B16: Revenge of that Communion question

BenedictXVI MassIf you stop and think about the degree to which mainstream journalists view life through a political lens, then it is absolutely stunning that the feisty folks over at the Politico seem to have the following story to themselves — for a few hours.

The headline is a dud: “Pope’s visit renews abortion debate.” Like, that’s a surprise.

But the actual story by Josephine Hearn and Ryan Grim has a much-tougher edge to it and the news hook is totally logical. Here’s the top of the report:

In June 2004, as prominent Catholics in the United States debated whether Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry should be allowed to receive Communion, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger weighed in with what appeared to be an unequivocal opinion: No.

If a politician who supports abortion rights attempts to receive Communion, Ratzinger wrote, “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.”

Ratzinger is to arrive in Washington on Tuesday as Pope Benedict XVI, and his visit to the nation’s capital is already pitting anti-abortion-rights activists against Roman Catholic lawmakers who support abortion rights, reviving an issue that has received scant attention in Congress or on the campaign trail in recent months. The conflict could come to a head Thursday, when the pope is scheduled to celebrate a Mass at the Washington Nationals’ new ballpark. The Vatican has invited all Catholic lawmakers, and many abortion-rights-supporting Catholics — including Kerry and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — are expected to attend.

Conservative Catholics are pleading with the pope to take a stand, hoping that the advisors around Benedict XVI will brief him on who is who before the service.

But stop and think about that for a moment. The logistics of the service are going to be gigantic — Holy Sacraments for an entire stadium of worshippers (click here for a New York Times story on that). Very few people will receive the Sacrament from the hands of the pope himself and there will be a not-so-small army of bishops and priests spread out all over the stadium after the consecration rites.

In this case, the critical decisions were made by whoever issued the invitations to the Mass.

The Politico has all kinds of good sources on this story, with voices from the Catholic left and right — as the story demands. Meanwhile, the stance of the U.S. Catholic bishops is that the believers are supposed to police themselves.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said she knows of no plan to deny Communion to particular lawmakers Thursday.

“You presume that everyone there knows the rules of the church and follows them,” she said. “No one is policing that. People go to church and people go to Communion if they feel in their heart they are prepared to receive Communion.”

Abortion-rights-supporting Catholic lawmakers on the Hill seemed reluctant Monday to discuss the issues raised by the pope’s visit. Representatives for several members said their bosses were traveling and couldn’t be reached or were otherwise unavailable for comment. Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi, offered a one-line statement: “The speaker receives Communion regularly and expects to receive it on Thursday.”

Meanwhile, Catholic conservatives will be very pleased to see that Hearn and Grim have included a short — but very thorough — summary of the history behind this issue, at least the history of Benedict XVI’s views on the subject. Here is that section of the story:

Ratzinger’s 2004 opinion appeared in a memo that was sent to then-Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and first reported in the Italian magazine L’Espresso. In the memo, which did not mention Kerry by name, Ratzinger said: “The church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is a grave sin. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion, even among Catholics, about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not, however, with regard to abortion and euthanasia.” …

Benedict has not softened the position expressed in the memo. Aboard the papal plane in 2007, he discussed a threat by Mexican Catholic leaders to excommunicate politicians who supported abortion. According to a Reuters report, the pope supported the proposed excommunication.

“Yes, this excommunication was not an arbitrary one but is allowed by Canon law, which says that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with receiving Communion, which is receiving the body of Christ,” he said.

Like I said, it’s hard to believe that this story hasn’t hit front pages until now. Stay tuned.

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T.D. Jakes vs. CNN, online

44ad9c04 001e0 0120e 400cb8e1It is a blunt, stinging attack, linking one of the most popular voices in the contemporary black church with the ultimate symbol of black courage and sacrifice.

The story by CNN’s John Blake opens this way:

In a stinging passage from a “Letter from Birmingham City Jail,” the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. condemned white churches for rejecting his pleas for support.

“In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevancies,” King wrote from jail during the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, demonstrations.

The contemporary white church has largely accepted King as a religious hero. Yet some observers say there is one religious community that continues to shun King — the black church.

Forty years after his death, King remains a prophet without honor in the institution that nurtured him, some black preachers and scholars say. They also say King’s “prophetic” model of ministry — one that confronted political and economic institutions of power — has been sidelined by the prosperity gospel.

