Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Fair Enough: Viguerie Says What?...One-Liners…Why Catholics Pause Before Criticizing a Bishop…Congratulations Once Again, Frank Nofsinger and Now Some Political Trivia.



Richard Viguerie the conservative mailing list king has pronounced that if Rudy Giuliani gets the Republican nomination for president, millions of conservatives would leave the Republican party. Just a note about Viguerie. He claims to been the first to computerize mailing lists. Maybe so but I have never known nor met anyone who has profited more monetarily from his identification of conservative with the least voluntarism for the movement than Dick Viguerie…nor anyone with the coldest eyes, loudest mouth and most vulgar pomposity to believe that with his every utterance he speaks for all conservatives. This guy has been known to shut down promising campaigns in lieu of getting paid even if the paycheck is sworn to be coming, albeit late. That’s his business as a successful businessman, making big bucks off the movement, but let nobody allege that he ranks with the conservative leadership of the caliber of William F. Buckley, Paul Weyrich, Grover Norquist, Phyllis Schlafly, Ed Feulner and a host of other greats. I can list a host of Illinois leaders in that group.

Viguerie’s warning is self-contradictory. If Giuliani gets nominated, he will have to have satisfied a good many social conservatives—else he could not have gotten the nomination given their preponderance in the Republican party. He will not be successful in his quest for the presidential nomination if he doesn’t change on abortion and gay marriage/rights: it’s as simple as that. Romney has changed and rather than disrespect it, I support it: recognition of the essential rightness of a position in order to get elected if for no other reason.


Jim Baker is passing the word that he canned Rudy Giuliani from the Iraq Study Group because Rudy missed two meetings and was late for a third: which was the best favor he could have done for the former New York mayor—sparing him from the group which has made all the impact of a mashed potato sandwich and whose report could have damaged his candidacy…The Barack Obama “scandal” involving his having named an intern from Glenview at the suggestion of Tony Rezko is—face it—a non-story and represents at the most an attempt by the Hillary Clinton forces to tar Obama and at the least not even a microscopic blip on the radar screen—this in contrast to the very serious Rezko matter concerning Obama’s own property…the conclusion being that if conservatives dwell on this internship non-story, they are petty in the extreme…

An Israeli businessman is charging that Jim Baker’s law firm skirted an early embargo placed on Iraq to enable a South Korean client to collect bills: if this is true, it is scurrilous…Recriminations are brewing against Sen. Elizabeth Dole who as head of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee approved TV commercials for Senate incumbents that (a) either didn’t help or (b) worsened conditions for them which leads to the conclusion (maybe unjust) that although I’ve watched the lady for a long time, ever since she began as an assistant to Virginia Knauer, Nixon’s consumer affairs director up through two cabinet posts to the U. S. Senate and Republican Campaign Committee chief, nothing I’ve seen exceeds the routine ordinary: in thought, originality, deeds: just that I’ve never, ever been impressed…

A game of perceptions played with the public the gullible one concerns Todd Stroger’s alleged cut of 6,000 county jobs which has raised an outcry from the public unions to States Attorney Dick Devine—sufficient to convince the voters that the cuts are draconian and against the public interest, letting Stroger off the hook on his pledge to slash government and allowing the game to go on as usual.

The Pause that Reflects.

As a correspondent for a Catholic newspaper known for its fidelity to Church doctrine but not as slavishly acting the a house organ for the bishops, “The Wanderer,” I’ve done more than my share of criticizing some U. S. bishops including, at times, my own. In doing so, one runs the risk of either winning undue praise from those who wish the Church ill and criticism from toe-the-line dogmatists who believe any criticism of a crosier-bearer is sacrilege. Now I’m asked what my personal guidelines are before leveling such criticism as writer for the oldest national Catholic weekly in the U. S. The best I’ve seen comes from “This Rock,” the invaluable monthly magazine of apologetics and evangelization which I devour cover-to-cover.

