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The Case of the Nimble Obispo

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Sep 09, 2005

Argentinian Bishop Juan Carlos Maccarone resigned in mid-August after a video emerged showing his Excellency celebrating diversity with a companion described by the L.A. Times as a "23-year-old part-time cabbie, cellular phone salesman and money changer." Maccarone's excuse? He was framed.

No one, including Maccarone, has questioned the authenticity of the 15-minute clip, which his partner apparently shot surreptitiously at the bishop's residence.

Apparently they filmed the bishop on a bad hair day, and right-thinking Argentinians are outraged.

"We reject and repudiate this mafia-like assault on Maccarone," said Nora Loto, a human rights activist in Santiago del Estero, where supporters have staged marches in solidarity with the departed bishop. "The people behind this are the same ones who have committed so many crimes in this province, but unfortunately continue to act with impunity."

Well, not so fast. Every decent citizen, however humbly employed, is expected to keep himself out of the clutches of bookies, loansharks, hookers, and so forth. But if someone takes on the role of Eliot Ness so as to combat corruption -- an eminently honorable task -- he needs extraordinary honesty and uprightness, and can hardly call foul when, after he falls short of the ordinary decencies, his adversaries seize the advantage. If the claim below is accurately reported, Maccarone forfeits any lingering sympathy:

The bishop has declared in a letter to his peers that he was undermined by a "project of extortion" that took advantage of his "goodwill."

His goodwill. Right.

"There is no way this occurred casually," said Loto, the activist in Santiago del Estero. "If it happened to a person so loved, respected and as prestigious as the bishop, then it could happen to any of us …. We are all on alert."

"It could happen to any of us"? I hope, madam, that your portrayal of Argentinian social justice advocacy is an exaggeration. If it isn't, be sure to wear clean underclothing on your own goodwill missions.

There's one as-yet unexplained circumstance that may work to Maccarone's credit, and I hope it does. How did the video come to light? If Maccarone was simply blindsided by it during the evening news, so much the worse for him. If, on the other hand, he was blackmailed -- that is, if the bad guys threatened to make the video public unless he sold out the Church -- and Maccarone told them to broadcast and be damned, in that case the bishop deserves admiration: not for his slip into lynchism, obviously, but for his refusal to succumb to extortion. What we've been told of his letter of self-exculpation isn't encouraging, true, but the jury's still out.

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