DEAR POPE FRANCIS:
A couple of weeks ago, my family went to Easter Mass together. (We usually show up from three or four different places in three or four different cars, but this time we thought we'd make it a family outing.) In the car on the way, my son (the provocateur) posed the question, "What if Jesus came back today, went on Fox News, and announced that He thinks that gay people should be allowed to marry? What would all the Bible thumpers think?"
I said, "The first thing they would want to know is who's that black guy who's pretending to be Jesus."
My wife blanched. (There's an extra joke in there.)
I continued: "We'd have to explain that He's not black. He's Middle Eastern. But He's damn sure not that guy with the light-brown hair and blue eyes that you see in all those paintings."
My wife, who was driving, reached into her purse and whipped out her rosary, so we changed the subject.
Anyway, your Holiness, my children have a modest request. (They're really good, decent people. They served a combined 14 years—every Sunday for years—as altar servers and they still do it a couple of times a year when the kids assigned to the Mass fail to show up for one reason or another.) Anyway, here it is: They would like to know if there could be some kind of papal dispensation that would allow good Catholics who attend Mass the other 50 weeks of the year to skip services on Christmas and Easter, thereby avoiding the knuckleheads.
It would be like that episode of The Simpsons in which Homer joined the super-secret Stonecutters Society. Stonecutters got all kinds of special breaks, like if they were stuck in traffic, they could push a button on their dashboard and an opening in a mountain would appear through which they could gain access to a private road with no traffic on it. Or, if they were in trouble, they could call the real emergency number—9-1-2!
It's getting harder and harder to attend those Masses. I won't even talk about the way some people dress to go to Mass these days. When we were in Hawaii, the priest railed against people who show up for Mass wearing shorts and/or cleavage-exposing tops (both men and women).
We got to the church about 15 minutes early and it was already about half full. We knew there would be a crowd, what with all of the Christmas/Easter Catholics out there. I have to tell you that I'm somewhat dismayed. I figure that if you're only going to church a couple of times a year, you might make an effort to get there on time. (When I was a kid, the pastor at Guardian Angel Church used to close the doors and bolt them once the Mass started. If you got there late, you had to wait until the next Mass.) I wouldn't mind it if they made everybody who showed up late stand in the back through the entire ceremony, as penance.
(I've shown up for Mass late a few times and I stand in the back. I don't deserve to sit down.)
The people kept coming and coming, some arriving about halfway through the Mass. Do you know how I knew it was either Christmas or Easter? A guy two rows ahead of us took out his phone and made a call during the Mass. If God hadn't been busy elsewhere at that moment, that guy's phone would have emitted a high, shrill sound like the ambassador's phone at the end of Fail-Safe and the guy would have melted into a pile of slag. I wanted to throw a missal at him. (Actually, I would have preferred a missile.)
Then, these two adult women got into a tug of war over a bottle of water. You're in an air-conditioned church less than an hour! Who needs to bring water?!
I figure you can just have the priests announce the secret, stay-at-home deal at one of those Masses during Ordinary Time. You could broadcast the Mass on that Catholic cable network (Comcast 291); nobody ever watches that. Even better and sneakier, you could make a deal with the Mormons and put it on the BYU Network (where Jesus has light-brown hair and blue eyes).
Just a couple of other things: I'm really curious as to where you were, mentally and spiritually, during the Dirty War. We all know that you should have been at the plaza, marching with the mothers of the desaparecidos and giving the Galtieri junta the big middle finger. Your supporters claim you were working behind the scenes, kinda like double-secret probation, but I'm not so sure.
One last thing: Please be careful with the Vatican Bank. Those people are no joke. The last pope who messed with them, John Paul I, lasted a whole 33 days. Then, just to show how powerful they were, the "bankers" got Francis Ford Coppola to make The Godfather Part III, thereby ruining his reputation and killing the franchise.
After you're done with that, you can let priests get married, rethink contraception, and root out the demon-worshipping Freemasons. May the Fo--, I mean God, be with you.