Leveling any criticism of a bishop is different—far different—from criticizing a priest or politician and, frankly, always causes me spiritual misgiving. That is because, to a believing Catholic, a bishop is not just a representative of the pope nor an authority apart from the pope, but holds his office with the mandate to exercise authority in the name of Christ as a legitimate successor of the apostles. Pretty potent stuff. That’s because the Church isn’t governed directly from Rome with the local bishop the intermediary. Christ built his Church literally on the foundation of the apostles and the routine has been since the start…and since I can remember…that one’s bishop, regardless of his personal failings and faults, is the boss. The bishop, we are instructed, receives the fullness of the sacrament of orders on his ordination consisting of three powers.

The first is the power of administering the sacraments—all of them—including the power to ordain other men as bishops. The second is the right to teach authoritatively and share in the Church’s divine guidance to communicate revealed truth. The third is the right to govern and direct his charges according to the norms of worship and conduct binding on the faithful. These are enormously powerful duties all traced to scenes like Christ’s appearance to the disciples as recorded by John [20:20-23]: “Receive the holy spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those who sins you retain, they are retained.” This means what we are living in as Catholics ain’t a democracy, folks—which should give people like me reason to pause and reflect…as we do.

His words to his apostles clearly confers in them powers, not as mere delegates but as bishops. As St. Ignatius of Antioc wrote in the 2nd century: “When you submit to the bishop as you would to Jesus Christ, it is clear to me that you are living not in the manner of men but as Jesus Christ.”

So, where do you come down, then, as an individual Catholic or journalist or as leader of a group within the Church who sees flagrant derelictions in the Church that are clearly being winked at by bishops: the gay carnival being conducted at DePaul, for instance? Just shrug and say the bishops have no power to interfere? But they do. Leon Suprenant, president of Catholics United for the Faith, a group founded to seek rectification for excesses that crept into the liturgy and church governance through misinterpretations, willful and otherwise, of Vatican II, cites in “This Rock” that critics should behave like Noah’s righteous sons who covered their father’s nakedness not withstanding his drunkenness, “we should take appropriate action while remaining very conscious of the harm caused by publicly airing our grievances against our spiritual fathers.” Cover their nakedness, yes, but when they allow laxity to endanger others particularly youth?

Does covering for bishops mean that we should write a letter to the home offices at the local chancery or Rome—from which there could very likely be no response as has been the case of Catholic Citizens of Illinois as the president of Catholic Citizens of Illinois, Mary Anne Hackett who wrote and has waited-waited-waited with no response: the non-courtesy of which very frankly drives me up the wall? No, the third point Suprenant makes is Code 212 of Canon Law which says “In accord with the knowledge, competence and preeminence that they possess [the laity] have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters that pertain to the good of the Church, and they have a right to make their opinion known to the other Christian faithful”—but that’s not all. The Code continues: “…with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and relevance toward their pastors and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons.”

While we should be deferential, at the same time, clerical authorities here and abroad might at the very least jolly well answer their mail. It is all well and good for those who believe deferentiality to whatever a bishop does is the correct procedure but in some cases supineness means cowardice. There is no reason under the canopy of God’s blue sky that a bishop cannot…and should not…publicly complain about the festivities in celebration of gay perversion going on at DePaul and Loyola. I suspect I shall hear a rejoinder that no one made me a bishop so why don’t I shut up—and just pray about it. Praying must be done anyhow but when stiff correction goes unnoticed or dismissed, other means are needed—as for example now.

Congratulations, Frank!

On the right names of the two presidents who were born with different ones from which they were ultimately known: Gerald Ford was born Leslie Lynch King, Jr. and Bill Clinton was William Jefferson Blythe IV. For that done without search engines is truly impressive. A number of you came close but Frank was first with the goods.

