The Papal Wait and See- What you didn’t (want to) know
The world is abuzz. The Pope has stepped down, the first to do so in over 600 years. But with recent announcements about how he is to spend his retirement years, the race to become the next pope has heated up. And the popular opinion is that the next pope will retire too, rather than cling to the papacy until death as so many predecessors have done. With the revelation that Pope Benedict XVI gets to live in a place called Castel Gandolfo, attended to by two secretaries and four lay women, thousands of Lord of the Rings fans have reportedly flooded Catholic seminaries with application forms. The news that his Papal ring is to be destroyed has fuelled the fervour even further. Stripped of his red shoes, His Holiness Benedict XVI nonetheless commands the envy of many. At 85, he gets to wander the gardens of his new post-papal home in a simple white cassock, playing piano and spending hours staring at the decor. Elton John is reported to be looking at a similar retirement package when the time comes.
Now that the Pope has moved aside, making way for a younger, more vibrant pope (those septuagenarians really can git ‘er done), the world waits with bated breath. Will the new pope tackle the hard issues? Sexual abuse, the Vatileaks scandal (the one concerning corruption, backstabbing and financial mismanagement, not the one concerning the papal diaper fiasco) and continuing strife over the church’s inability to adapt to a post-second-century reality threaten to sink the Church entirely if not addressed head-on and in a timely fashion. Sources from within the conclave who wish to remain anonymous due to being fictional have expressed anxiety. “I’ve never had sex, at least not that I’ll admit,” said one. “So I’m not really qualified to address the issue. I think, if elected Pope, I’d ignore it. It’s tradition.” This sentiment was echoed by most other cardinals, although one, smelling rather strongly of wine, admitted that he just wanted to become Pope so that he could retire.
“You get to live in a convent after! Imagine, just me and a bevy of nuns…. Woah. I’d retire like, a year later.”
No one knows how long it will take to elect a new Pope. Limiting the voting members of the conclave to those under 80 helps by keeping nap time down to a mere four hours a day, but still Roman Catholics the world over worry that they may spend too long in papal limbo. Some are concerned that if the red shoes remain empty for too long, Benedict XVI may be tempted to slip them back on. At his age, and with his failing health, that could result in a broken hip or two. Experts agree that too long an inter-papal period might also result in a greater occurrence of Catholic lapsing, which would be a devastating blow to an institution already reeling with renunciations and struggling with mass abandonment. There is also a distinct concern that God, having no one to talk to, might start chatting up virgins again, heralding the second coming, the apocalypse, and a triple-dip recession.
So who are the front-runners? Angelo Scola, who believes that feminism is the cause of homosexuality; Luis Antonio Tagle, who has previous experience in shoring up the foundations of a church; Peter Turkson, who, in line with tradition, believes that just saying no will save Africa from AIDS. There are also rumblings about a French Canadian and another Italian. All in all, the pickings are slim. No one seems willing to bring up some very salient points about Catholicism today. That forcing men to be celibate while making them wear long robes and fancy hats, is just asking for all sorts of trouble. That telling people to suppress all natural desires just causes unnatural ones to bubble up. And that women can be just as qualified to put on a dress and red shoes and murmur platitudes at the multitudes. One source from within the Vatican, when asked about the issue, commented, “Well, the thing is, we all know how stupid we sound. But if we admit we were wrong, that’s admitting the past popes have been wrong. And if we admit they were wrong, that’s like admitting that God was wrong. So it’s a no-go area. We are, however, working on an explanation that will allow some theological back-tracking. We’ve just discovered that the papal mitre- you know, his hat- causes a huge ear-wax build up. Who knew!? So we’re working on the theory that God and he Popes haven’t been wrong, it’s just that the Popes haven’t heard God properly.”
So maybe there’s hope after all?