by LarryD

This is a guest post by our friend LarryD of the fine blog “Acts of the Apostasy.” LarryD is one of the few remaining tax payers in metro Detroit; father of two, husband of one, chief of staff for the pet cat; blogging since March 2008; still waiting for that Great American Novel to write itself ; professional penitent; all around good guy even he is a Detroit Red Wings fan.

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Hello sports fans! If there’s one topic in the world of athletics that can turn friendly discussion into heated debate, it’s the BCS. And this year is no exception. As this anything-but-ordinary season winds down in the final week of competition, uncertainty is the only sure thing, and the only common ground is controversy. No matter how the rankings come out, someone is bound to disagree and argue with the results.

It was a season filled with surprises, upsets and thrills unmatched by any other to date. Pundits and observers throughout America have been weighing in since the start. Now, one week before the end of the season, AoftheA weighs in as well.

So let’s talk about the BCS – the Bishop Championship Series.

The pre-season rankings were murky and unsettled. With perennial powerhouse Archbishop Burke moving to the Holy See in 2008, it appeared that the top spot in 2009 was up for grabs. Numerous bishops and cardinals throughout the Ordinary Season vied for the #1 ranking, a season filled with unexpected twists and turns. The Notre Dame scandal. The healthcare debate. Catholic identity. The sudden retirement of Bishop Martino. Abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Gay marriage. CCHD.

The Notre Dame scandal in the Spring immediately knocked out hundreds of episcopal contenders, substantially trimming the field. Throughout the month of April and early May, positions were taken and statements were issued. It was furious and frenzied – with perhaps the most ardent speech being delivered by Bishop Finn of Kansas City (“We Are At War”, delivered at a Gospel of Life Convention) – but by mid-May, the polls had settled. Bishop D’Arcy of South Bend, IN took over top position with his early statements and steely consistency, and he solidified his ranking when, at the last moment, he surprised everyone by attending the prayerful on-campus protest while President Obama gave the commencement address. This kept others, who had joined the campaign condemning Notre Dame’s actions, such as Cardinal DiNardo, Bishop Martino, Cardinal George, Archbishop Chaput and Bishop Nickless and more than 70 others, from moving up in the poll.

Bishop D-Arcy maintained #1 for several weeks, followed closely by Bishop Finn. Some felt that D’Arcy was getting sympathy votes due to his upcoming resignation, while Finn supporters believed that their man deserved to be first. Bishop Martino, who had been top-ranked on the strength of his February announcements he would refuse Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians, slipped to third. There were rumors he threatened to ex-communicate anyone who didn’t vote for him, but those remain unsubstantiated.

Throughout the summer, the issue of nationalized health care took center stage. Numerous bishops entreated upon their faithful to reject any plan that provided tax-payer dollars to fund abortion. Week after week, the rankings shifted slightly, but by and large, the status quo held sway.

Then, in August, a bombshell exploded that threw the rankings for a loop: Bishop Martino unexpectedly resigned from the Diocese of Scranton. This created a void near the top of the rankings, and dioceses throughout America realized that they were handed a great opportunity to move up in the poll.

Here are just a few of the highlights of 2009:

  • Bishop D’Arcy slipped several notches as rumors swirled that the Holy Father was going to accept his resignation, but maintained firm footing in the top ten with a late August letter urging continued pressure upon Notre Dame.
  • Bishop Nickless issued a strong letter in mid-October declaring the “spirit of Vatican II” must be exorcised.
  • Bishop Finn continued his vigorous “wildcat-style” offense, issuing another episcopal strike by publishing a letter concerning healthcare (with Archbishop Naumann) in early September.
  • Bishop Blair made waves when he was selected to spearhead the Apostolic Visitation of the LCWR, giving him a platform to start from for the 2010 Ordinary Season.
  • Archbishop Dolan, assigned to New York City earlier in the season, posted a powerful piece on anti-Catholicism in the media at the archdiocesan blog that practically assured him a first tier finish.
  • Bishop Malone of Portland ME began a steady rise to the Top Ten by battling so-called gay marriage in his state, with the election victory in early November all but guaranteeing a solid finish.
  • Cardinal DiNardo, by being selected to lead the powerful USCCB Pro-Life Office, stands to finish strong for a third straight season.

But as it seems to happen in competitive sports, and even across all walks of life, a contender appears out of nowhere to take everyone by surprise, and come away an unexpected winner. In a stunning late-season development, the bishop from the smallest state made the biggest impact.

Bishop Tobin’s November 12 open letter to Rep. Patrick Kennedy was the shot across the bow, and that rocketed him into the Top Ten. Then, in the early hours of November 22, with just less than one week remaining in the Ordinary Time Season, it was reported that Bishop Tobin has barred Kennedy from receiving communion, instructing his priests to uphold that ban. This display of episcopal authority and intense care for the soul of one his flock has catapulted Bishop Tobin to #1 in the BCS rankings for 2009.

Here’s the 2009 BCS Top Ten:

1. Bishop Tobin, Providence RI
2. Bishop Finn, Kansas City
3. Cardinal DiNardo, Galveston/Houston
4. Archbishop Chaput, Denver
5. Bishop Nickless, Sioux Falls
6. Bishop Malone, Portland
7. Bishop D’Arcy, Fort Wayne/South Bend
8. Cardinal George, Chicago
9. Archbishop Dolan, New York
10. Archbishop Nienstedt, St. Paul/Minneapolis

Undoubtedly there will be disagreements over this year’s BCS Rankings; no one ever said it was a perfect system. Let’s just hope it doesn’t get brought up before a US Senate subcommittee…