Carlos’s phone rang early on a Sunday. “Hello?”

“Hi, Carlos? This is Msgr. Farrell calling from the bishop’s office with some exciting news. His excellency has decided to elevate you to the clerical state.”

“I’m sorry?”

“You’re being elevated. It’s like a promotion. A reward for good behavior.” There was a pause. Carlos heard Msgr. Farrell sigh. “Frankly, the church is in a bit of a fix. You’ve probably heard about it—”

“Sure, I—”

Elevated to the clerical state! Carlos had to admit he liked the sound of it.

“Officially, the media is against us and no one really cares about the truth, and what about Hollywood, if we’re casting stones? But entre nous, the truth…isn’t great. Since that report came out about the diocese, we’ve had to reduce more priests to the lay state than we have new ones coming in. So we’re looking for alternate solutions.”

“I see. But why are you calling me?”

“We’ve looked into your background, Carlos, and you seem like the kind of guy we need. Your HR department says you’re a good public speaker and a real team player. You raised a lot of money for that cancer-related charity. And you have a knack for breaking bad news gently. Also, you’re fluent in Spanish, is that right?”

“Uh, I’m a bit rusty,” Carlos said.

“Fine, perfect. Do you have a wife or girlfriend?”

“Well, no, actually, I—”

“Hey, enough, stop! Yes-or-no question. No details. And…religion, let’s see, your pastor says you attend Mass regularly, but—and these are his words—you ‘aren’t weird about it.’”

“Well, thanks, I guess. And no criminal record, right! Ha ha.”

“Oh, great, great; we didn’t think to check on that.” Carlos could hear Msgr. Farrell rustling papers. “I’ll just make a note: ‘No…crimes.’”

Carlos was still feeling baffled. “You know I’m not ordained, right?”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Msgr. Farrell said. “The next step is for you to come in to the chancery for a cassock fitting and some basic training. You know where the chancery is?”

“Sure, right downtown next to—”

“Perfect.” Carlos heard the papers rustle again. “‘Has…heard…of…chancery.’ You are really nailing this, Carlos. I can’t wait to get you in front of the bishop.”

“Well, I do have some ideas about how he—um, His Excellency—could be addressing this whole crisis thing, if—”

“Ah, yes, I’m sure you do.” Msgr. Farrell cleared his throat. “Check your email—we’re sending you a copy of our latest manual for clergy. It’s the attachment called ‘And They Said Nothing to Anyone’: Servant Leadership in the Twenty-First Century. Look that over and then come on in—how’s tomorrow at 11?”

Carlos glanced at his calendar. “I guess I could take an early lunch, if…”

“Oh, don’t worry about your job. Those are for lay people! We can send a note on the bishop’s stationery to let them know you’ve moved on.”

Elevated to the clerical state! Carlos had to admit he liked the sound of it. “OK, I’ll be there at 11. But hey—if you’re looking for Catholics with leadership potential and solid character and no criminal record and all that stuff, you should talk to my boss.”

“Great, what’s his name?”

“It’s a woman. She’s—”

The line went dead. Carlos stood for a moment staring at his phone. “Wow,” he thought to himself. “That really was the bishop’s office!”

Published in the April 12, 2019 issue: View Contents

Mollie Wilson O’​Reilly is editor-at-large and columnist at Commonweal.

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