We Aren’t in Business as Shopkeepers

28 Jul 2011 /

[The Mayor, a Communist, has asked what penance Father Quixote would give him for fornication. Ellipses are in the original.]

“You know–of course you don’t know–I don’t like the taste of tomatoes at all. But suppose Father Heribert Jone had written that it was a mortal sin to eat tomatoes and the old lady who lives next door to me came to me in the church to confess she had eaten a tomato. What penance would I give her? As I don’t eat tomatoes myself I wouldn’t even be able to imagine how deep her depravity might be. Of course a rule would have been broken . . . a rule . . . one can’t avoid knowing that.”

“You are avoiding my question, father, what penance . . . ?”

“Perhaps one Our Father and one Hail Mary.”

“Only one?”

“One said properly must surely be the equal of a hundred run off without thought. I don’t see the point of numbers. We aren’t in business as shopkeepers.”

— Graham Greene, Monsignor Quixote

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