This month's sermon, dear friends, is on the topic of infallibility. Our reading is from the March Ladies' Home Journal, page 169, column three, just below the "MAKE EXTRA MONEY SELL GREETING CARDS" ad:

"And finally, in parting, the pope had a special word for the Journal and its readers. 'Bless you all, bless your families, bless your readers, bless your work and magazine. Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, and those of others faiths and creeds, God bless you. In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.'"

Earlier in this exclusive interview, he calls American women wonderful, intelligent and beautiful and admonishes them to fight for their rights, saying, "God does not look around to see who is wearing skirts or a pair of trousers." At the same time he metaphorically reaffirms the Catholic Church's ban on women priests: "Now tell me the truth. Would you like to see a woman play Othello and a man act Lady Macbeth?"

Talk about publishing coups! It almost sounds too good to be true, which is exactly what the Vatican says.

The pope was unavailable for comment -- even though we're Catholic and had been to mass that very morning. But we spoke to his press officer.

"These conversations cannot have been possible" said Fr. Romeo Panciroli, the Jody Powell of the Vatican.

"The policy of all popes," added his assistant, Marjorie Weeke, "is just that they don't give interviews."

At Ladies' Home Journal, which is the eighth most popular magazine in the country, with a circulation of 5,633,128, editor Lenore Hershey insisted that Peter Dragadze's conversations with the pope were real. "He's been an accredited member of the Vatican press corps for three years," she said. I wouldn't have published that story if I didn't believe it."

Dragadze, meanwhile, was mum on the topic. There was no answer at his Rome apartment. Hershey said that he was sick in New York and not taking calls.

"He doesn't want to get involved in this," Hershey said, "and I don't want to get in an adversary position with the Catholic Church."

"It's a very stupid," said the Rev. Guido Sarducci, the "Saturday Night Live" ecclesiastical commentator who covered the pope's American visit for Rolling Stone magazine. "I'm a considering canceling my subscription to Ladiesa Homea Journal." A Ringer

Self-explanatory, from the Feb. 11 Sports Illustrated:

"During the college basketball season, The New York Daily News publishes point spreads compiled by syndicated columnist Jim McCarthy. For a long time, News staffers suspected that The New York Post was lifting McCarthy's line more or less intact and running it as its own. The other morning the News ran what amounted to a zone trap by sneaking the following entry into McCarthy's listings:

MURRAY ST. 5 1/2 Murdoch St. "Sure enough, those same tow teams appeared that very afternoon in the Post. Aha! Murray State actually was playing Morehead State. There is no such school as Murdoch State and probably won't be unless one is founded by Post publisher Rupert Murdoch." The Rush of Events

Take a deep breath, please.

In the last four weeks, New York magazine owner Rupert Murdoch fired his editor, Joe Armstrong, and replaced him with ex-Newsweek editor Ed Kosner. Murdoch also bought Cue/New York for $5 million and summarily abolished it, folding its subscribers in with New York's. Boston real-estate mogul Mort Zuckerman bought the financially foundering Atlantic; CBS bought the highly successful American Photographer; an affiliate of the McFadden Publishing Group bought Us From The New York Times. Meanwhile, Time Inc. named William Rukeyser managing editord of Fortune and made Marshall Loeb editor of Money; and Playboy's West Coast editor, Larry Dietz, involuntarily resigned. Oz Elliott, another former Newsweek editor and now dean of Columbia's journalism school, fired Robert Manoff, editor of the Columbia Journalism Review.

In the year he spent editing CJR (after being a senior editor at the defunct More), Manoff changed a rather lackluster house organ into a sharp, savvy, hard-hitting watchdog for the Fourth Estate.

The March/April issue, for instance, decimates the objectivity of Jamaica's Daily Gleaner, which last fall received an award for excellence from the Columbia School of Journalism.

Dean Elliott says that he fired Manoff because "he wasn't putting the magazine out on time, and he was alienating the staff."

According to his staff, Manoff was not the easiest guy in the world to get along with. But what editor is?

In Manoff's last issue, CJR publisher Edward Barrett critizes three of the pieces in his publisher's note. Taking exception to a piece that hits The Wall Street Journal for running press releases virtually verbatim under bylines, he exonerates "that worthy paper" because "readers want to see company anouncements."

