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How to have infallibility without a pope

Bob Jones the Younger, offspring of the present incumbent, got his master’s degree from -- are you sitting down? -- Notre Dame University, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. You read it here first, or second or third and so on.

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It’s a well-known fact that Sic is infallible. Close observers may recall how, last year, we briefly denied our infallibility. Strictly between ourselves, we goofed.

Then we noticed people desperately wanted us to be infallible. So, practically overnight, we regained that inerrancy without which we were losing every argument. Take Sic’s word: It makes people sit up when you finish your sentence with “and that’s infallible.”

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William “Bookshelf” Graham teaches in N.J. where a student wrote of the two creation stories in Genesis: “The two stories were written about 500 years apart, so I believe two different people wrote them.”

This may be good anthropology, but it’s poor scripture. Think of Methuselah who lived to 969. That means he could have written the Genesis 1 account at a ripe old 469 years (don’t scoff: at 187 he became the father of Lamech, according to Genesis 7) and hammered out Genesis 2 shortly before he died. This would be typical of Methuselah, an eccentric fellow who was on Social Security so long it has not yet recovered.

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Not for nothing is infallibility in the air. Like it or not, popes sometimes retire, although more often they die. Considering how many theological journals are out there, it’s strange how few articles one reads on the status of infallibility during a papal interregnum.

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Sr. Clarice Lolich of San Mateo wrote, “NCR … is my contemporary bible.” Unfortunately her letter was addressed to, y’know, Big Daddy on page 2, but fortunately things sometimes fall into the wrong hands, Sic’s.

Lolich enclosed a list of proverbs that the first-grade teacher started and the kids had to finish:

People in glass houses shouldn’t ..... run around naked.

Strike while the ..... bug is close.

You can lead a horse to water, but ..... how?

Don’t bite the hand ..... that’s dirty.

When the blind lead the blind ..... get out of the way.

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It’s lucky we were mistaken when we thought we were only fallible. Our personal infallibility has frankly been dormant for years, sort of there but not doing much, like George W. Bush’s compassionate conservatism, which he keeps up his sleeve for a rainy day. We expect, though, that the moment this pope resigns our infallibility will leap to the fore. Inerrancy will galvanize us like that first cup of coffee in the morning. We’ll pronounce on stuff you didn’t even know had gone wrong, the Holy Spirit nudging us on and saying, more, more, give ’em hell, Sic.

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We hereby cancel our latest big competition about matching poetry and pictures ’cause it was one of Sic’s dumber ideas in the first place.

Besides we have other fish to fry.

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So, when the voters arrive to elect the new pope (and once infallibility is brought to bear, they may no longer be the same old coterie of princes of the church -- who’s to say there would not be room for a good nun among the electors, do you seriously think the Holy Spirit would turn down a good nun? And if a good nun is good enough, what kind of a Holy Spirit would say that a good non-nun, such as a soccer mom, wouldn’t cut the conclave mustard? Don’t let anyone tell you infallibility can’t make a difference) … this sentence, which started with commendable promise, lost its direction back there somewhere, but it was fun anyway.

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When one has to write as much about oneself as Sic does about ourself, one gets tired of referring to oneself in the same old way. Thus Sic sometimes refers to ourself as This Space to reduce repetition. But a wider repertoire is needed. We thought of such sobriquets as Houdini, Socrates and Gunga Din, but these lack marquee appeal, not to mention originality.

So we opted for John Paul III. It’s our small tribute to His present Holiness. If his successor wants to be named after him, we are prepared to move over and call ourself John Paul IV, etc.

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The world, which started out with a Big Bang and great excitement, was presumably meant by the Creator to stay that way. But in real life things do slow down and get boring. To help average citizens abolish the ennui and keep things hopping, Mary Hazlett explained How to Remain Sane and Annoy Others:

  • At lunchtime, sit in your parked car and point a hair dryer at passing cars to see if they slow down.
  • Page yourself over the intercom (don’t disguise your voice).
  • Every time someone asks you to do something, ask if they want fries with that (most of Sic’s acquaintances do this already; we thought it was standard practice).
  • Finish all your sentences with “in accordance with the prophecy.”
  • As often as possible, skip rather than walk.
  • Find out where your boss shops and buy exactly the same outfits. Wear them one day after your boss does. (This is especially effective if your boss is the opposite gender.)
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John Paul III’s (get used to it) Book of the Week is Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush, by Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose.

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“When down in the mouth, remember Jonah. He came out all right.”

The above came from NCR publisher and Sic’s personal haberdasher, Thomas C. Fox, who also told of a picture outside a church: two hands holding the Ten Commandments inscribed on two tablets. Below it read: “For fast relief, take two tablets.”

(You’re right. Sic wasn’t impressed, either. But he is the publisher.)

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We have decided another name for This Space shall be the Straight Talk Express.

National Catholic Reporter, March 17, 2000