fascination with my willingness to castrate myself. Perhaps even with your apparent horror at The Wasp Factory. You have a fascination with this sort of carnal, bodily power that far exceeds my own, and that I suspect is not entirely healthy within your worldview. Suffice it to say, I was perfectly happy with my muffins this Sabbath morning. Banana nut muffins, homemade. Delicious. 

That said, if I may be so bold, the hubristic pride with which you speak of kings and angels and splendor and of a life clad in purple and gold makes you sound like a complete and utter dickbag.

Among the tasks on my to-do list right now is writing a eulogy for my grandmother. I’m going to talk about her Catholic faith. The quiet and humble way she lived, and the grace that suffused her life; a grace earned not through arrogance or greed for purple and gold, but through a peaceful acceptance of the place she had in creation.

I will talk about the beauty of this faith. Of realizing that the voice to which we kneel is not one thundering forth from the clouds, but speaking with quiet and unwavering insistence within. How we do not hear God when we bluster loudly about “our goodness” and “their evil,” but rather when we strip away such pride and listen to that faint and solitary light in the darkness of the glass through which we see - a glass that turns out, in the end, to have only ever been us.

Because I want to be clear, Mr. Wright, it’s not Catholicism I find ugly. It’s not Christianity. It’s not the God of Abraham. It’s the God you describe that’s ugly. Western literature is full of moving, compelling descriptions of the One True God. The problem is this: your work isn’t among them. Your work describes an ugly, bullying would-be tyrant who deserves nothing but contempt and mockery. 

I have read your conversion experience, Mr. Wright. You speak movingly of the grandeur of what you saw. Do you truly presume that these mysteries were revealed to you so that you might place yourself above those who have not seen? Was your reaction, upon seeing “the workings of a mind infinitely superior to mine, a mind able to count every atom in the universe, filled with paternal love and jovial good humor,” truly to take this as a sign that you should proclaim your reason, human and fallible as it is, to be a model for others to follow? Do you think that God showed you the splendor of creation to make you proud?

Do not forget, Mr. Wright, that you do not belong to one of the branches of Christianity where salvation is a matter of faith, or of external grace, but something you must earn through deeds. Remember; the Catholic church does not believe that being Christian is a prerequisite for salvation, whereas hell is full of Catholics who fell short. Do you really think, in a faith where one of the most important concepts is the notion of divine mysteries, that an unyielding conviction in your own apprehension of absolute Truth is holy? Take a long look at your pride, Mr. Wright. Better yet, set it aside and listen to something other than the roaring echo chamber of your own mind, and ask yourself: do you serve the God who showed you the vast mysteries His creation, or just your own hollow human memory of what you saw?

Finally, I’d like to address this:
The fool knows nothing about the occult world. The whole point of occultism is learning the secrets, the mysteries, which enable you to piece the veil between the Seen and the Unseen. 
If death is inevitable and inescapable oblivion, then there is no Unseen. There is no veil and nothing on the other side, no spirits and no spirit world, no black magic because there is no magic.

The only people more blind than witches are atheists, and here was have a man who manages to achieve the blindness of both.

Moron.
You’re continuing to try to have your god and eat it too. Either I’m evil because I’m an occultist  or I’m a moron because I’m not really an occultist. I can’t possibly be both. So instead of talking about what my occultism isn’t, why don’t we talk about what it is? Because here’s the interesting thing: I’ve actually written a book on occultism. Really, I have. It’s called Recursive Occlusion, and it’s actually an almost perfect occult inversion of One Bright Star to Guide Them. See, whereas you revisit the work of C.S. Lewis, I revisit the world of Doctor Who, which, in a fitting bit of occult symbolism, began the day after Lewis died, as though my system of the world was the natural successor to yours, a sort of Aeon of Horus to your Aeon of Osiris, if you will. 

Like your book, mine revisits the classic structures of children’s literature, in this case the classic Choose Your Own Adventure books, which Recursive Occlusion has been meticulously designed to be a loving homage to, right down to the typography. And like yours, it revisits it not in the spirit of some deconstructive parody, but in an attempt to fully understand the truths that were so clear in childhood, but which have faded into the fog of adult understanding.

It is, of course, tempting to simply offer some occult trivia questions based on the book. “According to the Queen Scale, what color is associated with Hod?” “What is the generally accepted best translation of the figure with whom the narrator speaks in the Poimandres?” “Who was head of the Ancient Druid Order from 1799-1827?” “What figure connects the 15th century translation of the Hermetica with the education of John Dee?” Then we can figure out who actually knows anything about the occult. 

