CATHOLIC PewPOINT:

On April Fool's Day the biggest fools are those who don't heed God's Laws!

     How ironic, timely and a God-incidence that President Bill Clinton chose this past Sunday to attend a Mass at Regina Mundi Catholic Church in South Africa. Not that the chief executive had a yearning to attend, but rather protocol demanded he be there. The fact he was there is news enough, but we wonder how many picked up on the Gospel for this past Sunday. As we all know it dealt with John's account of Jesus absolving the woman accused of prostitution with the assurance and counsel to "Neither will I condemn thee. Go thy way, and from now on sin no more." Those last three words are what so many forget. Defenders of Clinton's ways, those who say "leave the guy alone," "the economy's good," or "don't worry what he does in his private life" are quick to say "who among you will cast the first stone?" but they almost always forget those last three words: "sin no more."

      Unless you've been a hermit, you know the controversy surrounding the man who sits in the oval office and the derogatory and decadent way his accused trysts have occurred. It has not ony denigrated the office, but hardened the consciences and souls of so many Americans who have forgotten those three words. They are the final words we should hear when we exit the confessional each week or each month when, after the priest has given us absolution for our sins, he counsels us to "go, and sin no more." If, as he has been accused of, Bill Clinton is guilty of extramarital affairs and ammoral liasons then we cannot gloss over it glibly. That is wrong and no matter how much he and his cabinet endeavor to cover it up, nothing can be hidden from God. For him to continue this sinful behavior is wrong and for God-fearing people not to "throw stones" in the effect of bringing it to his attention and to others is wrong too. But just as Catholics have been gifted with the treasure of the Sacrament of Reconciliation wherein our slate is wiped clean and God not only forgives, but forgets, so also we must be willing to forgive and forget the wrongs Bill Clinton has done. However, if he shows no contrition, then we must speak out, we must not condone the sin. Christ has said to love the sinner, hate the sin. In America today the sin is exalted and the hardened sinner a role-model while those who strive to follow God's laws are accused of being politically incorrect and homophobes because they stand squarely against the sin of homosexuality and extramarital affairs. The Christian coalition has been raked over the coals for their strict adherence to God's laws while admonishing others for not following them. Three cheers for the CC. Sadly, too many Catholics have remained neutral to this, afraid to get involved, afraid to commit to God's truths and speak out. They cower at the news of a sexual abuse case in Dallas, afraid to admit they are Catholic so as to avoid any correlation with their faith and the crime, yet they glibly let Catholic-bashing go right over their heads not taking it personally because they don't take their faith personally. Believe us, folks, if you hear anyone bashing Catholics or our faith, you should take it personally. Christ and His Blessed Mother do! Not that we should be so sensitive as to object or complain about everything, but when we sit idly by without offering any resistance by speaking out against such travesties, then we become willing accomplices to those who are launching the attacks or jokes at Catholics' expense, not to mention that guy downstairs doing the orchestrating.

     One of those travesties was the disregard the President and the first lady had for the Holy Eucharist and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church when they deliberately received Holy Communion this past Sunday in South Africa. Just as there was righteous outrage when the Catholic president of Ireland received communion in the Anglican Episcopal church, so also there should be outright righteous indignation that Clinton would slap Catholics and their faith in the face with such a gesture. He can't plead ignorance because there are plenty of Catholics around him, dating back to James Caravello, the Louisiana hotshot who ran his first presidential campaign. We can't forget that Clinton also attended Georgetown University, a supposedly Catholic institution. He knows very well about the guidelines set down for the reception of Holy Communion as contained in Canon Law. There are specific passages which expressly prohibit someone from receiving Our Lord, present Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist. Such are those who are in grave sin and are not in union with the Roman Catholic Church. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops have laid out the guidelines very specifically which are contained in the back of every missal or missalette. It was wrong and the Clintons knew it was wrong. For them to mock the Church's guidelines by refusing to acknowledge or respect the laws of the Roman Catholic Church is a direct affront against all loyal Catholics and should not be tolerated. We will stand strong in opposing the Clintons for their act of sacrilege as non-Catholics, but, in the spirit of Christ and the accused woman, we will not judge the "grave sin" aspect except to say: seek forgiveness!

