Vetting The Record On Judge Alito
By Greg O’Brien, Codfish Press
When the judicial dust settles (the fallout is expected to linger) on confirmation hearings over the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.—the unaffected, self-possessed U.S. Court of Appeals judge for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, a street-smart Jersey boy, who to date has tiptoed past the political thorns of abortion, presidential powers, congressional authority and voting rights, ducking a salvo of Democratic derision along the way—will likely be sitting pretty on the highest bench, as perhaps he should, given a thorough review of his judicial record and statements.
A head count indicates the ayes have it. All that’s left is to embarrass the man or bring his wife again to tears, with the exception of one critical issue: Does Alito have an agenda, a pre-disposed conservative point of view that will ignore the law? He says he doesn’t; congressional probing in a way that discerns whether he does (rather than what appears to be an organized Democratic strategy to discomfit him and whack George Bush at the same time) will tell. So far the session to date is short on substance: Alito’s responses and the line of congressional questioning, which seems to parallel a terrorist interrogation.
“A judge’s only obligation—and it’s a solemn obligation—is to the rule of law,” Alito has testified. “And what that means is that in every single case, the judge has to do what the law requires.”
That being the case, all Supreme Court judges ought to be swing votes at various times of conscience.
The fact that Bush, a conservative, would nominate a fellow conservative to the Supreme Court is no surprise, just as it would be no revelation if a Democrat in the White House nominated a liberal. Think Ted Kennedy, if he were president and faced a High Court opening, would carry judicial water for a right-winger?
If Alito—because of his calculated responses or the reality of his political beliefs—cannot convince the Congress and the American people that he has no pre-disposition to the law, his nomination should be killed, and a message sent to Bush and future White House occupants on both sides of the aisle that this nation will not tolerate a Supreme Court justice who only votes a political persuasion. If Alito can convince us that he is “open-minded” to the law—and there is reason to consider he may be—then his nomination ought to be approved without a political sideshow.
The late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, an Eisenhower appointment, had it right when he said, “The mark of a good judge is a judge whose opinion you can read and…have no idea if the judge is a man or a woman, Republican or Democrat, a Christian or Jew…You just know he or she was a good judge. I never put a good label on myself, except trying to be a good lawyer.”
What are you, Judge Alito?
Life In Limbo: No Way But Up!
By Greg O’Brien, Codfish Press
As one year ends and another begins, the Catholic Church—in what may be an act of papal clemency—is showing signs it may ultimately abandon Limbo, the neutral resting place of unbaptized infants and hallowed unbelievers where souls, according to a definition in Wikipedia, “are denied the beatific vision, but saved from the torment of hell.” Dante, however, in his Divine Comedy depicts Hades as the “first circle of hell, located beyond the river Acheron, but before the judgment seat of Minos.” Not the kind of place to recharge your batteries.
Braced by the faithful’s growing disparagement of Limbo, 30 of the world’s top Catholic theologians met recently in the Vatican to ponder this netherworld of original sin to discern if it ever existed. Church tradition says yes; Scripture says no.
Even Pope Benedict XVI has his doubts. “Limbo has never been a definitive truth of the faith,” Benedict, quoted earlier this week in a New York Times report on the state of Limbo, said 21 years ago as a cardinal. “Personally I would let it drop, since it has always been only a theological hypothesis.”
That’s good news for me! The oldest boy in a family of ten, I had two brothers—Gerard and Martin—who died, sans Baptism, as infants. Hope the get-out-of-jail cards come soon, and they tiptoe past Purgatory.
But what about all those less fortunate people and issues left in Limbo on the lip of a new year. The list is wide-ranging, from the solemn to the sublime—an eclectic inventory:
- Scores of thousands of people left homeless in 2005 in the wake of the Asian tsunami, the earthquake in Kashmir and hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The billions raised for relief are impressive, but much more will be needed in both money and emotional support.
- The nation of Iraq as it absorbs the bitter fruits of democracy
- Iran and Korea as they plot their nuclear futures
- Americans who were spied upon by their own government, under the wide swath of an eye-raising Big Brother-Big Sister eavesdropping program
- A nervous world wondering if the Avian Flu has wings
- Medicare/Medicaid recipients turning blue over cuts in benefits
- A solar system apparently not what it’s cracked up to be, with astronomers discovering at least eight other planet-like objects in wobbly, distant orbits.
