The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Paper Chase: Not Prince Hamlet



When I was a boy, I discovered my profession in stages. The first was the television series The Paper Chase, in which the tyrannical (or was he?) Professor Kingsfield is both foe and--not friend, he's too harsh for that--but mentor, manipulatively guiding his students with a sharp tongue but secret hints to assist them in their endeavors. In the film (above) and in the novel, Kingsfield is the anti-hero; his daughter Susan (a sublime performance by Lindsey Wagner) tries to lead the well meaning One L Hart to reject the "paper chase" values which she sees her father inculcating in him.

In the television show, Kingsfield's point of view slowly, over the three and a half seasons the show ran (with a long hiatus between the first and second season), becomes normative. I was young and impressionable when that first season was shown, and John Houseman's magisterial Kingsfield was fascinating to me. So too were the legal discussions, the "Addenda," that PBS used to fill the time that had been allotted for commercials. They led me to explore books on law in the library--John Jay Osborn, Jr.'s novel to begin with, but Holmes's The Common Law, and a handful of volumes of Supreme Court reporters. In reading these, I slowly formed my own political worldview. Douglas over Rehnquist, Brennan over Burger.

I was 12 years old, and the justices of the Supreme Court were forming my political commitments, the values I held and still hold now.

And the film, through John Williams's version of Bach's Little Fugue, got me to take notice of classical music in a truly wonderful way.

So all in all, I owe Osborn, Houseman, Williams, and James Bridges quite a debt.

I got to hear Houseman lecture twice, once at Molloy College, where I just missed shaking his hand and getting an autograph, and once at Fordham, where he charmed us all by staying at a poor enough reception where mediocre wine and good cheese fueled his anecdotes of The Mercury Theater, of Orson Welles, of Julliard.

He was Kingsfield, minus the menace, and an infectious laugh.

The later seasons of The Paper Chase are good. In them, John Houseman gave me one last gift, introducing to one of the few poets words I retain. In an episode in which a grieving father tries to decipher his student son's suicide note, reading simply, "Not Prince Hamlet," the mystery is solved when Kingsfield recognizes the quote, and Houseman solemnly recites the relevant passage from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock:

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous –
Almost, at times, the Fool.


The words, the rhythm touched me. They kindled an interest in Eliot that became an admiration that I still feel.

Well, the last half season is finally being released, and I will be able to view this totem of my youth in its entirety, for the first time since it was rerun and then three new series commissioned on Showtime, years after the seeming failure on CBS.

I wonder if my younger self and I will agree on its merits?

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Can Anything Good Come Out Of Nazareth?: A Sermon on John 1: 43-51

[Delivered at St. Bartholomew's Church, NYC, January 14, 2018]

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Fourth Gospel, the Gospel according to John, has often called the charter of Christian mysticism. It opens with a beautiful hymn interspersed with the arrival of John the Baptist, called by scholars “the Logos Hymn.”

If you leave out the story of John the Baptist, and use the King James version, the hymn reads:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

The poetry is important, though it requires you to pass over the the sexist language that uses male pronouns to include women; but if you do, the hymn comes more clear as a poetic summary of the entire Gospel story, from the beginning of creation to Jesus’s lifetime, his rejection by his own people, and his death. And, although it isn’t spelled out for us, Jesus’s resurrection is subtly portrayed, too, in the fact that the world itself was created through him, and he is somehow both inside and outside time. And the end of the story is a gift for a hope-hungry world: the power Jesus brings each and every one of us to become children of God, ourselves, flawed as we are daughters and sons of God.

In my old King James Bible, that amazing poetic hymn ends on the same page as the funny little story of Nathaniel we just read begins.

We’ve descended from the poetic heights of the Logos Hymn to the “Israelite in whom there us no guile,” to stay with the King James for the moment. And not just because I like the sound of it better, but because the word “guile” means more than just deceit, although it certainly encompasses that as well. It means, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “cunning,” “wily,” “artful” (in the sense of “tricky”).

A guileful person may be untrustworthy, but he or she is clever, rooted in the real world.

And that’s how Nathaniel tries to come off.

You can almost hear the bored yawn in his voice as he asks, “can anything good come out of Nazareth?” After all, Nazareth is tiny, a rural little nothing in the middle of nowhere, Some might even call it a hole, or worse.

