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Former priests against marriage amendment near 100 signatory mark

George Moudry, Bob Minton and Ed Kohler

When Bob Minton began volunteering for Minnesotans United for All Families, he took note of the long list of faith communities that had joined the coalition’s campaign to defeat a proposal to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

There were Lutherans and Episcopalians and Jews and Unitarians and Methodists and pretty much every other denomination, but no Roman Catholics.

This upset Minton, who left the priesthood in 1970 after serving 12 years. He knew what the church’s position on the amendment was, and he knew there was no way a priest in active ministry could voice disagreement.

He called a friend, another retired priest who agreed that this was indeed a void they could — and should — step into. With three others, they formed an ad hoc committee that hashed out a five-sentence statement.

“Free to express our opinions openly, we call on all people of good will to exercise their fundamental right to follow their consciences and to resist discrimination against any of God’s children,” it read.

As of last week, the former priests had 95 signatories who together have devoted 1,182 years of service to the church. (Their goal is 100 — and while 95 may sound very close to 100, at this point they are out of obvious channels for finding the final five.)

Well-known names

The group’s roster is deep with names that are well known in both the church and civil-rights communities.

A priest for 23 years, John Estrem was rector of the St. Paul Cathedral and went on to become director of Catholic Charities.

Project for Pride in Living founder Joe Selvaggio’s name is a staple in social-justice circles.

A priest for 48 years, Ed Flahavan was head of the Archdiocese’s social-justice agency, the Urban Affairs Commission (UAC), and a member of former Gov. Rudy Perpich’s Task Force on Lesbian and Gay Minnesotans.

Labor studies professor Bill Moore was chief of staff of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, and before that education and organizing liaison for the UAC.

William C. Hunt was a professor of theology at St. Paul Seminary and the director of the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota. He attended Vatican II as an expert on theology.

Science Museum of Minnesota Community Relations Manager Paul Mohrbacher is also a playwright and novelist. His 2010 mystery, “The Magic Fault,” is set around the theft of the Shroud of Turin.

Charles Pilon is also an author; his debut novel, “Waiting for Mozart,” deals with “the sometimes lovely, often discordant strains resonating throughout the Catholic Church in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council.”

Dick McCarthy was the longtime head of Merrick Community Center on St. Paul’s East Side and a founder of the East Side Neighborhood Development Company.

Minton, Frank Kenney and Dave Vinck were all appointed to Minneapolis’ St. Stephen’s in the 1960s and played pivotal roles in establishing its storied progressive culture. They were followed — “more successfully,” Minton quipped — by Flahavan and Mohrbacher.

‘This is not doctrine’

In addition to hoping their authority will reassure Catholics who are struggling with the church’s advocacy in favor of the same-sex marriage ban, Minton said the former priests also want to counter what they see as misinformation circulating around the issue.

“One of the things that concerns us is the Archbishop likes to gloss over the difference between doctrine and teachings,” said Minton. “The distinction is not clear to the laity and the Archbishop tries to confuse this. … This is not doctrine.”

While doctrine is ironclad through the ages, teachings change, he explained: “One of the most famous examples is from Galileo’s time, that the sun revolves around the Earth.”

The organizers have heard from a number of active priests who appreciate the effort, Minton said.

And they have also been in contact with a group of former priests in Washington state, where voters this fall will vote to approve or reject a law already passed by that state’s legislature — and signed by its Catholic governor — legalizing gay marriage. The former Washington priests are borrowing both the Minnesotans’ strategy and a little of their verbiage.

In May, with 80 signatories, the group held a press conference in Minneapolis to announce its formation and explain its agenda. In response, the Minnesota Catholic Conference issued a statement.

“As with any citizen, they have the right to share their views in the important public debate about the definition of marriage,” it read. “While we are grateful to many of these men for their previous years of service, they have now chosen to separate themselves from the teaching of the Catholic Church regarding marriage.

“The Minnesota Bishops, like their counterparts across the country, along with every Catholic priest and deacon, have the responsibility to communicate Catholic teaching on this most fundamental matter,” the statement continued. “Only marriage between one man and one woman is consistent with the Gospel and the demands of justice.” 

