Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Excommunication By Any other Name...
A virulent brouhaha has erupted here in the idyllic burgh of Staten Island, NY over the pronouncement of a local priest concerning church attendance and religious instruction.

Father Richard Chicon of St. Thomas-St. Joseph's RC Church has decided to toss 250 children out of his catechism program since they do not attend church on a regular basis. Father Chicon knows the children are not attending mass because each child was provided with a series of bar-coded envelopes to be used for the donation plate when they did show up. Having identified a whole battalion of non-churchgoers via electronic means, Father Chicon decided to make a point; you cannot come to my school for religious instruction and then not follow up by attending mass.

The Father is correct, of course, on many a level. He's also wrong on a variety of others.

I'm a product of the Catholic schools here in New York. As such, I was practically in church every day. Many of the kids who attend the catechism are not members of the church school next door. They attend public or other non-religious private schools. They attend religious training for the purposes of receiving the sacraments, for the most part. By denying these children the opportuniy to be taught church doctrine and theology, Father Chicon is simultaneously denying them the right to receive the sacraments.

Policies like this helped kick off the Protestant Reformation, you know. If the Church is supposed to be saving souls, why is it trying like the Devil to keep the souls from the instruction they require? The issue, of course, is money. Hence the bar coded envelopes.

It takes money to run the church, it's school and it's catechism program. Parents, of course, pay a fee for their children's instruction, but it's not enough. The Catholic church never has enough money, it seems. So, while the Reverand might be perfectly right in his assertion that receiving instruction and not attending mass afterwards is hypocritical, he's also wrong in selling indulgences. Which is what this amounts to.

But then again, this is also the same church which invented the concept of purgatory in order to suck money from guilty noblemen. The concept of purgatory, basically stated, was that a soul did not immediately proceed to heaven or hell upon death, but lingered in a waiting room of sorts before judgement. During that time, a borderline sould might be saved if he had enough people pray for him. So, many a rich aristocrat ponied up vast sums to have masses said for them, or candles lit in their honor, have churhces and monastaries built, or simply left everything to the chantry (litterally a fund to pray for the souls trapped in puragtory). The message was then, as it is now, if you don't pay up, we cannot vouch for the safety of your soul. Chruch policy is that only people who have been properly prepared and educated (counselled) about the sacraments can actually receive them. If you deny the counselling, you deny the sacrament. Father Chicon has reinstated the purgatory chantry.

Of course, most of the parents and children involved have little or no intention of attending mass on a regular basis. They send their children to catechism because they feel that some traditions, whether they actually mean anything anymore or not, have to be obeyed. Father Chicon is not just denying people the sacraments, he's denying them their traditions and heritage.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Bulletproof Beast...
apropos of the new Joe Klein "tell-all" about potential 2008 presidential candidate Hillary (It's Takes a village...) Clinton, I have but one thing to say to my fellow republicans: if you haven't already noticed, scandal seems to follow in this woman's wake like seagulls follow garbage scows, and after all this time, all the scandals, all the miserable, petty details, she's still dancing between raindrops. Clean that drool off your lower lips and forget Klein's book.

When it comes to shit, it just doesn't stick to Her Heinous.

To begin with, if you were expecting salacious details of tawdry business deals, steamy extra-marital affairs, White House shenanigans a plenty, then go ahead and read the book. I'm sure there's a few morsels of Bill and Hill scandals that haven't seen the light of day. Some of them might even be entertaining. However, if you're expecting one of the potential scandalous tidbits upon the printed page to jump up, come to life like a freakazoid Frankenstein's monster, and put short shrift to the apparent Heir Apparent, then forget it. Save yourself the heartache and the ulcer.

Something we should have learned from 8 years of All Clintons All the Time: it does not matter how sleazy her husband is. It doesn't matter how sleazy she is, she always manages to weasel out. So, why bother? It's not like a revelation about Hillary stealing the White House silverware would actually shock anyone (we kinda expect it), nor would anyone be surprised if it turns out it was actually the Hildebeest that ran over Buddy the White House Labrador. It's not as if people actually think the woman is nice. You can't make the charges stick, and even if you did manage to get her frock just a wee bit dirty, the media and a million supporters crawl out of the woodwork to defend her. Eventually, they talk so much, and change the subject so much, that we all forget exactly what we're talking about in the first place, and Hilly goes merrily upon her way.

Unless there's something so completely out of left field, so egregious, so disgusting, the book helps no one on my side of the isle to score political points. So drop it. Joe Klein will not be an avenging angel, a messiah delivering us from the specter of a Clinton presidency that comes equipped with it's own tits (instead of some intern's).

And I wish to God that some of my fellow 'pubbies would get the idea out of their heads that Mr. Klein's book is a godsend. Nothing in there will ever dissuade the true believers in Hillary's camp, and the rest of us are under the impression that her picture already appears besides "SCANDALOUS" in the dictionary.

Heck, we're still three years away from the election, for the love of God!

In the final analysis, if you need to formulate a strategy for beating "the smartest woman in the world" in 2008, I'll give you a start on it:

Simply let her talk. She will eventually talk herself in to a hole anyway, because she's not as smart as she thinks she is. People already see through the phony support for the troops, the zeal with which she appears to be fighting the war on terror, her sudden urge to be a fiscally responsible senator, and the session with Billy Graham. Heck, it was obvious after the last election that most democrats would be back in church the following day. In short, all this "moving to the center" nonsense that Dick Morris says she's doing is simply too transparent to even the dumbest amongst us.She can get away with it, in terms of seeming to thumb her nose at the rest of the democratic party, because she's popular (like almost-Oprah popular) with democrats and they could forgive her "moving to the center" because they know in their heart of hearts that she means none of it. The only thing they could never forgive her for would be divorcing Bill to marry Newt Gingrich.

So let her talk. Let her put her ideas (actually someone else's with her name written in crayon over them) on the table and let her defend them. More importantly, ask her for the details. Because there will be none. She'll mouth a laundry list of platitudes which will all sound so scrummy we'll ask for seconds before we've finished what's on our plate. And she'll dish out even more, so much so that we'll forget to ask what the recipe is. When someone finally calls her on that, the details, the specifics, she'll stand there like a deer caught in your headlights.

That's how you beat Hillary Clinton. You do not do it by expecting some journalist to do it for you.