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This Week in Schadenfreude: The Pope Gives the World the Finger

Pope Francis I tries to be creative in his ministry to the world's Catholics, and he is an enthusiastic user of Twitter as part of his toolkit. This week, he decided to do a thing built around the theme of God placing "the gift of life in your hands," and to use each finger, one per day, as a metaphor for some important Catholic value.

Unfortunately for the Prince of the Apostles, nobody thought to warn him (or, at least, his tweet ghostwriter) that his plan might run into some problems, oh, right about Wednesday. And so, the Bishop of Rome sent out this tweet:

The middle finger, which is higher than the others, reminds us of something essential: honesty. To be honest means not getting entangled in the snares of corruption.

Oopsie. It took a few hours before someone familiar with U.S. idiom alerted the Vatican to the problem. The tweet was replaced with one that uses "the third finger" in place of "the middle finger."

Nonetheless, a few hours was plenty of time for the rapscallions on Twitter to weigh in. The majority of the responses were of the obvious sort; among those were: "It is also the finger that is most important for driving in the great state of New Jersey," "Then I am doing the Lord's work driving on the Belt Parkway this morning; Who else wants a blessing?," and "Your Holiness, in light of this information about the middle finger, I am going to flash it constantly to remind people to be honest."

We do not need to recount the various criticisms made of the Catholic Church, nor the various ways in which Francis seems to be a pretty decent fellow, on the whole. We chose this story solely because the Church and the papacy sometimes tend to be just a wee bit self-important and stuffy. There's always a little schadenfreude in it when a person or an institution like that ends up with a little egg on their face, and we get a reminder that even the pope is human, and puts his cassock on one leg at a time. Well, one sleeve at a time, at least. We imagine that if the Supreme Pontiff was reading this, he would agree entirely. (Z)

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