The new Pope has proved a disappointment to many people already, having made it clear that the Catholic church’s stance on abortion, contraception, celibate priests (i.e. no sex, but fiddling with the altar boys does not count) homosexuality (i.e. no same gender sex, but fiddling with the altar boys does not count) and women will not change one iota. And there will be lots of new saints. And lots of new Saint merchandising opportunities.
A problem for all of us regardless of our faith is that whoever is chosen as Pope will automatically become a major player on the world political stage but will represent only Roman Catholics and only rich Roman Catholics at that. Imagine the furore if President Bush had been inaugurated only to represent Southern Baptists, Tony Blair’s loyal oath bound him only to consider the interests of Church of England members, or Jaques Chirac decided only to act on behalf of Jaques Chirac ah – erm Jaques Chirac does only act on behalf of Jaques Chirac doesn’t he?
The problem with this whole Pope business lies in the fact that Catholics are such a close bunch, all that “one true church” business and the mystery of transubstantiation and stuff like that has put it into their collective consciousness that the rest of us do not deserve a say in what happens in the world of silly hats and candlesticks, that the whole ecumenical movement is for us to learn from them but not for them to learn from us. And so our suggestions that maybe God gave us condoms because He was trying to tell us there are enough people now and He does not want anybody to go hungry fall on deaf ears.
That they are so clannish is a great pity because the catholic and protestant movements are closer to each other now than at any time since the schism.
When Martin Luther went to Rome to discuss the problems German communicants were having with certain superstitions, particularly the business of communion bread and wine turning into the flesh and blood of Jesus he met similar intransigence.
“Give us a break,” Luther said to Pope Leo, “we’re not barbarians in Germany. We can live with the communion symbolising the flesh and blood, but actually changing in our mouths, that’s gross.”
“Eff off,” said Leo. “I’m the Pope, its my church and what I say goes, if you don’t like it start your own church.”
Luther went off in a huff and months later news drifted back to Rome that he was into the Diet of Worms.
“See, I told you they are barbarians, Catholics will stick with Atkins variants,” Pope Leo told his Cardinals.
For a few centuries it looked as if the two sides would never see eye to eye but in the late twentieth century a tide of social change began after The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper. The traditional churches had to respond to the new popularity of Eastern mysticism and crackpot New Age belief systems. Both Catholic and fundamentalist protestant dogma adapted to embrace extreme ideas. Both factions dislike contraception, abortion, homosexuality and women. Especially women.
It seems obvious therefore that if both sides can find a little goodwill and flexibility there is no reason why we cannot have a Protestant candidate for the papacy. I deliberately exclude The Church of England on grounds that not only is it not a protestant church that has no problem with abortion, contraception, homosexuality and women but also that it does seem to have a bit of a problem with concept of God. You might wonder where this is heading, after all if Protestant and Catholic are so similar nothing would change much anyway. Ah the perils of short – termism.
Given the obvious flaws in the democratic system of The Church of Rome and commitments expressed by Bush and Blair to spreading true democracy ought we not to be badgering our politicians to occupy the Vatican, effect regime change and pave the way for future Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Scientologist and Moonie Popes. A Protestant Pope would just be the single step with which ever journey begins. Imagine a world in which Pope Dalai Lama the first had some influence.
Time is of the essence because the new bloke is well past seventy and unlikely to stick around for twenty odd years.
Demand a Protestant Pope now, you know it makes sense.