On the Proper Papal Protocol, As Well As an Old Pope Joke

Although we are not Catholic, and in fact worship with an exceedingly Protestant church at the opposite end of the low-church-high-church spectrum, and although we strenuously disagree with the current Pope’s oft-stated anti-capitalist views, we vow that would be properly respectful in the unlikely event of a Papal visit. The current President of the United States seems to share the current Pope’s anti-capitalist sentiments, but while his religious views are somewhat murkier it is crystal clear that he does not share the same old-fashioned notions about homosexuality and abortion and transgenderism and whatever other newfangled notion the left has lately come up with, and perhaps as a result he seems to have violated a few rules of etiquette that even the likes of we would have honored.
We’re sure there are well-trained protocol experts in the administration, and given that the president is a Democrat there are bound  to be at least a few nominal Catholics left in the administration, but we hope they’ll accept a few suggestions regarding Papal visits from such amateur and Protestant observers as ourselves.
First, don’t load the rest of the guest list with people obviously chosen to embarrass the honored guest. The White House has arranged an appropriately swank State Dinner, which we hope the Pontiff will enjoy, but the rest of the seats will include a conspicuous number of homosexual Catholics and pro-abortion Catholics and transgendered Catholics and whatever other Catholics can be rounded up who defy the Catholic church’s teaching on whatever newfangled notion the left has lately come up with, which strikes us as rather undiplomatic. The more polite media report that “White House guest list for the pope irks some conservatives,” which suggest that only certain crazy people such as ourselves that you won’t be running into at a swank Georgetown party are likely to be bothered, but it’s also worth considering if that uncapitalized Pope might also be irked by the blatant disrespect. This is statecraft, after all.
Second, no matter how much you might share the guest’s anti-capitalist views, or how much you might enjoy the swell eats and the company of homosexual and pro-abortion and transgendered and otherwise fashionable nuns at a State Dinner generously funded by the capitalist system, don’t send your spokesman out to boast that you’re more Catholic than the Pope. White House spokesman Josh Earnest took the occasion of the Pope’s visit to boast that “Both men have talked, quite publicly, about their commitment to social justice, and both men have dedicated their, not just their careers, but their lives, to that effort.” He added some boilerplate about the president’s days as a “community organizer” in the impoverished neighborhoods of Chicago’s South Side, added a nod to Pope Francis’ similarly disastrous efforts on behalf of his that have had even more disastrous results on his even more impoverished homeland of Argentina, and left the listener with the impression that Earnest’s boss is the holier of the two. It’s a political pitch worth trying, we suppose, given the gullibility of the president’s remaining faithful, but once again it’s not exactly statecraft.
Lest we seem too punctilious about protocol, we’ll admit that every Papal visit reminds of the many Pope jokes we’ve heard over the years. We’re quite fond of the one about the Pope, the mafia, and the vows of celibacy, but that’s probably far too blue for our readership, and certainly for a Papal visit. Instead, we can’t resist re-telling an oldie but goody that even Pope Francis might find inoffensive.
The Pope — it could be any Pope of the last 67 years — is in New York to address the United Nations. As he starts to leave the airport he rolls the darkened back-seat window down in his limousine and tells the driver that he’d like to drive. The chauffeur protests that his boss might not like it, but the Pope pleads that they never let him drive anymore and he’d love to take the wheel one last time. The driver reluctantly moves to the back seat, the Pope sits down in the driver’s seat, and the limo peels off toward the expressway. When the limo hits 95 miles per hour en route a couple of Irish New York cops pull it over. The veteran cop walks to the limo, the window comes down, there’s a short exchange, and the cop walks back to the squad car.
The rookie asks, “Why didn’t you give him a ticket?”
“He’s too big to write up,” the veteran said.
“What was he, an alderman?”
“No, bigger than that.”
“The mayor?”
“Bigger than that.”
“The governor?”
“No, far bigger than that.”
“You mean, we pulled over the President of the United States?”
“No, even bigger than that.”
The rookie asked, “What could possibly be bigger than that?”
“Let me put it this way,” the veteran said. “His chauffeur is the Pope.”

— Bud Norman

Presidential Funeral Etiquette

Attending funerals isn’t an especially challenging chore. All you have to do is dress in formal but not flashy attire, maintain a somber expression throughout the proceedings, and avoid speaking ill of the guest of honor. It’s so simple, in fact, that the job is routinely entrusted to vice presidents.
Even so, President Barack Obama somehow managed to cause not just one but two separate controversies on Tuesday while attending the funeral for former South African President Nelson Mandela.
One flap involved some seemingly inappropriate levity with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt during the service. A series of widely-disseminated photographs show the two sharing laughs while Mandela is being eulogized, even as the dignitaries seated around them remain properly glum, and it can only be hoped that they’re not scoffing at the kind words being said. Some small amount of chuckling is permissible at funerals if shared between old friends recalling some endearing anecdote about their shared relationship with the deceased, but this is not a likely explanation for the yucks as neither Schmidt nor Obama ever met Mandela. In one of the photographs the pair smilingly pose for a “selfie” on the small camera Obama holds at arm’s length, which is a breach of etiquette at any funeral even in these coarse times. The photographs also suggest a sort of flirtatiousness between Obama and Schmidt, who is fairly attractive by head of state standards, and judging by the sour look on Michelle Obama’s face she seems to have noticed it as well.
A more significant controversy concerned Obama’s handshake with Cuban dictator Raul Castro. The gesture thrilled such excitable news commentators as CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, who squealed with delight that Mandela “brought people together in life and he continues to bring people together today,”, and it gave former President Jimmy Carter hope that it will lead to friendlier relationships with Cuba, but more sensible observers such as Arizona Senator and failed presidential candidate John McCain were put off by such cordiality toward a murderous communist dictator. White House officials were quick to downplay the handshake, insisting it was not a “pre-planned encounter,” and noted that Obama’s eulogy included a subtle swipe at the unnamed countries that fail to lie up to Mandela’s ideal of freedom. The handshake was more noteworthy than the forgettable eulogy, which was also a sort of “selfie” that suggested Mandela’s greatest achievement in life was inspiring the career of Obama, but it’s nice to know that the president is at least sensitive to the soft-on-communism charge that has dogged him throughout his political career.
All in all, it was a rather poor funeral performance by the president. On the other hand, at least he didn’t bring his dog.

— Bud Norman