Wednesday, April 14, 2004

The Problem with a Stream of Consciousness Is . . .

It never really stops flowing. So, courtesy of Domenico Bettinelli's Bettnett Blog, we read this slithery editorial by one Melinda Henneberger of the inaptly-named Newsweek. For those unfamiliar with the publication, it reads as though some fairly-bright Yale juniors have selected and re-written various stories (they take out the really big words) culled from People, The New York Times, and Longevity. Think of it as Vanity Fair for the company-picnic crowd and you've grasped its ethos pretty well. Ms. Hennebgerger's article is in black, while my thoughts are in blue.

* * *

April 12 - I was waiting outside Senator Ted Kennedy's office not long ago, having second thoughts about his offer of a ride home listening to one side of a conversation on a subject on which one side is all anyone ever seems to hear. Uh, wait a minute, let me diagram that sentence . . . uh huh . . . there's the subject, article . . . modifier . . . Oh! I know, isn't it irritating! I get so tired of hearing nothing but pro-choice propaganda from MTV and the Big Three networks. Can't NPR do at least one story even mentioning that some people doubt whether abortion is a constitutional right, let alone a moral choice? It's almost as if there's a gag-rule against even discussing the immorality of abortion or the unconstitutionality of Roe v. Wade. Huh? Why the pained look, Melinda?

Yes, Ma'am, he is Catholic,'' the young man answering the senator's phone that day told the caller wearily., his nose growing another three inches in the process.

"The senators are not doctors, Ma'am, with the exception of Bill Frist...who, for some odd reason, thinks unborn children are human beings, but that's just because he didn't graduate from Harvard University's Mengele Center for Medical Ethics. . . And I think one of them is a veterinarian . . .and isn't that funny, since the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis tells us that in treating Johne's disease one must consider:
prenatal . . . transmission of the agent. In this instance, the agent passes from the infected cow to the calf before birth and the calf is born infected. Infected cows that are showing clinical signs of Johne's disease . . . transmit the agent to the unborn calf 20 to 40% of the time. . . If these cows do not transmit the agent to their calf in utero, it is probable they will infect their calf . . . soon after birth.
See, this is how it works. We can tolerate the idea of "unborn calves," but not "unborn babies." Unlike "unborn calves," which are "calves before birth," that which grows inside a mother's womb is to be known publicly as "FETUS." It's a Latin term which translates, roughly, as "something which is or isn't recognized as human depending on whether you're Catholic like Ted Kennedy or Catholic like a Catholic."
...I'm sorry you feel that way, Ma'am...Not sorry enough, sonny, so long as you and your Gruppenfuhrer still have a future in public service.The Pope has met him on several occasions like Popes have been doing since day one, when Leo I met Attila outside Rome's gates and he considers him Catholic.''Sure, adjectivally -- just like we could consider a cross we have to bear as "part of Catholicism." Yes, the aide sighed as he hung up, he gets those calls all the time. "If only we could get Ted made a Bishop," he continued, looking wistfully into space, "we could just brush off these hysterical dipsticks with a form letter. The way it is now, we have to talk to the %#$@$@s like they mattered!"

Stupid Catholics have also been dialing the Washington archdiocese aggressively trying, in an act of unmitigated violence, to shut down the telephone system of the Archdiocese, but staffers there tell me they have plans to install call-forwarding and shunt every damn call to Mark Shea's telephone dialing the Washington archdiocese to weigh in on whether another pro-choice Catholic, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and, don't forget -- the next president of the United States, annointed by a veritable Samuel in the person of Reverend Gregory Groover of the Charles Street AME Church John Kerry, could, should or would take communion on Easter. (In the end, he did, in Boston, without incident.) "Without incident"? I love how the menacing implications get trotted out on cue, as though pro-life Christians are violent animals, ready to rend and maim anyone who disagrees with them. We shoot abortion doctors, and so naturally one might think Kerry would have been lynched in Boston. Why would such a private matter even be open to public debate?If it's all so private, Melinda, how do you know Kerry made a mockery of the Eucharist last Sunday? You only call it "private" because you think people have every right to break rules, spit on traditions, and perjure their principles so long as they're hip to the Culture of Death. No? OK, prove me wrong -- Go write an editorial about how a Klansman's desire to exterminate mud people is a "private matter" between him and God which should be immune from ecclesiastical comment.

