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True Glue? 

Published June 19, 2002 at 4:00 a.m.

Folks, let’s talk about Botox. I’m determined to be cheerful this week, and the only other items on the news this morning were Tiger Woods, Winona Ryder’s shoplifting trial and murdering Saddam Hussein. And that little girl in Utah, unfortunately, with the hundreds of male relatives, who got kidnapped out of her bedroom. And those fires in Colorado. And Andersen-Enron. And “dirty” bombs.

No wonder you look worried! Cheer up: Botox promises not just to remove those annoying fright lines from your brow but will also relieve your “overactive bladder,” should you be unlucky enough to suffer from one at this perilous moment in our nation’s history.

“Bladder dysfunction affects a staggering number of people worldwide,” says a report for the pharmaceutical industry. “And the use of Botox injections can offer many of these patients a safe solution to this embarrassing problem.”

So far as I can tell, Botox is mainly glue, but if it can remove all expression and emotion from your face, I’m sure it’ll tighten your pipes, too, when the bombs start going off. Imagine trying to defend the homeland while wetting your pants! Try sniffing out terrorists while leaving a trail of pee in your wake! Will you be fighting the Infidel in soggy drawers?

Aw, skip it — there are so many ghastly things going on I don’t know where to avert my eyes. My vote for most disgusting news story of the week comes from Florida, where the Rev. Jerry Vines, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Jackson-ville and a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, warned his flock that “Allah is not Jehovah” and that Muslims “don’t worship the same God as we do.

“Jehovah’s not going to turn you into a terrorist that will try to bomb people and take the lives of thousands and thousands of people,” Vines insists. Theologically, he’s right in line with Dubya Bush, commander-in-chief, who intoned, “Evil knows no holiday; evil doesn’t welcome Thanksgiving or the Christmas season!” But Vines does Bush one better by adding that the prophet Mohammed was a “demon-possessed pedophile.” That’ll win us some friends overseas.

This story might not have bothered me so much if a) I didn’t have some Muslims in my immediate family, and b) President Bush hadn’t bestowed his televised blessing on last week’s Baptist convention in St. Louis. The specific charge against Mohammed involves his marriage to a 6-year-old girl, the 12th of his wives, with whom he reportedly had sex when she was 9. This was 15 centuries ago, long before Southern Baptists had evolved from the swamp, and at a time in history when all women and children were deemed to be the property of men.

Indeed, I believe this is still the case among Rev. Vines’ co-religionists, whose 16 million members adopted a resolution about it in 1998: “A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.” A shot of Botox might definitely help here, at least for any Southern Baptist woman who needs to keep a straight face.

Alas, mentioning religion and pedophiles in the same breath leads inevitably to the topic of Catholic priests. I don’t know how Botox would help in that situation, except perhaps, to seal the lips of everyone involved.

In Chicago on Sunday, Cardinal Francis George compared the American media to “communist spies” and ordered them to leave their cameras and notebooks outside his church while he celebrated mass. His parishioners cheered. It’s worth pointing out that of 46,000 Catholic priests in this country, only 250 have resigned or been removed from their posts in the wake of the pedophile scandal. No comfort to the abused, I’m sure, but not exactly the cataclysmic crisis it’s been made to appear. No wonder the bishops in Dallas sounded strange in their remarks.

“People want us to act in a clear and decisive way,” Dallas coadjutor Bishop Joseph A. Galante confessed. “Not with a lot of wiggle words, or with being philosophers or whatever, and parsing everything.”

I’m not sure “wiggle” is the word I’d have chosen for this particular parse, but Galante knows what neither the victims nor the talking heads seem ready to concede: In the Catholic church, all roads really do lead to Rome, and wiggle is all they’ll get until You-Know-Who says yea or nay.

As an example of the church’s predicament, the Bishop of Toledo mentioned Father Robert Fisher, who served 30 days in jail for molesting a teen-age girl in 1988, later went through four years of counseling and now enjoys the support of his parish. Should he be dismissed? The victims think so, but the bishops aren’t sure. There might be other things Father Fisher could do, behind the scenes, without his collar, away from kids — he’d already proved “very helpful” in the “architecture department.”

Don’t laugh: Antoni Gaudí is up for beatification. And on Sunday, before hundreds of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square, Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, a mystical Capuchin friar from southern Italy. Pio bore the stigmata of Christ and, while he lived, was repeatedly accused of seducing his female parishioners at confession. Revered by everyone from Sophia Loren to the late Graham Greene, Padre Pio is, right now, the most popular saint in the Catholic world.

If you ask me where all this is leading, I’m afraid I can’t tell you. Botox has frozen the shock on my face.

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Peter Kurth


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