And yet this would be sophisticate from the City looking down on that hick town of Nazareth, is sized up by Jesus at first glance: “Behold, an Israelite in whom there is no guile!” Jesus says as Nathaniel approaches.

Nathaniel, shocked, asks “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus simply answers “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

And, somehow, that’s all it takes for Nathaniel. “Rabbi, you are the Son of God!” he exclaims. “You are the King of Israel!”

Even Jesus is a bit taken aback by this. "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these," he promises.

But Nathaniel doesn’t need anything more. He believes. And, as the Logos Hymn I just read out to you makes clear, in John’s Gospel, the power to become children of God is granted “to those who believe in His Name.”

We’re still in the first chapter of the Gospel, and we’ve got a new-minted child of God already.

How do we explain Nathaniel?

Not very often, but sometimes, we meet people who, although they have grown up, have not entirely lost the child in their eyes. The world remains fresh to them—its hurts as well as its pleasures.

Rather than embarrass a living person, I’ll give a fictional example who has stayed with me since I first met him in Anthony Trollope’s novel, The Warden. A Church of England clergyman, the Reverend Septimus Harding. He is a good man whose great love is music, and whose lifelong friend, now his bishop, assigns him a very well paid, easy job—he runs an almshouse for old men. He’s kind, and generous, but more of the almshouse’s budget is spent on his salary than on the charity. When the newspapers get a hold of this, they criticize Mr. Harding severely. And the institutional church, in the character of Mr. Harding’s son-in-law, the Archdeacon, rises to his defense, full of anger and self- righteousness.

The criticism hurts Mr. Harding terribly, but, as he later tells his daughter, if he believed that right was on his side, he would bear it, and fight on. He can’t though, because Mr. Harding, who open to even criticism, comes to believe that that his critics are right. And so he resigns, over the objections of the Archdeacon and his lawyers.

When, many years and five novels later, he dies, his worldly son-in-law speaks his epitaph: “He couldn't go wrong. He lacked guile, and he feared God—and a man who does both will never go far astray.” And the Archdeacon reflects on what Trollope calls “the sterner ambition of his own life,” and uncomfortably asks himself if he has lacked guile.

We live in a world where the Archdeacon’s question can cut to our own hearts too. After all, we swim in an ocean in which cunning, wiliness, trickiness, deceit, and, in a word, guile, are passed off as worldly wisdom. Step outside these doors, and you can feel the atmosphere of distrust and cynicism—the cheap laugh at a village, a community, a continent, as some kind of hole. The power play, the easy lies can seep into your lungs.

All this worldly wisdom can make truly human relationships impossible; we can all become guarded, afraid to be vulnerable, to be open. To be without the protective armor of guile.

And we can’t say that it can’t be done, that it’s not worth doing. It’s so worth doing that, 2,000 years later we read the story of Nathaniel, and, even if we smile at the ease with which he recognizes Jesus as the King of Israel, we are here doing the same thing in our 21st Century way.

And we especially, sisters and brothers, who gather here should not take refuge in cynicism, in trickiness, in guile. After all, we stand here today in a building commemorating a man without guile.

Oh, didn’t you know?

Nathaniel is better known by his surname, son of Tolomew, or, in the style of his people, bar-Tolomew.[1]

St Bartholomew’s Church, our own St. Barts, commemorates that man who’s openness to his experience didn’t require a great miracle, a transformation of water into wine, or even, as Jesus promised him, “heaven open[ing] and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

I’m sure he was very impressed by all those things, but St. Bartholomew didn’t need them. Jesus’s recognition of him, as the man he was, lacking in guile, was enough. He loved because he was known and understood.

And this great building, this community of faith, honors that loving response, and urges us to try to find it within our own hearts, however cynical our times, however guileful the world becomes.

At the end of the day, our faith isn’t about doctrine or intellectual precepts. They have their place, of course, and I wouldn’t deny that for a minute. But Christianity done right is about loving God and our neighbor. It’s about being willing and able to make that leap of faith into love, into relationship, being willing to offer radical welcome to the stranger, knowing sometimes it will have costs.

