CLEVELAND, Ohio. Marci Eversharp is known among friends and co-workers for her impressive consumption of two commodities; Diet Cokes and husbands. “I should buy them both by the case,” says the five-time married and divorced accountant who is a partner at GLM LLP, a regional firm where she puts in long hours that have hindered her ability to establish a stable home life. “When you’re done with one, you just grab another.”
Eversharp chalks up the loss of each spouse to experience, but she took the loss of her place in the Catholic Church–which permits Diet Coke but not divorce–more seriously. “My mother went to her grave with a broken heart thinking her little girl in a First Holy Communion dress was banned from Mass,” she says as she dabs away a tear with a lipstick-stained tissue that she re-uses to keep her overhead low. “She would be so happy today.”
The joyful occasion Eversharp is referring to is the recently-announced rescission of the long-standing bar against divorcees and gays receiving the seven sacraments, one of a number of changes announced by Pope Francis I as he moves to liberalize a church which coincidentally traces its origins back to the year 0 B.C., and which often seems more wedded to the past than open to the present.
“Ees a good-a thing, whatta we do for the gays, and the divorcees, and the gay divorcees,” the pontiff said in the comic opera Italian accent all Popes are required to use from the moment they are elected by the College of Cardinals. “But I’m-a notta gonna change-a the rules for smart-aleck boys,” he adds, as his face clouds over with a look of grim determination.
The Pope is referring to a tendency that manifests itself in boys attending Catholic grade schools as they enter adolescence to mock the teachings of the church, which are characterized by over-reticulated doctrines concerning supernatural phenomena that are beyond the power of human reason or natural science to verify. “The Communion of Saints–what the hell is that all about?” says Kevin Mikulski, who attended grades 1 through 7 at Our Lady of Perpetual Airplane Noise grammar school in East Boston, Massachusetts. “Nobody knows what it means, but it’s worth 20 points on every Catechism test.”
In the Middle Ages smart-alecky boys were burned at the stake, but a gradual relaxation of corporal punishment policies at Catholic elementary schools allowed the smart-aleck gene to proliferate as boys reached sexual maturity and procreated, albeit with scars on their knuckles from assaults by frustrated teachers using metal-edged rulers. “With the Baby Boom you saw a demographic tidal wave of smart-aleck boys begin to move through the system,” says sociologist Hernando de Felice of St. Bernard’s College in Joliet, Illinois. “The Church was caught off guard, just as they were by the Protestant Reformation and the advent of the shot clock in college basketball.”
Many smart-aleck boys of the 60s hold out hope that they will one day be accepted back into the Church for occasions other than weddings and funerals, but others say they are resigned to their fate. “Yes I drew a picture of myself as Pope Bates I in my spiral notebook in sixth grade,” says Robert Bates, Jr., a life insurance salesman in Shaker Heights, Ohio. “I don’t mind burning in Purgatory until the end of time, but I think burning in hell forever is a bit harsh.”