Because, previously on "How Catholic Is He...'' You do realize your humor's playing on the trivializing effect of television, don't you? You are aware that your column is featured on MSNBC, aren't you? Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis That's Darth Burke to you, Melinda, and smile when you say it. began the discussion back in February when he announced ahead of the Missouri presidential primary that he, for one, would refuse Kerry the Eucharist since his public stands on abortion and gay unions contradict church teaching. Sorry, Melinda, but it's not "all about John Kerry." Then-Bishop Burke of Wisconsin started it much earlier when he said the same thing to Julie Lassa, Cheerleader of Death and member of the Wisconsin State Senate, before John Kerry even crawled out from under Howard Dean's shadow. You can read about it here. Anyhow, does this mean we can call Rev. Groover's Church the "How Christian Is He" show of Washington, DC? I guess it doesn't matter that Rev. Groover claimed Kerry should be President before the presidential election -- Christian ministers can pimp for pro-abortion candidates without violating the Separation of Church And State, since all that phrase really means is "Subordination of Church To State." When the followers of this Chrestus fellow start talking back to the Culture of Death, rebuking the State for its actions, then we've got something to worry about, because they're threatening the hallowed Jeffersonian principle, "We have no king but Caesar."

Last week, Kerry brought fresh misery on himself when he fought back by citing a non-existent pope, "Pius XXIII" as a source of his mistaken belief that Vatican II essentially tells Catholics: Whatever. The crap level at this point is so high you need wings. Try as I might, I just can't see Melinda writing, in a similar situation, "Last week, David Duke brought fresh misery on himself when he fought back by citing a non-existent civil rights leader, ‘Malcolm X Pickaninny' as a source of his mistaken belief that the NAACP essentially tells racists: Whatever." Someone from a group called because they're not really, and because open, inclusive, nonjudgmental Catholics are just clueless when it comes to organizations fighting the Church's fight for the unborn Priests for Life so-called, no doubt, because they're extremist thugs who are itching to shoot "womens' clinic" workers just like all the other so-called Christian thugs who refuse to realize just how "private" our respect for life ought to be then accused Kerry of "supporting the dismemberment of babies.'' Which is utterly false, because John Kerry only supports the right to abort one's baby by dismembering it -- except that it's not an unborn baby, it could only be an unborn baby if it were inside a cow, and any Veterinarian in the U.S. Senate will tell you that babies aren't inside cows, and therefore it's not the same thing at all and that just goes to prove only dangerous lunatics with Semtex underwear join groups called "Priests for Life."

And for those obsessed nitnoids who just can't get enough on the paltry subject of what it might mean to call oneself a Catholic in the 21st century, there are now several new Web sites solely devoted to Kerry's standing in the Church, including, let me fix that -- it's and it's already drawing balanced and sober rebukes from the enlightened souls who realize that Kerry's support of abortion is nobody's business. Souls like "Marsha" who, yesterday, offered her trenchant commentary on how Kerry's private faith -- or lack thereof -- is being overblown and exploited by the knuckle-dragging orthodoxy freaks: you smirky bunch of smarmy jerks. worry about your own pedofiles and leave Mr Kerry alone. you should not be throwing stones. idiots! Of course, Melinda will offer us a much higher level of vocabulary and grammar, but that's just window-dressing -- her own rant remains the same . . . . ..

