Thursday, November 20, 2014

500th Post: Confession with the Mafia

First, a grim note. Many Americans will be familiar with the name of Fulton Sheen, the monsignor who taught in Washington DC before becoming auxiliary bishop of New York City and last the ordinary of Rochester, NY. His television show, Life is Worth Living, was an early and popular kind of apologetics. He may well be the only cleric ever to win an Emmy Award. Sheen was a linchpin of pre-Vatican II American Catholicism. His gentle demeanor, instinct for drama, arrant anti-Communism, and precocious ability to make the triumphalism of the Church accessible to the average man won many converts, including celebrities. After Vatican II, Sheen faded into obscurity, in part because Cardinal Spellman ensured Sheen would not succeed him as Archbishop of New York. Our friend M.J. recently found out just what happened to Sheen. His end, which you can read here, is quite upsetting. His tergiversation perfectly reflects what happened to other prelates in his era.

Now, on to lighter material. This is the Rad Trad's 500th post. I will start the series on the early Traditionalists next week, God willing, and produce a bilingual complete Officium Defunctorum for our Advent group. The finished product will be English/Latin and reflect the Office before the 1911 deforms. 

I would like to share with you my own experience going to Mass on Pascha at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Buffalo, NY five years ago. My girlfriend, an un-baptized Armenian, accompanied me to Buffalo to spend the holy weekend with a friend who happens to be a lapsed Catholic. Despite no longer having faith, he still has a vociferous Italianate demeanor. Let us peer into the conversation after Mass.

Girlfriend: Rad Trad, I felt verrrrry uncomfortable during dat Mass. I vas da only one who did not go to Communion!
Rad Trad: But my dear, you are un-baptized! You cannot go to Communion! Besides, there was an entire row of people behind you who did not go to Communion either!
Girlfriend: Oh, yeah! Dat vas veird. Vhy didn't dey go?
Rad Trad looks over to his friend
Rad Trad: Six heavy men, pinstriped suits, greased back hair, and pinky-finger rings.
Friend: Ah, what you mean is that you were sitting with the successful Italian businessmen.
Rad Trad: Exactly.
Girlfriend: Who are da "successful Italian businessmen?"
Rad Trad: Competitors to the successful Russian businessmen you knew back in the old country.... Really? They're the mafia, darling.
Girlfriend: Oh how very nice. In da eyes of God, I am on da same level as da mob.
Friend: Now Rad Trad, if you are in the Confession line and they want to go first, you let them. They've got a lot more to say and if they take a while, just leave them alone.
Girlfriend: Vhat would a mob man say in Cone-fession?
Rad Trad: I imagine something like this:
Successful Italian Businessman: Bless me a Fadder, for I have a sinned.
Priest: And how long since your last Confession, my son?
SIB: It's been a three days, Fadder.
Priest sighs
Priest: And what do you wish to bring before the Good Lord today?
SIB: Well Fadder, it's my line of work. You see, I get into.... how should I a say it.... I get into a arguments. I deal with some a cranky people and maybe we a fight a bit.
Priest: Well, there's nothing wrong about that! Do you work in retail?
SIB: Only on Fridays and Saturdays, Fadder.
Priest: Huh?
SIB: F'get about it, Fadder. Oh, and I a known a couple o' girls in my time....
Priest: It's been three days.
SIB: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Don't a the pope say "Who am I to do a the judging?" Eh!
Priest: I guess you're right.
SIB: Oh yeah, and before I forget, one last thing. You know that book you guys got?
Priest: You mean the Bible?
SIB: Bible! I knew there was a word for it. Well, I done all a the stuff in there, too.
Priest: You killed a man by driving a tent peg through his head in the middle of the night?
SIB: This is New York state. Gun control laws and all of that.
Long silence
Priest: Well, I guess you're sorry and contrite, aren't you my lad? How 'bout you make an Act of Contrition and say a Rosary for penance?
SIB: Hrrrrrrrr.... Could I just do one decade? I got a meeting in a warehouse in an hour.

All must hew to the Church. Christ will not let us off the hook for being less bad. He expects us to be good. During the last Sunday after Pentecost and during Advent, let us think long and hard about how we want Christ to find us. We must navigate through the various shades of moral grey in this world with the Church and her Sacraments as our lens. Only Our Lord can finally separate the black and white clearly for us.


  1. Many thanks for the link, R.T. but M.J, wishes you had written the introduction for he forgets that not everyone is his same age, shares the same experiences, and knows if the same clerics.

    As an aside, Sheen's, Life of Christ is a work of surpassing beauty; very orthodox and teeming with poetical and memorable prose

  2. Congratulations on the 500th post, Rad Trad.

    I admire much of Bishop Sheen's work, and that interview was a depressing one to read. There was obviously something in the water in those heady days, alas. I say that without denying some of the obvious listlessness that characterized the Tridentine Church (if I may use the term) in its final years, inspiring such unfortunately misplaced (and very herdlike) impulses.

    Sometimes, I think this age was inflicted on us to force us to learn some lessons about who we are and how we worship the hard way - the very hard way.