Saturday night, 2:30 a.m. — not usually a time of the week one associates with the overly pious. But this weekend’s Saturday night was more than just Saturday night for devout Catholics around the world — it was Sunday morning.
Though many Catholics, devout or not, attend mass on Easter Sunday, only the most faithful show up at midnight for the Easter Vigil Mass. It is arguably the most important and holiest mass on the most important and holiest day of the Catholic liturgical year. It’s also one of the longest masses of the year as well, as it is when adults who are converting to Catholicism receive the Sacraments of Initiation and become full members of the Catholic Church.
But one such mass caused controversy this past weekend in a small community a few hours south of Rochester.
It had been over two hours since the start of Mass in the town of Susquanandaiguaquoit , and though the congregants were tired, it was well worth the beautiful mass they had just celebrated, especially the initiation of a new member to their flock — Sue, a born-again Protestant who decided to undo her rebirth in favor of the Catholic community that had been helping her family since her house burned down two years ago.
Several members of the church community started the mass skeptical — their normal pastor, Father Lee, was visiting family for the holiday, so this most important of masses would be presided over by another priest from a few towns over. While no one had any particular qualms with this Father Ashton, they were still uneasy with the idea of a stranger conducting their Easter Vigil Mass.
However, throughout the mass, Father Ashton impressed the congregation. He was well-spoken, with a kind smile, and not a bad singer to boot. (There are a few parts of Mass that the priest has to sing, and let’s just say that those were not Father Lee’s strong suit.)
In particular, they were impressed by his homily — inspirational and uplifting, he spoke about the selflessness of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and the miracle of the Resurrection and the promise of everlasting life. Though these are common themes in Easter homilies, the eloquence and passion of Father Ashton’s words provoked profound reverence in even the most seasoned churchgoers.
By the time the majestic pipe organ belted out the first jubilant chords of the closing hymn, the congregation’s fears about Father Ashton had vanished. Some, in fact, were already commenting that he might be better than Father Lee.
Then the camera crew came out.
“Cut the music, cut the music!” yelled “Father” Ashton, who, as he took off his robes and peeled of a fake mustache, turned out to be Ashton Kutcher.
“April Fool’s!” he yelled, as teens with iPhone cameras swarmed around the church, capturing the confused looks of the congregation. “There’s no God and the only thing awaiting you after death is the everlasting void!”
As the churchgoers looked around in confusion and the teens documented it, Kutcher delivered his signature line. “You just got Punc’d!”
“Punc’d,” apparently, is a Tumblr page maintained by Mr. Kutcher and a handful of dedicated fans of the long-cancelled MTV prank show “Punk’d,” which Mr. Kutcher hosted. For their April Fool’s special, they decided to project their nihilistic fear of death onto a wholesome community of faith.
Realizing what was going on, angry congregants quickly surrounded Kutcher. One of them wrestled him to the ground, and the local sheriff, a member of the parish, arrested him for fraud and impersonation of a clergyman.
As he was being taken away, Kutcher yelled, “Arrest me if you want, but Sue will still have to wait until next year’s Easter Vigil to get initiated into the Church! Hahaha! Punc’d!”
Mr. Kutcher has been released on bail, pending a court date related to the fraud charges.
Reactions in Susquanandaiguaquoit outside of the Catholic community were mixed, with most expressing outrage over Mr. Kutcher’s antics.
Not all reactions were negative, however. Some people, such as local shop owner Jim Proctor, showed a begrudging respect for the prank.
“Sure, maybe it wasn’t in the best taste,” Proctor said. “But you have to admit it’s one hell of a joke.”