I can only imagine how smirk-worthy this exercise must seem to non-Catholics, including a few of my acquaintances who are amazed that anyone would want into our not-very-exclusive club after all we've learned about how our leaders protected child abusers instead of children over the decades. See? Everything spelled correctly, all the commas and hyphens neatly placed. Just goes to show that appearances can be deceiving -- you can comb its hair and polish its nails, but it'll still be a ravening wolf. And the Catholic Church has not survived for more than 2,000 years by excluding, but rather by co-opting everything from Roman holidays to elements of African animism. But not, strangely enough, Roman and animist acceptance of abortion, contraception, and exposing infants. Maybe that's why the Catholic Church seemed so "smirk-worthy" to Caligula, Nero and the murderers of Saint Charles Lwanga We just weren't "inclusive" and "co-optive" enough, we weren't ready to see what Christ and Belial really have in common. But now, thanks to the progressive thinking of the Church's John Kerrys and Melinda Hennebergers, we might be ready for Uplift, to go Beyond Good and Evil, into a Brave New World . . . . . Just one question, Melinda -- Who says only abortionists should get to to hurt children? Surely you're not that bigoted and judgmental, to impose your narrow moralistic categories on others, to become -- GASP!!!! -- a "How Catholic is Paul Shanley" kind of person? So, tell us -- when do "pedofiles" get their chance to be included and co-opted? Do you have that scheduled yet, or is it still being workshopped by the Catholic staff at Newsweek?

So it was a relief to find the big-tent flap of a Church which can still tolerate heterodoxy and schism hear Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington respond with a soft, non-judgmental, open, inclusive, co-opting pastoral voice on the Kerry issue. McCarrick is heading a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops task force on how to dodge the issue handle Catholic politicians who openly mock the Church support abortion rights. And isn't it coincidentally interesting that (a) the USCC has issued pastoral letters about important public issues during its summer conferences and (b) has canceled its public conference this summer -- this summer in a presidential-election year -- in favor of a private retreat. If the U.S. Navy had fielded a "task force" like this at Midway, Raymond Spruance would have confronted Nagumo with a fleet of rubber duckies commanded from the deck of Tootie the Talking Tugboat.

In an empty meeting room at St. Matthew's What? St. Matthew's Hospital? St. Matthew's Episcopal Church? St. Matthew's Park? Why can't lefties write worth a damn? in downtown D.C., where the cardinal that's "the Cardinal," Melinda. It's "cardinal" when it doesn't apply to a specific person, and "Cardinal" when it does. Hey, I'm already judgmental and cruel just for having harsh thoughts about killing unborn non-cow FETUSI, so why not go for the whole enchilada and stomp on Melinda's English grammar and her Grammar of Assent? led a prayer service last Wednesday,that must have been some prayer service, inasmuch as we just read how the room was empty. he pulled a couple of dusty folding chairs down from a stack of books? shaved ham? How about a stack of "needless details that provide clutter rather than character?" so we'd have someplace to sit while we talked. The prayer service, of course, being the kind where the absent faithful don't gather by a stack of shaved ham and don't pray while not standing When I asked about Kerry's standing, since, apparently, the Cardinal hadn't pulled a third chair off that pile of shaved ham he seemed pained by the idea of turning him, or anyone else, away. Away? AWAY? To what? Face the wall? From what? A life of crime? We can get it anyhow -- living by the rules hurts rule-breakers, and hurting people is bad. Thus, sending people into the fields to feed swine so that they ask themselves, "How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!" is damn bad manners. Better to kill the fatted (and born) calf all the time, every day, without expecting a change of heart. It's much jollier that way, far less confrontational -- and wasn't Fr. Mulcahy jolly and non-confrontational? We are to be Mulcahys to one another, making soft eyes at each other's sins and never, ever, letting on that life is for living and Christian life is for living as God, through His bishops, tells us to live.

