I’ve been worried about my Catholic friends, being all Popeless. Now that the papal conclave is underway, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the millions of directionless Catholics out there. That light will probably be shaped like a very old man of middle European descent, but I don’t want to influence the betting. Regardless, a light is a light.
Now that His new Eminence is imminent, I want to say something to my Catholic friends:
It’s okay if you were nonplussed by the last pope. It doesn’t make you a bad Catholic. He was a hard pope to love, by pope standards. Lots of non-Catholics around the world looked at Pope Benedict and were disquieted. Something seemed just a bit off about this latest descendant from St. Peter. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it was. Maybe he just wasn’t as huggable as his immediate predecessor?
No, that wasn’t it…
Okay, imagine you’re visiting from another planet and know nothing about our religious organizations. The first human you encounter is a Catholic. You’re told there is one man at top of the church, and he is named things such as His Holiness, Servant of God, Holy Father, and even simply Papa. Then this human gives you three pictures and asks if you could pick which one it is.
(Presumably this human is an idiot who wants to waste your time with moronic games despite your ability to suck his blood out through his eyeballs and destroy the planet with your horribly weaponed mother ship.)
Which one is Papa? Who embodies the faith and hope of a billion people while treating his flock with love and kindness?
I’m not an actual alien, but you couldn’t fault a real alien for not immediately choosing the “kneel before Zod” option. I would have been much happier with Fred Rogers. Not only was he a genuinely kind man, but his obvious affection for trolleys makes me think he’d be in favor of infrastructure improvements.
I’m mostly kidding. I’m sure Pope Benedict is not as evil as photographs often depict him. We shouldn’t judge anyone on outward appearances, especially if it’s just a single picture pulled from billions taken. Any of us can get caught at an unfortunate moment.
Forgetting the oft-Palpatiney expressions on Benedict’s face, you can be forgiven for not fully embracing this latest pope. He went to Africa, where AIDS has reached epidemic levels, and told the people there to not use condoms. It’s fine to feel troubled by that statement — it is, after all, irresponsible, reprehensible, and devoid of human decency. “Troubled” doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about a man willing to sacrifice innocent people to uphold his medieval views of sex.
And speaking of sex, there’s a fair amount of evidence suggesting that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger worked to sweep some child molestation cases under the rug and to transfer the priests in question to different parishes. Later, Pope Benedict issues many vague statements while refusing to cooperate with civil authorities whenever he could. Another Catholic tradition that goes back about a thousand years or so.
So, yeah… I hope my Catholic friends are at least torn about Benedict stepping down. You are all welcome to join the rest of us in our celebrations. I don’t know who the next pope will be, but he’s got to be better. Here’s my choice:
Say hello to Baselios Isaac Cleemis Thottunkal. He’s the current Archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Church and at 53 he is one of the youngest members of the College of Cardinals. He has everything you want in a pontiff: strange name, wonderful hat, and a superb beard. In fact, that would be the best papal beard since Pope Leo XI in 1605! (Fun fact: “Papal beard” is a now-disused nickname for the camerlengo.) Obviously he would be the first Indian pope. I hope those Cardinals like malai kofta and garlic naan.
Whoever the next Pope is, he’s going to have a lot of work ahead of him to restore faith in the Church as an institution — a task made no easier with Benedict still puttering around the Vatican on his PopeSegway. Good luck to him!
Now, you devout Catholics go away so the rest of us can watch this. (NSFW)