Smoke Gets In Your Surplice
So the Vatican is to throw its weight behind the anti-smoking campaign. [Guardian Link]
A couple of small ironies in that. As an infant Catholic I was often almost asphyxiated by the clouds of incense that billowed around the church. It was even worse for the altar boys who must have staggered home feeling as though they'd smoked sixty Woodbines.
I didn't see so much smoke and people in funny clothes again until the eighties when nightclubs started pumping coloured smoke on to the dance floor. I remember Mo Mowlem once abandoning me in the middle of Tainted Love (the song, not the activity) while she interrogated the DJ about the technical details of the smoke generating process and whether he had some in strawberry flavour. The poor boy got in a terrible muddle with his playlist. He probably thought she was talking about condoms.
It doesn't happen so much in Catholic churches now (incense-tripping, not tainted love), except on special occasions or if the parish priest is of a theatrical bent. But the Vatican traditionally uses smoke signals to announce the progress of deliberations on choosing a new Pope, spewing fumes over Vatican City. Maybe now they'll install a hi-tech laser display instead.
On a more serious note, if I were a member of the anti-smoking lobby I'd be none too pleased to have the Catholic church on board. Young people aren't going to be impressed by anti-smoking edicts from an organisation that says condoms are sinful and has even promulgated phoney 'scientific' evidence that the HIV virus passes through microscopic holes in them.
I suppose that priests, who have often been heavy smokers, will now be expected to set an example to their flock. This seems a bit harsh on people who are already expected to be celibate and never able to savour a post-coital cigarette, only a non-coital cigarette. Speaking of which, will the guidelines for penances have to be re-written? Six Stations of the Cross for shagging your wife's sister plus ten Hail Marys if you had a cigarette afterwards?