This is the second chapter in a sci-fi Catholic series I am doing. At this link you can read the first chapter. Hope you enjoy it.
Fr. Noah entered feebly into the pod with Fr. Stricktor, and the vehicle pulled from the curb into the traffic racing past them.
Noah searched Fr. Stricktor’s thin, pale face for some indication of what the bishop meant by this abrupt interruption, but the priest’s demeanor was as placid as a windless lake. Fr. Sticktor looked down expressionless at the other passing pods beneath them as they crossed over a bridge.
“Did he tell you why I needed to come?” Noah asked.
Stricktor continued looking out and absentmindedly spoke without turning in the slightest.
“It seems strange, doesn’t it? To cut Mass like that? Almost sacrilegious.”
Fr. Stricktor finally looked at Noah. His face was slightly contorted over this conversation being forced on him.
“He didn’t tell me. You must have done something horrible, though. I’d say you were in for a suspension.”
He spoke these words like a man sharing the news of a sports team he wasn’t even mildly interested in.
Fr. Noah slightly slumped in his seat. To hear someone else say what he felt was coming suddenly made it feel real.
The pod pulled up to the small home of Bishop Frater, Fr. Noah’s boss. The two men got out and entered the front door.
The Bishop saw them from his office and motioned for them to come in.
“Thank you Fr. Stricktor! I appreciate you picking up our good priest.”
Stricktor walked out without speaking and closed the door behind him.
“Take a seat!” Frater said, motioning with his hands. “Please!”
Bishop Frater was a big, jolly man. He was at least 6 ft 4 in., but he didn’t seem so tall with the round belly that fell over his belt.
Frater and Noah had known each other as far back as Noah’s seminary days. Frater had been his Systematic Theology teacher, and when he became bishop, he remembered Noah with fondness and specifically requested that he come into his jurisdiction.
“Beer? Wine?” Frater asked.
“Uh, beer? I guess?”
Frater pulled out a bottle from the fridge, opened it and passed it to Noah.
“Can I ask why I am here?”
Frater grabbed a bottle for himself and sat at his desk.
“How is your brother?” he said.
Noah sat up a bit in his chair.
“He’s all right I haven’t seen him in a few months. Been busy with the parish.”
Frater looked sadly at Noah. “You should see him more often.”
“Bishop Frater, I am sorry to be so forward, but you pulled me out in the middle of Mass. Can I just know what the problem is?”
Frater took a deep breath and looked at his bottle. Then he looked straight into Noah’s eyes.
“Your homilies have been getting rather… edgy. I have told you repeatedly that there is a protocol we must follow, from the Vatican itself, about what we say and how we say it.”
“Was I off on some point of theology?”
“No… not technically…”
Noah spoke more quickly. “I know that what I say doesn’t suit everyone, but I have never spoken anything against the teaching of the Magisterium or any governing body or person.”
“I know I know I know.” The bishop spoke as though he was pleading with Noah. “But you know how it is! This isn’t the church of our grandparents. We have to reach people in different ways.”
“Of course, I’ve never denied that.”
“And yet you do! How many times have I told you? Run your sermons through the Algorithm. Follow the Algorithm. It’s not that difficult.”
“I tried. I really tried. Every time I do it spits out this insipid garbage about hope and peace and puppies and flowers. I mean, geez, what are we here for if that’s all we’re supposed to say?”
“That is what is keeping people in the pews, Noah.” Frater sat up straight and raised his right finger as he spoke. “In the prudential judgment of Mother Church, while not denying the truth of Tradition, we must do the task of our times.”
Noah laid his chin in his hand and looked wearily at Frater. “I never, in a million years, thought my crazy Theology teacher would be repeating that slogan.”
“Please, Owen, just do what the leadership is asking you to do. Fulfill your vow of obedience.”
“I am being stripped of all the reasons I became a priest!”
The bishop softened. He looked heartbroken at Fr. Noah.
“I know…. I know….” the Bishop said.
Frater got up and walked around his desk to Noah. He put his large hand on his shoulder.
“You were meant to be a priest, but not for this time.”
Frater looked on his brother priest like a father does his son. His heart was heavy for him.
“Noah, I am relieving you of your duties. You will be honorably laicized.”
Noah looked up at Bishop Frater, eyes wide and horrified.
“What? What are you doing?”
“The pope gave me permission to make the decision as I saw fit, and I believe this is what is best for you.”
“But we have no priests! I’m young! I’m not walking away from this!”
“Again, again, I know. But Noah, if you stay in your vocation, the way it is now, you will accomplish nothing you became a priest to accomplish.”
Noah was breathless. “Look, I’ll run my words through the Algorithm. I get it. I need to change.”
“No, you don’t. That’s the problem. It’s not you that needs to change…..”
Bishop Frater walked back around to his desk and sat down again. He muttered to himself. “Maybe I just don’t want you to change….”
He leaned on his desk.
“You have always been my favorite. I hope you come back often for a beer.”
Noah had the feeling of a man just knocked to the ground. He pulled himself out of the chair and shook the Bishop’s hand. He walked out of the office, out of the building, and out into the wide, wide world.
©2021 Catholic Anonymous