Ecclesiastical reassignment operations

“We’ll have to keep it quiet for the good of the faithful”, a cardinal muttered.

The old man nodded; that was clearly necessary, and the best way to do things.

“Reassign him”, he said; the camerlengo made a note of this, and the matter was settled. Another inconvenient or even turbulent priest, dealt with for a time at least.

“Do we have any other embarrassments to handle?” the camerlengo asked. The old man cringed when he saw how many cardinals looked down at their papers at this; the camerlengo was young and full of zeal, but the old man had grown tired of these meetings a long time ago.

“We um have”, a cardinal began, “um some trouble with a um too conservative bishop.”

“Too conservative? For us?” the camerlengo asked, raising his eyebrows in a way that would have been charming and amusing if not for the explanation that followed. The eyebrows did not amuse the old man, because he knew what “too conservative” was a code-word for.

The cardinal coughed. “The man’s a Nazi. He’s written a book about them and their persecution of the Jews. He quotes that heretic Luther, but he also quotes several Church Fathers in an… overly literal fashion. And he’s preaching from the book! At his flock! And he’s added a swastika armband to his vestments! Someone’s bound to notice soon!”

The camerlengo looked at the old man; the old man whispered “Reassign him”, and it was done.

The next cardinal had the case of a priest with an eccentric personal interpretation of the Communion associated with his habit of self-mutilation; reassignment to less stressful duties at the Vatican Library was deemed sufficient.

Then there were several sordid cases of monetary theft and attraction of marital nature; reassignments and vows-of-silence were chosen, as well as several lump sums of unofficial alimony. Then there was the goat-fancier priest, who had sadly lapsed yet again, and ended in a hospital, involuntarily circumcised by his bestial paramour. Reassignment and vows of silence were chosen, once again; reassignment in a city parish with not even a petting zoo nearby, that is.

“Wow”, the camerlengo sighed, “what next: Jesus’s skull discovered in a cupboard?”

One of the cardinals coughed; the camerlengo quickly apologized. The old man waved a hand and asked for more reports. The skull crack did not amuse him. In the Sixties the church had discovered a skull just like that; it had taken twenty years of massive discretion and feverish research to establish the skull actually was that of a particularly pranksome medieval Pope. Indeed there was no quicker way to create villains as to name someone Innocent.

God, the old man sighed, sometimes it seemed the church was its own worst enemy.

“Now”, a cardinal began, “there has been an unfortunate development in the Philippines, since someone apparently told a monastery of ours about masochism and they’re quite, er, taken with the idea.”

“What do you mean?” the camerlengo said.

“Nudism, and priapic mass crucifixions all night long”, the cardinal sighed.

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