The other questions were very difficult, too difficult probably…for had I not stumbled on them as artifacts in history and pondered over them, I wouldn’t have known. There is a splendid but little known (unfortunately) book called “History Goes to the Movies” by Joseph Roquemore [Main Street: Doubleday, 1999] that was called to my attention by a publishing friend of mine. On “Becket” there are several purposeful errors to make the film more dramatic. In the film Becket is made a Saxon to contrast with Norman oppressor Henry: wrong. The storybook makes Becket out to be a libertine until his ordination as bishop whereas history instructs us that he took the vow of chastity as a young man and never broke it. Finally, the film shows Henry II ordering his barons to murder Becket—no, it was an expressed wish not an order: “Can no one free me of this lowborn priest?”

On “Union Pacific” which I saw as a kid in 1939, Leland Stanford takes up a hammer to hit the golden spike and misses prompting loud spectator laughter—which is accurate. It was unfair to hit you with those obscure things but let’s regard them as mere warm-ups for better questions…such as these two (don’t use search-engines):

Both pertain to the month of January which is coming up. On January 14, 1963, George Wallace takes the oath as governor of Alabama and in his inauguration address issued a famous broadside of two words which rang through the country. What were the two words?

The first president to be sworn into office on January 20 did so because of a change in the Constitution. Before the change, the date was always March 4. Who was the first president to be sworn in on January 20 and for bragging rights what year?


  1. When I think of the name: Gerald Ford, all I can think of is a mushy moderate, a go along to get along politician who put a logjam in the path of Ronald Reagan while pardoning "Tricky Dick". Ford's presidency was to put it in one word: BLAH. Oh don't forget those WIN buttons!

    And then there was that democrat who happily on Ford's defeat passed out PEANUTS.

    So lets skip the big funeral in Washington for Gerald and chalk it up to one big SO WHAT........

  2. Lovie's LeatherDecember 27, 2006 at 7:39 AM

    Gerald Ford was the most decent, nicest man to ever hold the office of the presidency. No matter how well you think he did as president, today is the day to honor a great man who was America's accidental president. Louis, today is a day to honor the dead, debate whatever crap you want to debate tomorrow.

  3. Franklin Roosevelt - 1937

    A great year! I was born 91 days later--

  4. If bishops responded to all correspondence, they soon would be doing nothing else. They do read their mail, however, and the sentiments and situations mentioned do register. I've known them to act on my correspondence without ever acknowledging it, as in the case of a wiccan retreat that was going to be held in a retreat house of the Diocese of Rockford. I wrote the bishop. The retreat was cancelled. No one officially informed me. It isn't a tennis match where your opponent jumps over the net to congratulate you.

    Effective letters will a)be one page only, b) cite the name, address and phone number of the offending pastor, priest or person, c) cite the date, place and nature of the offense, d) cite the transgressed canon, e) ask for a specific remedy. The tone should be matter of fact, and esp avoid all sarcasm, irony, invective, calumny etc.

    Advice can be had by contacting the St. Joseph Foundation.

  5. Also, my understanding is that when a bishop does respond to specific correspondence, this signals his intention to see the matter through. Obviously, therefore, he cannot respond to all correspondence. Also, parenthetically, it is not a political, but a canonical and pastoral office, so that a cause is not buttressed but rather undermined by letter writing campaigns.

    With regard to Cdl George, if he had fit instruments at hand to implement sound policy and remedy terrible situations, he would do so, but he does not. The layman thinks that it would be sufficient for the Cardinal Archbishop simply to give an indication of his will for the loyal and well formed priests of the Archdiocese to hop to and implement it. Unfortunately, he was not handed this sort of presbyterate on his arrival here. If situations do not change, that does not mean he made no attempt, but quite possibly that he was ignored or disobeyed. About five years ago I heard my pastor mentioning to our deacon that pastors of parishes were simply refusing to leave their old parishes in response to new assignments from the chancery. Yes, if Cdl George were St. Charles Borromeo, things would be quite different by now. He is not a great saint, however, just an excellent Cardinal and archbishop for whom we should pray very much.