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Call Me Catholic!

God does not pay for TV


You can't call yourself a Catholic until you've wondered how much of your life you have wasted in front of TV and at the movies, looking at other people's lives.

by Michael McGirr

The children at Inner Springs Public have taken their new crossing attendant, Cardinal Shallots, to their hearts. Even the tough boys in Year Five and Six felt a surge of pride when they discovered that theirs was the only school in the world with a Cardinal to keep them safe on the way to and from school. There was, however, one incident when young Cec Poole grabbed the cardinal's stop sign and made off with it. His eminence gave chase and, despite the encumbrance of his cassock, looked pretty fit for his years as he did so. He was about to dive into Poole when the kid turned and held the stop sign in the path of the charging cardinal. This placed the cardinal in a moral dilemma. Common sense and conscience would both have suggested to most of us that he should keep going and lunge into Cec Poole, bringing the young miscreant to justice. But the boy's stop sign constituted a written instruction and had been produced by a legitimate authority. Years of Vatican training came instantly into play. The cardinal stopped. The boy got away. Meanwhile, a bull in a nearby paddock had been stirred to madness by the sight of the cardinal's flying red cassock.

Most of the children were astonished when they discovered that Cardinal Shallots was happy to recover from his bruises without watching TV, there being no such thing at his campsite, the cistern chapel, so called because his eminence sleeps in an old water tank.

A number of the children at Inner Springs Public are Catholics and are therefore subject to the ministry of Fr Thong, the parish priest. Fr Thong is the priest who put the pulp back into pulpit. For the six Sundays of Lent, Fr Thong bases his sermon around each of the films nominated for the academy award for the best film that year. He believes that popular culture is the new scripture and that Desperate Housewives has as much to tell us about God as a lot of the Bible, especially the boring bits. Desperate Housewives, he notes, has no boring bits. The parishioners agree with him to the extent that they will concede that Desperate Housewives has as much to tell us about God as does Fr Thong, which is, to be honest, very little.

Fr Thong will often begin his sermon by asking the congregation what was the top-rating TV event of the previous week. He then asks what was the top grossing film. He calls this examining the conscience of our culture but tends to be annoyed when somebody knows the right answer. Fr Thong likes to be better informed about pop culture than the rest of the parish and mostly he is, mainly because most of the Catholics of Inner Springs have other things to worry about. Nevertheless, some were surprised when they discovered that the children preparing for their First Confession (which Fr Thong likes to call the Sacrament of Closure) confessed the sin of not watching sufficient TV and therefore not being sufficiently attentive to what God is doing in the world. It is clear to Fr Thong that if Jesus returned today he would have megabucks to spend on marketing. The lonely cross at the fringe of an empire just wouldn't rate well enough.

Fr Thong has long dreamed of a Catholic TV station so that parishioners could stay in bed on a Sunday morning and watch their religion instead of having to come to church. Naturally, this would mean he could stay in bed too. As it is, he has set up a couple of DVD cameras focused on the main altar and put monitors on either side altar, encouraging mass goers to watch proceedings on the screen. He considers this part of his duty of making believers ready for the dawn on a new Catholicism, one which is so in tune with the world that we can all sleep in on Sunday. The problem is, unfortunately, that people have jumped the gun and are staying at home and sleeping in anyway. They can find most of what Fr Thong has to say in New Idea. The first collection now barely covers the easy weekly payment Fr Thong has to make on his DVD cameras.

Poor Fr Thong ended up in Inner Springs after getting into a spot of bother in a large city parish. After a moment of celestial illumination, he approached a major TV network and suggested that they do a reality TV show inside the convent adjacent to the church. Big Sister was a huge hit and, for a time, Fr Thong was glowing with pride. The whole country held its breath when Sister Concepta got her medication confused and rejoiced with her when her little problem with constipation finally passed. But Fr Thong had neglected to tell the sisters that hidden cameras were going to be installed in every room of their convent to record their every spoken word and, even worse, their every movement. When the series went to air, the sisters were horrified. A couple of them were so appalled when they saw the nasty way they treated their fellow community members that they went and joined contemplative communities, vowing never to speak another word in their lives other than to God who now has to put up with their bad tempers on His own. Only one of the Sisters said she liked the show. She said it was the first time she'd been able to figure out what some of the others did all day. As far as she was concerned, it was the best community sharing they'd ever had.

Cardinal Shallots is no fan of reality TV. He was the cardinal in the hot seat when Pope Pepsi Max decided he wanted to change the rules for the conclave to elect his successor. His holiness had hired a number of episodes of Big Brother from Video Videre, the Vatican video outlet, and was quite taken with the idea. He wanted cameras installed in every room of the conclave and for Catholics to be able to send a text message to evict the cardinals they didn't like. Cardinal Shallots was able to persuade the pope that this was not a good idea, mainly because the pope had appointed so many cardinals that it would take years to evict them all. Indeed, Pope Pepsi Max had appointed so many cardinals that Vatican authorities doubted there would be enough hotel rooms in Rome to accommodate the conclave. The irony is, of course, that the gentle Cardinal Shallots would probably have won a popular vote and would now be pope. But that would have left Inner Springs without a school crossing attendant and, in the real world, some callings are more important than they may at first appear.

Previous Columns:
  • Issue 1: The Catholic Fold
  • Issue 3: The Fridge Door
  • Issue 5: A Call to the Faithful
  • Issue 7: Liturgy of the Story
  • Issue 9: God goes swimming in Winter
  • Issue 11: God drives slow
  • Issue 13: God runs in bare feet
  • Issue 15: God does not send spam
  • Issue 17: God has better things to do
  • Issue 19: God washes on delicate cycle
  • Issue 21: God puts ads in lost and found
  • Issue 23: God builds houses with stuff from the tip
  • Issue 25: God does not need sponsorship
  • Issue 27: God swats flies
  • Issue 29: God makes his own bed
  • Issue 31: God is present under the tree
  • Issue 36: God buzzes soft like a mosquito
  • Issue 38: God has traffic rules for Lent
  • Issue 40: God stops to buy bread and milk on the way home

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