The press, the politicians, the think-tankers and the PBS corps of opinion-giving, plagiarizing historians might want to think about toughening up and taking another look at organized religion as it affects our public life. They may have to undergo a few weeks of insensitivity training to get their elbows sharp enough to dig into the subject.
If they ever do tear themselves away from dishing out their formula of patriotism and pabulum, they may want to turn their attention to Boston and the paroxysm of scandal that has enveloped the Roman Catholic Archdiocese there. As of this writing, the names of 80 priests accused of pederasty have been given to the police by Bernard Law, the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston. The archbishop is the object of widespread disgust, since it’s believed that he protected some of these men, who thus were able to force themselves on yet more boys. As if that weren’t enough, the suspicion is rife that Cardinal Law may be hiding yet more priestly sex criminals.
Whatever the truth about Cardinal Law’s honesty, the question asking to be addressed is: Why Boston? Is it something in the drinking water? Or is this a situation which obtains in Roman Catholic dioceses across the country? There certainly have been enough cases here and there of chicken-hawking Catholic clergymen these past few years to make a person wonder if the shortage of seminarians has led church authorities to ordain a bunch of louche homosexuals. We don’t know that for a fact, but the mere suspicion puts a terrible shadow across the decent clergymen, as well as putting off and frightening a certain number of lay people, who are going to make it a point to keep their children clear of Catholic rectories until what’s going on inside the American Catholic Church is made clear for all to see. Given the inept, defensive and shifty behavior of much of that church’s hierarchy, it may be a long time before Catholics and non-Catholics alike know what the hell is going on.
Some people may say this is nobody’s business but the Catholic Church’s or the Catholic laity’s, but you can’t sustain that position when President Faith-Based wants to put new billions into religious institutions, many of which are Roman Catholic. This also affects the school-voucher question. If Catholic institutions are a hideout for immoral clerics, all but the most P.C. parents would have second thoughts about sending their sons to schools where they may get hit on by older men.
The worst fears may not be justified, but we’re not going to know unless somebody does some systematic looking, and nobody’s going to do any looking if the people at the nation’s microphones are too craven to bring the subject up.
And talking about craven and P.C. flapdoodle, there is the Muslim question. These past months, we’ve heard our War President repeatedly tell the nation that Muslims want what we non-Muslims want and have the same values that we non-Muslims have. Yeah, well, how does he know? Why do I have this sneaking suspicion that George Bush has no more read the Koran than I have? I don’t know what Muslims believe. I don’t know if their religion is antithetical to our kind of democracy–I really don’t know anything about them. But I do know the evidence is mounting that some mosques are recruiting places for murder and treason. I do know that a disturbing number of Muslim clergy are mixed up in death and destruction.
I don’t know what we should do about it. We don’t want to thump on the innocent. We do want to protect freedom of religion, but we also want to protect ourselves. Does that mean we should consider infiltrating undercover police into mosques? That’s a low business and an ignoble one, so not for the first time we are up against defending democracy without using undemocratic means to do it. As we learned from the years of the communist conspiracy, that can be hard to do, but we can’t be idiots. We can’t take George Bush’s word for what’s going on in the Muslim world. This is a man whose intelligence services have demonstrated on Afghanistan that they can’t tell the difference between shit and Shinola. Hard questions must be asked, and asked in public.
Other hard questions must be asked regarding certain Christian and Jewish organizations. Are their activities involving the United States in situations overseas that are not in the national interest, and which may cost us dear in money and lives? This needs public airing as well. Why should the United States, for instance, extricate missionaries who get into trouble, as we’re doing in the Philippines? The re-introduction of American soldiers there by the former colonial power has not been greeted with universal enthusiasm. Whether they’re from the snake-handling denominations or the less exuberant Christian groups, missionaries–operating under the cloak of feeding the hungry and caring for the sick–cause trouble and resentment wherever they present their smiling faces. Other people will buy our Coca-Cola, but not our religions. Is it not time to tell these busybodies–and the secular cultural missionaries, too–that they are on their own? Tell them when they sally forth, Bible in hand, to tuck the cash for ransom in their money belts or get ready for the stew pot.
We can thank certain Jewish groups for getting and keeping us enmeshed in the nightmare that is the endless Israeli situation. No one can say for certain the extent to which our involvement in that perpetual blood bath, or the “peace process,” has brought the terrorists down on our heads, but there is no doubt that Americans have given their lives in a dubious battle which has no end in sight, and which nobody is trying to end.
This is yet another religiously touchy topic that few care to bring up in public lest they be called anti-Semitic, but how long is this to go on? How many more are to die? How much more money is to be lost in what is beginning to look like a minus -zero-sum game?
The list of things we dare not think or say has grown too long for our own good.