It’s the most critical comment Minton has heard to date — almost. “There was one person who called me an apostate and a heretic,” he said. “I didn’t answer, but I would agree with the apostate part since I’m retired.”

Comments (47)

  1. Submitted by Tom Clark on 07/11/2012 - 09:30 am.

    It’s nice to hear

    some heartfelt and righteous dissent on a matter of conscience, rather than silence that lets the ward-heelers with incense dominate the debate.

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/11/2012 - 02:52 pm.

    The optimal word being “FORMER”

    These fellows are illustrating the fact that they made the correct choice in leaving the priesthood.

    Ther are indeed free to voice their opinions, which carry as much weight as anyone else that is willing to reject science, human biology and common sense in favor of embracing the secular pop culture; but absolutely none of the weight that a faithful Catholic priest is endowed with.

  3. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/11/2012 - 03:11 pm.

    Oh, and by the way…

    Mr. Minton is not a retired Catholic priest, he is a *former* priest.

    Therein lies a diference as wide as the Grand Canyon. Evidently setting aside the cloth has not helped ease his confusions but he can rest assured that his former priestly brothers will continue to pray for his clarity.

  4. Submitted by Ray Marshall on 07/11/2012 - 03:52 pm.

    95 priests?

    Just why would 90 of the 95 priests not want their names published. Virtually all of them haven’t been priests for 30 or more years.

    As a matter of fact, what credibility does an ex-priest have on this issue? They left the Church a long time ago and the majority of them oppose many of the issues taught by the Church? You sure don’t see them at Pro-Life demonstrations.

    • Submitted by Pete Barrett on 07/11/2012 - 09:07 pm.

      Ruff Ruff

      Isn’t this really a dog bites man story? Generally that’s not considered news.

    • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 07/12/2012 - 09:45 am.

      At least as much credibility

      As you. It is clear that many Catholics oppose some of the “issues” taught by the church – divorce for example. And all surely would not approve of a coverup of sexual misconduct in the church.

  5. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/11/2012 - 04:07 pm.

    By the way

    Mr. Minton misleads to say he’s “retired”. He may be retired from his secular job, but he is not a retired priest. Also, retiring within the priesthood does not make one an apostate.

    Evidently, confusion abounds within this fellow.

  6. Submitted by William Gleason on 07/11/2012 - 04:17 pm.

    It was only a matter of time…

    “reject science, human biology, and common sense..”

    No, Mr. Swift, this is merely your opinion. Whole countries, e.g. Canada, reject your thinking as do many of the US states. You have no credentials in the area of human biology, behavior, or psychology. Your opinion is thus worth no more than that of the rest of us voters.

    It is only a matter of time and civil rights before gay marriage is accepted in Minnesota and in the US.

    I recommend your attention to the piece in the Atlantic:

    In Sleepy Minnesota Suburbs, Church Ladies Launch Gay Marriage Crusade

    Church ladies, Mr. Swift. Not just former priests you would like to ignore. Even though many of them are remarkable men as this excellent article points out.

    Rant on.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/12/2012 - 11:01 am.

      Human Biology 101

      Perhaps you slept through yours, Prof, but the biology classes I took pretty conclusively proved that it takes a male\female combination to make human offspring. It’s a pretty well accepted fact, not my opinion. Love to hear your version though.

      Also, you might not have noticed that the article you linked to told the story of a group of Protestant church ladies. Fascinating reading, but we’re discussing the Roman Catholic church here.

      • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 07/12/2012 - 04:39 pm.


        Marriage is not required for a male/female combination to make offspring. Nor does marriage necessarily result in offspring. Thus, marriage and male/female combinations aren’t inherent in one another. If the biology classes you took indicated otherwise, it would explain your ignorance on the matter.

        • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/12/2012 - 04:53 pm.

          Your straw man is burning, Rachel.

          Please see my response to Gleason for further education.

          • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 07/12/2012 - 06:40 pm.

