One of Dannie Dolan’s perpetual laments these days is the SGG cult’s dismal attendance record. Week after week, Dannie has tried to shame his Gerties into “coming to the show” (especially for Lent) – using all sorts of guilt-tripping and intimidation techniques – all to no avail. So, for this year, Devious Dan has decided to try something new: bribery. And to kick off this Lenten season on that note, Dannie announced a Quinquagesima “Social Sunday” (see Pistrina’s article) complete with free pancakes (“a pancake or two”) and “informal games.” 1
Never mind that Dannie’s “Social Sunday” was nothing more than a a latter-day version of “bread and circuses” -- a peasant-fare starch-a-thon, coupled with “games” probably about as “entertaining” as one of Checkie’s sermons. However, it was, at least, a freebie – as he put it, “a fun raiser, not a fundraiser” -- a pleasant departure from his past use of heavy-handed coercion, and a tacit admission by him that this past policy of coercion has failed miserably.
However, one can “take it to the bank” that there was a “hidden agenda” for that “Social Sunday,” because the whole idea behind the dime’s worth of pancakes and “games” was to sucker these folks into coming to the Lenten Friday-night “marathons” that Dannie puts on. And marathons they are. The entire program includes not only Stations, but a Mass, an assortment of novenas and prayers (including Dannie’s “blessing of the sick” scam, where those who are “sick,” i.e., those with anything from a hangnail to a hiccough, come up to receive “faith-healer Dan’s” “blessing”), a supper (after which strategically-placed “lieutenants” stare down those trying to “sneak out” afterwards without staying for the rest of “the show”). And the show, of course, continues with a “candlelight” sermon by Dannie, some more prayers, and then the final distribution of Communion (purposely held off until last to keep those who want to receive it there ‘til the bitter end.) If one stays for the entire sit-stand-and-kneel-a-thon, it’s a four-hour ordeal – throughout which the wee ones are expected to remain silent and motionless.2
Will Dannie’s new bribery trick work? Will more folks come to “the show”? We think not. Oh yes, the hard-core culties will be there, and perhaps an initial flurry of freshly recruited newcomers (from the "Social Sunday"?) will be there. And Dannie, by the way, will provide free suppers (even more starch-laden than that Social's pancakes) in an effort to make his Friday night show look more like a “bargain.” (His former “potluck dinner” policy never went over that well with the Gerties.) But, in spite of all these measures, the attendance – as Lent wears on -- will probably dwindle, and revert to “pre-bribery” levels.3
And why? Well, first of all, his Gerties will see those “freebie” dinners for what they are: starch-laden “bowel stoppers” that aren’t worth the risk of verstopfung. Besides, a belly-full of starch (free or otherwise) won’t be incentive enough to entice folks into staying for the Friday-night ordeal (nor are they the determining factor). The problem is that “the show” is just too long -- especially for those with small kids, whom Dannie presumptuously (and unrealistically) expects to remain silent and still throughout the entire performance.
Okay, we know what some of Dannie’s aficionados might be saying right now: “You people really don’t believe in sacrificing during Lent – and (so) how dare you criticize ‘His Excellency’ [LOL!] for trying to do the right thing,” etc., etc., etc. Well, we’re saying (or thinking) nothing of the sort. Lent is a penitential season, and it is right and proper to do penance during this time. But, many Gerties are now aware of how much “penance” Dannie did when he was in Mexico the other year (when he stuffed his face with “copious quantities of meat”). So why did “His Excellency” not set an example for his flock, and refrain from such excess? (And why, for that matter, did he not decline the offer of a pleasure boat ride while he was there, as at least some token display of “penance”? Why is it always his Gerties, not he, who must “offer it up”?
Why? Because Dannie has NEVER “set the example,” that’s why – not a good one, at least. His “Mexican Lent” is actually typical of the kind of “self-denial” that Dannie practices. One look at Dannie, and it is obvious that he is not in the habit of “denying” himself – and we’re not just talking food here, either. Dannie, for instance, cannot tolerate any kind of “discomfort.” When his sinuses were bothering him some years back, he couldn’t “just offer it up” like the rest of us. Instead, he had to have his sinuses operated on (an operation, by the way, that didn’t work), after which he underwent a lengthy “recuperation” at The Bishop’s Lodge (an all-inclusive “destination” resort in the desert southwest).4
Another example of Dannie’s “self-denial” was his silver jubilee, which he decided to hold at the most prestigious venue in the area, the Palm Court in downtown Cincinnati’s Netherland Hilton Hotel. (Tony’s was held there too.) The peasants were allowed to come (they had to be!) – but they were served different “beverages” than Dannie and his entourage. Besides, the tab for these affairs (somewhere in the neighborhood of $25,000 each) was, of course, picked up by “the parish.” 5 When it comes to Dannie’s and Tony’s creature comforts, no expense has ever been “too great.”
The fact is, word of all of this is getting around, and the Gerties are starting to “read between the lines.” That is, it’s beginning to dawn on them that Dannie really doesn’t practice what he preaches, and that “mortification and self-denial” are for them, not him.6 Oh sure, he no longer goes to posh restaurants (see footnote 3), that is, he doesn’t admit to going. But that’s because his old “underwriter” (Bernie Brueggemann) is now gone; and it’s also because, again, “word is getting around.” Dannie now knows that he can’t flaunt his extravagance as he used to, because he knows we’re all watching – and reporting. That's why he's now being forced to be more subtle in his (exploitation) approach, and resorting to bribery – a thing he’s never had to consider doing in the past.
