Today the office got more information regarding road closures and alternate travel routes due to World Youth Day. Seems God’s APEC is going to be shutting down sections of the CBD for a little while. Nothing annoys Sydneysiders more than a road closure. We’ll put up with anything – twelve-dollar beers, personal trainers who wear camouflage combat gear, women who say “who are you wearing?” and people who combine yoga and pilates and call it yogalates – but close a road and you’re looking at real, passionate anger.

“You hear tens of thousands of Burmese are orphaned, starving and homeless?”


“And millions of Chinese are buried under piles of rubble?”


“Yeah, and George street is totally going to be closed ’cos of World Youth Day…”

“What? Like, the whole of George Street? ARE THOSE JESUS FREAKS SERIOUS?!”

I look around the office to see who might be up for a little World Youth Day roasting, but it’s a tricky topic. One thing life has taught me is that you never know who is going to be an unexpected Christian. They’re always the people who are, well, unexpected. You can be onto the second minute of your always-hilarious Catholic priest/paedophile material, when BAM! You realise you’re riffing with an unexpected Christian.

Catholics are even worse. They’re like dormant seeds; they can literally go decades without a Hail Mary and it’ll only take something like a World Youth Day to come around before they’ll be chasing the Pope-mobile with the rest of the crazies.

I was raised a Catholic, so I think I know how to walk the line between funny and offensive when it comes to faith. But I’m dead suspicious of the religious youth. I remember being talked into going on a Catholic youth retreat as a teenager and thinking it was just an excuse for ugly people to hug each other. So much hugging. Sooooooo much hugging.

I decide to take a risk and, while the entire office is sore about World Youth Day closing down roads, I suggest to everyone that we should take bets on whether the young pilgrims, so free and far from home, will be as pious as we expect them to be, or will some of these pilgrims fall by the roadside at places like Kings Cross or Taylor’s Square? The response is positive.

“A thousand bucks says there’s a pilgrim orgy scandal,” Tony says, sipping a giant takeaway latte. “We should have a bet to see which one of us can pick up a pilgrim,” says Flick, one of our junior advisers. This idea seems to strike a chord with almost everybody. I point out that there will be an outdoor Stations of the Cross, for which the WYD08 website says, “the city will be transformed into an outdoor cathedral”.

I was raised a Catholic, so the Stations of the Cross are not new to me, but there’s something really morbid about meditating on the specific details of a guy who was humiliated, brutalised, tortured and then murdered – even if there is a happy ending. “I’m no expert,” I say, “but I believe picking up a pilgrim is all about vulnerability.”

Everybody’s nodding their heads. I interpret their attention as meaning this is the most vital information they’ve ever heard. I’ve never seen them this focused. Not even in meetings. I continue. “We need to pin-point the exact moment on the Stations of the Cross when a pilgrim may become depressed. In my humble opinion, this would be the station where Jesus falls for the third time. That’s the moment to strike.”

Everyone in the office has shifted from intense interest to something more like disgust. “Wow. You’ve really thought about this, haven’t you, Wes,” says Tony, a little contemptuously. “No, I haven’t … I just thought …” I look around the room and see that everyone is backing away like I have an infectious disease. “I think you’re a little out of line, Wes,” says Tony, who has instantly become the high priest of morality and public decency. “I mean, I like a joke as much as the next bloke, but, you know, there’s some things which are off limits.”

I reply: “Are you telling me Jesus is off limits now? Two minutes ago you were saying that, given the right stylist, The Pope could look identical to George Clooney – and now I’m the bad guy?”

One by one, people slowly leave the room, collectively shaking their heads. Damn that Tony, he’s good. I never would have guessed he was an unexpected Catholic.  

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