Bishop as Pawn



Bishop Ramon Diego was dead. And the priests were having a party.

On the surface, this may seem cavalier, even inhuman. But actually, the bishop’s battered body had not yet been discovered.

Besides, it was not exactly a party. The occasion was the quarterly meeting of Detroit city priests.

Although the gathering was a regularly scheduled event, not all the priests of the entire archdiocese of Detroit were invited.

Four times each year, the priests assigned to parishes within the actual boundaries of the city of Detroit got together to: pinpoint problem areas in their ministry; share solutions or at least attempted solutions; enjoy each other’s company; gripe, and gripe some more.

This also was an excellent opportunity to surreptitiously case any newcomers to the presbyterate of Detroit … although almost no priests were any longer volunteering to serve in the inner city.

Some thought a natural differentiation existed between suburban ministries and priestly experience in the dying and dangerous city of Detroit proper. Others felt that priesthood was priesthood, that suburbanites had souls, and that Detroit was neither dying nor dangerous.

Even though this party was of, by, and for inner-city priests, by no means was every one of them in attendance. In all, there are about 150 priests assigned to Detroit city parishes. These dinner meetings were movable feasts. It just so happened that tonight’s party was hosted by the Cathedral parish. Tonight only about forty priests had gathered for the light dinner and refreshments at Blessed Sacrament.

Now, as the hour neared 10:00, only ten of the original forty-some priests remained.

Besides these few, there was the service crew—the caterer and two seminarians—who had prepared and served the buffet meal. Now they began removing the leftovers and cleaning up the kitchen.

“This ain’t bad,” Pete, the caterer, said. “I expected a real crowd.”

“‘A real crowd’?” Mark, one of the seminarians, echoed.

“Wait a minute …” Charlie, the other seminarian, said to Pete. “You don’t think the guys who showed up tonight are all the priests we’ve got in Detroit?”

“Well … yeah. We got a lot of food left over,” Pete replied. “And, what the hell: How could you run a church in a big city like this with … what?… less than fifty ministers?”

“Priests,” Mark, who was ever on the lookout for a possible convert, corrected. “You a Catholic?”

“Naw, Greek Orthodox … but I don’t work at it.”

Perfect, thought Mark. All Pete had to do was make a lateral arabesque to become Greek Catholic, or Uniate, and he would be in union with Rome, so to speak.

“Our priests drink too,” Pete said.


“Booze. This is just about the way we’d set up for an Orthodox party. Our company’s handled a few. Surprised me at first; I guess I just took it for granted that priests didn’t drink.” Pete smiled. “Course for a while there, I didn’t think they went to the bathroom either. But” —he indicated the sideboard well stocked with bottles of liquor and mixes—“your guys drink too.”

Mark leaped to the defense. “You didn’t see any of ‘our’ guys get drunk did you?”

“Well … the guy who came in late looked like he had a snootful.”

“Okay, but he sobered up pretty quick, didn’t he? Soon as he got some food in him.”

“I guess.” Pete dumped the bones of some picked-over chicken in the garbage bucket. “Your guys don’t dress up much.”

Mark would have preferred a less adversarial conversation. But he was grateful for any opportunity to pursue a religious theme. “You mean they’re not all in uniform—clericals. Well, remember, Pete: They’re all priests and they all know each other. No need for a uniform.” He sidestepped the fact that in any case clericals were no longer worn anywhere near as often as had been the custom some years back.

“Well, then …” Pete hesitated. “… I guess I can ask …”

“Anything, Pete.” Things were looking good, Mark thought, for a possible eventual conversion.

“Was the bishop here?”

Charlie guffawed. “One of the reasons these guys get together is to roast the bishops. So the bishops aren’t invited. And even if they were, they wouldn’t come.”

Bishops … Pete wondered. “You got more than one?”

Mark leaped at Pete’s interest. “There’s only one main bishop. He’s called the ‘ordinary.’”

“The others are ‘extraordinary.’” Charlie laughed again.

“Don’t pay any attention to him. The others are called ‘auxiliary’—‘helping’—bishops. Detroit’s a big, important territory; so it’s an archdiocese. So the ordinary is an archbishop. Except our archbishop is a Cardinal.” Mark obviously relished the title. “Cardinals elect the Pope!”

“Would you all mind stacking these boxes?” Pete veered from