Thursday, May 8, 2008

Malcolm's hatchet-jobs (at Malcolm Redfellow's Home Service and here) are puny compared to the axe-work of a master-craftsman.

So, today, he looked with envy at the Economist's obituary of Alfonzo López Trujillo, the "Vatican enforcer":
IN 1995, as head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo published a “Lexicon of Ambiguous and Debatable Terms”. They included “safe sex” (no such thing, unless confined to the nuptial bed); “gender” (a construct of strident feminists) and “family planning” (code for abortion). He could also throw back a few phrases of his own: “contraceptive colonialism”, “pan-sexualism”, “new paganism” and, with a special lowering of those beetling black brows, “the culture of death”.
And that's only the taster. Want more? --
The enemy was all around him. Legislators and governments across the first world who passed laws to ease divorce or ensure “gay rights” (though of course, to quote Aquinas, lex injusta non obligat). Fervently Catholic countries, like the Philippines, which adopted two-child policies to curb their surging populations. Scientists in white coats who committed murder in test tubes in the name of medical research.
But the big foe was Latex Johnnie:

Condoms were the first enemy. In their sly, shiny packets, they invaded the poor world as insidiously as the disease they were meant to prevent. To the cardinal, there was nothing safe about them. They merely encouraged promiscuity. To hope to stop AIDS by wearing one was like “playing Russian roulette”. They were as full of tiny holes as a sieve, through which the HIV virus, “roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon”, as he told the BBC, would slither with no difficulty. The World Health Organisation might claim condoms were 90% effective; he had read it in the Guardian; but “they are wrong about that”. And he was right.

He was always right, staunchly on the side of order, stability, hierarchy and God's law.
There's no mealy-mouthed nil nisi bonum here. The Economist knows how to pile on the ordure:
Latin America's crop of military dictators received no condemnation at the archbishop's hands. Where there was chaos, he reminded his bishops, people needed firm government.
This trick reminds Malcolm of Governor Teddy Roosevelt's axiom:
I have often been fond of the West African proverb: "speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.
Before moving on, let's note that on the facing page the Economist reviews a couple of books under the headline Sex and sensibilty, which concludes:
In Uganda people were warned of the risks of HIV and encouraged to use condoms and be sexually faithful. That helped reduce the impact of AIDS ... Political, religious and local leaders have done little elsewhere in Africa. Some, such as South Africa's president, Thabo Mbeki, preferred disseminating untruths about the disease and how it should be treated. Where strong leadership could have had the greatest impact its absence is most keenly felt.
Yes, the Economist also does irony with great effect.

The Economist
is uncompromisingly and honourably liberal (in the economic, political, and social definition of that much-overused word). One does not have to take it in entirety as a modern Code of Hammurabi. It argues its case; and Malcolm invariably finds it stimulating both in its content, and its challenges to his own prejudices.

The Vatican, by comparison, needs to justify or publicly regret its long-time deplorable record, especially in South America.

It stood up for the dictator August Pinochet in his struggle to avoid deportation from Britain to Spain, when Spain wanted to investigate his role in the disappearance of Spanish nationals during his reign of terror from 1973 to 1990. The Argentine Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo criticised the Vatican's intervention on Pinochet's behalf, only for President Carlos Menem to apologise cravenly on their behalf for their presumptuous lèse majesté.

It was curious, witnesses noticed, how the Catholic authorities throughout the Chilean and Argentinian pogroms never openly criticised, yet were too frequently able to report to the bereaved family what had befallen one of the "disappeared".

Malcolm reverts to Roosevelt's letter. It was an honourable stand, by a strong leader, against pressure from within his own Republican Party to re-appoint a corrupt official. He says of his opponents, what could be said of the Vatican, and the likes of Trujillo:
They have often shown themselves the enemies of good government, but in this case I do not think they are even to be credited with good intentions. They were no more anxious to see dishonesty rebuked than a professional prohibitionist is to see the liquor law decently administered.

In a murky world,
for the likes of the Economist
we should be grateful.

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