Columbo at the Vatican – A Whimsy for Your Weekend!

Columbo at the Vatican – A Whimsy for Your Weekend!

Torch of The Faith News on Saturday 12 November 2016


Imagine for a moment the unlikely scenario of Pope Francis and Lt. Columbo standing in the Vatican’s parking lot and sharing in the kind of wheel-kicking car-talk that goes on between men the world over.

Episode Name: Smoking!

Pope Francis (Grinning): I like your car Lieutenant! It reminds me of a little Renault I was given a while ago. Tell me, is it French?

Columbo (Carefully lighting a cigar): Thank you Holiness. Yes, as French as croissants by the Seine. She’s a ’59 Peugeot 403 convertible. Or cabriolet as these Europeans prefer! As I always say, if you take care of your car, then your car will take care of you.

Francis: A marvellous sentiment Mr. Columbo. So nice to hear in these days of rampant consumerism and intolerance for the environment and various forms of plant life.

Columbo: Si! Oh pardon my little pun Holy Father… I kind of meant ”Si” as in Laudato Si! Oh, I’m sorry… (Looking around at the plants)… You don’t mind me smoking around here do you?

Francis (casually waving away the suggestion with a smile): Are you still smoking those White Owl 100’s?

Columbo: No… (Wincing at the cigar)… Footnote 351’s as a matter of fact. They’re kind of a novelty that’s bein’ pushed right now.

Francis: Really? I’ve not heard of those! I’ll have to ask Manuel Fernandez to look out for one.

Columbo (Looking around conspiratorially): I’ve gotta tell ya Holy Father… I don’t like the bitter aftertaste. Say, you’d better warn those bishops of yours that passive smoking can be a lot more dangerous than actually lighting the thing up yourself! And being a cop has taught me that it is often the silent ones that you’ve gotta watch out for! I mean, if folks don’t like seein’ a smoking footnote, well, as a cop I think its their duty to speak out. Pardon me for speaking my mind Holiness.

Francis (frowning): Hmmm… Yes Lieutenant. Well, we are both busy men and I am sure that you didn’t just drop by here to share car stories and cigar-talk with me. How else may I help you?

Columbo (Holding his cigar to his forehead confusedly): Help me? Goodness, I almost forgot! Yes, you might be able to help me with something.

Francis: Yes, Lieutenant?

Columbo: Are you familiar with Scooby Doo, Holiness?

Francis: Lieutenant?!!!

Columbo: I know… I’m sorry! It’s just that, well, and excuse me being forward and all, but your recent interview… the one where you gave the young kids such a hard time for going to the Traditional Latin Mass… Let me see now (Checking His Note Pad)… Ah, yes, where you suggested the young folks were RIGID and asked your interlocutor to DIG, DIG as there might be some lack of love and such like.

Francis (Firmly to express tiredness with the theme): Yes, Lieutenant! Perhaps that might be a better area for you to go and do some of your digging.

Columbo: Yes, oh that’s very good! Very good indeed! Look, and thanks for letting me say this, your interview just did not seem very pastoral or merciful to me – (Shrugs) – Like I say, Holy Father, pardon my forwardness. I’m just a simple kind of cop who has seen a lot in the world. Its just that… well… many parish priests and parents would be just shocked to imagine speaking like that to the few kids who actually bother to come to church these days. And in such a harsh tone, too. I mean that’s gotta hurt them and might even damage their faith if you do it too often.

Francis: Where is this going Mr. Columbo?

Columbo: It just reminded me of those old Scooby Doo episodes. (Chuckling) You know, where the cartoon villains would suddenly say too much as they got near to the fulfilment of their grand plan, then they’d be unmasked and suddenly shout out: ”The whole dastardly plan would have worked if it hadn’t been for you pesky kids!” (Columbo breaks into open laughter here). Funny how the next generation can sometimes wreck all your plans! They hurt your arms as babies, but boy do they break your heart later on!

Francis: Lieutenant, I really fail to see how this can be helping either of us in any way!

Columbo: Well, that whole ”saying too much” angle. It just reminded me of the fact that a number of folks have noticed that… well… and again forgive my forwardness here… but each time Pope… how do you say it now… Emeritus… Benedict… comes out with a final last word on why he… again I think you say… erm… abdicated… there seems to be a different… perhaps even slightly contradictory… angle… I’m not sayin’ as I agree with such views, merely that they are out there… So to speak.

Francis: Really Lieutenant, I haven’t time to chat about nasty conspiracy stories!