The key word, of course, is “some” — as in “some black preachers and scholars say.” It’s a story built on the oh-so-familiar divisions in the contemporary church, yet framed to look like a battle over the legacy of King.

The key is that headline — “Modern black church shuns King’s message” — is printed right above a photo of Pentecostal superstar T.D. Jakes. The story draws a line between “self help” and “political activism,” but it is also hard not to notice that it is also a divide between the world of black churches that tend to align with mainline Protestants and a liberal political agenda and those that tend to lean to the cultural right, which may mean limited or overt cooperation with moral and cultural conservatives.


Read the CNN piece
, please. Then read the response that CNN — to the network’s credit — allowed Jakes to write in response.

This gets rather blunt, but read it all.

The Jakes commentary opens with this quote:

“Bishop Jakes has always been a strong supporter of my father, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the King family. Bishop Jakes, along with many other ministries of his ilk, all continue to convey the dream and the message of my father in the services they provide to oppressed people around the world. Some may say that the ministers of today have different techniques, but the core of the message and the goal remain the same.”

– Martin Luther King III

Read both pieces and then answer me this: Is this division, between Jakes and the CNN sources so critical of him, primarily political or theological? Or did the folks at CNN simply go with a half-finished story, rather than truly listen to what the right side of the black-church spectrum has to say about the work of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and those who back his approach to prophecy?

It also helps to remember that the King family also contains some controversial voices. Why? I bet you can guess. CNN really needed to talk to people on both sides of this divide in the black pulpits and pews.

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Honest to blog

Uses of BlogsSo last week I was reading the Washington Post‘s coverage of its impressive win of a whopping six Pulitzers and came across Joel Achenbach’s analysis of the wins:

Original reporting still matters. It’s probably our best gimmick. It’s what we do (imperfectly to be sure) better than anyone else in the news business. It also can’t be easily replaced on the cheap by some other information-delivery system.

And then I was reading David Crumm’s site Read the Spirit, a multi-media publishing company and site focusing on religion and spirituality. He had a substantive critique of mediocre coverage of the upcoming papal visit that included these words:

The dramatic downsizing of newsroom staffs and the slashing of reporting budgets has never been more painfully obvious than in the current preparation for Pope Benedict XVI’s visit.

There should be an enormous story somewhere in this complicated cultural collision, shouldn’t there? The Catholic Church, after all, claims to have a global population of more than 1 billion — close to the size of the entire Islamic world.

The top guy in the church — in fact, the world’s single most powerful religious figure — is paying a historic visit to the world’s two greatest secular centers of power. Somewhere in this global pageant there’s news, isn’t there?

Unfortunately, many of the religion-writing experts who once covered these issues for newspapers and news magazines are long gone in the many waves of journalistic downsizing. The slimmer staffs of journalists left standing inside these historic offices often are struggling simply to meet deadlines. For the most part, these professionals are smart, talented people desperately trying to fill the dwindling news space — without the time or the resources to do their jobs properly.

It is amazing how few religion reporters are at local papers relative to, say, sports reporters or business reporters. Year after year we see that the top stories are infused with religion and yet the funds and resources devoted to religion reporting don’t increase.

One way to bridge the gap is through blogs and some papers and media outlets have attempted them. I’m really not sure how I feel about them. There are some blogs that I do check out regularly — and link to from here.

I am completely confused by the Washington Post religion blog. I don’t get it at all. Every few weeks I remember it exists and it befuddles me. Please explain it to me. How do you use it? What do you like about it? What knowledge does it imparts? Or conversely, why don’t you like it?

The thing is that my favorite blogs about religion are either very newsy or very theological. I think that’s why I find the Washington Post/Newsweek On Faith section so maddening — I never seem to find any substantive news or theology there.

Now go look at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s new religion blog. Called Civil Religion, it has an eye toward just that — Rousseau’s concept of Civil Religion.

Right now there are 12 bloggers from various religions. The idea is that they write posts representing their own religious beliefs and in so doing, interact with each other. The posts I like the most are those that bring in a little bit of reporting. The Mormon blogger, for instance, explained what the previous Sunday’s General Conference was and added her perspective that the twice-annual meeting is a little bit like Easter and Christmas. All of the bloggers are able to raise issues that are newsy, and add context to the discussion.

