John Paul II died as well, a few days later. The world, I think, will miss him more than it knows. I am afraid that I do not quite get the strong, even bitter criticism that he inspired in some quarters. Okay, he maintained ancient doctrines on abortion and a celibate, all-male priesthood. He reaffirmed the Catholic church's stand against artificial contraception. But jeez, the guy was a hero in the fight against totalitarianism. He reached out to other communions and other faiths more than any Pope in history. He engaged in far-reaching intellectual debate. He changed the face of the Catholic church, which used to be run exclusively by Italians. I am no Catholic, but I found him a remarkable and admirable fellow. But he wasn't right on the big A, I guess, and that meant that he was hiding devil-horns under the mitre. Well, may God welcome him in glory and help the cardinals pick someone with a bit of the same hope and wit and strength.
Then, over the weekend, a student at our college died. The details are not clear. He evidently passed out in a vacant lot on a Saturday night, died from exposure or from some other cause, and was found the next morning. Alcohol, one guesses.
What a bitter and tragic waste. We have lost students before during the time that I've taught here, to accident and to disease and even (in a truly horrible case) to murder. But this hits me differently. I am not a prohibitionist. Indeed, I strongly believe that the drinking age should be lowered to 18. But there is on many college campuses what can only be described as a subculture of drunkenness. Right at the moment, I'm afraid, what sympathy and tolerance I may have had for that subculture is pretty much gone. At the moment, that attitude has the look of the Enemy.