Columbo: No, you’re quite right Holy Father. It’s just that in your new book with Peter Seewald.

Francis: I haven’t written a book with Peter Seewald. I think, if you check your facts Mr. Columbo, that you’ll see it is Benedict on the cover!

Columbo (Reaching into his car to check his well-thumbed copy, then acting confusedly and slapping the pages with the back of his hand): Well how d’ya like that! I could have sworn that was about you. I mean what with you both looking like bishops dressed in white and all… Boy, that Ganswein and Muller have got my head spinnin’! I feel like I’m seein’ double!

Francis: Well, thank you Lieutenant. I’m glad that is settled. Perhaps some other time…

Columbo (Turns to go, hesitates and then spins round swiftly): Holy Father… There is just one more thing. Just one mind!

Francis (a little exasperated): Lieutenant!

Columbo: You see it’s not just a question of appearances… It’s just that, well, being Italian I like to keep up with all things Roman and all. So, I’ve been reading Pope Benedict XVI’s books for years and years now… Ok, so in your Seewald interview – (grasping forehead) – there I go again! I mean, in Benedict’s Seewald interview, he says this – (thumbing through the book to the correct page) – ”Incidentally, there is also Michelle Barchelet, the president of Chile, who is an atheist, Marxist, and in that sense at variance with us on many things. But somehow I saw in her a fundamental ethical will, which comes close to the Christian will.”

Francis: So what does all that infer?

Columbo: Well, I just don’t get it, you see. I mean, in all the tomes that I’ve read from Pope Benedict over all those years… and maybe I’ve missed somethin’ here… but, I’ve never ever heard Benedict speak like that before! Forgive me…

Francis: Well… nobody can be condemned for ever!

Columbo: Oh very good Holiness… Very droll. It’s just that, in your interview just yesterday with the atheist Eugenio Scalfari, you stated the following – (raising newspaper to his eye) – when he asked you if you were therefore thinking of a Marxist society. You said – (pointing his cigar towards Francis between a few curled fingers) – Yes, you said: It has been said many times and my response has always been that, if anything, it is the Communists who think like Christians.”

Francis: Most interesting Lieutenant. But, as everyone knows, my good friend Eugenio never keeps a transcript of his interviews. Now I really must…

Columbo: A journalist who never keeps transcripts! Goodness, and forgive me for saying this about your good buddy, Holy Father, but that seems remarkably irresponsible to me. It seems unprofessional. A guy could easily get into some mischief like that! As you can see – (grinning and holding up a tatty note pad) – I always have my little transcript right here.

Francis: Very nice Lieutenant, I’m sure. Now, if you’ll excuse me.

Columbo: But, you see my problem as a man of the world don’t you Holy Father? I mean here you are, a Pope of the Catholic Church saying that Communists are those who most think like Christians. A fact that goes against all the evidence of the many millions of Christians and others who were systematically murdered, persecuted and sent to the Gulags wherever Communism has gained the upper hand. And in the face of various condemnations of Communism by some of your most illustrious predecessors. Hey, even against the warnings of Our Lady of Fatima regarding Russia’s errors. And last time I looked, those were the errors of atheistic Communism. Engels, Marx and all that!

Francis: Well, perhaps Cardinal Schonborn can explore the development of doctrine with you Mr. Columbo.

Columbo: Yes, but it is not only that Holiness. You see, what you said to Scalfari sounds so similar to the thrust of what Benedict said in that book interview. And, well, this is what I just don’t understand. That stuff just doesn’t sound like any of Benedict’s other writings. Oh sure, it is more polished than, forgive me for being forward, what you said to Scalfari, but then you just said yourself that Scalfari does not keep transcribed notes. However, it does sound so much more like you and so much like yesterday’s Scalfari interview that it almost hurts. Well… I don’t mind tellin’ you that my head hurts with all of this! The timing of all that really got me too. That book comes out recently and then your interview says that you have said many times that Communists are like Christians. Would one of those times be… well… you know where I’m going with all that! I guess folks like me are just confused, that’s all.

Francis: Really Lieutenant Columbo, this is all very circumstantial. I think you should get out more and enjoy life a little better. Perhaps get a glass of wine, take a trip on a Gondola and read a little Manuel Fernandez! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m just off to fly another trial balloon with my friend Scalfari.

Columbo: (Chuckling) For a moment there, when you said ”trial” I started thinking of another kind of trial! I guess that’s just the doctor of the law in me! Anyway, as I always say Holy Father, it will all come out in the wash. And as your two predecessors often said, we have nothing to fear from the truth!

To Be Continued…

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