What do you think about these religion blogs at mainstream newspapers? Do you read them? Do you like them? What would you like to find there? And do they make up for the gaps we see in religion reporting?

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McCain’s faith: Say what?

say whatNow this has to be the strange lede of the day.

The story focuses on all of the faith talk that is going around at the moment, much of it stirred up by Barack Obama’s “bitter” remarks and Hillary Clinton’s related attempts to spin herself as a pew-sittin’, gun-lovin’ friend of the everypeople who live in that state located between Philly and Pittsburgh.

That’s the context for this story by Andrea Billups of the Washington Times, which serves as a kind of flashback and update on the faith journey of Sen. John McCain from the Episcopal pews of his youth to the Southern Baptist megachurch that he favors today.

All well and good.

But what in the world is this lede about? This is one of those cases where I wonder if this is what the reporter wrote, or did this wording result from a train wreck at an overworked copy desk. Here we go:

Don’t expect any public testimonies of faith from presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, who is not demonstrative about his religion but who embraces a Baptist faith that is based on salvation.

The religious intentions of Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama were dissected after he publicly explained his decadeslong relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., but the senator from Arizona likely will talk little about the details of his own spiritual path other than to acknowledge that he is on one.

“The most important thing is I’m a Christian,” Mr. McCain told reporters in September on the campaign trail when asked about his religious affiliation.

Say what? He has adopted “a Baptist faith that is based on salvation”? As opposed to what, an Anglican faith that is not based on salvation? A Catholic faith that is not based on salvation? What kind of mainstream Christian body is not, to one degree or another, “based on salvation”?

I have literally no idea what dropped out of this sentence. Was it supposed to be a lede about a born-again concept of salvation? Is it code for the fact that his church preaches that some people are saved and others are not? In other words, is the controversy that he now attends a non-Universalist church (thus opening the door to a controversy about item No. 2 in the infamous tmatt trio)?

I am very, very confused. I await enlightenment, especially from you Godbeat veterans out there. What was this lede trying to say? Is the key that he once was not an evangelical, but now he is — maybe?

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A large life in Christian education

farewell1I do not know if there are any religion writers left at the Los Angeles Times, but I hope that there is someone there on the beat. Someone needs to write a news feature about the death of one of the most interesting Christian educators of the late 20th century.

Clyde Cook, the recently retired president of Biola University, died Friday night at the age of 73 in his study at home. This may sound strange, but it seemed like Cook was older than 73. That is not a comment about a lack of drive or energy. I meant that as a compliment, because Cook has been a major player in Christian education for many, many years. This is one of those big men that you have trouble imagining being gone.

I honestly expected to see a major obituary about him in today’s Los Angeles Times, but, alas, it seems that he may not have been on the newspaper’s radar screen. Trust me, there’s a lot of story to write. Check out the opening paragraphs of the school’s official Cook bio:

Dr. Clyde Cook served as Biola University’s president for 25 years, from 1982 to 2007, with a unique background as an educator, administrator and fourth-generation missionary. Both his great-grandparents and grandparents were missionaries to China, and his mother followed in their footsteps. While traveling there by ship, she met her future husband, an officer on the ship, and a year later was married to this Christian sea captain from Scotland.

Born in Hong Kong, the fourth of six children, Clyde was faced with adversity at an early age when the Cook family was imprisoned in three different concentration camps during World War II. In 1942, by God’s grace they were reunited in South Africa.

You can even catch a glimpse of Cook’s influence in Christian-college circles by reading between some of the lines in a New York Times story about growing pains at Biola.

Now remember, Biola is a solidly evangelical school that has grown into the modern era with few of the open battles — repeat, “few” and “open” — that are so common in higher education of any brand. It also helps to know that the history of the old Bible Institute of Los Angeles is intertwined with the publication of “The Fundamentals,” pamphlets at the heart of the original, ecumenical movement made up of believers who became known as “fundamentalists.” Here is an important piece of that 2004 Times feature by Samantha M. Shapiro:

Biola, whose 95-acre campus is in La Mirada, 20 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles, is part of the fast-expanding movement of ”Christ centered” colleges — schools that are not loosely affiliated with a church, like Notre Dame or Southern Methodist University, but that integrate Christianity into all aspects of the curriculum and require faculty members, and sometimes students, to sign a pledge of faith in Jesus Christ. The 102 American schools in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (many of which, like Biola, are nondenominational) represent just 1.5 percent of the country’s total college population, but in the last decade their enrollment has increased 67 percent, compared with an average increase of just 2 percent for American colleges and universities as a whole. …

