Category Archives: Jackass for the Hour

Riddle of dark? Catherine’s Kryptos

saint catherine of siena

In the next chapter of Jackass for the Hour we will meet up with Jacinta at Mater Ecclesiae Monastery once again, this time at community recreation. There is a discussion of Isaiah’s Kryptos, so to speak, that is, Jesus’ Kryptos, Saint Paul’s Kryptos, and now Catherine of Sienna’s Kryptos. This is not easy. Almost no one in the world will look at this. No one wants to solve the riddle. Can you, will you want to, solve this riddle. Here are some hints:

  • Saint Paul, in 1 Corinthians 2:9, does interpret Isaiah 6:4-10 – cited in Matthew 13:15, in Acts 28:27, et al. (thoughout the Old and New Testaments) – by saying it is by way of the love of God, by way of the crucified Lord of glory, that we see and hear and understand, not by ourselves.
  • Paul is accurate, says our Lord – as Saint Catherine relates – so much so that “questo parbe che volesse dire Paulo,” so much so that “this seems to be what Paul wanted to say,” that is, as if it were Paul’s own revelation, Paul’s own knowledge, Paul’s very own desire. But a blasphemer might say that our Lord Jesus was Himself simply making an attempt to guess what Paul meant, because, you know, Jesus really didn’t know.
  • In other words, Paul was so transformed by grace, that it was as if Paul spoke on his own authority. Yet, in this passage, the most erudite of all academic Pharisees himself happily admits that he is speaking by the power of God and the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was not conjecturing about what it seems to Him that Paul wanted to say, as if Jesus were Paul’s student: “In my opinion it seems to me that Paul wanted to say this…” Jesus was rather confirming just how correct Paul’s words were, for they were actualized in Paul’s life with the grace of Jesus, the power of God, and the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Paul was perfectly attuned to the grace of God that opened his eyes, unstopped his ears, pierced open his heart.

Is the vocation of Isaiah and Jesus and Saint Paul to make hearts heavy and ears stopped up and eyes blind and minds dull so that no one whomsoever will of themselves turn to be saved? Yes.

What? What a second. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do? No. Really not.

So, why not? Figured it out yet?

This is The Kryptos of Catherine of Sienna. Can you figure it out?

 

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Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 26 – Revealed religion sacrifices children

palestinian donkeyJackass for the Hour: Chapter 26 – Revealed religion sacrifices children

By 10:00 A.M., the Paul VI Audience Hall was filled to its capacity of thousands upon thousands. Everyone was on their feet, speaking more loudly even as the din became more deafening.

Cardinal Francisco’s secretary, adept at deescalation, quietly said, “We welcome our visitors here today, representatives of the media, delegations from various religious groups, and others who desire to advance the common good as well as the particular good of the individuals who have a special interest in this case. We will begin with a prayer.” The noise level increased with many of those present asking each other with sarcasm what they were to do with the threat of a prayer being imposed upon them.

The Cardinal thought it best to begin with ‘multi-cultural’ praise, certain that clarity would offend disparate sensitivities. Besides the wide variety of nationalities of those present, there were many Jews and Muslims in the Hall. Ignoring the new artwork framing the stage, the Cardinal lapsed into semi-Pelagianism, saying, “Future Omega Point of the cosmos, we are at one this morning, invigorated by our dialogue and enthused by the common purpose of sharing our lives with each other. We praise you for helping us to be one with the cosmos, one with you, forever and ever…” He didn’t add ‘Amen’, as this was Hebrew, just another language, but one which was likely to be considered non-inclusive. The Cardinal sat down. Most in the crowd stared at him blankly. Others, for whom such nonsense was their usual weekend fare, said ‘Amen’. Everyone sat down, causing a wave of noise to roll up the sloping floor of the cavernous auditorium.

“The proceedings of the trial of Father…” began the Cardinal, unable to finish his sentence. A banner had been unfurled by a group of demonstrators during the opening ‘prayer’. It stretched halfway across one side of the Hall, in the middle of the crowd, behind the reporters. Those holding up the banner had begun to chant the slogan printed upon it in large red letters.

The cameras swept around to get a closeup of the banner: “Revealed Religion Sacrifices Children.” There were smaller words below these proclaiming that the group’s members were abuse survivors. A multitude of guards swept down upon the protestors, but they were kept at bay by multiple rows of people on all sides of the banner, all of them obviously belonging to the same group. Their chanting of the slogan was picked up by many others. Mayhem reigned.

Cardinal Fidèle looked content, but Cardinal Francisco was hitting his gavel on the table, which only annoyed the crowd. Father Alexámenos leaned forward into his microphone and said, “No! Let them stay. Let them hold up their banner. You must let them have a voice.”

The guards looked to Cardinal Francisco for direction. “We are so pleased to have you with us to share your concerns,” he said. The protesters sat down, continuing to hold the banner open. After this, only two sets of two guards remained in the aisles to either side of the group.

“The proceedings of the trial of Father Alexámenos,” Cardinal Francisco repeated, “will now commence. The defendant is accused of Continue reading

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Jackass for the Hour: note on revision (update on British English, or not)

jackass for the hour

Original cover of Jackass for the Hour for which, at the time, a pseudonym was employed.

