Fr Stephen Smuts

Archive for March 2012

The Final Week of Jesus’ Life, a Chronology

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Helpful, from The New Theological Movement:

As the Church prepares to enter into Holy Week, we do well to consider the final week of Jesus’ life, from Friday to Friday. In a later post, we will look at the last twenty-four hours (from the Last Supper to the death of Jesus on the Cross) in greater detail.

It will be helpful to review the Gospel accounts given by Sts. Mark and John, the two who offer the most explicit chronology of Holy Week. See Mark 11:1 – 15:37 and also John 11:54 – 19:30.

The Friday before the Passion

Jesus was in the city of Ephraim, in hiding since the Jewish authorities desired to kill him. On this day (before evening), Jesus and his disciples went up to Jerusalem, before the pasch to purify themselves (John 11:55).

They spent the night in Bethany, which is very close to Jerusalem.

Saturday before the Passion

Jesus therefore, six days before the pasch, came to Bethania, where Lazarus had been dead, whom Jesus raised to life. And they made him a supper there: and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that were at table with him. Mary therefore took a pound of ointment of right spikenard, of great price, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. (John 12:1-3)

The pasch (i.e. Passover) was on a Thursday that year (beginning Thursday eve with the Passover Meal), and so six days before, that is, on Friday, Jesus came to Bethany.

The next day, which is to say, Saturday, Jesus came to the feast there and was anointed by Mary of Bethany (that is, Mary Magdalene [here]). In this first anointing, Mary pours the oil over the Savior’s feet.

This meal and anointing occurred, most probably, at the house of Lazarus known as the Lazarium.

Our Savior spent the night in Bethany.

Palm Sunday

And on the next day, Sunday (John 12:12), Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem upon an ass and upon a colt, the foul of an ass. This was the first Palm Sunday, when the children of the Hebrews bearing olive branches went forth to meet the Lord, crying out and saying, “Hosanna in the highest!”

Our Lord returned to Bethany for the night.

Monday of Holy Week

On the way into Jerusalem, Jesus sees a fig tree which has born no fruit – which tree he curses in the presence of his disciples.

Upon entering the city, our Lord goes up and cleanses the Temple for the second time (he had cleansed it once already, two years ago – cf. John 2:13ff [see our article, here]).

That eve, Jesus returned to Bethany (cf. Mark 11:19).

Tuesday of Holy Week

On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus’ disciples notice that the fig tree which he had cursed the morning before has now withered. They are amazed.

Entering the Temple area, Jesus preaches extensively and answers the questions of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

It is on this day that our Lord tells the parable of the vineyard workers who kill the owner’s son who is the heir to the vineyard. Also, on this occasion, the Lord answers the questions regarding the tribute to Caesar, the resurrection of the body, the greatest commandment, and whether the Christ will be the son of David.

Further, while in the Temple, our Lord sees a widow offer two small coins and declares her gift to be greater than those of the others.

Finally, Jesus foretells the destruction of the Temple and speaks of the final judgment.

He returns that night to Bethany.

Spy Wednesday

Spending the day in retirement, our Lord attends a feast at the house of a certain Pharisee, Simon the Leper. During this meal, Mary of Bethany (i.e. Magdalene [here]) again anoints our Lord, but this time upon his head (cf. Matthew 26:7; Mark 14:3).

As before, Judas complains; but now he is set against our Savior, and so goes to the priests to betray Jesus. And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests, to betray him to them. (Mark 14:10)

Because it was this evening that Judas conspired against Jesus, the day is called “Spy Wednesday”.

Holy Thursday

Now on the first day of the unleavened bread, when they sacrificed the pasch, the disciples say to him: Whither wilt thou that we go, and prepare for thee to eat the pasch? (Mark 14:12)

Because the Passover meal would be consumed Thursday evening, Jesus sent his disciples to make the preparations for the pasch. They went from Bethany to Jerusalem and prepared the upper room.

On this evening, Jesus offered the Last Supper in which he instituted both the Eucharist and the Priesthood. Upon finishing the meal, our Lord and his apostles (excepting Judas, who left early) sang a hymn and then went forth to the Mount of Olives.