     This year Forgiveness seems to be the watchword. Pope John Paul II has apologized for any inaction the Catholic Church and her people may have been guilty of in preventing the Holocaust. Realistically, we know the Church did all it could when one considers the causes and effects and the climate of that terrible time fifty plus years ago. Yet the Salome-like Jewish leaders clamor for more, wanting the head of scapegoat Pope Pius XII on a platter. But our present Holy Father will not play Herod, nor will he succumb to criticism and demands of this group who are playing politics and hardball with the Pope and the Church. Regardless of the wrongs the Church has committed, and over the centuries, there are many, the Church asks for forgiveness. So does Bishop Charles Grahmann, head of the Dallas See where former priest Rudy Kos has obliterated the reputation of that fine diocese and besmirched the trust of so many faithful. The Bishop asked for forgiveness and called on his diocese to fast for a year on Fridays. Just yesterday the Christian Brothers, a staple in many Catholic High Schools throughout the States, formally apologized from their headquarters for child abuse over the years. Anyone who ever had a CB for a teacher can appreciate this for they had a reputation for being the toughest knuckle rappers in the Church, far surpassing Sister Mary Feelnopain in grade school. Yes, wrongs were done, but as the Lord's Prayer, given to us by Jesus Himself, says "Forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those who tresspass against us." Forgiveness is not relegated only to the Church, secular institutions, other religions and individuals have gone on record lately in asking forgiveness for grievances committed, including a personal apology to Bill Clinton from the writer who sparked "Troopergate" in Arkansas.

      So while all are in this forgiving mood, it's your turn, Mr. President. What better time than now to come clean? Fess up to whatever wrongs you have done. Not only are the American people a forgiving lot, but so is God as we all know. We all know Bill Clinton is a sinner, this editor is a sinner, this editor's family, spiritual director, pastor and parishioners are sinners, our readers are sinners, all in Holy Mother Church including our beloved supreme pontiff are sinners. That is not a black mark against us, it is called Original Sin. But Christ gave us an out, a way to shed sin and embrace His graces. Sunday in Johannesburg, God tweaked Bill Clinton's heart and conscience with this timely Gospel and hopefully it found its mark deep in his soul. Next to him was Hillary Clinton who needs a little tweaking as well. Hopefully she was touched and converted to doing the right thing as well. Come, clean, Mr. President. Just say that you apologize for what you have put the American people through and those affected and ask for a deep, merciful forgiveness - first from God, then the American people. That's all there is to it. Though you are not Catholic you did attend a Catholic University where you have to be aware of what confession was. You had to have some envy in your fellow Catholic colleagues who had the Sacrament of Penance to salve the wounded heart and psyche. No one expects you to convert to Catholicism - though we continue to pray for that so you can truly, legitimately receive Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist - but in the spirit of the Sacrament, God will forgive you if you will only be totally honest with the American people. We all make mistakes, we have all fallen. But, as Sister Mary Lucy Astuto loves to remind all, there is no shame in falling, only in failing to get up. So get up, Mr. President. We're pulling for you, not politically, but for your soul. You see there is another Gospel passage you may have heard about. It concerns the prodigal son in which Jesus relates about the celebration of "one who was lost, and now is found. Let's admit it, Mr. President, you've been lost for a long time and the longer this continues the more you take into this ammoral fog with you. You don't want to be responsible for that kind of responsibility when you meet your Creator on judgment day. So we have a simple, guaranteed solution to your problems: Just say, "I'm sorry. I will sin no more" and the people will flock to forgive you, they will flock to give thanks to God for the "one who was lost, now is found." And God's angels will flock around you. You will be amazed at God's Infinite Mercy for the Almighty Himself will not only forgive, but also forget. Yet, don't forget there is one stipulation to all of this: it's contained in Jesus' three words "sin no more." If any of us fail to heed that, then, regardless of April Fool's Day, the biggest fools are those who don't heed God's Laws!

Michael Cain, editor


Daily CATHOLIC          April 1, 1998