- The mother of all creeps, Saddam Hussein, as he awaits a bus for hell
- Texas Congressman Tom DeLay in legal limbo over allegedly directing corporate donations to Republican candidates running for the Lone Star state’s legislature
- And finally George Bush on a New Year’s break in Crawford, brooding over issues of the nation and the world, and consuming a book on Theodore Roosevelt, “When Trumpets Call.”
On that note, may we all find rapture from Limbo in 2006.
Postcard From Sea of Cortez: Feliz Navidad!
Greg O'Brin, Codfish Press
Cabo San Lucas, Mex.—Hola, Amigos. Feliz Navidad! The weather here is sunny and inching into the 80s. The food is great, the natives are friendly, the pace is renewing, and my kids are actually talking to one another and seem to enjoy hanging with their parents. Perhaps they don’t want to stray too far from the family wallet. About the only problem to date has been a bruising trip with my oldest son Brendan into the deep Pacific with a coarse, weathered charter boat skipper, the Mexican equivalent of Quint in the movie Jaws, and a fishing craft you’d expect to find marooned on Gilligan’s Island. We loaded up late on the Dramamine.
The only good news here is that the stabilizing effects of the Dramamine kicked in when we returned to our resort on the tranquil Sea of Cortez, just in time for me to review a week’s worth of newspapers. I had promised myself, and the family, that I would take a vacation from the world, the first in several years, and ignore the longing to stay in the loop. I fell off the wagon.
Viewing national and world events through a tropical prism—out of context and thousands of miles from reality—is dizzying, and yet it offers a fresh, and in some ways, more exacting perspective. The bold response from the Bush Administration, for example, on spying on American citizens, renewal of the Patriot Act, the war in Iraq and the skinny on the U.S. economy appears from my detached front row seat on the beach to be pure spin. Early on in the Bush Administration it seemed Dick Cheney was running the show; now it looks as if the spinmeisters are.
To his credit, President Bush, on advice from his handlers, seems to be following the cardinal rule of political communication: tell your own story. The problem is the story lacks credibility, despite Bush's best intentions to make it louder and clearer. Illegal spying on American citizens is just that. Bush’s logic on Iraq and the fight against terrorism (that “there are only two options before our country—victory or defeat”) makes for a great sound bite, but it’s simplistic, lousy leadership that smacks of desperation—the political equivalent of a Hail Mary pass into the end zone with seconds left on the clock, in this case opinion polls showing dismal public support and, of all things, renegade Republicans joining forces on some issues with the Great Satan—the Democrats.
“The president does not get to pick and chose which laws he wants to follow,” Sen. Russell Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin, said in what comes across as the most salient comment on Bush’s acknowledgment that he authorized secret eavesdropping within the Estados Unidos without obtaining court warrants. “He is a president, not a king.”
It’s a statement that Vincente Fox would even understand.
Maybe the sun is getting to my brain, but I think Bush’s flacks are missing the point. The American people want the unvarnished truth, not some guy reading cue cards.
Now where’s that sunblock? I think I’ll need SPF 30 today!
Mitt Romney: Man On A Mission Or Missing In Action?