On this night, our Lord suffered the agony in the garden and was arrested. Jesus spends the night locked in the dungeon of the house of Caiaphas, after undergoing a secret night-trial by the Sanhedrin.

Good Friday

It was on Friday that our Lord suffered and died. Condemned to death at 10am, nailed to the Cross at noon, and dying at 3pm.

Christ was buried before 5pm and, the stone being rolled across the entrance, all departed.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 30, 2012 at 22:31

Some Anglican Difficulties

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Writes Fr Dwight Longenecker (who I seem to be linking a lot to of late):

When I lived in England Anglicans almost universally referred to the Catholic Church as “the Roman Catholic Church.” They would emphasize the word “Roman”. The subtext was, “We Anglicans are Catholics too you know. It’s just that we’re not ‘Roman’ Catholics.”

Very often this was accompanied by a branch of the Dan Brown school of church history in which Christianity came to Britain directly by Joseph of Arimathea. They would explain that he founded the Celtic Church which was independent of “Roman hierarchical authority.” This Celtic Church was in tune with nature, valued women’s ministry, was democratic and well, pretty much the way Anglicanism is today…” Then at the  Synod of Whitby the Roman Catholic Church began to assert it’s harsh, foreign and hierarchical authority. At the Reformation the true, unsullied, English Catholicism was restored. Unfortunately there is virtually no evidence for this theory, but they cling to it still in one form or another. To read more about this idea here’s an article I wrote on it some time ago.

They like to say, “Romanism is just one form of Catholicism.” In addition to this the word “Romanism” or the “Roman” prefix is very often linked with an incurable English snobbery and racism. So the Anglicans would say in a delightfully snide way, “The Roman Catholic Church! The Church for Italian waiters and Irish ditch diggers!” It’s nice in an old fashioned Miss Marple English sort of way I guess. All Oscar Wilde quips, tea and lace and fine china for the old ladies (of both genders and all ages).

I don’t really mind this sort of thing. It adds to the quaint charm of the Church of England.

However, a couple of things should be observed. First, by its very definition there can be only one Catholic Church. Saying, “We’re Catholic just not Roman Catholic.” is a contradiction in terms. It’s like a fellow on a dude ranch in Sweden saying, “I’m a Texan, just not an American Texan.” Saying “Romanism is just one form of Catholicism” is like a person  who runs an English tea room in Los Angeles saying, “Of course being an English subject is just one expression of Englishness.” That’s nonsense. Anglicans shouldn’t deceive themselves. They may do things in a Catholic way, and that’s very nice indeed, but dressing up like a Catholic doesn’t make you a Catholic. Believing Catholic doctrine and using a Catholic liturgy is very nice too and a darn sight better than not doing so, but that also does not make you a Catholic.

Being a Catholic is defined by being in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, and if you don’t mind we’ll define what being a member of our church consists of just as you,  quite rightly, would define yours. We don’t mind at all if you imitate us, and we’re flattered that you want to be Catholic in many ways and we encourage you in this enterprise, and seek fellowship with you as our brothers and sisters in Christ. We acknowledge your many gifts and the service you bring to Christ and his church and we value our relationship and seek for fraternal charity to be nurtured, but within this same spirit of charity we also wish to correct your mis apprehension that you are Catholics.

You are not. Your church was founded in a violent and rapacious revolution that deliberately broke communion with the successor of Peter, and that wound to the unity of Christ’s body has been made worse through the conscious and intentional decisions your church has made over the last forty years.

I realize what I have written may anger and offend some Anglicans, but healthy relationships are based on honesty and clarity. I, for one, find that one of the greatest obstacles to unity is the number of Anglicans who still–despite the events of the last decades–maintain that they are Catholic. With all sorts of subtlety, smoke and mirrors they maintain this fiction.

