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The Big Sic Mother A. Fan Club and non-infallible chicken-joke answers

We're excited, I tell you, all pumped up and palpitating. Last week, Sic saw, for the first time, Mother Angelica. Not in person -- we don't move in those circles -- but on video. We want to tell the world right now: We're a fan. This is, as they say in show business, one funny lady. Readers may recall the mileage stand-up comic George Carlin used to get out of the "stuff" in his refrigerator. That's the league Mother A is in -- the church is her refrigerator.

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The Mother A video we saw was on forgiveness, though one can scarcely imagine this sweet woman having anything to forgive -- and she didn't. At Mother's monastery, to judge by the video, strangers are always coming up to her with honest if sometimes dumb questions that force her to be ironic if not downright hilarious.

But Mother A is also, as everyone knows, a no-nonsense nun, so, between jokes, she kicked theological butt in the most beguiling way. In what seemed a near-perfect universe, the only outstanding betes noirs seemed to be liberals. She mentioned them three times in a matter of minutes, four if you count feminists, who have the same standing in Mother A's world as an eight-month-old stinky blue cheese would have in George Carlin's refrigerator. She mentioned no other demons: not ax murderers, not drug pushers, rapists, thieves, not even communists.

For a half hour there, Sic sure was glad we weren't a liberal.

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Some have complained that, given the time of year and all, Sic did not announce our resurrection.

Are you kidding? What would Cardinal Ratzinger say?

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To say we got billions of messages on the return of This Space would be inaccurate. But we heard from Mardoc on the Web: "My seat is no longer vacant. Welcome back." Thanks, Mardoc (we think this may be a koan). And Billandmar on the Web: "As in all previous issues, Sic is really Sick, not worthy of print." Why would anyone go on reading such stuff?

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It gets better. Maria Leonard writes: "So glad to see you're back, even though you're only a clone of the real Sic. ... I wonder if infallibility is passed along through cloning. Is infallibility in your genes? Perhaps the answer could be your first infallible statement."

Every time the "i" word is mentioned we feel insecure. What if we went out on a theological limb and made a big fat infallible pronouncement, and then next day Dan Rather or someone cut off the limb and made a liar of us? Not that Sic is worried about losing face -- when it comes to infallibility we are fearless -- but we don't wish to confuse the faithful. If there's one thing Catholics need, it's that infallibility, when it strikes, hits the mark, a home run.

Between ourselves, that last "infallible" thing by Cardinal Ratzinger (and that's another thing: Sic feels a bit unnerved, and we presume so does the pope, at the idea of Cardinal R. elbowing his way into this elite infallible field) about no women priests now or ever was logically fuzzy and impervious to verification. A watertight infallible declaration should be unambiguous to the Catholic on the street (it used to be in the pew but so few go there any more) so that its gist is verifiable, for example, by a lie detector test, like Mark Fuhrman's non-bigotry.

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The bad news is we have scarcely begun to quote all the letters welcoming back our humble self. We'll keep the remainder for a rainy day.

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After three publications reported that Timothy McVeigh had confessed to the Oklahoma City bombing, McVeigh's lawyer, Stephen Jones, demanded (a) case dismissed, or (b) postponed for a year, or (c) change of venue -- Alaska and Hawaii were mentioned but not Siberia nor, surprisingly, Dodge City.

These demands seem grossly inadequate. Jones should have asked for dismissal with a year's free beer and a book deal.

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Big news: Following excavations in Sic's back yard, a papyrus has been found with answers to a question that has long tantalized graybeards, and presumably their significant others, gathered around winter fires: Why did the chicken cross the road?

Plato: For the greater good.

Torquemada: Give me 10 minutes with the chicken and I'll find out.

Nietzsche: Because if you gaze too long across the road, the road gazes also across you.

Buddha: If you ask this question, you deny your own chicken nature.

Darwin: It was the logical next step after coming down from the trees.

Pyrrho the Skeptic: What road?

The Sphinx: You tell me.

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Bill Celebration Freburger writes that on April 4 we will be exactly 1,000 days from the start of the new millennium on Jan. 1, 2000.

Yes, and we'll be 1,000 years and 1,000 days from Jan. 1, 3000.

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But that's nothing. The following came with a picture of St. Patrick pointing imperiously at a snake:

May those who love us, love us.
And those who don't love us -- may God turn their hearts.
And if he doesn't turn their hearts,
May he turn their ankles.
So we'll know them by their limping.

* * *

Religion News Service reports that a notice arrived at the Bushnell Assembly of God church from American Family Publications in February to say God, of Bushnell, Fla., was a finalist for the $11 million top prize.

"God, we've been searching for you," the letter began. If God were to win, it went on, "what an incredible fortune there would be for God. Can you imagine the looks you'd get from your neighbors. But don't just sit there, God."

The pastor said the letter was proof of the existence of God.

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Notice that there has been no response, least of all an apology, from you-know-who on page 2 (not Anthony Padovano) to Sic's allegations about the shabby way This Space has recently been treated in these pages.

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Entries for the Amazing Big Sic Limerick Competition are rolling in. Most are too good to have any chance of winning Sic's well-worn Ronald Reagan T-shirt.

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Here's what we'll do -- a Mother Angelica fan club. We could call it the Amazing Big Sic Mother Angelica Fan Club. Frankly we need help here. Our only previous experience in the fan club field was when we made ourselves president (and treasurer) of the Balboni Fan Club. Steve Balboni was a baseball player. Failing to attract a second member, we gave up when we learned Balboni had retired from the game some years earlier.

We don't intend to make the same mistake with the Amazing etc. Mother A. Fan Club. Suggestions are invited. But first, we need members. We hope membership will transcend the sordid little divisions that divide liberals from -- whoever they are.

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Sappho: "The chicken crossed the road due to the loveliness of the hen on the other side, more fair than all of Hellas' armies" (that Sappho was an odd one).

Thoreau: "She crossed to live deliberately, and suck all the marrow out of life."

And Markie Twain: "The news of its crossing has been greatly exaggerated" (this is typical of Twain, who said the same thing after he died prematurely).

National Catholic Reporter, April 4, 1997