December 17, 2003

MICHAEL NOVAK has more on Cardinal Martino, whose excessive sympathy for Saddam garnered so much criticism here and elsewhere:

When I was in Rome last February, Cardinal Martino was already under heavy fire for his intemperate and irrepressible anti- Americanism. Even those who before the war leaned more to the French/German position than to the American were dismayed by his uncalled-for comments. . . .

The immense relief experienced by the Catholic community in Iraq since the fall of Saddam has not gone unappreciated at the Vatican. In general, now that the American-led coalition has acted firmly and with far better results than predicted last February by various spokesmen in the Vatican (they did not all speak with one voice), the Vatican has tried to help with the transition to a more just, peaceful, tolerant, and democratic Iraq.

As someone said earlier, victory is the best propaganda. But as Novak continues:

As for Cardinal Martino, he has made clear on many occasions how bitterly he feels toward the United States on many fronts, not only in the case of Iraq.

It's true, of course, that the Church is made of human beings, as Novak also notes. It's just unfortunate that so many of the ones we hear from seem to resemble Cardinal Martino, and the Church -- like any other institution made up of human beings -- will pay a price for filling its ranks with the bitter, the self-important, and the morally obtuse. It is paying such a price now. And what's more, it deserves to.

UPDATE: Stephen Bainbridge responds and draws a distinction between matters secular and spiritual.

I certainly agree that Cardinal Martino's idiocy has no particular theological ramifications. Having been raised Protestant, I'm always slightly bemused by how strenuously many Catholics feel they have to make this point, which seems obvious to me. Martino's idiocy isn't a reason to abandon your faith. It is, I think, the latest of many demonstrations that the Church has no particular ability to recruit people who are better, or even more morally discerning, than the run of humanity, and that the opinions of Church leaders on these sorts of matters are not only not worthy of any special respect, but are -- when weighed against the track record -- worthy of more than usual skepticism.

And because many churchmen attempt to blur the line, infusing their frequently idiotic statements on matters secular with a wholly undeserved patina of moral seriousness, it's important to point that out.

UPDATE: Reader Julie Carlson emails:

At church this Sunday, right before Mass started, a parishioner walked up to our priest and said something to the effect of wasn't this good news that we had gotten Saddam. His response? "No, not really, because this war was never about Saddam Hussein. It was about imposing our will on the Iraqi people." Later, during Mass, the other priest started talking about Father Bill O'Donnell's death, quoted Martin Sheen, and joked that the people who always had the most reason to be concerned about Father Bill were those who worked at Lawrence Livermore Labs.

I live in the Bay Area, but this is ridiculous. My church is led by two guys who still think it's the 1960s.

Yes, it is ridiculous.