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Pope Awarded Medal, Oak Leaf Clusters

Republicans Try to Suck Up the Catholic Vote

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, May 24, 2000.

You know, I'm wondering if people get wiser in their old age or simply more cowardly, physically afraid of retribution that may not be in the offing but is genetically imprinted as a survival technique. I ask this because even though I myself do not age, inexplicably my friends do and are changing.

I was reading this morning that a courageous Republican, need I mention, Congressman from Iowa is asking that Pope John Paul be given the Congressional Gold Medal. I was apoplectic and a friend on the phone was more calm, or as she put it, rational, soon downgraded to merely sane to meet the needs of our discussion. What does she know? Once, she would have been as angry as I, but now she's into calm contemplation of facts and the taking of a longish view, which is, in the long run, things like this don't matter. I disagree. They matter.

What I was and am incensed about is that the Congressional Medal - sorry, the Congressional Gold Medal - was to be offered to the Polish Pope because, in essence, he was Pope when the Iron Curtain fell and because he was relentlessly anti-Communist and confrontational in that effort. He also was to be awarded this priceless artifact because of his demonstration of great faith and, to put it bluntly, he leveraged the papal butt off the throne of St. Peter and did what Popes should always have done: gone out and met the people around the world, all the people, not just the Catholic fanatics who jam St. Peter's square with the horse-faced nuns, or the social climbing louts who get personal audiences with him by means of financial donations. He is the ultra Pope, and the office can never be held again by a couch potato. Whether you agree with him on Church policy or not, and I don't, it is well nigh impossible not to have high regard for a man who walks the walk as well as talks the talk in every language of our planet. Nobody can accuse this guy of hypocrisy, and there is no other leader of whom I am aware you can say that about. This is all a given and is not the point to my anger.

The Congressional Medal is the civilian equivalent of the Medal of Honor, although it is older, and its purpose, like the Medal of Honor, has changed through the years. It is awarded with the same questionable criteria with which the Medal of Honor has been given. From the Pope's point of view, is it appropriate to accept it? It is a worldly trinket, and given the thin-lipped bigots and henna-haired Baptist comb-overs who offer it, hardly elevates him or his church. It is considered not because of what he did but because the Republicans, the ruling party I am coming to detest, want to buy back as many Catholic votes as they can given the Bob Jones fiasco of Governor Bush. They gave one to Cardinal O'Connor of New York the month before he died, and I have the same objection to that. It is a slimy proposal from people who actually don't much like Catholics, who unfortunately these days tend to be of a darker complexion than the reassuringly Anglo-like Pope, but who need their votes.

From the point of view of the United States, is it appropriate? No. The first recipient was George Washington, and Winston Churchill received one later, and these are the sort of heroes for whom the Medal was designed: earthy achievers. The Pope is of a different sort dealing with spiritual principalities. (For the benefit of recent Boulder area high school graduates and CU history majors, the Pope is the head of the Roman Catholic Church, George Washington was the first President of the United States, the country in which you reside, and Winston Churchill was Prime Minister of Great Britain, the nation that used to own us. Okay? Okay.) It was, early on, rarely given, unlike the Medal of Honor, and it was merely a vehicle for the politicians of our Congress to append themselves to important events and people for their own benefit. But the fact is, lots of religious figures from Billy Graham to Mother Theresa have received this thing, so why not the Pope? Because it's wrong, that's why. And all the others, like Billy "Golden Cadillac" Graham, and Mother "Spread the Infections with the Word" Theresa shouldn't have been offered it either. It is wrong because it demeans both entities, to offer and to accept.

It is wrong from our point of view because over population and depletion of natural resources is the source of much if not all of today's problems. And the Pope and his policies are, in large part, to blame. Although the abortion angle is given the most press, it is the birth control aspect that should deprive him of this political reward. We spend billions every year to compensate for this stupidity, and millions die of starvation to boot. Neither we nor our representatives ought to praise this, nor reward it under guise of anti-Communist heroics.

And I don't care how old I get - should I actually age, at some point, beyond late youth - this will still and always infuriate me.