Pope Francis got his saints half right

Sam Smith I suppose it’s none of my business, but if you had as many Catholic roommates and friends as I did as a young guy, it sort of wears off on you. And one of the things you pick up is that it’s alright to talk about it.

So I can tell you that I thought Pope John XXIII was really cool, and that Pope Paul II was just another one of those rightwing pompous Vatican prigs.

Pope John XXIII came along when I was a junior in college. I was a beret wearing, cigarillo smoking drummer who considered the way the rules had been set up to be pretty crummy but also pretty immutable. Nothing was happening in America so for the Vatican to start dumping part of its past was remarkable.

I wasn’t the only one. In his memoir Joseph Califano, later in LBJ’s cabinet, talks about the excitement in New York City when the new pope called for more lay involvement in the church. A few years earlier, his friend Ed Rice had started Jubilee, “a magazine of the church and her people” with help of others like a Trappist monk named Thomas Merton and articles by people like Jack Kerouac, whose book On the Road was published one year before Pope John took over.

It was a time when so little was happening that even a better pope could be considered your friend.

When Pope Francis came in, I wrote:

The church these days is widely seen for its failings, including its treatment of women and gays. But largely forgotten are times when there were those in the church seeking and practicing an approach that appealed far beyond the bells and towers.

For example in the early 1940s, a worker priest movement sprung up in France. As Time magazine described it later, the church was “putting young priests into secular clothes and letting them work in factories, to regain the confidence of the French working class, which [had] almost completely abandoned the Catholic faith.”

In 1945 Pope Piux XII reluctantly approved the idea but by the 1950s, reports Wikipedia, “the worker-priest movement fell out of favor with the Vatican due to their role in left-wing politics and perceived abandonment of the traditional priesthood. The worker priest movement was ‘severely constrained.…

“The French bishops informed the worker-priests that they must return to their parishes. About 50, however, chose to stay on at their work. Moreover, by 1953, of some 90 priests, 10 had married, and about 15 were working with the communists. ”The Pope sent verbal orders that the movement be suppressed, but the French cardinals managed to persuade the Pope to allow the worker-priests to continue ‘in principle,’ after some major changes in the setup.”

“In November 1953, all worker priests were recalled and required to leave their work and unions…. In 1963, priests were allowed to return to the industrial workplaces, and in the 1990s there were about 2,000 priests of the workers mission in France, although they were ageing in line with the wider population of Catholic priests in that country.

“However, the worker priests had gained certain insights about the alienation of the Church from the modern world and the poor from their experience as workers. These had been shared with many others including the bishops by means of letters, newsletters, books and meetings and the then Papal Nuncio to France, Archbishop Angelo Roncalli. When Roncalli became Pope John XXIII in 1958, he called the Second Vatican Council, at least partly as a result of what the worker priests had revealed. During that council, the French and Belgian bishops in particular were very influential in shaping its direction towards renewal and engagement with the modern world.”

To American activists involved in the 1960s, it was not strange to find oneself working closely with former or active priests.

And then there were ones you read about, like the Berrigan brothers, two priests put on the FBI’s most wanted list in 1968 for their anti-war protests.

It didn’t matter what one’s own religious or secular views were. If you were anti-war or pro civil rights, the godly were on your side. The theological issues you put aside for later.

By 1970, for Catholics it got even more so. Father Robert Drinan was elected to Congress from Massachusetts. He became the first member of Congress to introduce a referendum calling for the impeachment of Richard Nixon, was strongly anti-war and, yes, pro-abortion as a legal matter while being personally opposed.

If you like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren you would have loved Robert Drinan. And he wasn’t alone. In 1975, Wisconsin elected Father Robert Cornell as a member of the House after he had served for five years as chair of the Eighth District Democratic Party. On top of that, there was Gino Baroni, a priest who organized the Catholics for the March on Washington and became assistant secretary of housing under Carter. And another, Father Ray Kemp, was elected to serve on the DC school board. Kemp, a native Washingtonian who had worked with Saul Alinsky, went through the 1968 riots that included his church’s neighborhood. He was hit with police tear gas more than ten times during that period.

Then in 1980, things changed radically in the vast territories known as America and the Catholic Church. In the former, the great counter American revolution that is still underway was launched by corporatist toy boy Ronald Reagan. And in the Vatican, Pope John Paul II told all priests to get out of politics.

For both Americans and Catholics the party was over.