"I would find it hard to use the Eucharist as a sanction," he said gently. The "sanction" here isn't the Eucharist, it's the public judgment of the Church that one has, by ones' sins, made oneself unfit to receive it. The Eucharist is the occasion for the sanction, but that's all. It's important, I think, to note that Cardinal McCarrick has subtly twisted the issue so that the Eucharist or any sacrament becomes, supposedly, too holy to be perverted into a "sanction." Where does that logic go? To gay marriages, for one thing -- why pervert the sacrament of matrimony into a "sanction" against Catholic homosexuals who want to flout Church teaching? For that matter, why pervert the Beatific Vision into a "sanction" to be levied on people to whom Jesus says "depart, I do not know you?" This is how all abusive pastoralism ends -- with an Inquisition. In the old days, abusive pastors tortured people to force belief in Jesus, and violated the dignity granted to the human conscience by their refusing to respect, within reason, choices which (however afflicted by the the limitations that operate on any human conscience) result from a sincere desire for God. Today, we've eschewed the violence, but abusive pastoralism still produces Inquisitors who, in effect, try to force holiness into every life by finding a new way of violating the dignity granted to the human conscience -- ignoring, past all reason, any choice a human being might possibly make.

"You don't know what's in anyone's heart when they come before you." Oh that's true enough, and largely irrelevant. Someone could come for communion with a swastika armband, but you don't know what's in his heart, not really. He could be wearing a T-Shirt that says "The Pope Sucks," and you still wouldn't know all that's in his heart, not really. But you can tell, with a fair degree of accuracy, that his heart's not where it ought to be in order to receive the Eucharist. It's important that everyone know what our principles are,Why? I mean, if life with God is too holy to be denied regardless of whatever choices someone makes, why should anyone know what anyone's principles are? but you'd have to be very sure someone had a malicious intent [before denying him communion.]"According to Canon 915, you'd have to be very sure that someone is "obstinately persist[ing] in manifest grave sin." John Kerry realizes -- and has admitted, even in his "Pius XXIII" speech -- that his decisions are to be governed by the promises he made to Jesus in the Church. What did Kerry say? "My oath privately between me and God was defined in the Catholic church . . ." Kerry knows he has an obligation to God outlined by the Catholic Church. Does Kerry think he gets to draw those lines? I quote him again, "I'm not a church spokesman. I'm a legislator running for president." So he knows his obligations to God are outlined by the Church, and that to find out what the Church outlines he cannot listen to himself, he must listen to those who speak for the Church -- the Bishops and the Pope. Kerry has admitted that he knows he has a duty to God, and that his duty involves listening to the Bishops and the Pope. John Kerry cannot be unaware that the Bishops and the Pope have told him and others like him -- repeatedly -- that the public position on abortion which has characterized his entire political career is evil. He just ignores them. That's as much malice as Canon 915 requires. Whether John Kerry gets up on Sunday mornings and says, "I hate Jesus so much that I want to profane the Eucharist" is irrelevant, as is Cardinal McCarrick's suggestion that only God Himself could enforce Canon 915 Deus Ex Machina.

McCarrick is surprisingly humble, for someone who spends his spare time dabbing white-out on Matthew 7:6 and a reluctant judge. Reluctant? Rewards so precious they must be handed out to everyone who wants them? Believing that one must know a man as God knows him before governing him? That's not reluctance, it's absenteeism. "It's between the person and God,'' he said.thereby making all those guys at Trent and Vatican I look just a little silly, if you ask me -- worrying about things which are really between the individual and God and not anyone else. What's next? Isn't my sin just between me and God? Why, therefore, do I need a priest to absolve me? Can't God do that? DOES ANYONE WONDER WHY THE NEW SPRINGTIME OF EVANGELISM HASN'T SPRUNG YET!!!! Should Kerry or someone in his campaign seek counsel on Catholic protocol? "What they do,'' he demurred, "is really their business and not mine.'' Uh huh. And should any priest in McCarrick's Archdiocese seek "counsel on Catholic protocol" before he decides that he will celebrate the Latin Mass exclusively and never offer the Novus Ordo? Sure, it's a private matter between the priest and God, and we should be reluctant to use parish ministry as a sanction. Right. The archdiocese has been pestered gotten some ignored and/or unreturned calls on the subject from lumpen rank-and-file Catholics, but he declined to characterize the faithful as people who believe in Catholicism a monolith: "Obviously, we run the spectrum in the Catholic Church, from people who feel very annoyed with their politicians to those who are very supportive.''

