Sally Quinn, Short Skirts and the Church of Rome

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Sally Quinn at the Washington Post has a column in which she calls for those darn Catholics to cease to be Catholic basically, and begins it all when she recalls the humiliation she felt during her salad days, presumably sometime after dinosaurs ruled the earth, when she was turned away from the Vatican because her skirt was too short.  Unfortunately for her, her column attracted the attention of Christopher Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently in defense of the Church that I have designated him Defender of the Faith:

Yeah, here’s the thing.  We Protestants obviously don’t have a dog in this hunt, as they say, but lots of us would really appreciate it if you mackeral snappers would pick the damned pace up and elect a new pope yesterday.  Then we wouldn’t have to have read about how Sally Quinn visited the Vatican right around the time that William Howard Taft, AKA ”Fatso,” was US President:

The first time I visited the Vatican as an adult I was in my 20s.  I was so excited. My boyfriend and I dressed up as if it were Easter Sunday. He wore a coat and tie. I wore a long sleeved black dress with pearls and little ballet flats. We were turned away. It seems my skirt was a half inch too short. I was crushed. I felt ashamed and humiliated. I certainly had not set out to offend anyone, much less God.

Two things, Sal.  They’re called “travel guides” and just about everybody publishes them.  So ignorance of the law and all that.  And if I’m wearing a Motörhead T-shirt and I haven’t shaved or bathed in three days, give or take, I don’t have anything to complain about if Vatican border guards tell me, “Not so much, no.”  Quinnsie, on the other hand, went back to the Vatican some time during the Coolidge Administration.

The last time I visited was five years ago, after the child sexual abuse scandal. Not long before, I had spent a weekend at Williamsburg, and I remember thinking that perhaps one day the Vatican would be like that same historic village. There would be actors dressed as priests and nuns and one actor playing the pope in flowing robes waving from the balcony, remembering an institution as it once existed.

And anybody with a brain would be Episcopalian by now.  A few days later, Sally’s little “On Faith” thing ran some advice to the Roman Catholic Church from a Jewish atheist.

[A whole lot of stupid-ass liberal bumper stickers omitted.]

So, Rome?  We’re going to need you to hurry things along, all right?  Really.

Go here to read the comments.

The video at the beginning of this post is the hilarious initial show of Quinn’s disastrous episode of being a joint anchor with veteran newsman Hughes Rudd in 1973 for the CBS Morning News.

Quinn had established a reputation among journalists of using her physical attractiveness for getting stories.  CBS played this up as if she were a sex goddess who was going to send the CBS Morning News’ ratings through the roof and finally unseat the Today Show which had been winning the morning ratings war since 1952.

Sally Quinn

As Quinn herself admitted afterwards she had no business being in front of a camera and CBS gave her zip training.  The whole thing crashed and burned in a few months.

Quinn of course went on to fame and fortune the old fashioned way:  by becoming Ben Bradlee’s, then executive editor of The Washington Post and now Vice-President at large of the same fish wrap, mistress, wrecking his second marriage, and becoming his third wife.  This is of course why The Washington Post  still publishes her increasingly wacky mind droppings.

More to explorer

God Bless Bishop Strickland

The Joy of Pillaging

Great lunch hour game.

Saint of the Day Quote: Saint Bertilla Boscardin

Here I am Lord, to do your will, whatever comes.


  1. That Quinn article is a nearly-perfect match to the Choose Your Pope parody bit from a couple of days ago.

    I just have to give it more attention than it deserves:

    “Every priest who is known to be guilty should be routed out, excommunicated and jailed. Every priest, bishop and cardinal who had any knowledge of these heinous crimes and protected abusers should be excommunicated and prosecuted in the courts.”

    OK, nice idea. But why excommunicated? And how does one go about finding every priest “known to be guilty”? What kind of a standard is that? What does “any knowledge” mean? Suspicions? Confessions? How do you propose to implement this plan?

    “Some 98 percent of sexually experienced Catholics have used birth control even though it is considered a sin by the church. The same percentage of Catholic women have abortions as non-Catholic women.”

