An Excess of Charity
Death, Sanitation, Putrefaction, Pollution, Religious Authority, Religion, Superstition
Discusses a Liverpool Mail report of a Roman Catholic priest who, after burying a Protestant child in a Catholic cemetery, purified the ground. Questioning the priest's motives, notes that the addition of the remains of a child to the ground could not have warranted the 'need of a disinfectant' and wonders if the priest has to purify the ground every time it is opened for a Protestant. Suggests that the priest must be a good customer for chloride of lime, but questions the implication that Catholic corpses do not need to be covered with this material: agrees that Catholics (and especially, the 'low Irish' Catholics) might indeed 'exhale' an air of 'sanctity', but that this is better treated with chloride of lime than holy water. Concludes that the priest must have used holy water and, doubting whether a child's corpse could have done any 'spiritual harm' to another corpse, suggests that his action of purification was a form of exorcism.
© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020
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