COURSEY: Stones and glass houses

It takes a lot of chutzpah for the leader of an organization known for its history of sexual abuse, criminal coverups and financial mismanagement to dispense moral advice to our political leaders.

But that's what Santa Rosa Bishop Robert Vasa was up to on Sunday, standing in Old Courthouse Square calling fire and brimstone down on any elected leader who would have the nerve to support abortion rights for women.

Talk about nerve.

I don't know much about Vasa, who just took over as head of the Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa in July. But I do know about the history of the Diocese, and of the Catholic Church. And to put it as nicely as I can: People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

The glass house of the Santa Rosa Diocese has been built upon the sexual misconduct and financial mismanagement of one past bishop and the failure of another to report the sexual crimes of a priest, as required by law. The Diocese in the past has been a haven for sexual predators in black cassocks, taking advantage of young Catholic boys and girls as the priests' peers turned a blind eye.

That's the past, you might argue. And yes, it is. But the past is part of the construction of the present, the past is the source of the materials from which the Diocese's glass house was built.

And on Sunday, the tenant of that glass house threw not only stones, but bricks.

Politicians who support abortion rights are “absolutely unworthy and absolutely unfit for public office,” Vasa declared.

The bishop made his remarks at a rally marking the 37th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, granting women the right to legal abortion.

He said the law is "illicit and invalid." And while any elected official who supports it is "unfit," a Catholic politician supporting the law also would be "on thin ice" and at risk of excommunication from the Catholic Church.

In other words, the bishop would have our leaders ignore the law of the land, and follow the dictates of he and his all-male band of brethren when it comes to women's rights. And, should an elected leader also be a Catholic -- such as North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson -- that leader should either ignore the laws and obey his religion, or consider himself no longer a member of what Catholicism professes is God's "one and only church."

Oh, the irony.

Here we have our Catholic bishop urging our secular leaders to ignore the law and follow the church. Isn't that exactly the path that caused so many problems for his predecessors?

If previous bishops had followed secular law, it would give the current one a lot more credibility when he talks about church law.

Then, instead of stones and glass houses, we could talk about separating church and state. But that's a whole 'nother conversation.

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