Warning: people of sound mind who can separate fantasy from reality may read the following entry. The rest of you: out of here now!
I am not an evil person but I do have occasional evil thoughts. As I noted the pictures of black smoke rising from the Vatican today, indicating that it may take a while for the College of Cardinals to elect a new pope, the evil thought struck me: They’re all together in one place. If there is an ideal time to kill the Catholic Church once and for all, now is the time.
Yes it’s an evil thought. Just thinking it probably means I am doomed to spend eternity in Hell. But for some of us, particularly estranged ex-Catholics with axes to grind, the idea has a certain appeal. Those who suffered from the pedophilia problem in the church probably have no love for the institution and would just as soon have it banished from the planet. And then there are people like me who after years of psychotherapy should have forgiven the Church, but really haven’t. We should be able to forgive the heaping doses of guilt, the corporal punishment we witnessed in its parochial schools, the shame we felt when we wacked off reading Playboy magazines, the humiliation seemingly sanctioned by the Holy Father himself, or just the incredible over the top mysticism of the institution. For some reason life threw us into the toxic Catholic zone. If not exactly Hell on earth, it was a particularly miserable part of purgatory that we inhabited.
What if we could just do away with it? What if in one act of retribution we could finally get even? Clearly now we have a unique opportunity. Papal conclaves don’t happen every day. But they’re all there! All 115 voting cardinals in one place: Vatican City. There they are pondering which one of them, all pretty much handpicked by John Paul II for their conservative and bizarre otherworldly tendencies, gets to be the next one to wear the white uniform, the funky white hat and the cool ring. It’s not like they are likely to come to their senses; they long ago surrendered their minds to mysticism. Smelling salts won’t knock any common sense into them either. The cardinals will doubtless elect someone a lot like John Paul II: completely out of touch with the real world but with a passion to move the Catholic Universe back into the primordial ooze. First up on the next pope’s agenda: repealing that little concession that the world was round after all.
Perhaps rabid secularists surrounding the Vatican hundreds deep and refusing to let the Cardinals out until they elect a Pope with some lick of common sense could do it. But that’s really that’s wistful thinking. As Bill Frist considers using the nuclear option in the U.S. Senate, perhaps it’s time for the legions of disgruntled ex-Catholics to consider our own nuclear option. We need one neutron bomb in a hurry. Why a neutron bomb? Because we want to kill the Cardinals, not damage Michelangelo’s glorious paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and all the other precious art work. We appreciate good religious art. We’re not freaking Taliban.
Okay, a neutron bomb might be a bit much. A couple frescos might get damaged. So perhaps we need to hire the Russian Government. Their clever strategy in dealing with a Chechnyan terrorist attack was to gas the terrorists hoping to immobilize them. They caused lots of innocent hostages to die, but they were able to kill all the terrorists. But still this seems a bit inhumane. While we’d like to send all the Cardinals to live on an island somewhere, someone might discover them inadvertently. So perhaps the best solution is just to use gas to knock them out. Then of course would come the lethal injections. Yes, there would be a 115 or so dead men in red robes when we were done. But they would be with Jesus.
The upside would be that the Catholic Church could be gone for good. Or am I being optimistic? Perhaps the cardinals who were not allowed to participate because they were too old would select one of themselves to be pope. I don’t think there is anything in the latest Vatican coda that would make it legal, but it is a possibility. So perhaps the institution would survive anyhow. But maybe, just maybe, whatever church emerged would be a grounded in reality.
Okay, enough fantasizing. Very likely the Catholic Church will continue to hang around. Like an unwanted guest at a party, it just won’t leave. But it appears that it’s been a pretty rude guest and lots of others are leaving the party. We can see it in statistics that, here in America at least, only 25% of Catholics bother to go to weekly Mass. Or in places like Mexico and Brazil, long bastions of Catholicism, which are losing parishioners every day to up and coming evangelical churches. While electing another out of touch pope won’t kill the Church, the church is slowly killing itself. Not much blood is being let with all those self-inflicted cuts to its body (probably being done in memory of Jesus’ passion: cue Mel Gibson) but collectively it’s got one major psychosis. And just as most of these teenagers don’t usually die from their behavior, the Catholic Church is unlikely to either. But we can expect it will continue to move toward deeper dysfunction in the decades ahead.
I’m no longer a Catholic and I don’t pray, but if I were a praying Catholic I’d be praying that God would knock some common sense into those 115 cardinals. I’d pray for a miracle.