Vatican: 2 /Jeb: 0 

At an April 5 rally in Clearwater, Gov. Jeb Bush lent his voice to the pro-war cause. Speaking before an estimated audience of more than 15,000 patriotic Americans -- and appearing in the company of his older brother George, who apparently also works in politics now, or something -- Jeb praised the attack on Iraq, calling it a "defining moment" for this generation, the Associated Press reported.

Halfway around the world, a certain pontiff must have hung his pointy hat in despair. Of course we mean Pope John Paul II, who has already gone public with his slightly differing view that the war is an immoral and illegitimate enterprise. So why should Jeb give a cow-chip's toss what the Pope thinks? Because he's a practicing Catholic, that's why. And every syllable he utters in support of the conflict directly contradicts the teachings of his spiritual leader -- who, let us not forget, is regarded by adherents of the faith as God's infallible messenger on Earth.

This isn't the first time Jeb's politics and his piousness have been out of whack. Consider the issue of the death penalty, which the pope has denounced as "cruel" and "unnecessary." The governor's support for it, meanwhile, rests somewhere in the region between "staunch" and "slavering." In fact, the frequency with which Jeb crosses the papal party line is becoming a blasphemy so severe that some of us have started to worry for the fate of the governor's immortal soul. We certainly don't want to see him consigned to the fires of hell, to be tormented for all eternity by the ceaselessly sadistic minions of Satan. (Especially those of us who feel reasonably sure that we aren't going to be there to watch.)

So in the spirit of Christian charity, we've brainstormed a series of potential trouble spots for the governor -- areas in which he may again be tempted to flout the requirements of his religion. And we've devised alternate routes of behavior he can take that will rescue his imperiled standing as a good Catholic boy. Like His Holiness. Or Michael Corleone.

Lustful thoughts/masturbation:

Sure, they're lesser sins. But anybody who's ever had his knuckles rapped by a ruler-brandishing nun knows that a licentious nature is the first step on the road to damnation. Because when private perversion is allowed to fester unchecked, it has consequences for everybody. That's why only three letters separate "venal" from "venereal."

What Jeb has to do is minimize situations in which he'll be motivated to entertain wicked fantasies about the fairer sex. Progress has already been made with the exit of secretary of state Katherine Harris (who, believe it or not, qualifies as a real looker by Republican standards) and her subsequent replacement by Glenda Hood (whose closest physical analogues are all running at Churchill Downs).

Paradoxically, a decline in workplace pulchritude increases the chances that Jeb will commit the sin of Onan. (If you don't know what that is, check your Bible. But wash your hands first.) And it's not as if he can reduce the temptation by spending more time at home -- i.e., have you taken a good gander at his wife lately? The last time we saw something like that, it was riding shotgun for Don Quixote.

We recommend a steady intake of saltpeter to curb the governor's libido. At the same time, he should undergo intense hypnosis therapy that will cause him to associate all carnal stimuli with mental images of obese Senate President Jim King, stripped nude and greased up with duck butter.

Taking the Lord's name in vain:

To keep the governor on the side of the angels, we must prevent him from uttering any spontaneous profanities, like "Goddamn tree-huggers!" or "Jesus H. tap-dancing Christ, did we steal that election, or what?"

For decades, recovering foulmouths have accomplished this feat via the use of a "cuss box," which they must feed with coins whenever they let slip an objectionable word or phrase. But we don't think that the threat of monetary punishment is enough to dissuade one of the Bush boys, who commit securities fraud like it's a qualifying sport for the Olympics. Instead, we need to address the matter at the source, eliminating all input that might make the governor either enraged or elated. A life free from passion is what we're mandating, one utterly devoid of any sort of emotional engagement or excitement. As a start, the state capital can be moved to Zellwood.

Dietary restrictions/meat:

Not much to worry about here, as long as we keep the governor behind Jim King in the Friday barbecue line.

Hailing Mary:

If there's any one event around which the Catholic life revolves, it's that recurring foray into the little box where all one's sins are laid bare before God. But patronizing a peep show can get a public official canned, so Jeb should just go to confession instead.

We don't mean a quick penance every six months, either. We're talking daily contrition, delivered head-on into a video camera like they do on "The Real World." And since the governor is more than an average citizen, the terms of his atonement should be more stringent, as well. Let's institute a sliding scale of self-flagellation, with punishments ranging from a titty twister for every venal sin to a punch in the head for a mortal one. And we all get to watch the footage later, thanks to our good friends at the Bright House Networks.

Excretory habits:

As a final stab at emulating papal perfection, all bathroom facilities will be removed from the governor's mansion, and his people will cram his schedule with regular camping trips into the heart of the Apalachicola National Forest. Thus, he will be forced to follow the theological example laid down in the popular riposte, "Hey, does the pope shit in the woods?"

(Note to readers: Our columnist has clearly confused the colloquial identities of "the pope" and "a bear." For the record, the correct adages are -- and will continue to be -- "Is the Pope Catholic?" and "Does a bear shit in the woods?" We regret any offense the mix-up may have caused, either to the Vatican or to Berenstain Bears creators Jan and Stan Berenstain. -- Ed.)

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