Whether it’s a smile to a stranger, doing a shift at one of our community ministry programs, visiting the sick, or even just being kind to that really annoying co-worker, and persevering with it, we can find our own ways to respond to the recognition and love with which we have been welcomed.

Because guile loses, in the end. As Stephen Moffatt recently put it, and as St. Bartholomew demonstrated so many years ago, hate is always foolish, and love is always wise.

In the name of God, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer.

[1] Rev. Alban Butler, The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, vol. 3, p. 233 (1928).

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

"I know my hats."



So, many years ago I bought myself a first-class chocolate brown Dobbs fedora, which I generally wear unless the weather is so cold I need the full-on Elmer Fudd, or it's summer, and a straw hat is the way to go. After work this evening, I was running an errand, wearing my old Dobbs hat, which has actually aged better than me. As I walked down Madison Avenue (in Albany, that is), I was accosted with a cry of "Hey! Nice hat!" Across the street, where I needed to go, in fact, was a gentleman who was clearly not doing well financially. He offered a fist-bump with a "Happy New Year," asked what I did for a living. I returned the fist bump, and he used the moment of physical proximity to quietly ask for some money.

--Let me just add that I have been advised by a friend who is a social worker not to give money to people on the street. I can't say that I have a compelling response to that, other than, had life been more unkind to me, I could be the one asking. So, when the person seems basically sane and safe--if I can, I do.--

As we parted, him again wishing me a happy new year, and smiling, I said "Thanks for the compliment about the hat." (No idea why.)

His smile stayed, but his eyes sharpened, and he looked closer. In a confident voice, he said, "Dobbs, right?"

I laughed, surprised and impressed. "You have a good eye," I answered, "it is."

His smile became a grin. "I know my hats."

I tipped it to him, he bowed slightly, and we went our separate ways.

Sometimes you get more than you give.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Neon Gods We Made



Instead of the annual New Year's Eve wrap-up post, I think it's worth taking a little time to reflect on our era through a jaundiced eye (Yes, I'm deliberately hat-tipping Florence King).

Back when I was actively focusing my scholarship on the First Amendment's free speech clause, Collins's and Skover's The Death of Discourse expressed a deep concern that our culture was drowning in the trivial, the toxic, and the transactional. As I wrote at the time, their solution, that Government play the role of referee, downplaying some voices in order to heighten others, was simply incompatible with any recognizable notion of free speech, but the fundamental question they posed was one that has returned to haunt us.

The line "You’re entitled to your own opinions. You’re not entitled to your own facts" has been attributed to James Schlesinger or to Daniel Patrick Moynihan. But the empirical research of, among others, Matthew A. Baum suggests that:
[E]ven seemingly non-partisan political issues like public health are increasingly characterized by partisan polarization in public attitudes, and that such polarization is in part attributable, at least in part, to the breakdown of the information commons that characterized the American mass media from roughly the 1950s until the early 1990s. In its place has arisen an increasingly fragmented and niche-oriented media marketplace in which individuals are better able to limit their information exposure to attitudes and opinions that reinforce, rather than challenge, their preexisting beliefs.
And herein lies the rub. When we cannot even hold facts in common, whether related to swine flu and vaccination, as studied by Baum, or climate change, how is deliberative democracy to work?

In an era where we stop striving for objective truth--and, yes, we'll never fully get there--but the striving gets us closer to reality than just living in an echo chamber that tells us what we want to hear. That way leads only to epistemic closure, a willed inability to perceive the flaws in one's own belief system.

Then we'll truly be "People talking without speaking/People hearing without listening." And we will remake reality in our own self-image.

The problem of listening to only what we want to hear is a grave one. It is easy to find confirmation of what we already believe, and to reject those who differ from us with contempt, as either the enemy, or, if they have been on "our side" previously, as traitors. Just ask Alan Dershowitz, the staunch defender of the First Amendment who finds himself shunned by friends and even family. Now, I strongly disagree with Professor Dershowitz on the question of whether the President can commit obstruction of justice by abusing his presidential authority, but there's no reason to believe that Dershowitz, a lifelong champion of cvil liberties, holds the opinion in anything other than good faith.

Liberals. We believe in the right to be wrong, remember?