/// UPDATE: When I originally wrote this in the mid-2000s, I used the pen-name above, pretending further that the author was himself from northern Benin and was having difficulty learning English, that is, British English. I’m very evil and bad. I had reasons for using a pseudonym at the time. A very nice retired school teacher in England helped correct my usages to polish up my British English, that is, non-American English. There are British spellings throughout. Some of you have caught some. I am enthralled you have not noticed the others. For instance, the spelling of verbs uses an “s” and not a “c”, but a “c” can be used where Americans use an “s” in a noun, such as “defense” for Americans but “defence” for the U.K. If a future revision to thoroughly bring the book up-to-date” takes place, and if a publisher can be found, if that publisher is American based, they might want to change all the spellings and grammar over to American ways. /////

It’s not that there’s a real revision in progress as the chapters are put up again on Arise! Let us be going! I appreciate the corrections coming in by comments or email regarding spelling / grammatical errors. Sometimes I don’t know if sometimes fiercely critical comments about the plot or characters are baiting me to give spoilers, but I’ll remain steadfast in not doing so. It’s not that the points made are out of date, though perhaps the book does lack some modern context under the papacy of Pope Francis, yet, even in the diversity of various Pontiffs, it is nevertheless truth that quite exactly the same problems exist today as they did just a few years ago. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

What I wanted to say just now, at this point, after many of the last chapters and before some of the following chapters, is that some of the dialogue on the mouths of some of the characters, particularly the Cardinals, may seem to be particularly inane, whether about Scripture, ecumenism, anything about dialogue that is “interreligious”, anything to do with the infamous Sister Nice (what a fright she is!), etc. However – and I am truly sorry to say this – the characters, even Sister Nice (no, really), while occasionally put in dramatic situations for the sake of the story line, have sayings on their lips which are often verbatim coming from Cardinals or others working in the Roman Curia or those in like situations, sometimes taken right from their own speeches published by Vatican Radio by other means of communication of the Holy See, or in other sources, gleaned before they could be taken down, if they have been, or from eye witnesses, or from what I myself have witnessed in my decades in Rome.

This is the darkness in which we live. There are not a few with so very much hubris that they have claimed – in print – that they have conquered, that no one of the rest of us of the great unwashed will ever be able to figure out how much they have duped us, how the direction and doctrine of the Church will be forever changed by what they have have been able to accomplish, coming at things as they have in so many ways with so many nuances with so many various angles of approach from so very many directions. That’s what they think.

The book is a statement to them all that their mind games are instantaneously cut through and exposed by love which is truth (which none of us has of his own), that is, in the same way in which Jesus answered the mind game temptations Satan put to Him in those 40 days in the desert, always answering with love and respect for His dear Heavenly Father.

I know that there will be those who will be extremely critical of the next chapters going up, but, what can I say except that they should wait to see how they will be even more offended as each chapter comes along, as points are developed, at characters develop, as the plot thickens, etc. It is a novel, after all. Have some patience. Have some forgiveness for poetic license. ;-)

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Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 25 – You look like such a jackass, just so useless

palestinian donkeyJackass for the Hour: Chapter 25 – You look like such a jackass, just so useless

Shaykh al-Hasan’s promised ‘mosquitos’, which were actually homemade, man-powered, ultra-light aircraft, had proceeded just above the waves toward Plum Island’s soon to be replaced NBAF. There were four operators. Two of them, well practised snipers, were now above the central bioterrorism research facility whose presence at the compound had always been vociferously denied. The snipers had just neutralized the guards outside the target building, knowing their schedules to the second. They then started dropping explosives around the target and nearby buildings as a diversion until they were killed, or until they killed themselves, as per their plan. Another bomb exploded just as another operative landed on a predetermined part of the complex, destroying part of the roof. The last of the group landed next to this hole in the roof just as the military island was alarmed to enter war mode. As he landed, he simultaneously threw himself into the gaping hole, deep into the building. He alone wore what looked to be a wet suit complete with air tanks. He had attached himself to his aircraft by a thin, retractable cable complete with winch before lifting off from the small barge they had rented the day before. The cable broke his fall and, before twenty seconds had passed, having obtained what he wanted, he was already departing from the facility in his ultra-light aircraft, returning to the barge. When the first two commandos saw that he was far enough away, they, as planned, blew themselves up in earth-rocking explosions at two other points next to the facility. Within thirty seconds, the remaining terrorist, now passing high over the beach, pressed a button on his phone, which he then destroyed and threw into the water. This had caused their rented barge, a half-kilometre offshore, to explode so forcefully that the shockwaves almost made his ultra-light aircraft stall. He detached the cable tying him to the aircraft and proceeded to the remains of the barge. What was left of it was burning, along with three Coast Guard gun boats which had surrounded it. He dropped into the water in the midst of the wreckage and, making use of the scuba gear a second time, swam down until he found the diving motor they had anchored to the bottom. Continue reading

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Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 24 – Is that the way a priest should act?

palestinian donkeyJackass for the Hour: Chapter 24 – Is that the way a priest should act?

“Do you remember my wedding pictures?” asked the commander.

“Sure,” Eliyahu replied. “The lesson was… Don’t trust anyone! But that’s old news.”

“We have a prisoner for you to guard, Eliyahu.”

“So, I’m being demoted?” asked the young soldier.

“Only if you fail,” came the quick reply. “He’s really very cunning.”

✵ ✵ ✵

Father Alexámenos and the old Rabbi walked off the plane together, with Father Alexámenos bringing the carry-on luggage for the Rabbi. They went through the passport control together. The passport officer looked for just a second at Father Alexámenos, and then at the computer screen in front of him. With an on-edge forced boredom look to his face – which anyone with situational awareness can spot a mile away – he glanced back at Father Alexámenos and, while already looking at the person behind Father Alexámenos, flipped him his passport. Father Alexámenos went through and waited for the Rabbi, who was being delayed. Looking back at the kiosk, he saw that the agent was making a phone call. “And so it begins,” thought Father Alexámenos with a sinking feeling in his stomach. Continue reading

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Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 23 – So, that’s your problem?

palestinian donkeyJackass for the Hour: Chapter 23 – So, that’s your problem?

As Father Alexámenos and Rabbi Shelomoh continued to speak, the Muhammadan, no longer listening, sent his email to Shaykh al-Husayn, a member of what had for a long time been Europe’s largest Mosque and Cultural Centre, built with Saudi oil money near the Vatican so as to spit on Pope Saint Pius V’s ‘Rosary Victory’ over the Muhammadans at Lépanto, during the height of the Ottoman Empire, just after Elizabeth I of England was excommunicated.

Shaykh al-Husayn was well placed, being Albanian by birth, Catholic by Baptism, Muslim by apostasy, and ‘advisor’ by professional history in the Arabian peninsula. He was a ‘trophy convert’ on show. Brilliant at public relations and proselytism, he gave school children praying-tours of the mosque, delighting in ‘catechising’ them in Islam as they bowed down to Allah. His belligerently anti-Catholic attitude upset Catholic students of interreligious dialogue, which is not easy to do.

Shaykh al-Husayn read the email which he had just received from the flight to Rome. He would have deleted it had it not confirmed what was just coming on the television screen in his office. The news report included the images of Father Alexámenos, complaining that he was already on a flight to Rome. He was being accused of fleeing justice. The email was from a member of the mosque, and gave the details of the flight number, something the television reports had not yet done. The email mentioned the news report about Haïti, but centred on the discussion Father Alexámenos was having with one whom the Muhammadan had mistakenly taken to be the Chief Rabbi of Rome. “Can you not do something about the interference of this priest?” asked the Muhammadan in his email. “He is inciting Jews and Catholics to declare war on Muslims, as if we all lived in Jericho when it was taken more than three thousand years ago. Since Italy and the Holy See treat Islam nicely, it’s easy to put pressure on them, especially for you. He’s to be punished for his crimes in Haïti, and then suffer the punishment for his words against Islam.”

Shaykh al-Husayn clicked on the audio file sent with the email. He knew Hebrew better than the Jews, he thought. He listened in disbelief as he heard the priest describe his understanding of the Qur’anic version of Abraham’s would-be child-sacrifice of his son and, then, the Rabbi’s question about whether or not the continuing slaughter of the Palestinians was divinely mandated to this day. Shaykh al-Husayn sat back in his chair. He decided not to respond to the email. He did, however, like the idea about making an official protest. This had to be handled by diplomats in Saudi Arabia in conjunction with the other Arab states. Involving the one they thought was the Chief Rabbi of Rome was too dangerous to ignore, especially since this Rabbi was such good friends with Pope Tsur-Ēzer, also a Jew. “After all,” he thought, “if Jews and Christians want another crusade…” A wave of anger overwhelmed Shaykh al-Husayn, which was followed by a wave of regret, for so many might die fighting a crusade.

That Father Alexámenos had stayed in the Catholic Nunciature made matters worse. Even a CIA agent was volunteering information on the television about Father Alexámenos. Shaykh al-Husayn thought it looked like preemptive damage control. The agent called Father Alexámenos stupid for having taken the liquor he gave to him, which was only meant to pry information out of the priest about the priest himself. Despite it being past midnight, Shaykh al-Husayn rang the diplomats in Saudi Arabia, now his longtime friends. Continue reading

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Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 22 – Sag niemals nie! Never say never!

palestinian donkeyJackass for the Hour: Chapter 22 – Sag niemals nie! Never say never!

Before Father Alexámenos answered, the Rabbi continued with an intensity his priest friend enjoyed so much it all almost set him to laughing, wishing all his interlocutors had the intelligence and, he suspected, the streak of mischievousness of the Rabbi. “The Old Covenant must effectively be replaced by the New Covenant inasmuch as the Old is to be fulfilled and transformed in the New. The Old Covenant cannot be salvific on its own, even before any Messiah comes, for the Old had to look forward to the New, which fills it with Life back in the day. Time is not a barrier to its Creator. If the view is that the New has come, the Old must necessarily become sterile, even if it is not purposely cut off from the New, and no matter how much God respects the sincerity of Jews who do not even know what Christianity is. In that case, God gives grace to the Jews simply as His gratuitous gift, but not because God makes valid what cannot be made valid in the Old Covenant except in its present day fulfilment in the New.” Since Father Alexámenos did not interject, the Rabbi continued: “Your Cardinal Froben, nevertheless, gives us the lowest common denominator of no one having any covenant, telling us, absurdly, that both the Old and the New Covenant can be salvific at the same time. If the Old Covenant doesn’t look forward to the New, it is not actually the Old Covenant we are talking about, and if the New Covenant doesn’t fulfil the Old, it is not actually the New Covenant we are talking about. Two independent, salvific covenants are two other religions, neither Jewish or Catholic. Froben and his kind must stop insulting our intelligence. Tell me you understand!”

“Rabbi, I know exactly what you are…”

“Do you?” pressed the Rabbi.

“I regret,” said Father Alexámenos, “that Cardinal Froben has scandalously claimed that our aim in a dialogue is not to come into any kind of communion or unity, but simply to improve constantly those relationships and to work together. What he says is not what the Church nor I believe. I’m for unity in Charity and Truth. Saint Paul goes out of his way to say that…”

“I wonder about your regret,” interrupted the Rabbi, “Your Saint Paul makes it clear that he loves the Jews,” said the Rabbi, “but Froben and those like him do not seem to know who Paul of Tarsus is. They take every opportunity to send us to Auschwitz again. Take that document on the Shoah…”

“In reading that document, I just couldn’t believe that…” Father Alexámenos began to say.

“You Catholics,” interrupted the Rabbi, “speak of Continue reading

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Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 21 – They burned them in a raging fire

palestinian donkeyJackass for the Hour: Chapter 21 – They burned them in a raging fire

Although Father Lia-Fáil had received the fax from père Jacques and had alerted the Holy Father about the contents of the web-site, he hadn’t heard from anyone else, including Father Alexámenos. Pope Tsur-Ēzer had don Hash and padre Emet summoned.