            Rachel’s education looks just fine to me

            However, your responses on this subject put me in mind of how I thought “things worked” when I was but a child. That is, I thought that when a man and a woman got married, they just sort of started magically having children. Obviously, when I was old enough, that misconception got corrected by my mother.

            However, if you’re still laboring under the perception that it is only when married that a man and a woman produce a child together, I could send my mother over to explain things to you . . . . .

            • Submitted by Neal Krasnoff on 07/13/2012 - 02:12 pm.

              Straw man writing.

              The subject is marriage, not just getting knocked up.

              • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 07/13/2012 - 02:58 pm.

                Don’t blame me

                Mr. Swift is the one who keeps trying to prove that marriage and procreation must be inextricably linked for the marriage to be valid.

                • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/13/2012 - 06:09 pm.

                  I’m going to take this one reeeeal slow

                  Civil marriage was instituted to encourage stable families for the raising of happy, well adjusted children. It does just that for hundreds of millions of people all over the planet.

                  The fact that some married couples chose not to, or cannot have children in no way makes the goal any less valid, nor does it recommend turning the institution into a “run what ya brung” circus to make a tiny minority of people who engage in sexual aberrations happy.

                  • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 07/14/2012 - 01:22 pm.

                    As the saying goes . . . . .

                    You are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.

                    And because a certain segment of the population keeps trying to foist their opinions of “how things should be” onto the rest of the population, we’re now facing the prospect of this unneeded and discriminatory amendment vote.

                    I hate to tell you this, but you are not the final arbitrator of what constitutes an “aberration”. And the fact that you fail to see that this is not about sex, but rather about love, is truly sad.

              • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 07/13/2012 - 03:19 pm.

                “knocked up”

                Well, it was about marriage until Mr. Swift responded. He equates marriage to procreation. If you would like to separate the subject again, I’d be happy to tell you why your church should have no say over civil contracts.

      • Submitted by Wendy Ivins on 07/16/2012 - 01:17 pm.

        Rainbow Flag Church Ladies

        Mr. Swift,
        Although the article didn’t state it, I wanted to clarify that my husband and I are both Catholics. The Catholic faith calls for the Primacy of Conscience, which allows us to follow our conscience even in opposition to authority. I applaud the courageous priests and nuns, retired and practicing, who are taking a stand in opposition to the Church. Just like them, it is my faith, specifically my Catholic faith, that requires me to speak out against an amendment that would institutionalize discrimination by writing it into our state constitution.
        As for following the Church’s own teaching, I would like to point out the Vatican II document Reflections on Religious Liberty:

        “Government is to see to it that equality of citizens before the law, which is itself an element of the common good, is never violated, whether openly or covertly for religious reasons. Nor is there to be discrimination among citizens”
        (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 6
        December 7, 1965

        • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/16/2012 - 05:50 pm.

          Ms. Ivens: “Catholic”

          With all due respect, you are free to call yourself what ever you wish but remember that calling yourself a sparrow does not mean you will fly. You can call it “your faith”, but that does not mean it will bend to your current wishes.

          The Hole See has been as clear as he can be on this subject. You can reject his wisdom, but you will, I am confident, never influence his conclusions.

  7. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 07/11/2012 - 05:10 pm.


    You are free to argue that these fellows are rejecting “common sense”, which is a subjective and generally meaningless term. But as you know very well, Mr. Swift, science and human biology are on their side. You are the one rejecting science.

    • Submitted by Neal Krasnoff on 07/12/2012 - 01:53 am.


      Mr. Hintz wrote:

      “But as you know very well, Mr. Swift, science and human biology are on their side. You are the one rejecting science”

      Are you asserting that two members of the same sex can produce offspring?

      • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 07/12/2012 - 06:42 pm.

        I don’t think so

        Mr. Hintz can speak for himself, but I took it to mean that he is asserting that two members of the same sex can fall in love. Which is a pretty good reason to get married, according to most people.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/12/2012 - 11:26 am.

      New discoveries?

      Dan, maybe I’ve missed the discovery. Has it been discovered that human beings can reproduce asexually, or will some women start producing gametes if they marry one another, or is it men producing eggs after same sex nuptuals?

      Please expound, I’m always excited to learn about new discoveries in science.

