Speak Up, You Catholics!

April 7, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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So recently I went to visit friends in another part of the country. Where is irrelevant. Saturday afternoon we went to the 4:00 PM Mass in their parish.

An energetic young Vietnamese priest celebrated the liturgy, but since the parish retreat was taking place Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, the leader of the retreat, let’s call him Father John, gave the sermon. He was an ordered priest, and probably one who has spent much of his 70 years going around conducting parish retreats. He and the celebrant were quite a sight up there together, since he is 6 foot 4 and the young priest was about 4 foot 11. But I digress.

Father John began his sermon by saying that he always starts his sermons with a joke. So here’s the joke:

A woman was arrested for stealing a can of peaches. Her husband went with her to appear  before the judge. The judge asked, “So how many peaches were there in the can?” The woman replied, “Eight.” “Then I am going to send you to jail for eight days,” the judge replied. The husband said, “I have something I want to say.” “What’s that?” asked the judge. “She also stole a can of peas,” said the husband.

“I guess they needed some marriage counseling,” added Father John.

I don’t know what he talked about in his actual sermon because I was too annoyed by the joke.

I went up to Father John after Mass, on the steps of the church, and said he seemed like a kind man, but that I was deeply offended by the joke. He expressed amazement: “It was only a joke,” he said. “It didn’t mean anything.” He added that he tells the joke frequently at the beginning of his sermons and that I am the first person who ever said anything about it.

As I walked home with my friends and another woman, they all began to talk about how offensive the joke was–that is, how sexist they found it. I said the priest said it was only a joke and meant nothing. One of the women said, “You should have replied, ‘Well, I know a really funny joke about a pedophile priest.'”

I could begin now to rave about the obliviousness of Father John, and how maddening it is that we are afflicted by priests who are so dumb they don’t know that all jokes mean something.

But I think I will limit myself to his statement that no one had ever  before told him that they found the joke offensive. Let me say,to begin with, I believe him. My whole life as a Catholic priests and nuns and teachers have said to me, their eyes wide, “Never in my life have I ever heard a Catholic say such a thing.” Sometimes I feel that my chief reason for remaining a Catholic is to drive them all nuts.

But I would also like to ask: what’s the matter with all you other Catholics out there? Why are you letting these guys get away with this nonsense? Too polite? Too afraid they’ll take you out back and give you a smack the way they did in 1955?

After the Boston Globe broke the second round of Catholic clergy sex abuse stuff in 2002 I read somewhere some information about one family whose children had been molested by their parish priest. Seems that the priest would come and put the  couple’s five kids to bed every night. Now doubtless this priest was a vile fellow to do such a thing. I trust he’s in jail. But I also have to ask: how dumb would you have to be to let somebody put your kids to bed night after night? No doubt the couple allowed it because he was priest. Kind of like all the people in those Catholic parishes where Father John tells his offensive joke about the woman and the peaches and chat about it on the way home without saying a word to him.

1 Comment »

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  1. Hmm…I don’t find the joke offensive. What exactly is offensive about it?


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