Wednesday, October 25, 2000

Pope to name St. Thomas More saint of poltics

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Do the politicians of the world deserve a patron saint?

        According to recent news leaks from the Vatican, they are about to get one.

        Pope John Paul II apparently plans to proclaim St. Thomas More as the patron saint of politicians on Nov. 5, just two days before U.S. elections.

        St. Thomas More was a 16th-century Lord Chancellor of England, a barrister by trade, who gave up both career and, alas, his head for his convictions. He was canonized in 1935.

        “It's really kind of neat,” gushed Joe Deters, Ohio treasurer and chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party, when told of the news.

        St. Thomas More and his final years were immortalized in popular culture in the 1966 film Man For All Seasons, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

        Thomas More was executed for refusing to acknowledge King Henry VIII as head of the church of England and to take an oath renouncing obedience to the pope.

        Dr. Raymond Hebert, dean emeritus and professor of history at Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, said he was told by colleagues in England that it was going to happen. He found the news heartening.

        “What I look for in terms of politics is that a man stands up for his principles,” Dr. Hebert said of St. Thomas More.

        “The pope describes Thomas More as a model and intercessor for all those who consider their political commitment as a choice of life. But he was a very adept politician. Sometimes that meant taking advantage of others. But the bottom line is that in the end he was executed for his principles.”

        That train of thought was picked up by others.

        “He was the ultimate profile in courage,” Mr. Deters said. “There's a lot of politicians that should take note. Taking a stand runs great risks. We have seen people in political life who have taken stands, and maybe it hasn't cost them their lives, but it has cost them their careers. That should not stop someone from doing the right thing.”

        John Cranley, the Ohio Democrat running against U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot in the 1st Congressional District, said he studied St. Thomas More as a theology student.

        “His enduring legacy is his values and his willingness to not compromise, even at the price of his life,” Mr. Cranley said.

        St. Thomas More was a complicated man, a savvy politician who did get his hands dirty politically, did play politics and yet ultimately was a man of conviction, he said.

        Dr. Jean Siebenaler, a family physician and Democratic candidate running against Bill Seitz, the Republican candidate and Green Township trustee, for the 34th House District seat, found the news encouraging.

        “I think we can use all the divine help we can get,” Dr. Siebenaler said.

        Mr. Deters said that while he is reluctant to compare some local politicians to St. Thomas More, he is taken with the timing of the announcement.

        “The timing is perfect,” said Mr. Deters. “Hopefully, the voters locally and nationally will recognize politicians on Election Day who stood for principle and did the right thing.”


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