European Diary: Room 4121, Konventa Sēta; 8:00 a.m., Thursday; June 3, 2004; Rīga, Latvia

We are not here for some ethnological observation – to “see how others live.” We are here to address that part of life that is fraught and sustained by memories, as well as that part of life that is halted by memories, incomplete memories, a life which can only revive and move forward by finding enough of the missing material to create a sensible narrative. This is a far more important charge than activities which, though presented as important, are little more than tourism.


The pronouncement by American bishops that politicians who favor abortion rights should be denied communion is typical of the Church. This is a group in which its most important and powerful bishops consistently protected dozens – hundreds? – of child rapists, declaring the image and authority of its organization, its prestige, more important than the faith, safety and sanity of its parishioners.

I remember a few years back when the San Francisco bishopric’s P.R. representative keened and mewled that a bunch of fags in nun costumes prancing about on Easter was just the same as the attempted extermination of six million Jews and when the outrageousness of this statement was pointed out, this same flack accused those who complained of being anti-Catholic. The Bishop, after being contacted about his minion’s actions, remained silent. Silent. Hrmm… Why does that sound… so… familiar? Oh, right! The cover up of all the child raping priests.

What self-deception that the most powerful religious organization in the history of the world would present itself as an innocent victim of much more powerful and sinister forces (shorthand, as always for Jews and, in this case, fags – probably people who carry library cards as well.) This arrogance and the actions it has allowed have bankrupted the Church, morally more than financially. I can’t see how it could ever recover any moral legitimacy. It is in danger of devolving further and further into its medieval hermit’s role as world-hating lunatics’ cave. The Catholic Church is becoming the nut-job militia of religions: dangerous, unbalanced and blind.

Well, all it took was unremitting arrogance, self-deception and un-Christian anger in the face of 2,000 years of European Jewish history, and hundreds of covered-up child rapes, self-righteousness, exclusion and pridefulness, but the S.F. P.R. weasel’s pronouncement has – I’m sure he’d be delighted to know – finally come true. I am “anti-Catholic.” And will be for so long as every bishop does not get down on his knees and pray to God, to ask for forgiveness for his cowardice and self-absorption, and beg the victims of his arrogance to forgive him, not until he stops making excuses and playing the victim. What would Jesus do, indeed. Probably not send his P.R. weasel out to slur Jews!

I hope self-righteousness is a pleasant companion for the Church in its moral dotage and death.

Once, it had Thomas Merton. Now it has Mel Gibson.


This is only the second time in the history of the Morpheme Tales I have felt obliged to clarify. Considering most of journalism is filled with a stagey concern for “balance” by people who are leaning crazily to one side or another, I have tried to eliminate self-censorship and say what I mean clearly, even if it means the minor notes are left unstruck. But I have had feedback from people I respect who have read this and been unsure whether I really have some unreasoning animus against Catholics. It’s a polemic, with the words chosen as much for effect as for an accurate reflection of my feelings. I do not hate Catholics, nor do I hate the Church. I am incredibly disappointed in the Church as an institution, one I have considered joining, and do have disgust for the individuals I have encountered — and read about — who have behaved immorally with the excuse that the ends justified the means. I also do not believe that any human institution has any right to expect to remain above criticism. This idea is at the root of most of the Church’s missteps throughout its history.

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