The New Priest

Informant: So.. I have a joke about a priest if you want to hear it.

Interviewer: That sounds great.

Informant: So there’s a new priest that is taking over a church after another priest that is retiring. The old priest is teaching him about how he runs the church. “The most important part” he says “is the confessional. For small sins, I give one Lord’s prayer, for larger sins, I give two, and for really big ones I give three. If you have any questions, ask the warden, he’s been working here with me for a really long time so he knows almost everything.” So, one day, long after the old priest has left, the new priest has a woman in his confessional, who says “I had oral sex.” The new priest isn’t sure how bad this sin is, so he goes and asks the warden: “What did the old priest give for oral sex?” The warden replies “I’m not sure about other people, but to me he gave a fidorka (traditional Czech snack).”

Context: My informant is a nineteen year old Czech national attending school in the United States. He’s lived in Prague for most of his life, and Czech is his first language. The interview was conducted face-to-face in a college dorm room.

Background: My informant heard this joke from one of his friends. According to him, the Czech populace tends to be agnostic or atheistic, so jokes making fun of religion or religious figures are not uncommon. However,  these jokes are not mean spirited, but rather are used to criticize an institution which was normally difficult to criticize for much of Czech history.

Analysis: This joke is evidently poking fun at the church, but when one delves slightly deeper into its wording, there is a greater underlying significance. The joke references the older priest, supposedly a veteran cleric of the church, who, despite being a seasoned clergyman, still needs sexual satisfaction. The price of that satisfaction aside, it outlines an element of the Catholic church in particular – that is, the supposed abstinence of clergymen – and suggests that, perhaps, the clergy are not so pure after all. Here, we see the role of folklore in questioning larger institutions, their inner-workings, and their greater cultural roles.