It is hard to believe that Franciscan University at Steubenville demoted Stephen Lewis from his English Department chairmanship over a single porny book about the Blessed Mother that he assigned to students. You might suspect there was more to it than that, and so your mind turns to Lewis’s judgment over time and from there to Rebecca Bratten Weiss. Lewis probably exhibited other lapses in judgment, but his promotion of Weiss must be high on the list.
If you recall, Weiss was a part-time teacher who was let go over various radical feminist and heterodox views. Lewis championed her in the English Department. I am told he wanted to hire her full-time and give her tenure. Many considered this was evidence of bad judgment. Since she left her department last year, there is yet more evidence of why she should never have taught at Steubenville in the first place, and yet more evidence of Lewis’s bad judgment.
Weiss, who considers herself a farmer, has published an essay called “Never Could Walk the Line.”
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In the essay, she is driving with a truckload of hay and listening to Johnny Cash. And she is “wondering what I could burn as a sacrifice to Hecate…” She writes, “I start thinking that probably not many women on this road, driving truckloads of hay, and listening to Cash, are also contemplating witchcraft.”
Hecate is an ancient Greek goddess of necromancy, sorcery, and witchcraft. But there is more. Weiss’s reverie of burning a sacrifice to a goddess of witchcraft is revealed to include burning men’s testicles in the conflagration. Granted, the testicles she wants to burn are the testicles of “some Nazi dudes who just happened to be scampering across my backyard…”
She writes, “Even if it’s what Hecate wants, the fact is, when you’re castrating Nazis and burning their balls as an offering to ancient Greek goddesses, people tend not to be very understanding. They’re all ‘Oh, the incivility.’ Or, ‘this is why Trump keeps winning’.”
She ends by proclaiming that the goddess of sorcery deserves better than Nazi testicles. “It’s November and most of the fruit has been picked already, but maybe I could find her one apple, one perfect apple, like the kind princesses ask for in story-books. Like the kind you eat when you think ‘…that snake had a point, I’d like to have knowledge like a God, for a change.’”
And then there is Weiss’s praise of her “friend and former [Steubenville] student Marie Kopp” who published a piece at the Patheos “Catholic” portal, which Weiss edits. Kopp’s piece is entitled “We are Witches.” Weiss especially likes it when Kopp says, “Now we call ourselves witches. Not sorceresses, not enchantresses. Not syrens [sic]. But witches.”
Like many pre-pubescent girls, Kopp gets excited about dressing as a witch for Halloween. But Kopp is not pre-pubescent. She is a grown woman. How do we know? Because she tells us, “Like many other women on our planet, I had real blood seeping from my vagina…” This is why she did not add extra blood to her Halloween costume this year, adding: “…that was quite enough for me.”
Kopp links to a bizarre video called “Witches” from someone named Fleassy Malay who is “a self-identified queer, erotic, spiritual, mother [who] has a theatrical and yet deeply authentic performance style, renowned for captivating her audiences with depth, honesty, and humor.” It is difficult to watch without laughing out loud.
Malay says, “In the past, they burned us because they thought we were witches just because we knew what to do with herbs outside of the kitchen. Because we knew how to dance, how to seduce, how to pray. Because we moved with the cycles of the moon. In the past, they burned us alive because they knew that we are witches.” You get the point. Weiss’s student Kopp seems to love this.
Kopp also cites someone named Jessica Mesman who published a piece entitled “Women Watch the Witch While Kavanaugh is Confirmed.” It is an interview piece wherein Mesman, Kopp, and someone named Joanna Penn Copper talk about how a movie called The Witch greatly moved them. Each spoke at a conference organized last fall in Pittsburgh by Stephen Lewis’s wife, Suzanne, and Rebecca Bratten Weiss.
The conference was called “Terra Incognita: A Literary Gathering and Workshop,” and one of the main panels was called “Women-of-a-Certain-Age Discuss What it is to be Crones Who Read and Write.” Crones are witches or hags or whatever.
It very well could be that Weiss and her friends are merely out to shock the rubes. “Oh my, we don’t really mean we are ‘witches,’ you silly deplorables. This is a literary device you simply cannot understand.” It could very well be Weiss et al claim some special knowledge the rest of us do not possess—unless and until we sit through some writing workshop with her, or a senior English class with Stephen Lewis.
And so we might consider that Lewis was demoted for reasons far beyond the choice of one porny book about the Blessed Mother. It could be he has a history of bad decisions and bad judgment. I am sure there are other better professors in the Steubenville English department, but until there are further changes, I would keep my children far away.
Editor’s note: Pictured above are the three witches from the Orson Welles production of MacBeth released in 1948.