The priest: Forgive me, father, for I have sinned. It has been two weeks since my last confession.
The monsignor: Do I see through the window that you’re a man of the cloth? Tell me your sins, father.
Priest: I stubbed a toe and took the Lord’s name in vain. I used a quarter from the Sunday basket to feed the meter and, three years ago, I molested a tyke.
Monsignor: You stole a quarter from the basket?
Priest: I pray forgiveness for all my sins.
Monsignor: Was it just one youth?
Monsignor: Boy or girl? Strike that. Dumb question.
Priest: One of my altar boys, I’m sorry to say.
Monsignor: Well, you know what Leno said the other night.
Priest: No, what?
Monsignor: Two tykes and you’re out.
Priest: Does that mean you think I’m in the clear?
Monsignor: Well, the bishops met in Washington this week and proposed a zero-tolerance policy, with one exception.
Priest: That’s what I don’t understand. If there’s an exception, how is it zero tolerance?
Monsignor: It’s not, but what were you expecting from this crew? The deal is, if you got caught only once, you might be OK.
Priest: That’s generous of them.
Monsignor: Not really. I’m guessing some of those bishops have their own secrets, if you catch my drift. You know what they say about casting the first stone.
Priest: But I thought we had a different standard in Los Angeles? Did you see Mahony’s newspaper ad claiming he’s got a tougher policy than anyone?
Monsignor: And what does Mahony rhyme with? This guy’s got a different line every day. He was sliding pedophiles around the diocese like a shuffleboard master, and now, all of a sudden, his heart bleeds for the victims?
Priest: With all due respect, he is the cardinal.
Monsignor: Yes, and I haven’t seen tap-dancing like this since “Going My Way.” You catch the part in the ad where Mahony says that we’re like the disciples in a storm-tossed boat on the Sea of Galilee?
Monsignor: If Mahony had been on the Titanic, he would have handed out press releases saying he told the captain to watch out for icebergs. And then he’d have been on the first lifeboat.
Priest: Well, some of the brothers do feel like he’s pointing a finger at everyone but himself.
Monsignor: Sure, we’ve got a few bad apples, but I’m tired of taking the fall. You know what really got us into this jam?
Priest: Pray tell, Monsignor.
Monsignor: The denial. The cover-up. The silence. It starts with the bishops and goes all the way to Rome. Now they’re laying the whole thing off on priests. How about zero tolerance for cardinals?
Priest: Good point.
Monsignor: In the public eye, we’re in the gutter. Right down there with used-car dealers and journalists.
Priest: No, please. Journalists?
Monsignor: Well, maybe it’s not that bad. But people think we’re a bunch of perverts. I wouldn’t be surprised if the San Diego Padres change their name.
Priest: Some of the cardinals do seem to have a talent for covering their ....
Monsignor: If that were an athletic event, Mahony would be in the Olympics. I can’t afford to fix the roof over the parish school, and His Eminence is spending a fortune on spin.
Priest: What’s the name of the PR firm he hired?
Monsignor: That’s another thing. What kind of genius hires flacks who work for nobody but bums and miscreants? Those jackals have taken on everyone but Enron and Charles Manson.
Priest: Maybe the cardinal is trying to tidy things up a bit before the new cathedral opens.
Monsignor: Don’t get me started on the Rog Mahal.
Priest: Look, not to change the subject, but ....
Monsignor: I’m sorry. What did you say your sins were?
Priest: The altar boy, Monsignor.
Monsignor: Happened only once?
Priest: I swear it.
Monsignor: Are you a pedophile?
Priest: No. Touched him once, never again.
Monsignor: Are you straight?
Priest: I got into the priesthood very early. That’s part of my problem, Monsignor. I don’t know what I am.
Monsignor: How old are you, son?
Priest: I’m 27.
Monsignor: Ahhh, such a young pup. This is a grave sin, as you know.
Priest: Yes, Monsignor.
Monsignor: Well, then, for your penance, say 10 Our Fathers and five Hail Marys. And, uh, you free for lunch?
Steve Lopez writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at email@example.com