Catholicism Is Y2K-Compliant

December 1999

Y2K. The Year 2000. Will computers crash and high-tech systems go bonk? The experts are saying no, and let’s hope they’re right. (The NOR’s computers are Y2K-compliant.) Our technological civilization got into this mess by skimping on what we put into our computers: To input a date, we used just the last two digits of the year. This seemed like a real time-saver back in ’60 or so — oops, 1960 — but now it’s a problem, because when the next cycle of 100 years starts, how will the computers know what year it is? Does the “00” that comes after “99” mean 2000 — or does it mean 1900 or 1400 or 800 or…? Whirrrr — bonk! The moral seems to be: Don’t skimp on essential input.

There’s another Y2K problem that’s even more worrisome, and it also comes from failing to input essential information. We’ve all heard about those man-on-the-street surveys in which the respondents are flummoxed by Y2K: They don’t know what happened 2,000 years ago that got us numbering years the way we do. Two millennia since what exactly? John Doe doesn’t know. But is it his fault? It seems that he’s as little to blame for his lack of knowledge as the computers are for theirs. Evidently whoever was in charge decided to skimp on John’s input — maybe even, as with the computers, to skimp systematically.

The experts have been laboring to re-educate computers to make them Y2K-compliant so as to avert the short-term crisis of our civilization’s machinery. That’s good. But what about the long-term crisis for our civilization’s men? Who can re-educate John Doe and cure the noncompliance of his mind and — dare we say it — his soul? The Catholic Church can. The Church is uniquely Y2K-compliant. In fact, she invented this whole millennia business. And she came up with B.C. and A.D. to replace the Romans’ worn-out A.U.C. (ab urbe condita). She can tell John Doe all about the Event that divided history and why it’s crucial. (A hint for you, John: A baby was born in Bethlehem — and He remains Really Present in the Church to this day.) There are other fascinating facts to be learned. Hey, John, did you know that the only reason you can plan a New Year’s party on January 1 is because of a pope? For several centuries New Year’s Day was on March 25. But Pope Gregory XIII changed it to January 1. He also fixed the Romans’ old calendar because it was off by about 10 days. Thanks to him, we’re all on the same page now.


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New Oxford Notes: December 1999

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