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Biff America: Papal persuasions

Jeffrey Bergeron
Biff America

To my credit, once I was caught lying, I admitted I was lying. I know that isn’t exactly the same as telling the truth, but it’s still pretty good. I might have continued with my fabrication were it not for the danger of eternal damnation.

Any recovering Catholic boy of my generation will tell you that lying is only considered a venial sin — same as swearing, cheating on spelling tests and staring at the underwear hanging on the Casey sister’s cloth line. Though there is a clause that ups the ante to a mortal sin if you maintain, “I swear to God I’m not lying.”

I think the Catholic Church might have relaxed those regulations in order to increase membership, but I’m old school and cling to the mortal sin designation. My mate being raised Methodist has totally taken advantage of my spiritual history. When she thinks I’m withholding the facts, she will ask, “Do you swear to God?”



The temperature outside was about 15 below zero, but it was much warmer in our house. In my ongoing effort to save our planet — and money — I like to set the thermostat to the low 50s at night. Before you get the wrong Idea, I will also cast caution to the wind and bump that up to nearly 60 degrees in the morning.

I’ve been doing this for most of our marriage. Since I usually turn in 5 or 10 minutes after Ellie, she has been unaware of my practice. It is not as if I’m trying to hide anything; I just have never told her. But lately, my mate has displayed an element of distrust, which frankly is not good for our relationship. I’ll be crawling under the covers, and she will say, “It is freezing in here. Did you turn down the heat or something?“ To avoid an argument, I’ll say, ”No, I did not.“ Then she will say, ”Swear to God?“



Now the rational part of my brain knows that I could swear to God and continue my deception that I had in fact turned the heat down to 53 since it is for the good of the planet- and my bank account. But the seed deposited in my Catholic schoolboy’s head 60 years ago has sprouted roots, so when I was asked if I had turned the heat down, I jumped out of bed and turned it up (a few degrees).

I can’t say I am still a practicing Roman Catholic, but I will say I am happy I was raised that way. As a boy growing up, I felt the church gave me a moral barometer that otherwise might have been lacking. And though I no longer attend Mass or make my confession, when I recently had to fill out a form for an overnight stay in a hospital, I checked the box for Catholic when they asked my religion. And that wasn’t only because the clinic was named after a saint, and I thought I might get better meals.

By the same token, I try to keep my finger on the pulse of the varying pontiffs. I was not a big fan of Pope Benedict. He was a little too traditional and conservative for my left-leaning perspective. But Pope Francis seems way more hip and open minded, especially in terms of women’s participation and LBGT issues.

But I have to say, I was taken aback by his recent assertion that married couples, who have pets instead of children, are being selfish and exhibiting a denial of motherhood and fatherhood, adding, “That behavior takes away from humanity.”

Granted I am far from infallible (as some say the pontiffs are), but I think much of the world’s problems could be lessened if humans had fewer children. It would be better for the environment and economy and would make airplane travel way more pleasant.

This is certainly not an issue here in the High Country, as I think the cold climate keeps the birth rate low. Ellie and I decided early on that we would not have children and currently we don’t have a pet.

We do sometimes worry that there will be no one to care for us in our twilight years, but we’ve been tipping the kids the HOA hires to shovel our walkway, so that could be an option.

If you want to have children, go for it. I’m happy to pay taxes to educate them. You don’t need my permission, just as folks don’t need a pope’s permission not to. Through I have no children of my own, I love kids. I swear to God.


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