Wednesday, May 29, 2013

USCCB's Spring Assembly 2013

As many U.S. children finish their school year, the U.S. bishops will hold their annual Spring Assembly June 10th through June 14th at the Loews Coronado Springs resort near San Diego, CA.  This is a self-described “upscale waterfront hotel” that is a “blissful Pacific oasis” with “world class service.”  It has a marina, boat rentals, gondola cruises, tennis courts, 3 swimming pools, multiple beaches, 4 restaurants, and 24 hour room service – all the amenities one might expect for discussions about a guy born in a stable who hung out with the poor.

Actually, unless along with the copious notes about their obstruction of justice on child sexual abuses the hierarchy’s secret archives also contain uncirculated scriptural texts called something like, “Paul’s Epistle to the Opulent,” this initially seemed a confusing venue choice.  However, thinking about kids going to summer camps and the bishops’ self acclaimed status as the closest thing on Earth to Jesus, I eventually realized this venue makes perfect sense.  The bishops must be going to summer camp! 

I’m assuming they’re electing to stay in tents on the property’s 15 acres rather than in the resort hotel.  Or, maybe since Jesus was born in a stable, they will instead opt to sleep in the parking garage. Obviously, I would expect their transportation partner to be the Greyhound Bus since reliable donkey transportation is tough to find these days.  Plus, this provides great opportunities to bond with the people while being environmentally friendly.

Much like any respectable camp, the 400+ bishops will divide into camp units and tents.  Each tent will have its own cheer and compete for the coveted Spirit award.  In an effort to encourage diversity, tent cheers can be in English, Spanish or Latin.  Extra credit will be given for multi-lingual cheers or ones done in Gregorian style chant.   Here are some examples.  Sorry about the audio quality but my volunteer recording artist lacks sophisticated equipment.

Tent One Cheer
Tent One, Tent One, Tent One is a lot of fun.
We are fun in the sun or when day is done.
Tent One

Tent Two Cheer
Amazing Two, how sweet this tent
That stands above the rest
Others wish that their days were with us spent
‘Cause we are clearly best

Tent Three Cheer
Holey tent we feel the rain
Lord shine on the men in Tent Three
It’s not like us to whine or complain
But the water is now past the knee
Infinite water we can’t retain
Everlasting is this rain
Infinite water we can’t retain
Everlasting is this rain 

Tent Four Cheer

We’re just happy; we’re not high
Sweetly singing about the arcane
And the mountains in reply
Echo back this joyous strain
Tent Four is close to excelsis Deo
Tent Four is close to excelsis Deo

I envision their daily agenda going something like this:

3 a.m. Rise and Shine!
3:00 a.m. – 3:30 a.m. morning campsite chores
3:30 a.m. – 4:00 a.m. celebrate Mass for the many immigrant workers
4:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Morning service project – work a shift for hotel staff (kitchen, laundry, maid, grounds, cleaning, maintenance, bell hop, dish room, etc…) 
1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Lunch – fish fry on the beach feeding 4,000 and 5,000 people on alternating days
2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Afternoon Electives (See descriptions below)
4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Lay-supervised Ministry lessons (See descriptions below)
6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Evening Prayer open to all
7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Dinner and free time for people to talk to the bishops
9:00 p.m. Lights Out!

Elective Session Descriptions:
Carpentry and Home Repair – Build your independence and reduce diocesan costs at the same time! Learn simple maintenance and carpentry skills so that like the apostle Paul, you too can get off the dole and earn your own living.  Help with simple repairs at diocesan facilities or even at the homes of elderly, infirmed and impoverished people.  As a bonus, learn the Aramaic expletives Joseph shouted after hammering his thumb, just like Jesus learned as a child.

Care for the Poor – Travel to exotic locations like Tijuana, Mexico ten miles south of the resort or even just down Highway 75 from your resort to encounter real-live people with economic challenges!  Spend 2 hours a day as Jesus did, walking amongst the poor, feeding them and rendering them dignity.      

Heal the Sick – Has it been a while since you pulled off a good healing miracle?  Try heading just a little north of your resort to Sharp Coronado Hospital or one of San Diego’s other fine hospitals where you’ll find plenty of sick people.  Activities include running errands for urgent care patients and staff, holding the hands of dying people, mopping the brows of single mothers giving birth, holding emesis basins for vomiting patients, visiting lonely patients, and many other Jesus-like activities.  

Apostolic Water Sports - This location is near water and boats just like where Jesus and the Apostles used to congregate!  Who needs water-skiing when you can walk on water?  Learn to trust Jesus as much as Peter by trying to stand on water.  Campers will also learn to row boats, cast and mend nets, in addition to catch, clean, bone and fry fish.

