Recently, there was muted celebration on the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. It was celebrated with a low key event in mid-July with several surviving astronauts who went to the moon and Vice President Mike Pence. Underlying the event was the odd notion that in a sense we were more advanced in space travel half a century ago than we are now. Fifty years ago, we figured by now we would have established communities on the moon and Mars, and back on Earth, we would have flying cars.
None of that has happened. Technology advanced through electronic communications and devices. We got the internet, Google, Amazon and iPhones. But no vacations on the moon.
One oddity from fifty years ago related to the moon shot that didn’t receive any notable attention on the recent anniversary involves the Catholic Church. Like other Christian missionaries, the Catholics have always looked for ways to expand their influence into distant primitive cultures. But the Catholic hierarchy took one giant step for Catholicism when in 1969 William Borders, the bishop of Orlando, Florida – the diocese that encompasses Cape Canaveral where the moon flights were launched—claimed that an archaic canon law still on the books designated him as the bishop of the moon.
Bishop Borders told Pope Paul VI that the then active 1917 Code of Canon Law placed newly explored territory under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the port of departure, hence making the Diocese of Orlando responsible for the moon following the flight of Apollo 11. That designation expanded the diocese’s total area to 14,657,051 square miles, making it the largest Catholic diocese in existence.
This designation wasn’t widely publicized as far as we know. Trish and I both grew up as Catholics and never knew that there was a bishop of the moon. But then by 1969, we were no longer among the faithful.
This story might sound like something tongue in cheek in the vein of articles in the Onion. But it’s actually true. However, the current bishop of Orlando, John Noonan, apparently wants nothing to do with the moon, probably because in fifty years since landing on the harsh landscape the population of potential Catholics remains the same. Zero.
Unless, of course, there’s aliens on the moon and that’s why we stopped short on our lunar adventure. But that’s another story.