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Friday, October 03, 2003

Smile Time!

The Mid-American Catholic Community Weekly, 10/12/03, pg. 7.

In an effort to address concerns about openness and responsiveness to complaints here in the Diocese, Bishop Newkirk has created a new Diocesan Morale Office. A major part of the outreach of the Office is this column you are reading--a new question and answer feature written by Rex M. Pexniff, head of the DMO. Without further ado, we bring you the first installment of that column, entitled Smile Time!

Hello, Siblings in Christ! My name is Rex Pexniff. Many of you may remember me from my time on the Diocesan Office for Ecumenism (where I helped put together Peyote and Penance, the very productive conference we had with members of native religions), my stint at the Diocesan Liturgy Office (where we launched very prayerful experiments in introducing Riverdance-style techniques for the Liturgy of the Eucharist), and finally, my time at the Diocesan Office for Catechesis, where I worked on adult continuing education issues and helped develop the "O Merciful Jesus--Now What?" program.

Now, I look forward to serving you in the function of friend, guide and overall explainer of things here in the diocese. Don't think of me as just the Chief Diocesan Morale Officer--think of me as your catechist in the Chancery!

And, goodness! From the mail people send to poor ol' Bishop Newkirk....Let me tell you, there are a lot of misconceptions about goings-on in the diocese held by a lot of gloomy gusses. Not to mention a whole lot of stinkin' thinkin'! But, that's what I hope to be able to change in my new job and this column. Because it's a new column, I don't have any letters directed to ST! yet. Instead, I'll look at some letters recently sent to the Diocese.

1. "Dear Bishop Newkirk: You need to act on the problems at St. Malachi's in Elyton--now! Our previously-referenced problems with the Mass here have taken a decided turn for the worse. During last Sunday's 10am Mass, Fr. Dingleman screamed "IA CTHULU FTAGHN!" during the consecration and immolated a ferret on the altar. This happened while auxiliary bishop Newman was here for the annual parish visit, so you can ask him. Afterward, Fr. Dingleman said "greater sacrifices would be needed to inaugurate the reign of the Great Old Ones." Given that the Children's liturgy is next week, we are especially concerned and believe you must do something about this--now!"

This was very interesting. Very, very interesting! Does anyone else notice the problem here? Yes, of course--the tone of the parishioner. Why, if you got such a precipitous, demanding ultimatum ("do something now!"), what would you do? If you didn't tune it out, you'd throw it out! And the diocese gets lots of these kinds of demands every week. Come on, try again--but first with Fr. Dingleman, who's a great speaker! We're people, too--and we deserve to be treated nicely. As the proverb goes, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

2. Dear Bishop Newkirk: Why is your Cathedral hosting a conference by the National Association of Rebellious Nuns (NARN)? Every last one of them has been either excommunicated or disciplined by the Vatican, and amongst the conference topics is "Reclaiming the Office of Cultic Prostitute for Our Time" and "Invoking the Great Earth Mother to Crush the Masculine"? What gives?

Sorry--we just don't respond to e-mail from outside the diocese--it's not fair to us or productive of our time!

3. "Your Excellency: why is the NARN conference being held at the Cathedral? Why would the diocese sponsor a bunch of heretics, anyway?"

Since this one came from a registered parishioner who gave to the last services appeal, I'll answer. First, the diocese is hardly "sponsoring" the conference--a private entity is handling the buffet line and open bar. Second, the church is a family--we don't label each other. Remember--judge not! Third, I know one of the nuns--Sister Medea Hekate--and she has been very enlightening when she has conducted liturgical and catechetical conferences for the diocese. Speaking of Fr. Dingleman, I know he found her presentation on liturgical renewal to be positively hypnotic. Sorry, friend: she's fully in tune with the spirit of Vatican II, and is hardly a "heretic."

4. "I was just reading Bp. Newkirk's recent pastoral letter on the Eucharist, entitled "Let's Eat!" I suppose I should be happy that he did mention the concept of the Eucharist as a holy sacrifice, although I wish he hadn't done so via a five point type endnote rendered entirely in Old Church Slavonic. Be that as it may, I have a question about his statement on the role of the episcopate in the Eucharistic mystery, specifically on page 7:

"Indeed, it can be said that, considering the role of the Bishop, he is indeed the Eucharist par excellence, given for the people of the diocese. One could say quite accurately that the Eucharist is my body, given for the life of my followers. Yea verily, I am the very bread of life itself."

Isn't this out there--How can it square with 2000 years of Catholic understanding? I hope a retraction or clarification is forthcoming.

Goodness me, the orthodoxy police have been out in force lately! Please, people Catholicism is not a religion of uniformity! It is a faith that prayerfully allows for a pluriformity of truths to dwell together in balance. Besides, have you ever taken Bishop Newkirk out for dinner to hear his side of the story? I didn't think so. As further food for thought, I've enclosed a copy of his work at the USCCB on the plight of Alsatian gypsy barley harvesters. You really owe it to him to read his work as a whole before passing judgment.

5. Your Excellency: I would like to bring to your attention some problems we here at St. Effusivius have been having with Fr. Wunderbar. As you may have seen two months ago on CNN, Fr. Wunderbar announced he was "coming out of the closet as a protest against the heterosexist tyranny that is the Catholic Church and its local tinpot, Newkirk." When several members of the parish approached him and asked what this meant for the observance of his vows of celibacy, he refused to respond. After further questioning, he threatened to "excommunicate the entire queer-bashing lot of [us]," and exclaimed "that it was none of [our] damn business." He repeated this verbatim at his masses for the next month. In addition, he has been observed hanging out at a bar called "The Tool Shed" on a daily basis, has added a feather boa to his vestments, and replaced the creed with the lyrics to "It's Raining Men." Most disturbingly, he also insists on baptizing everyone in the buff. The enclosed VHS tapes document this behavior. Please intervene--it's tearing the parish apart.

Dear me: another liturgical complaint. We get so many complaints about the liturgy that I think some people would be happier in the Orthodox Church. What I'm hearing here is a lot of talk about rubrics, but not much love. The only "love" I hear is, sadly, self-love. Honestly--if some people didn't have something to gripe about, they'd be lost. Try this instead: Give Fr. Wunderbar a hug. Take him out for steak fries. Allow him to indulge a little creativity. Parish life is all about give and take.

Well, that's all the space I have in the inaugural column. Feel free to write ST! care of the paper. Next time, people--let's have some happy talk about all the good stuff going on here.

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