Some right-wing members of the clergy are getting upset over the election of Barack Obama. I mean really getting upset.
The story about the Roman Catholic priest in Greenville, S.C., who told parishioners that if they voted for Obama they could not receive communion has been all over the Web. (He has since been reined in by his superiors.) Less reported is a story from California about an Obama-bashing priest who stands accused of assaulting a reporter.
Ryan Chalk, a reporter with the Vacaville Reporter, tried to interview the Rev. Sebastian Meyer of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Fairfield about a story that was reported by a parishioner. The woman claims she was expelled from services for driving a car with an Obama sticker on it.
As it turns out, Meyer wasn't in the mood to talk.
"He became very agitated," Chalk told InsideBayArea.com. "He told me, 'No, we're not writing that. I did not touch her. I did not talk to her.'"
When Chalk attempted to continue the interview, he says Meyer lunged at him, clawing at his arm and trying to grab his notebook. Chalk ran off, threatening to call the police. (He did later file an official police report.)
"It was absolutely shocking," Chalk said. "It's the last thing I would expect from a priest. I mean, I'm sure this was not the first time he's dealt with inquiries from the media, especially with his years in that position. He should know ways to step around it or simply say 'I don't wish to comment.' That would have been fine."
What could spark such an over-the-top reaction? I think some of these clergy who went way over the line during the recent election or afterwards are now realizing they were out of bounds. Now they're hoping their actions will be forgotten. That is not happening, and they're mad.
Some are backpedaling furiously. The Rev. Jay Scott Newman, the South Carolina priest who wants to deny communion to Obama voters, now says his statement was "misunderstood." Oh, really?
That's funny because Newman told parishioners in the church bulletin that anyone "voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exists constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil." He went on to say that if you voted for Obama, you need to go to confession before taking communion "lest they eat and drink their own condemnation." What did we misunderstand about that?
In Paterson, N.J., Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli wrote a column in October attacking Obama (whom he referred to as as "the present democratic candidate for President") over the issue of abortion and comparing him to Herod Antipas, the biblical ruler who ordered John the Baptist beheaded. After AU reported him to the IRS, Serratelli protested loudly. How did we ever get the idea that he was advising people not to vote for Obama?
Oh, I don't know. Maybe it was that Herod business? Unless we're supposed to think that comparing someone to a depraved and corrupt king from the ancient world is a good thing.
These guys have been challenged on what they did, and they have to deal with the consequences of that. In some cases, they may simply be alienating members of their congregations or losing members. Others may have violated federal tax law.
What's done is done. Rather than try to cover up their politicking, worm out of it or assault reporters who want to write about it, these out-of-bounds clerics would do better to make a sincere apology and promise they won't do it again.