June 13, 2019

Politicians, Bishops, and Other Swear Words

So the U.S. bishops are gathering in Baltimore to rearrange chairs on the deck of the U.S. Catholic Titanic. A few things come to mind: One, why is it that groups and committees are so ineffective? I’m thinking of Congress as well as the bishops. A decent number of individuals within these groups seem reasonably smart or well-intentioned and yet as a group they mire in a blackhole-like suckitude. It’s a mystery. They say the only effective committee in history, the exception that proves the rule, was the one that created the King James Bible.

We see it on a federal level in that the branch most effective is the executive, answering to one. The second most effective is the judicial, answering to nine. And the least effective, the one begging the other two to take away the little power it occasionally exercises, has hundreds.

The other thing that comes to mind is how disgust at bishops rhymes with our disgust with politicians, which could be because bishops act like politicians. What are the prime characteristics of a politician?

1. He values his job and reputation more than the common good.
2. He refuses to call a spade a spade (in D.C., a gaffe is said to occur when someone inadvertently speaks a truth).
3. He spouts content-free bromides that are intended to be inoffensive and speak to the widest possible audience.
4. He abhors transparency and accountability.

But these characteristics can lead to a disgust that leads to whistle-blowers. Trump, for sure, who calls spades spades and tells all sorts of inconvenient truths, inconvenient as far as if his goal is to expand his base. Pope Francis was intended by the cardinals to whistle-blow the corrupt Vatican bank, but alas he turned out to be corrupt as well. And Cardinal Viagno, the volatile anti-politician who leaked that McCarrick had been under sanctions and that Francis essentially lifted them, is the whistle-blower extraordinaire.

One thing the bishops have done is give priests and laypeople a chance to bond, a “misery-loves-company” feeling, both laboring under a cringeworthy hierarchy.

June 10, 2019

Liz Breunig on McCarrick’s, “Actually, No Thanks..."

Lino Rulli, the Catholic Guy on SiriusXM admitted he no longer finds Pope Francis the most interesting person in the world. If you’ve lost Lino...(well, Lino says he still loves Francis)... but he’s turned off by how the pope will say something like women ought to be more involved in the highest levels of the Church and then does nothing, as if he as Pope has his hands completely tied on the matter.

I’m disappointed in Francis for other reasons, like saying he couldn’t recall being told that McCarrick was a problem. So many clerical abusers, so easy to forget..

WaPo columnist Liz Breunig has an insightful take on her podcast on the situation as it stands:
I think [the confirmation of sanctions on McCarrick] shines an interesting light that what’s going on in the Church right now because I think for the majority of us the sex abuse crisis and its coverup look like an issue of a powerful institution making calculated moves to protect itself. What this suggests instead is that a lot of the coverup is due to lawlessness and weakness in the institution, where you have attempts by senior Vatican officials including Pope Benedict to censure McCarrick, by stopping him from traveling on behalf of the Vatican and putting an end to his fundraising and therefore his power, and McCarrick just says, ‘Actually, no thanks on all those penalties.’ 
And there’s nothing anyone can do about it. The Vatican secretary of state and Benedict and the nuncio, none of them were able to do nothing about it. How are you going to enforce it? They basically rely on guys like McCarrick saying, ‘ok, that’s fine I’ll respond to these sanctions and take them seriously out of the goodness of my heart’. But is he really going to do that? No. It looks like an institution that’s stumbling and scrambling in light of the crimes of the powerful...
This time it picked up media interest. So then you had an authority outside the Church that was able to pressure the Church, which appeared to not only cause the Church to act but it served as an enforcement mechanism for McCarrick: How are you going to travel around, go do fundraising events and be “good Uncle Ted” if the entire media is focused on you with a fury. You become like Harvey Weinstein, you can have all the power and money in the world but as long as there is this enormous force of the media, and then of course the point of which it all became publicized the civil authorities got involved. Then enforcement became a real possibility and eventually the Vatican did take the highest measures against him. That was helped along and made possible essentially by media sanctions, a force outside the Church...
She goes on to say how ironic that integralism is given how the Church can’t even govern itself.  She summarizes:
The rock and the hard place is that really only the civil authorities and the media can do anything for them [to clean up corruption], but at the same time the media and authorities hugely diminish the institutional prestige that they’re trying to cultivate by exposing the great weakness and infirmity that was hidden in the institution...I don’t what the answer is in terms of how do you recover an ability in the institution to self-govern, I don’t know that there is a way to do that in contemporary life.

June 07, 2019

The Storyteller

I had occasion to use an Uber recently, and I feel “taken” by the driver. Feel like a sucka. “Jeffrey” self-reports* as a 60 y/o black, married 39 years, with a brother & sister who are Black Panthers, has a best friend whose son played in Super Bowl, that best friend was drafted by the Eagles but was shot in the head which ended his career though not his life. Has 96-y/o father living with his sister and drove till 93. Has a cyst in stomach that at any day could rupture (cysts aren’t fatal - found via google so I know it's true). Has son who pitches for the Texas Longhorns, a Junior (rhp) with 97mph fastball and who has put his name in for the 2019 mlb draft but has a plan B, an internship at KPMG.

So the level of detail here is pretty astonishing given it seems likely it was all made up. I suspect that’s his hobby, lying to the Uber passengers, telling made up stories. Because his kid isn’t on the Texas roster for ‘18 or ‘19, and isn’t eligible for the draft this year. No one going by the name he gave me is in draft. So I’m thinking the whole fantastic story about his friend getting shot in the head and not dying was made up as well.  Gull, meet ible, ible meet gull.

So I spent WAY too much time trying to nail down his story in order to return my faith in humanity.

* - I've decided to self-identify as a great novelist.