Just think for a moment about what this report means: a former president of a sovereign nation reveals that when she is on an official political visit to another nation, a prince of the Roman Catholic church feels perfectly free to upbraid her for theological views she has every right to hold, and then to usher her and her visiting political team into a room "where a well-known American conservative Catholic, Mary Ann Glendon, is waiting to lecture the President on her views on women priests."
Think about the implications of President Mary McAleese's account:
1. An American Catholic cardinal presumes the right to step across all boundary lines of propriety and mere common courtesy to waylay the visiting president of a country of which he's not a citizen, deliver a demeaning lecture to the president of that country, and then entrap her so that she's required to listen to yet another demeaning lecture from a political official of the nation she's visiting.
2. There is clearly not a scintilla of awareness in Cardinal Law's behavior that popes, cardinals, and bishops no longer call the shots for the political lives of nations that are not under the direct control of the Catholic church.
3. There is, instead, the implication that the cardinal and his political puppets in the U.S. have every right in the world to meddle in the internal affairs of a nation in which he doesn't reside--to meddle by brazenly insulting the president of that sovereign nation when she is on a state visit on which she ought, instead, to be treated with courtesy and hospitality.
What kind of human beings behave as Cardinal Law and Ms. Glendon behaved in this encounter with President McAleese? What does the behavior of the cardinal and his puppet say about their character, about the depth of their commitment to important Catholic principles such as our obligation to receive guests with gracious welcome?
Given what McAleese's story tells us about Law, what are we now to think about the "punishment" that Pope John Paul II doled out to Law when he demoted him from his episcopal see in Boston, only to promote him to a cushy insider position in the Vatican, where the "disgraced" cardinal now wields enormous power (and here) within the top ranks of the Catholic church? And, if McAleese's account is accurate (and I have no reason to doubt it), where Law also imagines he has the right to leverage his Vatican position to continue his meddling in the internal political affairs of sovereign nations, in collusion with influential right-wing political players in his nation of origin . . . . Since why would his "demotion" from Boston to Rome in any way alter the penchant for such meddling that McAleese's narrative reveals?
The shocking disclosures of the 2002 clerical abuse cases in Boston revealed to the world that Law is beyond shame. This story only underscores what we already know about this cardinal's brazenness, his vastly inflated sense of his own importance, and his imperviousness to ethical rules that govern the behavior of lesser human beings.
And now it appears we can add Ms. Glendon to the same list of infamy--though I suspect many of us have had few doubts about where Ms. Glendon belongs after she has adamantly refused to grant the truth of well-documented reports that the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Fr. Marcial Maciel, was a serial abuser of seminarians and fathered several children by different women, using secret funds from his religious community to maintain these children (see also here and here).
Why pay attention to this report of Mary McAleese? As an American, I think it's significant for the following reason: if the Republicans prevail in the 2012 elections and regain control of the White House and both houses of Congress, we should fully expect--I'd stake my life on it--for Law and Glendon and the many other right-wing Catholics in bed with them to do everything possible to consolidate their strong influence on the political future of the U.S.
And on the future of the human community and of the planet itself, due to the preponderant influence that the U.S. exercises in the world community . . . .
This should not be a happy thought: a world in which highly placed people of compromised character or little character at all pull the strings is not calculated to be a very happy world.