Manoff says that "Elliott is using a bureaucratic argument to mask a substantive issue" -- which does not bode well for the nation's most prestigious journalism school.

On the lighter side, it's encouraging to note that American Photographer could fetch $2.4 million after only two years of publishing. Started on a shoestring budget by publisher Alan Bennett and editor Sean Callahan, the magazine quickly demonstrated that success can be achieved through personalized publishing. Callahan was given free rein to cover the wacky world of photography as he saw fit. And often the coverage indeed has been wacky, getting to the strange personalities behind all those mathematical f-stops. Consider this explanation of a cover shot, which never would have been tolerated at any other photography journal:

"Cover -- Girl with Beam of Light by Eric Meola. In this space we normally tell you how the photographer made this shot, but Meola said 'Uh, uh. No way.' We offered him money. We offered him an all-expense-paid vacation to Kodak Park in Rochester, N.Y. Even a free one-year subscription. He wouldn't talk. So we called up his model, Maybelle, and asked her what she remembered about the shooting. "He gave me this Kamali swimsuit to put on and then lathered me with safflower oil. I stood on this platform, the studio lights went out, I heard his SLR click open, the strobes went off, this light beam came down and went on and off. He told me to inhale. The studio lights went on, then the camera's shutter clicked shut. A few days later my husband noticed a patch of sunburn in a place I'd rather not talk about, and he doesn't believe my story either."

Bennett, by the way, has gone on to publish Savvy, one of the best new magazines in recent years, again giving his editor -- Judith Daniels -- a chance to run the kinds of stories that she personally finds exciting, rather than attempting to fill some conceptual mold of what a women's magazine ought to provide. The March Savvy includes a profile on Christie Hefner, a beautifully illustrated piece on fountain pens, a report on female law partners and a slinky lingerie spread. Who says feminism has to be dully polemical? The Best Good reads:

Steven Brill on Roy Cohn in the March American Lawyer.

John Bainbridge on the problems of reporters during the 11 1/2- month shutdown at The Times of London, in the Feb. 18 New Yorker:

"Prudence Glynn, the fashion editor, said that when she was about to go to Paris to see one of the collections, she asked Harry Kerr, the photographer who normally accompanies her on such assignments, if he would be going along. Kerr seemed rather reluctant to make the trip, probably because he couldn't see much future in taking photographes that would never be published, so Ms. Glynn prepared to go alone. The minute Kerr's wife heard this, she called Ms. Glynn and said, 'For God's sake, take him! He's already tiled the kitchen three times.'"

We should also note here three entire issue of magazines:

The March Geo may well be the best single issue of any magazine in a long time. Another example of publishing as a personal vision (this one from yet another ex-Newsweek editor, Bob Christopher), the current Geo includes: a Peter Matthiessen report on the ecological ravages being inflicted on American Indians; a sumptuous photography layout of Japanese foods, with matte black borders that seem to float the picture above the page; Tim Cahill's retracing of Conan Doyle's journey through South America to the Lost World; and an outrageous portfolio of Neal Slavin photos of strange pets, including a bison who lives in a living room and a parrot that plays electric bass.

The March and April issues of Esquire, back in their old fat style with a perfect (square) binding, are full of well-crafted stories on being divorced, being in the midst of a recession, being well dressed and being a member of the Klan. Art director Robert Priest has resurrected the old Esquire script logo and given editorial pages a uniform look both classy and easy to read. Back to the Typewriter

Ed Thompson, the former managing editor of Life who created Smithsonian, has left the magazine to write an autobiography . . . After publishing three issues, Science 80 has increased its circulation from 250,000 to 400,000 and is switching from bimonthly to a monthly format . . . Roger Wilkins has joined the editorial board of the Nation . . . Gloria Steinem has traded her red editor's pencil for a black one and has begun writing a monthly column for Ms., the first regular writing column for Ms., the first regular writing she's done in almost 10 years . . . Newsweek's Jack Kroll received the George Jean Nathan award for dramatic criticism last month.

And finally, signaling the end of western civilization as we know it, the February/March issue of American Heritage has soft covers.

Is nothing sacred? American Heritage? The pope?

Help!