By Greg O'BrienCodfish PressMitt, we hardly knew ye! Less than three quarters into his first term as Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney?presidential aspirations in hand and an all-embracing resume, depending on your political persuasion, that is worthy of notice?is taking early retirement from Beacon Hill politics. The incentive package could include a second home on Pennsylvania Avenue.But for now, speculation inside the Romney camp is as quiet as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir without a director. ?I?m not going to close any options at this point, other than running for reelection,? Romney said Wednesday in making his stunning, yet anticipated, announcement. ?I have no idea if he?ll run for president, but I hope he does,? longtime Romney advisor Charley Manning told Boston Metro Thursday. ?I think he?d be a terrific one. If there?s one thing we know about Mitt, it?s that he knows how to fix things.?One thing Romney is now trying to fix is his national image as a Republican governor of what is perceived to be the most liberal state in the nation, a calling akin, he says, to being ?a cattle rancher at a vegetarian convention.? Critics grouse that Romney has now more than ever embraced the matinee issues of the right to play to the GOP core?from his vigorous opposition to abortion and gay marriage to his backing of the death penalty. While the jury is still out with some on his repair skills in Massachusetts where critics contest Romney?s claim that ?I?ve got the job done that I set out to do,? the old Ronald Reagan retort is hard to ignore: Are we better off today than we were four years ago??No question we are,? said Manning. ?Mitt Romney took over a state that was a mess and turned it around. He inherited a $3 billion deficit in state government, cut costs, didn?t raise taxes and ended up with a surplus. States that have raised taxes still haven?t recovered!?Romney, some observers say, benefited from a kiss to the local economy in the form of higher state revenues, much like the pucker Bill Clinton received from the national economy when he was president. ?But it?s hard to disregard reality here,? said Manning. ?Romney walked into a state government of cronyism that was out of control with wasteful spending. He?s a superb manager and an excellent communicator, and he used those skills, as he did in corporate life and in organizing the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, to trim the fat, streamline the bureaucracy, and get this state headed in the right direction.?To those who say the 58-year-old Romney is now AWOL, politically and administratively missing from his post, Manning insists the governor is committed to his pledge to finish his term and complete his announced goals of providing better health care to the state?s residents, upgrading public education and more.?The governor is not a career politician out to pad a pension,? said Manning, ?He?s never taken a salary. It?s so funny to hear Democrats question how Romney can leave after one term because they see government as a lifetime job. That?s where Republicans and people like Mitt are different. They see government as public service: you go in, do your job, then move on.?No question, Mr. Fix It is moving on. What remains to be seen is whether his toolbox will be stored in the corporate or political world.
Righting The Ship At Massachusetts Maritime Academy: Damn The Politics! Full Speed Ahead!
By Greg O’Brien, Codfish Press
Batten down! Political forecasters are expecting heavy winter squalls Thursday from Buzzards Bay to Boston. Winds are expected to be howling at political strength, loud enough to be heard up on Beacon Hill.
The eye of the storm will cross the state’s Board of Higher Education headquarters during an appeal hearing over the abrupt firing of able Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA) President Adm. Richard G. Gurnon, who has served with distinction for 27 years in various capacities at the Buzzards Bay military-style school, and was summarily dismissed last Sunday by academy trustees for what appears to be his tough love—disciplinary tactics that have been applauded by supporters and community members.
The riff seems to be over the direction of the elite academy on Cape Cod Canal that trains ship captains, engineers and business leaders. The politically-appointed Board of Trustees (a.k.a. hacks with the exception of an alumni representative, the lone dissent in the capsizing) apparently prefers to take the school in a more secular direction, citing Gurnon’s “lack of leadership,” code for it wants a sycophant.
Gurnon, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, former MMA vice president, and hand-picked by the late Adm. Maurice J. Bresnahan to replace him six months ago, seeks to keep the course steady—a disciplined military approach that has resulted in the highest freshmen retention rate and the highest graduation rate of any college in the state system.
And so Gurnon didn’t hesitate to do his job, no matter how large a wake he created: investigating an alleged sex-for-hire operation at the school, targeting male freshmen and sophomore cadets; suspending two cadets for a Halloween dip in the roiling currents of the canal that triggered a four-star Coast Guard search and rescue; requiring the school’s student government association to complete payment vouchers correctly in compliance with state auditor guidelines and probing possible overcharges on the association’s credit card; refusing to allow the student association to run the campus pub, the Fantail, and extend its hours of operation to 2 a.m, stating it was “inappropriate that a student-elected body should be serving alcohol to other students” on campus; ending preferential police treatment of cadets caught driving under the influence.
Sounds like just the man you want at the helm of a maritime academy. “Everything he’s done, he’s stood for the school and its integrity,” Bourne Police Chief John Ford told The Cape Codder newspaper. “He’s a disciplinarian and he’s sending young people into an industry that demands discipline. He’s set high standards and stuck to them.”
Gurnon, who earlier in his career flew multi-engine P-3 Orion anti-submarine aircraft throughout the Atlantic and Mediterranean, has also set high standards for himself in the community, serving on local boards, volunteering for community projects, and as an active foster care parent with his wife, Linda, since 1990. Unless a smoking gun emerges (critics seem to be firing blanks), the Board of Education ought to ignore politics and precedent, and overturn the 9-1 trustee vote to swamp Gurnon, re-instating credibility and honor at this fine school.
With Saddam In The Pen: Hey Kids from Cape Cod to Capistrano, What Time Is It?
