Mother Mischief

Power-Prayer Breakfasting with Mother Teresa

Mother Mischief
essay by Terry Southern

The Nation
March 14, 1994

TASTE OF THE MO'--introduces another topical vignette by TS--this one chosen in anticipation of SHOWTIME's "Strange Justice" about the Hill/Thomas hearings, and the Christian Coalition's immanent, never-to-soon demise.

The great comedian Lenny Bruce used to tell a story about a quasi-hip, upwardly mobile young couple whose cocktail napkins were inscribed, "Another Martini For Mother Cabrini." It was in just such a spirit of fun that I tuned in C-SPAN recently for something called The National Prayer Breakfast, since it promised to feature the words and wisdom of the world's oldest living saint, [Slav]-Macedonia's own Mother Teresa. For some reason I had assumed the event to be one of the know-nothing series produced from time to time by conservative elements for the Republican Party; so I was quite surprised that the first person I recognized on the screen was that paragon of Southern Democratic chivalry, Senator Howell (Big Hef) Heflin of Alabama. Of Alabama, yes, and moreover, of Hill/Thomas hearing fame. It was he who was responsible for the notorious aside (well I heard it) muttered into an accidentally open mike to Joseph Biden: "We have been heah, Joe, foath two full days talkin' about "harass this' an' harass that." Would you puh-leeze tell this old sailor when are we gonna start talkin' about her tits? Haw!" The ancient saint was doubtless unaware of Big Hef's indiscreet bonmot, and allowed him, like a balloon Falstaff in the Macy's Parade, to escort her to the podium.

If the prominence of Senator Heflin failed to make it clear that this event was not simply another crackpot Republican affair, my first good glimpse of guests at the principal table made it abundantly so, since they included both President Clinton and the First Lady. It is impossible to imagine what manner of ultra-weirdness must have jumped inside the head of Hillary Rodham Clinton when this tiny crone at the podium, now more a witch than saint, unleashed her incredible rantlitany against not just abortion but contraception/birth control/family planning. One might have felt this was a fitting comeuppance for public persons who fail to distance themselves from such arcane sky-god antics and adulations. To be against the practice of birth control when world population has grossly outgrown the food necessary to sustain it is hardly to be on the side of the angels, and, in saner times, would surely be the political kiss of death.

As the sorry proceeding bowed and scraped to a close, I felt well out of such mumbo-jumbo and vowed to write a letter at once protesting the failure to separate church and state. While I was pondering it, however, C-SPAN moved to its next coverage, the House of Representatives. Lo and behold, there was Speaker Tom Foley (shades of Tip O'Neill) opening the session with, you guessed it, another prayer, presumably to the same sky-god as the one presiding over the breakfast. Isn't there a law against this sort of thing?


[Update: When senior Vatican officials sought to deny emergency contraception to women who had been raped during the war in Kosovo, the outrage reverberated around the world. This horror was not an aberration. Pope John Paul II urged Bosnian Muslim women who had been raped during the 1993 conflict to "accept the enemy into them," making it "flesh of their own flesh" by carrying their prenancies to term. The Vatican works in the United Nations to block all use of contraception and condoms, even to prevcent AIDS and HIV. Now hundreds of thousands of people worldwide have initiated a postcard campaign to change the status of the Roman Catholic church at the United Nations. SEE CHANGE believes that the Holy See, the government of the Roman Catholic church, should participate in the UN in the same way as the world's other religions do--as a non-governmental organization.]

Change the Holy See's status at the United Nations

*Each year 5.8 million become HIV positive and 2.5 million die from AIDS

*At the U, the Roman Catholic Church attempts to block international policy decisions that would make condom education and use a major tool in the prevention of HIV/AIDS.

To overcome these threates to world health and lives, lend your support to the "See Change Campaign"


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