Anne Rice, loving apostate

Mark Judge Journalist and filmmaker
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In the summer of 2008, my friend Anne Rice stopped talking to me. She had sent me an early galley of her spiritual memoir “Called out of Darkness,” and I had noticed something in the book that I thought was interesting. In the book, as in many of her writings at the times, Anne expressed sadness at the way the Roman Catholic Church treated homosexuality. In 1998 Anne had gone through a very public conversion to Catholicism, but she remained a political liberal. In her “Called out of Darkness” she wrote this:

Centuries ago the stars were sacred. A man could be burnt at the stake for declaring that the earth revolved around the sun…Now the Christian world holds the stars to be secular…Is it not possible for us to do with gender, sexuality and reproduction what was long ago done with the stars? To realize that…new sources of information on them may be as valid as the information given us long ago?

I thought this was a powerful subject for debate. In the spirit of fun and friendship, I made a You Tube video challenging Anne to a public discussion on the topic. I myself was working on a book about sex and Catholicism, and it would be a fascinating. In the same video I also praised “Called out of Darkness.”

And that’s when Anne went nuts. She was livid that I had talked about the book a few months before its publication, but I suspected the deeper problem was the subject of my challenge to her on the contradictions in her theology. Despite her conversion to Catholicism, she was a loud defender of homosexuality. She would go on to publicly announce her support of Hillary Clinton, one of the most radical pro-abortion politicians in America. She supported birth control and the worst of radical feminism.

During the months and years following her conversion, people would ask Anne about the contradiction between her politics and her faith. Anne darted and dodged and weaved, but never faced the issue head on. Her main trick was to go on Facebook and post a link to an inflammatory article or essay about the Church, and then make like the gentle professor:

“Here is a fascinating article in the New York Times. It claims that the Catholic Church is homophobic, racist, misogynistic, criminal and has lousy parking at its parochial churches. What do you guys think?”

When no less than Robert George, maybe the smartest conservative in America, challenged her on her support of Hillary, she went silent. When I asked her about this, she told me she was living the gospel. She would love everyone, period. She was not interested in dust-ups. No problem, I thought. But why does she keep returning again and again, on her website and on her Facebook page, to sex, the Church, and lefty politics? One way to live the gospel and avoid a fracas is to, well, live the gospel and avoid a fracas.

When I challenged her to a debate, Anne, a very mercurial and strong-willed person – remember when she initially kneecapped Tom Cruise when he got the lead in the “Interview with the Vampire” movie? – sent me a long email telling me to never call or write her again. For good measure she had an assistant call me and, while hinting at lawyers, ask me to take the video down. I did.

It was a sad ending. Anne and I had grown close after she published her 2005 book “Christ the Lord.” That year I sent her a copy of my book “God and Man at Georgetown Prep.”  She liked the book, and we became email pals. We would talk almost every day about theology, family dynamics, music, life. She invited me to her house for a party, but I never made it (you’ll see why). She even bought me a computer and once loaned me money.

Indeed, for a period of time I felt that Anne Rice was there for me when no one else was. For a long time I had been feeling ill, but blood tests and trips to doctors revealed nothing. I was tired all the time. It was hard to work. I was sleeping constantly. I knew that something was wrong, something serious. The one person who seemed to radiate love and support was Anne Rice. I also felt the excitement of becoming friends with a childhood hero. I had read “Interview with the Vampire” when I was 16 in 1980, and had called her then to tell her how much I liked it (her number was once listed). I was an aspiring writer and still recall the thrill that ran up my leg when she answered the phone. Now she was inviting me to her Christmas party, and offering to pay.  “Mark, I love you!” she wrote in her inscription to me in her book “Christ the Lord.”

But even then I could sense that the contradictions in her theology would cause a rupture. Her Facebook posts became more frequent and obsessive about the Church and its teachings. It was almost comic: “Hey everybody, here’s a piece by Maureen Dowd that claims that the Catholic Church is filthy, vile, obnoxious, decadent, puke-inducing and medieval. What do you think?” Sure I made that one up. But it’s not far from the truth.

The problem was what is usually the problem for liberals. They have their own church, the Church of Liberalism, and for them it tenants of abortion, contraception, homosexuality and the dictatorship of relativism are as binding as any vow is to any priest. It’s what Pope Benedict calls “a canonization of subjectivity,” and it is their creed. If they did not hold it with such religious zeal, they would not feel the need, as so many liberals and ex-Catholics do, of attacking their former Church. There are ex-Hindus and ex-Jews in this world. After leaving, few of them feel the need to post on Facebook going volcanic on their former church.

As it turned out, my feelings of ill health were indeed caused by a serious illness – cancer. When I was diagnosed in late 2008, I emailed Anne and told her. I thought it was time to make up. She responded, but then seemed to remember that I was on the anathema list and stopped communicating. That’s a shame. I know that a near-death experience in 1998 had been part of her conversion, and I thought we could compare notes. As it turned out, we both survived.

And, truth me told, I still love her. Beneath the liberal rage, the sexual confusion, and the “Sunset Boulevard” personality is the heart of a brilliant and caring person. My book “a Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which examines the Catholic Church’s teachings on human sexuality, will be published in a few weeks. I’m still up for the debate.

Mark Gauvreau Judge is the author of several books, including “Damn Senators,” “God and Man at Georgetown Prep,” and most recently, “A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.” His articles and essays have appeared in various publications.