On the Right, Jennifer Rubin has been pilloried for deviations from a newly minted conservative orthodoxy. (This has been going on for a while for Rubin, notably.)

When we are not open to our allies when they disagree with us, how will we treat those who disagree with us more generally?

We have long been ideologically divided, but those divisions are both widening and intensifying.

Abraham Lincoln, running against Stephen Douglas, quoted Jesus in all three synoptic Gospels, in declaring that "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

So how do we keep our house standing?

As a liberal, it is very rare that I hear a conservative explain what liberals believe in a manner that recognize as accurately representing my views. This fails the test I have previously quoted from C.P. Snow's famous essay, "The Case of Leaves and the Serious Case":
If I enter into discussion on any topic, intellectual, moral, practical, or whatever combination you like, it matters very little what I feel for my opponent, or what he feels for me. But I am entitled to require--or if I am not so entitled then I have to beg to be excused--that he and I will observe some basic and simple rules. If he refers to words that I have said or written, he will quote them accurately. He will not attribute to me attitudes and opinions which I do not hold, and if he makes any such attributions, he will check them against the documentary evidence. He will be careful when referring to incidents in my biography, and he will be scrupulous about getting his facts right. Naturally, I have a duty to obey the same rules in return. Nothing could be much more prosaic or straightforward; but without these ground-rules, any kind of serious human exchange becomes impossible.
No doubt many conservatives would return the compliment, and demand that we too pass the Snow test.

And they would be right to do so, as we are if we require it of them.

Because the practice of "strawmanning," or recasting the opponent's argument in a form more easily rebuttable than the actual position held may be endemic, but along with the easy dismissal of inconvenient facts, it enables us to continue on in our own bubbles where all reason is with us--however you care to define us--and all folly is with them.

And that just isn't so.

So read the thinkers who disagree with you; Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote that "To have doubted one's own first principles is the mark of a civilized" person. Question your verities, your certitudes.

Remember the sage advice of Susan Howatch in Mystical Paths, when she asks "When was the last time you looked in the mirror and said 'I can be wrong'"?

Listen, don't just wait for a chance to rebut. Life isn't high school parliamentary debate.

And meet people who may disagree with you in areas where you have something in common. Anthony Powell was a high and dry Tory, yet people across the political spectrum gather each December in New York City to celebrate his birthday, enact scenes from his novels (I was generously reviewedas "Playing Bob Duport, manoeuvring petulantly in a wheelchair, . . . clench[ing] audience attention with a nastiness that entirely concealed his native good nature"). Go and find your fun with people who may not agree with you.

Make neighbors.

And may 2018 be a blessed one for you.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Cat Who Came in From the Cold: A Memorial



That's my favorite picture of Giles T. Katt, the cat who came in from the cold. Literally.

You see, back in 2000, I moved for a few years back out to Nassau County, and rented a back cottage (in this town, most of the properties had a main house and a smaller cottage in the rear). The cottage was two stories, and, while compact, quite cozy (The main property was rented to a woman and her daughter). Our next door neighbor, an elderly man, had let his cottage go to ruin, and it became what I called "Kittycat Central"--a gathering of all the feral cats in the neighborhood. My ex and I took to feeding them, and one in particular, a handsome young adult grey-and-white cat whom she called "Oliver" was a regular.

In the winter of 2001, the weather report warned of a blizzard, and so I made a frantic trip to buy groceries (the cupboard, while not quite bare, was pretty sparse). The snow began as I headed out, and was falling in earnest by the time I got back. As I finished unloading the car, the front door to the cottage propped open, in walked the grey-and-white cat, an unneutred feral male, leading a small group of kittens behind him. This is, in case you didn't know, not typical of unneutered feral males. The grey-and-white led the kittens in, found a corner of the cottage (right by the stairs) where the wind wasn't blowing, and settled the kittens in, molding them into a pool of fur, to share their body heat. He then lay down in front of them, crossed his paws (a gesture I was to see repeated for many years, had I but known it), cocked his head at me (ibid.), and shot me a look as if to say, "It's cold out there, mate. Let us stay, there's a good chap?"

How could I not?

And how could I not keep that cat?