Though this attitude is what's known as sure to be criticized as more watered-down Catholicism Lite, I don't see it that way. Neither do I. It's just water, and Lite. At a less orthodox time in my own Catholic Lite life, a nun in my parish in Northern California improved my understanding and appreciation of the sacraments through the underused — and doubtless desperate — strategy of working with me instead of turning me away. I had agreed to teach a parish Sunday school class for second-graders preparing to make their first communion — until it dawned on me that I would also be expected to instruct them on the sacrament formerly known as confession. And what is it now? A glyph? Actually, it was known as the sacrament of Penance -- Don't believe me? Go check the Council of Trent, or the Catechism of St. Pius X. Oh, you say those were "canceled" by Vatican II? Want to use the most recent catechism? OK, well, let's just thumb through it . . . Hmmmmm . . . .
"Anyone who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic communion must be in the state of grace. Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive communion . . . . ."
. . . no, no, that's not it . . . .
The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation. The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority.
. . . . nope . . .
From its conception, the child has the right to life. Direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, is a criminal practice, gravely contrary to the moral law. The Church imposes the canonical penalty of excommunication for this crime against human life.
. . . . sheesh! Look at all the junk they put in this Catechism! Can't find a darn thing when you're lookin' for it! . . . . Hmmm . . . .
Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them: - by participating directly and voluntarily in them; - by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them; - by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so; - by protecting evil-doers.
Nahhhh . . . . . .
Political authorities are obliged to respect the fundamental rights of the human person. They will dispense justice humanely by respecting the rights of everyone, especially of families and the disadvantaged. . . .
crap! still can't find it! . . hmmmm . . ..
Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice . . . This is also true of . . . manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values." . . . .
Doggone it!!! I bet this thing would be a lot shorter if they just realized that Catholicism is a private matter between the individual and God without the need for intermediaries and magisteriums and such . . . Oh! Here it is!

WHAT IS THIS SACRAMENT CALLED? It is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus' call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father from whom one has strayed by sin. It is called the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner's personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction. It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a "confession" - acknowledgment and praise - of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man. It is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest's sacramental absolution God grants the penitent "pardon and peace." It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner the live of God who reconciles: "Be reconciled to God." He who lives by God's merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord's call: "Go; first be reconciled to your brother."
Now I went through all that, not so much to show that Melinda knows sacramental terminology like John Kerry knows Humanae Vitae. I did it to point out that she didn't call it anything -- except the "sacrament formerly known as confession." There are variations on that theme, but generally they boil down to a code that means: I'm Catholic, but I'm a good Catholic. I don't live in the intolerant, hide-bound past when we were exclusive, judgmental, rule-bound robots. I live in the accepting, affirming, never-turning-away present. But I know what they used to call it, and so I know the bad old days and the bad old Catholicism we had then -- anytime you hear talk of conversion from sin, penance for sin, confessing your sin, or being forgiven for your sins, that's bad Catholicism. Anyhow, back to the touching anecdote . . . .

"I haven't been in a while myself," I told her. "That's fine,'' she said briskly. "Maybe you'll go now.'' Like her, McCarrick seems to feel that we only get better if we stick around and practice.I'll assume, for charity's sake, that Melinda actually went to GLYPH afterwards. But is her view of this issue so trite, so blandly undeveloped, that she's really concluded that the same thing will work with John Kerry? Is that really the problem? No one's told John Kerry that he ought to stop supporting the dismemberment of babies? Well, then, here's a telegram for John . . . . YOU WERE FETUS STOP YOU NOW PERSON STOP FETUS PERSON STOP KILL FETUS, KILL PERSON STOP PLEASE NO KILL PERSONS STOP LOVE GOD STOP. " There, that ought to do it. Or should, if only John Kerry were a naive and wayward slip of a girl in Northern California who still had enough of a conscience to feel guilty for her neglect of God and enough respect for His consecrated servants to take their advice, and if only John Kerry's sins were mainly hurting himself and not others. But John's a rich and proud man intoxicated by power, who gave up recognizing any authority higher than his own ambition decades ago, and so has no compunction about watching a million infant corpses go up in flames each year if that's the price of high office. He's not practicing, Melinda. He's not even warming up. His "Pius XXIII" speech made that quite clear. That kind needs prayer and fasting, and a few whacks upside the head "John 2:15 style." Which brings us to Canon 915.

