Memo to the College of Cardinals:
On the off chance that you haven’t yet read my email, I thought I’d remind you that I’m officially tossing my hat into the ring. No puns intended about the hat or the ring, but I think I’d do a pretty good job as pope.
First, I’ve got some time on my hands; I’m what you might call semi-retired. I’m partial to opera and Italian food, and I’m willing to relocate. Also, I’m a white male in my mid 60s, which is a bit young, I know. But still I seem to fit your basic qualification. And I’m willing to wear the outfit. In fact, as a fairly short man, I’d probably save you on the cost of material.
There are some other things about me, however, that you might have to overlook, and here I trust you’ll keep an open mind.
Although I’ve tried to be a faithful catholic most of my life (except for in my 20s and on those trips to Las Vegas), please notice that I used lower case for catholic. That means that we’re close cousins but not in the same immediate family. I’m with the Anglican/Lutheran brand of catholicism, probably a cheap discount brand, in your view. But most of us, like our Roman Catholic kin in the U.S., grieve over the fact that you — the Vatican and the bishops — have become sadly irrelevant. I know those are harsh words and hard to swallow, but I’m sure you saw the Times last Wednesday, which ran a poll saying that most of your own flock here consider you out of touch with reality and think that you should elect a pope that will lead in a more modern direction.
I would be a thoroughly modern choice. For one thing, I’ve never been ordained, making me just another guy in the pews. (Have you read Garry Wills’ new book, “Why Priests?”) I would be the first wholly fallible pope since 1870 when popes became officially incapable of error. Believe me, if I get the job I’ll make plenty of errors, as I always have. Just ask my wife.
Which makes for another sticky point. I would be the first married pope since the 13th century. Frankly, I think this celibacy thing has caused you a pack of trouble. I assume you know what I mean. As pope, I would stand up for the abused children, not the abusers. I would make celibacy voluntary. And, by the way, I would lighten up on all this rhetoric about birth control and homosexuality.
I’d also invite women into the priesthood. It has worked reasonably well for us small-c catholics so far. And I’d pay closer attention to science. Have you read Jim Holt’s new book, “Why Does the World Exist?” It’s a page-turner about how this particular universe (there may be others) could have begun with a quantum mechanical spasm (a Big Bang set off by God?) and about how there might be an infinite number of dimensions that we humans can’t detect. Anyway, it’s something to think about.
I know all of this is a lot to chew over. I expect that your first impulse will be to dismiss me as some kind of a crank who has no business meddling in your deliberations, and you’re probably right about that. I just feel strongly that the world badly needs the moral authority that you have the potential to provide, and that to regain all the footing you’ve lost in recent years you might consider moving forward rather than further backward.
Maybe I’m not the guy you’re looking for. Someone taller, perhaps. Or smarter. But someone who, I hope and pray, can make you relevant again.
Steve Berg is a freelance writer and urban design consultant in Minneapolis.
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