homeabout usarchivelinkscontactsearch  
       
 

December 6, 2007

Last Rites for the Dead? A Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan Update

It's been five months since the art world's "most glamorous couple" committed suicide, but their seemingly fading story, which I blogged about several times this summer, has lost none of its hold on me. Every few weeks I've Googled the names Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan to see if there are any developments. And except for a September article in the British Independent that didn't offer anything new, there's been little to report. Until now.

In the January issue of Vanity Fair, Nancy Jo Sales has a huge, in-depth feature that paints the most complete picture yet of how such a gifted, beautiful young couple could come to such a puzzling, tragic end. Questions still abound: On the day Theresa died, which restaurant did she and Jeremy go to for lunch at 3 PM, less than four hours before she took her life? And what happened there? What did they talk about? Considering that apparently no one, including Jeremy, had the slightest idea she might end it all, the story will always remain a bit of a mystery.

Several things in Sales' piece stand out. First, there's Jeremy's wonderful description of Theresa, courtesy of Raymond Chandler: She was "a blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window." Then there's Father Frank Morales who, devout SoMA readers will recall, is the colorful East Village Episcopal priest at the center of the couple's lives their final year. (They moved into the St. Mark's Church rectory in January of 2007, and immediately befriended Morales.) Other writers have speculated that Morales, who's big on conspiracy theories, is a nutcase. Sales notes that she was married to Morales for two years, separating from him just two months before he met the couple last January! So she knows whereof she speaks when, later in the article, she calls her ex-hubby "the radical left's Fox Mulder, a man who makes mere 'conspiracy theorists' look like Sunday drivers."

There's more. The night Theresa committed suicide Jeremy returned home from work around 7 PM. He passed Morales in the church garden and invited him up for a drink. When Morales arrived at the apartment 10 minutes later, Theresa was dead, the police were there, and Jeremy was sobbing and pounding the walls. Some detectives arrived and began questioning Jeremy in Theresa's office. Her body was in the bedroom, where Jeremy discovered her, and a cop was stationed at the door. Jeremy never returned to the room that night.

OK, we knew all that. But here's what Sales says happened next: "Morales asked to be let into the bedroom to perform last rites over Duncan's body. She was now on the floor, where the E.M.S. workers had been examining her. He knelt down and spoke the prayers."

Huh? Last rites--for a dead person? This struck me as odd, so I called Father Gawain de Leeuw, an Episcopal priest and SoMA contributor.

"That is very odd," he said. "And theologically, it's ridiculous. You perform last rites for the sick, not the dead. You pray for the sick, you anoint them. You take their confession. Those, essentially, are the last rites. But you don't pray with the dead, or anoint them, or take their confession, or do anything for them. They're in the hands of God, and the priest's next step, as far as the body goes, is the burial service. Until then, his or her job is to pastor to the living--to gather the family and pray with them, preparing them to release the body to the hospital, or whoever."

"Whatever he did, you wouldn't call it 'last rites,'" agreed Puck Purnell, another Episcopal priest and SoMA contributor. "You can say a commendation prayer for a person at the time of death, but last rites are for the living."

I told Gawain that I wondered if Morales wanted to be with Theresa's body for his own reasons, because he was in shock and trying to process the blow.

"Now that makes sense," Gawain said. "Maybe he was pastoring himself!"

Then again, maybe we're missing something here, or overanalyzing a minor detail. Clearly, not everyone, including Episcopal priests, agrees on what constitutes "last rites" and when they're administered. What do you think?

Follow-up note: I searched the Internet, and it seems Morales has performed last rites for the dead before.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

 


May 7, 2010

The Mother of Mother's Day
By Mary Beth Crain
Anna Jarvis, the founder of Mother's Day, hated flowers, candy, and greeting cards. Our kind of mom!

January 28, 2010

Securing Your Pet's Post-Rapture Future
By Mary Beth Crain
What will happen to Christians' pets after the Rapture? No worries. These animal-loving atheists will feed them.

January 13, 2010

Whither Wheaton?
By Andrew Chignell
The evangelical flagship college charts a new course.

December 21, 2009

Ho, Ho, Hollywood
By Mary Beth Crain
My four top Christmas Movies.

December 14, 2009

Bad Dream Girls
By Mary Beth Crain
Sarah Palin and Carrie Prejean remind us that in America, dumb and dumber equals rich and richer.

July 16, 2009

The New, Updated Gospel of Mark
By Stephanie Hunt
In South Carolina, Vacation Bible School gets Sanforized.

July 16, 2009

Why Is a Spiritual Advisor Like a Lay's Potato Chip?
By Mary Beth Crain
Answer: Betcha Can't Have Just One!

December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Blues
By Ondine Galsworth
Your best friend is dead. Your mother is bi-polar. And you've lived your life as a fake Catholic. Where do you go from here?

December 23, 2008

Christmas Gifts of Long Ago
By Mary Beth Crain
What would it be like if today's techno-spoiled kids were forced to have a good old-fashioned Victorian Christmas?

November 25, 2008

Giving Thanks in Thankless Times
By Mary Beth Crain
In times of fear and despair, gratitude is sometimes all we've got left.

November 16, 2008

Seeing Red
By Stephanie Hunt
Obama's presidential victory is a huge step forward for our nation. But in the Carolinas, it's still North versus South.

October 29, 2008

Ghost Writer
By Mary Beth Crain
Our senior editor talks about her new book, "Haunted U.S. Battelfields," the perfect read for a creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky, altogether ooky All Hallows Eve.

October 26, 2008

The Poison Seeds Spread by Dying Congregations
By Matthew Streib
Just as a certain presidential candidate has gone to the extremes of negativity in a desperate attempt to keep his campaign alive, so parallels can be seen on the religious front.

October 11, 2008

Palin Watch V: Troopergate, Poopergate!
By Mary Beth Crain
Confronted with a scathing indictment of abuse of power, Governor Palin thumbs her nose at the "Troopergate" report.

October 4, 2008

Palin Watch IV: Post-Debate Musings
By Mary Beth Crain
This hockey mom belongs in the penalty box.

To view more articles, visit
SoMA's archive
here



             
......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
Copyright © 2014 SoMAreview, LLC. All Rights Reserved