When it comes to email, I have learned to expect the solicitation of a bereaved Nigerian widow who needs my help with her $27 million windfall. Drugs that are cheaper in Canada, political posturing left and right or a solicitation suggesting I could extend my pecker from here to Cincinnati ... none of this is significantly more annoying than a buzzing fly. I'm a grown-up and simply don't get hooked.
But today I got an email from book publisher Random House that pressed my buzzers in the same way they might have been pressed if I got a mass mailing from the Third Reich assuming that of course I would like to contribute to the construction of the new camp grounds at Auschwitz.
I sizzled and hissed and was anything but a grown-up. The email addressed me as "Adam" as if some cozy, pre-established relationship existed.
I was outraged to have a prowling Internet link me with some kind of support for the Catholic church and its political efforts ... in this case to stop the government from forcing Catholic hospitals to provide birth-control coverage to their workers.
The email quoted Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, in his book that Random House was flogging:
... We've experienced rampant disregard for religious beliefs in this country with the approval of embryonic stem cell research; legal justification for the torture of prisoners; the provision of tax dollars to abortion providers; the HHS mandates, and, most recently, a redefinition of marriage by many of our leading political figures. We can see that there is a loss of a sense of truth here, and objective moral norms -- rules of conduct that apply always, to everyone, everywhere -- and an 'eclipse of a sense of God and of man.'
"Dolan," the email said, "serves as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) which is calling the two week protest on June 21-July 4 the “Fortnight for Freedom.""
Dolan's book, which the email seemed to think I might enjoy, was only 99 cents in its Internet format.
"Rules of conduct that apply always, to everyone, everywhere...." And yet in my lexicon, The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had proven itself more than willing to dodge and bob and weave and counter-attack any priest-sexual-abuse allegation or victim ... people who had been children at the time these men of God had broken the trust of those they were charged with uplifting. They had scarred men, women, children and families ... many of whom are now in the sixties and still feeling the lash. They had paid them off rather than concede that the Vatican (and its USCCB arm) knew of these depredations and had done little or nothing more than protect the 'sanctity' of the church and the well-dressed powers within it.
And here was an email asking me to take seriously the arguments of one of the church's top guns, a cardinal. I don't mind granting people I disagree with a hearing, but I do ask for some credibility of standing and this email left me incredulous. I felt that I was being asked to understand that Hitler was not such a bad guy ... after all, he build the autobahn. Only in this case, I was being asked to grant moral standing to an institution whose moral standing was clearly suspect at best and heinous at worst.
Even receiving such an email made me feel dirty. It was childish, perhaps, but that was my reaction.
In as grown-up a tone as I could muster, I wrote to the sender:
Please take me off this mailing list. The track record of the USCCB when it comes to human rights is both deplorable and shameless. If, by some chance, that group decides to become Christian in any more than name, I will happily receive your press releases. Until then, I will confer with and listen to pond scum more readily.
Obviously, I was angry to the point of illiteracy... falling head-long into the kind of irate bias that is pleasant enough, but never solved anything. And yet, I could not repent of my anger. Some things deserve an unequivocal "no," and in my book the moral authority of the Vatican is one of them.
A brief response that did not address me as "Adam" came within minutes:
"Have a nice weekend.".