In SGG’s May 17 Bishop’s Corner, Dannie Dolan lamented the poor attendance for the High Mass on Mother’s Day: “Mother’s Day was interesting this year. I think I was a little disappointed as I was looking forward to a big attendance, mothers telling their grown up and away children that all they wanted was for them to come to Mass that day, as they used to do. But this has probably passed away with the corsage. High Mass attendance was thin.” You see, for Dannie, “it’s all about “the show” – and Mother’s Day, with its May Crowning, its procession, and its over-the-top polyphonic High Mass, is always one of Dannie’s more spectacular “shows.” (The procession is almost right up there with the one for Palm Sunday, except that it doesn’t sport a donkey – at least, not a four-legged one.)
For parishioners to have passed over this two-hour extravaganza for a Low Mass is, to Dannie, downright inexplicable – and almost sinful. You see, for Dannie, “the show” is the only thing that counts. Actually, to paraphrase the late Vince Lombardi, one might say that, for Dannie, “the show” isn’t everything; it’s the only thing. “Dolly Dressup Dannie” doesn’t seem to realize that, in God’s eyes, a Low Mass is just as efficacious as a Pontifical High Mass -- that, for God, they are one and the same. God does not care how many “bells and whistles” a Mass has. (The first Mass – The Last Supper – certainly didn’t have any.)
Dannie also doesn’t seem to comprehend that there is more to Catholicism than “spectacle” – Catholic morality, for instance. It is amazing that Dannie can place so much importance on “the show’ (such as, his “triple play” Requiem Mass for a woman who, ironically, was not only “Novus Ordo,” but who actually loathed Dannie), yet to show utterly no concern for a dying Terri Schiavo. Speaking of “the show,” just last week Dannie was “waxing poetic” about an arcane “Praegustatio” rubric, and proudly proclaiming that SGG was “the last place in Christendom to observe this rubric, otherwise fallen into obsolescence.” (The rubric has to do with the Mass celebrant having one of his MC’s consume a host before the rest are consecrated – “as a precaution against anyone poisoning the prelate.”)
This is just another typical example of Dannie’s “false traditionalism”: he pays attention to superfluous rituals like that (to give the culties the impression that he’s an “expert” of rubrics and that he’s “guarding cherished Catholic traditions”), when in fact he’s resurrecting meaningless superficialities from the past that have long since lost their relevance (and which the Church has long since wisely discarded – and which, in this case, had no religious relevance to begin with). In this way, he figures that, if he can demonstrate to the culties that he’s “preserving” rituals like “Praegustatio,” he’s taking care of everything else “Catholic.”
Actually, this will eventually backfire on Dannie, as people come to realize that, while he cares about obscure and irrelevant minutiae like this, he (and Tony) never cared one jot for things that matter -- a dying Terri Schiavo, for instance. Keeping this arcane rubric “alive” is really “important” for Dannie; yet keeping Terri Schiavo alive wasn’t. According to Dannie and Tony, her death was “justified”: it was okay for her to be starved and dehydrated to death -- not to have even a few drops of water for her parched, cracked, and bleeding lips. Nor did it matter to them that she was oozing blood from sunken, dried out eye sockets. This was “okay.” It was “justified.” Terri’s life -- and her final death agony -- were not “priorities” for them.
According to Dannie, it was also “okay” for the principal’s sons to watch porn and animal torture videos on the school computer (we wonder if Caravaggio played a “cameo role” in one of them) -- or for one of those sons to impregnate a fellow student. According to Dannie, these were just cases of “boys will be boys.” And according to Tony, the reporting of the myriad abuses witnessed by dozens of SGG’s parishioners back in 2009 was just so much malevolent fiction. (In his words, all of what these people said amounted to “a few complaints about our little parish school [that] suddenly became a world-wide campaign of lies and calumny.” According to Dannie and Tony, then, all of these dozens of people (all of whom, thankfully, have since left SGG), are liars and calumniators. So much for Dannie and Tony’s “morality”!
Dannie and Tony just pretend that none of those abuses ever happened, and they just go on with their “show” – often two-hour-or-more “bore-a-thons” that Gerties with crying babies are expected to sit through and “enjoy” – and God help the poor wretches whose babies are “disruptive” during the “performance”: their only option is to take the misbehaving toddlers out to the “crying room,” i.e., the vestibule, which is freezing cold during the winter and broiling hot in summer. For this, they are expected to be “tickled pink” to endure this ordeal – er -- “show” that Dannie and/or Tony put on.
Well, perhaps the Gerties are tiring of “the show.” Perhaps watching twelve middle-aged men getting their feet washed on Maundy Thursday is NOT “an edifying spectacle” for the children, nor is watching a donkey trudging along in a Palm Sunday procession (especially if you’re downwind of the beast). These “spectacles” are, for those who have seen them umpteen times before -- and especially for those poor little tykes whose parents dragged them to church for the “foot washing” snore-a-thon -- an exercise in tedium. We’re surprised that Dannie hasn’t come up with some “new material” to “update his act.”
But the truth is, people are catching on to his act -- and coming to realize that things like donkeys in Palm Sunday processions are just so much tinsel (and, for that matter, weren’t really done back in “the good old days”).* The young, especially, see Dannie’s show as pretentious. They’re not really impressed by his Barnumesque ostentation – especially after they’ve witnessed his “double-standard” hypocrisy (such as, having a boy beaten with a wooden paddle for missing his homework, while doing nothing about the principal’s sons' "porn escapades").
And the other parishioners? Already worked to the nubs, they’re sick and tired of being “guilt-tripped” by Dannie for “not doing enough” (see “Guilt-Tripping” Won’t Work Anymore, Dannie). They’re tired of being asked them to “sacrifice” and pay SGG’s “high heating bills” while Dannie vacations down in Mexico (or to “donate” so that Tony can buy himself a new organ). They’re also probably getting tired of seeing the lion’s share of their donations going to support a school that is little more than a subsidized tutoring service for its “principal's” children. And they’re getting tired of Dannie’s pretentious “show” – because they see that it’s just a façade, behind which there is no real Catholicism at all (especially, as noted before, Catholic morality). They’re seeing it for what it is: a caricature of Catholicism – a sham.
So, again, Dannie’s boastful braying about “praegustatio” will only backfire on him – and reinforce the growing feeling that he’s not about fundamentals, but about superficialities – about “the show.” And as attendance at “the show” (along with revenue) continues to dwindle, Dannie will have to get more and more desperate, and resort to even more draconian measures to stem the tide of the exodus, which means that he’ll try to put the squeeze on the Gerties even more -- which, in turn, will only irk them more. That, coupled with his well-known “uneasy relationship” with the “principal,” ought to make for an “interesting” situation as time wears on. As things get more “unsettling,” we shall see that situation “maturing” -- and the curtain coming down on Dannie’s “show.”
* People are also getting tired of being in his act. The choir, for instance: all of its male members have quit (including one who is a really dyed-in-the-wool “cultie”). It now contains only women, and is “directed” by the principal’s wife. According to one informant, the choir lately sounds a bit off-key, and has gone “downhill” under her tutelage. (Perhaps that’s why Dannie felt compelled to make his Mother’s Day comment in defense of it: “Oh, and the choir was absolutely at its best.”) Perhaps, too, she is the reason why those men quit.