The “bottom line”: the sun is setting on Dannie and Tony – and they know it. Dannie’s comment (in his Sexagesima Sunday bulletin) that the Quinquagesima “Social Sunday” was to be “a fun raiser, not a fundraiser” was a Freudian slip on his part: it was not only a tacit admission by Dannie that his “financial exploitation” days are over, but also that his Gerties know this – and that they’re not standing for it anymore. Another reason that the sun is setting on Dannie and Tony is that their older parishioners, brought up in yesteryear’s “Catholic obedience” mindset, are dying off; and the younger set, although using the same “traditional” buzzwords and phrases as their parents, don’t think the same way. More and more, they’re thinking for themselves, as their contemporaries do in today’s modern world. (And, actually, many of those “parents” are adopting that mindset too – especially as they “find out” about Dannie and Tony.)
One recent visitor to SGG commented that Dannie looked “bloated” and “worried.” We don’t doubt it. Dannie’s in trouble. His credibility in Trad World is all but gone, as is Tony’s – especially his reputation as a (LOL) “scholar.” 7 And all their recent desperate attempts to regain their prestige -- SGG’s “Ordo,” it’s calendar, Tony’s hapless videos, etc. -- have all failed miserably. Nobody takes them seriously anymore. Couple this with the fact that more and more Gerties are realizing, at long last, that Dannie and Tony never really practice what they preach (and never will), and this spells “trouble” for SGG.
With Tony’s reputation as a “scholar” in the toilet (and deservedly so), all that the cult-center has going for it now is Dannie’s “charisma” (for what that’s worth). But that charisma is wearing thin with many of his Gerties, especially as Dannie’s credibility continues to tank. Another ongoing problem for Dannie and Tony – and a real “wild card” – is “the school principal”: how long are they going to have to put up with this parasite? (And why, more and more Gerties are wondering, can’t they just “get rid of him”?!)
For the time being, SGG will limp along, because some of Dannie’s Gerties will still fall for his “charisma” and Tony’s “scholarship” – but their numbers are dwindling. The day will inevitably come when the scales will tip to the point where SGG will collapse under the weight of its own moral decay (if its crumbling infrastructure literally doesn’t do so first) – and we look forward to that day.
1Dannie, of course, sent his regrets about coming to the “Social”: “I regret not to be here, but I had already been scheduled for a long delayed Milwaukee visit.” Yeah, we bet you “had already been scheduled,” Dannie. Why is it that you always seem to “miss” such occasions, as you did when you were partaking of “copious quantities of meat” in sunny Mexico while your Gerties were back at the cold cult-center partaking of macaroni and fish sticks? It kind of makes us wonder: when you were in Milwaukee, did you have pancakes there too, or did you have “copious quantities” of something else?
2 And, oh yes, there may be a “Lenten alms offering” collection taken up as well. Yes, in the past, this has been a Friday night “staple”: those conscientious enough to make the sacrifice of packing up all their little ones in the car, braving the (usually) inclement Lenten weather, and coming to the Friday marathon were “rewarded” by being shaken down for a “Lenten alms” donation. Will Dannie continue this “tradition” (in which case, “so much for that “free supper”!), or will he (for once) realize that this is a gross imposition on these folks, and scrap it?
3 And, according to Dannie’s Lent I (March 5, 2017) ’Corner, it looks as though “attendance” is already starting off at “pre-bribery” levels: “Ash Wednesday was sparse, as it was the previous two years, due perhaps to bad weather.” “Bad weather,” Dannie? Do you think, instead, that “bad attitude” might have something to do with it?
4 The Bishop’s Lodge has traditionally been one of Dannie’s “favorites.” And what makes this so inappropriate is that, in addition to being hideously expensive, this place has a wide reputation as a Mecca for hedonists and homosexuals – not a very good example for Dannie to set for his Gerties. Besides this extravagance, Dannie and Tony regularly feasted ((back in “the good old days,” when they were being bankrolled by the Brueggemann family) at local high-end restaurants. (La Petite France, The Grand Finale, and The Iron Horse Inn were their favorites.) Now, they must settle for Taco Bell (which more suits their fancy anyway, because their tastes are actually decidedly plebian -- two sow’s ears pretending to be silk purses.)
5 It was most certainly Bernie Brueggemann (SGG’s chief benefactor at the time) who picked up the tab for both of these events. Bernie, being the generous soul that he was, was regularly taken advantage of by these con men. But it is Bernie who has the eternal advantage now, for his innumerable acts of kindness and generosity have, no doubt, been richly rewarded by our Lord, while Dannie and Tony await a much different “reward” for what they have done.
6 But that’s the way it is with cults: “mortification and self-denial” are for the followers, not their masters. In every classic cult, the leader does (and gets) whatever he wants, living high while his followers, guilt-tripped and intimidated into submission, must “deny” themselves. Does all of this sound familiar?
7 Tony’s “scholarship” has always been nothing more than “ignorance wrapped in arrogance.” In everything that he has ever said or written, he has thoroughly embarrassed himself; and he would have fared much better if he had only kept his mouth shut -- on Schiavo, for instance. But his monumental ego wouldn’t let him do that. A “legend in his own mind,” he just had to “blow his own horn” – and ruined his credibility in the process.