    Quinn uses that as proof that the Church needs to change. Why? Why not have every person who’s used birth control or had an abortion routed out and excommunicated? Every priest, bishop, and cardinal who’s known about one as well? Because Quinn doesn’t want people excommunicated for breaking the law, or breaking the Church’s moral code. She wants them excommunicated for breaking her moral code. And where the Church’s moral code doesn’t match hers, she wants the Church to reform.

    “The official explanation is that he has become too frail to perform his duties. I think there is more to it than that. I think that he either doesn’t want to or can’t deal with all that has gone rotten around him.”

    Oh, well, stop the presses. Sally Quinn thinks something different from the official explanation, and we should give Quinn’s thought greater weight than the official explanation because…?

  2. The “skirt” incident reveals that the Vatican was unlike the World.

    In the World, men wouldn’t talk with her if she were not showing enough skin.

  3. I don’t know if I should post this here or in the Hans Hunt letter thread, but here goes. Hunt put down a recent arrival who wanted to de-Wyoming Wyoming, her new state of residence. Paul Zummo made this comment:”If you are fleeing one area of the country because another area offers dramatically more opportunities, how obtuse do you have to be to vote for the policies that made you need to leave where you are coming from?” This is the exact same thing that’s happening in this column. Quinn wants to show a bit of leg at the Vatican, and she wants abortion and contraception to be acceptable to the Church. But she doesn’t want men to act the way they do in the face of sexual temptation. Sexual revolution for me, but not for thee.

    She didn’t set out to offend anyone, but she did offend people by breaking society’s standards, and she won’t accept responsibility for it. Now the dress length seems trivial. As trivial as the first straw on top of the camel’s broken back.

  4. Someone smart once said (paraphrasing) that the problem of sin is not so much the sin itself, but the arrogance of wanting the cosmic order to bend to the individual will by approving of the sin.

  5. Yes, J Christian, exactly.
    There seems to be no shortage of folks who desire to conform their conscience to their actions rather than vice versa. Their logic seems to be:
    I’m a good person.
    I want to do X.
    Therefoere, X is a perfectly good thing to do.
    Those of us who try fecklessly to conform our actions to our conscience are relegated to hypocrite status.

  6. Sally Quinn is beyond silly, and the Post is no better than Pravda. That said, I have to tell you that every time a Catholic male blogger or columnist makes snide comments about a woman’s age or appearance, he makes it just about impossible for women like me to keep making a case for the Church to our liberal, secular friends. I could make the most impassioned and reasoned argument defending the Church as the one and ONLY institution that values and protects the dignity of women, and then my listener would read something like this, or some screed about “aging hippie nuns” from Father Z, and we’re back to square one…”will the Church’s war on women never end?”

    Can’t you make a case for Sally Quinn as flat-out ridiculous based only on what she has said and written? If you can’t, then you’re not as good a writer as I though you were.

    This stuff makes me tired. Sigh.

  7. Quinn was the one who brought up skirts Claire and her long ago youth. Her former appearance is the only reason why she is writing anything that is published in The Washington Post to be inflicted upon a hapless public. I call ’em like I see ’em.

  8. Well, I don’t mind that you brought up skirts…I can see that you weren’t criticizing the length of her skirt. I guess I need to go find her article and read it…based only on what you have posted here, I don’t see where Quinn herself is making reference to her age. I do see where you’ve reprinted lots of snotty allusions to Quinn’s youth in the Coolidge era. Har har.

    The thing is that I’m just tired of Catholic male bloggers (even the ones I really like) jumping on every opportunity to mock wrongheaded women who happen to be unattractive or, God forbid, old. I don’t get why it’s not OK for women to be old. I want to be old myself eventually. I mean, I believe in eternal life, but I’m in no hurry. More importantly, I’m tired of the laziness in this kind of writing. Liberal nuns who want to “move beyond Jesus” (where? to Hell?) need to be criticized for their heresy, not for their wrinkles and grey hair. Pro-abortion women (the handful of them who show up at the March for Life) should be criticized for condoning child slaughter, not for their Birkenstocks and frumpy outfits.

