I am what could be generously called a lapsed Catholic. But even if I become an atheist Buddhist with Zoroastrian tendencies, I am and will forever be a former seminarian. Even though I was never ordained, the experience left an indelible mark on my soul nonetheless. So, with Benedict throwing in the towel, the media getting their Catholic geek on and the election of the new Pope – it’s been an interesting couple of weeks. And my bride to be knows me very, very well.
“So what would you do if you became Pope?” Annie asks as we’re dining on lamb kebabs in a Greek restaurant.
“Probably try to figure out how to smuggle you into the Vatican,” I say.
“Popes have done it before.
“I’m sure the Borgias left tunnels somewhere.”
I take a bite of lamb and wash it down with some red wine. I’m being adventurous tonight. Ever since my gallbladder fiasco, lamb has no love for me. So far so good, but I’m sure I’ll pay for my sins later.
“No seriously,” Annie says. “You studied to be a priest and, despite yourself, you still care what happens with all this stuff. So what would you do if you got the job?”
“Well, I wouldn’t call myself Francis.”
“Because if any of you guys call me Francis,” I say, injecting a hysterical shrill into my voice, “I’ll kill you.”
Annie stares at me blankly. “What the hell are you talking about?”
I sigh. I’m ten years older than Annie so we don’t share all the same cultural references. I explain the legendary dialogue from the movie Stripes.
“Oh man,” she says when I’m finished. “That’s bad.”
“I emailed that video clip to a seminary classmate of mine. He wrote back, ‘I was thinking the same exact thing! Pope Psycho!’”
Annie shakes her head. “When are you going to write that book about seminary?”
Many people have asked me that question. I did try once five years ago but the publisher shot down the proposal. Just as well. The book didn’t have an ending then. But I didn’t know Ann then either – and she turned out to be more real than all the theological ponderings of my youth. Lets just say that book is a divine itch I have yet to scratch.
“One day Annie,” I say. “One day.”
“Well,” she says. “You haven’t written on your blog for ages and it’s pissing me off. When you get home, I want you to write about what you would do if you became Pope.”
I laugh. “Trust me, honey. Anyone who’s ever walked through the seminary door has thought of what they’d do if they got the white beanie.”
Baby, this one is for you.
TO DO LIST UPON ELECTION AS SUPREME PONTIFF OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.
1. When the Camerlengo asks, “Do accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff?” Laugh maniacally and shout, “It’s on bitches!”
2. Pick a name. Pick a scary name. I shall be called Sixtus.
3. My papal motto will be, “Because I said so.”
4. Remind myself never to look at online porn again. That shit could be traced back real quick.
5. Quickly figure out who’d be the first to poison me. Drink bottled beer only.
6. Call my cigar store and have a couple of boxes sent to “Top Dude at Vatican” post haste.
7. Pull the Vatican out of the Euro Zone. I want my face on the money.
8. Call my banker in the morning to set up a retirement plan.
9. Order the entire Rosetta Stone Language program. I need to be able to say, “Kneel before Zod!” in every tongue.
10. Find some really, really hot nuns.
11. Have my butler totally vetted before hire.
12. Dust off the Spanish Inquisition manual and renovate the dungeon. I have some housecleaning to do.
13. Relaunch the Crusades – as a massive multiplayer online game and reap the profits.
14. Put John Paul II back in the ground – where he wanted to be laid to rest. (I don’t need to worry about my corpse becoming an object of veneration. Something tells me I won’t be buried in The Vatican.)
15. Put in a rule that says a Pope must be dead a hundred years before you can even think about promoting him to sainthood. Right now the whole thing’s a racket.
16. Create the Swiss Navy. Sell The Pieta to the Bellagio in Vegas and buy a fully armed aircraft carrier and rechristen it, The Wrath of God. Stalin once asked, “How many divisions does the Pope have?” Well Uncle Joe, now the Pope has nukes.
17. Move Castel Gandolfo to the Jersey shore brick by brick
18. Hire Bruce Willis to find those priests who have the stones to make The Fifth Element. With my luck Satan is a monster-sized alien who’ll show up on my first day off.
19. Make my five-year old nephew a cardinal. It’s been done before.
20. Rename the Jesuits “The Jedi” and rename their mother church “St. Obi-Wan Outside the Walls.”
21. Commission Pope Sixtus comic book series. I’ve already got a cape.
22. Make the Vatican energy independent by hooking up the mains to the Ark of the Covenant. I know it’s around here somewhere.
23. Ditch the Popemobile for a Lamborghini.
24. Bring back bingo night at St. John Lateran.
25. Extort cattle ranchers for big payoffs or I bring back of meatless Fridays all year.
26. Have all the other religions of the world pay me for “protection.”
27. No more of this “What time is midnight Mass?” bullshit. Midnight! End of discussion.
28. Allow pets at the Vatican and get my dogs ermine booties.
29. Say priests don’t have to marry – but they have to raise at least one child.
30. Make waiting tables part of seminary formation. You learn a lot about people serving food.
31. Proclaim no priest shall be ordained until he is thirty-three. By that time, if you’re crazy, we’ll know.
32. Ban Denis Rodman from the Vatican.
33. Warn Sinead O’Connor she’d better not rip up MY picture.
34. Buy red sneakers. Better yet, launch my own line – Air Sixtus.
35. Tell Puerto Rican mothers to stop naming their kids Jesus. (I can say that because there’s a Puerto Rican branch of my family.)
36. All of Rome’s homeless get to sleep in St. Peter’s every night. Make that mandatory for every bishop’s cathedral in the world.
37. Watch the first two Godfather films for guidance – because the Curia is the original Mafia.
38. Have nuns constantly praying to St. Anthony so I can always find my Keys to the Kingdom.
40. Add “Ecclesiastical Shogun” to my extensive list of titles. Get accompanying samurai sword from the Emperor of Japan. Wicked cool.
41. Canonize Dorothy Day and my late godfather.
42. Make Latin hip again.
43. Bishops will no longer be allowed to reside in mansions. Of course, this does not apply to me. It’s good to be the Pontiff.
44. Bring back the Sedia Gestatoria. I am the Man!
45. Make L’Osservatore Romano a tabloid and add sudoku.
46. Turn the Bark of St. Peter into a macked out yacht.
47. Remember the lamb who was lost and why he is the most important one to find.
48. Start selling stuff. Start selling lots of stuff.
49. Have my attorneys send Dwayne Johnson a cease and desist letter and tell him the use of the name “The Rock” has been copyrighted for two-thousand years. “Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam.”
50. Bind less. Loose more.
In all seriousness, we don’t get a new Pope every day. Even I teared up when I heard the words “Habemus Papam” Good luck Papa Bergoglio. The hopes of the world are with you.