. . . The pope and the president just live in it.
Yesterday morning at Los Angeles International Airport, Brenda Lee presented herself as a journalist, a Catholic priestess, and a California citizen so concerned about gay marriage that she wanted to give a letter to President Obama. In blurring those identities -- in behaving as an activist while standing amid journalists -- she managed to get herself hauled away in full-throttle civil disobedience mode.
The best reporting of this harmonic convergence of strange came from two reporters pursuing local angles.
Jon Cassidy of The Orange County Register addressed the question of Lee's claim to Catholic priesthood:
In a phone interview, Lee said that she is a Catholic priestess "with St. Juliana's in Fullerton," and that there are 60 other Catholic priestesses worldwide.
Father Paul Gins of St. Juliana's said that Lee is a member of the parish and a "well-meaning person," but that "she does not represent the church. We do not recognize women priests, and haven't for 2,000 years."
Lee said that her duties as a minister involve consecrating the host, and ministering to the disabled and elderly in convalescent homes.
Cassidy also delivered the most poignant detail of the day:
Outside the terminal, a police officer chided Lee for making a scene, she said.
"'This could've been much worse,'" she said the officer told her. "We could have cuffed you, put you in a black-and-white, and held you for 72 hours.'"
Lee -- whose sister worked in a mental hospital, she said -- understood the reference to the holding period for mental illness cases.
As she tearfully recounted this afternoon, she had one thing to tell the officer: "Are you trying to imply that there's something mentally wrong with me?"
Herbert Dennard, until recently the publisher for the Georgia Informer, which has changed its name to the Informer, said Lee is from the Macon area but now lives in California. She writes a column for the Informer, a monthly newspaper that focuses on the black community and routinely prints public officials' salaries.
"She writes a lot of religious things and gives opinions on things from abortion to gay marriage," Dennard said.
"She's a very good person," Dennard said. "She has very strong views on some moral issues. And I had talked to her, and she said she wanted to try to interview the president of the United States. I said, 'if you can do it, fine.'"
Steven Mikulan of LA Weekly scoured Lee's sparse record of columns for the Informer and found sad ramblings such as this: "Mother Teresa was a female and a person of color. Because she overshadowed Pope John Paul II for sainthood, her reputation had to be destroyed."
Mikulan ruined his post, however, with this stunningly ignorant speculation about Lee's future among what he calls faith-based conservatives: "It will be interesting to see if and how Rev. Lee writes about her own recent experience on the LAX tarmac -- and if she becomes a Joe the Plumber for faith-based conservatives."
If you have to ask, you'll never understand.