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Pope Ignores the War, Gets Free Pass on Sex Abuse

Pope Benedict XVI arrived in the U.S. last week against a macabre backdrop featuring reports of torture, execution and war. He chose not to notice.

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"That they should get away from abstraction and confront the blood-stained face history has taken on today.

"It may be ... that Christianity will insist on maintaining a compromise, or else on giving its condemnations the obscure form of the encyclical. Possibly it will insist on losing once and for all the virtue of revolt and indignation that belonged to it long ago.

"What I know -- and what sometimes creates a deep longing in me -- is that if Christians made up their mind to it, millions of voices -- millions, I say -- throughout the world would be added to the appeal of a handful of isolated individuals, who, without any sort of affiliation, today intercede almost everywhere and ceaselessly for children and other people." (Excerpted from Resistance, Rebellion, and Death: Essays)

Sixty years ago!

Perhaps the Dominican monks took Camus seriously; monks tend to listen. Vatican functionaries, on the other hand, tend to know it all, and to urge the Pope to be "discrete."

You saw that this past week with the Pope in Washington and New York, as he forfeited the opportunity to follow the biblical injunction to speak truth to power -- to speak out clearly, as Camus suggested, with moral authority.

Catholics all around

Think back to last week and all the prominent Catholics who flocked to see the Pope -- many of them officials with considerable influence in the judiciary and legislature, with some important players in the executive branch as well.

There they were, with their families, the five Catholic Supreme Court justices, fresh from detailed deliberations on how best to implement state-sponsored killings, executions that are banned by virtually every civilized country.

Justice Scalia audibly salivated over how much noxious chemical should be shot into the veins of a "condemned," and how quickly. (For those with strong stomachs, C-SPAN captured the proceedings.)

I am embarrassed to acknowledge that, like me, Scalia is the product of a Jesuit education (Xavier H.S. in Manhattan and Georgetown College). Despite his advocacy of "soft" torture techniques like driving nails under fingernails, Scalia continues to be lionized by many Jesuits and bishops alike.

In the House? Speaker Nancy Pelosi, erstwhile doyenne of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and now San Francisco, and minority leader John Boehner, R-Ohio -- Catholics both -- are about to allocate another hundred billion dollars to death and destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan for the most reprehensibly crass of political purposes -- the coming election.

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., last week tried to guild the lily, noting that Pelosi now insists that, in McGovern's words,  "We're an equal branch of government; we're no longer a cheap date." Right.

Sadly, it appears that Pelosi's key functionaries on House Appropriations (both of them Catholics) will cave in once again.

It is not as though they do not know the right thing to do. Just six months ago, Appropriations chair Dave Obey, D-Wisconsin, declared, "I have no intention of reporting out of committee anytime in this session of Congress any such [funding] request that simply serves to continue the status quo."

Subcommittee chair John Murtha, D-Pa., put it even more strongly a year before Obey did, and came close to calling the occupation of Iraq a lost cause -- which, of course, it is. But it is not politic to say that before the election. Never mind the troops on the front lines.

Obey and Murtha caved last time. I will find it particularly devastating if Obey caves again now, for I have always considered him among the best legislators in Congress.

And since he is from Wisconsin, Obey recognizes better than others the McCarthy-ite demagoguery coming from the likes of Texas Republican Michael Burgess, to the effect that anything short of giving the president all the war funding he demands is "basically giving aid and comfort to the enemy."

Pelosi also has been unusually candid in admitting that it is electoral politics, pure and simple, that explain her resistance to holding President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney accountable for high crimes and misdemeanors via the orderly procedure given us by the Founders for precisely this purpose -- impeachment in the House, trial in the Senate.

If, as widely expected, the war funding goes through, several hundred more American troops are likely to die before some common sense can be injected into U.S. policy next year -- not to mention how many Iraqis.