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February 3, 2020


Written by  Peter Kwasniewski, PhD
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VATICAN CITY, FEBRUARY 3, 2020 — A commission of cardinals, bishops, clergy, and laity has been appointed by the Congregation for Clergy to study evidence that orangutans once exercised diaconal functions in the ancient church. Responding to objections, Archbishop Aldo Huxley of Borneo defended the inevitability of the commission’s work. “Even if the evidence is almost non-existent and hinges on questionable archaeological theories, that’s no reason for skepticism. Look at Darwinian evolution, or the liturgical reform, both of which are accepted now by everyone.”

When pressed for what the evidence amounts to, Huxley noted: “There are all sorts of ancient records that refer to ‘primates’ in the Church, and with the help of German scholars (like the eminent Josef Altmann, S.J.), we have been able to make provisional reconstructions of what might have been their role.”

Fr. Vincenzo Lambasti, secretary of the commission, was willing to go further. “It’s not just about getting the historical record straight, as important as that may be. We are at least 200 years behind the times in recognizing the contributions all primates can bring to the liturgy. We’ve been so anthropocentric that we’ve forgotten our brothers and sisters in the wild. As Laudato Si'  encourages us to do, we have to expand our imaginations, stretch our horizons, to ask what the Creator Spirit would want to see in Her Church today. We know that ecological awareness, and overcoming the European legacy of speciesism, is one of our key priorities.”

Asked what forms orangutan involvement might take, Fr. Lambasti replied: “It’s a fact that we are facing a serious shortage of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. In some churches, there are as few as six of them at each Mass, even if several dozen Catholics are going to communion! Wikipedia assures us that ‘orangutans are among the most intelligent primates; they use a variety of sophisticated tools and construct elaborate sleeping nests each night from branches and foliage.’ EMHCs only need to be able to pick up cups, wipe and rotate them, and clean them. No doubt these talented cousins of men could do the same.”

Some critics, however, fear disturbance and discomfort in the people in the pews. Annie Freckle-Jablinski, a parishioner at Holy Mayhem Catholic Community, said: “Look, I’m not a close-minded kind of person. I was the first woman at this parish to exercise every possible lay ministry (and I’m waiting for the others to open up under this wonderful Pope). But I draw the line when it comes to hairy animals that walk on all fours and make threatening noises. Inclusiveness has to stop somewhere, doesn’t it?”


But Fr. Lambasti disagrees. “Orangutans could be smoothly integrated into the renewed liturgy, which, in keeping with the intentions of the Council, is already celebrated in most places like a three-ring circus. And as a fringe benefit, it could offer further occasions for applause, which, as we know, is one of the crucial forms of active participation. This is a rare opportunity to introduce another one of those novelties and entertainments that have guaranteed the success of the liturgical reform everywhere!”

A separate subcommission will be investigating whether orangutans, even if admitted to certain liturgical roles, will be able to preach homilies. Prompted with that idea, Ms. Freckle-Jablinski smiled and said: “To be honest, I’m not sure if the level of preaching would change all that much. It might bring some new stories and funnier jokes. If life’s a jungle, who better to tell us about it?”

Read 1226 times Last modified on February 5, 2020