My Amazing Story, Or, How I became the Pope

I was as surprised as anyone when I found out I'd been elected Pope. I got a message on my machine saying I should call the Vatican, they had some important news, and I called, and some secretary there told me. I didn't even remember that Pope was an elected position at first; I guess I thought it was like being the king, you were born into it, although of course that doesn't make sense.

Anyway, when they told me, I was amazed -- I mean, why me? I'm not even a Catholic. I'm Jewish, I guess, although I don't believe in God. I just didn't see myself being Pope. I'd never even considered the possibility.

At first I was going to tell them no. I didn't think I could deal with all the God stuff, and I'd have to move to Rome. And it's crazy, the idea of being a divine representative on earth. I would say the wrong thing and get into trouble. It just didn't seem like me.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there would be good things about it too. Like, I could do a lot of good as Pope. I knew the previous Popes had been pro-life, and it would be good to have a Pope who was pro-choice -- not to mention one who didn't oppose birth control. And I figured the money would probably be pretty good -- like, better than what I was making at my previous job, for sure. (I was right!) And to be honest, it was flattering to think that, of everyone, the cardinals had picked me, even though I didn't necessarily have all the qualifications.

But the thing that really made up my mind was this whole sexual abuse thing. Like everybody else, I'd read about it in the papers, and i thought the church handled the whole thing really badly. If a priest is molesting little kids, you don't just ship him off to another parish for Christ's sake -- you tell the cops! It seemed really obvious, but apparently the people in charge didn't get it.

So I called them back and told them I'd do it. Little did I know that I was making a decision that would totally change my life!


The first thing that I learned is that the Pope doesn't pay for anything. I told them I'd get on a flight out to Italy, but the secretary just said, We'll take care of it, your holiness, and they got the tickets themselves. First class and everything! They picked me up at the airport and drove me to the Vatican, laid on all the food -- it was lavish. It was really nice, too, but it also worried me a bit. Like, would I be able to perform as Pope, seeing as how I'd never been to mass or anything like that?

So I spent the first couple weeks of my papacy just learning the ropes -- here's what the basic services are, here's what you do when people come for an audience with you, etc. etc. I had to memorize a lot of new words -- vestry, ordination, bull, laicization, sacrament ... there's a lot of them. But once you get the hang of it, the work itself is surprisingly easy when you're at the Pope level -- it's the cardinals and bishops that do all the real work. I'm lucky I got to skip that bit.

Once I was pretty confident that I wasn't going to like start singing at the wrong point in the service and make a fool out of myself, I told them I was going to make some changes to church policy. (When I say "them," I mean all these guys who hang around you when you're Pope. I'm not sure who does what exactly.) I could tell they were a bit skeptical at first -- they knew how inexperienced I was, of course -- but all you have to say is, "Who's the Pope?" and they fall into line pretty quickly.

I'd been thinking about it for a while, and I knew there was lots to be done, but I decided I'd start with the really obvious stuff -- the things that everyone knew were broken and needed fixing. I started with an Edict on Abortion -- I just wrote it all out in English and had someone there translate it all into Latin for me. It basically said, Sorry, big mistake, it's between a woman and her doctor, disregard any instructions to the contrary. And then I basically did the same with birth control -- stuck in a few lines about condoms and AIDS but basically told them to use their own judgment. I compromised a little bit by putting in some stuff about God -- they weren't ready for a papal edict that didn't mention God, so I just said that God obviously wanted people not to have more kids than they could cope with and to look after themselves and all that.

And then I figured, since I was at it and I had the translator guy there and everything, I might as well do women priests. I'd thought maybe I'd leave it a week or so to let everything die down about the abortion and birth-control ones, but then I thought, well, might as well let them know I mean business. So that's what I did: I went on the Internet and looked up some antidiscrimination law and had it translated into Latin and made part of church law (or "canon law," as they call it). So now in addition to women priests we're going to have gay priests and handicapped priests and basically anyone. That felt good, thinking that because of me, all the little girls who want to be priests can grow up to fulfill their dreams.

And then I thought, well, as long as we're doing this, we might as well address the whole pedophilia thing. I mean, people are going to want to know what I'm going to do about it, aren't they? But I thought it was particularly sensitive, because there's all those kids out there, some of them now grown up but still scarred by what happened to them. So I wrote two special edicts, one saying that any cardinal or bishop or whatever who knows anything about any priests fiddling with little kids should turn them over to the police right away -- no second chances -- and another just telling all the people who've been fiddled with that the church is very sorry about what happened to them and wishing them strength and happiness in their lives. That's all. It doesn't have any binding force, the second one, but I thought it needed saying anyway.

I thought that was enough for one day, and the whole atmosphere was wearing me out a bit. It's a very male atmosphere, the Vatican -- it's like a boys' club. So I went up to my living quarters and called my girlfriend, who was still in the States. She had been dubious about this whole Pope thing at the beginning, but she'd heard about all my edicts and she was really supportive, which was nice. We started talking about her coming out here to see me -- I kept telling her the Vatican would pay for it, and she kept saying she'd pay for it herself, and I kept saying that it was me who'd decided to move all the way out here, and what's more I could easily afford a plane ticket for her (and going first class makes all the difference on those long international flights), but she wouldn't hear of it. She's very self-reliant -- it's one of the things I like about her. She said she'd see when she could get some time off work. We said goodnight, and said we loved each other and missed each other, and then we hung up and I went to bed. I do miss her a lot, but I feel really good about this whole Pope thing. I'm really glad I took the job.