Stickin' It to the Pope?

Nine days ago there appeared in The Dallas Morning News a touching little feature about Roosevelt Wilkerson, who was once living on the streets of South Dallas but has recently achieved international renown with his hand-carved walking sticks made from Trinity River tree limbs. The occasion of that particular story? On June 9, President Bush went to Rome, where he presented Pope Benedict XVI with one of Wilkerson's sticks, this one inscribed with the Ten Commandments. No big whoop, right? Nice gift, nice story, nice touch, nice everything.

Only, not so much. Turns out, that stick has become the source of a great deal of controversy within Catholic circles -- so much so that in the new National Catholic Register there appears a story titled "Gift or Gaffe? Why Bush Gave Benedict a Walking Stick," which bears as its lead this sentence: "A walking stick is the unlikely center of a debate about political protocol, theological precision and news-marketing as a corporal work of mercy." Oh, dear Lord, can George Bush do nothing right? --Robert Wilonsky

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