      • Submitted by William Gleason on 07/12/2012 - 01:24 pm.

        The process is called parthenogenesis, Mr. Swift

        It has been known for some time and is usually taught in high school biology courses.

        Here is some background, hopefully at your level:

        Teaching Biology: Parthenogenesis

        Apparently the “credit” for doing this with human cells goes to the now discredited Korean scientist, Woo Suk Hwang, as verified in a 2007 paper cited in the first link below.

        An article that might be at a level you could understand is:

        Scientific American: Korean Cloned Human Cells Were Product of “Virgin Birth”

        Of course human parthenogenesis is of no relevance to the marriage amendment.

        Many heterosexual couples are happily childless or marry after reproductive age. And it is always possible for a woman in a same sex marriage to become pregnant by artificial insemination, as I assume you are aware. Gay couples who wish to become parents can also adopt.

        • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/12/2012 - 04:51 pm.

          “Of course human parthenogenesis is of no relevance to the marriage amendment.”

          Which explains why you brought it up.

          I am pleased to see you didn’t actually claim human beings are capable of asexually reproducing, Prof. Given some of your past observations it was touch and go. That being said, your observation about artificial insemination as a justification for homosexual marriage is, with all due respect, embaressing enough.

          Too, the leftist red herring of married people who can’t or don’t want to have kids smells embarrassingly desperate at this point. The fact that not every married couple conceives has absolutely no bearing on the fact that marriage, as a civil institution, is meant to increase the stability of families for the purpose of raising well adjusted, healthy, happy children.

          And it does just that for hundreds of millions of people all over the planet.

          Recent peer reviewed studies conclude that children living with homosexual adults face many problems, Prof. It really isn’t a surprise, and one can only hope that as research continues, the wisdom of adopting kids into dysfunctional environments is re-considered.

          • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 07/12/2012 - 06:40 pm.

            Not true

            There has been a lot of research about same-sex couples raising children, and rather than creating “dysfunctional enviroments” the resarch overwhelmingly shows that there is no difference between same-sex and opposite sex couples raising children. If you were really guided by science and biology, this is the kind of thing that would lead you to vote against the amendment.

            I expect you are talking about the study by Mark Regnerus, which gets cited a lot by social conservatives. I don’t know if Regnerus committed academic misconduct (for which he is being investigated) but the study has a lot of problems. The analysis to the article I linked by William Saletan of Slate gets past Regenerus’s motivations (he is an extreme social conservative and the study was funded by anti-gay groups) and looks at what the study actually says and doesn’t say. And despite Regenerus’s conclusions, the data in the study doesn’t really say anything about same sex parents. It concludes, essentially, that stable families are better for children than unstable families.


            If you oppose same sex marriage because same sex couples can’t have biological childen, then say that. If you oppose same sex marriage because you believe one flawed study and want to ignore all others with contrary results, then say that. But don’t claim that science and biology are guiding your decision, because that just isn’t the case.

            • Submitted by William Gleason on 07/13/2012 - 10:24 am.

              I suspect that you are correct, Mr. Hinz,

              about the source of Mr. Swift’s bad science. I note that he has now been asked by several people for a source for his claims about the parenting skills of gay couples.

              His silence is deafening.

              Mr. Swift – are you referring to the work of Mark Regnerus when you state: “Recent peer reviewed studies conclude that children living with homosexual adults face many problems” ? If not, please give reference(s).

              Thank you.

          • Submitted by William Gleason on 07/12/2012 - 06:44 pm.

            Link to last paragraph source?

            Thank you.

            The reason that I brought up human parthenogenesis, Mr. Swift, is because you asked for information about it. Look at the comment directly above my answer.

            And I DID claim that humans are capable of asexual reproduction. Evidence that this is so was presented in one of the links.

            I don’t think that this is a good idea, however.

            • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/13/2012 - 08:34 am.

              That was a frighteningly obtuse statement.

              Sigh…humans may be capable of artificial asexual reproduction, Prof. We are not capable of doing so naturally. We are also capable of replicating the outward appearance of either gender, but doing so does not change the gender; it’s an illusion.

