Kissinger Goes to Confession

In the cathedral refectory Father Cormack Murphy had finished lunch. He
walked through the vestry into the cathedral and along the north nave. As
he turned to make his way toward the confessional boxes on the south
nave he noticed people already gathering for 2 o'clock confessions. Sitting
uncomfortably in the short queue was the small, stocky, greying, bespectacled
and expensively dressed man whom, two or three times in the last month or so,
Father Cormac had noticed sidling in through the west entrance shuffling over
to the confessionals and after loitering indecisively, hurriedly exiting the way
he had come.
Fr. Cormac recognized the man's face but could not place him and while
still a respectable distance from the confessionals, found something to
require his attention while he racked his mind trying to place the face.
It came to him like a thunderbolt. Dr Henry Kissinger, of all people, had
come to confession and he, Cormac Aloysius Ailbhe O'Conner, of St. Patrick's
cathedral was on the confessional roster this afternoon. He had come a long
way from the Christian Brothers school in Limerick.

"Good Lord!" he thought "you're testing me. I can't just give this guy an
Our Father and three Hail Mary's! What exactly am I supposed to do? Of
course, if he intends to confess, if he is genuinely repentant, I have to
acknowledge that." he turned this over in his mind. "Wait a
minute...why's he in here? He's Jewish! Oh Lord, you really are testing me
today aren't you?

Fr. Cormac finished the vital task that had demanded his attention en
route to the confessional and as he entered his cubicle, he noted that Dr
Henry Kissinger would be the second confessant.

After the first confessant left (to cancel the subscriptions and attempt
reconciliation with her husband), the next entered. Cormac noticed his
palms were sweating and his heart was beating faster. After the fumbling
from the other side of the curtain had settled there was the unmistakable
crackling voice -
"Bless me Father for I have sinned"
"Aren't you Jewish?"
A pause, then, "Only nominally".
"Nominally Jewish?"
"People have to think I am or I'll have no credibility in the administration.
And how could I operate in the Middle East as a Roman Catholic? The
Vatican would see it as muscling in on their turf. So you see, I'm only
Jewish by convenience. It was also a good ruse for pulling chicks as an
undergraduate; their curiosity always got the better of them."
"Are you Catholic then?"
"I am today... Look what else can I do? I have to get all this off my chest,
who else can I turn to?".
"The whole world pretty much knows what you've done," said Fr. Cormac
gently and steadily "you don't really have to go through this with me, as
long as you're genuinely repentant and make your peace with God."
"The whole world doesn't know the half of it, there's lots more".
"There is? Heavens above! Look, I can have a word with the archbishop
and he could hear you, or perhaps we could arrange a cardinal? They'd be
falling over themselves to hear your confession."
"What's wrong? You not up to the job? You trying to wriggle out of it?
Besides those Cardinals are a nest of vipers believe me, I know them well.
No, I've finally raised the courage and here I am, you're in the hot seat
and if I can go through with it, then so can you."

Fr. Cormac considered this, reflected there may well be a higher authority
at work here and resigned himself, confident in the knowledge that God
would not have set him this test if he was not ready for it.

"Ok, my son. What have you to tell me?"
"Quite a bit". A pause, then "Let's start with funding for some pro Israeli
militias, arranged via some African banks off the back of diamond
exports."
"There's African banks operating in the Middle East?"
"Not really, no, this was arranged at the St Francis summit in Zaire about
five years ago"
"you were there? but that was a Vatican summit for alleviation of third
world poverty.
"Well, yes, it was - sort of. It was mainly a World Bank meeting to
organise some more third world debt - I mean loans” he quickly corrected
himself. That's why Wolfowitz and his set were there - and that huge
Washington delegation."
"He was? They were?"
"And all those Swiss bankers. And the Haifa contingent, of course...Jeez
we had to hire an entire down town hotel for them."
"A Good hotel?"
"The best we could find, after all it's not like we were paying for it and the
correct atmosphere is essential, one wouldn't want to give the wrong
impression. And then there was all the shuttles to and from the air force
base".
"Air force base?"
"Of course, you can't have hundreds of industrialists, bankers and
embassy staff just coming and going in a commercial airport, the press
would have a field day. All those limos and famous faces, not to mention
all the private jets. I mean, think about it, where's the security in that?"
"Limos and private jets?"
"Oh yes... and the specialist cabin crew ... yoi yoi yoi!"
"Cut that out!"
"Sorry Father"
"we only got b&b at that conference. And we had to use local buses to get
around. Have you any idea how embarrassing it is holding up an irate
queue of people while trying to communicate with an impatient bus driver
- I mean, how am I supposed to know the Swahili for 'receipt'?
"Really?" Cardinal M'buyo had the suite next to mine and his limo had a
slot in the hotel car park.
"Suite?!"
"Yes, for him and his, um, secretaries".
Fr. Cormac was speechless.
"But he cannot be everywhere so we really need another reliable
clergyman and you were recommended."
"And where did this recommendation come from?"
"From your Bishop, I met him at Davos last January"
"He was at Davos?"
"Yes, I'd no idea he was such a good skiier."
"He said he was visiting his mother!"
"Oh yes, she was there too, you know she's the Countess Maria
MonteBianco? I think it's the only time they get to see each other.
They had the suite next to Lloyd Blancfein. They
attend quite a few of the functions on the circuit."
"Circuit?"
"Well there is quite a lot to do, having a world to run and so on and of
course nobody can be everywhere, so a senior clergyman might attend,
maybe, one function a month."

"So why would a humble priest be on this circuit?"
"well, people do like to have a man of the cloth around ... gives an air of
confidence, respectability and such, the feeling that one is doing the right
thing. And of course, your employers do like to have their man on the
ground, to protect their interests as it were".

Fr. Cormac was quiet, taking all this in. The confession was not going as
he'd expected - not that he'd actually had any expectations.
"Your Bishop has attracted attention at a rather high level" the crackling
voice continued, "he's such a talented and diligent individual. I expect
he'll be moving on from here quite soon, and of course his position will
need to be filled."

Cormac's emotions were swirling. Discomfort had morphed imperceptibly
into indignation which had rapidly transformed into anger, stumbled
around before collapsing into envy, which with a mere hop, skip and a
jump became temptation - not that he was yet ready to consciously
acknowledge this last position.

"I...I dont know."
"Sleep on it, you don't have to commit yet... think of it as a try before
you buy kind of arrangement. There's no rush, we'll talk again. Meantime,
reflect on the excellent pastoral work you can do in some of the Lord's
more exotic locations. Where people are so much less priviledged. And
who knows, perhaps one day there could be a school or a hospital named
after you. Possibly even a large, scientific research institute?"

Fr. Cormac, realising this "confession" had gone off at something of a
tangent, now sat in silence, "Oh Lord, you try me sorely." he said
inwardly.

"Oh, well" came the rejuvenated tones from the other side of the curtain
"I must be getting on, your parishioners will be getting restive."
"What about your confession?"
"Well, we mustn't be impulsive. Just because I have been getting second
thoughts lately, crises of conscience, introspective moments, you
understand, doesn't mean anything changes. Business continues - I
mean, life goes on. And one does like to leave a tidy desk."
"Business...goes on?"
"Take your bishop for example, in fact this cathedral. It is a known
source: somewhere that the, the right sort of chap is to be found. So,
since I met you today, circumstances notwithstanding, it seemed
appropriate to make you aware of some possible, em, career choices that
could be available to you."
And, after a pregnant pause, he rose to leave.
"I'm glad we had this little chat" he quipped
"Auribus teneo lupum", thought Fr. Cormac Aloysius Ailbhe O'Conner