Bill Clinton's J' Aveour a Trois
By Gary Cruse
President Bill Clinton started his day in South Africa by going to services at the Regina Mundi Roman Catholic Church, which served as a refuge for members of the popular movement that replaced the country's apartheid system with democracy four years ago.
"I am profoundly honored to be in this great house of God," Clinton said at the church in Soweto, the sprawling slum outside Johannesburg. The congregation of about 1,000 gathered in the church enthusiastically welcomed the President, but began to murmur doubtfully when Clinton was overheard describing a statue of the Virgin Mary, "That's a good looking virgin. I wish I had a virgin like that at the White House." Outspoken members of the congregation insisted that Clinton was unworthy of taking Communion with them, and probably wasn't even a Catholic.
In a hastily arranged meeting with Monsignor Adidas Nkomo, Mrs Clinton pleaded that the President had briefly attended parochial school as a youth. But Monsignor Nkomo ruled that the President, even with a bishopric dispensation, would be required to undertake the sacrament of confession; that Clinton could not receive Communion if he had sinned and had not gone to Confession, admitted his sin, vowed not to sin again, and recited Penance.
In a heated discussion, Mrs Clinton contended that she and "El Schmucko" would not be in Africa long enough for her husband to confess all his sins, even if they "went at it round the clock, for ten days." Finally, a compromise was reached whereby the President would confess his sins as quickly as he could to three priests at once for four hours.
The Church's regular confessional was not large enough for j'avouer a trois, so the group adjourned to a small choir practice room. For confidentiality and privacy, a black silk handkerchief was draped over the face of the President and everyone left the room save Mr Clinton and the three fathers confessor.
About fifteen minutes into the confession, one priest opened the door, came out of the confession room and closed the door softly behind him. Clearly distraught, the Father recounted that the litany of misdeeds was such a travesty, that the corpus on the wall-mounted crucifix in the room had climbed down off the cross and leaped out the window.
Half an hour later, a second priest emerged with tales of a levitating piano and green peasoup-like liquid being projected from behind the silk handkerchief while the penitent's head revolved wildly on his shoulders.
Father Nsoto, the remaining priest, stayed the entire four hours and heard the confession. Escorted from the Church by American Secret Service men, the dumbstruck priest was unable to find his tongue until, as reported by the Secret Service, as they placed him in an official car Nsoto said he felt depressed and suicidal.
Following the service, Clinton spoke briefly from the pulpit, as did the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson. Jackson is special envoy to Africa and a member of Clinton's delegation. While he once had edgy relations with Clinton, Jackson has more recently been an informal spiritual adviser to the Clintons during the Monica Lewinsky controversy. Today, he asked the congregation to "pray for President Clinton, whose boldness and daring" are helping to "bring down ancient walls."