The Roman Catholic Church’s defensive response to the cascading charges of clergy sexual abuse has unleashed an astonishing spectacle: the world’s most powerful church draping itself in the mantle of victimhood. In the process, the church has managed to draw Jews into this story, with an offensive comparison made by the preacher of the papal household that the church’s bad press is somehow akin to historical antisemitism — a statement the Vatican later disavowed. As this drama unfolds, it’s important to focus on the real victims.
After much deliberation, an advisory council has presented the White House with a blueprint for reforming the Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships, to ensure that the bright line separating the public’s money from support for private religious behavior is visible and honored. The recommendations suggest welcome improvements to a federal operation that too often has been fuzzy on serious constitutional issues. But this good work doesn’t go far enough.
What is the Exodus story, anyhow, but a tale of immigration? The theological lesson of the Passover holiday is God’s redemption of the Israelite slaves from their Egyptian taskmasters. But after the plagues and the sea crossing and the years wandering in the desert, the Israelites become just another immigrant group in their new land, albeit with quite a special sponsor. Their “path to citizenship” lasted 40 years. Some illegal immigrants in America have been waiting almost as long.
The wave of attacks against Democratic lawmakers by health care reform opponents should be setting off alarm bells across the country. Since the House of Representatives held its final vote on health reform in late March, more than a dozen House members have been targeted with verbal or physical threats, all apparently related to their support for reform. Several incidents are under FBI investigation. At least 10 House Democrats have received beefed-up security. Yet, somehow, the public seems to be treating it as just another sordid Washington political spat to be followed for a day and then tuned out.
During the last few months, as the political discourse in Washington went from disquieting to messy to ugly, and a paralyzing dysfunction blanketed the capital as thickly as the winter snow, it was easy to become discouraged. Easy to forget the powerful sense of possibility that drove Barack Obama into office — driven not only by an eagerness to put behind what many viewed as the failed Bush presidency, but also by a belief that America could overcome its isolation and arrogance, and rejoin the world.