Is Clinton a modern Tetzel?
In the wake of the Clinton pardon scandals, the Chicago Tribune's Ron Grossman goes looking for historical precedents. He finds two in church history: Johann Tetzel and Geoffrey Chaucer's The Pardoner. The two, of course, are very similar, though the English poet's fictional character preceded his German counterpart by a bit more than a century. Both had similar jobs: assure people of God's forgiveness in exchange for money. Tetzel put it famously: "Once the coin into the coffer clings, a soul from purgatory heavenward springs!" The Pardoner spoke of his own aims: "For my intent is only pence to win, / And not at all for punishment of sin." Chaucer was likely inspired by John Wycliffe and the Lollards, Tetzel inspired Martin Luther to write his 95 Theses. Will another famous reformer arise from Pardongate?

AIDS activists upset over "Christian Response to AIDS" pamphlet
The ACLU and ACT-UP are protesting a pamphlet that preaches compassion and love for people with AIDS, and urges readers to write letters to government officials supporting "anti-discrimination laws [and] more funding for AIDS treatments." Ordinarily, of course, anti-AIDS activists would like this kind of thing. The problem is that this pamphlet, titled "A Christian Response to AIDS," uses Bible verses to back up that advice, and is available from the D.C. Health Department's Administration for HIV/AIDS. "It's outrageously unconstitutional for the District to be spending tax money on this Bible tract," Arthur Spitzer, legal director of the local American Civil Liberties Union, tells The Washington Post. The district spent all of $380 for 1,000 copies of the pamphlet, which it ordered from Channing L. Bete Co (you've seen their other health pamphlets—the ones with the round, hairless people). Apparently there is something more important than educating people about AIDS and saving lives—stamping out the Bible from the public square.

The next big social ill …
Just yesterday Weblog was having a conversation about how "over" the whole Marilyn Manson shock-rock thing is. Public outrage has long since turned to Eminem, but even that's dying out. Tomorrow it'll be some other music that captures middle America's sense of moral outrage. Actually, it might be starting already. Education Week is running a story this week on the new craze sweeping the nation: "It looks like sex, but it's dancing. It's called freak dancing, and teenagers of all types are freaking at middle and high school events across the country. … A girl might be on all fours, with one boy's pelvis pressed into her face and another's pressed into her bottom. They see boys on their backs with girls spread-eagled over them; girls bent forward with boys' hips thrust into their backsides. Students know it by different names in different towns: freaking, grinding, jacking, booty dancing, the nasty. They do it to hip-hop and rap. Articles of clothing sometimes come off." Good grief. (Other articles of moral outrage include those in The Washington Post, The Seattle Times, The Baltimore Sun, and The Hartford Courant.)

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I don't think that's what Jesus meant when he said "Blessed are the peacemakers"
Gun-owning Catholics are lobbying for a patron saint. And they already have one in mind: St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother, a.k.a. Francis Possenti (1838-1862).As the story goes, in 1860 Possenti shot a lizard dead with such a show of marksmanship that he scared off a band of 20 terrorists. Former National Rifle Association employee and ex-Jesuit seminarian John Michael Snyder organized a Vatican City ceremony to draw attention to their cause, and said the Vatican should be "courageous enough to stick its neck out for the right of individuals to defend themselves against evil and tyranny." But Possenti is already patron saint of the Abruzzi region of Italy, clerics, students, and young people in general. And don't gun owners already pretty much have Moses as their patron?

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