There are 12 reasons why the conclave to elect a successor to Benedict XVI should vote for me, the America Magazine editor suggests in a rib tickling letter to 116 cardinal electors. Before the senior cardinal proclaims “Habemus Papam” (We have a Pope) remember there is “Habemus me,” Fr. James Martin, SJ, writes deadpan. Excerpts:
Eminences: You’ve got a tough job: elect a guy who is superholy, wicked smart, speaks a dozen languages and can run an international conglomerate. In the Sistine Chapel, everyone sort of looks the same: gray hair, red hat, glasses, etc. You’ll listen to someone, talking in French about aggiornamento and be too embarrassed to ask: “Who is that?”
To make things easier, I suggest a candidate: Me. Here are 12 reasons why you should elect me pope:
1. I’m a man. That’s half the battle, right?
2. I’m baptized. And I’ve got the papers to prove it.
3. I speak several languages. Not well but, you know, who does really?
Bonjour! I started studying Français when I was in 7th grade. That means I can speak to pretty much all of West Africa and France. That’s a lot of Catholics. Hola! I speak Spanish and there are lots of Spanish-speaking Catholics. Once they hear my rendition of “De Colores,” they’ll be sold on the Servant of the Servants of God muy rapido.
4. I’m half Italian—on my mom’s side. Once I’m Bishop of Rome, I’ll easily deal with the curia. All Italian curial officials will recognize me as a paesan. Scandals? Finito! Mismanagement? Basta! All Italian cardinals will be on my side.
5. I worked in Africa. I speak Swahili. Or Kiswahili. (That’s Swahili for Swahili.) I worked in Kenya for two years. Many want a pope from the developing world. Well, I’m not exactly from there, but there are three babies who were named after me while I worked in Kenya. (They’re not mine, if that’s a worry.) That counts for something.
6. Books. You probably want a pope who does not spend much time writing books, what with all the stuff he has to deal with. I know that this was sometimes a criticism of Pope Benedict XVI. I’m not casting stones! But I’ve already written my books. So, I’ll be 100 percent on the job. 9 to 5. Sundays of course I’ll be available for Masses.
7. Business Experience!… I’ve got a degree from the Wharton School… Plus I worked at General Electric for six years. So say arrivederci to any managerial problems in the curia. Ever heard of Management by Objectives? The marginal propensity to consume? The “Four Ps” of marketing? You will after I’m Supreme Pontiff. That place will run like a top … that makes money, too.
8. I’m ordained. I almost forgot: I’m already an ordained priest. The only thing left is for me to be ordained a bishop. And guess what: I’m willing… As a Jesuit, I took a vow not to “strive for or ambition” any high office in the church. There’s a canonically doable way around that roadblock.
Once you elect me pope, I can just call up the Jesuit superior general and say: “Hey, let me accept that ordination and election.” He’ll have to say yes because he takes orders from me. Problem solved. Besides, I’m not “striving,” merely campaigning.
9. Educated. The Jesuit training process is really, really long. I studied philosophy (good to know), theology (really good to know) and stuff like church history. I know ancient Greek, too. When scholars ask me, “What translation of the New Testament are you using?” I’ll say, “My translation.” They love that kind of thing.
10. Willing to travel. I’m not crazy about air travel, what with delays and having to take your shoes off and sitting next to someone who keeps coughing up a lung. But doesn’t the pontiff have his own airplane: Shepherd One? So once you install free movies in my gold-and-white plane I’m golden. I’ll go wherever you want me to go. To the ends of the earth, if need be.
11. Humility. Does my campaigning for pope make me seem a tad less humble? But isn’t the fact that I’m willing to campaign a sign of my humility? A less humble guy would assume that everyone already knows that he’d be a good candidate and so wouldn’t say anything out of his pride. Ergo: Since I’m campaigning, I’m tops when it comes to humility.
12. Cool Name. The first big decision the pope makes is his choice of name. Plus, I know everyone’s always worried about continuity. With that in mind (I like to think ahead—which is a good trait) I’ve already picked my name.
Pope Paul VI’s successor chose the name “John Paul I,” to show his continuity with Pope John XXIII and Paul VI. Next you had John Paul II. More continuity. And of course next we had (or have, depending on when you’re reading this) Benedict XVI.
If you elect me, and I hope you will, after I say “Accepto” (see, I speak a little Latin too) I would choose my name: John Paul Benedict I. That takes care of everyone from John XXIII to Benedict. Continuity plus. Of course saying “JPB1” might take some getting used to, but Catholics are pretty flexible. And I’ll bet before long there will be lots of babies baptized John Paul Benedict.
I hope that helps you make a tough decision easier, Your Eminences. Did I leave anything out? Well, I’m a fast typist, I can draw pretty well and I tell some really funny jokes.
“Here’s one: ‘What did the Jesuit say when he was elected pope?’ There’s only one way to find out.”
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The reactions to this feature have cascaded in. “I’d prefer a nun,” e-mailed John. “They’re always last in the church.”
David writes: “Sounds like you have the gifts for this position, but how do you look in ruby red loafers?”
“No, no, no,” e-mails Elizabeth: “Ditch the crazy red shoes too. Unless you like them.”
“Translate into Latin and I think you have a chance,” Dian adds. “Thanks for the laugh.”
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