Benedictions: The Pope in America

Pope%20and%20Jesus.jpgIt is summed up in a response recounted by Father Jim Martin, a Jesuit and author who posts (and edits) at America magazine’s blog. Father Martin has a post on “Three Unreported Papal Stories” from last month’s visit. The third is the payoff:

Third: Another priest friend serving as a secretary to one of the local bishops reported on a private dinner with the pope and a few bishops. At the end of the meal, Benedict asked those gathered together to pray for him. “For what intention, Holy Father?” said one. “That I may never get in the way of Jesus Christ.”

Sounds obvious? And easy? Not necessarily so.

It seems that the former Reagan adviser and Catholic conservative legal scholar from Pepperdine, Doug Kmiec–heretofore a man with impeccable judicial and pro-life credentials–has been barred from communion for his support for Barack Obama. In a posting yesterday, Kmiec did not give details, but wrote that “recently at a Mass before a dinner speech to Catholic business leaders, a very angry college chaplain excoriated my Obama-heresy from the pulpit at length and then denied my receipt of communion.”
This is stunning, though perhaps not so surprising, not only because of the impassioned nature of the abortion debate, but because the splits within the Catholic Church and the hierarchy have led prelates like Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis to encourage priests and eucharistic ministers to take this kind of action on their own initiative. That is almost like encouraging guerilla tactics against perceived foes, and in the backyard of your brother bishops, something most bishops I suspect will frown upon, to say the least.
This really broadens the field of battle for the coming campaign. Kmiec is a familiar face, but he’s not exactly a presidential candidate. If pundits are going to be barred from communion, the bar for virtual excommunication is pretty low. So I’m off to scrub my previous blog posts praising Obama…
Via dotCommonweal.

A story in today’s New York Times about a Buddhist couple–he’s a monk–who have vowed never to have sex, but also never to be more than 15 feet from each other:

“It forces you to deal with your own emotions so you can’t say, ‘I’ll take a break,’ ” said Mr. Roach, 55, who trained in the same Tibetan Buddhist tradition as the Dalai Lama. After becoming a monk in 1983, he trained on-and-off in a Buddhist monastery for 20 years, and is one of a handful of Westerners who has earned the title of geshe, the rough equivalent of a religious doctorate. “You are in each other’s faces 24 hours a day,” he said. “You must deal with your anger or your jealousy.” Ms. McNally said, “From a Buddhist perspective, it purifies your own mind.” Ms. McNally is 35 and uses the title of Lama, or teacher, an honor not traditionally bestowed on women by the Tibetan orders.

Okay, everyone jumps on Catholic notions and tales of purity and sex. But even Abelard and Heloise had the good sense to live in different convents. I have no problem with celibacy. A little solitude now and again is indispensible, however.

Exactly a month after wrapping himself in Pope Benedict XVI’s copious mantle by welcoming the pontiff with a star-spangled White House gala, George W. Bush seems to have forgotten his catechism. In Israel today, Bush used the ocassion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Jewish state to…bash his domestic political opponent, of course. Bush took aim at Barack Obama, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, by painting him as a Nazi appeaser. Nice:

“Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along,” Mr. Bush said. “We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.” We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”

Of course, Bush was doing his own appeasement by playing to a receptive audience. And never mind the old rule (Godwin’s Law, more or less) that when you resort to Nazi analogies you’ve already lost the argument. It would also be best to forget that Bush is negotiating with the North Koreans, who he said he would never negoitiate with, and is talking to the Iranians, and has conveniently forgotten about the guy behind 9/11, and will give the Chinese a big hug during the Olympics despite their persecution of Christians and Tibetan Buddhists…But I digress.
More to the point, think back last month when Bush welcomed the pope by quoting Benedict’s favorite church figure (St. Augustine, which Bush pronounced like the city in Florida) and stealing his favorite lines (having abandoned “culture of life”–John Paul’s refrain–for Ratzinger’s favorite, the “dictatorship of relativism”) and endorsing the pope’s message of love and the need to live in the world “in mutual support.” The two later discussed the Iraq war–which Cardinal Ratzinger and John Paul and the Catholic Church as a whole–opposed, and agreed on the need “to confront terrorism with appropriate means that respect the human person and his or her rights.”
In his address, Benedict spoke of the importance of the United Nations, where he was to speak two days later, and a body whose advice Bush also rejected in the run-up to war. At the General Assembly in New York, Benedict made a plea–consistent with church teaching and other papal addresses there–for pursuing dialogue above all:

“What is needed is a deeper search for ways of pre-empting and managing conflicts by exploring every possible diplomatic avenue, and giving attention and encouragement to even the faintest sign of dialogue or desire for reconciliation.”

That sounds like what Bush would call ‘appeasement.” And one wonders how Bush’s latest comments fit in with the characterizations of him as “speaking Catholic” (Mary Ann Glendon) or as “the first Catholic president,” in the words of Rick Santorum and his fellow travelers.