✵ ✵ ✵

As the plane kept its course to Rome far off the coast of New York City, many in the plane were glued to the windows on the port side of the plane, leaning over the passengers in those rows of seats, who were themselves trying to get a glimpse of the Tribute in Light, two beams of light piercing high into the night skies from where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center had once stood, now One World Trade Center. The Port Authority finally understood that a memorial was not meant to facilitate one to look merely ‘at’ something, but to gaze ‘toward’ Someone. Every year on September 11 the memorial was lit up, and was being tested with some new technology on this evening. The plane’s distance from the Big Apple, more than three hundred kilometres, made the effect of the light piercing many kilometres into the heavens all the more dramatic. They were high enough in the plane so that the beams of light were able to be seen over the curvature of the earth.

Thousands simultaneously ‘burned at the stake’ by Islamic fundamentalists raised strong emotions in the viewers, regardless of their nationality or religion, especially since they were flying. The cabin crew knew that they had to delay the main meal until New York was behind them. Father Alexámenos was impressed that the years had not meant the usual out of sight, out of mind.

A Rabbi in his seventies had been sitting a few rows in front of Father Alexámenos. He was returning to Italy after visiting Bard College in New York – where he debated the interpretation of the Talmud – and then The Shoah Memorial in Miami Beach, where living anguish reached up to Heaven. After he caught a glimpse of the beams of light, he saw that Father Alexámenos, obviously a Catholic priest, was still asleep next to the window and had no one sitting next to him. He had also noticed that the gentleman seated immediately in front of Father Alexámenos had not bothered himself about the Tribute in Light, and still looked upset that everyone had made such a fuss. He was wearing a taqiyah and Thawb, traditional clothing for a Muslim. The Rabbi chuckled with such an opportunity for entertainment and, perhaps, according to the will of the Most High, an advance in what was otherwise the murderous intrigue of merely interreligious politics. The Rabbi took the seat next to the aisle leaving the middle seat of row between himself and Father Alexámenos empty. Continue reading

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Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 20 – You can read about it in Ezekiel 3 and 34

palestinian donkeyJackass for the Hour: Chapter 20 – You can read about it in Ezekiel 3 and 34

Just before Father Alexámenos flew to Haïti to teach, he phoned Bishop Athanasius in the Diocese of Marécage, Louisiana, who agreed to the teaching assignment with Cardinal Fidèle. He said that Archbishop Cromeu had also phoned him promising to do everything he could to have Father Alexámenos finish his own studies quickly. Bishop Athanasius said that when he contacted Archbishop Pòv, the Local Ordinary of Port-au-Prince, he was told that they were pleased to provide a valuable teaching experience for him.

Father Alexámenos had joined the diocese where his adoptive parents were living in Louisiana, though, with the agreement of the bishop, he had intended, someday, if possible, to go back to his diocese in Benin. Since so many people in Haïti were originally from Benin, the bishop thought that this would be a good first step, however temporary.

Bishop Athanasius had followed two older bishops in two years. Cardinal de Colines was fed up with getting embarrassed over the kind of terna he had been presenting to the Holy Father, having the Pontiff choose between three candidates listed not according to each one’s appropriateness to lead the local Church in the Faith, but according to the ‘risk’ of whether or not the candidate would abandon the status quo of doing nothing. This time, he included, as a remote possibility – merely dignus – the name of Athanasius. He was young, and was one of the first bishops to be ordained who had made it through the seminary unscathed by the corruption of the Church in the United States during the era which some had named the generation of ‘Good Bye, Good Men’. He had doctoral degrees in both Theology and Canon Law.

For the training of Alexámenos, the bishop did not send him to a seminary, dismayed at the lack of formation in the seminaries he knew about, and knowing that regional seminaries were difficult inasmuch as their statutes were set up in such a way that no one bishop had effective executive power to change things for the better. Courses would be taught at a loosely federated consortium having many religious communities and dioceses – and even Protestant and secular institutes – as members, making it almost impossible to deal with recalcitrant instructors. The bishops would go through the motions of examining complaints, but the process of committees and reviews were crafted so as to put off any decision for years, at which time the problem would have changed, starting the process over. Despite ‘serious’ Apostolic Visitations of the seminaries, it was business as usual. Everyone was accountable and not accountable at the same time.

For his training, Alexámenos resided at the Cathedral parish, taking courses taught by the Bishop and the Vicar General, who both lived there as well. The Vicar General was a Scripture scholar who had a licentiate in Philosophy, and who had taught at Catholic University of East Africa in Nairobi – in the centre of the ‘Holy Triangle’ – for many years. His only fault was laughing at his own endless stories of nuns who would scream in fright at the loud roaring of the lions in the nearby wildlife park. He admitted that the laughing of the hyenas sometimes kept him up at night. The young Alexámenos couldn’t have been happier. It was like home schooling all over again. During this time it was discovered that he was Continue reading

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Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 19 – *Dignissimus* for the next *terna*

palestinian donkey

Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 19 – Dignissimus for the next terna

It was 6:00 A.M. by the time père Jacques had returned to his quarters at the seminary. He began editing the videos, all of which were only a few seconds in length. Within an hour, he had the videos and photos uploaded onto the server of his ad hoc website that he had been preparing since the gossip of the arrival of Father Alexámenos began to circulate. All he had to do was upload the index page. Père Jacques wanted to become a bishop, and thought that this proffering of what he thought was a credible accusation was what was needed to put him in the running. He wasn’t very good at Church politics.

Père Jacques grinned when he thought of how he had taken advantage of père Roger, following Toma from the Nunciature as he had. On his return, he had hardly been able to run through the shantytown to his car after he had taken the pictures, shaking with fear. He had lost his way twice when making his way through the maze of shanties. He was not at home with the poor. He was not a father.

