3rd Sun [C] 1998

Fr. Charles Irvin

Bill Clinton’s total lack of respect for the dignity and integrity of a young woman just three years older than his daughter Chelsea. Do any of the commentators out there in either the print or television media have any concern at all for Chelsea Clinton’s feelings?

Nehemiah 8:2-10; I Corinthians 12:12-30; Luke 1:1-4,4:14-21

All of us are quite familiar with inaugural addresses, especially when presidents of our country take office and begin their elected terms. Some, of course, are more memorable than others (addresses as well as presidents!) Most inaugural addresses bear little relationship in their content with the substance of the actions taken by the men who gave those addresses.

Can anyone here give a fairly accurate recitation of the content of Bill Clinton’s inaugural addresses? I can’t. But I have a very clear picture that the substance of his actions bears little relationship with the words he has spoken.

Jesus Christ, on the other hand, gave an inaugural address shortly after he returned from spending forty days and forty nights in the desert preparing for the beginning of his public ministry. He returned to his own hometown of Nazareth to begin his public ministry. That inaugural address is reported in today’s Gospel account:

“He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his
custom into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He stood up to read and was
handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the
passage where it was written:
      ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
       because he has anointed me
       to bring glad tidings to the poor.
      He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
      and recovery of sight to the blind,
      to let the oppressed go free,
      and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.’

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,

and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to
them, ‘Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.’”  

Now a lot of ink is going to be spilled and a lot of words are going to be spoken about President Bill Clinton’s words, decisions and actions. It is right that this be so — we need to have a thorough airing of our expectations as a nation of people when it comes to the quality of our presidential leadership. What we stand for is summed up in what we expect of our nation’s leader.

These, I think, are some of the issues with which we Americans need to address:

Morality and the rejection of the moral norms expressed in the Sixth Commandment. Do we, in fact, want our national leadership to be moral? Or do we only expect them to keep the economy running well so that if we are well off financially the morals of our national leaders matter little to us? While the answer may seem obvious to you and me, the answer is not obvious out there in the general public.

Our president’s near total disregard for the integrity of his commitment to, and marriage with, his wife Hillary.

Worrisome to me is Bill Clinton’s adolescent disregard for the consequences of his actions. Freedom of choice appears to be his license to do what he feels like doing so long as he thinks he can get away with it.

More worrisome is President Clinton’s manifest irresponsibility in both his character and his ability to judge the consequences of his actions, this in our Commander in Chief. Do we want our nation’s leader and the most powerful man in the free world to act without regard to the likely consequences of his decisions?

Do we want to have a president who is endowed with unquestionable strength of character and moral purpose? Many citizens evidently don’t think morals have very much to do with being president.

All too many Americans are of the opinion that religion and moral norms are a matter of private, personal preference and should have no bearing in our public activity, and that religion, politics, and the norms to which we should hold our public school teachers and elected public officials are purely secular. Separation of Church and State is always invoked. We are entitled now I think to ask whether separation of religion and morals from public life has brought us to the crisis in which we presently find ourselves.

Liberty and freedom of choice, it seems to me, are grounded upon our acting morally with each other. Morals have a lot to do with sexual exploitation, respecting women, the abuse of power, and the norms to which we hold ourselves as a civic society, and all of that is expressed, or ought to be expressed, in the highest public official we elect to office.

Jesus Christ’s vision, values and activities matched the words of his inaugural address. He did bring freedom to those held captive in webs of lies and deceit, those held captive in addictive behavior patterns, along with freedom to those held captive and victimized under exploitative power. His vision brought us light, light in which to see the truth plainly and simply, so that we could say “yes” simply and plainly when we meant yes, and “no”, equally as simply and plainly, when we meant no.

The consequences of separating religion, morals and values from our public life are manifestly disastrous, and can only lead us into deeper darkness and imprisonment under the domination of exploitative power.

Does anyone need further proof than that which is presently before us all to see?

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”