The finger of God

Expanded from the 4-24-2005 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune.

You got trouble, folks, right here in Virginia City — Apologies to Meredith Willson and Prof. Harold Hill

    CENSORED ON THE COMSTOCK: The column, below, was exorcised from the 4-29-2005 Comstock Chronicle because of religious prejudice in the Virginia City community and on the part of the newspaper's editor. I suppose the three previous installments questioning church policy and theology were one thing, but pope jokes were something else again. In almost two decades of writing for the various owners of the Sparks Tribune and more recently the Comstock Chronicle, this is the first time an entire piece has been purged because of its content. (I have had a dirty word or two changed to #@*&!% on rare occasion, depending on the personal hangups of the higherups, but this is something completely different.)

    The wordburning waxes exceedingly ironic given that the Tribune has since 1988 published the widest range of opinion of any newspaper in the state, large or small. To this day, we ink the weekly opinions of an avowed socialist and an overt racist. I like having them around — they make me look reasonable. Nonetheless, given the voodoo vagaries of codified superstition, I'm the one who got banned in the Sausalito of Nevada. Go figger.

    So if you are overly sensitive to pope jokes, read no further. You have been warned. Alleluia.


"God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh" — Voltaire (1694-1778)

"We don't need sex education. We don't need no birth control."
— Apologies to Pink Floyd

As hope dwindled for the emergence of a pope who would not want to revoke the posthumous exoneration of Galileo, I wrote last week that "maybe we'll get lucky and they'll give us another John Paul the First. If not, they'll be good for laughs."

Looks like laughs it is. Pope Benedict the Sweet Sixteenth appears to be about as much fun as final exams. Maybe I'm being too hard on the good ole boy. Maybe he's really a fun guy. Let's see.

More plays on morality

The Sport of Ethics — Looking in the wrong moral playbook

Bad character references

Shoes of the Fisherman

Selling God

37 cents to God

A future fatal fable

Jake Highton: John Paul II fell far short of greatness

Jake Highton: John Paul I - Christlike pontiff

Bishop Marcinkus lives above the law in comfortable Sun City, AZ, retirement

The Founding Fathers and God

PARTY ON, DUDE. This column has spared every expense in trying to track down a rumor out of Vatican City that the new pope will soon declare an unprecedented treat. In exultation of his elevation, His Holiness will declare 30 days of celibacy for the world's one million Catholics. Celebration by celibation.

"I guess it's time the rest of us got to see what's so uplifting about it," said one true believer.

POPPING BENNIES. Several predictions proved correct regarding the new guy's name, the most prominent of which was comedian Don Novello, better known as Father Guido Sarducci to superannuated Saturday Night Live fans.

On Al Franken's national radio show, Novello, in character as his priestly Vatican gossip correspondent, correctly predicted that the next pope would call himself Benedict XVI. Ted Koppel later reported on ABC's Nightline that a British bookie had made that name the odds-on favorite before the vote.

Nevada oddsmakers totally missed out on the action. Our one chance to move from the den of iniquity to the holy of holies and we blew it.

CLINGING TO THE LEDGE. A wave of Catholic fervor is sweeping the world and Nevada is not immune. My spies report that capitol maintenance crews are busy constructing a special chimney for a stove being installed in the Nevada State Senate chamber. The device will belch white smoke when members of the upper house announce the surprise passage of a special constitutional amendment declaring Sen. Bill Raggio elected for life. Raggio, R-Reno, may have already gotten wind of the tribute from his colleagues. He's been seen in downtown Sparks being fitted for a huge ring for his followers to kiss.

Not to be outdone, the biggest ego in Gomorrah South has moved quickly to fill the veneration gap.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said the city will waive all safety and zoning requirements to install the world's biggest copy of the Ten Commandments atop the Stratosphere Tower.

"God will protect the construction workers just like he protects those foolish enough to go on one of those Stratosphere thrill rides," Hizzoner said between sips of a strange blue-tinted holy water, "and I think I know where I can generate enough commercial (hic) sponsorship to pay for it."

Goodman noted that "Las Vegas has not done a very good job of selling to the emerging religious values market. We're really very religious. No town in the country spends more time asking forgiveness of sin."

Goodman broke the news that a talent search is now underway for a magician to headline a new Las Vegas Strip magic act to replace Siegfried and Roy. The new star must be a master at turning water into wine.

ACADEMIC FERVOR. Insiders up at the U report that the board of regents plans to use the surging ecumenical passion to change a few pesky laws. In light of the bang-up job the new pope did in his previous position, the regents want to establish a state-level version of The Inquisition. They feel such a star chamber will be very useful for identifying whistleblowers who reveal where political bodies are buried, not to mention stray sheep and cattle at the UNR experimental farm.

STARR CHAMBER. Now that he's got the top job, the pope must look for his replacement as grand inquisitor. I predict that it will be none other than the most righteous man in the United States, former Clinton Sexologist Kenneth Starr. Unintended consequence: "Les Miserables" may become the first new book added to the Bible in 17 centuries.

STICK IT IN YOUR EYE. The new pope was directly responsible for allowing John Cardinal Law a prominent role in the burial of John Paul II. Law recently stepped down in disgrace as head of the financially drained Archdiocese of Boston after decades of covering up clergy pedophile scandals.

The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger could have come up with no bigger way to give the finger to the world than to elevate the protector of the baby rapers. Call it the Maledictum Benedictum. May God forgive them, for I cannot.

JUST LIKE THE PHONE COMPANY. The new pope and the lawless Law share an arrogance with the Bush-Cheney administration. The attitude was best portrayed long ago by comedienne Lily Tomlin through her character Ernestine the telephone operator: "We don't care. We don't have to. We are omnipotent."

MESSIANIC COMPLEX. This column is checking out rumors that the new pope has a standing order for large blocks of ice so that he can practice walking on water.

PLACE YOUR BETS. With this dynamic new leadership, I predict that St. Jude, patron saint of hopeless causes, is due for a big comeback. The next leader of the church may well have no choice but to become Pope Jude I.

Say a prayer for these unenlightened children. They need it.

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Copyright © 2002, 2005 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 36-year Nevadan who attended Catholic institutions through high school. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.)Tribune since 1988.


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