The legendary Madison journalist, the curmudgeonly John Patrick Hunter, once joked about his Unitarian religion.
"When we pray," John laughed, "it is 'To Whom It May Concern.'"
Indeed, First Unitarian Church in Shorewood Hills was the house church of The Capital Times in those days. Designed by and for liberals.
A deacon in a mainline Protestant church here in town expressed surprise to me -- and some disappointment -- that a church elder openly expressed doubts about the divinity of Christ.
But that's the nature of Protestantism, subject to the whims of its members. In many churches the laity hires and fires its pastors. I take no issue, free to be and all of that. But it ain't Catholic.
The Roman Catholic church is a different tradition: hierarchical, authoritarian -- suffused with the whiff of mystical incense -- serving a magisterium that was ancient when the ink on the Magna Carta was still wet. I won't say the Church doesn't change but when it moves at all, it moves slowly.
This is at odds with the progressive beliefs in non-judgmentalism, relativism, and situational ethics. Oprah as doctor of the faith.
That is why "Taking on the Bishop," the left-wing interdiction of Robert Morlino, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Madison, commands the cover of the current Isthmus. Penned by Esty Dinur, a reliable warhorse of the Madison Left, her screed is often hilarious, however unintentionally.
Take, for instance, the subhead that accuses Bishop Morlino of having an "Authoritarian Streak." No kidding! Next, Isthmus will be asking the Pope to stop pontificating.
A break-out quote, printed in large font, reproduces the fundamental error of the article: "This is my church," says Jim Beyers. "They're definitely not going to drive me out of it."
Wrong on both counts. It is not "Jim Beyers' Church." If Jim Beyers wants to start the Church of Jim Beyers, well, it's been done before. It worked for science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. But come up with another name for it because the Catholic brand is already taken.
As far as being "driven out," The poor fellow may not be excommunicated -- although the Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska, so resolved the handful of CTA members in his diocese -- but let's give him this: he has already taken himself out of the Church.
Beyers is a member of Call to Action, a tiny protest group which gives the game away by admitting that it is "progressive."
Thinking more queerly
As it happens, Call to Action is holding its national conference this Nov. 5-7 in Milwaukee -- just a few days after the nation will have cast aside the progressive elixir.
Sure enough, the agenda promises seminars on "the imperative for same-sex marriage," women priests, and "Assisting Faith Communities to think more Queerly."
The keynote speaker is the former Episcopalian (not Catholic) bishop John Shelby Spong, ordainer of practicing homosexuals and denier of the Resurrection. Also on the bill of fare is an eight-minute film, "Radical Disciple: The Story of Father Michael Pfleger."
Pfleger is an ally of "God Damn America" Jeremiah Wright on Chicago's south side who once threatened to "snuff out" Second Amendment supporters.
Call to Action professes to hate political activism but is just fine with Pastor Pfleger's activism. He is a longtime financial donor to Barack Obama and supporter of Louis Farrakahn.
"At a time when less people vote than ever, I don't think pastors should be silent on politics," Pfleger said.
Let's be fair about this, Call to Action itself claims only 25,000 members nationally. That is but one-tenth of the Catholics in the Madison diocese alone, a rounding error compared to the 68 million Catholics in the United States. But its 40 local members hate Morlino, which is enough to claim the front page at Isthmus.
Call to Action made its first bones hereabouts with a letter in the State Journal in 2008 signed by 36 fellow non-believers. (They've picked up 4 members since.)
The next Sunday, supporters of Bishop Morlino responded with a full page advertisement in the Wisconsin State Journal signed by over 500 diocesans.Today, the list stands at almost 900. With the renewed interest generated by the Isthmus hit job, let's get the on-line petition supporting Bishop Morlino another couple hundred signatures!
Vanity of vanities!
Bishop Morlino got off on the wrong foot with "It's My Church" Byers and the Call to Action bunch from the very get-go when he observed that Madison "has a high comfort level with virtually no public morality." He made that statement only months after alighting here seven years ago, which says something about the obviousness of the observation.
True then, true now. In the issue preceding "Taking on the Bishop," Isthmus news editor Bill Lueders was singing from the Call to Action choir in coming to the defense of the June 19 World Naked Bike Ride in downtown Madison. Parents of little children at the normally family-friendly Farmers Market were flabbergasted and complained to police.
One was the grandmother of a 4-year-old girl who witnessed a completely naked man fall off his bicycle "to reveal...full frontal nudity," then stand up and wave (and waggle?) at the stunned bystanders.
So, what's the big whup? Lueders writes in "Nudes at the Wisconsin Capitol. Oh the humanity!" (Get the sarcastic reference to the explosion of the Hindenburg?)
Bill says most people are going to see "a naked human body sooner or later." Age 24 or 4, makes no never mind to professional journalist Bill. I suppose one could make the same argument about sexual intercourse since we're fuzzing up boundaries here. It's just a matter of time, is all. It's going to happen so may as well lay back and enjoy it as best you can.
Bill says he once saw a naked human body and he turned out O.K. Knowing Bill, I would dispute his conclusion but, hey, it's a large country! [See Bill's response at the "Full Monty" subhead.]
What's more, says Bill, "In this case, I have no information that any children were traumatized, only that the adults around them were."
Who knew it is the duty of the traumatized adults not only to seek the aid of the police but also to present evidence to the news editor of Isthmus that their children may have been adversely affected? But then, I'm not an expert on Isthmus policy.
One could argue that our rape laws pre-suppose that anyone younger than a certain age (usually 18) are incapable of informed consent. For someone who wrote an entire book about a rape victim, Bill Lueders is surprisingly callous toward the victims of the self-absorbed Naked Bike Riders. (Of course, the villain in "Cry Rape" is the criminal justice system, not the rapist.)
We will have to consult Mr. Bill the next time a complaint is lodged against some perp at a local elementary school playground as to whether the alleged victims were truly traumatized or are merely Very Young Republicans opposed to the goals of NAMBLA and/or Call to Action.
We have to take these precautions lest the gendarmes go on a statue-busting rampage at the State Capitol. You know how the police are in this town! Much more venal than the average Isthmus news editor. They're just not thinking queer enough!
Bishop Morlino, your work is not finished here.
Thanks for showing us what a moderate Republican looked like. This is what a moderate, tax cutting, strong national defense Democrat looked like: