Adrienne BoettingerTuesday,5 March 2013

The Snap:

Dan Brown is probably wetting himself with glee over the shake-up at the Vatican, so it’s about time to wade into the murky waters of Catholicism’s mysterious hierarchy. For reasons I can’t fathom, the 24 hour “noose” cycle is continually covering pre-conclave happenings to see which old white male priest will be chosen to reign supreme over approximately 1.2 billion Catholics. So, what is a pope and why does this matter? And more importantly, what will I do about this situation when I become Queen of Everything?

The Download:

The pope is the head of the Roman Catholic Church. The pontiff, aka the Bishop of Rome, has a tough job, an insane schedule and religious and political power that few can even dream of. Catholics are the world’s largest single Christian denomination and they rely on the pope to lead the church and instruct them in matters of faith. Plus he has that wicked cool pope-mobile.

But here’s the thing: popes are still human. They falter and fail as all people do but those moments are often glossed over in church history: popes who buy their way into the Vatican, knock up their mistresses, and stay silent about atrocities of global proportions. They can also do enormously good things like helping improve the rights of laborers, saving refugees, and trying to improve relations with other faiths by making the church live up to the meaning of the word catholic: all-embracing and universal.

During the conclave, 145 cardinals will choose the one man who will lead the church. The process sounds vaguely democratic except that it’s only these 145 cardinals—all men—who select any baptized male Catholic to ascend to become pope. He doesn’t have to be a priest but he does have to be a man. And although there are allegedly some African and South American contenders, the odds are that he will be an old(ish) white European male.

It’s this idea that women are less than men—along with persistent discrimination against gay men and women—that prompted me to leave the church to the consternation of a mother who still dreams of my eventual nun-hood. For a while I still went to Mass telling myself that it was okay to order up my very own variety of Catholicism. I left out more and more words from prayers until I couldn’t take it anymore. Now I go to a Unitarian church that doesn’t care what I believe.

Even though I have no desire to become pope, when I become Queen of Everything the Catholic Church will no longer value men more than women or straight people more than gay people. And the next pope can be a lesbian priest from Ecuador who reminds her flock that no one is perfect and encourages them to speak and act with love and respect for all people, not just the select few who agree with them.

Hat  Tips:

CNNNew York TimesTimeHuffington PostGuardian, Image Credit: Flickr


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