Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world today when he said that Catholics had to 'do penance' for the sins of the church.
"Obviously, I'm the Pope so I've already got my free pass into heaven. You lot on the other hand are going to have to start covering your arses pretty quickly if you don't want to find out what happens when you try to refuse God's love."
The Pope later admitted that, given the current paedophile scandal, his choice of words could have been better but said that the message remained unchanged.
"It's time for you to pay the price for letting your little brats lead our holy fathers astray.
"As if that wasn't bad enough, some members of the flock even saw fit to go running bleating to the press. We're only talking about a few minor indiscretions by our priesthood here but the damage these tittle-tattlers have done to the church, and more importantly its finances, is incalculable. Believe me, there will be excommunications over this!"
The uncharacteristically terse outpourings from Pope Benedict has led to speculation that he might be feeling the pressure from the widespread media criticism of his leadership. "He's not as young as he used to be. His days of goose-stepping 15 miles before breakfast are long gone." said a Vatican insider who wished to remain nameless.
Another informant, who also wished to remain nameless, even went so far as to suggest that, "His Holiness may be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Only this morning I found him in his chambers looking at some photos from his childhood. He was muttering something in German about the 'Reich' and 'the good old days' and, I can't be sure, but I think he may even have been crying."
The view that the Pope's rash comments might indicate an underlying 'medical' issue was given added support when Cardinal Bertolli Flora was later forced to read out a statement prepared by Pope Benedict instructing the 40,000 members of the priesthood to gather in St Peter's Square at the earliest opportunity.
The statement claimed, "I have received information from a VERY reliable source (nod, nod, wink, wink!) that the 'Devils little helpers', Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchins, are planning to storm the Vatican some time later in the year to issue an arrest warrant currently being prepared in the UK."
Cardinal Flora added, "If this report is true and, considering who the 'source' is, we have no reason to believe it isn't, We need all the help we can get to defeat these atheist scum and their dastardly plans."