Pope skits fail to amuse Vatican

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Pope satirized, is OK?

Newspaper front pages in Italy yesterday were consumed by a thorny theological question: Is it OK to make fun of the pope? It seems there have been a couple of irreverent skits on Italian radio and TV. On TV, a comedian, dressed in papal robes, imitated Pope Benedict XVI's German accent and did a play on two words -- Pax (peace) and PACS, the acronym for a controversial law that would give unwed heterosexual couples and gay couples in Italy equal civil rights -- a law the church opposes. He says "Pax (or PACS) be with you." A radio program had another satirical sketch that loses even more in translation. But the point is, the church was not amused.

Last week, the Catholic newspaper Avennire condemned the shows. On Tuesday, the pope's secretary, Msgr. Georg Ganswein, told a news agency he'd had enough jokes about his boss and wanted them stopped. Of course, this had the effect of landing the whole thing on a number of front pages. L'Unita, pictured above, trumpeted a headline that translates to: "The Vatican Can't Take a Joke." Corriere della Sera, Italy's biggest newspaper, called the satire "a sad gag." The usually straight-laced Reuters news agency, which provided this report, called the whole thing a tempest in a chalice.

God no longer a sports fan

From the AP

From spoof.com:

VATICAN CITY -- God announced today that He will cease taking a position on specific sporting events, including the baseball, football and basketball playoffs. The announcement came directly as a "Word from God" to Pope Benedict XVI.

TiVo, said God, is what finished it for Him. "When people started praying over digitally delayed broadcasts, 'That's about enough,' I said."

As late as the 1960s, when Catholic boys were earnestly crossing themselves before shooting free throws, God said, according to Benedict, that He could "go that far." But once it became just a ritual, and then when "believers on both teams started asking me to cover the point spread, I quit."

Call center call girls

The other day, we mentioned one possible benefit of video phone calls: the opportunity to lay eyes on the likes of "Justin" and "Mary Katherine" in Bangalore when discussing your mortgage payment or trying to figure out why your printer doesn't work. Well, we take it back. Eyeballing them might not be edifying. The Catholic archbishop of Bangalore is disturbed that the thousands of young Indians working the phones at night might be engaging in sex and drug-taking, Reuters reports. "Call centers are now seen as red-light districts," said anthropologist Shiv Visvanathan. "Even the name 'call center' evokes call girls."

Exact numbers are hard to come by, but chats with call center workers suggest a small minority swallow illegal Ecstasy pills. Smoking marijuana during cigarette breaks is fairly common among male employees, Reuters said. All of which could put their directions on getting your computer going again in question. As for sex, we can only conclude it's an option for non-smokers on smoke breaks.

'Net not so dirty?

Conventional wisdom has it that the Internet is loaded with porn. But, according to the San Jose Mercury News, only 1 percent of all Web pages contain sexually explicit material (based on random samples taken from the Yahoo, MSN, Google and AOL search requests). This may well be meaningless, though, because the analysis cannot reveal whether this is a declining or increasing amount or whether the weight of the estimated 55 million blogs is drowning out the porn. Seth Finkelstein, a civil-liberties activist quoted in the piece, has another theory. "What we are learning about the Internet is that it reflects life and that the Internet is not -- contrary to what some people might think -- more sexual than people are in general."

El Supremo likes Pittsburgh

"El Supremo," a diehard New Orleans Saints fan, flew to Pittsburgh for Sunday's Steelers game and chronicled his trip for WWLTV.com:

"I had never been to Pittsburgh before, but I can tell you what I expected to see. Absolutely nothing! Man was I wrong! It was awesome, with beautiful foothills covered in fall colors, a great blend of old and new architecture. It's just a very clean, well-designed city full of proud people ...

"I was sitting at the hotel bar/restaurant when I saw a family of three having dinner. They were wearing Saints swag. I pulled up a chair for a chat. Turns out they weren't in town for the game; they lived here. Their 2-year-old son has leukemia, and it turns out Pittsburgh is well-equipped to handle such a thing. So they've been living in the Steel City for almost a year, dying to get back home but trying to keep their baby alive.

"Somehow, [New Orleans quarterback] Drew Brees, who happened to be staying in the same hotel, hears about them, walks in, goes straight to their table and sits down. He must have spent 10 minutes with that family, shaking hands, taking pictures and even held the baby. Now that's the type of guy I want leading my team."

Contact us at pleo@post-gazette.com , 412-263-1112 or Portfolio, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.


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