Tags: bill clinton | biography | catholicism

Bill Clinton, the First Catholic President

Bill Clinton, the First Catholic President
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton speaks at Georgetown University's Gaston Hall November 6, 2017, in Washington, D.C. Clinton's speech marked the 25th anniversary of his election to the presidency in 1992. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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Wednesday, 17 January 2018 12:38 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Toni Morrison wrote this about President Bill Clinton in 1998 and then spent the next years explaining it:

"Years ago, in the middle of the Whitewater investigation, one heard the first murmurs: white skin notwithstanding, this is our first black President. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime. After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas."

And now here it is 2018, the twentieth year of “our children’s lifetime” and Barack Obama was just sworn in 10 years ago as our second Black president. Black despite the fact he can’t play a note on a sax and prefers arugula to Big Macs.

Toni Morrison is not an investigative reporter. She is a poet.

If she had the instincts of the reporter, she would have mined the William Jefferson Clinton background better and emerged with the real story:

Bill Clinton may have been Black, but he definitely was our first Catholic President.

Clinton was the only president in history to attend Roman Catholic parochial school. Kennedy’s father was too ambitious and too interested in Irish assimilation to send his sons to anything but a secular school to network among the ruling class and the Masons; Clinton’s mother (the under-reported Svengali behind his rise) looked at the schools in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and looked at her genius son and enrolled him in Saint John’s elementary school instead of the classrooms of Governor Faubus.

St. John’s was not only parochial, but parochial before that Second Vatican Council muddled everything up. So he would not only have rigorous primary school education in rhetoric and mathematics, he would also be exposed to the Baltimore Catechism.

As Peter Occhigrosso noted in his book “Once a Catholic…” Bill Clinton would carry the lessons of the Baltimore Catechism and its Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat throughout his life. He would be certain, therefore, that he didn’t have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky. He was dutifully preserving her virginity while seeking a proper remedy for his concupiscence. He would know, too, that one of the conditions for a mortal sin (grievous matter) would not be present as he would refrain from “going all the way” and merely settle for second base with a slight lead. With this mere venial sin, he would know with invincible ignorance that if he died he could still go to Heaven and if president survive an impeachment trial.

As we know, Kennedy opted for secondary school at Choate and university life at Harvard. The former was determinedly secular (it had not been founded by any denomination) and the latter was the residue of the Harvard Divinity School of the 17th Century New England Protestants; Clinton headed to Georgetown University and the minds and hearts of the Jesuits.

Casuistry 101 was not a requirement for graduation at Georgetown nor an elective. But Jesuitical reasoning was inescapable even in the refectory, this Christian predecessor or follower of Talmudic disputation.

“It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is.”

Go to the head of the class, Doctor Clinton.

As Aquinas, a Dominican but in some senses Jesuitical, said: “In the statement, ‘To be is other than that which is’ the act of being is distinguished from that to which that act belongs.”

Much easier, though, to combine Catholic higher education with the simplicity of Catholic lower education. Much easier and more plausible to say when heatedly questioned about a then-Presidential disqualifier, pot-smoking: “But I didn’t inhale.”

It was easier because young Bill had absorbed the homilies in Hot Springs about “occasions of sin.” And clearly rolling a joint, lighting it, drawing the smoke into his young temple of the Holy Spirit was as close to sin as possible without actually sinning.

He had taken that “occasion of sin” and transcended it and turned it into a grand resistance of temptation and earned for himself at least an indulgence of 300 days in Purgatory and a few hundred more days in the White House. He saved both his soul and his candidacy. Deo Gratias.

Tom Messner worked forever in advertising. In politics, he avoided the predictable negative bent and did positive ads for Reagan in ’84 and for Bush in ’88 along with Bush’s convention film. The agency he co-founded created NASDAQ’s first branding, Volvo’s comeback, and Fox News’s “We report. You Decide.” Then learning from the pols he partnered with (Roger Ailes in particular), they brought attack ads to such formerly benign areas such as telecom (MCI). At 73, he’s doing two things he never did before: Blogging here on wildly unconnected subjects coming on the heels of last year’s adventure: the writing of his first play, a musical “Dogs” destined now for either Broadway or The Pound. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Clinton was the only president in history to attend Roman Catholic parochial school.
bill clinton, biography, catholicism
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Wednesday, 17 January 2018 12:38 PM
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