There's no decent Catholic who wants John Kerry to be denied communion. What we want is for John Kerry and Catholics like him to learn, unequivocably and undeniably, that there are rewards for for having Catholic principles and prices to pay when one abandons them. The price John Kerry should pay is no more grievous than the price any Catholic baby-hater already pays -- loss of communion with Christ, every Eucharist consumed another sin, scalding and blackening the soul even further, with no way out except confession, repentance, conversion, a reconciling submission to God. But the benefits John Kerry reaps from his sins are undeniably, intentionally, and calculatedly-public benefits. He seeks power from the hands of people who think he's one of them, a faithful member of the Church who has the same concerns and values as they do. He seeks prestige and adulation among people who, though not Catholic, admire "spirituality" and sincerity in a man, no matter what his creed, and who do not realize that Kerry has spat on his Church with every pro-abortion vote he's ever cast. He wants positive press from people in news organizations who are befuddled enough to think his hypocrisy, malice, and mendacity are the travails of an enigmatic, tortured seeker, a noble sojourner on the road to truth. Shouldn't his lesson be received as publicly as the benefits he's reaped, or tried to reap?

You tell me, Melinda. But before you do, consider yourself as a young catechism teacher who gets up in front of her second-grade students and says: "I'm not a church spokesman. I'm a layperson. My oath privately between me and God was defined in the Catholic church by Pius XXIII and Pope Paul VI in the Vatican II, which allows for freedom of conscience for Catholics with respect to these choices, and that is exactly where I am." Suppose you told those children that confession was an option -- heck, that anything they didn't like, such as being nice to the kid whose nose is always running, or telling dad the truth about who broke the window, is optional? Suppose you told them their religion was just a matter between them and God, that they didn't need to obey anybody or know Church rules and stuff like that? I suppose sister should have just let you go on teaching, hoping someday you'd start telling the truth, knowing that in the meantime you shouldn't be "turned away" just because you were hurting children's faith. I doubt she would have. As for myself, I'd have given you the boot, hard, because my daughter's soul isn't to be used like Kleenex just because you happen to be going through a "less orthodox time" in your own Catholic life. And 2,000,000 future second-graders shouldn't be thrown away each year as though they were so much diseased tissue just because -- even partly because -- John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, Tom Daschle, Olympia Snowe, and a bunch of other wolves in Catholic clothing are going through "less orthodox times" in their own Catholic lives.

If Melinda's got principles, and isn't of making this all up as she goes along, then she has a really interesting take the Pope who is eleven popes before Pius XXIII. She thinks that Pius XII ought to have let Hitler stick around and practice. He'd come around, eventually. After all, he was just going through a less orthodox time in his Catholic life. It had lasted 40 years, but who are we to judge? We can't know what was in Hitler's heart, not really. Why should Hitler or someone in his campaign have sought counsel on Catholic protocol? Pius XII would just have demurred and said, "What they do, is really their business and not ours. Obviously, we run the spectrum in the Catholic Church, from people who feel very annoyed with Nazis to brownshirts who scrawl Juden Raus! on shopfronts." That's the kind of tolerant, non-judgmental, inclusive Church Melinda wants, even if she doesn't realize it because she's too dazzled by this Hitler's ability to do so much good for the country, balancing the budget, providing universal health care, building autobahns, etc. There are people who say Pius XII spoke out against the evil which a powerful politician and his followers represented, and there are people who say Pius XII didn't speak out, or didn't speak out loudly enough. But Melinda Henneberger is the first person I've come across who believes that Pius XII shouldn't have said anything at all.