Which is why I squirmed when I heard of Pope John and Pope Paul being named saints at the same time. One had opened the door. The other had shut it. And that was before you get into things like the latter’s handling of church sex abuse and the Italian bank scandals.

As John Allen wrote in the Boston Globe, “In the Catholic street, John XXIII is an icon of the left, remembered as the pope who launched the reforming Second Vatican Council and opened the Church to the modern world. John Paul II is a hero to the right, the pope who brought down Communism, who fought what he called a ‘culture of death’ behind liberalizing currents on abortion and other life issues, and who insisted on strong Catholic identity vis-à-vis secular pressures to water down the faith.”

A story in the Guardian, noted, “When, last year, Francis announced the double canonization of the two very different popes, it was widely seen as a bid to give both sets of admirers something to cheer about.”

That was something politicians did all the time, but I thought there were higher standards for sainthood.

For me, Pope John had dramatically changed my mind about the Catholic Church for the better, and Pope Paul had turned it back again. Which Is why I was glad to learn about a new pope named Francis even if he only gets his saints half right.

At last, a cool Pope

Sam Smith

The Catholic Church, like the United States, is a vast territory in which good and evil live comfortably and both claim possession. But just as neither Ted Cruz nor Bernie Sanders sufficiently defines America, so does neither the church’s discrimination against women nor its liberation theology.

Such conflicts make many uncomfortable especially in a fundamentalist era in which the religious, the political, the corporate and the social tend to demand a moral uniformity that fits well in a news sound bite or a pulpit pitch but fails in most other regards.

Thus the church these days is widely seen for its failings, including its treatment of women and gays. But largely forgotten are times when there were those in the church seeking and practicing an approach that appealed far beyond the bells and towers.

For example in the early 1940s, a worker priest movement sprung up in France. As Time magazine described it later, the church was “putting young priests into secular clothes and letting them work in factories, to regain the confidence of the French working class, which [had] almost completely abandoned the Catholic faith.”

In 1945 Pope Piux XII reluctantly approved the idea but by the 1950s, reports Wikipedia, “the worker-priest movement fell out of favor with the Vatican due to their role in left-wing politics and perceived abandonment of the traditional priesthood. The worker priest movement was ‘severely constrained.”… Many of the priests joined in campaigns for improved pay and conditions and the movement became prominent in the industrial unrest of 1952 and 1953. This resulted in the factory owners complaining to the Catholic Church that the priests were being divisive by supporting the unions.

“The French bishops informed the worker-priests that they must return to their parishes. About 50, however, chose to stay on at their work. Moreover, by 1953, of some 90 priests, 10 had married, and about 15 were working with the communists.”The Pope sent verbal orders that the movement be suppressed, but the French cardinals managed to persuade the Pope to allow the worker-priests to continue ‘in principle,’ after some major changes in the setup.”

“In November 1953, all worker priests were recalled and required to leave their work and unions…. In 1963, priests were allowed to return to the industrial workplaces, and in the 1990s there were about 2,000 priests of the workers mission in France, although they were ageing in line with the wider population of Catholic priests in that country.

“However, the worker priests had gained certain insights about the alienation of the Church from the modern world and the poor from their experience as workers. These had been shared with many others including the Bishops by means of letters, newsletters, books and meetings and the then Papal Nuncio to France, Archbishop Angelo Roncalli. When Roncalli became Pope John XXIII in 1958, he called the Second Vatican Council, at least partly as a result of what the worker priests had revealed. During that Council, the French and Belgian Bishops in particular were very influential in shaping its direction towards renewal and engagement with the modern world.”

To American activists involved in the 1960s, it was not strange to find oneself working closely with former or active priests.

And then there were ones you read about, like the Berrigan brothers, two priests put on the FBI’s most wanted list in 1968 for their anti-war protests.

They weren’t alone. Just as the story of Catholic politics was vastly different at the time so was Protestant church activism. In 1960s Washington, the preachers were everywhere. Episcopal Reverend Jesse Anderson helped to kick off the DC statehood movement. When I covered an anti-poverty meeting there would often be the Baptist Rev. Frank Milner, part preacher and part cab driver. And there was the Presbyterian, Rev. Tom Torosian, handcuffed by police at a protest and giving me a grin as I slipped a twenty for bail into his coat pocket.