When I spoke with Clyde Cook, Biola’s genial president, he explained that the university is as committed as ever to the principles articulated in ”The Fundamentals,” although, he said, ”we’ve found different and more effective ways to deliver those truths.” For one thing, Cook said, while ”indoctrination” is ”still valuable,” the school thinks it is preferable to have students internalize Christian truths through a process of questioning. Cook said he still sees the school’s mission as preparing its 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students to spread the Gospel, to argue for Christianity against the tenets of secularism and of other religions. But graduates are no longer necessarily supposed to preach from the pulpit. Instead, Cook said, Biola now aspires ”to incarnate those truths in the professions — in business, nursing, movies, government.” Students take seminars in which they discuss how to integrate their academic studies with a ”Christian worldview.” Where Biola once considered certain disciplines, like philosophy, to be irrelevant to Christians, these days it places graduates in top philosophy Ph.D. programs, hoping they will learn to argue in sophisticated secular terms, for example, on behalf of the rights of fetuses.

Over the last 50 years, evangelical Christianity in the United States has moved away from fundamentalism, which is still dedicated to the idea of separation from an ungodly world. Evangelicals believe that the way to change culture is to participate in it, albeit with caution. Particularly in the last decade, as the movement has matured, intellectual institutions — journals, scholarly presses and advanced academic work — have quietly budded within evangelical circles. Biola’s evolution from a Bible college to an accredited liberal-arts university offering advanced degrees is just one manifestation of this change.

clydebobblelLike I said, Cook lived a large life and fought to build a Christian campus in a setting radically different from the norm, by which I mean a remote town or distant suburb. There is nothing small or safe about greater Los Angeles.

If you want to know more about Cook, you should visit a weblog created by journalism students at Biola. Check out the post called “Mr. Biola,” written by a former student of the Washington Journalism Center (the journalism-semester program I lead here in another large American city). Rebecca Pearsey’s post ends with an encounter between a new Biola student and Cook, on the day of the inauguration of the school’s new leader.

Soon they were talking of everything from surfing in California to Biola’s math program. … The young man introduced his father and uncle and they began to talk. Between bouts about the different programs and people at Biola, Dr. Cook made sure to tell how much he loved his school.

“Biola’s a wonderful school,” he would say every chance he got. The employees kept walking by. Everyone called to him by name and he answered them by name in return. Finally the parents caught on that whoever this guy in a suit was, a lot of people loved him.

“So are you a professor here?” they asked.

“Oh no,” said Dr. Cook. “I’m retired.”

I wanted to speak up and declare that no in fact, they were talking to Mr. Biola himself. But his last line kept me silent as I realized how much it said about this man.

There’s a story here. I hope someone at the Los Angeles Times writes it.

Photos: Biola University home page.

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Let Texas be Texas?

FLDSoverviewRegular GetReligion readers may recall that I am a native Texan, though I must confess of the “prodigal” variety. Still, I speak fluent Texan and my instincts about my native land are pretty good.

So that Los Angeles Times update about the unfolding events in Eldorado caught my attention, the one with the headline that said, “Texas has its own view of polygamists — Unlike Arizona and Utah, it closed a compound forcibly.”

So Texas “has its own view” of polygamy and allegations of statutory rape and/or forced marriages of very young girls? And what might that unique point of view be, precisely? Read the whole story, please, and tell me what you think the X-factor is.

Here’s the top of the story, which I will unpack a bit.

After a polygamist sect took up residence outside this tiny ranch town a few years ago, the library stocked paperback, cassette and hardcover copies of “Under the Banner of Heaven,” an unsparing look at such groups that was suddenly in hot demand.

OK, so the town is full of liberals who loved that book’s fiery view of Mormonism and other forms of violent religious fundamentalism in America? It was the kind of book that makes religious liberals happy. Correct?

The local weekly newspaper devoted stories in nearly every edition to the outsiders. And it posted online audio clips of the sect’s self-styled prophet, Warren Jeffs, ranting in a creepy monotone about the Beatles being covert agents of a “Negro race.”

Ah, more evidence that this town was worried that the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was a bit on the far-out, right-wing side of things. They didn’t even like the Beatles! And there were all of those old-fashioned dresses and hair styles.