Père Jacques included captions for all of the videos and still shots, easily twisting the reality of what had happened. He began with a video of Pòl making the distinct pattern of cuts next to the eyes of Father Alexámenos. The edited video made it appear that Pòl had immediately given the machete to Father Alexámenos. The caption read, “Catholic priest becomes voodoo priest.”

The next image was of Father Alexámenos giving a blessing to Simon when Simon, naked, still needed an exorcism, was covered in mud, had only the whites of his eyes showing, and was foaming at the mouth. The caption read, “Priest commands evil spirits to enter man.”

When Father Alexámenos, wearing his cassock, had given his trousers to Simon, who was in his right mind after the exorcism, a picture was taken of the trousers around the feet of Father Alexámenos, and a video taken of him kicking them off. The caption read, “Priest strips down.”

The next video showed Father Alexámenos stripping off his cassock and shirt, and then Estè embracing Father Alexámenos with his own, blood stained shirt half falling from her. The caption read “Priest has ‘consensual’ sex with a minor.” Père Jacques laughed when he realised that he had changed the order of events, so that with these images only showing the waist upwards, it would be assumed that Father Alexámenos did not have any trousers on when he removed his cassock.

These images were followed by pictures of the boys jumping on Father Alexámenos for a few seconds after he had given the crowd a blessing. The caption read, “Priest has orgy with boys.” Père Jacques knew that the boys’ boxing trunks were grossly oversized, and the fact that the trunks of one of the boys having slipped down a bit in this mayhem was not the priest’s fault.

“Pictures are like statistics,” père Jacques whispered to himself, congratulating himself for being a sophisticated anthropologist-priest. “Without a context, only liars believe statistics, and everyone, like me, is a liar. I’m one of the few who’s honest enough to know it. It’s just like Continue reading

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Note for Jackass for the Hour: the phrase “dignissimus for the next terna”

A terna refers to a list of three episcopal candidates presented to the Pope, who chooses one, or not. They are ranked as dignus, worthy, dignior, more worthy, dignissimus, most worthy.

I have to wonder if that’s the ranking we need in the Church. There are other scales that regard humility before Jesus. Being really humble could be considered for worthiness, but the worthiness scale doesn’t lend itself to the consideration of humility as it’s primary concern.

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Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 18 – Like the grief of Jesus at the death of Lazarus

palestinian donkeyJackass for the Hour: Chapter 18 – Like the grief of Jesus at the death of Lazarus

The older men extended their hands in greeting to Father Alexámenos. They were soon interrupted by the girls of the ex-brothel, beginning with the youngest girl, Estè’s little sister, who was so small that she had to jump up in order to be able to reach her arms around the neck of Father Alexámenos. She squeezed hard, not wanting to let go, as if her very life depended on it. She looked into the face of Father Alexámenos, all smiles, unafraid of the blood from the cuts next to his eyes.

He asked, “What’s your name?”

“Ev!” she squealed enthusiastically, and jumped down once again. She was the only one of these girls who had been modestly dressed the entire evening. Father Alexámenos knew that there was something different about her; she was joyful, but not superficially.

As Ev jumped down, it was Mari who told Father Alexámenos about what Ev had said about heaven, and how God was going to save them soon. Recounting these things brought a tear of joy to her eyes. The reality of God’s power was hitting her hard.

While the other girls greeted him, Ev had run up the stairs and into the ex-brothel, spontaneously bringing a pail which she placed between the tall Cross and, next to it, the statue of Mary. She began to divest herself of her costume jewellery that Mari had forced her to wear that evening, throwing it in the pail to be sold. The other girls, seeing this, followed her example.

After this, the others in the crowd came up to greet him, all except for Pòl and his group of boys, who deferred to the eagerness of the others.

In all of this, Father Alexámenos knew the presence of Christ in their midst to be almost tangible. It made him remember his First Confession and Holy Communion, and his experience during Mass at Mater Ecclesiæ convent in Vatican Gardens.

When the flurry of greetings subsided, Filmèna spoke to Father Alexámenos once again in their west African language, saying, “As you’ve been able to gather, Father, the girls in the house and the boys dressed like Pòl are all part of the family, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. The younger they are, the whiter they get. They were prostitutes for generations at Simon’s voodoo clubs, generations were spaced by puberty. The clients were mostly all white tourists and business men. Some of their customers were extraordinarily cruel. The children have been injured, and have even had bones broken. No one was ever killed, thank God. They worked all night and slept all day. Simon only gave them a little money to bring home. Because of that, both the boys and girls were made to go out at night, sometimes with a gun to their heads or machetes to their throats, but I think they’ll do alright now. It’s the fist time I’ve seen Continue reading

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Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 17 – A wave of reality swept over more of them

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Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 17 – A wave of reality swept over more of them

Father Alexámenos described of the first Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, the Agony of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, saying, “God loves us so much that He wants us to trust Him.”

“The hell He does!” Toma shouted, cursing himself with a new voice. “Look how we live.”

“To show us His love,” continued Father Alexámenos, unabated, “God’s Son, Jesus, God Himself, was born of the Virgin Mary, and walked in the squaller of this world. He was with us, God with us. He knew we had adulterous hearts, and would want to get His goodness out of the way, since we stupidly think His goodness incriminates us in our adulterous ways, as if He is too good, just wanting to show us up for who we are. But it is not a competition. His goodness saves us. He showed us His love; we killed Him. It was not that He trusted us, but that He knew the Father would hold out forgiveness to us no matter how badly we, at first, rejected Him…”

Damn you! Can’t you see that we’re damned?” Toma shouted, throwing a machete at Father Alexámenos, who had seen it coming and, knowing it would miss him, watched it strike the wooden light pole next to him. Father Alexámenos waited for the inevitable reactions against Toma, since their beloved Filmèna had also been put in danger. This left almost a quarter of the men scoffing, nervous that their obtuseness was all too evident. Others in the crowd compared the words of Father Alexámenos to what he had done with Pòl, seeing the reality of what he said. Those who had no interest in words, but did have a stake in getting some money, were agitated. They thought that he had better say something worthwhile soon, or bitterly regret that night.