              Just like everything the sand is food crew says.

              • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 07/13/2012 - 08:48 am.

                Nice tactic!

                Just keep introducing new modifiers into the discussion to keep things going on terms that YOU define!

                Sorry – your initial statement didn’t require “naturally”. You just brought that up once your claim was debunked.

                Sneaky, sneaky . . . . . .

          • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 07/12/2012 - 06:46 pm.

            Cites please

            If these studies are published in legitimate peer-reviewed journals, you should have no trouble providing the cites.

  8. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 07/11/2012 - 07:23 pm.

    This problem will go away in a century or two, when a larger proportion of the bishops are female.

  9. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 07/11/2012 - 10:15 pm.

    Just curious

    When this first surfaced on The Glean a while back I suggested that perhaps the Archdiocese could be contacted for the answer to the following suggestion. Church doctrine or teaching holds that a priest is always a priest in the eyes of the Church once the vows are taken. If so, there are no “former” priests but there can be retired priests.

  10. Submitted by Carl Stahlmann on 07/12/2012 - 07:40 am.

    The Church needs to re-examine her Teachings on Homosexuality, especially with reference to the Gospel. According to Scripture, there was a whole Gospel written by a Man who claimed to be the One Whom Jesus Loved — a man who was reclined with his Lover at the Last Supper in such a way that he could “hear the Master’s Heartbeat.” At the end of that Gospel, the Beloved is following the resurrected Christ and Peter, both of whom are engaged in a conversation. Peter asks in referennce to the beloved follower, “What about him?” Jesus responds, “What’s it to you?”

    While it mentions nothing about marriage per se, the love between Jesus and John must be sacramentally recognized, as Jesus Himself is the Sacramental Eucharist.
    In applying Jesus’s response (the Sacrament) to Peter’s question (the Church), if two American men want the sacrament to marry, what’s it to you?

    If they want to get married, isn’t that a personal matter between them, really? Especially where personal liberty and self-determination are hall marks of a free democracy, our country, America, should be the vanguard on this social justice issue and not pathetically lagging behind other countries the world over.

  11. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 07/12/2012 - 10:23 pm.


    How does one say “What’s it to you?” in Hebrew? Or Arabic, or in the Latin transcription. Who knew that Jesus was so hip!

    • Submitted by Matthew Levitt on 07/13/2012 - 10:37 am.


      Nu works in Hebrew, Tom.

      Mr. Swift, please stop confusing the ability to procreate with the social construct of marriage. Fortunately, most intelligent readers can see right through this and it’s quite tiring.

      • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 07/13/2012 - 01:07 pm.

        That’s what happens . . . . . .

        when a person tries to impose their own value set on everyone else.

        In a different thread, Mr. Swift applied the word “desperate” to the argument that marriage is not solely about procreation and implied it was an old point that was no longer valid.

        What he fails (or refuses) to see is that the idea of “marriage for love, no procreation required” is neither desperate nor outdated, but remains one of the most relevant reasons why it makes no sense to restrict it to heterosexual couples only.

        I expect he’s trying to dismiss that argument precisely because it IS so relevant.

        But he’s not going to get his way. He can keep bringing up his assertion that marriage is for procreation only, and we’ll keep shooting right through the gapingly large logical fallacies inherent to that assertion.

        Hopefully the voters in November will get the message as well.

        • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/13/2012 - 06:00 pm.

          I know you don’t like these facts, but there they are.

          Pat, “marriage for love” is available at any number of McChurch’s in this state. I’d bet there are some out there that would marry a guy to his favorite lamp. Love knows no bounds.

          Civil marriage, however, was instituted, and endowed with benefits to encourage stable families (mom, dad & kids) which has been proven conclusively to result in happy, healthy children.

          Civil marriage, in short, is in place because it provides a benefit to society. Homosexual relations serve no one but the practitioners.

          • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 07/14/2012 - 01:26 pm.


            You keep claiming conclusive proof. You keep being asked for cites. You continue to fail to provide the cites.

            Your words carry no more weight than the electrons whisking them through the Internet.

