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Saturday, June 15, 2024

One Hundred Comedians Meet The Pope - 'Lighten Up', He Tells Catholics

One hundred comedians met with Pope Francis recently in His Holiness' desire to spread world peace through laughter and more to the point, to lighten up the Vatican which had gotten some very bad press. The Church's sexual abuse scandals had not been easily forgotten, and its straying into progressive politics had discomfited many who would have liked the Pontiff to keep on message - eternal salvation, not inclusivity should be the only item on the Pope’s calendar.


The Church is not what it once was, aggressive, defiantly arrogant, territorial, and above all the only home for absolute truth. No pope since Vatican II, which instituted revolutionary changes to Catholic ritual, procedure, and doctrine, has taken John Paul's reforms so seriously.  

Turning the priest around to face the congregation instead of to Christ on the cross, performing the mass in the vernacular instead of in Latin, decommissioning nuns, and encouraging popular participation in the liturgy are nothing compared to Francis' forays into liberal politics - the climate, foreign affairs, and matters of state. 

Of course Francis knows no more about these issues than the man in the street, and each time he ventures into the muddy waters of social debate, he gets swamped. Well-meaning perhaps but completely out of his element; and wandering far from his ecclesiastical mission. 

No sin is more heinous and damning than the sexual predation of priests.  Thousands of young boys have been assaulted, abused, traumatized, and disabled because of sexually greedy, intemperate, unholy priests.  These men are not simply functionaries of a large institution shuffling papers and making speeches.  They are sacramentally-appointed representatives of Christ on earth.  Doing what they did is unconscionable; and they are still there. 

As pointed out in the Oscar-winning movie Spotlight which chronicled the Boston Globe's expose of thousands of pedophile priests in Massachusetts dioceses, the Church simply recycled pedophile priests with no exposure and no censure.  The Vatican continues this policy. 

So, in the light of all this it is no wonder that the Pope invited Jerry Seinfeld and a host of other funny men and women to the Vatican.  They had no chance to do their shticks - some of these guys like Sarah Silverman, H.D. Hughley, Ricky Gervais, and Eddie Murphy are no-holds-barred performers who are downright, stone hilarious and 'Tummlers At The Vatican' would have been sold out months in advance; but if there was any real comedy, it had to be in a quick joke down the receiving line. 

Did Jesus have a sense of humor? Of course he did.  He was human and a smart one at that, not one to suffer fools, a man with a funny bone. What God created might have been not what he expected and so badly in need of salvation, but neither he nor his son could have predicted the absurdly comic ways it turned out.

Jesus might have been divine, but he was also human, and a sense of humor is one of humanity’s most characteristic traits.  At some point even the sourest, pinched, and humorless person has to laugh. 

The Gospels are are noticeably silent about Jesus’ early years.  The twelve years between his birth and his appearance in the temple where he preached get no mention; but surely as a boy he must have found things funny.  His father was a carpenter who must have misplaced things, banged  his thumb, stumbled over the water bucket, and got kicked by the mule.  

Some Biblical scholars infer from the tales of his journey from Galilee to Jerusalem that he must have enjoyed himself.  At the many banquets described in the New Testament, could he have always kept a straight face? Or not shared in a joke? 

Was there no bantering and joking between him and his disciples like there almost always is when men get together?  Was everything in the three years recorded in the Gospels such a serious affair?  Surely, even a man on a mission as revolutionary as his could not have thought only of his Father, his being, and his divine purpose.  If God indeed created him as a man, then he must have given him room for a good laugh. 

Whether or not there is a record proving that Jesus was funny is not the point.  If he was human, of course he was funny.  All of us know that everything is funny. Whether or not Jesus was funny is not the point.  If he was human, of course he was.  All of us know that everything is funny.  Mel Brooks found the Nazis funny: 

Germany was having trouble
What a sad, sad story
Needed a new leader to restore
Its former glory
Where oh where was he?
Where could that man be?
We looked around and then we found
The man for you and me and now it's
Springtime for Hitler and Germany
Deutschland is happy and gay
We're marching to a faster pace 

Look out, here comes the master race

So, Pope Francis wants to tell Catholics that is OK to laugh; but of course we have always known that; just don't laugh at the Church because salvation is no laughing matter. Yet what about that papal get up, the red slippers, silk, and gold embroidery; that marvelously orchestrated, organ-thundering, incense-and-candles high Mass; the flagellations on Spain's Via Dolorosas, the incredible myths, superstitions, and elegant pomposity of the Church? Who can't laugh at it all? It is about time for good send-up, especially given the rise of Islam, the most humorless, deadly serious religion going. 

It is reported that Jerry Seinfeld told this joke to the Pope when his turn came:

A priest and a rabbi are walking down a street when they see a 13 year old boy walking towards them. The priest says, "Let's take him down this alley and screw him". 

The rabbi says, "Out of what?" 


The cameras caught a smile on the Pontiff's face, but it could have only been a polite smile.  A man who has spent his life in sanctimonious seriousness can wake up all at once. 

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