Why Should Not Old Men Be Mad? Part II

And Old Women. Thank you, kindred spirit Yeats!

As I thought more about the Sean Reynold - Dobie Moser analysis of participant reaction to the ongoing church crisis, "How are grassroots Catholics responding to the sex abuse crisis?” which appeared online in America Magazine (see my April 9 blogpost), I realized that my poem, “Excommunicate,” published February 4, 2019 in TalkingWriting, describes the flight of the Absolute Doubters from a somewhat despairing can’t we see what’s going on vantage point?

While we are on the subject of “Excommunicate,” it contains an etymological leap that I didn’t address in the poem, or elsewhere. If you studied properly for your SATs, you know that the Latin word for wall is murus. Mun can only mean wall through the verb munio, to fortify or protect with a wall. As happens in every language, the root expanded with prefixes in Latin, with the result that English dictionaries take a short cut and use communis, meaning common as in sharing a wall, as the source for excommunicate. Whew! Believe it or not, I actually try to explain the convoluted historical evolution of some words in the etymological series of poems I’ve been writing. I bet you’ll believe this— it doesn’t work. When I reread the more accurate, easy to defend from a linguistic point of view poems, I get lost, think, what are you talking about? Worse, and why are you talking about that? So I cut to the chase with ‘excommunicate’ and have always hoped for an opportunity to explain. Done.

At least the poem is available online. “Apology” is not available, other than in the print version of Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry (2019). If I'm going to stand by the poem in its double Yeatsian madness, it is only right that I make the poem available to anyone who wants to read it. Almost done. (The formatting was a challenge.)

Beleaguered Church Hears the Call for Apology

Long history, that one. Greek, ye olde -log, word,

with apo-, away from. Think Socrates, charged

with not believing in the right gods. Fending off

the accusation, with a little help from his friends. 

Plato. A po LO gi a. How cool does that sound. 

Followed by centuries of let’s-call-them-erstwhile 

Christian apologists, defending the newly-right-God 

against any objections. Using evidence, hard and fast 

like they like, and a long line of each other. 

If you’re catching my drift, you’re noticing that word 

changing horse midstream more than once. Check

out Shakespeare, where good apologies started


to depend on regret, till now when apologizers and

apologists have fully parted ways. Although really,

don’t they still need each other? Our newly sainted

John Paul got on a roll. Apologies: Come one 

and all, you we burned at the stake, sacked with

our Crusades, sold into slavery, stole with legislation,


converted, persecuted, ignored when you needed

us most. We’re sorry. Mistakes have been made.

Are we missing anyone? Oh, them. Of course.

Papal apologies come to town regularly on their 

honking-big camels, struggling for breath through gagging 

halters, nose pegs, buckling under saddles, weighted 


down with bags of gold and Renaissance art. Not as 

much as you might think. The apologists are there to help 

them pass through the eye of an excruciating needle.