  9. “based only on what you have posted here, I don’t see where Quinn herself is making reference to her age.”
    The incident with the skirt occurred in her twenties and struck me as a remarkably petty note to start off a column slamming the Church.

    Criticisms of individuals in my writing are never gratuitous but always done for a point. I view Sally Quinn as perhaps the most vacuous writer published on a regular basis by The Washington Post, and that is saying something, and her personal history explains why she holds this position. Her youthful use of her sex appeal made her career and that is relevant when readers are wondering how such a dope got such a powerful podium to preach to us Catholics.

  10. Claire, it looks like it was Johnson who brought up the age thing. (I almost wrote “brought up the skirt”, which is a completely different concept!)

  11. Pinky–right, I agree, only Mr. McClarey did reprint it AND added the “presumably sometime after dinosaurs roamed the earth” just to drive it home.

    Mr. McClarey–see, I get that Quinn mentioned her age, but she was talking about her age at the time of the skirt incident. So we all know that she was in her twenties when that happened. What she doesn’t seem to say is exactly how long ago her twenties were. A reader who didn’t know anything about Quinn wouldn’t necessarily know if her twenties took place during the 1990s, the 1930s, or anytime in between. We get that she’s old (gross!) from the super-funny jokes about Taft and Coolidge. It’s fine, though…it’s your blog, so whatever. Maybe you don’t notice that conservative and Catholic male bloggers tend to take potshots at women for perceived lack of attractiveness. Liberal bloggers are far worse, of course, but I expect better from Catholics.

  12. Right on, Claire! The older and less attractive I become, the less I like this type of comment. Too bad its true that there seem to be so many unattractive Lib women, of all ages. BEING Lib makes them unattractive to any thinking person.

  13. A religious woman was the Door Keeper once for St Peter’s Basilica to replace the males, and quit because of abuse she took. forget the year that experiment began and ended quickly.
    . I was amazed at the total lack of respect in the USA before I was injured and could not attend Mass in church, to see so many women coming to church and some men. who were more properly dressed for golf or a BBQ than for communion; while black men and women whom I saw when I went to their church as part of my Consultant for the after school federal programme for that church-neighbourhood were dressed for a presidential visit. Same for the Hispanic Mass goers at our all-Spanish Masses.
    White trashily dressed to fulfil an obligation, most left early after communion. The length of the homily made no difference to their time-pieces. I asked the pastor one day to do his bit with bulletin announcements before Mass and he rejected the idea- within a month or so he did when he saw the nearly empty church at the end of communion. A deeper problem than a dress code.

  14. coming from my silly simple little farm girl background, and a long line of old German Lutherans, I must say the length of her skirt was indeed reason to find fault with all the “rules” back in the day. I wish she could live in that lifestyle for awhile. skirt must touch floor when kneeling. No makeup, no pants, no dancing, no card playing, no drinking (lol) god forbid, if you got caught shaving your legs before you were 16, and the only thing we looked forward to was a “funeral” Lutheran of course. Ms Quinn grow up. I know one thing we worked hard, we were respectful, our minds were clean and we took responsibility for our own actions. I thought it was the most horrible lifestyle. I wish we had a little of that back now.

  15. I was in Rome a few years back for the ordination of my brother to the Diaconate. I was surprised that St. Peter’s is the only one of the major Basilica’s where they enforce any sort of dress code and even there from what I can see, a half an inch is not going to going to keep anyone out.

  16. Mr. McClarey,

    I’m sure you don’t. I have a tendency to overanalyze and to overreact, sometimes without much charity. I hope I didn’t offend you. I still think this happens pretty frequently but I’ve never seen any evidence of it on your blog, so I should not have assumed that you were trying to be mean in this case.

  17. In Independent (Fundamentalist) Baptist churches, women often wear very long skirts practically down to the floor, but it’s not a dress code. It’s merely a part of the subculture. They tend to use very long skirts made with jean material. Weirdly, they can often be accompanied by sneakers.

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