Sunday, May 5, 2013

Dialogue with the Devil and a Chat with Bill Clinton

Yesterday Pope Francis reminded us that we cannot dialogue with the devil.  "There can be no dialogue with the prince of this world: let this be clear! Today, dialogue is necessary among us humans, it is necessary for peace. … But with that prince, it is impossible to dialogue."

He then went on to illustrate what such dialogue always consists of, if we are foolish enough to enter into it (as we always are).
‘Only look,’ he will say, ‘just do this one small little scam…it is a small matter, nothing really.” And so he begins to lead us on a road that is slightly off. This is a pious lie: ‘Do it, do it, do it: there is no problem,’ and it begins little by little, always, no? Then [he says]: ‘But…you’re good, you’re a good person—You [get away with] it.’ It is flattering—and he softens us by flattery: and then, we fall into the trap.”
***

The devil, then, uses the best in us to undermine us.  He uses our conscience, and prevails upon us to rationalize away the voice of conscience, which is nothing less than the "small still voice" of God.

In my play The Call, Old Scratch talks about this mechanism of sin and temptation ...

Some of my best charges poisoned their whole lives against the truth by building elaborate sophistries to cover their disordered desire.  Why you people do that, I’ll never know.  Something to do with conscience, they tell me.  And soothing a bad conscience with elaborate lies – well, that’s what we both specialize in, right?
***

Think for a moment of that old chap Bill Clinton.



Now my son Colin, who loves American history, and who has studied presidents in particular, tells me that these men are all fascinating, complex men - even the presidents many of us hate, like Obama or Bush or Clinton.

And what fascinates me about Clinton, a man of great intellectual and political ability, is here is the President of the United States, perhaps the most powerful man in the world, a man who could have any woman he wanted, period - regardless of what his wife says or what the reporters may want to say.  I mean, it's good to be the king, and Clinton was Top King.

But if you recall we learned something very important about him in all that sordid mess with Monica.  We learned that Bill didn't want to go "all the way" with her because he would consider that cheating (I read this at the time; it's at least what Monica said).  So they stopped short and did the things we all know they did and Al Gore almost became president over it.

Later, Slick Willie offered one of the most famous dodges in history.  In his deposition ...
Q. Whether or not Mr. Bennett knew of your relationship with Ms. Lewinsky, the statement that there was "no sex of any kind in any manner, shape or form, with President Clinton," was an utterly false statement. Is that correct?
A. It depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is.
Clinton went on to elaborate, saying the phrase, "There is no sexual relationship" between Bill and Monica is indeed true if the word "is" is limited to the present moment.

Now, why would the most powerful man in the world resort to this?  Why the mental gymnastics?  Why not simply sin and "sin boldly"?  Why not say, "To hell with it, I'm going for it and I'm going to cover my ass and lie about it"?

***

The answer to that question is penetrating, telling us how the devil dialogues and how we eagerly dialogue with him.  And for the answer to that question, look no further than the internet.  Listen, if you will, to the excuses offered by "Mr. Goodness" in last week's scandal involving Archbishop Myers.  (This is not a direct quote, but it's pretty close; it's a kind of hodgepodge of the things he said.)
The priest did not violate the agreement with prosecutors.  Well, he did violate it but we didn't know about it.  Well, we knew about it but we didn't approve of it.  Well, the archbishop knew of it and approved of it and defended it in a letter to all the priests of the archdiocese.  Well, that's because the priest was acquitted.  Well, he really wasn't acquitted.  But we didn't do anything wrong.  I have never had sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky.  Of course, there's a footnote here, because that depends on what the definition of sexual relations is - or what the definition of is is, for that matter ...
... and round and round we go.

Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur, "The world wants to be deceived, so let it be deceived." - Petronius

The devil may not like Latin, but that Latin phrase he loves.

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