Bishop Myers had been a very busy man during the weeks leading up to the American presidential election. He and the other American bishops wanted to make sure that the lay people in their various jurisdictions were intending to conform their consciences to the bishops’ dictums. In the 2008, it was clear that the people followed their own consciences rather than that of their bishops. Myers wanted to make sure that this did not happen again. After all, the Republicans who had started a war, supported capital punishment and the right of all to bear and use any sort of arms, even an Uzi or a Kalashnikov against kids armed with Skittles and iced tea, said they were pro-life and anti-gay marriage. Those were the only two issues that mattered to John Myers and his ecclesiastical brothers as they declared war on their own people.
He and the other bishops were terribly worried that they were losing control over the sex life of their flocks. And sex was all that mattered to the bishops, perhaps because they weren’t supposed to engage in it. However, like starving men who fixate upon food, sex seems to be all the bishops think about. Otherwise the people in the pews would hear much more about the preferential rights of the poor and the evils of war, two issues close to the heart of the Prince of Peace, at whose birth the angels sang, “Peace on Earth. Good will to all.” Bishop Myers and his brethren apparently did not like the gospel and thought that they would re-write it.
Although John Myers writes science fiction, he isn’t much of a historian. Otherwise, he’d have known that twenty million men, women, and children were killed in World War II. One might think that a man with all that theological education might come to the conclusion that war is an intrinsic evil, but alas, he hasn’t. Instead, sex consumed the bishop brotherhood, as perhaps, it always has. How else to explain voyeurs like John Vianney who are declared saints, the use of Penitentials in confession, and the clerical preoccupation with the sex act.
In ages past, lay people who refused to conform their thoughts, words, and actions to those of their bishop got posthaste burned at the stake or lost their heads, after being tortured for days, usually by members of the clergy who would stop in between turns on the rack to go and eat lunch. Sadly, bishops no longer have this power. It had fallen out of favor in secular democratic governments which were vigorously condemned by Myers’ predecessors as well as by Bishop Myers’ neighbor, Cardinal Timothy Dolan who writes so passionately about the evils of a secular, democratic society. So the good bishop took out the only remaining weapon in his episcopal arsenal and used it in an attempt to beat his flock into spiritual submission - excommunication. Those members of the Diocese of Newark who refused to think John Myers’ thoughts automatically separated themselves from the love of God, per John Myers. Since he couldn’t burn them at the stake, they would be refused the Eucharist, thus ensuring spiritual starvation. They would be refused burial in a Catholic cemetery, separating them from their families even in death. He, John Myers, Archbishop of Newark, NJ, meant business.
Even though John Paul II of recent memory listed a whole series of things that were intrinsically evil in “Veritatis Splendor” such as “homicidal, genocidal, abortion, euthanasia, and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person such as mutilation, physical and mental torture, and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat laborers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free persons, all these and the like are a disgrace and they are a negation of the honor to the Creator,” Myers was fixated on gay marriage which didn’t appear in this fairly comprehensive list. Neither did contraception. Come to think of it, Jesus never mentioned either of them.
It was the Monday night of Hurricane Sandy, just before the storm made landfall in southern New Jersey. While the people of New Jersey were worried about their survival, he was worried about their level of obedience to him. The wind howled about the house driving the rain horizontally into the windows of his office. God was surely unleashing this storm into the liberal blue states to teach the disobedient, secular people a lesson. In the words of his brother bishop, Daniel Jenky, God will not be mocked.
Archbishop Myers was talking on the phone with Daniel Jenky of Peoria, Il., sharing their mutual concerns about the lay lack of respect for their authority. His brother Daniel was about to issue a letter telling people how to vote in the upcoming election or else they would be well, condemned to hell. They were just about to discuss further actions against those nominal, cafeteria Catholics, the ones who refused to consider the bishops as the lord of the local Catholic manor when the lights went out and the phone line went dead.
