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November 5, 2002
Vol. 1, No. 145




global perspective Future shock

by Arthur Jones, NCR editor at large

We fast forward now to the U.S. Catholic church of 2103. There is an enormous debate -- a huge church-state fight -- dominating CSN (Computer Screen News).

The Vatican is squared off against the government of the United States over the fate of Fr. Zal, the last celibate diocesan priest in America. He is in his 40s, a typical American of his generation: California-born, his grandparents were Polish-Japanese and Irish-Costa Rican.

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The only remaining U.S. diocesan seminary had closed the year before he felt the call. It had served all the U.S. dioceses in the United States and produced -- until the 2080s -- a steady flow of eight new priests annually to serve the nation's 130 million C-Bay Catholics. C-Bay Catholics are those registered with smart cards that give them access to the video liturgy of their choice. The hosts are FedExed monthly in special containers to those who live more than 200 miles from a church with a resident CIP (Conjugally Involved Priest).

As the seminary's curriculum had been limited anyway to Vietnamese and Spanish speakers, Fr. Zal did his training in Lagos, Nigeria, at the all-Africa, all-World English-speaking seminary.

And in a history-repeating epic (Michigan history), Fr. Zal was assigned to St. Filibert's Church in Eruption, Mich. Eruption is the adjoining city to Vulcan, Mich. (In Vulcan, in 1938, I kid you not, St. Barbara's parishioners held their popular priest, Fr. Simon Borkowski, a prisoner in his rectory for seven weeks rather than let him be transferred. The 24/7 picket line was a scene of serious injuries as those determined to rescue the priest and send him to the Salvatorian Seminary were beaten off. He was eventually freed and transferred.)

With the election of Pope Maribundo Heriberto of Mindanao, Philippines, in 2101, and his decrees endorsing communities calling forth the celebrant from among the worshippers at each liturgy, the other 37 celibate Catholic diocesan priests in the United States had packed their silks, personal altar cloths, ironing boards and altar rail-lock keys, and joined en masse the EEs - the Extreme Episcopalians, a significant group ministering to tens of thousands of people in Ogden, Utah and Jonestown, Guyana.

Papa Mari told his curia he wanted the Eruption, Mich. issue resolved.

The Vatican-vs-United States fight was over rights to the final remains of Fr. Zal -- an endangered species covered by the U.S. Acts of 1981, 2037 and 2099 -- his vestments, and his habitat, the church and rectory of St. Filibert's.

The U.S. government, in its majesty, was invoking U.S. law to claim him and the Eruption buildings for the Smithsonian's American History Museum.

Though Fr. Zal is in good health and far from dead, and has a significant following as the only priest in the 20 contiguous northern states of his consolidated diocese, the government had entered its claim early to prevent unseemly wrangling at the time of death.

The impasse has dragged on between the Congregation for Hasty and Nasty Decisions and the U.S. Justice Department for a decade. Now a decision is reached surprisingly quickly.

Fr. Zal, asked to tell Americans about himself on Computer Screen News, appeared before the cameras and said, "I'm gay."

The Congregation for Hasty and Nasty Decisions told the U.S. government, "you can have him."

And the Smithsonian is building an entirely new museum in Eruption, Michigan around Fr. Zal, his church and rectory.

Arthur's Daily Ditty

Saints be Praised

The Church it has 10,000 saints
A notion quaint inserts itself:
Were all of them

Arthur Jones' e-mail address is

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