The Right Coast

April 11, 2005
The annoying New York Times, part 97
By Tom Smith

One of the many things to regret about the death of John Paul II is the occassion it gives to the NY Times to ruminate on things Catholic. The following is a parody of the typical Times on Catholics story. . . .

In Wake of Pope's Death, Catholics Hope to Move into 21st Century

With the death of the man they called the "Holy Father," many American Catholics endure mixed feelings -- grief at the death of the one of the most friendly, athletic and good looking popes in recent memory, and joy at the prospect of updating their shockingly medieval doctrines and institutions. "Eees so sad," said Maria Luisa Gomez Gonzoles Ave Maria Santa Croce Spaghetini, single mother of twelve, outside our Lady of Various Blessings in Termite, New Jersey. "Ees sad, but maybe now I can stop making so many babies." The Catholic Church has forbidden the use of artificial birth control since sometime in the 1960s, when everybody else starting using it. "If you ask me, they just want to overwhelm the world with screaming, crawling, dirty-faced Catholic babies," said Eustice Peabody, a non-Catholic.

The legacy of John Paul, in the view of many American Catholics, is decidedly mixed. Whether of Polish, Irish, Italian or some other scruffy immigrant bloodline, American Catholics are unanimous in their disagreement over what it all means. Shamus O'Henneshaunessoganigan, 61, custodian at the Amalgamated Tarsands Refinery in Termite, said "Hey, he was the pope, he was the boss. What's so hard to understand about that?" But other equally Catholic citizens were less sure. Mary Contrary, known to her friends as "Peaceflower," and a prominent leader of the alternative Catholic movement of northern New Jersey, called John Paul "a Polish caveman, a patriarch, totally out of touch with the global vibration of emerging transcendence, and stuff."

Perhaps more typical are the views of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Roberti, he a former priest, she a former nun. Both devout Catholics, they attend mass at least three times daily, six times counting them separately. Their parish priest refused to be interviewed for this story. "We loved the Holy Father," said Mr. Roberti, "but he was such a blockhead. I want to be a priest, and so does my wife. Why can't we be? We're better Catholics than anybody we know."

Catholicism is no longer confined merely to the immigrants that swarmed to America's shores back before immigration laws became more strict. No longer just fair-haired Irish or swarthy southern Europeans, now many Africans and Central Americans come to these shores already indoctrinated with Catholicism. Ngomo Ngomo Bongoto, formerly of the People's Western African Republic, came to Termite in 1995, after a coup in which most of his family was killed forced him to flee. Roasting a goat on a spit in his extremely modest, even squalid, back yard, Ngomo said "The pope, he OK. But why not can we use the condoms, eh? Condoms make a no worries." The Catholic Church has forbidden the use of condoms, even in parts of the world where the AIDS pandemic has hit the hardest and sex with prostitutes is most popular.

Meanwhile, the number of priests is plunging, masses are sparsely attended, Catholic schools are closing by the hundreds, diocese after diocese is rocked by sexual abuse scandals, and Jesuit basketball is not what it used to be. While it is unclear how much of this can be attributed to the unbelievably short-sighted leadership of John Paul II, it seems a fair bet that a lot of it can be. "Maybe now at least we can have condoms," said Maria. "I think maybe twelve is enough," she said, chasing a screaming toddler across the busy parking lot.