If only they could see, from a Catholic perspective, how sad and silly they appear. Once I became a Catholic I looked back on the arguments I made and the positions I took and I was ashamed of how much I had believed the lies of others and worst of all, lied to myself.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 30, 2012 at 19:46

Census Shows Ireland is Still Overwhelmingly Catholic

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Despite being rocked by the sex abuse scandal, a huge percentage in the country still self-identify as Catholic.  Details, from the Irish Times:

Ireland remains the overwhelmingly Catholic country of the English-speaking world, according to results of the April 2011 census, published yesterday. Over 84 per cent of people in the Republic, or 3.86 million, described themselves as Roman Catholic in that census.

It may represent a drop from the 86.8 per cent of the population who did so in the 2006 census but, in actual terms, the 2011 figure is an increase of 179,889, or 4.9 per cent, on the 2006 figure.

This anomaly, of an increase in numbers and percentage but a drop overall, is because the general population of the Republic increased by 348,404, to 4.58 million, since 2006.

The nearest in numbers to Catholics are those who declared themselves as having “no religion” last April. They now number 269,800, an increase of 44.8 per cent on the 2006 figure. A further 72,914 did not state their religion, compared to the 70,322 “not stated” figure for 2006.

Among those who did declare themselves last year the next largest grouping to those with “no religion” are members of the Church of Ireland who now number 129,039, an increase of 6.4 per cent on their 121,229 figure in 2006. Presbyterian numbers are up by 4.5 per cent to 24,600 as are Jehovah’s Witnesses, by 19.4 per cent to 6,149.

Far and away the most significant non-Christian religion in Ireland today is Islam. Members of Ireland’s Muslim community now number 49,204, an increase of 51.2 per cent on the 32,539 figure in 2006.

Continue reading.

SourceThe Deacon’s Bench


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 30, 2012 at 14:18

On Joining the Ordinariate

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Writes Fr Ed Tomlinson – mostly for those Clergy where there are Ordinariates available:

My last post provoked a question in the comment thread asking if there would be more Anglican clergy joining the Ordinariate in the future? The questioner assuming that, if one was truly Catholic in belief and unhappy with the direction of the Church of England, they would surely have already joined.

But I think the migration is far from over because life is not as black and white as internet debate. People’s beliefs change and future applicants might include those whose heads are presently in the sand (regarding the implications of current synodical thinking and the Ordinariate reality) but who might yet wake up and move. People whose personal threshold has not been crossed but which may be crossed with future innovation. Those whose journey is still in formation but heading in a Catholic direction, who are yet to arrive at a ‘Newman moment’. And those who have had that epiphany but not yet found a way to put desire into action.

I am myself aware of priests with interest in joining but who do not yet feel able to do so. They tell me life is grim in the Anglo-Catholic world at present. The Catholic societies have fallen silent and leaders who once spoke with passion and clarity about desire for unity now offer no clear vision. Furthermore the Society of Wilfred and Hilda (set up to care for those who did not join the Ordinariate) has offered little beyond an ecclesiastical sandwich club for disgruntled and marginalised people. There is no plan on the table that those I speak to ascertain.

It is clear to them that, whilst high church congregationalism can and will survive, a cohesive case for Catholic life within the Church of England is over. People can put up with hospice care for a dying 19th Century vision, a vision rendered dormant by synodical vote, or else look to the Ordinariate for a robust and Catholic future in the 21st Century.

The question becomes this. How do we encourage those who want to be Catholic but who fear the journey? Remember we have no desire to poach happy Anglicans being only concerned for those who do not seem to belong there. How do we help those feeling trapped who only stay due to obstacles, real or imagined, which they see as barriers to change? It helps to briefly name the obstacles. The following comes from those I know:

1) Family pressure in a variety of forms. There are some married whose wives do not want to leave a comfortable vicarage, a job for life or the certainty of a pension. Others have children at crucial stages in education and are waiting. Others are worried about the reaction of wider family and friends who hold vehemently anti-Roman views.

2) Financial worry. Some fear a move into the Ordinariate means losing a pension or else they worry they cannot support themselves. This is especially true of those who know that they cannot bring a large group. It is not unusual for Anglo-Catholic priests to be serve parishes where the people are less Catholic in outlook than themselves. I would reassure them that nobody who has joined the Catholic church thus far has been left in difficulty but maybe this is not enough and we need to secure buildings and growth to convince them?

