Tuesday, January 17, 2006

(Episcopal) Steelers Nation

OK, people, time to write about something important -- football season's winding down....

(Three... two... one... That sound you just heard was the Camauro Club tuning out....)

With the Pats' loss the other night, the coast is clear and Bishop Tobin can put his now-famous Steelers banners out again with impunity. The Providence faithful would probably appreciate it; like they'd want the giant-killers to head to the Super Bowl.

(We interrupt our normal programming for an offer of assistance: If Bridget Moynihan is still in need of consolation following Saturday's game, just come down to Loggia House, darlin'.... Door's open anytime for ya.)

The Pittsburgh Steelers -- who face the Denver Broncos in Sunday night's AFC Championship game (for our non-American friends, the winner goes to the Super Bowl) -- have quite the cult following among the Pittsburghers of varying degrees who now occupy the diocesan thrones of America.

Most of the current episcopate were seminarians in the 1970s halcyon days of Terry Bradshaw and Lynn Swann (the latter now running for governor of Pennsylvania as a Republican), when the Yellow-and-Black won four Super Bowls.

Like its neighbor to the east, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh is a football city. Unlike its neighbor to the east, liturgy is not the Pittsburgh clergy's favorite sport.

Given that, the Steelers' normally-clandestine (by necessity) episcopal faithful will be coming out of the woodwork in advance of Sunday's game. It's caused some conflict through the years, as a bishop is usually expected to "adopt" the teams his new diocese favors and leave his home side behind.

As an aside, John Cardinal Krol did this. When the Eagles made their first Super Bowl appearance in 1980, the Cleveland-born Third Pharaoh took the team's chartered plane to New Orleans with the team and his good friend, Birds' owner Len Tose, and sat in Tose's box at the Superdome to watch the Iggles lose to the Oakland Raiders.

As it's long been a civic tenet among Philadelphians, even non-Catholics, that God speaks through the Pharaoh, the Jewish Tose (who, months earlier, had paid for the construction of the papal altar at Logan Square when John Paul came to visit his countryman... and everyone else in Philly, too) started asking Krol what happened to his prayers for an Eagles' victory.

Krol, presumably well-familiar by this point with the provided refreshments, as he was wont to do, replied, "Leonard, God always answers our prayers.... It's just that sometimes, the answer is 'NO.'"

As for Steelers Nation, Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit -- the inheritor of Krol's mantle as head of US Catholicism's Polish contingent -- hasn't been in Pittsburgh in 20 years, but he still holds onto his season tickets at Heinz Field; his nephews use them most of the time. Bishop David Zubik of Green Bay, I'm told, also keeps his seats. (If anyone ever gives up season tickets, they'll be dead before the chance comes around to get a hold of 'em.)

And, of course, there's Tobin -- whose previous assignment before being sent to Providence as John Paul lay on his deathbed was heading the Ohio diocese of Youngstown, which happens to fall in Browns' country, where the Steelers' arch-rivals reign..... This change of scenery is probably what we can chalk the presence of the banners up to; the man did six years of penance and now he's (relatively) free.

Other clerics who went through the various seminaries in the Burgh -- St. Vincent's in Latrobe, Ss. Cyril and Methodius in Pittsburgh, and the now-defunct St. Fidelis where the Capuchins studied -- have traditionally become adjunct Steeler fans....

At least the Bronco-bishops cheering section adds another face (for a grand total of three, maybe?) with Walker Nickless' Friday ordination.... But as all of Denver will be in Sioux City for Walker's crowning, they'll have to scurry home to catch the game.