I predicted this 25 years ago with my “Saintly Father Greg” sketch. Referenced here. Saintly Father Greg was a hip priest who was trying to reverse his parish’s sagging attendance trends by making Catholic rites “more dang fun.” I didn’t get into trouble for the computerized confession joke, which was obviously tame enough that real priests thought, two decades later, that it wasn’t a joke at all! I did get several angry calls and letters about my proposal for a new all-you-can-eat communion buffet, “including both traditional liturgical entrees and now – new Mexican style!”
That was actually based upon a joke I used to tell the family about my Incredibly Rich and Saintly Admiral Uncle Dick, who was “so holy he went back for seconds on communion.”
Incredibly Rich Admiral Uncle Dick was a Navy guy. Sort of. His entire naval career consisted of two weeks in the Philippines. He went to Cornell in a special accelerated ROTC program that was meant to assure a steady supply of young officers during WW2, because Annapolis couldn’t turn them out fast enough. At that time the high command thought the Pacific war would go on forever, which it might have, if not for the atomic bomb. At any rate, Uncle Dick was pushed through Cornell in three years by attending classes non-stop, including summers. A 20-year-old Not Yet Rich Ensign Uncle Dick graduated in June of 1945, took a brief home leave, then got shipped out to Manila just about in time for the war to end. Given that he flew to Manila, I don’t know if he was ever on a boat, but in his mind he was Admiral Fucking Nelson, and a distinguished hero who fought in “the big one.” Of course his brothers ridiculed him, especially my Uncle John, a likable, reckless, down-to-earth guy who had lied about his age to enlist, then volunteered for the most bad-ass combat he could think of – jumping out of airplanes in enemy territory. Since Admiral Uncle Dick couldn’t impress any adults with his tales, especially with Uncle John around, and since he was my godfather and I his only nephew, and since he had no children of his own, I was his designated audience at family gatherings. Needless to say, his stories and photos were the bane of my existence.
Uncle John, who was a real war hero and might actually have had interesting stories, never told any stories at all. He was embarrassed about some of the things he did when he was in the service, although those things actually made him seem like more of a bad-ass to me. For example, my dad told me that Uncle John liked jumping out of planes so much that he actually turned WW2 into an entrepreneurial enterprise, by taking other guys’ jumps for them during the training period, and getting paid handsomely for that by the other guys who really didn’t want to do any crazy shit until they actually had to.
Anyway, that’s not the end of the Uncle Dick story. Those two weeks in Manila were his only active duty, but his nifty free Cornell degree required him to spend many years in the Naval Reserve, which he actually enjoyed. Unmarried and childless, with no girlfriends or hobbies that we knew of, Uncle Dick had only one source of pride – being in the navy. He never got called up for service during the Korean conflict, for reasons not known to me or my dad. By the time Vietnam came along, Saintly Uncle Dick had been promoted several times just from his reserve service, and when he put on his dress uniform he had more ribbons than Patton. Of course, they were things like the “naval reserve meritorious service medal,” which he got for perfect attendance at reserve meetings and summer camp, and the “good conduct medal,” which he got for not asking any embarrassing questions at those meetings. I think he had about 20 of each of those medals. And he also had the “ww2 victory medal,” which he got for his two weeks in Manila.
In 1961 JFK tripled our military presence in Vietnam. In 1962 he tripled it again. At this time, well, Uncle Dick wasn’t actually an admiral, of course, but I think he was a lt. commander, which might actually have put him in a position of moderate responsibility somewhere. He was still in his mid-thirties then, so the navy might well have called him up and assigned him somewhere. Fortunately for America, the U.S. Navy was able to see what was also obvious to our family, that Incredibly Rich and Saintly Admiral Uncle Dick, although quite intelligent, was a total dickhead.