By Greg O?BrienCodfish PressViewing a defiant Saddam Hussein, the mother of all morons, as he rebuked the court in Baghdad earlier this week with co-defendants in tow was like watching reruns of Phineas T. Bluster?the grumpy, villainous mayor of Doodyville and Howdy Doody?s nemesis. Mr. Bluster, you may recall, had shaggy eyebrows that shot straight up when he was angered or surprised, and he surrounded himself with dopey accomplices like Dilly Dally, who wiggled his ears when frustrated, and Flub-a-Dub, a combination of eight animals.?Mr. Bluster, Dilly and the Flub-a-Dub gave the impression they could cut their strings, saunter off the stage, and do as they pleased,? creator Bob Smith wrote in ?Howdy and Me.?The semblance is stunning. President Bluster was in full, swaggering harangue before Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin as he scolded the judge as if he were a headwaiter dishing up lousy service?in this instance, contempt meted at the hands of American military guards on Hussein?s way to the courtroom. Pity Saddam. The poor despot had to walk up four flights of stairs, hands bound, to the court chambers. ?I don?t want you to tell them. Order them!? Hussein bellowed to the judge, demanding his guards display appropriate deference. ?They are foreigners and occupiers. They are invaders.??Kawabonga!? as Chief Thunderthud would say. Time for a spray of seltzer water to chill out Hussein, whose bombastic manner stirred two other co-defendants to bellyache later in the session about detention conditions and their court-appointed counsel. Enter Gabby Hayes in the persona of former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, permitted to join the defense team as an advisor. What would Saddam and his henchmen do without injudicious liberals to save them from the hell they deserve?Let?s do the math: genocide to the second power equals cushy sleeping quarters, better food, the best defense attorneys money can buy and guards who kiss up to you. Must be new math because the old school says let ?em fry!In the meantime, Howdy Bush and Clarabelle Cheney watch from the bunker, hoping American disdain for Hussein will fuel their spin convoy to stay the course in Iraq. Snubbing talk of ?artificial timetables? for troop withdrawal, President Bush, defiant himself of his nemesis, Mr. Bluster, has declared, ?I will settle for nothing less than complete victory? in Iraq. ?Our tactics are flexible and dynamic?We will stay as long as necessary to complete the mission.?With 160,000 U.S. forces committed to Iraq, more than 2,000 American casualties, close to 16,000 U.S. soldiers injured and no nukes, many of us are confused about the mission. Perhaps we just don?t get it.Stay tuned. There are sure to be more antics before the show is cancelled. Life, as we know, is stranger than fiction.Hey kids, what time is it? Doodyville never looked so good.
Making A List, Checking It Twice: Falwell And Robertson In The Christmas Spirit!
By Greg O?BrienCodfish PressWith the holiday season fast upon us, many are starting to wonder if some of our most outspoken televangelists are into the Christmas cheer. Recent comments from two in the flock have lit up public discourse and the letters pages like a night in December on the Boston Common.In a publicly vetted, pre-Christmas warm-up three months ago, an early stocking stuffer for the Bush Administration, the Reverend Pat Robertson?holding court on The 700 Club?suggested that American operatives assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to halt his country from becoming ?a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism.? Said Robertson, ?We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability.?Perhaps Robertson has put the fear of God into Chavez, who?s now putting millions of gallons of discounted Venezuelan home heating oil under the tree for chilly, sticker-shocked residents in the northeast.Robertson was back in the pulpit earlier this month throwing thunderbolts at Pennsylvania, reprimanding Dover voters for casting school members out of office who supported the concept of intelligent design. ?If there is a disaster in your area, don?t turn to God,? he warned.Not to be upstaged, the Reverend Jerry Falwell and a legion of conservative lawyers, backed by his 25,000-member congregation, have become true friends of Christmas, threatening in a ?Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign? to file suit against anyone who spreads apparent misinformation about how the Christmas spirit can be celebrated in public places and in schools. The Boston Herald reported Wednesday that one of Falwell?s top Liberty Counsel attorneys condemned Boston ?Holiday Tree Lighting? ceremony. ?Calling a Christmas tree a holiday tree isn?t being inclusive, it?s disenfranchising people of faith,? Mathew Staver, Liberty Counsel?s president and general counsel, told the Herald. ?It?s like calling a menorah a candle stick.?Fair enough! The Christmas Tree has its roots in the seventh century when a monk, who went to Germany to minister, used a triangular fir tree to describe the Holy Trinity. By the 12th century, the Christmas Tree had become a symbol of Christianity.But what do threatening lawsuits, bombastic statements about offing South American leaders, and then telling the poor residents of a rural Pennsylvania town to go to hell, have to do with the spirit of Christ? Jesus led by example, not press releases, sound bites or intimidating lawyers. He walked the walk. ?For I gave you an example that you should do as I did to you,? Christ says in John 13:14.It?s something to think about this Christmas season, as we ponder revenge, judgment and ill feelings to those who don?t believe as we do. Tone down the rhetoric a bit, reverends. It?s hardly Christ like. It?s far easier to judge than to love.Last time I checked God?s Word that was His place.
