INT: A RADIO STUDIO, SOMEWHERE IN LONDON.
UBO: There has been much controversy following the announcement made by His Holiness the Pope earlier today, prohibiting the wearing of sandals. To discuss both the context and the wider implications of this ruling, it is our great pleasure to welcome Bishop Kerry Flapjack. Good morning, Your Grace.
BISHOP FLAPJACK: Hello, yes, good morning. It's very roomy in here, isn't it?
UBO: Oh, yes... yes. Now, Your Grace, if we could -
BISHOP FLAPJACK: You know, I was expecting something much, much smaller. I thought we'd end up sitting in a broom cupboard, ha ha.
UBO: Ha, yes. Well, if we could turn to the subject of this latest announcement: the prohibition of sandals for Catholics. Some might see this as a somewhat draconian move.
BISHOP FLAPJACK: Oh no, no, I don't think so. I mean, it could have been so much worse, couldn't it? I mean, for example, they could have been ordered to be shod in broken glass, couldn't they? I'm not suggesting His Holiness would make such a demand but, well, there you are. Or, they might have been told to hammer nails into their toes, for example. Or live eels, perhaps? Imagine that - having live eels strapped to their feet. Oooh.
UBO: Well, yes, um... With respect, you seem to be straying from the issue somewhat.
BISHOP FLAPJACK: Just think of it - live eels, eh? Imagine this room full of live eels. I'm thinking that you could get a lot of eels in here - all wriggly and squirmy. Nasty.
UBO: Your Grace, this is nonsense.
BISHOP FLAPJACK: Well exactly. You wouldn't want to cram your nice new studio with eels. They'd get into the equipment, clog everything up. It would be a health and safety nightmare. Why, it would be ridiculous.
UBO: It would be; it would be, indeed. And yet, some people are saying that the Pope's decision to outlaw sandals is equally ridiculous. Can you sympathise with that point of view?
BISHOP FLAPJACK: Sandals?
UBO: Yes, sandals, Your Grace. Sorry to drag you back to the issue, but the fact is a lot of people are very concerned about this matter.
BISHOP FLAPJACK: Oh yes, well, it's not really the same thing at all. The wearing of sandals has been proscribed on firm religious grounds. It is, undeniably, a mortal sin.
UBO: A sin?
BISHOP FLAPJACK: Oh yes, most definitely.
UBO: How exactly - and you must forgive me here if I seem a little factious, but I'm keen to understand this - how exactly can the wearing of sandals have suddenly become sinful?
BISHOP FLAPJACK: I'm not sure I understand the question.
UBO: Well, it's really quite simple. As of today, the wearing of sandals is sinful, right?
BISHOP FLAPJACK: Yes, yes, that's straightforward enough.
UBO: So, does that mean that it wasn't a sin yesterday?
BISHOP FLAPJACK: Yes.
UBO: Yes, it wasn't a sin? Or yes it was?
BISHOP FLAPJACK: Yes... No... Look, you're getting me confused now. It's really perfectly simple. Today, the wearing of sandals is sinful; yesterday it was not.
UBO: So basically, what you're saying is that you could have been wearing sandals for the last thirty years and there's no problem; but if you wear them today, you're going straight to hell? And, in that case, what has happened in the last twenty-four hours to have rendered such an apparently harmless activity a mortal sin?
BISHOP FLAPJACK: Well, the Pope has made an announcement.
UBO: Just that?
BISHOP FLAPJACK: This is the Pope we're talking about - God's representative here on Earth. He may just look like an old bloke in a dress to you, but his words carry a fair bit of clout, you know.
UBO: Yes, yes, of course. But what I'm trying to get it is that if the church can suddenly make a ruling that such-and-such a thing is illegal, then doesn't that mean that the nature of sin is not objective? We are led to believe that the principals of right and wrong are powerful, primordial and, most importantly, fixed concepts. And yet, here we see a bunch of self-appointed guardians of morality, sitting quite comfortably in Rome in the most opulent of settings, apparently making up rules on a whim. Do you begin to see why people might have a problem with it?
BISHOP FLAPJACK: No, no, it's not like that. They haven't just made it up on a whim.
UBO: No. Then where does it come from? Is it in the bible?
BISHOP FLAPJACK: It comes from an interpretation of biblical teachings-
UBO: Does it actually say, anywhere in the bible, 'Thou shall not wear sandals'?
BISHOP FLAPJACK: Well, no, not-
UBO: Is there a passage, perhaps, in the old testament which reads, 'Thou shalt worship no other slippers but mine' or 'Thou shall not venerate graven footwear'?
BISHOP FLAPJACK: Oh come on, now you're just being -
UBO: All I'm doing is asking a simple question. Where do these curious edicts concerning footwear come from? What are these ancient teachings, and how come the Catholic Church has been happy to ignore them until now? Can you answer that, Bishop?
BISHOP FLAPJACK: Look, I... Don't you have to go to a commercial break, or something?
UBO: No, no, we're fine. Perhaps, if there's nothing about sandals in the bible, the message has come to us some other way? Perhaps from the big guy himself? Maybe He appeared in the Vatican one day in a big ball of white light and said, "Hey, Popey, I'm thinking this sandal business is a big no-no. Whaddya think?"
BISHOP FLAPJACK: This is bordering on the blasphemous.
UBO: I don't see how. You said yourself that His Holiness the Pope is God's representative here on Earth. It stands to reason that the boss is going to have to put in an appearance in person every once in a while, especially if it's over something as fundamental as introducing a new sin. After all, if He didn't take an interest, He might find that His representatives start getting bored and making stuff up just for the hell of it. And that would never do, would it?
BISHOP FLAPJACK: Look, take it from me, He wasn't at the meeting. God doesn't do politics. Nevertheless, religious teachings clearly dictate that the wearing of sandals is a sin, pure and simple. It's doctrine now, there's no going back. It exposes the feet in a lewd and obscene way, and promotes promiscuity and wanton behaviour.
UBO: Didn't Jesus wear sandals?
BISHOP FLAPJACK: No.
UBO: I think he did. I think all the disciples wore them too.
BISHOP FLAPJACK: I refuse to listen to this nonsense.
UBO: Does it say in the bible that the Messiah and his followers promoted promiscuity and wanton behaviour?
BISHOP FLAPJACK: I'm not listening. Look, I'm putting my fingers in my ears. La la la la la la la la!
UBO: I'm not a theologian myself, but I'm pretty confident that it says nothing of the sort.
BISHOP FLAPJACK: La la la la la la! Ooh, what a big studio you've got here. La la la la la! I'm still not listening, la la!
UBO: And I'm pretty confident that the Pope's latest announcement has nothing to do with scripture and everything to do with his own strangely deluded reactionary views.
BISHOP FLAPJACK: La la! Ha ha! I can see your lips moving but I just don't care.
UBO: And I can see that this particular debate is not going to progress any further. Bishop Flapjack, our time is at an end. Thank you for talking to me today, and I hope we will get another opportunity to hear more of your fascinating views at some point in the future.
BISHOP FLAPJACK: Yeah, la la, and your mother, ha ha ha ha!
UBO: And a very good night to you too.
Modified pets for all occasions
Selections from Dr Bongo's dazzling literary career
The inner workings of nun manufacture
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