simply because tensions are running so high on the potential war with Iraq and, as a side story, the Vatican's position. Our required reading on the subject for today is
Rod Dreher's excellent WSJ piece on the dissonance between the Vatican's concentrated rush to action on the war issue and their to all appearances relative inaction on abuser-coddling bishops. Rod points out how odd it is to see the institution pulling out all the stops on an issue over which it has no direct control and claiming its hands are tied on an issue over which it does have direct control.
This, of course, is a common phenomenon in the Catholic Church -as in other institutions, as well. American bishops have been on the forefront of support of the labor movement in this country for a century, but have gone to the wall in resisting their own employees' attempts to organize. The American bishops call for "economic justice for all" except for Catholic school and parish lay employees who are generally and widely underpaid. We could probably go on and on, but the point is the same. I'm probably more sympathetic to the Vatican's efforts here than Rod is, but I agree with him one hundred percent that the energy given to the anti-war effort is almost shocking, especially compared to the caution regarding the abuse issue. Oh hell, Rod said it better than I can:
It is in the nature of institutions to resist self-criticism and self-reform. But the Catholic Church isn't just any institution. It was founded by a man who commanded his followers to remove the plank from their own eye before removing the speck from their neighbor's. In that spirit, it is appalling to watch President Bush, who has responsibility for safeguarding 280 million of us from terrorists and terror states, being lectured on his duties in that regard by a church that would not even protect children from its own rogue priests and the bishops who enabled them.
And then on the other hand, you really need to read John Allen's Word from Rome column, which starts with an account of the LA Congress on Religious Education, but then goes on to highlight some of the reasoning behind the Vatican's stance on the war:
I have interviewed any number of Iraqi Christians, and privately they tell me that few Iraqis would shed any tears at Hussein’s downfall. The problem, they say, is who would replace Hussein, and what his ouster would cost in human blood and worsened Christian/Muslim relations. But they are under no illusions about the brutality of his government. The Vatican is well aware of this, and has no wish to be seen as an apologist for the Hussein government.....
And the stuff about the papal trip to Mongolia...where there are about 136 Catholics at the moment...is quite interesting as well.
By the way, since Mark's on real sort of hiatus, I think the most interesting and helpful discussions regarding the Church and the war are going on over at the Envoy Encore blog.
On a general Lent note, the nice blog Become What You Are is exploring John Paul II's document Salvifici Doloris--- On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering - during this season.