As he put down his I Phone, Archbishop Myers heard the generator begin to hum. Thankfully, the wine in his cellar would remain chilled and the meat wouldn’t spoil in the refrigerator.
As Bishop Myers opened the drawer to take out a flashlight, the door to his office opened. Myers looked up in surprise to see a very tall woman with curly black hair and bright green eyes staring at him in the doorway. He raised the flashlight.
“You won’t need any light,” the woman said, gently taking the flashlight from his hand and placing it on his desk. “I’ll be your light for tonight.” The woman sat down on the other side of Myers’ desk and stared at the surprised archbishop who had plopped unceremoniously into his padded chair frowning, even as the Light of the World shone around him in the darkness and he recognized it not.
“Who are you?” he demanded. Myers was peeved with the interloper who seemed to take over his office with a light that was brighter than any lamp he had ever seen. He needed to shade his eyes. “Who are you? He repeated his question, this time a bit testily, holding his hand over his eyes. She really needed to tone it down.
As she looked into his eyes, he could see spiraling galaxies and bright suns and blinked. “You don’t know who I AM, my son. You Catholics locate I AM too much in the present tense. This places Me squarely in your own interpretation and allows you to define Me. I AM makes me the God of Moses and of the western world philosophies that you and yours have created. Such a view leaves out MY manifestations in the rest of the world. I have many more names than ‘Lamb of God’, for instance. You constrain my divinity by insisting on such a narrow interpretation. Why do you think that all whole- hearted people think the same way? However, I (and SHE stood until it seemed as if Her head touched the stars,) shall be who I shall be. I should think that you who believe you know my mind and my intentions to the point of speaking for Me would recognize Me”.
Myers began thinking about science fiction as God removed Her bright green raincoat. “No, John, you are not on a space odyssey.” Myers stared at her strong arms as she placed her handbag on his desk. “You would have a weak, puny God, John, like the one you hang on your crosses? The God you can boss around and contain? That’s not ME.” God handed the archbishop her raincoat which had dripped bright droplets of rain all over his Persian carpet. John was tempted to mop up the rain but thought better of it.
God’s voice carried across the room. “But speaking of science fiction, I have to say that one of my favorite movie lines comes from “Star Wars” when Obi-Wan-Kenobi compares the loss of life on his planet with a force of good going out of the world. That’s how I feel when people are murdered. John, all life is sacred. The taking of any life – any life- is intrinsically evil.” The woman began to cry, her great sobs mingling with Sandy’s wailing winds until the walls of the building began to shake. Myers looked around hoping that no one would come to investigate a sobbing young woman with bare arms in his darkened office.
The archbishop began to think about the emotional instability of women. When the woman looked at him, he thought better of it.
“John, do you still not know who I AM?” Myers sat back down and folded his hands crossed on his chest across his pectoral cross.
“If I should feel the emotion of surprise, I must say I would be surprised by your reaction to me. The humans I have created who truly know Me always recognize ME. You recall Moses and the burning bush? Mary of Nazareth and what you think of as Angel Gabriel? Mary Magdalene in the garden? Have you thought about what is preventing you from seeing Me as I AM?” Myers looked out of the window at the driving rain and refused to answer. He simply could not conform his mind to a female God. And what is more, he didn’t even try.
“Tsk, tsk, my boy. What is that saying about what is good for the goose is good for the gander?” She just shook Her Head and smiled gently. “I have some really good advice for you, my son that might help you along with this process, because there is going to be a process. Examine your conscience and challenge your assumptions.” Myers looked at his watch.
SHE opened her computer and looked at him. “Let’s being with the first, your conscience. As Wisdom says,” She leaned over to him. “John, I’m sure you read Wisdom, yes?” “As Wisdom says, ‘Power is gift to you from God.’” Do you understand that, John?” John stared stonily ahead.
SHE sighed. “As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, men create their own god and worship it. This is the basis of the first commandment. But let’s get back to Wisdom.” SHE read from her computer and tapped her foot on the carpet so that light shot around the room with each tap.