You Can Hear The Oboe From Here
Greg O'BrienCodfish PressWe?ve come full circle in Lewis Carroll?s imagination?on a crash course today toward a ?nonsense? world where ?nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn?t.? Alice wouldn?t be pleased. We live on a planet where mutations?from infectious disease to climate change?are altering life, as we knew it.On the medical front, drug-resistant microbes are becoming smarter than us, evoking images of the menacing computer Hal in 2001 Space Odyssey. Likewise in this script, there may be no means of controlling the mutations. We?ve had sound bites of it in the SARS outbreak, HIV/AIDS epidemic, the West Nile virus, and metamorphosing infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, cholera, and staph. Three weeks ago, my 22-year-old son, Brendan, almost died of a mutating, drug-resistant strain of staph. Avian flu, the latest threat, has the potential, if it reaches the pandemic stage, of killing up to 2 million Americans, based on projections. President Bush has proposed a $7 billion super-flu strategy, but that will take years to play out. ?Pandemic viruses aren?t the only threat,? the Wall Street Journal reported last Wednesday on its front page. ?Drug-resistant bacteria and terrorist attacks spreading anthrax, smallpox or other deadly substances are also big worries in Washington.??The emerging consensus: Private drug makers have to be encouraged to produce more medicines protecting public health,? the Journal reported, noting a medicine gap of planetary proportions.This medicine gap has been an issue for some time, and it has critical national security implications. The chairman of the National Intelligence Council wrote in a lengthy report several years ago, ?These diseases will endanger US citizens at home and abroad, threaten US armed forces deployed overseas, and exacerbate social and political instability in key countries and regions in which the United States has an interest.? On the ominous weather front, scientists also need to be encouraged, and funded, for more research on climate change and the phenomenon that makes many big-business conservatives cringe: global warming. If the trend continues, the melting artic may soon be a summer resort or a wide swath of sea, and catastrophic hurricanes, fueled by warmer ocean temperatures, could be as routine as a driving rainstorm. A recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology study indicates the intensity of North American hurricanes has more than doubled in the last 30 years and the force of western North Pacific cyclones has swelled by an alarming 75 percent since the mid-1970s.But for years, critics?many of them corporate defenders fearing government regulations on chlorine-based fluids for refrigeration, plastic foam compounds and aerosol cans?have tried to poke holes in global warming presumptions, questioning their veracity and insisting global temperatures are directly related to sunspot activity.Put away the sunglasses and the rose-colored ones, too. The medical and climatic challenges threatening us today are real and require a greater commitment of research and dollars.As Police Chief Martin Brody said in the movie Jaws when confronted with the monster shark, ?We?re going to need a bigger boat!?
