Every card-carrying member of the Mafia wanted two things in life. If he wanted to make whoopee: a night club singer with platinum hair in a tight red dress. If he got in trouble: a Jewish lawyer. In a pinch, or if he was pinched by the cops and had to choose between the two, he could do without pinching the singer in the tight red dress, but he would still want the Jewish lawyer. Since there are a limited number of Mafiosos who could afford a platinum-haired singer in a tight red dress in addition to a Jewish lawyer, or even afford a Jewish lawyer without the singer, or worse yet, a Jewish lawyer wearing a tight red dress, Jewish lawyers have had a tough time of it — at least until the Pope came to their rescue.
Last week during an annual meeting with Vatican magistrates the Pope delivered a papal bombshell. He said lawyers “should always decline to use their professions for an end that is contrary to justice, like divorce…”
On hearing the news, lawyers all over the world dropped their writs, not to mention their briefs, and were rendered speechless — which for lawyers, in the ordinary course of events, is about as likely as expecting to see Clinton shopping for a chastity belt. The Pope’s meaning was clear: Catholic lawyers should not handle divorce cases.
On hearing this news, Jewish lawyers, on the other hand, were renting halls to have parties, hiring three-piece bands, and going over menus with the caterers. This was the best thing to happen to Jewish lawyers since the Magna Carta. With Catholic lawyers out of the divorce business, they now had a monopoly in the field. There were already few Protestant lawyers in the divorce business. They were too busy figuring out how to get dressed in the morning so that nothing matched and falling asleep at board of directors meetings. Muslim lawyers, historically, were never in the divorce business. A Muslim doesn’t have to get divorced. He just picks out a new wife and sets another place at the dinner table. Besides, why would a Muslim have to get divorced in the first place? With a black shmata over their heads all women look the same.
While we agree with most of the Pope’s pronouncements, here we have to part company. Marriage and divorce are not the Pope’s line of work. To look to the Pope for guidance in this area is like asking a vegetarian’s opinion of Kobe beef. The slogan of the great old Packard automobile was, “Ask the man who owns one.” To listen to the Pope in this regard is like having the slogan read, “Ask the man who doesn’t own one.” The Pope is a wonderful elderly gentleman who looks like he is suffering from a host of physical ailments that make him feel miserable. But fortunately he will never have to know real misery — like being married to a Jewish wife who makes you get dressed up to put out the garbage or who puts up a turnstile outside the bedroom door and charges you admission if you want to go inside.
We pride ourselves on having a separation between church and state. Even in countries that do not have this absolute prohibition, governments — outside of totalitarian states — do not attempt to pass laws that affect church practices. Yet this is exactly what the Pope now attempts. He attempts to affect the business of the state by a declaration of church law.
Indeed, the Pope goes further than simply instructing Catholic lawyers not to represent other Catholics in a divorce case. He said that Catholic lawyers should not represent even non-Catholics in divorce cases. This means that if I were a non-Catholic and lived in a town without a Jewish lawyer, I’m stuck even if my wife was going into business renting out my bedroom as soon as I go to work. It could happen that I was the only man in town who didn’t sleep with my wife, and yet I’m stuck with her unless I move into another town that has a Jewish lawyer. And then it could be my bad luck that she starts sleeping with him.
It used to be that Jews, generally, were grateful to this Pope for one thing. He made it clear that the Jews did not kill their Lord. They only sold the lumber. Now, Jewish lawyers are singing his praises even if they can’t carry a tune. The one thing they will never do is convert. It would be bad for business, not to mention a major operation.
(Jackie Mason is a comedian, and Raoul Felder is an attorney.)