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in high places

By Diogenes (bio - articles ) | Jan 08, 2004

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive
But to be young was very heaven!

Former Jesuit Robert Blair Kaiser belongs to that fading remnant of 1960s mustangs who fell besottedly in love with folk guitars and bell-bottoms and oral contraceptives and who still await the trumpet signalling the dawn of the New Age, growing a little more testy with each passing year, even with fellow travelers. Herewith an excerpt from his latest Rome Diary:

In late September of this year [the Pope] clobbered the newly nominated Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O'Brien, the archbishop of Edinburgh and St. Andrews in Scotland, for telling the press he welcomed a Church debate on contraception and promising that he would continue to speak out on other sexual issues that hadn't gotten enough of a public airing in the Church, including homosexuality and priestly celibacy. After a furious phone call from the nuncio in London, one that implied the nuncio was speaking for the pope, O'Brien made a solemn (and craven) profession of faith at a special public ceremony in his Edinburgh cathedral. ...

When I approached O'Brien at a reception on October 21, the day he received his Red Hat, he recoiled, looking like a deer caught in the headlights. Press people had gotten him into trouble. And I was a press person. Same afternoon, John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter couldn't get near O'Brien until he assured O'Brien's aide that he only wanted to offer his congratulations. He said he would ask Keith no questions.

I didn't have the heart to ask him any questions either. "I just wanted to give you my best wishes," I said. Still looking shell-shocked, he mumbled, "Thank you." And I was on my way, quite disturbed to see how even an archbishop can be marginalized and infantilized by the man who is often referred to inside the Roman Curia as "the Supreme Authority."

Quite a portrait. One imagines O'Brien as a Muslim who becomes a department store Santa, dismaying his Shi'ite uncle by bellowing "Mer-r-ry Christmas!" and disquieting Christian moms by whispering "Death to the infidels!" What is too easily overlooked is that Kaiser, in the role of the Shi'ite uncle, expects O'Brien to be in bad faith, assuming his ideological kinship and shared desire for subversion, cavilling only at the compromises to be made in the process.

Here's the rub: not only is O'Brien furious with the orthodox if we agree with Kaiser, but Kaiser is furious if we agree with Kaiser. Why? Because we're ungracious enough to give a name to the obvious: treason. And that spoils everybody's Christmas.

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  • Posted by: Fr. William - Jan. 10, 2004 12:52 PM ET USA

    Maybe Kaiser doesn't have the moral courage and integrity to leave the Church that he so loves to hate... i.e., "Traitor" is truly the proper term for someone who actually thinks that he knows better than Jesus and His Church.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 08, 2004 12:59 PM ET USA

    Kaiser details his immaturity in the book, Clerical Error, somehow rationalizing his leaving the Jesuits, his alcoholism, his dissent, his violation of Christian morality. It's a difficult read because he reveals too much about himself without realizing it. It's valuable in that it also shows what a con artist Malachi Martin was, and recounts Martin's affair with Kaiser's then wife.

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Jan. 08, 2004 10:25 AM ET USA

    Clobbered. Shell shocked. Deer caught in the headlights. Marginalized. Infantilized. Powerful stuff, Fr Kaiser, and certainly equates with the suffering of Christ on the Cross doesn't it? I am sure that crucifixion and martyrdom are just around the corner for wee O'Brien.

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