“The Lord of all does not cower before a personage or stand in awe of greatness. If you have not governed justly nor observed the law nor behaved as God intended, then God will surely fall upon you.”
“John,” SHE said looking at him directly, the hurricane winds reaching another decibel in downtown Newark, “Consider My visit your fall.”
The archbishop looked at the door and tried to get out of his seat. “Sit down, My son. I am a God of mercy and lovingkindness. I don’t smite people. Never have. Otherwise, I would not be God. I’d be one of you. You and your fellow bishops should take a page or two from my book.” God threw back Her head and laughed a great belly laugh. Myers didn’t think She was the least bit funny. He wondered how he was expected to accept a God who laughed at serious matters. God hummed a few bars of “Lord of the Dance” to Myers’ discomfiture.
“My son, do you know my prophet Jeremiah?” God typed away at Her computer as She spoke. “I paraphrase my own words. You have treated the wounds of my people shabbily crying ‘Obedience,’ when you should be shouting ‘Love.’” God leaned forward and asked sternly, “Do you and Timothy Dolan and Daniel Jenky and William Lori know what you are doing to My holy Name? Do you?” John shook his head. “You render Me, the Lord, God Almighty, Creator of the heavens and the earth irrelevant to my own people. In fact, you have made the Divine a laughingstock telling people that it is MY will that people suffer unspeakable evil. Who can believe in God when I have men like you as My spokesman? You who do things and say things that a loving God would neither say nor do.”
John could only blink. God looked again at her computer and said, “John, we’re going have a conference call via Skype on my computer. Let me connect with Daniel. “ “But, the storm,” John ventured. God just sighed.
“Ah, here he is. Daniel, how are you?” Daniel Jenky saw a lovely young woman with curly black hair, bright green eyes, and naked arms staring at him. “A warm welcome from rainy Newark, New Jersey. She smiled at him. I am the Lord your God, Creator of the heavens and the earth.”
Now Daniel Jenky knew that Newark had lost power because of the hurricane. So he slammed his computer shut in disgust. It was probably those damn WOC women. They ‘ve probably teamed up with those annoying nuns from the LCWR trying to push that infernal search for what they thought was women’s equality. Bishop Jenky sniffed as he considered what he thought about women’s equality. The Holy Father had definitively said all he was going to say about the women’s equality. All the women needed to was stop and put up with the bishops’ agenda and shut up.
God just looked sadly at John Myers. “I told you. The authorities never recognize God, even when she calls them up on the phone and allows them to gaze upon Her face. Let me call Sister Simone Campbell, she’ll recognize me in a minute.”
God connected immediately with Sister Simone Campbell in Washington, D.C. Sister Simone gasped as she saw the Lord, God Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, her head crowned with stars and her feet on the moon connected to her on Skype. Her eyes flowed with tears and she literally gasped for breath as she said, “Oh, My God!”
God bent over her, gently wiped away her tears and said, “Simone, my daughter, please get yourself together. We have work to do this dark and stormy night. Please call up Bishop Jenky in Peoria, Il. and tell him that his God is calling him and it would be in his best interest if he got on Skype because we need to have an important face-to-face conversation about logic, reason and the role of assumptions.” God paused for a moment. “Please tell him that the blind should see and the deaf hear.” Simone, as always, did what God told her to do.
Bishop Jenky, however, refused to answer his phone or open his computer. “John, I guess you’ll have to make the connection.” God handed the phone to John. The phone was warm where God’s hand had rested.
John made the call. “Dan, I think you better do what this woman tells you to do. She thinks she’s God and I sort of feel as if I’m being held hostage here. The weather is dicey, so no one is around to help. No, I don’t think you should call the police. The call won’t go through, and even if it did, they’re busy rescuing people tonight. Please, let’s just humor her. I don’t think she’s violent. She’s one of those bleeding heart liberals talking about love. We can get the police involved later.” God could only smile.
