Dispatches > The Buzz


Issue: "The Mormon Olympics," Feb. 16, 2002

OUT LAW: Roman Catholic Cardinal Bernard F. Law of the Archdiocese of Boston may have apologized for allowing known pedophiles to remain as priests, but Washington Post columnist Michael Kelly, a Roman Catholic, says apologies are not sufficient. Cardinal Law's statement, writes Mr. Kelly, is full of "the weasel words of the caught-out politician-that Clintonian language which pretends to take responsibility and tell truth." Cardinal Law, for instance, said that his "judgments" in retaining pedophile priests were "tragically wrong" but "made in good faith." This won't do, argues Mr. Kelly. "What happened in the Archdiocese of Boston is quite clear. Over several decades, high church officials, Law among them, were increasingly aware that priests under their control were using their offices to rape and otherwise sexually assault boys in their care. The church officials covered up the truth and refused to report known offenders to authorities. They repeatedly allowed priests they knew to be serial molesters to continue in careers of pastoral care that brought them into contact with children." The church will not recover its moral authority with Cardinal Law still in office, according to Mr. Kelly. "If Law would begin to undo the wrong he has made, he must truly confess, truly repent, truly make amends," he writes. "He must resign." PRIDE BEFORE THE FALL: Who needs good self-esteem anyway? Psychologist Lauren Slater questions common beliefs about self-worth in-of all places-The New York Times Magazine. As she explains it, the mindset works like this: "The less confidence you have, the worse you do; the more confidence you have, the better you do; and so the luminous loop goes round." So endless campaigns have tried to boost self-esteem, especially among the disadvantaged. It hasn't worked, as Ms. Slater admits. "In fact, crime rates and substance abuse rates are formidable, right along with our self-assessment scores on paper-and-pencil tests." Now some researchers wonder if high self-esteem may actually contribute to social ills. "Self-esteem, as a construct, as a quasi religion, is woven into a tradition that both defines and confines us as Americans," Ms. Slater writes. "If we were to deconstruct self-esteem, to question its value, we would be, in a sense, questioning who we are, nationally and individually." So often what the buzzword refers to is simply pride. FAULTY MEMORY: Hollywood will never forget McCarthyism. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences unveiled an exhibit on the 1950s blacklists that unsettled ex-union leader Roy M. Brewer, who recalls the communist controversies of the past in the Los Angeles Times. The former representative of IATSE, the production crews' union, notes that he and others discovered that the Communist Party had a cult-like grasp on some in the movie business and wanted it stopped. "More than 50 years ago, Screen Actors Guild President Ronald Reagan and I were on the front lines in the war against communism with a who's who of Hollywood beside us." Mr. Brewer writes that he and the future president "spent countless hours" trying to help people break with the Party and resume normal life. Yet the exhibit does not acknowledge the evils of the Soviet Union, nor does it give any reason why Hollywood briefly tried to exclude certain communists from movie jobs. "In its role as historian," Mr. Brewer concludes, "the academy failed the industry, especially those too young to remember this era." SOFT ON TERROR: Bill Clinton fiddled while terrorists attacked. That's the claim made by ex-adviser Dick Morris in a Wall Street Journal commentary. He claims the president was passive during crises like the first World Trade Center bombing. "Even as he fretted about whether to sign the welfare reform act and brooded about the FBI file, Paula Jones, and Whitewater scandals, he seemed curiously uninvolved in the battle against terror." One proposal Mr. Clinton turned down would have made driver's licenses for aliens expire with their visas. Mr. Morris claims that the president did not want to be charged with racial profiling and did not want to alienate his voting blocs. "Had the idea been adopted, suicide bomber Mohamed Atta would have been subject to deportation when he was stopped for driving without a license, three months before Sept. 11, 2001." Mr. Morris also chides Mr. Clinton for not supporting such debatable proposals as federalizing airport security checkpoints. "In Bill Clinton's epoch," Mr. Morris concludes, "terror was primarily a criminal justice problem which must not be allowed to get in the way of the 'real' foreign-policy issues-relations with Russia and China and the dynamics of the Western alliance."

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