Two Baseball Guys Having Bad Weeks
Greg O'BrienCodfish PressSo is there anything left to say about Theo, other than: we?ll miss him terribly; John Henry flubbed a steal sign; it?s not Shaughnessy?s fault; and the fallout from Theo?s departure is probably worse than the reality of it. Problem is, the father of modern Boston politics once expounded, ?Perception is reality.? As a Jewish colleague of mine cracked last night in the gym, ?What does a nice Jewish boy from Brookline like Theo Epstein want with an organization like this?? The observation is as on point as any other theory on Theo. So go figure.Speaking of perception imitating reality in a week that was, George Bush has endured a more unforgiving run than the Alexander Haig of Boston, Larry Lucchino, who may at the moment have second thoughts about who?s in charge here. Now many of you probably don?t want to hear this, but Bush, former Texas Ranger?s honcho, is not a bad guy, as guys go, although you don?t want him picking your team in a schoolyard game of stickball. He?s accustomed to too much spin in the White House, and no one on Pennsylvania Avenue knows how to wait on the ball.It has been back-to-back bad weeks for two baseball guys. There?s no place for Lucchino to hide, not even inside the Green Monster where Manny likes to take a pee, and Bush is still reeling from his six days and seven nights of wide screen political stranding: the withdrawal of Harriet Miers?s Supreme Court nomination after a garrulous conservative uprising; the indictment of White House adviser I. Lewis ?Scooter? Libby in the CIA leak case; the long shadow cast on Libby?s boss, the most powerful vice president in our nation?s history; the posting of historic oil company profits that have motorists wheezing at the pumps; and an American death toll in Iraq that has exceeded 2,000. Add to Bush?s pain?his wobbled response to Hurricane Katrina, his deputy chief of staff Karl Rove?s taint over the CIA leak case, the indictment of Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, the Republican majority leader who stepped down in the after effects of campaign finance-related charges, the dark cloud over Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and a potential avian flu pandemic that worst-case could kill up to 2 million Americans?and lucky Lucchino starts looking like he?s sitting pretty in the owner?s box.But both have issues with trust and control, which are driving their popularity ratings into the dust like an errant forkball. And both could learn from John W. Henry, who knows how to take a hit. ?I hold myself wholly responsible,? Henry said at Wednesday?s news conference. ?What could I have done? There?s plenty I could have done. I have to ask myself, maybe I?m not fit to be the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox.?On the contrition issue, too little too late for Lucchino and Bush, but both aren?t bad guys, really, just a little confused about who?s on first.
A Proposal Of Marriage Could Be Salvation For The Church
By Greg O'BrienCodfish PressWhen in Rome do as the Romans do. In rejecting again the precept of married priests last week, the first Synod of Bishops under the tenure of Pope Benedict XVI held fast to a time-honored tradition of the Roman Catholic Church. Or did it?Rocked by a sex abuse scandal that has occupied rectories around the world and faced with a dearth of priests that in some countries translates into one priest for every 15,000 practicing Catholics, the synod of more than 250 bishops from around the world discarded further discussion of the church?s celibacy rule. ?There has been a massive restatement of the importance of the tradition in the Latin church of mandatory celibacy,? Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sidney, Australia said at a news conference.Responding to the voice of the synod, Sister Christine Shenk, representing two American Catholic reform groups, wryly observed in the New York Times that the church has determined it is ?going to keep on doing what we?ve always been doing.?Yikes! It?s a sobering thought for an institution screaming out for change.A quick peruse of history shows that Catholic Church celibacy, dating back to the 1100s as an edit, had more to do with church finances than with purification, although there were many priests and prelates before the middle ages who had been self-possessed in sexual indulgence with multiple wives and mistresses. In medieval times, kings and princes donated valuable property to clerics in return for faithful service. ?A controversy arose when married priests left this property to heirs?celibacy soon followed as a requirement for ordination, so as to prevent such transactions,? writes theologian Raymond Grosswirth in a commentary on the subject. Precedence for marriage within the priesthood dates all the way back to Peter, the first pope, and to the 12 Christ-appointed apostles, most of whom were married. In fact, seven popes?from Peter to Felix V in 1439?were married, and collectively they fathered seven children, according to various church documents and histories. Eleven popes were the sons of other popes, and six popes reportedly had children outside of marriage.Enough was enough. The church was losing its worldly kingdom, as valuable property slipped into private hands. And so in 1074 Pope Gregory VII declared that anyone to be ordained a priest must first pledge celibacy. ?Priests (must) first escape the clutches of their wives,? he is quoted as saying. By the 1500s, half the priests were still married, prompting the Council of Trent in 1545 to state that celibacy was a higher calling than marriage.The rules of engagement, so to speak, were bowed in 1966 when Pope Paul VI allowed celibacy dispensations for married men who were converts from Protestant churches. Celibacy was no longer an absolute. Many Catholics today would agree that the church ought not change its unbending stand on key moral issues, but believe the subject of marriage within the priesthood is a healthy discussion?one that in time could lead to a much-needed rebirth in the church and priests, in many cases, with higher moral standards.