O Holy Night, the parking lot is madness

Bob and Steve, here.

We exited the Church amidst a hail of bullets. Bob broke right and Steve to the left. We kept moving and stayed low. Tracers, red and green, whizzed past our heads – a ballistic Christmas light show.

Steve dove behind the bell-tower for cover, narrowly missing being taken out by an Audi. It wasn’t long before a Land Rover SUV1 broadsided the tower – 10 tons of brass came crashing toward him in a deadly chorus of Carole of the Bells.

Flushed out of his cover, Steve was forced onto the tarmac–leaping, bending, twisting, between Fords and Subarus like some bizarre Yuletide game of Frogger.

Bob was busy creating a diversion, luring cars to get stuck in the grass, so women and children could scurry to safety.

Steve was starting to get the hang of parking lot Frogger and thinking he could easily make it to his car. Foolish pride– little did he know closing in on him from behind was the Silent Killer. The Prius was closing fast and would have taken him out if Bob hadn’t pushed him aside at the last moment and saved him from certain death.

Thus was our exit from Christmas Eve Mass. How it calls to mind the melodic strains of that Christmas classic:

O Holy Night, the parking lot is madness

This is the night when insurance shows its worth

As I leave the Church I hear the tires squealing

This is the night of our dear Savior’s birth???

Christmas is done. Decorations long put away. Lights taken down (hopefully). And New Year’s resolutions have come and gone.

But Easter is coming. And, as sure as God made little green apples, Christmas will come again (only 298 shopping days left!). So it’s as good a time as any to review Church parking lot safety.

We recommend a belt and suspenders approach. First, slow ‘em down exiting the Church so we don’t have everyone pouring into parking lot mayhem all at once. Second, slow ‘em down again once the vehicular-homicidalists are actually in their death machines.

Let’s take these in order, starting with slowing down the exit from Church.

Here we can take a cue from the geniuses of the silver screen. They discovered a way to keep us engaged until the end of the movie – which is by filling the movie with a seamless river of every type of filth that fallen humanity simply can’t get enough of. Never mind – that’s the wrong lesson from the geniuses of silver screen. What we meant to focus on is their nifty trick of showing out-takes and/or teasers at the tail end of the movie. There’s no reason we can’t apply to this to our time at Church. After the final dulcet strains of the recessional hymn, the celebrant could return and break into the first draft version of his homily. Accompanied by liturgical dance. Congregation participation is encouraged.

And then there’s donuts. Donuts are to human distraction what duct tape is to everything else in life2. Donuts are always useful. Want to slow people down as they’re rushing through the narthex to get back to their cars? Spread out some boxes of donuts– jelly, Bavarian cream, glazed cake. Slow down that line by selling them for 47 cents apiece. Charge a different odd price every week.

Our next obstruction is a good old-fashion garage sale. Every week, trot out a few tables of the flotsam and jetsam left over from the last parish White Elephant sale. People will slow down to look. If you don’t have anything to put out, just put up garage sale signs directing folks on a grand tour around the block. Have the final sign point back to the donut tables. They’ll quickly forget all about a garage sale.

At some point the executioners are going to break past the defenses and get behind the wheel. Now we move to slow‘em-down phase two.

What is the sure-fire way to slow down even the most rabidly aggressive driver, hell-bent on mowing down anything that stands between him and his next target? That’s right: an accident. They’re irresistible. Like driver catnip. The bigger and juicier the accident the more you have to slow down to get the most out of your gawking and rubber-necking. Imagine if your Knights of Columbus could stage a realistic accident and re-certify their CPR skills at the scene! Traffic will creep by.

While accidents really have the greatest return on investment, if your Parish is looking for something a little more seasonal and festive, anything sensational will do. For instance, if there’s room in your Parish’s budget you could stage a virgin birth.

You can be endlessly creative in how you slow down the four-wheeled-euthanasia-wagons. Here’s another example – car tires require friction to make the car move. No friction, no go. While everyone’s happily listening to Father’s homily, the Knights of Columbus can be outside, happily flooding the parking lot so it will turn to a sheet of ice by the time everyone’s done consuming their Chocolate frosted wonderfulness. Don’t live in a cold climate? Global warming getting in the way of that plan? We’ve got you covered– use 100,000 ball bearings– works like a charm.

Finally, as the masses reach the church parking lot exit, we have one final calming device to slow traffic: the toll booth. The first 10% of the cars pay $10 to exit; the remaining 90% exit for free. Next week, you’ll see a much kinder, gentler exodus: please, you go first!

1 Our research has turned up DMV records that show satan drives a humongous SUV.

2 If you understand this sentence, you are smarter than one of us.

If the Progressives Ran Reconcilliation

Bob and Steve, here.

Have you ever noticed two things progatheists1 love most is scope-creep2 and complexity (rules). Probably because both of these give them more power. Take the Amazon synod3. It should be a simple local matter about evangelizing the peoples of the Amazon. But noooo. It’s become about everything but that. It’s become about refashioning the entire Church into something that looks like the Department of Motor Vehicles. Get ready for a raft of rules, policies, programs, mission statements, you name it.

It gets one wondering where it will ever end. What if the progatheists remade the sacraments in the government’s image? What if reconciliation were run like the DMV? Hmmmm – let’s chew on that, shall we? Let’s step into that world.

First we must control the language. Reconciliation is out. Instead it is called the morality tax, or “mor-tax” for short (you can guess how that’s pronounced). Penitent is out. Customer is in. Sacrament is out. Service is in. Minister is out. Manager is in. Sin is out. Grievance against the Cosmos is in.

Reconciliation used to be voluntary. That kind of reckless reliance on personal conscience and responsibility is out under progatheist rule. Current policy requires reconciliation twice-monthly for all months ending in “y” and three-times monthly for all others, unless the month also has less than 30 days in which case the “customer” alternates between 2x and 3x per trailing month. That applies for customers with last names starting with A-E. For customers with last names starting with F – M …..

Efficiency and throughput are the hallmark of the Mor-tax service. Mor-tax is automated. Mor-tax is friendly and fun. Mor-tax is the way of the future. Let’s see Mor-tax in action.

Mor-tax is provided through your local MorTax office (picture your DMV but not as much fun). They are only open on Saturday afternoons from 3:45-4:25 pm – more on that later. You start with an Automated Virtual Manager, who assesses your grievances against the cosmos and directs you to the appropriate window for further processing.

(AVM): This conversation is being recorded for training and blackmail purposes.

Customer: audit me manager for I have sinned, I mean grieved against the cosmos.

AVM: how long has it been since your last Mor-tax audit?

Customer: 2 weeks.

AVM: you are out of compliance. If you agree, press #1 to accept your penalty fee and continue. If you disagree, press #2 to accept your penalty fee and continue.

Customer: But my last name starts with “C” and it is was the 2-per-month sequence of the alternating non-y month according to chapter 3, paragraph A, subparagraph ii of the amended Mor-tax rules?!

AVM: I see you’ve selected option “2”. Please continue with your grievances against the cosmos.

Customer: I actually don’t have any grievances this period. But I knew I had to come in, so here I am.

AVM: according to our revenue policy, you are required to have grievances. You must state a grievance.

Customer: OK. I shoplifted.

AVM: Please report to Window 5.

(Customer goes to Window #5)

Account Processor: Please state your grievance.

Customer: I supposedly shoplifted.

Account Processor: Please speak up so I can hear you through the window.

Customer (shouting): I supposedly shoplifted.

Account Processor: OK – so you shoplifted.

Customer: No I didn’t. I just said that because the AVM made me.

Account Processor: OK, so your grievance is that you lied.

Customer: No, I didn’t lie. I was coerced.

Account Processor: Lie or shoplift. Take your pick.

Customer: But I never shoplifted.

Account Processor: that’s not a problem. We’ll credit your account for shoplifting and give you a voucher.

Customer: whaaaa?

Account Processor: since you’ve confessed shoplifting you now have a credit to go out and commit that grievance. How else can we balance our books?

Customer: huh?

Account Processor: I’m ready to process your act of contrition. Please swipe your credit card.

Customer: Don’t I get to know how much you’re charging me first?

Account Processor: It will be $10.

Customer: That’s not so bad.

Account Process: It just went up to $100. Does it feel bad now?

Customer: You can’t do that.

Account Processor: We can do whatever we want. And we want you to feel very bad. We’re ready to process your contrition, please swipe.

(Customer swipes his card)

Account Processor: Please go and grieve some more. We encourage you to join our grievance incentive program. With every 4th grievance the 5th is free.

Let’s look at the effects of inflation on this new paradigm. [Those of you playing “NEW-SPEAK BS BINGO” may find that word on your BINGO cards.] You are probably aware of how the government adjusts salaries, benefits, and tax-related dollar amounts annually to offset the effects of inflation. It does a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). If you’re guessing that sins will increase in price every year, well that’s where you’d be wrong. The CPI in this case is The Confessional Penance Index and COLA is cost-of-lawlessness adjustment. In its all-knowing and pure wisdom, the government has paired this new CPI and COLA with a constant-yield equation so that no faith group contributes more than 10% of the cost of running the government. Needless to say, our dear readers need not concern themselves with the details of this– your careful and astute authors certainly didn’t. But the bottom line is that sins will get cheaper as time goes on. Soon, sins will be as cheap as “a dime a dozen” so, why not cuss at other drivers in traffic? What great progress we’ll have made on the prog-atheists watch!

Now, back to those hours of operation– why is the MorTax office only open on Saturday afternoons from 3:45-4:25 pm? Well, in short, that’s the schedule the MorTax bureaucracy inherited from the Catholic church. Despite the increased demand for reconciliation under the new MorTax compliance regulations, they take great joy in driving a wedge between your convenience and your desire to remain a practicing Catholic. Besides, the rest of the week, they’re busy updating everyone’s blackmail files (or as they happily call it, updating your customer profile).

But divisions are no laughing matter. Let us pray that the Lord delivers us from the divisions becoming ever more present even in the midst of His Church!

1 Progatheist /prəgˈāTHēəst/

noun: a person who both lacks belief in the existence of God and works on advocating or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas. A person who elevates government, editors of the New York Times and most movie stars to the level above all other entities, especially God.

2 See also: “mission-creep” – the gradual expansion of a project or mission. See also: “Federal Government: Core Values”.

It’s Actually SAINT Valentine’s Day

Bob and Steve, here. Psssst. You there. The one with the mouse. The one about to click the back button because you have no idea how you ended up at a crazy place called Orthogonal Catholic. Yeah – you. We’ve got a secret. Valentine’s Day is coming up. We know – there’s nothing secret about that. Garish heart-shaped boxes of candy were neatly arrayed in shopping market floral departments and end caps starting at 12:01am January 1st. Here’s the thing – somewhere along the way, in the race to leap and lunge for the next holiday or sort-of-holiday or who-knows-what-it-is-but-let’s-use-it-to-sell-stuff-day the marketing wonks and amorous chocolate-lovers forgot that it’s actually SAINT Valentine’s Day.

If the news gets out that we’re celebrating a CATHOLIC SAINT, there will be hell to pay. Don’t believe us? Last year someone at Google made the mistake of mentioning that a new Google feature would be “family” friendly, and all hell broke loose. Why? Well because “family” is construed as meaning a husband and wife with children. What good can come from that? If these people ever found out what goes into making a SAINT, their heads would literally explode. We mean literally. Exploding heads – everywhere. There just aren’t enough shop-vacs to deal with that. Think about it. SAINTS actually, you know, believe in God (that alone would explode as many heads as in all of Italy). SAINTS actually, you know, lived out biblical principles. Seriously, they did. They denied themselves all sorts of things.

Let’s pause and think about that one for a minute. SAINT Valentine’s day actually honors a man who believed in Chastity. Wherein men and women remain pure. No marriage – no nookie. And, even if married – there’s still the call to purity. Try proclaiming purity today. Just look at the state of things. Really. Go back to that grocery store with all of the red satin boxes of high fructose corn syrup. If you want to purchase one you have to pass through the valley of smut that is the checkout line where every magazine cover drips with sex-appeal or infidelity. Fortunately nowadays you can distract yourself by looking at your smutphone …. oops, that was a typo, we keep trying to type “smart” + “phone” but it stubbornly auto-corrects to smutphone. So be it.

Purity is a funny thing. Our marketing research1 shows that most Americans consider themselves “all in” when it comes to purity. No MSG – check! GMO free – check! Hormone free – check! 100% Colombian – check! 100% Cacao – check! Ivory soap’s well-known slogan, “​99 44100% Pure” – check! But then comes the rub. 100% pure for marriage – “whoa! Hold on a minute. “The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To speak of other things.”2

And St. Valentine (like all saints) worked MIRACLES. Seriously – miracles. You know – those things that don’t comport with the theorems and postulates of SCIENCE3 (the simultaneous explosion of that many heads would create a shock wave capable of sinking the entire land mass of Africa into the Pacific Ocean). Saint Valentine is remembered for curing the blindness of his jailor’s daughter so she could read a note he penned to her. He signed the note: “From your Valentine.” Yep, real miracles are much more awesome and cool than “Miracle Whip” or “Miracle-Gro” can ever be.

St. Valentine is also the patron saint of bee keepers. This reminds us – why is every Tom, Dick and Sally keeping their own bees? We at O.C. don’t understand the hysteria over a hypothetical bee shortage. We just keep the ‘b’ key pressed and they spurt right out 10 per second – bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb.

St. Valentine was also arrested because he was converting Romans to Christianity. Imagine if he were alive today! This guy was able to perform conversions of high ranking officials in pagan Rome, imagine the damage he could inflict today. No liberal would be safe. Even Nancy Pelosi could be converted to Catholicism.

The point is, the progatheists are so busy planning their bacchanalian delights, they seem to have forgotten they’re celebrating a Saint. Well, what they don’t know might actually help them. So, when they try to tell you that Valentine is some dude who’s going out with Courtney Love, don’t correct them that he’s actually the patron saint of Courtly Love. We look forward to next month when everyone, including atheists, celebrates another saint: Saint Patrick.

1 We don’t actually conduct marketing research, but if we did, it is very likely it would show exactly what we think based on our sociological research (which we don’t actually do either).

 

2 “The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

The Walrus and The Carpenter, Lewis Carroll, (from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

 

3 This is not science, the systematic study of the physical and natural world. This is SCIENCE – the totally awesome thingy that will solve everything, even the things that science itself says it can’t solve, and you should totally believe in it because a lot of people really, really think it’s super-true and if you don’t just believe because they say so, then you’re just a hater.

 

Mary and #MeToo

A fun-loving atheist (and university professor) named Eric Sprankle recently tweeted “The virgin birth story is about an all-knowing, all-powerful deity impregnating a human teen.  There is no definition of consent that would include that scenario. Happy Holidays.”  He continued, “The biblical god regularly punished disobedience.  The power difference (deity vs mortal) and the potential for violence for saying ‘no’ negates her ‘yes.’  To put someone in this position is an unethical abuse of power at best and grossly predatory at worst.”

Anecdotal information about Sprankle indicates he may also be a satanist, or it could just be a hobby.  His tweets may have meant to be puckish and stir things up.  But they merit a response – particularly because many “cultural Christians” (and “cultural atheists”) are likely to read them and think “Hey – he’s got a point there!”

There are so many teachable moments it’s hard to know where to start.  We’ll select just three.

#1 – Faith and Reason.  Most anything can be made to look contemptible if viewed only with a narrow, cynical perspective determined to grasp soundbites to find justification for its contempt.  Catholicism, on the other hand, champions the inseparable pairing Faith and Reason.  Faith tells that God is all good.  He is goodness itself. Our faculty of reason confirms this truth.  Anyone who has turned their life over to Christ can testify that when we are living closely to Him and his Church, life goes well.  As we move away from him, the going gets tough.  Our experience and reason confirms for us that God is the source of goodness.  Mary would have known this perfectly well – she was born and raised to be a deeply faithful child of God. She would have trusted in God’s goodness.  We understand this from our human experience by considering a parent-child relationship. A small child trusts their parent perfectly because they intuitively know their parent wants only good for them.  Human parents, of course, aren’t perfect (for example they often let their children attend universities with (ahem!) narrow-minded professors), but you get the gist of the analogy.  So faith and reason would tell a rational person that God is all good and if he asks something of us, it will only be good for us.

#2 – Human Dignity and Free Will.  It can be hard for non-believers to believe (get that?) the great amount of freedom that Christianity recognizes is given to humanity.  We are actually free to say no to God (try saying no to, say, an average school board…).  As Katie Yoder, from Student’s For Life, pointed out (https://www.catholicvote.org/19815-2/) another woman, Eve, was perfectly willing to exercise her option to say “no” to God (one could say she was the first “pro-choice” woman).  And we see how well that worked out (for example, with a world where highly credentialed educators use one of the most beloved scenes from the bible to try to bait people of good will).  We all have the opportunity to say “no” to God. He doesn’t punish us like, say, a vindictive Antifa mob – but he does allow us to suffer the consequences of our “no”.

#3 – Rejection of God. Sprankle’s tweets are a powerful, and ominous, illustration of the principle that our freedom even allows us to ultimately reject God.  Many theologians have taught that the further we move from God the more heaven seems like hell, and hell like heaven. Consider Mr. Sprankle as Exhibit A.  The Nativity Story is one of the most tender and beloved moments in salvation history.  To Mr. Sprankle, it’s just another sign of oppression and brutality.  It matters not if his tweet was meant to be mischievous – it reveals his true feelings about God.  It is this type of hard heartedness (when even something like the nativity is worthy of mockery) that the theologians are speaking of, and taken to an extreme would lead a person, when faced with their final choice, to choose hell over heaven. Other examples abound – check out this from Salon (10 Ways Heaven is More Like Hell) as Exhibit B: https://www.salon.com/2015/03/23/10_ways_christian_heaven_is_more_like_hell_partner/

To be sure, only God knows who actually makes the choice to banish themselves to hell, and why they make that choice, but this is nothing to be taken lightly.

And this gets to the point of it. Some may consider Mr. Sprankle’s tweet puckish, pluckish or pithy – but the p-word that best describes the underlying mindset is “perilous.”  We must pray and sacrifice for the Sprankle’s of the world that are moving so far from God that even the concept of Him has become distasteful.  And we have to do our best to be points of light to help others from getting drawn into the darkness of Mr. Sprankle’s world.  Christmastime is as good as any to renew that inner fervor for Christ to be born anew in heart upon heart.

 

“Throw Away” Society

Bob and Steve, here. We’ve been thinking about the well-worn maxim that ours is a “throw away” society. Unfortunately, ours is a society that also elevates innovation to a virtue. And we’ve brought that innovation to the “throw away” lifestyle.

Oh let us count the ways:

  • $699, 18-month-old iPhone, is already two generations behind the times? Replace it.
  • Appliance not working well? Junk it.
  • Don’t like your car? Just trade it in for a new model.
  • Don’t like your wife or husband? Ditto.
  • And the coup de grace (literally) – Don’t like your life? Those fun-loving progressives have a solution for that too. Physician Assisted Suicide. What could possibly go wrong with this idea?

So how did we get to where we are now? Let’s take a little stroll through history.

The 20th century was an era of endless enlightenment. One of the things we realized we didn’t need was clothes. Ever seen those old family pictures with Aunt Edna wearing a bathing suit that looked not unlike a potato sack, but not as well tailored? Then came the two piece bathing suits, which were actually less revealing than what many young girls wear to school and even Church these days. This evolved (which has apparently become a synonym for devolved in most cases these days, which is only confusing if you’re not used to thinking like a progressive) into the modern day bikini. We can all agree that three triangles with a combined area of a yarmulke is a barbarically unsustainable waste of material. Thank heavens someone was inspired with the thong. Great ideas spread quickly, like lice, and the same common-sense evolution of beach wear found its way into the gym, malls, schools, work places, Churches; really anywhere that people are, you know, clothed. And with that, and in less than 50 years, we were able to stick a fork in that oppressive M-word – modesty.

We’ve also evolved and thrown away oppressive societal mores in the way we speak. Who could forget George Carlin’s “Seven dirty words you can’t say on TV”? The oppression! The small-mindedness! The stifling of self-expression! It makes us want to scream from the roof-tops – WHAT THE FUDGE? But those endlessly fudging ingenious progressives came up with work-arounds. First there came cable TV without FCC oversight. Then there were distinctions for late night broadcast TV. Then there was desensitization through rap music and video games. In about 50 years’ time, we’ve moved from profanity as the eschewed discourse to the commonplace, tolerated and even preferred language of some groups. Yes, they fudged it up nice and good and now you can say just about anything, anywhere at any time.

But really, where’s the fun in being all naked and cursing like a sailor if you can’t do it while hopped up on drugs? In the old days we had alcohol and tobacco. For the adventurous few, “wacky tabacky” and for the really adventurous few, cocaine and opiates. Nowadays the world is your oyster. Feeling run down? There’s a pill for that. Feeling keyed up? There’s a pill for that. Not feeling amorous? There’s a pill for that. Need free syringes and a place to shoot up? We’ve got that too! Need pot without the legal hassle? We’ll legalize it. In short – just about any mood, any feeling, any situation, any personality type – whatever trait, condition or situation you want to do away with or change; there’s a pill or illegal (or now, legal) drug for that.

We’ve also been able to cast away decorum. In a world where sustainability is another cardinal virtue, and where a godless reality makes scarcity a presumption and abundance a pipe dream, there’s no room for niceties. We need efficiency and sound bites! There’s no time for manners or hearing people out. We have to get right down to it and bludgeon our opponent into submission with howling and shrieking. Why? WHY you ask??? Well …. so we can get back to being all naked and spitting out delightful profanity to one another.

And this brings us back to the penultimate end of the throw-away society. Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS) — currently legal in only six states and the District of Columbia — has been branded as a compassionate way for terminally ill patients to choose when and how they die. Legislation is being pushed in about thirty statehouses by a national group from Colorado called Compassion & Choices. Right now PAS is in its infancy, but we foresee the progressives bringing to bear the same kind of innovation by which they have blessed the rest of the culture.

The most important step to keeping a camel out of your tent is to keep it from getting its nose under your tent flap. This is one case where we can’t even let the camel get its nose under the edge of the tent. Or else, be prepared for the slippery slope that will surely follow. Here’s how we expect it will progress, if legalized.

First, they’ll push on the definition of “Physician.” Then they’ll push on the language of “terminally ill.” Before you know it, we’ll see it advertised. Imagine the TV commercial: Don’t like how life’s treating you? Boss is a jerk? In debt up to your eyeballs? Ask your doctor about Enditol (generic drug name: taHELLwithitol). Side effects include loss of consciousness, bloating, cold hands, rigor mortis, forfeiture of life insurance benefits, eternal damnation in hell. If symptoms last longer than an eternity, consult with the devil himself.

But wait! There’s more! Once suicide is a commonplace lunch discussion topic, people will be free to ask whether you’ve considered suicide. “I have, er, had a friend who did it– you should try it!”

Imagine Designer Suicides. Are you an adrenalin junky? How about parachuteless sky diving? Imagine the traffic reports – “Bob, the left lane is closed for mop-up on the soundbound 405”. For the art aficionado – there’s the Pollock. You’re placed in a room with a giant canvas behind you and IED in front.

Although this is a darker article than our usual offerings, we didn’t want to avoid the topic because PAS is a real movement with dark forces trying to infect our nation state by state. Please resist. Contact your state level representative to preserve the sanctity of life. All life from conception to natural death is valuable. To not speak against PAS is an indirect endorsement of PAS.

This is the information for Maryland’s Stop PAS group. Search for a similar group in your state.

www.stopassistedsuicidemd.org

www.facebook.com/MarylandagainstPAS

www.twitter.com/StopPASmaryland

 

Pastoral Automation

Bob and Steve, here. We’ve been thinking of the current Parish struggles brought on by the shortage of religious vocations. Labor imbalances are nothing new in this country. Sometimes labor shortages occur from too much demand and too few skilled workers. Sometimes labor surpluses are brought about by minimum wage hikes that lead employers to seek ways to reduce costs. Whatever the source, when workers become scarce or too expensive, organizations look for ways to drive costs back down through automation and innovation. Does anyone remember a bowling alley with human pinsetters? Does anybody want to give up the 24/7 ubiquity of the ATM? Automation can free up labor resources to perform new activities.

In our case the labor shortage is a shortage of priests. As engineers, we asked ourselves, “What solutions have been left untapped?” People always seek “pastoral”, “well-considered”, “achievable” solutions. This is where we stand out by bringing a contrarian approach. Read on to see our vision of the priest shortage future.

Let’s take a look at the sacrament of reconciliation. IBM’s Watson technology can be brought to bear to greatly simplify this process. Picture this:

Penitent: “Bless me Watson for I have sinned. It’s been 3 months since my last confession.”

Watson: “No, it has been 198 days, 3 hours, 14 minutes and 16 seconds.”

Penitent: “I confess cheating on my spouse.”

Watson: “That will be 12,483 Hail Mary’s and 986.3 Our Fathers.”

You don’t want to mess with Watson– he’s a scary pairing of government databases, surveillance cameras and social media postings that would make George Orwell proud. If you forget to confess a sin, he can start drawing your transgressions in the sand.1

On the way out, the priest offers the absolution to confer grace. Think of the increased throughput! Like going to the doctor, the PA does most of the work and then the doctor comes and checks in on you.

Marriage becomes a similarly efficient affair. You gather the wedding party and guests. Since the husband and wife-to-be are the actual officiators of the sacrament, they get the ceremony started. At the right time they Skype a priest.

“Thank you for your call. We are currently experiencing high call volumes. Please wait for the next available priest. Your wait time is an estimated 98 minutes. For faster service press 2 to provide your credit card information to sponsor a seminarian.”

One of the greatest pastoral services of our priests are visiting the sick. This requires a multitude of technologies and efficiencies. First, hospitals are very spread out – a priest can easily walk the equivalent of a couple of miles to visit and bless everyone. The first tier of technology you should envision is a priest on a Segway Personal Transporter2 equipped with a Holy Water-filled super soaker. Let’s just let our vision of “The Holy Roller” (also known as “Spray and Pray”) soak in for a while before we move on to the startling concepts of the 2nd and 3rd tiers of innovation. We don’t want to send you, dear reader, into a state of future shock.

Nothing saps a Pastor’s time like running the day-to-day operations of the Parish. The future is here with the pairing of robotics and artificial intelligence. We offer you The Pastorbot! A humanoid robot with an exoskeleton that is creepily reminiscent of your pastor. Pastorbot thinks nothing of spending 30 minutes after Masses schmoozing the flock. Furthermore, the Pastorbot gives real-life answers through advanced neural-network based artificial intelligence. Actually, it turns out that artificial intelligence is really expensive and even less intelligent than what passes for old-fashioned intelligence. We have a better approach. The Pastorbot is programmed to give a highly optimized answer to every question. In fact, it turns out that the most optimized answer is actually the same for all questions. Consider the following hypothetical scenarios:

Head of Finance Committee: “Father, we need a sustainable funding source. The Committee recommends turning the narthex into a casino.”

Pastorbot: “That sounds reasonable. We’ll run it by the Parish Council.”

Concerned Parishioner: “I think my elderly mother is on her way out and she’d like it if you’d celebrate daily Mass at her bedside.”

Pastorbot: “That sounds reasonable. We’ll run it by the Parish Council.”

We’re pretty sure the robot folks can make Pastorbot’s voice sound just like HAL from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.

This brings us to the Parish Council. Let’s be honest – it’s way too time consuming and doesn’t accomplish anything (which is part of the brilliance of the optimized Pastorbot response). Our efficiency plan hinges on dissolving the Council. Don’t get us wrong, there will still be a “parish council” but it won’t be compromised of actual, you know, “people”. We’re very confident the same results can be achieved by employing a Magic Eight Ball. The Pastorbot compiles the list of weekly proposals, requests and considerations. Then you Pastor brings these things to the magic eight ball and gets down to making decisions. And just like that – poof! – next week’s bulletin includes the notification that the narthex will soon be turned into a casino.

The same minds that bring us the Pastorbot also market the Eulogizer 2000. After responding to a short survey (hobbies, next of kin, etc) the Eulogizer 2000 spits out a custom eulogy, ready-to-go and with an 89-to-13 probability of bringing tears to the eyes of loved ones. If parish demographics predict an uptick in funerals, you definitely want to give serious thought to this feature-packed option.

There are 17,651 local Catholic parishes and approximately 37,000 priests in the United States. We’re going out on a limb here: There are at least 17,651 unique homilies based on the same set of readings. We call that a massive duplication of effort. Wouldn’t it be better to pool resources and have 500-1000 gifted homolists target all languages, ethnic groups, and regional issues? We propose the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) host a YouTube type of homily service. Best of all, this service (The Homily Homogenizer™) can be paired with the ever-popular Sermoney™ expansion pack to deliver high-return donation appeals.

If you don’t share our enthusiasm for this brave new vision of the Church, but rather find it more disturbing and shocking, get to your knees and pray for our priests and religious vocations! Do your part to encourage and support religious vocations. Otherwise, prepare yourself to someday be Homilized by your Pastorbot.

3Past performance does not guarantee future results. If use of the Eulogizer 2000 results in itching, blistering, intestinal discomfort or swelling of the brain, consult with your physician.

Capital Project Funding

Bob and Steve, here. We’ve been thinking about how we fund large capital projects in our parishes. You know – new sanctuaries, new parish centers, new schools, new sports fields, new elevator to heaven1. These are the things that force our unfortunate pastors to give the “Sermon on the Amount” speeches at the end of Mass. There’s got to be a better way to develop a sustainable revenue stream. And that’s what this article addresses.

In the spirit that “grace builds on nature” and Catholicism’s particular genius for adopting and transforming aspects of pagan culture, we’ve decided to look to successful areas of commerce for inspiration.

Toll Roads. Who hasn’t experienced the joy and liberation of EZPass? While other poor schlepps are stranded in 80-car deep lines at the cash-only toll booth lanes, you glide by at an effortless 60 mph in the EZPass lane. Who wouldn’t welcome that same feeling of freedom when exiting the Church parking lot? We propose introducing the EZMass. For a small fee, you get to bypass the parking lot chaos. For a slightly less-small fee, you get priority parking adjacent to the EZMass lane.

Then there’s the airline model. First let’s face the facts that big sanctuaries cost big money. More space means more interior finishes (more carpet, more paint, etc) and higher utility costs for heating and cooling. If we go with the airline seating model we can easily pack the same number of parishioners into half the space. The back half of the church would have pews so close together, you’d wish you were in coach row 42. Of course, ample leg room is available up front for a small upgrade fee. And if you want the first class experience, you should check out the Lay-Z-Boy recliners in the front row.

When it comes to draining customer’s bank accounts by feeding their every desire, the sports and entertainment industries stands proud. There are so many things we can learn from their bloodthirsty take-no-prisoners approach to fleecing their target audience. Where to start? Let’s face it, stained glass windows are so middle-ages. All of that annoying colored glass severely cuts into the passive solar heating benefits. And all of that carcinogenic lead – it’s as if Marlboro and Lucky Strike got together and said “what’s the best way to make windows?” Lastly, and most importantly, they only show one image – the same thing all the time. Boooorrrrr-ing! One of the sports industry’s innovations stands out – the JumboTron — a huge Sony Trinitron video display. We propose a huge display we’ll call the “Trinity-tron.” Replace those stained glass windows with Trinity-trons. The possibilities are endless. Those ads at the back of the bulletin – the ones that no one reads? Ta da!!! Now they’re bigger than life and won’t be a bit distracting from the homily. Think of the premium advertisers will be willing to pay! Speaking of homilies – an advertiser could sponsor (for a modest fee) a homily count-down clock. And imagine Matthew 24:362 with a glowing ad for your local funeral home. Now there’s impact!

This brings us to the PBS fundraising approach as a sustainable source of high-net revenue: Homily Extortion. Oops, that was a typo. We meant, Homily Shakedown. Oops again – that darn auto-correct. The Homily Thon – that’s it. A funding goal is posted on the Trinity-trons. The homily continues until the funding goal is reached or exceeded.

We can look to retail to show us the way to streamline revenue collection. We can build in credit card terminals to take micro payments (including crypto currency, of course!). Even old-school basket collections can be modernized with drones. If equipped with proper artificial intelligence the drones will have the capacity to shakedown (there goes the auto-correct again) well-healed parishioners.

Fleece the sinners. This approach charges fees for unholy activities. Plan to leave Mass between communion and the final blessing? Remember, Judas was the first to leave mass early3. Don’t forget your Mastercard for the “Judas” turnstile. And what about reconciliation? There’s gold in that booth. Venial sins are “on the house” but mortal sins will cost you dearly. After receiving your absolution and penance, you swipe your credit card to unlock the door to exit. [Note: Father needs to resist the urge to say “Thank you, come again.”]

Lastly there’s that other well-oiled cash cow to look to – the federal government. “Well oiled”, you scoff? What other organization is as effective at picking our pockets? And how do they do it? With the promise of services and protection backed up with a heavy hand of fear and intimidation. Remember “never let a crisis go to waste”? The folks inside the DC beltway are masters of keeping us always needing more of, well, whatever they want to spend our money on. Mother Church protects us from the biggest threat of all – eternal damnation. She just needs better marketing.

Seriously now, sometimes a mechanical system in the church basement goes kaput. As a regular parishioner, you’ve probably never seen it, but you’re part of the community at the hour of need. Sure, the church could put your name on a plaque, but maybe recognition shouldn’t be a factor in your decision to support your corner of God’s kingdom. And of course, we apologize in advance if your next parish capital campaign has a line-item for a Trinity-tron.

 

1 ADA replacement for the 1970’s Stairway to Heaven.

2 “But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”

Life and Stuff

Bob and Steve, here. With Stephen Hawking’s passing there have been no small amount of press about his theories of the creation of the universe. So we’ve been thinking about the universe, and life. What is it? Where did it come from? Where is it going? Are its best days behind us, or does it show promise for the future?

Where did it all come from? The book of Genesis tells us that life, the universe and everything (we’re not sure about sporks) was created by God. So, that settles that. “Not so fast!” the New Atheists say! What about the whole 7-day business? And isn’t most of the world feeling pretty good and satisfied with evolution?

Let’s start with the 7 days of creation vs the scientific estimate of a 15 billion year-old Earth. First of all, 7 days and 15 billion years really aren’t that far apart – cosmologically speaking. We think a lot of the confusion may just be a matter of units and conversion factors. Recall the NASA Mars probe that went poof! Why? Unit conversions – imperial and metric. Gets ‘em every time. Probably the same thing with the Bible. Who’s to say what units the ancients were working with when they were laying down Genesis on the old papyrus? More likely than not the conversion to days would have involved fortnights and cubic light years or something like that. Then there’s the issue of experiential time versus actual time. Seven days can feel like 15 billion years if you spend them watching Ishtar or CSPAN.

Second, the Church never claimed that Genesis is a historical accounting of things, let alone a scientific accounting of things. It’s a theological accounting of things. God created everything (again, the spork caveat), and man is at the top of the heap.

Well, what about the evolution of life? The New Atheists love this one. “What about the fossil record1?” they howl. “What does that do to your superstitious mumbo jumbo about men from dirt and women from ribs?” they chortle! “There goes all that business about original sin” they hoot! Well, not so fast. The Church has no problem with evolution of the body. If God wanted to try out a few alpha and beta test versions before fusing precious souls to physical bodies, so be it. Frankly, we’re not convinced that the current version is “fully baked.” It does shed light on whether God is an engineer or a realist. An engineer would never have shipped products like us with all of our bugs. A realist certainly would with the confidence that they’ll fix it in the next release (aka Heaven).

It got us thinking to call Heaven’s tech support and get their take on all of this. So call we did.

HTS: Thank you for your call. Your call is very important to us. Luckily we’re infinite and can answer all calls simultaneously in all languages. We’ll be with you in a fraction of a jiffy.

US: Very cool.

HTS: Hello, how can we help you?

US: We’re trying to get straightened out on the source of life, where it’s headed, whether there are franchise opportunities, that sort of thing.

HTS: (silence)

US: Hellooooo? Anyone there?

HTS: (silence)

US: Hellooooo? Can you hear us? Did we get disconnected? It’s all silent??

HTS: Of course it’s silent. We’re very big on silence. You know … Elijah? First Kings?

US: Oh, come on! Silence? That’s all? If we wanted silence we could have called Microsoft.

Back to evolution, if you want to send a New Atheist into paroxysms, ask him where the first life came from. Even the simplest cells are mind-bogglingly complex. How many molecules have to be in just the right combination, in just the right place, doing just the right thing to cause cellular respiration? Don’t even get us started about the replication of DNA! How did that incomprehensibly well-tuned organization of thousands of bits of space-stuff just “happen”? If the New Atheist doesn’t believe God ordained it then they’re left with two options: (1) they cling hopelessly to a theory so astronomically improbable that it’s akin to a volcano erupting and forming an exact replica of the Eifel Tower, rivets and all – it’s so absurd you might as well say a Giant Spaghetti Monster flew down from the sky and created life. We actually can’t recall what the second option is, but it probably has something to do with sporks.

1 For our younger readers, the fossil record does not refer to the long-playing “LP” 33 ⅓ record. It refers to the much older 78 rpm record.

St. Patrick’s Day

Bob and Steve, here. We’ve been thinking about St. Patrick’s Day.

Ahhh, St. Patty’s Day. A day known for many things, such as: green beer; shamrocks; leprechauns; corn beef and cabbage; snakes and funny sticks (otherwise known as Shillelaghs); and, even more green beer.

 
As we all know, St. Patrick was born to a pious and wealthy British family about the year 385. When he was fourteen or so, he was captured and sold as a slave in Ireland and forced to tend sheep. Ireland at that time was predominantly populated by pagans (think Hollywood, but more civilized), and Druids (think Ivy League elite, but less agnostic). During this time of captivity, Patrick turned to God and was blessed with a deep and abiding faith. After his escape from Ireland, he entered the priesthood, ultimately returning to Ireland to spend the rest of his life converting souls, ultimately as bishop.

 
St. Patrick’s Day also brings with it the welcome inevitability of Spring. The vibrant Kelly green reminds us of new growth, in stark contrast to the cold greys and browns of winter. Green is such a happy color – what better way to celebrate it than to put beer in it.

 

And about those snakes- certainly they are ideally suited for St. Patrick’s Day in that they’re already on the ground even without being inebriated. We’ve done quite a bit of research on the topic of St. Patrick banishing the snakes from Ireland. Some naturalists claim that Ireland never had snakes to begin with. They base this on “biogeography” and comparisons with “similar ecosystems”. That’s all well and good, but we’ve adopted our preferred method of intrinsic hyperbolistic factification. Employing this method, we determined that the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day itself crowded the snakes out of Ireland; there wasn’t enough room on the ground for both inebriated Irishmen and snakes. So the snakes left to find greener pastures and more suitable environs to form the ABA¹.

 
One thing’s for sure, St. Patrick became beloved for ridding Ireland of pests. This got us to thinking, “if only we could get St. Patrick to wield his pest-ridding powers in modern times…” Stink bugs – gone! Reality TV – poof! Planned Parenthood – shuttered! Terrorist – converted! Hollywood – same! Email spammers – transformed into sporks (useful as neither spoon nor fork.) Speed cameras – instantly vaporized! Relativism – destroyed, absolutely! Sporks – banished to the 3rd circle of hell where their handle-snapping pointlessness can never again terrorize 2nd graders the world around.

 
As for Shamrocks, some of you might have the misunderstanding that these are pretend rocks. Not so. Nor are they distant relatives of the ShamWow! product as seen only on TV. Shamrocks are the ubiquitous three-leafed plant used by St. Patrick to teach the dogma of the blessed Trinity.

 
Shillelagh is a word we’ve heard but never spelled in our lives, and probably never will again. For those not familiar with this word, it rhymes with ukulele and is derived from an ancient Irish word meaning “I’m so inebriated I can’t speak clearly”. If we find a sober Irishmen, we’ll ask him for a better translation. Nowadays, Shillelagh refers to walking sticks and is closely associated with all things Irish. Shillelaghs are also known to have been used as a gentlemanly way to settle disagreements. We think they should be distributed to all members of Congress.

 
And lastly, we come to corned beef and cabbage. Despite its strong connection with St. Patrick’s Day, corned beef and cabbage is not a specifically Irish dish. In fact, we haven’t found anyone who will stand up and take credit for it, other than the Scots who are looking for anything to substitute for Haggis. Acting on our mission to probe the great mysteries of life and leave our readers better educated before starting than after finishing our articles, we set about investigating what, in fact, is corned beef? Certainly it’s not corn. Is it beef? That remains unknown. What we have established is that corned beef actually traces its heritage to the French. Following the Renaissance, French epicures scoured the continent and appropriated all of the foods that were palatable. Whatever was left was divided primarily among the British Isles. Thus corned beef was relegated to the Irish, Haggis to the Scots, and everything else boiled to the Brits. We don’t know how to explain the German preparation of floating bits of meat in aspic, but it does shed light in their habit of waging war on their neighbors.

 
There you have it. Two engineer’s analysis of St. Patrick’s Day. If we took a wee bit too much liberty with the stereotypes of our Irish brethren, it’s with a nod to the well-known trait of those from the Green Isle to have a fine sense of humor. And whatever else the malt beverage marketing departments might have us believe, St. Patrick’s Day serves to remind us that all good things come from God. In this case, it’s the celebration of a great saint without whose heroic efforts we wouldn’t have the beautiful contributions of a Christian Ireland. And green beer isn’t bad either.

 

  1. American Bar Association

 

The Epiphany – Reality TV Style

Bob and Steve, here. We’ve been reflecting on the Epiphany.

We got to thinking, what if the three Wise Men showed up today? Well, first they’d have to get past the TSA and that would be no small feat.

TSA: “What’s this?”
Melchior: “Frankincense”
TSA: “Riiiiiight…..”

Assuming Caspar and Balthazar are able to spread around some of that gold to spring Melchior, they’d then head to the place of power to get their bearings. Instead of Herod’s tent, it would be off to the swamp.

Swamp: “Who are you?”
Melchior: “Wise Men in search of the savior.”
Swamp: “Obama split town and is bringing hope and change to tropical golf courses.  You could try Hillary, we thought she was the next savior”
Melchior: “Next savior? There’s only supposed to be one.”
Swamp: “Oh no, we have lots of saviors. We keep inventing a new crisis for each election cycle. It’s great for business.”
Melchior: “Have you been getting into the frankincense?”
Swamp: “Franken what? Oh – no, we’ve moved on from Al Franken. Just go to Chappaqua, New York. The roads are busy during the holidays, you should get an EZPass so you don’t get stuck in the cash-only lanes”

Off the Wise Men go to the nearest department of motor vehicles. They park the camels outside and enter a world that was to them strange and terrible to behold, and left them longing for the tents of Herod.

DMV: “So you’re here for EZPass?”
WM: “That’s what we were told.”
DMV: “OK. Will that be cash or credit?”
WM: “How’s that?”
DMV: “How are you going to pay for it?”
WM: “Oh. With gold.”
DMV: “Riiiiight. Well, first we’ll need basic information. What’s the year, make and model of your vehicles?”
WM: “Let’s see, they’re about three year old, dromedary.”
DMV: “So, 2015. You said ‘Dromedary’? Not familiar with that.”
WM: “It’s the single hump model.”
DMV: “Hunh?”
WM: “You know – one hump or two? They can’t go as long in the desert but have a better temperament.”
DMV: “You mean Camels? You want an EZPass for a Camel?”
WM: “Of course. Is there a problem with that?”
DMV: “You bet there is. You can’t just operate them on the highway. Have they even been through emissions testing?”
WM: “What’s that?”
DMV: “You know – measuring how much pollutant is in their exhaust.”
WM: “Ahhh. We see you are a man who knows a thing or two about camels.”

Once the Wise Men sort out emissions and EZPass they point their camels north to Chappaqua where they are greeted by the Secret Service outside of the Clinton’s home.

WM: “We are Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar. We’ve come from faraway lands to see the Clintons.”
SS: “Well, Mr. Clinton isn’t here. He typically stays at the Clinton presidential library, in the romance section.”
WM: “That’s OK. We’re told it’s Mrs. Clinton that we need to see.”
SS: “She prefers to be called Madame President.”
WM: “Strange name.”
SS: “Not compared to Melchior. Wait here.”

Soon they’re brought in to meet Hillary.

HC: “Who exactly are you?”
WM: “We’re Wise Men, in search of the savior of man.”
HC: “Hold on. So you’re Wise Men. I could have used you a year ago.”
WM: “We came as quickly as we could. It took a very long time getting through your DMV.”
HC: “Tell me Wise Men, can you make me president?”
WM: “We can’t make you anything. We came because we were told you might be the ‘new‘ savior to replace Obama?”
HC: “Don’t get me started. Wait! Are you from Russia?”

With that, Hillary’s head began rotating slowly and steam began pouring out of her ears. The Wise Men took a tip from the Secret Service and headed to Vermont to meet a man they called “Sanders.” Melchior was ready for lunch and excited about meeting Colonel Sanders.

BS: “Who are you?”
WM: “We’re Wise Men, in search of the savior of man. Are you him?”
BS: “I could be your savior. I will give people free college, free health care and guaranteed jobs and retirement”
WM: “But can you give salvation?”
BS: “You give me both houses of congress and I’ll deliver the whole enchilada.”
WM: “Congress? Never heard of it. Well, by what authority will do you all of this?”
BS: “You want authority? Try this – University of Chicago, the socialist party, teachers unions, New York Times, MSNBC. Want me to go on?”
WM: “Are they prophets of the one true God?”
BS: “There’s no one truth and don’t get me started about god. I don’t think you’re understanding me.  I’ll show you.  You give me 90% of that gold of yours and I’ll turn it into programs.”

The Wise Men were keen to the scam and hopped on their camels. The cold winter weather was taking its toll on the Dromedaries so they headed south, following the bright star in the daytime sky. They eventually end up in Florida, making their way to the Governor.

WM: “We have travelled many miles for many moons seeking the savior.”
Governor: “Savior? That would be AARP. It’s made our state into God’s waiting room.”
WM: “God’s waiting room? What is this AARP – is this the savior?”
Governor: “They give out these wonderful little cards – 5% off any purchase.”
WM: “No, not saver, we said savior! We’re looking for the savior.”
Governor: “Perhaps you should try Donald Trump – one of our best known residents.”

The Wise Men continued south to the mystical sounding Mira Lago. As they go closer they saw a crowd of people entering a gleaming palace and they approached the sentries at the gate who took them to meet a man with bronze skin and gleaming hair.

DT: “You’re delighted to meet me.”
WM: “???”
DT: “I understand you’re looking for the savior, and now you’ve found him. I’m the savior. Big Savior! Uge!”
WM: “You will bring salvation?”
DT: “We’re going to work so hard to bring you beautiful salvation. Really beautiful. Like nothing you’ve ever seen. It will be like visiting one of my resorts.”
WM: “But will you open the gates of heaven to all men?”
DT: “You bet. For any legal citizen. And I won’t stop there. We’re going to make heaven great again.”
WM: “???”
DT: “And I’m not going to even stop there. We’re going to build a beautiful elevator. It will be uge.”
WM: “???”
DT: “Reeeally, reeeally, uge. Solid gold. We’ll make the devil pay for it.”

With that, the Wise Men realized they had been misled yet again. The moral of the story: Don’t go looking for a savior in political figures. Our own epiphany about the Epiphany is that as all nations and peoples learned of and accepted Jesus as God, the Epiphany is anything but a one-time event. And we, today, need to continue to seek Jesus more than ever — and having found Him, we need to bring the gift of Jesus to those who haven’t encountered him yet.