Obama meets the Pope. Good.
Yet it’s odd.
They are breathlessly and ponderously reported as having significant exchanges on a host of pressing world issues: the environment, world health, war and terrorism, the world economy, the poor … the list goeth on.
And yet: they met for 30 minutes. Back in the day, Churchill conferred with FDR, the Joint Chiefs – led by the redoubtable George C. Marshall – met with the British Imperial General Staff, Churchill and FDR met with Stalin, hell – Winnie and FDR even met with Chiang Kai Shek (or however his name is spelled nowadays) … and not even those table-fulls of such galactic wise men ever polished off the agenda usefully in 30 minutes.
But of course We now live in The Age of Alice (as in ‘Wonderland’, the March Hare, the Mad Hatter, the Red Queen, and other significant figures). The People have become used to believing far more than six impossible things before breakfast. And then feeling good about it: safer, reassured, more confident … and thus free to worry about Michael (as in Jackson), celebrity melodramas, and the other soap operas to which Our cartoonish ‘worldview’ has been reduced.
This will not serve Us well. Nor will it end well for Us.
And then it must be factored in that Obama must have spent a few precious minutes handing the Pope a letter from Teddy Kennedy.
You wonder why the President would eat up precious minutes handing over a letter that could have been mailed on ahead, or delivered by the appropriate underling to the appropriate underling. Where are Obama’s priorities? Or did he lose precious time in a fit of absence of mind?
A Soviet reader might have a few thoughts: it was some sort of payback to Teddy from the Prez. Or perhaps the Prez got something out of himself: maybe it helped distract the Pope – or at least the public – from issues that wouldn’t generate such good buzz: abortion, say, or the usefulness – or even the reality – of Charity and Truth (about which the Pope had just written rather cogently and at some length).
Or perhaps Obama just wanted to ask the Pope to pray for the United States – which at this point would certainly be appropriate. Although it might not sit well with the still-growling and hardly humbled Fundamentalist Ascendency over here, who in any case hold as an article of dogma that God eternally selected – indeed deputized – the United States government as His right arm. Nor with the ideological feminist cadres who have long proclaimed as an article of revolutionary dogma that folks who believe in capital-letter realities like Charity and Truth ‘just don’t get it’ and should not be permitted a voice in public venues. And they say that Islam has trouble with dogmatic fundamentalisms?
Of course, it’s also curious that Teddy is asking the Pope for prayers. Not that it hasn’t happened before. As one of his last acts before his death, Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston interceded for Teddy, directly. Although not with ‘God’ – as that entity was once styled.
Rather, and more mundanely, the eminent Cardinal interceded rather directly with the parents of one Mary Jo Kopechne, deceased, who in the late summer of 1969 were asked by their local court, to wit the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County (PA) to weigh in on whether the Court should honor a request by a sister jurisdiction – the Office of the District Attorney for the Southern District of Massachusetts (among whose jurisdiction are included venues such as Edgartown and Chappaquiddick Island) – for an exhumation of their daughter’s recently interred remains for the purposes of an autopsy to determine cause of death (among which causes criminal negligence or worse might figure prominently).
The Cardinal – busy enough, one would think, in his own Archdiocese of Boston – took time out of his schedule and expended a significant chunk of his dwindling energies, to travel to Wilkes-Barre, PA, where he proceeded to call upon the bereaved parents (Catholics, by the by). Why the Cardinal didn’t just mail them a letter, or call them, or even send his thoughts through the appropriate episcopal channels (however influential the Archdiocesan See of Boston may be or may think it is, Pennsylvania is not within its jurisdiction and – indeed – the Church of Rome had actually rather thoughtfully provided Wilkes-Barre and environs with an episcopal authority of its own) ... why he didn't do one of those things is left up to the reader.