Mandatory Lay Supervised Ministry Lesson Descriptions
June 10th, 11th, and 12th
Bishops will meet with clergy abuse survivors and listen to individuals’ stories.  They will be fined one golden chalice, one silk vestment, 1% of parish assessments and one month’s income for every empty trite expression they utter.  Fines will be doubled for any insinuation that clergy abuse is a) over, b) tied to homosexuality or c) somebody else’s fault besides the clergy and the bishops who enabled them.  Bishops will apologize to individuals and draft plans to lobby for extension of the statute of limitations for criminally prosecuting child sexual abuse in every state.  They will commit funding to this lobbying effort equal to twice the amount they have used in the past to block such legislative measures.  They will each bring their secret archives and allow the abuse survivors to read them.  Any bishops who enabled a sexually abusive priest, lied about one, left one in active ministry, or manipulated to get around legally prosecuting one will submit their resignations immediately.  They will retire to a life of driving sexual abuse survivors to their therapy appointments.

June 13th
Bishops will be confined to quarters listening to homilies given by men they ordained.  Homilies will be selected by laypeople in their respective dioceses.  Lay people will lead the bishops through fact-checking, theology correction and other exhilarating activities.  Bishops will build action plans directed by laypeople on how to improve preaching capabilities in their dioceses.

June 14th
Bishops will meet for 2 hours listening to a panel of women speak.  Common sexist, chauvinist and misogynist themes used by clergy will be highlighted.  Additionally, women will instruct bishops about human sexuality, marriage, motherhood and raising children.  They will then administer a test for comprehension.  Any bishop receiving less than 95% on the test will immediately enter remedial training supervised by women or resign.  Women from each diocese will also lead their bishops in drafting a plan to eliminate sexism in their respective dioceses.  Bishops will supply cookies for and serve punch at the session.

What do you suppose are the chances that the bishops’ agenda will look anything like this?  How many of the people the bishops are charged to serve do you think can afford to stay at this resort in any place besides a tent or parking garage?  What is the proper response to the U.S. bishops' semi-annual assembly so as to increase it's effectiveness and alignment with gospel principles?

A late entrant from Tent Seven arrived after going to press.

Tent Seven Cheer
Seven has to be the very best tent
Seven has to be the very best tent (repeat)
Seven has to
Seven has to o-oh
Seven has to be the very best tent
Siete es la mejor tienda de campaña
Siete es la mejor tienda de campaña (repeat)
Siete es la
Siete es la
Siete es la mejor tienda de campaña

Thanks to AMW for the idea for this article.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

'Twas the Night Before Pentecost

'Twas the night before Pentecost when all through the church
Not a bishop stirred from his cathedral perch.

The reformers were hung out to dry in the air
In hopes they’d just leave in disgust or despair.

The obedient were nestled all snug in their pew
While visions of salvation grew and grew.

And the nuns in their civvies and the pope in his hat
Had just settled nothing so continued their spat.

When out in the world there arose such a clatter
I put down my rosary to see what was the matter.

Away to the newsfeeds I flew like a flash,
Tore open my browser after clearing the cache.

The loon on the cast of the talking head show
Gave the luster of sin to the pelvis and below.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But a miniature concern whipped into fear.

With little resemblance to facts or truth
I knew in a moment that it was uncouth.

More rapid than emails God’s Spirit, it came
But the hierarchy said, “This is something to tame.”

"Now bash her, that cancer! Now answer, you vixen!
On dogma, you’re stupid!  We’re fonder of Nixon!"

"You can stop at the kitchen, or clean the church hall!
Now dash away, dash away, dash away all!"

"As dry heaves that before wild vomiting hurl,
We’d rather close churches than follow a girl!"

So up to the altar the clerics they flew
With glittering vestments and an empty pew.

And then in a twinkling we heard in the news
The dancing and stalling of episcopal crews.

As we knew in our heads clergy abuses abound
Down came their credibility crashing to the ground.

They were dressed all in silk from their heads to their toes
But their words could have won them Pinocchio’s nose.

A bundle of social doctrine they’d thrown out in the back
And acted like Vatican II was written by a quack.

Their chasubles, how they twinkled! Their preaching, how scary!
Their chalices, how golden!  But of women, they’re wary.

Their droll little quips about women are failin’
Except with Republicans or perhaps Sarah Palin.

A stump of dated biology they hold tight in their mind
Creating smokescreens of canons that restrict and confine. 

They have a broad set of rules that seem rather silly
But adhere to them all somewhat willy-nilly.

Some are chubby and plump; Some are jolly; some have wealth
But their culture is imbued with oodles of stealth.

A wink of their eyes and a twist of some facts
Without recourse they can give some people the axe.

But the Spirit speaks not a word just goes straight to its work
Filling the people – even if outside the pews they lurk.

And laying a foundation aligned with Christ’s actions
Gives a disapproving nod, then decries all the factions.

It works night and day, to its “peeps” giving a whistle
And we are all called as stated in Paul’s epistle.

But I heard the Spirit exclaim though it’s always out of sight,
"Happy Pentecost to all and may you all be guided right."

A parody of Clement C. Moore's poem, "The Night Before Christmas"