Dear Miss Manners:

Media coverage has made it a tough time to be a Catholic.

As a weekend guest, I slipped out early to attend Sunday Mass, and when I returned, the other guests were up and gathering for brunch.

My host began asking me embarrassing questions about whether the "scandals" had me question my support of the church and whether I feel there are any priests I know of who have been involved, or if I know any victims.

I was a coward and did not defend my faith. Instead, I made an excuse about being needed by my hostess in the kitchen and left the room.

Since this is bound to happen again, can you provide a snappy retort for me and fellow Catholics?

"Do you think I should I join a religion that never deals with human sin? But then, of course, there would be the question of whether I'd be eligible."

If that is snappy enough for you, perhaps you will allow Miss Manners to make some serious points.

One is that you need never explain or defend your religion. Excusing yourself from the room, as you did, makes the point, but you can also do this by gently replying that your religion is not something you discuss socially. Some of your friends may then dimly recall that there is an etiquette rule against doing so, but at any rate, you need not be embarrassed about refusing to be drawn in.

Another is that public concern with questions of criminal abuse of authority does not constitute an attack on your faith, but on individuals who have violated its dictates.

Finally, Miss Manners agrees that wholesale indictments, such as you found implied in your friends' questions, are offensive. That is why you should not blame problems of serious misbehavior on the legitimate "media coverage" of them.

Dear Miss Manners:

I was taught that when one writes out numbers (or says them aloud), one should not include the word "and" except to denote decimals. For example, the number 832 should be written "eight hundred thirty-two," not "eight hundred and thirty-two."

Wedding invitations, however, seem to ignore this rule. The date of the wedding is spelled out, and 2002 inevitably becomes "two thousand and two." My mother and I argued over this for quite a while, and since I was unable to find examples of invitations that left out the "and," she won. (There are more important things to argue about, anyway.) I would like to know how you think the year should be put into print on invitations.

Miss Manners is happy to hear that you have more important things to argue about, because everybody you mention loses -- you, your mother and all who issued those wedding invitations.

The year does not belong on the invitation at all, as it should be obvious that one is not being invited to an event some years in advance.

Similarly, it is not necessary to specify morning, afternoon or evening, as one should not expect people to attend weddings at such times as 6 in the morning or 11 at night.

Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) at, or mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.

(c)2002, Judith Martin