How do you solve a problem like Maria Monk?

In my “intro to American religions” course, we recently did a day on antebellum Protestant anti-Catholic nativism. It brought to my memory a parody I wrote five or six years ago after reading Maria Monk’s Awful Disclosures for a graduate course. For those not in the know: The book, written in the 1830s, was an exposé of horrors supposedly experienced and witnessed by a nun in a Montreal convent, who then escaped to the U.S. and told her story to American Protestants prepared to believe the worst of Catholics. The book became a bestseller, sparking public outcry and leading to an investigation of the convent . . . which resulted in the author’s being exposed as a fraud.

I didn’t use the parody in class, I hasten to say. But I post it here for the entertainment of those familiar with the book. Apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein.

How do you solve a problem like Maria?
Strap on a gag and hang her upside-down.
Keep her locked up for six years in the cellar,
and let her used by every priest in town.

Teach her that doubts and questions are forbidden.
Make sure she never sees the light of day.
And if she should get knocked up,
strangle the little pup,
but baptize it first to send it on its way.

Oh, how do you solve a problem like Maria?
See that she never writes an exposé . . .

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