Tips late for Halloween, such as witches' tattoos
By MICHAEL J. FARRELL
Sic has always taken a dim view of obfuscation and duplicity, so imagine our chagrin when we realized that someone in Rome is impersonating the pope.
Yes, that pope. The jackals of the press have been saying the pontiff is ill, but even Vatican spokesman Joaquín Novarro-Vals says they're wrong. Sic soon got the picture. That old guy is -- are you sitting down? -- a papal look-alike.
The evidence is everywhere. Look at the photo in NCR, Oct. 18, and you'll see it's not even a good look-alike. A picture in the New York Times Oct. 13 was even more convincing, the work, Sic believes, of a second look-alike hired to impersonate the first look-alike on his days off.
Where, then, is John Paul, one may well ask. Sources close to Sic say -- are you still sitting? -- he's out searching highways and byways for a successor (sources close to John Paul deny this, but Sic thinks they're only close to a JP look-alike and not to the Man Himself). He's not searching among the usual suspects, such as cardinals, those sources say, but out there among people who have the right theological credentials, who have, for example, in the past year, washed their own socks or gone to their country's equivalent of a Green Bay Packers game. So if, some day soon, you see, coming down the road, or across the parking lot, a dusty traveler with a squint scanning the world for crazy, authentic, unbelievable holiness, greet him. It might be the real John Paul.
Think what authentic Christianity we would have if every Vicar of Christ on earth -- who is supposed to be the ongoing embodiment of Jesus to such a degree that women obviously don't measure up -- were expected to get himself into so much trouble, like Jesus, in the interests of the downtrodden that he would have to be, like Jesus, eventually executed. People will say this may be too severe, but it worked, we are told, for Jesus.
Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network has a Web site that recently offered the world a "Christian perspective on Halloween." It's mostly pagan, these Christians said. Druids had a lot to do with it, not to mention Satan. Then, with the growth of witchcraft in the Middle Ages, "additional symbols became associated with Halloween -- black cats, bats and skulls."
It was the Irish, it turns out, who spread all this stuff to the New World. Except the pumpkin, which, like the snake, doesn't grow in Ireland. But "witches and satanists," CBN assures us, are "a small minority." How do they know?
F.M. Walker of Edina sent This Space some "mangled factoids" that throw new light on several historical whatnots:
"King Alfred conquered the Dames."
"King Arthur lived in the Age of Shivery."
"King Harold mustarded his troops before the Battle of Hastings."
"Joan of Arc was cannonized by Bernard Shaw."
"The Magna Carta provided that no free man should be hanged twice for the same offense."
"Martin Luther was nailed to the church door at Wittenburg for selling papal indulgences. He died a horrible death, being excommunicated by a bull."
"Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf. He was so deaf he wrote loud music."
"The sun never set on the British Empire because the British Empire is in the East and the sun sets in the West. Queen Victoria was the longest queen. She sat on a thorn for 63 years."
"The First World War, caused by the assignation of the Arch-Duck by a surf, ushed in a new error in the anals of human history."
(Sic is so impressed by this stuff that we are seriously thinking of entering again for the Catholic Press Association award, which, lest anyone forget, This Space won in ... well, we forget which year, but you could look it up.)
Meanwhile, Bill Thimm from Arlington writes: "When you finally make your long-awaited infallible statement, please remember to publish it in an en-Sic-lical."
This kind of comment makes Sic nervous. For months now, since Sic realized that we were, no kidding, infallible, we have been scratching our head, racking our brains, beating the bushes and plumbing the depths in search of that wacky one-in-a-million truth that is both infallibly airtight and yet of burning interest to at least a few folks. It's an exhausting search. We occasionally come across something really sexy, the kind of Catholic truth Catholics drool over, but then doubts arise, doubts that after a few drinks fail to go away, so we put off our solemn pronouncement for another day. On the other hand, there are many theological whatnots about which we harbor great certainty, right there on the threshold of infallibility, but then we realize no one cares a hoot about them, and there's nothing worse than to go on an infallible kick while Christendom goes "Oh yeah?" and nods off to sleep.
The Brits call them "howlers." A clipping from the London Times sent by Bill Powers of Setauket shows they're universal:
From the USA: "To prevent milk from turning sour, keep it in the cow."
From Africa: "The Fallopian tube is named after the monk who first discovered it."
From England: "Trees break wind for up to 200 yards."
Back to Halloween -- and further light from cyberspace:
"There are over 3,814 covens and 423 Satanic cults known to exist in the United States." (Does Cardinal Ratzinger know about this?)
"Witches and Satanists do not advertise. They look and act just like us. They may work with you. They may live next door." (Don't look now but that may be a witch sitting next to you even as you read this.)
And a few signs of witchcraft in the 'hood:
"Has jewelry or tattoos of witchcraft or Satanic symbol."
"Commonly wears black and/or red clothing."
"Goes to 'gatherings' or 'parties' on Oct. 31, April 30, Feb. 2, June 23, Aug. 1, Dec. 21, or any night with a full or new moon." (This is going to catch a lot of you.)
"Enjoys being naked and/or sleeps in the nude." (Sic wouldn't know about that.)
This "public service," which Sic suspects is tongue-in-cheek, purports to come from PFTP, whatever that is.
The following ode was written by Jim
Eakin, who modestly described it as "a working of the Holy Spirit":
National Catholic Reporter, November 1, 1996