The Priest, the Drunk, and the Pope’s Arthritis

Once upon a time, on a city bus, a parish priest found himself seated next to a man who seemed to be quite intoxicated. The man struggled to focus on a crumpled newspaper in his hands, his eyes squinting at the small text.

Breaking the silence, the man slurred, “Hey, you know what arthritis is?”

Seizing the opportunity to impart some moral wisdom, the priest leaned in and earnestly said, “Arthritis is often the result of a life led astray—indulging in alcohol, drugs, and other illicit substances. It’s a condition often associated with immoral behaviour like promiscuity, frequenting seedy places, and a variety of other vices too shocking to mention.”

The drunk man looked up, wide-eyed, absorbing the priest’s words. He fell silent and went back to reading his newspaper, eyebrows furrowed.

Feeling perhaps that he had been too harsh, the priest decided to extend an olive branch. “I apologize if my earlier words were strong. How long have you been dealing with arthritis?”

The man glanced up from the paper and chuckled. “Oh, I don’t have arthritis. I was just reading that the Pope does.”

The priest’s face flushed a shade of crimson, realizing his snap judgment had backfired. He was left contemplating the lesson of not making assumptions based on appearances—a lesson that the man’s simple question had unwittingly imparted. And so, the bus carried on, both men a bit wiser in their own way.


This joke plays on the assumption that the priest makes about the man’s question. Assuming that the drunk is asking about arthritis because he has it himself, the priest launches into a moral lecture about “sinful and unruly life.” The punchline reveals that the man was actually asking about arthritis because he read that the Pope has it, creating an ironic twist given the moral assumptions the priest had made.

It’s a joke that plays on misunderstandings and assumptions, while also serving as a gentle reminder not to jump to conclusions based on appearances or stereotypes. At the same time, it touches on the idea that even those who are seen as morally upright, like the Pope, can experience health issues that are often unfairly stigmatized.

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