3. Fear of change. Some know they would be happier with us but cannot face the prospect of transition. And let us be frank here- it is a tough process with every single person who has left facing a barrage of hostility, often from those they considered friends. I myself received vile letters and emails and was even locked out of my own church before I had left! Conflict isn’t pleasant and the Ordinariate has ruffled feathers. It leads to challenge for those who join. So how can we smooth the journey? Because it does settle down in time.

4) Building junkies. There are those wed to buildings and/or empires. It isn’t easy walking from a project you have given so much to. The wrench of having to leave is causing many to delay, not least those approaching retirement.

5) Compromised reality. There are those with complications in their personal lives. They want to join but are not currently in a position to do so. Clearly decisions need to be made. We might also consider pessimists who fear applications would be turned down or those with scandals in the past. There are no guarantees when you leave but I suggest the Catholic church is compassionate.

We unveil myriad reasons why people might dawdle when it comes to joining the Ordinariate – even though they support the vision! They need love and assistance and we have to help as best as possible. And perhaps it is also time to gently challenge them….

Because it disturbs me when people say they will join the Ordinariate- when they retire!

Read the whole post here.

In conclusion, critically, he asks:

… And we can add to this number countless clergy and laity who, in 2007, signed a petition sent to the holy see seeking provision and help. Where are they now? Some bluffs must have been called but how can we encourage those who do want to join the Ordinariate but cannot bring themselves to do so? It is a serious question not least because our Lord warns about the danger of hanging back once we know we should move forward. (He famously lambasts those called to follow but who prefer to bury dead or who look back when ploughing fields). Quite simply dilly-dallying is not a Gospel option. Is it then time for some action?

If you know in your heart that you belong in the Catholic church then realise that we are praying for you and here to help. The leap is demanding and there are many challenges once you arrive on Rome’s shore. But we need and we want you. We keep the seats warm- why not get in touch and let us help you?


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 30, 2012 at 07:19

Your List of Lenten Bible Verses on Penance

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Courtesy of Dr Taylor Marshall:

If you’re like me, the commitments of Lent are becoming a bit more difficult. To keep your eyes on the prize, here are the Top Ten Bible verses on Penance. In Greek, we often find in Scripture the Greek term “metanoia” which is a deep “transformation of mind” of conformity to God. In Latin, we find “agite paenitentiam” or “do penance.” Protestant commentators beginning with Martin Luther criticized this translation because they felt that it emphasized outward acts and not an inward transformation. The Church responded by arguing that “agite paenitentiam” or “do penance” is a perfectly sound interpretation because inward repentance always leads to an outward expression. Moreover, in secular texts “agere paenitentiam” often refers to simple inward remorse. Nevertheless, just as faith without works is dead, so also repentance without penance is dead.

So here are the “top ten” penance passages in Sacred Scripture. I’m leading off with Luke 13:3 because, for me, that is the most powerful passage regarding penance.

Luke 13:3
No, I say to you: but unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish.
{This is a solemn promise of Christ to all of us. Unless we do penance, we will “perish.”}

Job 42:6
Therefore I reprehend myself, and do penance in dust and ashes.

Ecclesiasticus 2:22
If we do not penance, we shall fall into the hands of the Lord, and not into the hands of men.
{If we don’t experience discipline in this life, we shall experience it in the next.}

Jeremiah 31:19
For after thou didst convert me, I did penance: and after thou didst shew unto me, I struck my thigh: I am confounded and ashamed, because I have borne the reproach of my youth.
{Notice here, that penance comes after conversion.}

Lamentations 2:14
Thy prophets have seen false and foolish things for thee: and they have not laid open thy iniquity, to excite thee to penance: but they have seen for thee false revelations and banishments.
{Here the spiritual leaders of Israel have wrongly induced the people to follow after false revelations or apparitions. Instead, they should have led the people to penance. Incidentally, Saint Francis is the perfect example of the right leader. He doesn’t appeal to apparitions or even to his stigmata. He appeals to the power of prayer, fasting, and penance.}

