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Using compassionate charm, the Vandyked and bespectacled Deitch kept other customers placated. It was not easy.

The prescription for the painkiller my 2-year-old needed to relieve the throbbing in his ears would take nearly an hour for the druggist to prepare, explained Deitch. There were so many orders. Near the counter a waiting room was jammed with people, the overflow spilling into the aisles.

Deitch was backlogged, as he is on most Sunday evenings, because many commercial establishments, including drugstores, are closed on the Sabbath.

All of us at Walgreen's had driven across town to fill our prescriptions because neighborhood pharmacies were shuttered.

Not wanting to catch any of the earthly diseases obviously lingering in the Walgreen's sitting area, I went next door to the pizza joint and grabbed a beer.

As I sat and thought about my boy waiting at home with his earache, I felt all warm and toasty knowing that, even though he hasn't even made his first communion, he, too, has been able to participate in the bishop's crusade to separate the worship of commerce from the worship of the Lord. Kinda made me wish I could move to one of those dry southern counties that refuses to sell beer on Sundays so that I, too, could get a little closer to O'Brien's God.

That week at work I thought my spiritual quest would only be enriched by learning what other important matters the bishop had an insight into.

We rang up the Diocese headquarters and asked for copies of all the bishop's press conference statements going back three years.

Marge Injasoulian, who is not part of Bishop O'Brien's domestic staff, but is his excellency's public relations officer, said that would simply be too much work.

Well, I'm a reasonable sort and quickly offered to settle for his press conference statements going back over just the past year.

Marge Injasoulian also is a reasonable, if terribly pressed, sort, and she agreed that this was a level of work she could handle.

As I soon learned, the bishop had not spoken out at a press conference on a single issue confronting Arizona over the entire year.

Now, obviously, that can't be true.
Poor Marge must be so swamped she'd lost her memory.
Why, Arizona has been confronted with monumental problems this past year, from AIDS to homelessness. You name it. Surely Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien has spoken out to do more than drive some greengrocer over the edge. Arizona's plight has repeatedly captured America's imagination.

Just last Monday the national press carried photographs of federal marshals handcuffing Arizona's most prominent Catholic, Charles Keating, and leading him back into court to face a new round of charges of fraud and racketeering in the nearly $3-billion-dollar collapse of his savings and loan empire.

Don't try to tell me that Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien hasn't spoken out about the commercial greed that looted the savings of the elderly?

While it's true that the bishop is not actually familiar with most people in jail, Charles Keating is one felon O'Brien knows a little something about.

When Charles Keating was flying high, he donated lots of other people's cash to his favorite Catholic charities, even making his corporate jet available to the chosen.

One of my fondest memories of Catholic grade school was of the nuns extracting lunch monies from us kids for the Church's foreign missions. If you gave enough money, the good sisters would excuse you from homework. I didn't eat much lunch, but I also didn't do much homework. At one point, Keating was laying off so much money to Mother Teresa that it looked like there might not ever be any more pagan babies left for kids to save.

But I'll be damned--and I'm sure the bishop agrees--Marge Injasoulian was correct.

Bishop O'Brien did not call a press conference all year long except to try to close down Smitty's on Christmas Day.

I think Bishop O'Brien's silence repudiates the idea that little short guys are Napoleonic tyrants insistent upon imposing their beliefs upon the world.

The great hush that usually emanates from Bishop O'Brien's mouth also offers a spiritual lesson to be learned from the holy man's example: If you can't say anything intelligent or relevant, don't say anything at all.

"I understand that non-Christians do not celebrate the holiday," said the alert and breathing prelate.

I could move to one of those dry southern counties that refuses to sell beer on Sundays to get a little closer to O'Brien's God.

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Michael Lacey
Contact: Michael Lacey