The Vatican -- The Roman Catholic Church has given up Lent. In an unprecedented financial maneuver, Pope Francis has turned over the 40 day, 40 night period of atonement to the Church of Scamatology.
The sale price was $69 billion. That buys the Scamatologists a stretch of the liturgical calendar that nets very little income for the Catholic Church.
"Lent is such a downer," the Pope said. "There's the fasting, the denial, the 'ashes to ashes.' All of these categories survey as negative attributes among Catholics and non-Christians alike. That doesn't help our brand, so we're just getting rid of them by dropping the entire Lenten season."
Asked what the $69 billion purchase windfall would be used for, His Holiness said it's earmarked to protect the brand. "Our altar boy litigation fund needs to be replenished. Those lawyers are more brutal than an ISIS drill sergeant."
Not included in the deal are the holidays of Fat Tuesday and Good Friday. "We're not going to give away Mardi Gras celebrations," said Cardinal Karl DiSanto, Chief Image Protector of the Holy Tide. "Fat Tuesday activities project a happy image for the church. Besides it's the only day we men of the cloth get to see real live titties."
Good Friday, meanwhile, is scheduled for an overhaul. "For starters, the name is a problem," DiSanto said. "What's so good about being hung out to bleed to death? So from here on out, Good Friday is called Crossover. That will fit in better with Passover and a new holy day we are creating called Handover. On that day, each of the faithful will hand over 10% of their income to the Catholic Church."
Scamatologists also see profit on their side of the deal. Followers of the late R Lon Bubbard report that the "Captain" is ecstatic about owning the rights to the Catholics' season of contrition.
"Most of our members were heavy sinners before they joined our church," said Scamatology spokesman Tom Cruz (no relation). "They need Lent. It's like a vacation from damnation. Plus, it fits in with our concept of Clear. That's where we clear out a member's soul along with his bank account."
To further capitalize on the acquisition of Lent, the Scamatologists are scheduling Lenten cruises that will allow the faithful to celebrate the activation of the 40 new holy days in a tranquil environment. "We are resurrecting the Costa Concordia to lead the fleet. How's that for spiritual symbolism?
Included in the lenten package deal are Palm Sunday and Ash Wednesday. "This is the sweet spot of our Lenten acquisition," Cruz said. "We sell them the palms on Sunday. We burn the palms on Monday. Then we sell them the ashes on Wednesday. That's what I call recycling."
The sale of Lent has been approved by the Holy Catholic See and by R Lon Bubbard Enterprises. That means ice cream, make up sex and cigarettes tonight if you are a Catholic. Scamatologists, meanwhile, have 10 minutes to finish that joint.