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This Space, as often the case, resists all Christmas cheer here


If Sic were you and in need of a non-challenging theological fix, we would dally over the tabloids at the checkout, one of which recently said the Dead Sea Scrolls had predicted an uncommonly severe winter for 1997.

Sic, who values our reputation highly, wishes to deny that we ourselves read these tabloids, but the local TV station regurgitates them on Tuesday mornings while we are eating our All-Bran.

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Even more sensational was the tabloid election news missed by the other media: that President Clinton was, in fact, a son of Bob Dole. To date no one has denied this story.

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London's Catholic Herald tells of a hip Church of England campaign to entice young people to church for Christmas. There is a Picassoesque drawing of the Three Kings, and the message: "You're a virgin, you've just given birth, and now three kings have shown up." Members of the various churches, stiff upper lips aquiver, expressed "reservations."

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Sic's friend the philosopher writes of the ongoing relevance of John Henry Newman's On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine. Yet, says the philosopher, "none of the eight infallible people who have graced Rome since publication has consulted the faithful before making infallible pronouncements." This, he goes on, is a great chance for Sic ("who has already made history by being only the second human in history to declare himself infallible") to improve on the other infallibles -- presumably by consulting the great unwashed -- or y'all.

While the philosopher's democratic bent is admirable, this poll approach betrays a lack of insight into how we infallibles operate. True inerrancy is experienced rather as a sensation, a sort of tic, in that goofy area behind the knee, or sometimes in the armpit, sending a tantalizing frisson up the spine and into the infallible part of the brain, where it affects different infallibles in different ways: Some immediately proceed to dance a hornpipe; others dash off to the nearest cathedra for a -- but why belabor the matter, you just know the last word on something or other is about to kick in.

No harm to Cardinal Newman (who, by the way, is dead), but this egalitarian stuff could spell the end of Catholicism as we know it.

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Writes Sr. Rose Tillemans from Minneapolis: "Did you know that a merchant named Mr. McDermott had a booth at the bishops' conference where he sold attire for bishops only?" McDermott purveys the usual stuff, according to public radio: robes, miters, rings, crosiers. Price for a complete set of duds, with the trimmings: $4,000. This shows that, even if he had the theology right, Jesus could never pass muster as a modern bishop.

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From the Internet under "funnies":

The National Rifle Association recruit looked at his rifle and then at the target. He looked at the rifle again, and then at the target again. He put his finger over the end of the rifle barrel and squeezed the trigger with his other hand. The end of his finger was blown off, whereupon he yelled toward the target area: "It's leaving here just fine. The trouble must be at your end."

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Sometimes Sic thinks nearly every cute or clever conversation stopper has already been said. For example:

"Experience is that marvelous thing that enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again" (F.P. Jones).

"As your attorney, it is my duty to inform you that it is not important that you understand what I'm doing or why you're paying me so much money. What's important is that you continue to do so" (Hunter S. Thompson's Samoan attorney).

"May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house" (George Carlin).

"Life may have no meaning. Or even worse, it may have a meaning of which I disapprove" (Ashleigh Brilliant). (Sic, a suspicious entity, thinks this Ashleigh may be a fiction; if Sic had a name like Brilliant, of which there was never any chance, we would get it changed).

"Drawing on my fine command of language, I said nothing" (Anon.)

"For three days after death, hair and fingernails continue to grow but phone calls taper off" (Johnny Carson).

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Sophia from Farmington, referring to Cardinal Ratzinger's recent attack on relativism in Catholic doctrine, wants to know if that's absolute relativism or relative relativism.

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At that point, John N. Pfeffer of Sequim was driven to a paroxysm of verse by the "sticky wicket" created by the pope's headlong embrace of evolution:

The book of Genesis
Never did menace us,
About when the soul was inserted.
We hope no one connects us,
With pithecanthropus erectus,
She was hairy and I'm sure unskirted.
The "men's club" will gather,
With full ecclesial lather,
To consider this soulful chore,
They'll tell us in cobwebby Latin
As stiff as the chairs they sat in,
And we'll understand less than before.

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Here's a sentence to conjure with: "Rock assemblages within these terranes can differ widely in theology, and these differences may affect how strain accumulates and is released along the Cascadia megathrust."

This, according to Alfred Kracher of Ames, "explains why ecumenism is so difficult: Even the rocks can't agree on theology."

Kracher goes on to suggest the word might be rheology, "which is the resistance to being bent out of shape, but theology probably amounts to the same thing."

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A sad note: "The very first bomb dropped by the Allies on Berlin during World War II killed the only elephant in the Berlin Zoo."

NCR's Teresa Malcolm received this and other true trivia from an anon. friend who wishes to stay so:

"The glue on Israeli postage stamps is certified kosher." (Is this a great column or what?)

"The housefly hums in the middle octave, key of F."

"Los Angeles' full name is 'El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula."

"Only one person in two billion will live to be 116 or older." (But it could be you.)

"The company that provided the liability insurance for the Republican National convention in San Diego was the same firm that insured the maiden voyage of the Titanic."

"Al Capone's business card said he was a used furniture dealer."

"The longest recorded flight of a chicken is 13 seconds."

While some of this stuff may sound trivial, we rest our case on the words of St. Paul: A bird in the hand is worth two.

National Catholic Reporter, December 20, 1996