The people of Eldorado (pronounced el-doh-RAY-do) took in the sect’s arrival with nervous anticipation — because they understood that, unlike in Utah and Arizona, this would not last long in Texas.

There is the question again. What is the mysterious agent at work here in West Texas, something that is not found in places like Utah and Arizona.

The article continues to tip-toe around this question, all the way through. We do not even get a discussion of the possible answers.

Is this a town full of anti-fundamentalist liberals? Is it a town full of Southern Baptists who read Jon Krakauer books and strive to defend rock ‘n’ roll? Is it a town full of Christian fundamentalists who are hung up about older men having lots of sex with teen-aged girls? You know, the omnipresent moralizers who want to throw water on other people’s fun? Are the streets packed with cowboys who want to enforce their own view of anti-religious justice?

The most likely answer is this is a town full of anti-fundamentalist fundamentalists. Texas is that kind of place, you know.

This story contains all the usual details from the past few days of coverage. The new element is this “it could only happen in Texas” theme.

Texas’ raid contrasts sharply with the approaches of Arizona and Utah, which have looked the other way for decades while the FLDS put underage girls into “spiritual marriages.” The 10,000-member sect was founded in the 1930s by religious leaders who continued practicing polygamy after it was banned by the Mormon Church in 1890.

“God bless Texas,” said Flora Jessop, an activist who escaped the FLDS at age 16. “The state has done in days what Arizona and Utah failed to do in more than a century — protect children.”

I am genuinely confused. So you tell me. What’s the X-factor? Are the states of Utah and Arizona actually pro-polygamy, at the level of police and civic leaders? Sure the Times is not saying that. Surely.

Now, before you click “comment,” let’s be clear about the question I am asking. I want to know what you think the journalists at the Los Angeles Times were trying to say. Stick to the journalism question and don’t go raging off into a discussion of what you think about the FLDS and/or its critics.

Focus: What was the Times trying to say?

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Sacred seizure

FLDSbookYesterday I raised some of the journalistic questions surrounding coverage of the raid on the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints in Texas. And I was happy to see I wasn’t alone in being intrigued by those questions.

In the comments to the post, reader Joel asked:

Did you notice that when the temple was searched, there was little or no mention of the taboo-ness of gentiles entering it? I wondered about that, and I still haven’t seen anything that mentions the FLDS reaction to having their sanctum sanctorum violated.

Enter Miguel Bustillo’s story in today’s Los Angeles Times.

Authorities searching a remote polygamist compound for a 16-year-old girl who had claimed she was sexually abused discovered a bed inside a towering limestone temple and were told by a “confidential informant” that men used it to have sex with underage girls, according to a court document unsealed Wednesday.

The Associated Press ran a video report on the raid, that puts the size of the temple and the ranch in context.

Some folks wondered how it was possible that the group’s sacred temple and the contents therein could be subject — rather easily it seemed — to a search and seizure by law enforcement officials. Here’s the Times, again:

The allegation that sex between adult men and underage girls was occurring inside the monolithic white temple came Saturday from a confidential informant who formerly belonged to the religious sect and who had been cultivated over several years by Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran, according to the affidavit.

In addition, Texas Ranger Leslie Brooks Long disclosed in the affidavit that investigators had interviewed numerous underage girls who were pregnant or married to men with multiple wives. While inside the compound, Long saw a document “indicating marriages between one man and more than 20 wives, all of whom resided in the same residence” as of last August.

When an investigator asked one girl her age, the affidavit states, the girl turned to her husband, Lee Roy Jessop, who said, “You are 18.” The girl then told the investigator that she was the fourth wife of Jessop, 33, and that “he was still married to the other three wives” in the eyes of the sect.

The initial search warrant does not appear to have been executed solely due to one complaint from a 16-year-old girl who said she had been raped and beaten. The Texas officials had been working with a confidential informant who had, on more than 20 previous occasions, given information that had been corroborated. The affidavits for search warrants have been unsealed so I hope the media report the further details.

Reading through the search warrants, some of the girls with children of their own claim not to know their age. So clearly law enforcement officials are looking for records which establish precisely how much statutory rape is going on among the FLDS. That presents concerns not only related to religious freedom but also attorney-client privilege. FLDS attorneys are arguing they have the right to review the seized material:

“The church has rights. Entry to the church is a sacred area,” said Gerald H. Goldstein, an attorney for church elder Lyle Jeffs. He argued that seized texts and genealogies considered holy by the FLDS should not become part of any court cases if they don’t directly relate to crimes.