But that seems churlish. So instead I’m doing this. Previously the book cost $15, and was available exclusively through the Createspace eStore. But I’ve just cut the price to $8.99 and made it available on Amazon and Amazon.co.uk. I want to be very clear, I am doing this because of you. My decision to make my occult interpretations of Doctor Who more readily available is entirely because of your smug “Witchier Than Thou” moralizing and your sinful pride. You are directly responsible for everyone who buys my book and is seduced into the occult mysteries of the universe because of it. So thanks for the royalty money.

Anyway, that’s not why I’m writing. Since you proclaim that you take me “seriously,” and clearly want to demonstrate how your understanding of the occult is superior to my own, I figured you might want to tackle the actual book I wrote on occultism and not some random comments on Vox Day’s blog. Then you can decide whether I know anything about the occult world, and whether (and why) my beliefs are as evil as all that, as opposed to just shouting semi-coherently. 

So I was just wondering, to what address should I send your review copy of Recursive Occlusion

Cheers,

Phil Sandofer

P.S.: I'd still love to hear the answer to my question to you a few days ago: when the Pope's encyclical about climate change comes out this week, will you be obeying its demands in spite of your doubts and lack of understanding? I'm especially curious about the bits about how climate change is the fault of global capitalism.

Comments

Froborr 2 years ago

He calls for your death, you challenge him to read a book.

The degree to which Wright is out of his depth in this fight would be sad if it weren't so hilarious.

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Philip Sandifer 2 years ago

To be fair, I've already made the ultimate sacrifice and read his book. Hell, I paid money for my copy. Death holds no fear for me.

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Bob Dillon 2 years ago

Some good has come from this! Now it is on amazon I can finally order it (although amusingly a bug crept onto the amazon page which forced it into a perpetual reload, until I rebooted Firefox)

Bob Dillon

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The Dapper Anarchist 2 years ago

I wonder what Wright thinks of the recent wave of Nihilist thought, Thacker and Gray and the like. His presumption that he is *important* and that the world gives a flying fuck about him... well, it's comical anyway, given that apparently what is really important according to Wright, but the Nihilists would find his presumption foolish and entertaining anyway, even if he cared about something bigger than niche fiction.

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duckbunny 2 years ago

"I am reasonably confident that, out of seven billion people on this planet, you are literally the only one who, on June 12th, 2015, faulted anybody for not castrating themselves for an Anatolian mother goddess."

I would wholeheartedly agree, save that on this particular weekend, in a field in Warwickshire, Odyssey LRP was held. The coincidence is too delightful to go unremarked.

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jane 2 years ago

As a worshipper of that Anatolian mother goddess, I guess I got off lucky in not having anything to castrate to Her in the first place. Instead, I'm tasked with writing a book.

My critique group, on the other hand, has been a bitch.

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J Mairs 2 years ago

I will gladly buy your book - but I refuse to pay Amazon for postage and packaging.

I demand you lot tell me what else I should buy!

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Dan 2 years ago

Starmaker by Olaf Stapledon.

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Dan 2 years ago

Did something similar for me. How weird.

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matthewjrparsons.com 2 years ago

Suppose this is an appropriate time to stop by and mention that I've been through the bulk of the nodes in my copy of Recursive Occlusion at this point — consider me seduced.

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Andrew Hickey 2 years ago

Yep, very glad it's now orderable, whatever the reason.

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Philip Sandifer 2 years ago

I would guess it is because the listing in Amazon's system is not actually fully rolled out yet. Should stabilize within the day.

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HarlequiNQB 2 years ago

Do you own Phil's other books? I suspect you do, bit if you're missing any, now is the time to catch up :-)

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Sean Dillon 2 years ago

The Very Soil, Rebel Rebel, An Incomprehensible Condition, From Hell, All Star Superman, William Blake: The Complete Illustrated Books, and Spider-Man: Reign.

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Philip Sandifer 2 years ago

I'm going to recommend against Spider-Man: Reign. The Very Soil, Rebel Rebel, and An Incomprehensible Condition are, of course, all great.

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ferret 2 years ago

I'd love to see a Kindle edition of this, but with the choose-your-own-adventure format I imagine that's a fair bit more work than usual.

Worked very well for Ryan North's Kindle edition of his choose-your-own-adventure version of Hamlet though!