One of my activist friends was an ex-priest married to an ex-nun who kept telling me to go easier on the Pope. I once got an unrequested grant from a Lutheran church to start a community newspaper. I came to think of Jews as belonging to one of three sects: Orthodox, Reform or Liberal Democrat, with the latter clearly the strongest. And when I was a member of the DC Humanities Council, we happily funded a film on liberation theology right under the nose of the conservative national humanities chair William Bennett.

It didn’t matter what one’s own religious or secular views were. If you were anti-war or pro civil rights, the godly were on your side. The theological issues you put aside for later.

By 1970, for Catholics it got even more so. Father Robert Drinan was elected to Congress from Massachusetts. He became the first member of Congress to introduce a referendum calling for the impeachment of Richard Nixon, was strongly anti-war and, yes, pro-abortion as a legal matter while being personally opposed.

If you like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren you would have loved Robert Drinan. And he wasn’t alone. In 1975, Wisconsin elected Father Robert Cornell as a member of the House after he had served for five years as chair of the Eighth District Democratic Party. On top of that, there was Gino Baroni, a priest who organized the Catholics for the March on Washington and became assistant secretary of housing under Carter. And another, Father Ray Kemp, was elected to serve on the DC school board. Kemp, a native Washingtonian who would work with Saul Alinsky, had gone through the 1968 riots that included his church’s neighborhood. He was hit with police tear gas more than ten times during that period.

Then in 1980, things changed radically in the vast territories known as America and the Catholic Church. In the former, the great Counter American Revolution that is still underway was launched by corporatist toy boy Ronald Reagan. And in the Vatican, Pope John Paul II told all priests to get out of politics.

For both Americans and Catholics the party was over.

In 2006 I described my frustration:

The death of the activist minister, William Sloane Coffin, propels a troubling question to the front of my mind: where have all the cool preachers gone?

It may seem an odd query for a Seventh Day Agnostic but I have always enjoyed a happy if inconsistent relationship with those of the cloth. Besides, we are all members of what Weber called the pariah intelligentsia, including teachers, ministers, writers, intellectuals and activists. In other words, moral outsiders of supposed integrity, passion, and faith providing guidance to a market, politics, and culture that would often just as soon do without it.

These days, however, religionists – as least as they appear in the media – seem dominated by people-slaying dogmatists, thought-slaying propagandists, morality-slaying hustlers and hypocrites, not to mention those whose supposed spiritual concerns are merely tools to strengthen their growing role as political insiders.

There are Islamic jihadists, a Judaism indentured to cynical and cruel Israeli governments, a Pope more concerned with punishing the views of American politicians than dealing with the personal habits of some of his own priests, and Christian evangelists delivering to rightwing politicians an economically endangered flock that has been sold the absurd apostasy that abortion and gay weddings are more important than pensions or healthcare….

Oh, I know you’re out there, Reverend Dude. That’s not my point. My point is that the system and its media only cares these days about religionists who are out to kill, control, or defeat someone. The worker priests, the cool preachers, the progressive rabbis are still there but struggling in a wilderness of silence and indifference.

It’s not my beat to tell you how to change this. I’ve got enough problems of my own to worry about. But I just wanted to let you know that I miss you badly

Which helps to explain why someone like me can get excited over the arrival of a motorcycling, ex bouncer turned Pope named Francis who sneaks out of the Vatican at night to care for the homeless and says things like this”

Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills….As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”

One who says, “It is not necessary to talk about these issues [like abortion and gay marriage] all the time; The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent.”

Yes, the church remains miles from sanity on these issues, but it is also blessed by an appreciation of human imperfection, even its own. Which is why its parishioners get to wash their moral hands in a lavatory known as a confessional before being blessed.

I have lived around enough Catholics to appreciate the church’s capacity for covert pragmatism. Like the young woman about to marry a non-Catholic asking her mother, “What should I tell the priest when he wants to know if we’re going to raise our children as Catholics?” And her Italian born mother putting her hand on her daughter’s knee and saying, “Just tell him you’ll try.”

Thanks to our era of dogmatic and dictatorial divinity pursued by all the major religions, it easy to forget that religion can be a journey as well as a set of rules. And even those of us who are not participants in the journey can appreciate and encourage the return from dogma to discovery.

So welcome, Francis. It’s been a long wait.