Tom Green County District Judge Barbara Walther agreed that with help from an independent special master, the group should have the right to review evidence — for example, to ensure that attorney-client privilege is not violated if the evidence contains correspondence between attorneys and members of the sect.

I think Bustillo did a great job with the story, answering so many of the legal questions that have been raised. One minor point is that the temple had multiple beds, not the singular one that he mentions in the lede. Bustillo wrote an engaging story without falling into some of the overheated langauge we’ve seen in other reports.

For those still wondering about whether the term “compound” is appropriate, read the search warrant and let us know what you think.

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A mitzvah in Fenway Park?

I realize that this is still a religion-news blog and that we have not, officially, turned into a religion and sports weblog. But, say hey, do we have any baseball fans out there? Tell me that you saw this amazing moment the other day in the baseball cathedral called Fenway Park and did not get a lump in your throat and/or a tear in your eye. No way.

As I watched it, the first word that came into my mind was — “mitzvah.”

Now, as it turns out, we are not talking about the real definition of that Hebrew term, but the unofficial definition that you hear religious and cultural Jews using in daily talk.

Mitzvah

Mitzvah, which literally means commandment (from God), is often translated as “good deed.” There are 613 commandments (365 negative mitvot and 248 positive ones), which are delineated by the rabbis from the text of the Torah. It is a mitzvah on Rosh HaShana to hear the shofar.

In other words, I am asking who, in the Red Sox, organization had the wisdom — perhaps “grace” is the right word — to say, “The timing is right. It’s time to close the circle and ask for Bill Buckner’s forgiveness and to make our fans face the fact that they need to forgive him.”

Do I really need to remind anyone of the context for all of this? Do you really need to click here?

Staging this dramatic scene took nerve, but the results were spectacular. It was also crucial that they had him throw out a pitch on the day that the Red Sox honored the greatest champions in Boston sports history, in all sports. I mean, Bill Russell was out there on the field.

I have no idea if there is a drop of religion in this story, in terms of the motivations of those who put this together. But I know it is impossible to describe the scene without using religious and moral language. Here’s the top of the Boston Globe story:

The pause lasted a full 13 seconds. Bill Buckner sat at a table in the Fenway Park interview room, a microphone in front of him, and pondered the question. Had he had second thoughts about throwing out the first pitch at yesterday’s home opener and celebration of the 2007 World Series win?

His eyes grew wet and red. Dwight Evans, seated next to him, reached out and put his arm around Buckner.

“I really had to forgive, not the fans of Boston, per se, but I would have to say in my heart I had to forgive the media,” Buckner said, after apologizing for taking so long to answer. “For what they put me and my family through. So, you know, I’ve done that and I’m over that.”

But that hardly stopped the emotions. Not on the mound. Not in the interview room.

After all the ceremony, the handing out of rings and hoisting of the championship banner and introducing of Patriots, Bruins, and Celtics legends, there was Buckner walking out from left field to the mound. He walked slowly, perhaps a remnant of those aching ankles and knees that marred his career. And as he walked, the fans cheered.

I also have to admit that my thinking about this event — in terms of seeing a religion ghost — was shaped by an amazing discussion on ESPN’s Mike & Mike in the Morning show. I wish you could hear that without paying an ESPN Insider fee. The focus was on this question: When does the right to heckle cross a line into conduct that is simply evil. E.V.I.L.

Take, for example, that famous moment involving Arizona University guard Steve Kerr, later of Chicago Bulls and not head of the Phoenix Suns. As Frank Deford wrote at Sports Illustrated:

Perhaps the most tasteless heckling in American sports history came in February 1988, when Steve Kerr was a senior guard at Arizona. His father, Malcolm, had been murdered by terrorists in Beirut in January 1984. Heartless Arizona State students screamed “PLO!” at the bereaved young Kerr as he manfully carried on upon the court.

They also shouted, “Where’s your Daddy?” during warm-ups.

Evil. I think that is a word with religious implications for most people. But what happened in Fenway Park the other day was the opposite of that. Has anyone seen follow-up coverage that let’s us know more about what was behind that?

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