I renamed him, for reasons that I think are obvious, Giles, and never has a cat been better named. When fights broke out among the kittens, Giles would protect the weaker cat, rearing up on his hind paws, and boxing the aggressor; when a cat came back from the vet, and other cats were shunning him or her, he would trot up to the sick cat, snuggle him or her, and reintegrate that cat into the family.

Later, when La Caterina and I joined our lives and households, her three cats (Elvis, Betty and Buster) and mine (Giles, Ethan, and Elspeth) had to find a modus vivendi. Giles formed a pact with Elvis, the Comfort Kitty, and together they enforced decency, fair play, and kindness.

Elvis is gone three years now, so too is Buster, whose relationship with Giles reminded me of the sometimes affectionate rivalry between the Ainley Master and the Fifth Doctor.

Now I've lost my Giles.

He started losing weight a couple months ago, and la C took him to the vet, whose treatments seemed at first to be helping. Then, a little over a week ago, la Caterina told me the vet had informed her that it was time to put him down. I drove down against some of the worst traffic I've ever faced--the trip took nearly double its usual length, but we got him to the vet--only to be told he was very slightly better. When la Caterina came upstate for Christmas this year (I'd had to come up early for a funeral), she brought Giles. He seemed weak but not unhappy during her visit, but was eating less and less. He cuddled a great deal with me, with la C, and her sister, who came up to be with us.

Last night, his respiration changed, into a wheezing groan, and he ate nothing. He joined me in the bed, and pressed against my side all night. Betty, normally quite territorial about the bed, looked at him intently for a moment--and then joined us. For that one night, Giles was lovingly enfolded by not just me, but by Betty, the last survivor of la C's litter.

This morning, his breathing was worse, and he took just two small licks of food. I made an emergency appointment with the excellent vet up here, and brought him in. The news couldn't have been more dire: Tumors were closing off his breathing, surrounding his thyroid, and in his abdomen.

It was time.

I won't say any more of what passed when Giles and I were alone together, or when the Doctor joined us, and gave him the anesthetic that gave him his release. I did my duty to the finest cat I have ever known, and that is all.

But I will add this: As he drifted into sleep, I whispered into his ear, "Thank you. Thank you for choosing my door."

Requiescat in pace, little friend of friends!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

"Doctor....I Let You Go": A Golden Age Ends



DOCTOR: Oh, there it is. Silly old universe. The more I save it the more it needs saving. It’s a treadmill.

[Tardis noise]

Yes, yes I know they’ll get it all wrong without me.

[Tardis noise]

Well, I suppose….one more lifetime won’t kill anyone. Well, except me.

[Theme from Heaven Sent, "Breaking the Wall"/Tardis noises]

You wait a moment, Doctor. Let’s get it right. I’ve got a few things to say to you. Basic stuff first.

Never be cruel, never be cowardly. And never ever eat pears! Remember – hate is always foolish…and love, is always wise.

Always try, to be nice and never fail to be kind. Oh, and….and you mustn’t tell anyone your name. No-one would understand it anyway. Except….

[He gasps, falls to the floor]

Except….children. Children can hear it. Sometimes – if their hearts are in the right place, and the stars are too. Children can hear your name.

Gasps, grunts more

But nobody else. Nobody else. Ever.

[Pulls himself off the floor, agonizingly.]

Laugh hard. Run fast. Be kind.

[Theme crescendos, as in Heaven Sent.]

Doctor – I let you go.

And then it happens. The streams of energy, the column of flame, the revelation of the new Doctor--and her sudden, surprised gasp, of "Oh, brilliant," upon seeing her own new visage.

***

But I'm not here to celebrate the arrival of Jodie Whittaker just yet. You wait a moment, Doctor. Because first I have to say goodbye to my Doctor.

I've been a fan since I was a teen, and never thought that my old favorites would be shouldered aside by the angry Scot. The new series, well I've loved it since it began, but who could dethrone the Doctors of long ago, when I was so impressionable and innocent, and--young.

Peter Capaldi, that's who. With Steven Moffatt's writing, with his own tremendous acting, even when the scripts were less than perfect, the journey of the Doctor from emotionally disconnected to "hate is always foolish…and love, is always wise." The Doctor who punched his way through the wall because he had a duty of care, who couldn't give up on Missy, and never knew he had succeeded, with her dying to stand with him.

