To: His Holiness the Pope

His Holiness the Pope,
c/o The Vatican,
Vatican City,

 25th November, 1990.

Dear Your Holiness,

Now here's a thing: I am currently considering becoming religious and am doing a bit of "window shopping", so to speak, to try to ascertain which religion has the most going for it.

So far, I have managed to whittle my short list of possibilities down to four, viz: Roman Catholicism, Greek Orthodoxy, Moonieism and Buddhism. You will be pleased to learn that Roman Catholicism is currently running a very close second to the rather obvious choice of Greek Orthodoxy. Don't get me wrong, on the whole I would say that Roman Catholicism appears to have the most going for it (your church services seem to be by far the most flamboyant and, I must admit, the concept of being able to confess one's sins away does hold a lot of appeal), but there are one or two of your doctrines which give me cause for concern. I have outlined these concerns below and would be interested to hear your comments:

a) Papal Infallibility: Now this one is, to be honest, a bit difficult to swallow for somebody such as I with a scientific bent. In England, we have a saying: "Nobody's perfect" and, on the whole, I think it has withstood the tests of time. In addition, in physics, there is a thing called Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle which basically says that nobody can be sure of anything. Furthermore, a good friend of mine (who's a big nob in the legal profession and knows about these things) tells me that the only person he ever met who claimed to be infallible turned out to be wrong.

At what point exactly do Popes become infallible? Does it come with the job or is infallibility a pre-requisite for becoming Pope? The reason I ask is that it seems to me that your predecessors made their fair share of mistakes. Haven't we all? I know I have. I mean to say, poor old Galileo was threatened with torture (not a very Christian thing to do!) by one of your forebears for having the audacity to point out that the Pope was wrong and that the Earth goes around the sun. Presumably, even you would now concede that it turned out that Galileo was right after all. Is there, therefore, some "Statute of Limitations" on Papal Infallibility or is Papal Infallibility a recent idea?

Furthermore, what exactly is meant by "infallibility" in this case? Without wishing to sound rude, I think you would be the first to admit that your English pronunciation is far from perfect (though it's a lot better than my Polish!). Surely somebody who is infallible should have pronunciation as flawless as that of the delightful Emma Freud.

b) Birth Control: Now then, I am told that you have a very strict stance on this one. This, I must admit, seems rather odd to me. I realise that the desire for even more Catholics in the world is a very sensible reason for banning birth control amongst your followers, but don't you think it's a bit irresponsible in places such as Mexico, which have very serious population problems? Allowing birth control in Mexico would, it seems to me, sort out nearly all of their difficulties.

I can understand why you would want to stop women from filling their bodies with all sorts of unhealthy chemicals, but is there any real harm in allowing their husbands to wear little (or, in my case, not so little) pieces of rubber on their private parts? Allowing this would surely also help slow down the spread of AIDS amongst the many less devout Catholics.

I believe your suggested solution is to use "natural" birth control (presumably doing it at the "right" time of the month or pulling out at the last minute). At school, we were always taught that anybody who believes this will work is living in Cloud Cuckoo Land. Was my biology teacher wrong?

c) Papal Bulls: To be honest, I could never understand the need for these. Are they traditional Vatican pets, or do they have some ceremonial use? Why is it that we never see them on TV?

d) South American Treasures: I believe that most of the treasures stolen from the Incas, Mayans, Hawaiians, et al. ended up at the Vatican. Were these ever given back, or do you still have them? If you still have them, don't you think it would be a nice gesture to give them back? "Render unto Caesar..." and all that.

e) The Vatican Secret Service: I had never heard of this until I watched "Frederick Forsythe Presents" on TV last night. Is there really such a thing? If there was, would you be allowed to tell me about it, or is its mere existence a secret? I must say, it sounds pretty sinister to me.

f) World War II: Exactly whose side was the Vatican on? Were you on our side or on Germany's? Or were you, like Italy, on whichever side happened to be winning at the time?

g) Modern Day Miracles: How do you decide what is a miracle and what is the product of a deranged or devious imagination? I am sure there have been plenty of fakers over the years who have tried to fool the Pope into declaring occurrences in their localities as miracles - the benefits to the tourist trade alone are astronomical. How then do you sort out the wheat from the chaff? How do you decide that a moving statue in Ireland is a miracle, but that a talking chicken in Canada isn't?

h) The Creation: What is the Roman Catholic Church's current tenet on this subject? Did Genesis get it right as far as the animals are concerned, or did Mr Darwin come up trumps?

i) Women Priests: The Church of England is currently considering the possibility of lady vicars. I believe you don't hold out for such nonsense in your churches. If so, this is right-on! Giving them the vote was a bad enough move; allowing them to preach at us would be intolerable! Can you confirm that you won't be allowing such a thing in the future?

I realise that you are a busy man, but I would much appreciate any comments you may have concerning the points I have raised above.

I apologise for writing to you in person. I believe it is the norm in such cases to contact one's local priest, but, with all due respect to my local priest, whoever he is, I thought it better to write to the organ grinder himself and not to his monkey.

Yours sincerely,