Friday, January 20, 2006

(Episcopal) Steelers Nation Hits the Big Time

The superlative Ann Rodgers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette covers the bishops' Steeler loyalties on native territory, including the airing of some saucy speculation involving the team's Sunday rivals, the Denver Broncos:

Not only is Steelers camp held at St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, the team has a cult following in the hierarchy. The bishops of Green Bay, Detroit and Providence, R.I., a Patriots' stronghold, are among the known fans. It is even rumored that Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, who spent years in Butler County and Lawrenceville, may harbor quiet affection for the Steelers.

He has attended some Broncos games -- including both Super Bowl victories. And the ties between Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and the Catholic Church rival those of the Rooney family, which owns the Steelers. The Broncos' charity has raised $1 million for the Capuchin order's ministry to the poor in Denver, and the archbishop is a Capuchin.

Which is why he is suspected of Steelers sympathies. The archbishop was traveling and could not be reached. But other friars said it was difficult for any Capuchin not to have been a Steelers fan, since their former seminary was in Butler County.

"A lot of us probably won't acknowledge it publicly, but we were Steelers fans when we went there," said the Rev. John Lager, executive director of a Denver homeless shelter and beneficiary of Bronco largesse.

That'll get the Denver fans spinning....

And what would a Steelerbishop story be without the now-famously unabashed Bishop Tobin?

No prelate has displayed his Steelers colors as vividly as Bishop Thomas Tobin. He remained a die-hard fan through nine years in Youngstown, Ohio, and has become notorious for his Steelers faith in Providence, R.I.

Not only does he have a veritable shrine to the Steelers in his office, but "I have my Steelers banner hanging from my front porch on a main road on Rhode Island where everyone can see it," Bishop Tobin said.

It has been up since the season started, except for the day when irate Patriot fans covered it with a Patriot banner and left an 8-foot inflatable Patriot on his porch.

"That lasted until I got home. It came down very quickly," Bishop Tobin said.

He doesn't think it's a sin to pray for the team -- and admits begging God to let Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt miss.

You'll have to forgive me -- I can barely keep myself from falling out of my chair, laughing.... We need more of this east of the Susquehanna.