From our Agitator backlist … Happy Holidays!

Richard Conniff in his “Basic Instincts” blog/column at the New York Times propounds the Rule of the Decent Interval.

It holds that the value of a good deed decreases in direct proportion to how badly you need the resulting good will.

Conniff illustrates his rule with several recent examples, like Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, of “charity” prompted by urgent needs to evade — or at least soften — legal reprisal. Charity as protection money.

It's a marvelous piece, enriched with great Catholic school nostalgia as well as with excellent comments from readers.

The erudite commentator ACW reminds us that, according to Dante, the first terrace of Purgatory — even before the first stairs of atonement for specific sins — is reserved for the deathbed confessors.

Personally, I'm more of a long range planner. In my Catholic school days, the promise from the nuns was that if you attended First Friday Mass for nine consecutive months, you were guaranteed a pass to heaven. Sort of a religious “Get out of jail free” card.

Highly motivated, I made my nine Masses by the fourth grade … opening the door to a worry-free life of sin and debauchery!

However, with all the modernizing in the Catholic Church since my youth, I can't vouch that the offer still stands for you johnny-come-lately's.

You might still need to buy yourself salvation with a hefty dose of philanthropy … it's never too late.

Tom

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