The Two Stooges

That pope – he’s always walking into these things. He’s like one of those physical comedy types whose schtick is all tripping over the furniture and sitting on the cat.

Apparently there was this fuss in Italy the other day ‘when the daily newspaper of the Italian Roman Catholic church criticised a string of recent satirical acts’ about this same pope. The pope’s private secretary explained to a journalist what the papal crowd was thinking.

“I am aware of the controversy and I hope that broadcasts of this kind stop,” Father Genswein said. “Satire is fine. But these things do not have any intellectual quality and offend men of the church. They are not acceptable.”

That’s fun, isn’t it? Satire is fine – fine, I tell you, fine, we love the stuff, it’s meat and drink to us, we can’t get enough – but these particular ones right here that we’re talking about ain’t clever enough and besides they offend – well, you know, us. Therefore, it must follow as the night the day, They Are Not Acceptable.

That’s what’s so funny. Pure walking into a door. Sheer tripping and falling into the soup tureen. Here’s where you went wrong, papa Genswein; here’s where you made your fatal error; here’s what you don’t want to do: it really doesn’t work to say ‘Satire is fine unless it’s about me.’ See what I’m getting at here? It’s just no good saying ‘Satire is fine as long as it’s about other people, any other people, really, let a thousand flowers bloom, it’s liberty hall, anyone, except me.’ You see the problem? It looks like special pleading. It looks just a tiny bit self-interested. I’ll give you an example. Suppose you said ‘Hitting people with heavy wooden sporting implements is fine’ and then added ‘except when we’re the people being hit’ – you see, disinterested onlookers would think you were happy to see everyone else mocked or pummeled but wanted immunity for your own special self alone. Tragically, and riotously, the result is not persuasion but shouts of laughter. Sorry, Father G.

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