Damned? Of course were damned. All of us, me, you, the youngest baby here, even Filmèna,” said Father Alexámenos, just as some of those men had started to walk away, ashamed in the presence of Filmèna. “How could we not be damned after all humanity fell into sin from the very beginning with the very first sin? And it gets worse. The Son of God knew that we would be in trouble even before He created the world. He knew that we would fall into sin, and that we, without His grace, would continually throw ourselves into sin, hurting ourselves and others.”

“Right, so damn you too, priest of God,” answered Toma, ripping a machete out of the hands of another man and holding it toward Father Alexámenos.

“We’re damned,” continued Father Alexámenos, “but that doesn’t mean God can’t save us.”

“So, just tell us we’re saved and happy! Damn you to hell!” screamed Toma, eyes wide.

“You’re so spiritual!” exclaimed Father Alexámenos sarcastically. “Damned be the one who says God declares us to be forgiven, and that that’s all there is to it. You’re right! In that case God would be cheating justice, cheating us, cheating Himself, cheating reality. God created us with free will and must give us what was freely chosen with that first sin of humanity, including weakness of mind and will, sickness and death…”

“We’re suffering from the sins of others!” said Toma. “Look at this poverty. Look at these children. What did they do? If God’s so interested in justice, why doesn’t He come here? He knows nothing about us, nothing about suffering, nothing about death.”

“Instead,” said Father Alexámenos, “Jesus Continue reading

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Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 16 – What are you going to do, Father?

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Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 16 – What are you going to do, Father?

After six hours of continuous sleep, at 2:00 A.M., Father Alexámenos woke up refreshed and full of energy, grateful that he had been able to get in some sleep before any eventual sick-call. There were no religious images in the room, not even a crucifix. He opened his Liturgy of the Hour to the Office of Readings, whose page he had marked with a modern painting of the Holy Family. There looked to be two dozen children besides Jesus. The Gospels, he thought, didn’t necessarily point to the brothers and sisters of Jesus being merely his cousins; more probably, most were the adopted children of Joseph and Mary, the street urchins orphaned or thrown away by their “families.” He would have gone to the chapel, but he did not want to miss any phone call. He dressed, knelt down, and recited his morning offering and the Angelus, which he combined with the ‘Three Hail Marys’ prayer often recited at the end of Mass. Rising to his feet, as his custom was when not in chapel, he recited the psalms for the Office of Readings and Lauds. Remaining on his feet, he continued his prayer, dedicating his attention to the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.

✵ ✵ ✵

Pope Tsur-Ēzer had just begun a quiet prayer vigil at San Lorenzo fuori le Mura in honour of Pope Pius IX, which was significant so early into his pontificate. He spoke from the lower part of the old Basilica, next to Pius IX, facing the tomb of Saint Lawrence, in front of which is the marble slab on which Lawrence’s charred body had been laid after being removed from the grill. The stains of his remains had seeped deeply into the highly porous “rock”.

Don Hash attended, but avoided the crush of people, remaining near the Blessed Sacrament in the side chapel of the main Basilica to fulfil more of his Penance, spending ten minutes in contemplation of the Most Holy Trinity. Unlike his experience in San Lorenzo in Damaso, he Continue reading

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Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 15 – The terror on the face of the little boy froze in his mind

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Chapter 15 – The terror on the face of the little boy froze in his mind

Father Lia-Fáil soon arrived with the gray car don Hash had seen. Padre Emet took the front seat so that don Hash and Father Alexámenos would benefit from the tinted windows of the rear seat.

“Times are certainly changing,” said Father Alexámenos as they started to drive away.

“The car looks terrible on the outside, but the engine works well,” replied Father Lia-Fáil. “Diocesan bankruptcies due to fear of extortion have reduced the amount the Holy See receives in contributions,” he added as he sped down the hill of the Vatican gardens toward Santa Marta. “One of the first things Pope Tsur-Ēzer insisted upon is a draconian cutback in the extravagance of all that is connected with the Apostolic Palace. It was always Spartan, but it looks more like a monk’s cell than anything. I once thought that it would be a financial crisis which would change the minds of some of the more outrageous bishops, but that is not the case. That was my mindlessly secular version of ultramontanism. I’m now depending on de Colines to present some decent episcopal candidates to His Holiness, bishops who will transform their seminaries to be what they should be.” Having said that, he sighed. The comment was a test of the others in the car, whom he did not know except for his having briefly met Cardinal Emet a half-dozen times since the election of Pope Tsur-Ēzer.

“Of course,” said padre Emet, “seminaries don’t carry all the blame. The problem is almost exclusively with those who were ordained during or soon after the Second Vatican Council. Much of the younger generation of seminarians and priests have seen through the rubbishing of doctrine and morality by the bishops, administrators and teaching staff of the seminaries in many countries. But you don’t have to go outside of the Pontifical Universities in Rome to find a cesspool of heresy. The Congregation for Education simply washes its hands to the effect that…”

“To the effect that so many of the faculty and administration think that everyone is infallible, except for the Pope,” interrupted Father Lia-Fáil. “And with heresy following on heresy, corrupting into immorality, they then think that they are immaculately conceived, sinless, everyone, of course, except for the Blessed Virgin. I was saved from all that since my bishop – God rest his soul – taught me himself. He despised seminaries no matter what kind of apostolic visitations were carried out. To him, it was all damage control having little to do with encouraging the students to know Christ, to adore Him, to have a union of charity with Him in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in such a way that they knew that, in their priesthood, they would be married to the Church in that Holy Sacrifice. He was a great bishop.” For a change, Father Lia-Fáil drove out the gate near the Holy Office, doing so, as always, without braking. The Swiss Guards jumped back, now getting used to the driving habits of the new papal secretary. Continue reading

