October 13, 2008

Against the Politicians

This is the time of year when you encounter one of those unforeseen delights of the parish priest ministry: fighting with the local politicians who want to campaign outside of church on Sunday.

They are usually playing the pro-life angle and, well, God bless them. Unfortunately, when I quiz them a little on their pro-life credentials, their ethic often turns out to be incomplete at best if not utterly inconsistent.

The basic issue for me is that I don't want their secular campaign materials littered about the church. I find it totally unseemly, not to mention bordering on illegal. It is especially disturbing because the politicians claim to represent the Catholic point of view, which they do not. (Or have not so far.)

The ensuing conflict is highly scripted, thanks be to God, so it can be executed without too much stress or even attention. At first they are asked to leave, which sometimes works. If they are dumb enough to not discern the border between public and parish property, removing them is as easy as a call to the police. They usually aren't that dumb, however.

If none of this works, you can try to strike a deal, asking the politicians to only distribute their propaganda to folks on their way home rather than their way into church. This sometimes works, but politicians are clever people and they know this strategy hurts them; people arrive at church at different times, but tend to leave all at once.

If the deal doesn't work you threaten to call their opponent--who is, of course, being portrayed by the politicians as un-Catholic--in case he or she wants to send someone down for counterpoint. At this point they tell you that you are a rotten priest who is set against God, and they threaten to reveal this to all of your parishioners, or call your diocese, or whatever. You then encourage them to do so, so that you might be crowned with the glory of fulfilling Matthew's final beatitude.

Having succeeded or not in your quest to eject those who would make the Lord's temple into a marketplace, at whatever point you need to get recollected for other things, you leave the prepared script, ask God to clear your mind of the whole thing, and get back to the Lord.

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