On MSNBC this afternoon, Washington Post blogger, Sally Quinn, compared Pope Benedict to Richard Nixon and said, of the currently raging child abuse scandal, "This is the Vatican's Watergate." "Barry Goldwater led a group of Republicans and sat down with Nixon and said, 'It's time to go.'"
One must keep in mind, however, that this is the same person who, though not a Catholic, wrote about going forward to receive communion at the funeral of Tim Russert. She did it for Tim:
Last Wednesday at Tim's funeral mass at [Holy]Trinity Church in Georgetown (Jack Kennedy's church), communion was offered. I had only taken communion once in my life, at an evangelical church. It was soon after I had started "On Faith" and I wanted to see what it was like. Oddly I had a slightly nauseated sensation after I took it, knowing that in some way it represented the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Last Wednesday I was determined to take it for Tim, transubstantiation notwithstanding. I'm so glad I did. It made me feel closer to him.
Digby nailed it by noting that her remarks seemed "a little bit too much like a restaurant review...Tangy yet nauseating?" So, let's just say, Ms. Quinn's insight into Catholicism seems incomplete.
The incident she refers to did happen. Barry Goldwater did lead a delegation to Nixon to tell him that his support in the Senate had collapsed. Nixon's resignation came shortly thereafter. That was Washington, however, and Rome is not Washington.
Popes have resigned. One resigned during the Great Schism in the 15th century, Gregory XII. The other was a hermit named Celestine who was elected Pope in 1294, against his will. Shortly thereafter, he issued a decree providing for the abdication of the Pope, and then abdicated. John Paul 2 is known to have considered resigning due to ill health.
So, it's possible, but only under extreme circumstances. That is not at all likely to happen. Everything about this Pope says retrenchment, and that is his likely path, no matter what. It should be added, however, that the current strategy--blaming the media--is not helping smooth that path. The rough places, so far, have not been made straight.
In any case, there will be better sources for Vatican news than Sally Quinn.
Arianna Huffington's HuffPost now has a religion page edited by Paul Rauschenbusch. Nice catch. Paul is the great grandson of Walter Rauschenbusch, an early 19th century theologian who promoted the "social gospel." (Is there another kind?)
Several columnists, such as Jim Wallis, Joan Chittister, and Brian McClaren, are well known in religious left circles, but the site also has some new faces. See Eddie Glaude's take on the black church, for example.
On day one, the site has a nice mix of stories, all the way from gays in the military to Lenten practices to Muslim protests over TSA airport scanning devices--typical fare for HuffPost. Plus, with HuffPost, you always get a little Hollywood gossip as a side dish.
The month of August is named for Caesar Augustus. "Augustus" was a title which, in Latin, means "worthy of being worshipped," which Caesar Augustus was not, and neither is the month named after him.
Not much seems to happen in August. It's so hot and muggy in Washington that people clear out of town. Since the early days of the republic, the members of Congress have taken recess in August figuring that it was better to be back home, wherever that was, than to be in a city that was mostly a reclaimed swamp.
The news dies down in August, and if anything does manage to happen, it's usually something bad. The first atomic bomb was dropped in August. The Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia in August. The Sonny and Cher show began in August.
T.S. Eliot called April "the cruelest month," but he was flat wrong. August wins that title hands down. Dan Plotz:
August is the vast sandy wasteland of American culture. Publishers stop releasing books. Movie theaters are clogged with the egregious action movies that studios wouldn't dare release in June. Television is all reruns (or worse—new episodes of Sex and the City).
I'll still be blogging in August, however, as soon as I think of something to say.
It turns out that Maureen Dowd, editorialist at the New York Times, lifted a paragraph from Josh Marshall and put it in her Sunday column, "Cheney, Master of Pain." The paragraph was word-for-word something Marshall had written. She has admitted the infraction. It was, of course, "inadvertent." Here's the paragraph:
“More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when we were looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq.”
In the corrected version, it now says, "As Josh Marshall says on his blog, 'More and more...'" The funny part is that this was one of Dowd's better columns. I read it, and thought, "Hey, this is not completely execreble!" Glenn Greenwald complimented her yesterday on her "uncharacteristically cogent and substantive column."
What may be even worse, it's not at all clear if Dowd actually did it. That is, she has an assistant who writes the so-called "spine" of the column, and then she goes in and supposedly jazzes it up with her lame jibes and snide remarks. (She gets paid well to do this.) If it turns out that her assistant cut-and-pasted, that's almost worse because it shows that whatever nuggets of sanity might have appeared in former columns was the work of the assistant, and the snarky off-point darts were Dowd's.