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Joseph Sobran’s
Washington Watch

In Defense of Poor Barry

(Reprinted from the issue of August 9, 2007)

Capitol Bldg, Washington Watch logo 
for In Defense of Poor BarryBy the time you read this, Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants will have made baseball history by breaking Hank Aaron’s career homerun record.

And you will have heard many pundits deploring Bonds’s obvious use of head-swelling steroids.

Okay. We all admire, say, the honest, lovable Cal Ripken more than this dubious and surly superstar. But how about a little sense of proportion? In essence, Bonds corked his bat; he’s Sammy Sosa writ large. He cheated for glory; but he didn’t try to hurt anyone.

I’m from Detroit, where the truly detestable Ty Cobb became a baseball immortal (.367 lifetime batting average, 12 batting crowns, 4,191 hits, 978 stolen bases) while actually trying to injure his opponents, many of whom hated him the rest of their lives.

Has Bonds ever done that?

Or think of the many mound “heroes” — some of them Hall-of-Famers — who threw fastballs at batters’ heads. Has Bonds done anything remotely comparable? (If you want a real baseball hero, read Jane Leavey’s wonderful biography of Sandy Koufax. Granted, she lays it on a mite thick: The book might have been titled O Come, Let Us Adore Him. But you can’t blame Sandy for that.)

And think of sports whose very purpose is to do bodily harm to opponents, with spectators reveling in the mayhem.

If it weren’t for the vanity of statistics, Bonds would be remembered simply as one of the most thrilling baseball players of all time.

I repeat, we need some sense of proportion about this. As I joked to my best pal, “I’m going to write Bonds a letter. And it’s going to be even nastier than the one I wrote to Aaron when he broke Babe Ruth’s record!”

Pardon My Popery

A sweet Bible Christian of my acquaintance — that is, one who thinks the Holy Spirit let the Church use the wrong Bible until 1517 or so — got furious with me last year for sending her husband, one of my oldest friends, a prayer to St. Thérèse. How terribly Popish of me!

Read Joe Sobran's columns by e-mail!More recently, she has taunted me for having illegitimate grandchildren. After checking chapter 19 of St. Matthew’s Gospel, I find that Jesus, just as I recalled, welcomes the wee ones, without qualification.

I’ve already written enough about Christopher Hitchens’s truly obtuse atheist tract god Is Not Great, but I can’t drop the subject without mentioning Tom Piatak’s amazing review on Taki’s Top Drawer. I’d rather be mauled by a lion than deserve such a notice.

Incidentally, one of the evils Hitchens blames on religion, especially Christianity, is “sexism.”

This is a real howl. Does anyone think pagan savages practiced sexual equality back in the State of Nature?

It was the Church, in fact, that first exalted woman to a degree never before imagined, simply by recognizing her spiritual dignity.

A Deed without a Name

For years I have tried to think of a name both accurate and fair for one of the great evils of the modern world, something sensitive people are well aware of but hardly dare discuss publicly. It has been the ruin of many; it has bred war and persecution.

I propose to call it “secular Semitism.” It is neither Judaism nor Jews as a race; many of its most thoughtful critics and determined enemies, in fact, are religious and ethnic Jews.

But to criticize it is to court charges of being either an “anti-Semite” or a “self-hating Jew.” The dread of being slandered with false charges of anti-Semitism has warped American journalism and politics for a long time now; an astute foreign observer has noted that public discussion of Jewish matters in this country is “extraordinarily guarded.” (Yes, that was our friend Mr. Hitchens, many years ago!)

The New Testament recounts that the early Christians had to take evasive action, again and again, “for fear of the Jews.”

Of course “the Jews” is only an approximation, the first disciples themselves being strictly religious and genuinely ethnic Jews.

Secular Semitism has expressed itself in Zionism, liberalism, hatred of Christianity, and blaming the Church for anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, and every other evil, real and imaginary.

Without a Christian morality of natural law, why on earth would anyone but Jews think anti-Semitism was a moral evil? Most men assume we should hate our enemies.

Put it this way: Does President Bush, a nominal Christian, pray fervently for the Iranians?


What does Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, have in common with his bête noire, Mel Gibson?

Give up? He’s a baptized Catholic! As a small child in Europe during the Hitler era, Abe was taken in at great risk by a Catholic family, who had him baptized.

Not that he seems very grateful. And I must confess I have to keep reminding myself that Abe is still technically a member of the Mystical Body of Christ. You could easily get the wrong impression, eh, Mel?


Does anyone still remember the enormous media to-do about Don Imus only last April? He was on the cover of Time for blurting three words!

Amazing how fast these moralistic seizures blow over. Can a Hitler pass into oblivion in the space of less than four months?

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2007 by The Wanderer,
the National Catholic Weekly founded in 1867
Reprinted with permission
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