“Oh, Simone,” God said as the wind howled yet again, “I almost forgot. Please get Timothy Dolan on the phone as well. We’re going to have a five way conference call tonight. And you shall be my witness, so take notes or whatever you do because all three of these men will deny me tonight.”
Dolan was not pleased with the divine directive even though he was pleasantly surprised that both his phone and computer began working while everything else remained dark. And to be told to do something by Simone Campbell was more than he could bear. Who was this woman? Who did she think she was summoning the cardinal archbishop of New York City during the storm of the century. He was the president of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops and Simone Campbell was liberal and a feminist. All of this stuff was her fault.
“Don’t worry, my son,” God assured Timothy through Skype. “Mayor Bloomberg will do just fine taking care of the city. It’s out of your hands. He knew what was coming and prepared the best he could. You should prepare yourself for the storm that will surely follow you.”
The three princes of the church wearing matching red beanies, large pectoral crosses, and red cummerbunds sat stiffly in their comfortable chairs. God gave each a deep probing stare. “Let’s begin with you, Daniel.” Bishop Jenky looked off to one side of God’s face.
“I’m sure all three of you studied logic in college, given your ages. Logic used to be a requirement in most Catholic colleges and seminaries. It’s a shame teaching it and following it went out of style. And it’s a shame the three of you have not only made a mockery out of ME, but also out of something American public schools like to call, ‘critical thinking.’ You, Daniel have engaged in at least three logical fallacies in your pastoral letter.
“First of all, you have tried to incite fear in people by telling them that the government is threatening their religious liberty. Your real fear is that people who were given free will by their Creator - that is, by ME- are challenging your authority.”
“Then you engage in emotion laden words like ‘assault,’ which prevents people from readily studying the situation at hand. Who can have a rational discussion about important subjects – because that is what mature human beings do- when one is directed to feel that one is under assault and must fight?”
“And, my dear boys – and this is directed to all of you- ‘Because I said so,’ followed by a threat is the biggest fallacy of them all. First of all, it presents only one side of an argument. And besides, who are you that your sisters and brothers should be mindful of you? None of you has done anything heroic or extraordinary. You haven’t recognized the divine when She’s sitting right in front of you and yet you believe that you speak for the divine. Most egregiously, you have mismanaged and minimized the sexual abuse scandal. You choose to ignore science. You purposely ignore the lived experience of your congregations. You fail to look at empirical evidence. Your study of scripture is clearly lacking in that you have placed obedience over charity in direct contradiction to the Word of God. You are the ones who make a mockery out of Me and My words.”
Timothy Dolan leaned forward and said, “I think I’ve heard quite enough from you tonight. I know that I have had a personal relationship with my God my entire life. That’s why I’m where I am. How dare you? No green goddess girl god is going to tell me otherwise. Joe, Dan, are we done here?”
“I’m tired of these Woc, LCWR, ABC, XYZ women,” Dan replied. All they intend to do is drag the church down to their level. They don’t know anything about God. I’m done with all of them.” He slammed his computer shut and went on to finish his soon to be published letter telling people to vote as he tells them or they’re going to hell, the words of God rolling right off his episcopal back.
John Myers thought he would be held captive by his visitor once the others signed off and abandoned him to the living God. But when he looked up from his desk, he was alone in the darkness of a great storm.
When the storm was over, he never did call the police. Instead, he just threw away the green women’s raincoat he had hung in his closet. There were always these spots on his Persian rug which glowed particularly in the dark that he could never quite remove no matter how many times he sent the rug to be cleaned.
God went out for a beer with Sister Simone Campell in DC in one of the few bars that remained open during the storm and carefully went over the minutes of their meeting. For the rest of her life, Simone pondered the Words of God and kept them in her heart- in the whole-hearted person who loves God with all their heart, with all their soul and all their strength, there is no room for force or power or shame.
God had advised her to store the notes in a very safe place….
….There was a storm that was to follow…
Eileen McCafferty DiFranco, RCWP
November 3, 2012