March 18   The new pope, a Jesuit, is being billed by the media as a “moderate.” He undoubtedly is moderate compared to his predecessor, who had been in the Hitler Youth and kept that wild gleam in his eye till the end. (On his last day in office Ratzinger put a German banker in charge of the Vatican treasury.)

As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio —now Francis— was moderately supportive of the military dictatorship during the “Dirty War” in which 30,000 Argentine citizens were killed or disappeared; also, moderately anti-woman, moderately anti-gay, moderately anti-drug legalization. The media is emphasizing that he’s not European —but only moderately, given his Italian-emigrant parents.

You probably heard this one.  A young priest and an old Jewish guy are talking on an airplane. The Jewish guy asks “What do you become after you’re a priest?” The priest explains about the position of monsignor. “I can tell you’re gonna make it,” the Jewish guy says. “And what then?”  The priest explains the rank of bishop.  “You got the stuff,” the Jewish guys says.  “And what’s after bishop?”  “Cardinal,” the priest says. The Jewish guy nods. “And then what do you become?” The priest is taken aback.  “As you must know,” he says, “when the pope dies, the College of Cardinals meets in the Sistine Chapel to choose a man of special qualities, a most devout man of prayer, to be the pope.” The old Jewish guy says, “I can see you going all the way. What’s above pope? ” The young priest is appalled: “Do you expect me to become Jesus Christ himself?” The Jewish guy says, “One of our boys made it.”

Last night “60 Minutes” gave voice to some of the U.S. nuns who had been rebuked by Ratzinger, the pope emeritus. Bob Simon remarked the anti-woman focus of the church’s Inquisition.   The Inquisition also sought to exterminate plants it identified as Satanic, and was the ultimate force behind American marijuana prohibition, according to historian Isaac Campos. (Read all about it in the Winter/Spring 2013 O’Shaughnessy’s.) The diminished power of the Catholic church belongs on the list of factors in the “perfect storm” that is finally eroding prohibition —the state’s need for revenue, the costs of incarceration, the popular understanding that cannabis is safer than alcohol, etc.