Saturday, January 21, 2006

This Week on Masterpious Theatre....

So our authentically conservative friends are in a mouth-foaming frenzy these days, thinking they've got Richard McBrien's scalp over allegations of plagiarism in one of his syndicated columns which (rightfully) castigated the wannabe Boston hierarchs for their agitprop campaign against O'Malley & Curia -- including, of course, Bryan Hehir: The Real American Pope.

For some reason, the exhortation of Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo to the Catholics of Boston at Sean O'Malley's 2003 installation is ringing in my ears right now: "Receive [the new archbishop] as your father in God, as well as your hierarchical superior, sent in his name by his Vicar, the Pope."

But Montalvo was only the apostolic nuncio -- who needs him (or, for that matter, a whole hierarchy) when we've got self-anointed "authentic Catholics" to order the church around, telling it what to do and how to do it?

It's just so... logical.

As logical as 2 + 2 = 2.

As with all the best things in Catholic life, a category growing smaller and smaller as the years go by, Montalvo's statement was an equal opportunity salvo. The great irony of it, however, was that it was understood to be a message the Left needed to be told, a missile aimed squarely at the forehead of Voice of the Faithful.

But as they do, the Right turned reason on its head and out-polemicized even VOTF, making the Left look semi-sensibile by comparison.

Just to repeat it for their benefit: "Receive him as your Father in God, and your hierarchical superior, sent in his name by his vicar, the Pope...."

Not much wiggle room there, eh?

Now I'm gonna be frank with everyone: McBrien's not big on my hit parade. He's not, and I just get this creeped-out vibe every time I see him. Shivers down my spine, wincing on my face, not fun stuff. I can't say I'm a fan of his.

But, still, hopefully we can all agree that what's fair is fair.

Therefore, in the interests of full disclosure, someone's gotta remind you lot that the same Right who are (for this week, at least) the Hunters of All Plagiarism have seen fit in the not-too-distant past to summarily dismiss, discredit and deflect even more substantive findings of plagiarism -- only difference being that those cases have involved one of their own, of course.

Tell me you're surprised.

Remember well that last September, when reports in Rome uncovered that Fr Nicola Bux, lead writer of the Instrumentum laboris of the recent Synod of Bishops, "was 'not invited back' to teach at the [Pontifical Liturgical Institute] soon after it was discovered that he had published substantial segments of other scholars’ work 'verbatum and without direct attribution' in a 1996 book," the disclosures were met in the conservative audience with a great, big "so what?"

As one commentor wrote on these pages, "Does the fact that this guy [Bux] got caught plagiarizing ten years ago mean that he is banned forever from doing *any* writing for the Church from then on?"

Well, as the Right wants McBrien silenced forever, I doubt that same person would be asking that same question right now. But it's been asked once and so deserves repeating....

Publications and other conservatives who rallied behind Bux notably went so far as to chalk the reports up to "pressure groups" working with "affective disdain" which sought to exploit the record to influence or derail the agenda of the Synod.

Of course, there is no such mass pressure group effort working with affective disdain to undermine McBrien. That's just ludicrous. Everyone writing a screaming, mouth-foaming, over the top letter is doing so because they really, really, really -- with whipped cream and a cherry on top -- believe that plagiarism is a bad, bad, bad thing.... Except, of course, when it's being done to advance their own agenda -- which, as we all know, can (and does) forgive all manner of sins.

You couldn't make up that kind of hypocrisy if you wanted to.

In closing, just look at it this way: even if McBrien is found to have plagiarised, he can follow Bux's lead and write the working document for a future Synod of Bishops. Apparently, as the record aroused no ire from the Right last time, then we can rest assured that copycatting as punishable offense is irrevocably off the table in the next go-round.