Papal Procession and Succession

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
April 5 2005 3:25 AM

Papal Procession and Succession

The Washington Postmakes the move and breaks away from the Papal pack. Instead, itleads with follow-up on Sunday's expertly planned attack on Abu Ghraib prison in which 44 American troops were wounded. (The other papers say about two dozen.) Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's group asserted responsibility for the assault, which had two fronts and included well-timed mortar rounds, rocket fire, and car bombs. A military spokesman said it was the largest coordinated attack he's aware of. An insurgent commander said it's a sign of things to come. "We are going to use the same method that they used when they attacked Iraq," he said. "The soldier feels safe when he goes back to his base. If he is attacked in the place that feels safe, that place is really hell." Meanwhile, the New York Timesmentions insidethat the military said there were an average of about 30 recorded attacks daily last week, the lowest number in a year. The military announced that one GI was killed and another wounded in an attack near the Syrian border.

Everybody else—the NYT, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times—leadwith the Pope, whose body was led to lie in state at St. Peter's Basilica. The church announced he will be  buried Friday at 10 a.m., in the Vatican and not in Poland as many speculated. "He did not state any wishes, and so we will follow tradition," said a papal spokesman.

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About 65 cardinals gathered for a pre-draft meeting. They sat around a U-shaped table and took an oath of secrecy, so no word on, well, anything.

In one exception, an anonymous church official told the NYT the pope's death was not double-checked by a hit with a silver hammer. "We have more modern ways," he said.

Prince Charles and his betrothed, Camilla Parker Bowles, have agreed to postpone their wedding for a day. It had been scheduled for, ahem, Friday. Earlier, Charles' office said the festivities wouldn't be delayed, regardless of anybody's funeral.

A piece in the NYT wonders why so few people have been considering the pope's legacy specifically as leader of the Church Catholic. As it happens, an Op-Ed in the paper answers the call, and it's not pretty:

John Paul II's most lasting legacy to Catholicism will come from the episcopal appointments he made. In order to have been named a bishop, a priest must have been seen to be absolutely opposed to masturbation, premarital sex, birth control (including condoms used to prevent the spread of AIDS), abortion, divorce, homosexual relations, married priests, female priests and any hint of Marxism. It is nearly impossible to find men who subscribe wholeheartedly to this entire catalogue of certitudes; as a result the ranks of the episcopate are filled with mindless sycophants and intellectual incompetents.

He will surely be remembered as one of the few great political figures of our age, a man of physical and moral courage more responsible than any other for bringing down the oppressive, antihuman Communism of Eastern Europe. But he was not a great religious figure. How could he be? He may, in time to come, be credited with destroying his church.

The Post goes inside with word from "Justice Department officials" that Attorney General Gonzales will propose some "technical modifications" to the Patriot Act, namely making it a touch harder for the government to secretly rifle through library and other records. Apparently, Gonzales will say he's OK to limit such warrants specifically to national security and to allow subjects to challenge them. The Justice Dept. also released stats showing it's only averaged about five such warrants per month.

A report inside the NYT looks at the DOJ's stats and notes that the number of requests has been creeping up. Meanwhile, the "Justice Department official" seems to have cold-shouldered the Times. The paper doesn't mention any tweaks to the Patriot Act.

A NYT Page One piece looks at a group it says is actually shoring up Social Security: illegal immigrants. About $7 billion is piling up per year through accounts paid with bogus Social Security numbers; the government estimates that about three-quarters of that is what the Social Security Administration gently terms, "other than legal immigrants."

Pulitzer wrap-up: LAT 2; WSJ 2; NYT 1; and WP the doughnut. (By the way: Not to be rude or naive, but isn't it just a bit annoying when the papers ignore journalistic convention and just shill their own reporters' wins. Of course, it's extra-touching when said hyped win wasn't even done on company time.)

As the Post picks up on, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, thinks he might know why a couple of judges have been targeted recently:

"I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection, but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. And I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters, on some occasions, where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in, engage in violence."

Cornyn is a former Texas Supreme Court justice.

Eric Umansky, previously the "Today's Papers" columnist for Slate, is currently a Gordon Grey Fellow at Columbia University's School of Journalism.

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