This last adventure, with no villains, much gentle humor, the two Doctors contrasting with each other, with a last run-around--it was a fitting send-off to the Doctor and the actor who pulled such emotion from his own depths that the young-ancient, weary-exuberant, old Doctor touched my heart in his last moments.

In an increasingly cruel world, the Doctor's last speech gives us words we so desperately need. And, we must hope, sets the expectations for his successor.

Long may she reign.

***

Jodie Whittaker is a superb actress, and "Oh, brilliant," with her wide eyes and a rapt smile is an encouraging welcome to the world of her era. And I'll be there for it, rooting for her and Chris Chibnall. If Chibnall can overcome the occasional misanthropy that makes his vision jar with Doctor Who, he has it in him to be a brilliant show runner, and to infuse the Whittaker era with a whole new brand of magic.

Welcome, Thirteen. Make it lucky thirteen for us. We're counting on you, Jodie. And you, Chris.

Laugh hard. Run fast. Be kind.

And do it in your own way, Doctor.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Culture of Clericalism Remains

If you wonder whether the Roman Catholic Church has learned anything in the wake of the three waves of the sex abuse crisis, this report of the reaction to the death of Bernard Cardinal Law, whose persistent reassignment of accused priests and stonewalling forced his resignation as Archbishop of Boston, suggests that the culture that enabled abuse remains in place:
Make no mistake: There is a political battle underway in Catholicism today over child sexual abuse,” a veteran Vatican watcher, John L. Allen Jr., recently wrote in Crux, a website that specializes in the Vatican and Catholic Church. “And its outcome is uncertain.”

It is sometimes not clear which camp Pope Francis is in.

For many critics, Pope Francis has not made good on his early promise to remove the deep stain of child sex abuse from the church. A proposed tribunal to try bishops was scrapped. In June, Francis granted a leave of absence to Cardinal George Pell, the highest-ranking Roman Catholic prelate to be formally charged with sexual offenses, so that he could defend himself in Australia.

In September, the Vatican recalled Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella, a high-ranking priest working as a diplomat in the Holy See’s embassy in Washington, after American authorities sought to strip his immunity and potentially charge him with possession of child pornography. The Vatican drew criticism for protecting its own by whisking the priest away, but said he would face investigation and perhaps trial in Vatican City. So far, no charges have been filed.

And this month, the three-year terms of members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors expired without any news of renewed terms or appointments, prompting The National Catholic Reporter to declare in an editorial: “That Francis has allowed this lapse to occur is worrisome.” The commission’s only abuse survivors had already left in frustration. Greg Burke, the Vatican spokesman, said, “The pope is working on it and will name members as soon as he can.”

***

At the conclusion of a funeral Mass for Cardinal Law on Thursday afternoon in St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis will preside over the Final Commendation and Farewell of the Funeral Liturgy.

Ultimately, he will be buried in the small chapel between the wooden confessionals, adorned with the relics of saints and a centuries-old crucifix. Cardinal Law renovated the place himself several years ago, and supporters like Monsignor Di Ciocco believe he deserves such a place of honor.

“It wasn’t that he was a pedophile,” said Monsignor Di Ciocco. “He found himself having to manage a difficult situation. It’s not that he himself behaved badly.

“In my times, there was a different instruction. If something happened in a family, it was the role of the father of a family to hide it. Now it is all about the media and saying sorry. It was natural that he defended his children, the priests. We can’t criticize what happened then with the mentality of today. It’s not fair.”
The Monsignor's remarks are very reminiscent of those of Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos in a 2001 letterbacking French Bishop Pierre Pican’s decision not to denounce a priest who was later sentenced to 18 years in jail for repeated rape of a boy and sexual assaults on 10 others:
“I congratulate you for not denouncing a priest to the civil administration,” Castrillon Hoyos said. “You have acted well and I am pleased to have a colleague in the episcopate who, in the eyes of history and of all other bishops in the world, preferred prison to denouncing his son and priest.”

In it [the letter], the cardinal said relations between bishops and priests were not simply professional but had “very special links of spiritual paternity.” Bishops therefore had no obligation to testify against “a direct relative,” he stated.
I keep hoping for the day when Command and Coercion is out of date, irrelevant.

That date is not, alas, today.