Ezekiel 18:21
But if the wicked do penance for all his sins which he hath committed, and keep all my commandments, and do judgment, and justice, living he shall live, and shall not die.
{This is the great promise for Lent. If we humble ourselves and live sacrificially, we will have life. God is merciful and loving and He desires our transformation into the image of Christ His Son.}

Matthew 3:8
Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of penance.
{Here we find that true repentance requires fruit – it requires outward acts that conform to the inward reality.}

Matthew 11:20
Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein were done the most of his miracles, for that they had not done penance.
{This is a sobering verse. Christ doesn’t work miracles where the people don’t repent. Divine power is restricted by human pride.}

Romans 2:4
Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and patience, and longsuffering? Knowest thou not, that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance?
{The love, mercy, and benignity of God brings us to a true repentance. Notice that being mean and hateful does not bring others to penance.}

Apocalypse 2:5
Be mindful therefore from whence thou art fallen: and do penance, and do the first works. Or else I come to thee, and will move thy candlestick out of its place, except thou do penance.
{Here “do penance” and “do the first works” are paired together. Penance has an outward dimension, because sin also has an outward dimension. The horrifying truth is that Christ will snuff out the Church of any region if they don’t live a life of penitence.}

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 29, 2012 at 18:47

Some More Out of America on the College of Bishop’s Meeting in South Africa

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This time via Bishop Stephen Strawn as a pdf. which has been here for a while. Perhaps before I go on – just in case – you should read my disclaimer. Right?

All of the above is publicly and freely available on the Internet [on the website of the Anglican Church in America]. They put it there, not me…

Okay? Then, let’s continue…

Standing out in his commentary:

I sent you the press release regarding the College of Bishops (COB) meeting of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC). (included elsewhere in this newsletter) However, I do want to share a few thoughts regarding the meeting because we all know that bloggers will have a field day posting their opinions regarding something they know little or nothing about. Additionally, the former Secretary of the College of Bishops has already conducted an interview regarding the meeting. So I feel that is necessary to update you regarding what actually happened…

[As a ‘blogger’ I speak for myself when I say that I blog in and for the cause of Christ and the furtherment His Gospel.]

Initially, I want to say that every Bishop, including retired Bishops was invited to attend this meeting. As per Section 6.1 of the TAC Concordat, the invitation clearly stated that active Bishops would have voice and vote and that retired Bishops would have voice only.

Section 6.1 of the Concordat clearly states that “Bishops actively holding Episcopal Office are eligible for voice and vote within the College of Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion.” If retired Bishops were to be considered “active” then there would be no need for the reference “active Bishops” in Section 6.1 as everyone would be considered “active Bishops. But the Concordat does make that distinction. Therefore, retired Bishops are clearly not “active Bishops.” This was verified by the Chancellor of South Africa and all of the Chancellors in the Anglican Church in America (ACA). It is also consistent with precedence in that retired Bishops were not afforded vote in previous meetings of the COB, but were given only voice. While we were indeed disappointed that the other active members of the COB chose not to attend, the Bishops who attended the meeting, still constituted the majority of Bishops with voice as well as vote.

As I mentioned, every Bishop was invited to attend. Of those who chose not to attend, some sent their apologies and some chose not to respond, and a few sent their “proxies.” One Bishop who plans to enter the Ordinariate in Australia did attend and fully participated. Another Ordinariate bound Bishop from Puerto Rico initially considered attending. Indeed, he inquired about the flight arrangements of the ACA Bishops indicating a desire to meet up with them in the USA and join them on their flight to South Africa. There were no further contacts with him and he did not attend the meeting. The important thing is that he initially indicated that he might attend and inquired about flight arrangements but then later chose of his own accord not to attend. I cannot and will not speculate on the reasons he  reconsidered. So the point is that everyone was invited and no one was shut out. If they were not there, it was of their own choice. Secondly, the determination as to who had voice and vote and who had voice only was determined strictly in accord with Section 6.1 of the Concordat. Whether or not they were going to the Ordinariate at some point in the future had nothing to do with it as evidenced by the one Bishop who has declared for the Ordinariate attending and participating fully with both voice and vote.

