The Chicago underground newspaper The Reader which I have criticized for racy terminology and subject matter is far better than either The Sun-Times or Tribor any other publication extant when it decides to ditch semi-porn and cover governmental and social issues in depth. Examples: Ben Joravsky was the first and most thorough journalist to explore the looming scandal of the TIFs: the so-called “majors” don’t even come in second. Joravsky once again scored not long ago when he revealed that despite Mayor Daley’s admonition to the public schools to cut back…they did …but not on their top executives’ raises.
For years the ranking media critic in this town has been The Reader’s Mike Miner. He used to be a reporter on the Sun-Times but I’m sure what he has learned he didn’t learn there. His feel for the journalistic profession is gimlet-eyed, somewhat sardonic but almost always right on the button. Earlier this week he dissected the controversy between Cardinal George and me and did it so evenly that I winced at times and I am sure the prelate did too.
Of course no other newspaper really touched it. Religion writers here are either seekers-seekers-seekers at the Trib where a female writer splashes about hip-deep in nihilism…or at the Pravda-Times where they outsource Catholic stuff from the ChicagoCatholicnews.com in the absence of their favored flower child Cathleen Falsani who wondered why people can’t cover abortion without that sticky emphasis on murder.
In fact that so-called ChicagoCatholicnews.com blog which purports to cover Catholic news buckled and deftly sidelined the story of the Cardinal and me—because any conservative side would contrast greatly with its flavor and lefty Catholic circa `60s ideology from columnist Marjorie Frisbie who must be my age and carries a burning vigil light in her heart for old…okay, everybody! Let’s sing another chorus of Solidarity Forever, huh?… Jack Egan—who talked a great game about Saul Alinsky and the awful meatpackers exploiters in the `30s who bludgeoned fighters for social justice like Jack from starting “Back of the Yards.”
Bludgeoned them? Msgr. Jack was home every night in time for the warm dinners at Holy Name rectory…and Alinsky did all the skull-work… but Jack sure could tell better bloody stories. Alinsky whom I met several times through an old classmate of mine he hired as his assistant, Ed Chambers, was not nearly as good a story-teller as Jack—or Saul for that matter.
Anyhow Mike Miner’s story is linked here. I’m cast as the Dragon; the Cardinal as Saint George. I’m a curmudgeon: well that’s fair. I never said or wrote George was an empty cassock and to be fair Mike Miner doesn’t quote me as saying it…but he assumes it. The president of Catholic Citizens is in there who says I’m a wonderful writer. But she’s too modest. She can sling a rhetorical spit-ball with the best of them, saying that I am “tearing down the body of Christ.” Her original statement was more graphic: I was inflicting wounds in the body of Christ by saying George is bald and short—which puts me par with the Roman soldiers on Calvary.
So read the story remembering that ever since publication of The Golden Legend by Caxton, the Dragon always came out as the heavy. In circa AD 303, in England, this particular Dragon was a pest to the region which was overwhelmingly pagan. It terrorized the whole countryside and poisoned the air with its breath. For a time it was satisfied devouring a few innocent sheep but then, as Dragons will, it sought to cultivate new tastes. The country people sought to appease the Dragon by casting lots and lo! the loser was the pagan King’s daughter, a fair pagan maiden who went to her expected fate dressed as a bride.
But George, a soldier who had been wounded fighting the Moors, appeared, attacked the Dragon with his lance, wounded it and held it captive with the pagan maiden’s girdle. Then he said that if they would embrace Catholicism and allow themselves to be baptized, he, George, would kill the Dragon. Everyone raced to the baptismal font while George, keeping his word, took on the Dragon. True to his word, George killed the Dragon and 15,000 pagans joined the Catholic Church. So read the story from The Reader whose link is here and note the similarities to the persona.
*: St. Bernadette Soubirous [1844-1879]. The story of Bernadette is very well known. As a child I used to hear the refrain “Of all the small towns I’ll never forget…Lourdes the home of Saint Bernadette.” At the age of 14, a delicate child, suffering from asthma, she experienced in the space of six months, she experienced eighteen visions of the Blessed Mother at the rock of Massabielle, Lourdes, France. Mary described herself as “The Immaculate Conception” and ordered the building of a church there. She told Bernadette to drink from a spring which at that time was hardly dormant but which since has produced 27,000 gallons of water a week.
Her message was simple: The Blessed Virgin was concerned with prayer and penance. The trials of Bernadette was many because few including bishops believed her. Eventually in 1866 she joined the Sisters of Notre Dame of Nevers where she spent the remainder of her life. She was completely cut off from the world and was not present at the consecration of the Basilica at Lourdes in 1876. She sought privacy and was heard to say: “Our Lady used me like a broom. She put me back in my corner. I am happy here and stop there.” Again: “Oh, if I could only see without being seen!” She died on April 16, 1879 and was canonized in 1933. Officially she is known as St. Mary Bernarda…but to the world she is known as Saint Bernadette.