For some, this willingness to meet people where they are amounts to an acknowledgment that the clerical sex scandals have undermined the bishops' ability to lead. But McCarrick disagrees. "You have conversations that are compassionate but clear. You're not doing anyone a favor if you're not clear.'' Which is why we demur and say, "What you do, is really your business and not ours."
Who could possibly be worried about undermining that kind of leadership?

He seems confident that the church as a whole is ready to move beyond the scandals now. But, he said, "You can only move forward if the people believe that we appreciate the harm that's been done, and understand the sadness and the betrayal.'' And if you don't know where Melinda is going by now, you should. But her dog won't hunt, nosir.

"We've had this trauma, but we can't stay in darkness; that's the whole Easter message. We're an Easter people and Alleluia is our song,'' he said, quoting Augustine. Throughout the trial that the scandal has been to all American Catholics, that song sometimes seemed impossible to sing. The wounds will not heal quickly, and they are sure to be ripped open occasionally, too. Only last week, a 72-year-old priest in Orange County, California was removed from the ministry after pleading guilty to molesting a 15-year-old girl as he sat with her in the back seat of a car—while her parents rode up front.And only last year, John Kerry voted for a "sense of the Senate" declaration which said: "The decision of the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade was appropriate and secures an important constitutional right should not be overturned" -- while parents were at that moment driving their unborn children to abortion clinics.

A few Sundays ago, Robert S. Bennett, who chaired the independent lay review board investigating the crisis, came to my parish in Georgetown to field questions about the group's final report, which found that at least 10,000 children had been abused over half a century while bishops — consumed by the fear of exactly the kind of scandal they eventually created — consistently protected the predators. Protected them from what, Melinda? Public exposure? Consequences? Being "turned away"? The kind of things you and Cardinal McCarrick think John Kerry ought to be protected from! You're getting warm when you link these issues, but they don't give you the absolution you're looking for. Which is more likely -- that a hierarchy which refuses to protect born children from fear of controversy will refuse to protect unborn children for the same unworthy motive, or that a hierarchy afraid to protect born children will make excuses about pastoral responses and ultimately cower when unborn lives are at stake? You know which one's more likely, and so do some of the Bishops.

Of course, the place was packed for that meeting, and Bennett gamely took one hot question after another—on celibacy, homosexuality, the role of women in the church. Yet somehow, on Easter morning, I looked around the same worshipspace, which is where Catholics go to receive the sacrament formerly known as "confession" which was once again completely filled, and saw an Easter people, singing "The Strife is O'er'' like they meant it. And after all we've been through, they all looked like "real'' Catholics to me.And who is talking about denying them communion, Melinda? Are some of them abortionists who publicly support abortion? Racists who publicly support racism? Pedophiles who publicly support pedophilia? If so, they should be denied communion -- if, that is, an "Easter People" stands for anything besides white chocolate bunny rabbits. If things are looking up after the scandal, then it's God's ability to bring good from evil -- the Bishops have seen what a failure of public, principled, moral leadership can do to the Church. They saw what happened when other Bishops refused to rock the boat, make public waves, suffer ridicule and contumely, preferring instead to take the easy way out and meet pedophiles where they were, letting them stick around and practice, being all gooey and pastoral, demurring and demurring and demurring until the whole world was howling its outrage on the chancery doorstep. They could look past the baying crowd and glimpse the rough, rude Thing slouching there, taking so much delight in the fruit of their poor stewardship of God's people. Let's hope you don't succeed in persuading them to forget that lesson. Let's hope they don't demur on John Kerry, or any other predator who lets children come to harm because he finds it too uncomfortable, too constricting, to live the faith his actions mock. Let's hope your way of thinking doesn't give that rough, rude Thing yet another chance to bray his unholy laugh, across a pile of dead infants, at a bunch of cowering bishops who knew, and -- once again -- did nothing.

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