The Catholic Family Counselling Centre in Kitchener, Ont. has been embroiled in a heated controversy over an invitation it extended to former U.S. president Bill Clinton to speak at its Nov. 8 fundraiser. The centre’s director, Cathy Brothers, in the face of stern criticism from Hamilton Auxiliary Bishop Gerard Bergie and a barrage of complaints from Catholics across the country, has offered what must be the world’s lamest excuse for the centre’s action; namely, that it is an “inclusive agency.”

I have heard of telemarketers who have quit their jobs because their consciences would no longer allow them to peddle “all-inclusive vacation packages” that were anything but “all-inclusive.” Not even God, who rejects sin, is “all-inclusive,” nor is heaven or hell.

Nonetheless, putting aside the notion that anything could include everything, let us take Mrs. Brothers at her word. Why not invite the villainous Mr. Clinton since the centre is so broad, open and inclusive that no one is to be excluded? The number of people on the centre’s exclusion list is zero. Let us also set aside the unsettling fact that the centre, as a matter of fact, excludes Episcopal directives, Catholic tradition, the concerns of Catholics throughout the country, its own professed mission, as well as common sense and clear thinking.

Why not, if Mrs. Brothers directed a religious centre shortly after the birth of Christ, invite as its forthcoming luncheon speaker, Herod the Great, architect of the slaughter of the Holy Innocents? What could possibly justify such an outrageous and self-contradictory invitation?  Why, merely the very rationalizations that Mrs. Brothers currently employs. In an all-inclusive atmosphere, not even Herod, logically speaking, is excluded.

What might have transpired during the closed-door meeting at which the centre’s organizers decided to invite King Herod?  What would be reported in the minutes of such a meeting?

August 1, 2 AD:

We, the organizers of the New Cradle Christian Spirituality Centre, have unanimously agreed to invite King Herod to speak at our Nov. 8 fundraising luncheon. In keeping with the centre’s commitment to openness, diversity and inclusivity, we feel that no one should be excluded either from our list or from our midst. Whereas Herod’s view on infant human life may not accord with our own, he nonetheless offers us a welcomed challenge to stretch our minds.

The fact that he has had 10 wives is a good indication that he is a man of unbounded affection. Concerning the matter of lying to the Magi about wanting to come to Bethlehem to worship the new King, we feel that the media gave this incident more attention than it deserved. In regard to the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem and vicinity that Herod commanded, we realize that was a manoeuvre he had to make in order to safeguard his kingship. And we should not forget how much he has done for the economy. His title of “Great” was not bestowed on him without very good reason.

In addition, as everyone agrees, Herod is a man of irresistible charm and charisma. People will be most eager to meet him, hear his message and allow their minds to be expanded.  There may be some opposition to his invitation from the few conservatives who populate the various hills and villages of Judea, but we feel that the majority of open-minded people will support us and agree that Herod has much of importance to give us.

Given this contradictory and self-defeating attitude, Christianity would not have survived the cradle. The non-Christian poet, William Butler Yeats, referred to “20 centuries of stony sleep” as an indictment against Christian lethargy. The criticism is, in the broad sense, clearly unjust. But, what of its application to the present moment? What is there to say about people who, in the name of Catholicism, allow themselves to be lulled to sleep by a platitude?

Donald DeMarco is an adjunct professor at Mater Ecclesiae College and Holy Apostles Seminary and College.