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Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 14 – I am pleased that all my sinfulness is displayed

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Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 14 – I am pleased that all my sinfulness is displayed

The downpour don Hash expected had not come yet, though large, well-spaced drops were still falling and the clouds were exploding upwards threateningly. The three of them stepped out of the car and went the few paces to the convent, while Father Lia-Fáil returned to the Apostolic Palace. They waited in front of the decidedly modern looking convent for the Mother Superior to attend to them. Although some religious orders and congregations which took their turns at Mater Ecclesiæ convent observed strict enclosure, the Paraclete Adoration Sisters did not. Yet, the Superior, Mother Bernadette, always answered the door so that the contemplative life of the others would not be disturbed. Padre Emet was the Confessor of the nuns at the new Pope’s recommendation, and the Prelate and Mother Bernadette had already had long discussions on the spiritual life, and seemed like lifelong friends. She had a wonderful sense of humour, and so said, with her gravest possible voice – it being the first time that she saw Cardinal Emet in his religious habit – “You are many years late, padre. The Carmelites were in the convent here years and years ago. We’re the Paraclete Adoration Sisters. Didn’t you know? The Carmelites are not due to return for another forty years. Perhaps, if you would like to return at that time…”

Just then it became windy, and lightning, accompanied by a deafening clap of thunder, struck the cupola of Saint Peter’s Basilica. The temperature had wildly fluctuated from the previous day, when it had been so cold. The two younger priests cowered closer to the door of the convent when the lightning had struck. Only padre Emet remained motionless. “I only thought,” said padre Emet, “that a few miserable priests could obtain shelter here, of all places, during the diabolical storm to which Holy Mother Church has been subjected.”

Mother Bernadette, beaming, said, “Of course, your Eminence… padre… I see that you have a good understanding of the charism of our community.”

With that, they entered the convent just as sheets of rain started pouring down. Mother Bernadette said, “The Holy Father will be here at 7:00 P.M. Continue reading

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Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 13 – You are out for his blood

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Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 13 – You are out for his blood

Don Hash repeated himself: “I would not like to see Father Alexámenos burned.”

“Nor would I,” answered Cardinal Fidèle, smiling. “Nor would any of us here.”

“But…” said don Hash, trying to get the Cardinal to give some hint of where he was going.

“But there will be a trial with a death penalty,” said Cardinal Fidèle.

“I am overwhelmed,” replied don Hash.

“Don’t worry, Hash,” said Cardinal Fidèle in a lighthearted manner. “It is not as if he will not repent. He will not be harmed, just put on trial. We want what is best for him.”

“What is best? It’s just too dangerous, Fidèle,” said Cardinal Francisco.

“Apparently, our wanting what is best for someone is not the same as what you want, Fidèle,” Cardinal Froben said, continuing to defend Father Alexámenos despite himself.

“Besides,” said Cardinal Francisco, “the doctrinal oversight of any trial would belong to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, not you.”

“Everyone knows you are the Grand Inquisitor,” replied Cardinal Fidèle, “a Torquemada redivivus.” This comment lightened the atmosphere as a round of laughter went around the room. No one could imagine the meek, Cardinal Francisco – a perfect gentleman given over to the more extreme refinements of diplomatic etiquette – as the head of any Inquisition, a term which, in itself, to him, begged for copious apologies. He was convinced that his job was to keep his more zealous inquisitors in check, not letting them work, keeping everyone else happy.

“Enough of all this fooling around, Fidèle,” interjected the Cardinal Secretary of State, finally saying something. “Tell us about your conveniently off the record conversation with the Pope.”

“I thought you would never ask, Elzevir,” replied Cardinal Fidèle.

“Don’t tell me you have spoken to the Holy Father about Alexámenos,” said don Hash, becoming ashen as the reality of the situation started to hit home. As an historian, don Hash had seen this quick turn of events time and again throughout history, in any country, and in any culture, and had already concluded in prayer that he himself would always be the one lighting the fire unless Continue reading

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Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 12 – Two girls in class cried for him

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Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 12 – Two girls in class cried for him

“I’m sorry that I’m early,” padre Absj apologised to Signora Gagno. As he did so, he stared at the floor, which was covered with pages ripped out of an edition of America magazine. Ripping apart journals and newspapers was another obsession of Carpe Diem.

“Please, follow me,” she said, turning to lead him to the adjoining dining room, but Carpe Diem suddenly appeared, standing in front of them, naked, cold as it was. He had heard the bell and wanted to know what was happening, since it was his job to ring the doorbell. It didn’t matter that he was soaking wet, having just stepped in and out of the shower.

“I’m sorry,” said Signora Gagno to padre Absj. “I forgot to lock the bathroom. He spilled molasses all over himself.”

Padre Absj had no experience of autistic people, or even those who were mentally retarded. He was so busy being offended at the unexpected sight that he could not reason out what Signora Gagno had said to him. He unconsciously clasped the papers he was carrying closer to his chest, which was the worst thing he could do.

“What’s that for?” asked Carpe Diem, pointing to the papers carried by padre Absj.

Padre Absj did not answer. He had been expecting an intensely academic discussion as soon as he walked in the door, but was met with what he considered to be surreal, not knowing that it was reality which was monstrous to him, living in his own little world as he did. He clasped the papers more closely to his chest, as if to protect himself. There was a lesson being provided.