Romney: From lying for the Lord to lying for the presidency

Sam Smith
All my life I’ve covered politicians who lie. In different ways. Richard Nixon looked like he was lying when he said “Good morning.” Joe McCarthy lied to destroy people. George Bush lied to invade Iraq. Bill Clinton lied when his back was against the wall. Barack Obama lies like a Harvard lawyer.
In recent years, I have thought of Bill Clinton as the best presidential liar. The step son of an auto salesman, Clinton’s fictions began early. For example, most Americans don’t know his family actually moved from the politically well named Hope to the mob resort of Hot Springs when he was only seven. As a Hot Spring prosecutor put it, In Hot Springs, growing up here, you were living a lie. You lived a lie because you knew that all of these activities were illegal. I mean, as soon as you got old enough to be able to read a newspaper, you knew that gambling in Arkansas was illegal, prostitution was illegal. And so you lived this lie.” Better just to say you came from Hope. But Clinton’s lies, right up to the Lewinsky incident, were largely to protect or promote himself.
And it is true that lying by the prominent has moved from being an offense to being a cultural norm. Still, I have to confess that I have been taken aback by Mitt Romney’s ability, consistency and frequency in lying. I’ve never seen anything quite like it in an American political figure.
Romney lies about the past, he lies about his opponents, he aggressively hides every truth that might be embarrassing, he conceals some things and refuses to talk about others, he changes his position on issues like they were a pair of yesterday’s socks. And through it all he maintains a plastic smile and a voice without dynamics as though it were elevator music.
The first person he reminded me of was Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman:
LINDA: How’d the Chevy run?
WILLY: Chevrolet, Linda, is the greatest car ever built.
[Later]
LINDA: No, they did a wonderful job. Then you owe Frank for the carburetor.
WILLY: I’m not going to pay that man! That goddamn Chevrolet, they ought to prohibit the manufacture of that car!
And as Charlie said of Willy: “For a salesman, there is no rock bottom to the life. He don’t put a bolt to a nut, he don’t tell you the law or give you medicine. He’s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine.”

Others have noted Romney’s love of dissembling. Michael Cohen in the Guardian wrote:

Romney persists in repeating the same lies over and over, even after they’ve been debunked. This is perhaps the most interesting and disturbing element of Romney’s tireless obfuscation: that even when corrected, it has little impact on the presumptive GOP nominee’s behavior. This is happening at a time when fact-checking operations in major media outlets have increased significantly, yet that appears to have no effect on the Romney campaign.
I admire a smooth liar, and Romney is among the best. His technique is to explain and then counterattack. He maintains the bulletproof demeanor of a man who is barely suffering fools… His message is not so much what he says, but what he is: You cannot touch me. I have the organization and the money. Especially the money. (Even the hair.) You’re a loser. 
There are those who maintain that President Obama, too, is a liar.  . . But where Romney is different is that he is not honest about himself. He could, as he did just recently, stand before the National Rifle Association as if he were, in spirit as well as membership, one of them. In body language, in the blinking of the eyes, in the nonexistent pounding pulse, there was not the tiniest suggestion that here was a man who just as confidently once embodied the anti-gun ethic of Massachusetts, the distant land he once governed. Instead, he tore into Obama for the (nonexistent) threat the president posed to Second Amendment rights — a false accusation from a false champion.
But for me, there is something else: the lies of a religious missionary. There is no place outside of a salesroom where the recitation of the unproven or untrue as undeniable truth is more acceptable than in religious huckstering and there are few religions that do it better than the Mormons. 
The media is afraid to talk about this because it will seen as not having proper respect for religion. But when religion enters politics, it must be judged like any other lobby. That’s as much respect as it should get. 
Besides, as we’ve noted in the past, Romney is not your average run-of-the-mill three hour a week Christian. When he was young he was a Mormon missionary. He went to a Mormon university, Brigham Young. He was a ward bishop, a home teacher, a church counselor, and later president over the Boston Stake, a collection of congregations with over four thousand members. He always tithed to the church, and by 2011 his family’s annual contribution was around $2 million.
What does this have to do with telling the truth? Start by checking out this remarkable video clip of a Mormon professor on how Mormons should answer questions about their faith. It should be required viewing for every campaign reporter. 
Or read this by Ken Clark on “lying for the Lord:”
I worked as a Seminary Principal/teacher, Institute teacher/Director, and Stake CES Coordinator from 1975 – 2002. My last assignment was brief. I signed a Letter of Agreement with CES to serve as the Director of the Pullman, Washington LDS Institute of Religion adjacent to Washington State University in July 2002. I resigned from CES a month later. I carry fond memories of the students, ward leaders and others I grew to respect in the LDS Church. I started this list in an effort to defend the church from its detractors. I was insulted that critics accused LDS church leaders of dishonesty. I “knew” the criticisms could not be true. . . .
I believed a list of prevarications presented in the proper context would prove that lying wasn’t actually lying. Instead the list would prove that a perceived lie was probably a misunderstanding, a remark out of context or a deliberate misinterpretation of historical events. My belief was that those who accused church leaders with deception were deceivers themselves; they twisted words and took remarks out of context. But as I read more church history my list grew, and at some point it occurred to me that a pattern of institutionalized deception had been established by Joseph Smith. Subsequent church leaders, including those who serve currently, followed Smith’s example of lying to protect the church. The growing evidence pointed to a standard practice.
Evidence presented in this essay establishes that when the church image or its leaders needed protection it was and is, okay to fib, deceive, distort, inflate, minimize, exaggerate, prevaricate or lie. You will read quotations by church leaders who admitted that deception is a useful tool to protect the church and its leaders “when they are in tight spot,” or “to beat the devil at his own game.” They admit engaging in moral gymnastics; that God approves of deception – if it’s done to protect the “Lord’s Church” or “the brethren” as the leaders are called….
D. Michael Quinn called the use of deception by LDS church leaders, “theocratic ethics.” Smith lied to protect himself or the church; which was an extension of himself. Dan Vogel in his excellent work, Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet, described Smith’s viewpoint; he was a pious deceiver. Smith used deception if in his mind; it resulted in a good outcome. Smith had Moroni, an ancient American prophet and custodian of the gold plates declare, “And whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me; for good cometh of none save it be of me. Translation: if deception was necessary to do good, or bring a soul to Christ, then it was worth it, as long as God approves. Smith believed he knew when God approved of lying.
Smith believed God also approved of murder if it was for a good cause. He wrote in the Book of Mormon that Nephi was inspired by God to deceive and capture a servant; and then murder another man in order to secure an ancient historical record on brass plates. And in Missouri, Smith and his counselor Sidney Rigdon threatened to kill Mormon’s who disagreed with Smith’s policies and initiatives . . . .
And this from Mormon Wiki:
One Mormon blogger writes, “When I was a missionary, the church’s official Missionary Guide instructed missionaries to avoid providing direct answers or solutions to investigators’ questions or concerns.” On his mission, he “fell back on rhetorical tricks or even outright denials.”….
Lying for the Lord refers to the practice of lying to protect the image of and belief in the Mormon religion, a practice which Mormonism itself fosters in various ways. From Joseph Smith’s denial of having more than one wife, to polygamous Mormon missionaries telling European investigators that reports about polygamy in Utah were lies put out by “anti-Mormons” and disgruntled ex-members, …. Mormonism’s history seems replete with examples of lying. Common members see such examples as situations where lying is justified. For the Mormon, loyalty and the welfare of the church are more important than the principle of honesty, and plausible denials and deception by omission are warranted by an opportunity to have the Mormon organization seen in the best possible light. This is part of the larger package of things that lead many to describe Mormonism as a cult. “Lying for the lord” is part of Mormonism’s larger deceptive mainstreaming tactics, and conversion numbers would drastically lower if important Mormon beliefs were fully disclosed to investigators.

Former Mormon missionary Loren Franck has listed lies he told in his work:

As a full-time Mormon missionary from 1975 to 1977, I lied for the church countless times. Like my colleagues in the South Dakota-Rapid City Mission, which served the Dakotas and adjacent areas, I spoke truthfully about my background, but touted many Mormon teachings that contradict the Bible. After my mission ended, however, I examined these doctrines more closely. The harder I tried to reconcile the contradictions, the more evident they became. So, after extensive prayer and study, I resigned my church membership in 1984…
I can’t remember all of my missionary lies. Some were small, others grandiose, but all were false and misleading. Here are ten I’ll never forget.
1. We’re Not Trying to Convert You
2. The Bible is Insufficient
3. We’re the Only True Christians
4. We’re the Only True Church
5. We Have a Living Prophet
6. The Book of Mormon is Scripture
7. You’re Saved By Works
8. People Can Become Gods
9. You’re Born Again By Becoming a Mormon
10. Temple Marriage is Required for Eternal Life
It’s not hard to understand why people come to lie for the Lord given the training given young Mormon missionaries. Writes Josh Kron of the NY Times:
An army of 52,000 young Mormons proselytize around the world, from Boise, Idaho, to Mozambique, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In modern-day Mormon culture, men are expected to take up evangelism on their 19th birthday and serve for two years; less commonly, women enlist when they turn 21. Missionary work is not mandatory, but it is popular.
It is certainly a time of sacrifice. Missionaries are slingshot into an intensive, airtight and sometimes lonely schedule of prayer, Scripture study and door-to-door proselytizing six days a week, 52 weeks a year. They are to abstain from virtually every earthly pleasure – not just the usual temptations prohibited under Mormonism, like premarital sex, alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea, but also magazines, television and music not sanctioned by the church. They can call home two days a year, on Christmas and Mother’s Day. (When suicide bombings ripped through Kampala during the 2010 World Cup, killing more than 70 people, including an American citizen, the missionaries still were not allowed a call.) E-mailing, through a secure Internet server, is for Mondays.
When you read about the Orwellian world of Mormon training and acceptance of untruths, it becomes less surprising that the religion has spawned so many break away sects that have engaged in often appalling and criminal behavior from the Mountain Meadows massacre to Warren Jeffs. So much so that the the attorneys general of Utah and Arizona last year even published a booklet entitled The Primer: A Guidebook for Law Enforcement and Human Services Agencies Who Offer Assistance to Fundamentalist Mormon Families. It noted that “a recent, informal survey indicated there are approximately 38,000 people (residing primarily in the Rocky Mountain region) who consider themselves to be Fundamentalist Mormons.”
Romney learned how to “lie for the Lord.” Now he’s he’s lying for the presidency. And no sane description of religious tolerance says that the media or the public should put up with it.

The right to be jerks

Sam Smith

There is no doubt that on the matter of birth control – not to mention the status of women and gays – the Catholic hierarchy behaves like a bunch of mean jerks.

One of the beauties of America, however, is the right to be a jerk as long as you don’t interfere with someone else’s right to be a jerk.  In more polite circles it’s called reciprocal liberty or tolerance.

But the term tolerance has all but disappeared from the the rhetoric of both left and right. This is too bad for a number of reasons including that it diminishes people’s rights, it increases their anger, and it doesn’t work. One reason it doesn’t work is because people don’t typically move from a stupid to a reasonable position as a single act of conversion; it often takes them a while during which the most effective approach is to keep them moving in the right direction.

In the case of the Catholic Church, for example,  98% of its members in America are ahead of their leaders on the issue of birth control. Now, the tone deaf Obama administration has issued birth control regulations that play right into the hands of the tone deaf Catholic hierarchy giving it a cause around which to revive itself. And, of course, it plays right into the hands of the likes of Mitt Romney who has clearly forgotten the words of the Mormon apostle Orson Pratt:

“The Roman Catholic, Greek, and Protestant church is the great corrupt ecclesiastic power, represented by great Babylon which has made all nations drunk with her wickedness, and she must fall, after she has been warned with the sound of the everlasting gospel. Her overthrow will be by a series of the most terrible judgments which will quickly succeed each other, and sweep over the nations where she has her dominion, and at last she will be utterly burned by fire, for thus hath the Lord spoken. Great, and fearful, and most terrible judgments are decreed upon these corrupt powers, the nations of modern Christendom; for strong is the Lord God who shall execute His fierce wrath upon them, and He will not cease until He has made a full end, and until their names be blotted out from under heaven.”

Before it was run by lawyers and MBAs, politics used to be a lot more like music. It wasn’t just a matter of the right notes, but the right sound, the right volume, the right rhythm and the right swing.

Having been raised on that sort of politics, my immediate reaction to the Obama birth control regulation was, “Oh shit, they blew another one.”

Then I went and Googled how far apart the Planned Parenthood offices in my nearby city of Portland, ME, were from the fine Catholic Mercy Hospital. It turns out that if you were at Mercy – where  an inquiry on its site about contraception produces “Sorry, but you are looking for something that isn’t here,” – the distance is 2.4 miles, which will take you about 5 minutes. Here’s a map in case you’re in the ‘hood and in a hurry:

I’ve long suspected that Barack Obama wasn’t much of a community organizer, because part of that skill is not in proving how righteous you are, but in helping others move in the right direction. This is an sad example of how not to do it.