Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Michael: The Vatican Menace

The wagers are already plunking on who will be the next Pope. The favorites at the moment are Diongi Tettamanzi, an Italian Cardinal who is Arch-Bishop of Milan, and who ghost-wrote one of John Paul's encyclicals, and Francis Arinze, an African Cardinal who is Archbishop of Nigeria and a social arch-conservative. But there is a saying at the Vatican that, “one goes in a Pope and comes out a Cardinal.” In other words, those favored at the start are seldom elected. This election may violate conventional wisdom due to the new electoral rules put in place by John Paul II, allowing the election of the next Pope by simple majority if there is no 2/3 candidate after 12 days of Conclave.

But the real issue is why so few get to vote on who becomes Pope? With the Religious Right pushing religion further and further down the throat of secular government in this country, why shouldn’t the secular world intrude upon religious governance? Why shouldn’t the world insist on a transparent and democratic transfer of power within the Catholic Church?

The world must insist on the Church widening the franchise, to give some weight to the preferences of average Catholics here and around the world. The voices of the many are shut out of the process of electing the Vicar of Christ. This must not stand.

Why limit the world’s choices to a bunch of old men from Europe and the Third World? Most of the current Papabilis are well into their late 60's and 70's because of the unwritten ‘rule’ that the successor of a Pope should not have been elevated by him to the College of Cardinals. This leaves a very thin field indeed when you consider that 117 of 135 currently in the College were elevated by John Paul II because of his long reign (the third longest in the history of the Papacy). Can we allow the election of the next Pope to dominated by just 18 old men?

Technically, any member of the Catholic Church may become Pope, even if not a priest. The Church can be a true democracy. The last several hundred years of tradition have cemented into an ossified and authoritarian habit of picking only high Church officials as Pope. Wouldn't it be extraordinary if any member of the Church, including women, could stand for election to the Papacy - not just by the College, but by a vote of all Catholics? That would make the Pope much more reflective of a body of the Church. In fact, it might just make the Papacy the democratically-elected office representing the largest number of people in the world.

But the College will never surrender their carefully hoarded dictatorial powers willingly? No. They will Conclave and name their Pope in secret unless the world does something to stop their outrageous grab for power.

We must invade and occupy the Vatican City.

It is the only way that the Catholic Church can be made safe for democracy. Inside their secretive cloisters, we have solid intelligence sources (code-named Screwball and Unreliable) who indicate that the Cardinals and the Curia are plotting to call down a plague from God upon us all, once they have manipulated the hand of their chosen candidate into the Fisher’s Ring. If we hesitate now, the first sign of their plot could be the angel of death flying over and killing our first-borns. These Red Garbed Menaces threaten our way of life. They would outlaw war, tax us all 10% of our incomes, and force us to care for the poor and unfortunate, possibly even make us touch Ebola victims. Only if we strike now, and strike hard, can we ensure the freedom of Catholics everywhere and the safety of the free world.

The first non-Cardinate candidate from the United States for Pope has already announced his intent to run and has the backing of the U.S. Government: The Honorable Antonin Scalia.

For the humor impaired: yes, this is a satire. No, I didn't want to use weapons of "Mass" destruction... too obvious :)

Update: Cross-posted at BlogCritics and DailyKos.

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