Not only was the Concordat adhered to regarding Section 6.1, but the entire meeting was conducted in the most professional way by the new Acting Primate, Archbishop Samuel Prakash, adhering to the minutest details of the provisions of the Concordat. It was transparent, and open to scrutiny. The agenda was open to all, with invitations for items for discussion to have been received at least 14 days prior to commencement of the meeting. Care was taken to have interpreters and stenographers present, and in addition voice recordings were kept of the proceedings. Once we came together, the meeting was unanimously constituted as a College of Bishops Meeting. The majority of Bishops within the TAC holding voice and vote attended, and proxy votes were obtained from some who were not able to attend. It is also documented that the meeting was concluded in a spirit of prayer and discernment. Votes on all resolutions were overwhelmingly unanimous. Therefore, the resolutions passed at the meeting are, as a result, legal and binding…

The TAC could not be allowed to be left in a vacuum come Eastertide when Archbishop Hepworth purportedly would step down. Therefore, his resignation as Primate, which he chose to submit, was unanimously accepted effective immediately. This is accepted business practice when the Board of Directors of any company determine it is best for all parties to move on immediately. He was not “deposed” as several “bloggers” have reported. He offered his resignation and the COB felt it was best for all to accept that resignation effective immediately. As a result of the resignation, the offices and positions held by appointment were vacated. New appointments will be announced by the Acting Primate in the very near future. I am aware of those appointments; however, I feel that I must leave the announcement of those appointments to Abp. Prakash…

Of course, as part of the consideration on moving into the future, the COB had to deal with the Patrimony of the Primate here in the USA as well as similar structures instituted by the former Primate. The COB rightly concluded that the Concordat did not authorize the former Primate to unilaterally create any Patrimony or other entity within any member Church without the approval of the respective member Church. Therefore, no “Patrimony of the Primate” exists within the TAC. If you are in the TAC, you must be within the National Church and Diocese thereof. In the case of the ACA, permission was granted to create a “Patrimony” that was intended to be a “holding tank” for those intending to become a part of the Ordinariate. Minutes of the ACA House of Bishops at which this agreement was made, clearly indicated that the agreement expired upon the creation of the Ordinariate in the USA. Therefore, no Patrimony currently exists within the ACA beyond that date (January 1, 2012)…

As we move into that future, may God Bless those who have chosen to take a new journey with the Roman Catholic Church in the Ordinariates around the world. May God bless all of us in the TAC, and may God grant us the ability to move on, with less derogative comments and opinions from the “bloggers” and more proclamation the Gospel of Christ to a broken world…

There is more and some really good photos too!

I hope that posting and informing others of the above does not constitute ‘derogative comments and opinions from the “bloggers”’.

BTW.  Priests should blog! Don’t be scared to embrace this popular medium and proclaim the Gospel through the latest generation technology.

Please do take a moment to read more on The Question of clerical bloggers. I would encourage Bishop Strawn to also give the article a read. It includes:

… a short list of a few bishops who contribute regularly to blogs. I provide them as an authoritative witness to the legitimacy of clerical blogging. If any want to discredit or dismiss priests who blog simply because of the nature of the blogosphere, such persons will also be dismissing and discrediting these bishops as well.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 29, 2012 at 16:38

Israel: Army Chief Cancels IDF-wide Passover Vacation

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For first time in many years, all IDF units to be on full alert during Passover holiday; army officials insist decision not related to any planned military operations

Chief of Staff Benny Gantz has ordered all IDF units to cancel their traditional Passover breaks so that they can operate in full capacity over the upcoming holdiay, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Wednesday.

The implication of the decision is that for the first time in many years, all IDF units will maintain their regular operations and remain on full alert throughout the holiday.

As result of the unexpected decision, thousands of soldiers at various IDF headquarters and bases will have to report for duty as usual in order to allow their units to operate with no interruption…

Read more here.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 29, 2012 at 14:00

Posted in Culture

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