          • Submitted by Channing Florence on 07/16/2012 - 06:53 am.


            Because a lamp can sign a legal contract and is afforded all of the same rights and freedoms that come along with being a human being? I grow weary of so-called conservatives and their tired, non-sensical arguments about people marrying animals or inanimate objects. It’s pathetic.

          • Submitted by Sam Welter on 08/31/2012 - 03:43 pm.

            Wrong On History

            Mr Swift, civil marriage was not “was instituted, and endowed with benefits to encourage stable families.” The legal rights and responsibilities of civil marriage have in fact been developed over centuries, and the laws surrounding marriage have evolved to conform to cultural norms. Marriage today is very different than marriage as it was practiced even 100 years ago.

            Historically speaking, the state’s interest in marriage was always fundamentally one of property rights between two families. Insofar as a marriage involved children, the state’s interest was again the property arrangements: the marriage determined lawful heirs. The concept of the “well-being of children” is a very modern one.

            I’d add that just because you can’t see a societal benefit to gay marriage doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. There are actually some excellent essays that eloquently describe the state’s interest in promoting same-sex marriage and describe some of its attendant societal benefits. Please see and, for example. To me, essays like these illuminate our understanding of marriage as it is practiced, and puts marriage into the context of a diverse and healthy society.

            Best wishes, Sam

  12. Submitted by Richard Pecar on 07/13/2012 - 05:21 pm.

    Marriage amendment attempts to regulate religion; that’s a no-no

    This fall at the ballot box, tell the republicans to shove off and quit trying to foist their so-called values on other people. Marriage is a title belonging to the people making a committment to each other and no one else!

    In the first place, what makes states think they had right to regulate spirituality or sanction marriages? Isn’t there a legal doctrine calling for “separation of church and state?” At least this notion has been around from Thomas Jefferson’s writings to that of recent landmark decisions by SOCTUS — all said the separation of church and state is absolute.

    Did I forget to mention marriages took place 3,000 BC by Zoroastrians? History shows the marriage ceremony and other aspects are stipulated in the Quran and Bible. It has nothing to do with the Minnesota Constitution or any other Constitution.

    Now it’s republicans that what to define marriage? OMG!

    Marriages are unions of people sanctioned by congregants of like a spiritual belief system. Marriage has been a religious and spiritual union for several thousand years. Long before the USA was even thought about.

    Plain and simple, the republicans are trying to regulate religion by defining marriage in law and I don’t support that in the least. Too often the “state” pokes around and sets up camp where it doesn’t belong and where it isn’t wanted. Citizen’s need to be vigilant and slap back the encroachment of our civil right to worship a religion of our choice…and that includes marriage ceremonies and rites and sacraments and atonements so long as these are not hurting people.

  13. Submitted by John Eidel on 07/17/2012 - 02:28 pm.

    Bring Back Traditional Marriage!

    I want to be able to sell my daughter to the highest bidding bachelor as a way to promote my personal and professional interests! Honestly, marriage (at least as recognized by the state) is not a rigid institution handed down from Mt. Olympus. Secular marriage rights are constantly evolving, as evidenced by my inability to involuntarily pawn my daughter off on the richest or most powerful guy (or gal) I can find for her, or the ability of my wife to enter into contracts without my consent, and so forth. If the Catholic Church doesn’t want to officiate same sex marriages, I support their religious right to not officiate. However, the Catholic Church doesn’t get to dictate secular policy (as much as they would like to.)

  14. Submitted by Ray Marshall on 07/25/2012 - 04:28 pm.

    Why does this article keep repeating? I know why

    A condition of employment at MinnPost surely is opposition to the Marriage Protection Amendment

    You keep posting the article, and I can understand that, it is popular. Why don’t you acknowledge the the fact that the person who wrote the article doesn’t know anything about the Catholic Church and have her correct her errors?

    It’s still amazing that you don’t post all 100 of the names. Are they afraid that the Knights of Columbus will come and chop off their heads with their ceremonial swords?

    You people are rightfully proud of the journalists that write for you. Why do you let your secular beliefs, as strong as the faith of Catholics, corrupt your fine writing?

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