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David Ainsworth 2 years ago

I wish all advertisements were like this.

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Jarl 2 years ago

You've been ordered to frustrate yourself instead of castrate yourself.

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Jarl 2 years ago

>picking a fight with you and your overly vocal god
Sweet YHWH/Vox Day double-burn.

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Sean Dillon 2 years ago

Do you need any peer reviewers?

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AndyRobot800 2 years ago

I love you, man.

That's all I got. As an ex-Catholic who still finds beauty in the details, even as I reject the negativity the church has often caused, that was extremely well-stated. And my condolences to your family.

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kateorman 2 years ago

There seems to have been a fair bit of soteriological stuff going on two millennia ago. I'd love to introduce Wright et al to one of my favourite deities of the time, who was guaranteed to come when his worshippers cried out for his help; who, when he commanded demons to jump, they would ask, "How high, sir?"; whose salvific power I have personally, directly experienced. And he didn't even require mindless obedience in return. The only thing that might put them off it that his name is Tutu.

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Philip Sandifer 2 years ago

I'll be collecting it and some other stuff in a volume towards the end of the year that'll come out for Kindle and in print.

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Justin Cawthorne 2 years ago

I have to question Wright's assertion that he 'has joy' (or at least benefits from inclusion in some sort of joy-fuelled cabal). He really does not sound like someone who has much joy in his life ...

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Kit Power 2 years ago

"You’re continuing to try to have your god and eat it too." I lol'd out loud.

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Richard Gadsden 2 years ago

That arrogant self-confidence in one's own salvation is deeply Calvinist in style, though I'm guessing Wright is actually a Thomist.

But he doesn't have the humility and the sense of the necessity of works that the Saint had.

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kateorman 2 years ago

You know those paintings of people in heaven enjoying the sight of the torment of those in hell?

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phuzz 2 years ago

I'm constantly amazed quite how wound up people get about things like religion or sports or what have you.
Is it really that hard to suppress the "oh noes, someone is wrong on the internet" reflex? Or at least to suppress it below the level of wishing people were dead?

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Spoilers Below 2 years ago

Let's take a crack at this:

“According to the Queen Scale, what color is associated with Hod?”
Gamboge

“What is the generally accepted best translation of the figure with whom the narrator speaks in the Poimandres?”
The Plotinian Monad, or The One, or The Good, which is strange because it usually only emanates rather than communicates directly.

“Who was head of the Ancient Druid Order from 1799-1827?”
A trick question. From 1777-1803, it was David Hume, via seance. Then from 1804-1832, it was John Keats, also partially via seance, in schism with Samuel Bentham, who ruled the Southern/Naval Order from 1804-1828.

“What figure connects the 15th century translation of the Hermetica with the education of John Dee?”
Giovanni Cavalcanti, via Albertus Magnus and St. Thomas Aquinas' pet golem, Emmett.

Well, how'd I do? How'd I do?

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Aberrant Eyes 1 year, 6 months ago

Well, how'd I do? How'd I do?

Rereading this post as part of a general survey of all things having to do with angry dogs, I discover that nobody ever answered that question for you, a lacuna I shall now rectify with page references from Da'ath.

1) I'll give you partial credit for "gamboge", since the swatch produced by a Google search is reasonably close to the actual answer, orange (p.84).
2) "Knowledge of Ra" (p.102).
3) William Blake (p.108).
4) Marsilio Ficino, who did the translation (p.103) and under whom Dee studied (p.106).

Now you know, and knowing, as I've been saying since around 1995, is half the Mandatory Educational Content Segment.

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Spoilers Below 2 years ago

In no particular order:

Neoplatonism by Pauliina Remes and Steven Gerrard
The King in Yellow by Simon Bucher-Jones
Metamorphosis, by Ovid (trans. Charles Knox)
Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion by David Hume
The Exterminators by Simon Oliver and Tony Moore
Captain Marvel by Jim Starlin and Mike Fridrich
The Illuminatus Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton-Wilson
American Jesus volume 1: Chosen by Mark Millar and Peter Gross

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John Toon 2 years ago

“What figure connects the 15th century translation of the Hermetica with the education of John Dee?”

Not Kevin Bacon, then?

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Aylwin 2 years ago

Ah yes, the missing link between Roger and Francis.

