After attending a Tsunami relief benefit concert on Saturday evening, I decided to lay off John Allen for now -- no children will go hungry because a journalist and a bishop got into a catfight (believe me, it happens all the time), and my seven dirty words routine was starting to wear thin even on me. Regardless, I think I've made myself clear.
Your humble writer has been making up for a couple insane weeks, trudging back into the archives to catch up with one of my idols, the great Molly Ivins. Molly once wrote something about Tom DeLay; a truth which, in my experience, can easily be applied to the majority of American bishops: "The man is living proof that Christianity and ruthlessness can coexist -- regardless of what Jesus said." And the plight of the Texas liberal (always right, but always outnumbered) is something many of us can understand. It could, with a slight adjustment, easily be that of the Catholic progressive. And you're not one of the latter unless, for no justified reason, you've been called: 1. a pope-hater, 2. a baby-killer, and 3. "the smoke of Satan entering the church." (In Philadelphia, this initiation can usually be accomplished within 15 minutes.)
Any business rightward enough for Ted McCarrick to be seen by many (his successor in Newark included) as some kind of raving free-love hippie isn't just rightward, it's fascist.
But here's something which will shock -- and without obscenities, even. I'd put money down that anyone who doesn't know me and reads these posts probably thinks I'm a pinko commie who's come to the altar to strike the organ, sell the hosts to voodoo priestesses, and have a mass full of ukeleles with women religious acting as concelebrants. And they'd be wrong on all counts.
For starters, seemingly contrary to my freewheeling, open style -- and I've never announced this openly, ever -- I am stridently opposed to the notion of presenting women and/or married men for ordination to the priesthood. (And you say, "A-ha! The Philadelphian in him comes out!" Not so fast, heretics....) Re women, as our Anglican brethren would attest, the more-than-potential for schism -- especially from the developing world which is the new center of gravity -- is just too explosive. It doesn't help the status quo that the bishops, gloriously fogged-out by the same clericalism we have to thank for a century of scandal and cover-up, have just been plain stupid about not encouraging substantive (i.e. not "Yes, Father") lay leadership; if it's either priest or nothing in their minds, that's just fuel to the fire for the protestors outside your chrism mass.
Again, my whole premise here is that the Left and the Right are both missing the forest for the trees. My favorite of the million-plus topics I could pick which display this marvelously is somewhat cliche', but it's abortion.
From the progressive side, we've got Frances Kissling -- a nightmare and the winner of the "Fighting Fake with Fake" lifetime achievement award. Come on: Holy See comes down on population control at the UN, she tries to get the Holy See kicked out of the UN. Is it possible she was an American bishop in a prior lifetime? She's got more in common with 'em than either would like to admit, she's practically Bernie Law's twin. Scary thought that is, eh?
And then we've got the Right, the people who bang on the bricks at Planned Parenthood clinics on Saturday morning as if the power of Jesus is gonna make them walls come tumblin' down. (I have seen this with my own eyes, so don't dare question it; the only things they break are their knuckles.) These are, if the spin is to be believed, the "pro-life" people -- they won't vote for a boondocket lowest-court judge in Philadelphia who's pro-choice, but would, if necessary, stamp their ballots with blood for a party which seeks the dismantling of a welfare state modeled on the Christian Democratic system, completely ignores just war principles and counts thousands upon thousands of innocents killed as collateral damage, cuts the taxes necessary for the services which sustain a post-birth culture of life, embraces the same laissez-faire capitalism so explicitly denounced by their beloved daddy-pope and, when in doubt, tears the Beatitudes to shreds.
I'm not done yet -- the "pro-life" people do all this at the urging of bishops who, while maintaining a devotion to "human life and dignity," simultaneously trample it. (Hint: Is Lincoln in compliance with the Charter, my gentle snowflakes?) Is it just me or is it damn amazing that some of the most verbose anti-abortion harrumphs among the boys are the first to scream and cry when the review board they established starts peeking around just to make sure they're living up to the commitment they, themselves, made -- need they be reminded why they had to make it in the first place? -- to guard the most vulnerable of the post-born over the assets and reputation of the institution?
Does someone out there really want to try and tell me these guys go on TV and shed Susan Lucci tears about human trafficking because it's something they really care about? (Of course it isn't -- as one of the campaign's marquee names would say, "This is important not because I believe it's important -- I don't honestly care. But I do care because the Holy Father has told us to.")
All I'm looking for, in politics, in press, but especially in this realm which deals with the most intimate and existential side of ourselves, is some integrity in leadership.
As my commencement speaker once sang, I still haven't found it.