View From Lodi, CA: Religious Leaders No Help
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[VDARE.COM comment: this is Joe's column Lodi News-Sentinel, which we carry as a service because we admire his stand on immigration. Please address all complaints, thunderbolts etc. directly to him in Lodi!]

Pope John Paul II and Reverend Jerry Falwell were front and center last week espousing their very narrow perspectives on marriage, divorce and family planning.

Why anyone would listen to the slightest thing either of them have to say is beyond me.

Before going further, let me clearly state the obvious: I adhere to the George Carlin religious philosophy. In this world of terrorism, greed, disease, hunger, filth, poverty and torture, I say if this is the best God can do, then count me out.

Since my feelings are what they are, I view dimly the opinions of His Holiness and Falwell.

Falwell does most of his preaching from the Lynchburg, Va. Thomas Road Baptist Church and his nationally syndicated radio show, the "Old Time Gospel Hour."

But Falwell also has amazing support among network television talk show hosts like Larry King. Given his well-known, controversial views and his outrageous comments after 9-11, you would think Falwell would be considered a pariah rather than a suitable guest.

But instead Falwell recently appeared on "Hardball" to debate the National Organization of Women President Kim Gandy.

Although N.O.W. supports the presidential decision to offer prenatal care and delivery services to women in need, Gandy and her organization take exception to the decision to allow states to classify the fetus as "an unborn child" under the Children's Health Insurance Program. According to Gandy, the language paves the way for overturning Roe versus Wade.

When host Chris Mathews turned the microphone over to Falwell, he rhapsodized about his own children and grandchildren. And Falwell cited his children as examples of why he supports President George Bush's goal of abolishing legal abortion.

Reverend Falwell would like to impose his vision of things on you. His descendants—reared in affluent, educated and white surroundings -are sources of unlimited joy to him.

That's fine. But things aren't always so cut and dry for every family. Under the law, women have a right to free choose. Those Constitutional rights belong to the woman, her family and her doctor. Individual decisions about family planning are not the business of Reverend Falwell.

If Falwell and Bush are so concerned about health benefits for the poor, let them address the problems of the more than 40 million Americans, including 11 million children, without insurance.

While Falwell was weighing in on family planning, the Pope took on divorce lawyers. Can you think of anyone who knows less about marriage (and therefore divorce) than an 81-year old man who has never been on a date?

John Paul called the end of marriage a "festering wound" that is devastating society. In the past, the Pontiff has spoken out about too many annulments and divorces.

Now, the Pope wants lawyers to refuse to take divorce cases, as if that will make the problem go away.

Outrage at the Pope's statements resounded throughout Italy. The Italian Radical Party said that John Paul had become even more fundamentalist.

Conservative woman's rights leader Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of Benito, said that John Paul's comments were an effort to "turn back time" and to reopen a question that society resolved years ago.

Even non-Catholics chimed in by saying that the Pope's position shows that "the church is now very far away from culture."

The 1994 beatification of Elisabetta Canori Mora provides an interesting insight into the Catholic view of women, marriage and divorce. Mora was beatified because she stayed in an abusive marriage rather than seeking divorce. I wonder about the message the Roman Catholic Church sent with Mora's beatification.

In an abusive marriage is rejecting divorce saintly but decades of physical and emotional suffering irrelevant?

If the world were perfect, we would not need abortion or divorce. But the world isn't perfect.

And if God is all-knowing, all-loving, all-wise and all-forgiving, then why isn't that message clearer in the words and deeds of the Pope and of the Reverend Jerry Falwell?

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.

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