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Ben 2 years ago

I have read your conversion experience, Mr. Wright. You speak movingly of the grandeur of what you saw. Do you truly presume that these mysteries were revealed to you so that you might place yourself above those who have not seen? Was your reaction, upon seeing “the workings of a mind infinitely superior to mine, a mind able to count every atom in the universe, filled with paternal love and jovial good humor,” truly to take this as a sign that you should proclaim your reason, human and fallible as it is, to be a model for others to follow? Do you think that God showed you the splendor of creation to make you proud?

I could not possibly have said this better. This strain of "we are superior minds and souls because we have true faith" has existed in Christianity for centuries. It has always been the worst part of Christianity.

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storiteller 2 years ago

Do you truly presume that these mysteries were revealed to you so that you might place yourself above those who have not seen? Was your reaction, upon seeing “the workings of a mind infinitely superior to mine, a mind able to count every atom in the universe, filled with paternal love and jovial good humor,” truly to take this as a sign that you should proclaim your reason, human and fallible as it is, to be a model for others to follow? Do you think that God showed you the splendor of creation to make you proud?

This just reminds me of the bit in Hitchhikers Guide, where upon Zaphod Beeblebrox, upon being shown the Total Perspective Vortex (which made everyone else mad from understanding their smallness in the universe) was simply amazed at how awesome he was. (Yes, the book gave an out, but the original joke is applicable here.) Needless to say, my own Christian conversion experience was not nearly so shiny or awe-inspiring. It was more of a quiet realization of grace, acceptance and healing. It's perhaps not surprising that I have a very, very different theology than Wright and recognize nothing of my own faith in his description.

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camestrosfelapton 2 years ago

"You’re continuing to try to have your god and eat it too."

Oh well done, well done indeed.

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Site Owner 2 years ago

I would just like to point out that while I am very very pleased to see any one recommend it - I must make it absolutely clear, that I of course only retranslated Thomas de Castigne's 'Le Roi en Jaune' - I did not write The King In Yellow, which is a collection of short stories by Robert W. Chambers, and which refers to de Castigne's play. John C. Wright may wish to WARN people against the play which is well known to be OCCULT and CURSED!!!

Simon Bucher-Jones

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Andrew Hickey 2 years ago

I'll second the recommendation for SImon's version of The King In Yellow, which I *still* haven't reviewed on my site but which is really very good indeed if you have any knowledge of or love for that late-Gothic pre-Lovecraft horror tradition.

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Daru 2 years ago

I one had a fairly similar experience when as a storyteller in Scotland, I came across a storyteller who regarded himself as a 'tradition-bearer' and I was researching looking for someone to mentor my practice. This was their response to me:

"There is far too much neo-paganism being purported in the name of Scottish tradition, especially the type being promulgated by the likes of satanists such as Rudolf Steiner (and his re-incarnational crap) whose mentor Helena Blavatski (from whom came the swastika) indirectly brought about the social darwinism that fueled both World War I & II and the persecutions of God's people i.e Jews and Christians. These neo-pagans are trying to reinvent Scotland in a mould that it never had and are even trying to make storytelling into some kind of religion which never existed here. Real paganism would demand human sacrifice such baal worship which require that the first born child of each adhering family be killed, burned and it bones worshipped; I wonder if the neo-pagans would be willing to do that. I think not!

Scotland was never founded on any such principles but rather the only nation ever to be founded on the true gospel of salvation and redemption for when the first Scots came from Ireland they brought missioneries with them. I would hope that you would honour my support by shunning any such practices in storytelling and stand with me as a bearer of genuine Celtic virtue. If that is the case then I would be willing to support you in any way that I can."

They then withdrew their support, and since this character has been merged with others by me to create a very funny performance.

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arcbeatle 2 years ago

Cascade, by James Wylder (which is me, but its my best book and I like paying bills :P)
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
I, Jedi by Michael Stackpole

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Fred Kiesche 2 years ago

If John C. Wright is a Christian, let alone a Catholic in reality, then I, a Catholic will convert to the worship of fracking jelly donuts.

Lord save us from self-righteous uptight morons like him.

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Dan 2 years ago

Crikey. So it was all Madame Blavatsky's fault! And the Scots came from Ireland!

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Daru 2 years ago

Yes! It was all Blavatsky's fault indeed!

I thought, crikey, indeed when I received the above. Felt quite similar to Wright's "Sir, a real pagan would kick your ass."

Gotta give the writer credit above though, the original tribes that formed the Scots did include folk from Ireland.

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storiteller 2 years ago

Also, any one have the courage to see if he actually has commented on the climate change encyclical?

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