“What’s that for?” repeated Carpe Diem, now reaching out to the papers, obsessed, as he often was, with getting an answer, regardless of whether or not he would understand it. Signora Gagno was doing her best to reprimand Carpe Diem and drag him away to the bathroom, but she knew it was useless. She went to fetch a towel to wrap around her son. With this, Carpe Diem became braver, and took hold of the papers even as padre Absj held on to them more tightly, stupidly becoming angry with Carpe Diem. The ideological social justice interests of padre Absj were of no help to him in this real-life situation. It was difficult to tell who was trying to take the papers from whom. All those who were in the dining room came out into the entrance to see what the commotion was, unnoticed by padre Absj and Carpe Diem. With a surge of determination, Carpe Diem succeeded in taking the papers, but slipped on the loose papers of America magazine on the wood floor. Padre Absj, just as determined to keep hold of the papers, wound up falling to the floor with Carpe Diem. The others laughed at the ineptitude of padre Absj, who, thinking he had been compromised, gave up trying to obtain the papers. It took Carpe Diem less than two seconds to lose interest, leaving the papers on the floor. Signora Gagno, who had just returned, took the opportunity to wrap the towel around her son and lead him to the bathroom to get dressed.

“If I hadn’t seen it myself, Absj,” said Cardinal Fidèle, “I would have had you arrested.”

“I… I… I…” was all that padre Absj could manage to say.

“Polycarp is autistic,” said Cardinal Fidèle.

“Isn’t the definition of autism selfishness?” asked padre Absj, trying to blame Carpe Diem.

“You are not only a man ahead of your time, Absj,” said Cardinal Fidèle, “You are stupid.”

“I accepted an early ride with someone going up to the Accademia Americana, and…”

Padre Absj cut himself off, noticing don Hash. “I didn’t know you would be here, Hash,” he said.

“Of course he would be here,” retorted Cardinal Fidèle. “He’s my personal secretary.”

“But he is a friend of…” padre Absj began to protest.

“Of course he is. So am I,” asserted Cardinal Fidèle. “Just how naive are you, Absj?”

Padre Absj collected the papers from the floor, which included Father Alexámenos’ study.

“Just put them on the side table, Absj,” said Cardinal Fidèle. “Get a hold of yourself.”

Soon Continue reading

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Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 11 – If worse comes to worst…

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Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 11 – If worse comes to worst…

Back down in the Courtyard of Sixtus V, don Hash had begun driving away with Cardinal Fidèle. Don Hash asked him, “How did the meeting go?”

Cardinal Fidèle couldn’t suppress his satisfaction, though he simply said, “It was productive… Hash.” They drove in silence, exiting the gate next to the Holy Office. Don Hash noticed that the river had markedly risen after the previous night’s rain. When he turned right, away from Ponte Garibaldi, just minutes from San Calisto, Cardinal Fidèle cited the Confessions of Saint Augustine again from memory – “Mecumque novit et benedicit te quisquis ingratus non est certæ veritati” – as if don Hash would know and bless the Lord along with him only if he was not ungrateful for certain truths supposedly mentioned by the Cardinal in the last day and a half.

Don Hash racked his brains for an appropriate response, and said, “Placeat in conspectu misericordiæ tuæ invenire me gratiam ante te, ut aperiantur pulsanti mihi interiora sermonum tuorum.” Perhaps a similar passage to what he had quoted earlier that morning would again be appropriate, for surely, he thought, one can understand that the one who seeks in the presence of God’s mercy, finds, if he seeks in the right way.

However, the Cardinal did not answer. Don Hash determined to start praying and fasting for both himself and the Cardinal.

✵ ✵ ✵

As padre Emet was ushered into the Papal Apartment, he said, “Your Holiness, I apologise for being late. The guards at Porta Sant’Anna did not recognise me.”

“You are very humble to call me ‘Your Holiness’ and not laugh while I approach you as a penitent, Emet. I can see why they did not recognise you. You are wearing your religious habit, and it seems you have started to grow a beard… Where is the Fisherman’s Ring?”

“It is not part of the habit of a friar, your Holiness. I gave it to another penitent, saying that it would remind him to pray for his Confessor. Not all penitents remember to pray for their Confessors, your Holiness.”

“Don’t worry, Emet. You will not hear me confessing that sin of ingratitude.”

“Thank you, your Holiness.”

As they walked to the private chapel, the Holy Father commented that his Confession that day would be rather unusual, with all the sins confessed in the present tense.

“The Confession will

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Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 10 – Most Holy Father, I speak of evil

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Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 10 – Most Holy Father, I speak of evil

The Cardinal Secretary of State did not have to be summoned, for he had also been waiting directly outside the Papal Apartment, guessing that he would be called to the meeting. By the time he entered the room – and the Pope’s private secretary had closed the door behind him, as was the practice in this pontificate – the Pope had already returned to the corner window, finding consolation in the words, Christus vincit… Without greeting him, or even looking at him, he said, “Sit down, Elzevir,” and then, “Continue what you were saying, Fidèle.”

“Your Holiness, as I was saying, you will be distanced from any direct connection with the proceedings, and, in the event of a decision none of us desires, from the execution of the penalty itself. I shall take the responsibility. The media will have access to the trial, ensuring the desired example of this priest on all points except one, and concerning that one point, he will be made into an example in a different way… by his repentance. After each session, I will provide the necessary explanations of obscurities, relieving the Holy See Press Office from any burden.”

“But how can this Alexámenos you speak about possibly be tried for heresy,” asked the Pope, “and with such a penalty hanging in the balance? From what you say, he is encouraging the Church to live its doctrinal heritage, to let it shine. He should be rewarded, and you should be the one to receive a just penalty for suffocating the mission of the Church.”

Cardinal Fidèle answered with new found confidence. “Your Holiness, the greatest problem in the modern church is the idea that the way in which one assents to the Faith does not also constitute part of the Faith. The greatest heresies today, the ones which do the most damage, involve methodology, cleverly destroying all that which underpins any assent to the Faith. The American-Australian catechesis Continue reading

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