Paddy and a Parable for the Moment

The following is best appreciated if read aloud in the best Irish accent you can manage:

Paddy, the local scoundrel, was dead. The entire population of the village where he spent a lifetime making others miserable attended the funeral Mass — some, doubtless, to make sure he was really gone. Knowing the congregation’s sentiments, the wise old pastor said to his people, before the final commendation, “Now, dear brother and sisters, before we commit our brother to the sod, it would be an act of charity if one of you were to come forward and say a good word about ‘im.” No one moved. “Come, now, brothers and sisters,” the pastor pleaded, “surely there’s someone who can say a good word for the man.” Total silence. “My dear people, I’ll be tellin’ the sacristan to lock the door in a minute, and not a one of you’s goin’ to leave this church until someone comes forward to say a good word for this departed brother.” Finally, an ancient villager got up, shuffled to the side of the casket, turned his back to the pastor, and said in a clear voice, “I think his brother was even worse.”

As he leaves office, George W. Bush could be forgiven for feeling like Paddy, were he a man given to self-pity. Happily, he isn’t. And it’s emphatically not in the spirit of, “Well, James J. Buchanan and Herbert Hoover were even worse” that I should like to praise President Bush at the end of his two terms. For what, you ask? For many things that ought to count for Catholics.

I should like to praise him for his steadfast support of the pro-life cause, domestically and internationally. Thanks to President Bush, we have two more Supreme Court justices who likely know that Roe vs. Wade was terrible constitutional judging, and dozens more federal district court and appellate court judges with similar convictions. Thanks to President Bush, the U.S. government drew an important moral line in stem cell research, even as the administration accelerated bioethically sound research strategies that have produced real results. Internationally, the Bush administration stood firm against the Gadarene rush to use international law to declare abortion an international human right and a necessary component of the emancipation of women; as one senior Vatican official put it to me, a year ago, “We know we’re never going to have another American administration as supportive of our core issues as the Bush administration has been.”

I should like to praise the President for his work to rid Africa of the plagues of AIDS and malaria and to relieve the suffering of those afflicted with those awful diseases. George W. Bush may be an object of ridicule in certain U.S. zip codes; he is the subject of veneration among those in the “bottom billion” whose lives his policies have saved or enhanced.

I should like to thank the President for offering Pope Benedict XVI such a warm welcome on the South Lawn of the White House on April 15, 2008 — a welcome that ought to have put paid, once and for all, to the notion that there is something incompatible between robust Catholic faith and a mature gratitude for the political miracle of American democracy.

I should like to thank President Bush for his personal decency, manifest in his (unpublicized) personal attention to our wounded and to the families of the fallen; in his refusal to become bitter in the face of outrageous slander; and in his calm amidst tribulations that most of us can’t imagine. I should like to thank him for his unapologetic confession of Christian faith, and for his testimony to the importance that prayer plays in his life. And I should like to thank him for not giving a hoot about the mockery that such a witness draws from a secularized mass media, from American high culture, from cranks like Michael Moore, and from Euro-secularist snobs who spent eight years sneering at the evangelical cowboy in the White House while their continent was dying from spiritual boredom.

Thank you, Mr. President. 

George Weigel


George Weigel is an American author and political and social activist. He currently serves as a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Weigel was the Founding President of the James Madison Foundation.

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  • Cooky642

    I’ve seen it “prophesied” in several sources that history will be kinder to George W. Bush than his contemporaries have been. Twenty or thirty years down the road, our children/grandchildren may well wonder why we were such jerks. I hope that, among the other achievements he’s praised for (including the above), someone mentions mine: seven-and-three-quarters of the best financial years in my life, and the fact that we have not been attacked, again……….yet.

  • yblegen

    I bet there is a lot of us feeling the same way and also want to just say:
    Thank you, Mr. President. Although our voices were drowned out by the chattering masses, we appreciated everything you did for us in protecting the unborn, keeping us safe and even doing what you could do on the domestic side. We saw how you were degraded and not even given a chance when you tried to fix domestic issues.

  • I have liked President Bush from day one. I’ve always felt he was a man of character and common decency. I had grave reservations about the Iraq War, mainly because of the Pope’s words, “You will be judged by God and by history,” but I went along with the war because Mr. Bush was my President. I was very disappointed when he was made a fool of because no WMD’s were found–the point at which he lost so much credibility in the eyes of at least certain sectors of the electorate. I, too, would thank him for his attention to life issues and for keeping us safe. I wish we had a successor who manifested a spiritual kinship with him, but we don’t. The American people have chosen our new leader, and we will all have to see what the consequences are.

  • goral

    Thank you Mr. Weigel for pointing out the President’s achievements where they really matter. I will always consider him a good and a catholic President.
    Cooky is absolutely right about history being kinder to him. Jesus was run out of every place he went.
    “Behold the man”, right now he stands there pretty bloodied up by the “high culture” as Mr. Weigel states. He will be exonerated for making the tough and necessary calls despite the media catcalls.
    I don’t like his bailout plan and a list of other economic and political mishaps.
    The surf of history will make all of that smooth. What will remain are the solid moral constructs that he had the selfless courage to see through.
    May God give “W” a good retirement.
    As the Paddy story relates to George Bush, I’d have to stand up and say that his father was worse.

  • jamespereira

    I came across this online poll that you can participate in. Let your voice be heard – evaluate President Bush’s performance. You will be rewarded with a $500 gift card – why not we all could use some help now.

    You can check it out here:

  • elkabrikir

    Ditto to everyone above. I hope Mr Bush knows of all who appreciate his work…..but then, he probably doesn’t need the adulation.

    I respect the man despite some policy differences with him I’ve had…..God speed, Sir.

  • “We know we’re never going to have another American administration as supportive of our core issues as the Bush administration has been.”

    Maybe so, but then again, maybe *not*. Keep an eye on Louisiana’s governor, Bobby Jindal.

  • jmtfh


    I would like to start a “THANK YOU PRESIDENT GEORGE W BUSH” letter writing campaign. Does anyone know where we could send these letters so that he would actually receive them?


  • Warren Jewell

    jmtfh – good idea – can someone pass my message on?

    Dear President George W. Bush,

    Mr. President, sometimes you seemed trying to many of us, but none can say that you ever stopped trying to be President for all of us.

    May history treat you as kindly and generously as you tried (sometimes all too generously) to treat us.

    My best wishes for you and your dear wife, Pretty Book Lady, to have a long retirement of joy and peace together.

    And, sir, may we meet some day before His throne to take directly of His love forever.

    Grateful son of God, Church and America,
    Warren Jewell

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  • daughterofeve

    I liked him. I think a lot of other americans do as well, just the media doesn’t.

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