SACRAMENTO, CABishop Robert K. Boland of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento announced Monday that, although he remains a devoted servant of God and the Catholic Church, he has become tired of the same old church scene.
"This diocese is okay, I guess," Boland told reporters gathered on the front steps of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. "It's just getting a little... tedious. I've got more than 100 parishes in my diocese, but at the end of the day, they're all pretty much the same."
"Don't get me wrongI still care about everyone's eternal soul," Boland added. "I care deeply, but I must admit that the congregations have sorta become one big blur of blue-haired old ladies. Lately, when I get the question about whether so-and-so's cats are waiting for her in heaven, I just fall back on a stock answer."
Appointed his bishopric by Pope John Paul II in 2000, Boland said he's weary of both the parishioners and "the entire sacraments thing."
"When you're a bishop, you church-hop constantly, performing the Eucharist throughout the diocese," said Boland, whose diocese covers 20 counties in northern California. "Like, I love to worship God in the joyous celebration of the Mass and sacraments, but the whole thing never really changes. At some point, I went from 'I can't believe I get to do this' to 'I'm going to be doing this for the rest of my life.'"
Continued Boland: "Once in a while, there's an exciting shake-up in the diocese, like an excommunication or a priest who misuses fundsbut hardly ever."
Boland said he used to bolster his interest in the Church by getting involved with the neediest parishes, but that ultimately backfired.
"I was spending a lot of time at St. Joseph's over in Sutter Creek, because they have a big problem with the youth using crystal meth," Boland said. "But if I spend too much time at one church, the priests at the others accuse me of playing favorites. Next thing I know, [San Francisco] Archbishop [William J.] Levada is on my behind, asking why I haven't been to the St. Monica Parish for six months."
Continued Boland: "St. Joseph's isn't even all that great, but I will say that their Friday fish fry beats the tar out of the usual potluck spread."
Boland said he hasn't always been disengaged.
"At first, I was thrilled to be living out the dream I'd had since the seminary," Boland said. "I had boundless energy. Every pancake breakfast was a new adventure. Now, I can barely choke down those greasy sawdust links the ladies in the Parish Council of Catholic Women call sausages."
Added Boland: "God, I'm in such a horrible rut."
According to Boland, even the magnificent, 1,400-seat Cathedral of The Blessed Sacrament has lost its luster.
"Yeah, it's a beautiful church," Boland said. "Those ceilings are absolutely amazing. You can't believe how far your voice carries without a microphone. But, even so, Sunday morning has become business as usual. It's like, 'Oh boy, let's watch Mr. Harrison nod off during the homily for the 200th time.'"
Boland's request to be transferred to a different diocese was not granted.
"Sure, I mentioned it once, but it never happened," Boland said. "In my request, I may have been a little hazy. I said that I was sick of the same old sacristies. I said that maybe I should help the poor in New Mexico or South Africa or someplace. In truth, the thought of starting over is pretty daunting. I was almost relieved when they never responded."
"What I need to do is climb my way up to cardinal," Boland added. "That'd be my ticket out of this one-horse diocese."
Boland said there's little chance he'll be promoted anytime soon.
"Archbishop Levada isn't going anywhere," Boland said. "He's here until he dies, and he's not much older than me. It's too depressing to think about right now."
Boland said he hopes current events will serve to shake things up a bit.
"I'm grateful for this recent controversy over gay marriage," Boland said. "It allows me to dabble in politics a little. I'm firmly in support of President Bush's constitutional amendment to ban same-gender unions, so I've been trying to stir up some healthy debate on the subject. Anything to do something new in this diocese."
Cardinal Roger Mahony said he was not surprised by Boland's attitude.
"Bishop Boland is going through a temporary period of dissatisfaction, similar to those experienced by many of his colleagues," Mahony said. "As a cardinal, I'm forced to listen to that same complaint again and again. It's getting really old. If he's so unhappy, he's more than welcome to quit the Church and go work at a Taco Bell."