But no. His Eminence the Cush wound up on their doorstep – for all practical purposes. He thought it meet to remind them that it was their duty as Catholics and Christians to oppose any exhumation – out of respect for the remains and the sanctity and dignity of the human soul. Which – especially in a prelate not widely known for his theological illuminations – was a rather definitive pronouncement (and rather largely incorrect).
Reasonable persons may wonder at just how much use this pastoral intervention was to the parents. (It would not long afterward turn out that it was useful to the tune of $140,000 – in American dollars of a far more solvent era). But surely, it was of use to the Honorable Teddy. One Judge Bromiski of the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas divined against his sister law-enforcement entity in the Southern District of Massachusetts and refused to allow the exhumation (and thus the autopsy).
After all, he reasoned – as it were: In order to permit an exhumation, you have to have some amount of evidence that you are justified in doing it because there you will find evidence of a crime. Nice: Catch-22 for real. The very purpose of an autopsy is to determine if a death might indeed be the result of criminal action. But if you are told that you need evidence of criminal action in order to exhume the body and perform the autopsy in the first place … well, you see where that goes.
My, my, my – as Southern matrons of the antebellum era would acutely cluck. Or: mah, mah, mah.
Well, they are all now within the direct jurisdiction of another Court and another Judge.
Well, almost all of them. Teddy is still more directly liable to the lower courts constituted in and for this lesser dimension.
And by a remarkable coincidence We are rapidly approaching the 40th anniversary of the Affair Kopechne, and the Honorable Senator himself is rather acutely sensing the imminence of that far less fix-able Court and that far less reach-able Judge.
So, true to form, he is going for the heaviest connections he can get his hands on, which in this case means getting the President of the United States to play mailman to the Pope of Rome.
Wow. To use Churchill’s words: “Some chicken, some neck”.
But Teddy isn’t about so ennobling a dirty business as carrying a World War through to victory against fascism, militarism, and the Hitlerite hordes threatening to undermine and overthrow the very fundaments of Western Civilization. Truth be told – as charitably as possible – Teddy has done more than his share to further those dark purposes.
But with whatever authority the Pope has that has survived the deconstruction strategies of those American ‘elites’ who ‘get it’, Teddy wants to be able to ensure his legacy and fix the Judge.
In an earlier, less enlightened, more brutish age, such a cluster of realizations led blood-and-treachery—soaked Renaissance rulers to commission the building of chapels, sculptures, paintings, and other works of art that remain the treasured material heritage of the West and of humanity.
Teddy, however, will send a letter and try to fix the Court and the Judge by turning to his connections to avoid the consequences.
Somehow I see this as emblematic of what has happened to Us.
Ditto, some priest, a theology professor at Boston College, who bleats helpfully if inanely that “Clearly, when one Catholic asks another to pray for him, this is a sign of both vulnerability and trust”. Yah. Never let it be said that The Honorable Teddy can’t get benefit of clergy when he decides to hire it.
Meanwhile, another ‘professor’, at Notre Dame, piously and authoritatively bleats that it is “poignant and instructive that Senator Kennedy seeks peace and reconciliation with ‘Holy Mother Church’ [qoutation marks in the article itself] as he nears the end of his earthly life”. Oh yah. Though hired and paid as a history perfesser, Doctor Appleby, originator of the foregoing comment, appears unfamiliar with Ameroican history as recently as 1969 (although nowadays even perfessers with Ph.D.’s may consider 1969 ancient history – and given what We accomplished in that year, like putting a man on the moon, it is indeed ‘ancient’, on sooooo many levels). Gone, baby, gone.
As is the late Ms. Kopechne.
Although, of course, only in the eyes of the foolish – as St. Paul sayeth.
For at the end of the day, there is a larger Reality, a more insistent Truth, a stronger Justice.
Neither the Honorable Teddy nor his well-remunerated minions nor his genuine or tactical supporters prefer to think about that reality.
Not that it makes a whit of difference to that Reality itself.
Which, at long long last, Teddy is beginning to realize.
May the rest of Us go and do likewise.
While there is still time.