Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Selecting Pope George

Benedict XVI blew into town last week, spending time with everyone from paupers to Presidents, which set George Bush to thinking about his own upcoming retirement. With his departure from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. just around the corner, ‘W’ had no illusions as to his limited income potential as a featured speaker, or his unlikely invitation to join a Washington ‘think tank.’

The President could not get the image of the Pope out of his mind, especially those red leather slippers His Holiness wore off the plane on his arrival. Without consulting Laura, George picked up the phone to order the Pontiff’s Italian shoe maker to create some cowboy boots in the exact color.
That’s when it struck him-
He’d run for Pope.
Though perhaps questionable in his management capacity, George Bush has never lacked for ego strength. Benedict XVI, or “Bennie boy” as the President liked to call him, was celebrating his 82nd birthday. For Bush to become the next head of the biggest financial power, wealth accumulator, and property owner in existence seemed like a no-brainer…so to speak.
As Pope, he could choose from an array of outfits, and given the President’s apparent enjoyment in playing dress-up, those red cowboy boots peeking out would be just the right touch. Who would be the wiser, if underneath his clerical garments, he still wore the bomber jacket given to him back in 2003, when he confidently announced that Iraq was “Mission: Accomplished.”
Laura and the girls would be a problem, given the Church’s perspectives on chastity and abstinence, but George figured he’d bring back the day when the Pontiff could, indeed, marry and have a family. After all, he’d succeeded in turning back the clock on science and evolution, so surely he could take the Church back to an earlier era.
Bush would have to learn another language besides ‘Texan,’ but who would really notice if he screwed up a phrase or two in Latin. Besides, he’d be able to finally drink alcohol in public, so as not to choke on a wafer, of course, like that unfortunate pretzel incident a few years back.
It had been Pope Constantine who first made Christianity a State religion, forever linking the church to political power. Well, the President was already ‘head’ of the combined American forces of politics and religion, having been placed in office by the influential and evangelical ‘Religious Right.’
After all, Bush had launched the most expensive expansion of Christian Democracy into the Middle East since the Crusades. He’d constructed a permanent foothold in Baghdad, in the form of our walled Embassy the size of a moderate city.
Plus, he’d almost eliminated the separation of Church and State throughout the Federal government and within the Supreme Court.
That ought to get him some consideration, he mused.
There remained the troubling situation with the US economy, however, which may have initially prompted the visit from the Vatican. The market meltdown of investment firms, real estate property values, and disposable household income had not gone unnoticed by the Holy Father or his Council of Cardinals.
After all, the Catholic Church remains the largest corporation in the US; owning millions of shares of stock, having a branch in every neighborhood, assets and real estate holdings throughout the country, and dues-paying members that rival only the ‘offerings’ made to the IRS. The Pope’s own bank, Opere di Religione or Vatican Bank, exists separately with no public reporting, as the Holy Father is the sole shareholder. One can only pray that he didn’t invest heavily in Countrywide.
George made a mental note that he’d need to encourage Congress to correct some of the financial woes created during his Administration, in order to make his candidacy as Pontiff in Chief more attractive.
It had been true ‘W’ style to have made a mess of every venture he’d ever attempted, from baseball to oil drilling to President, without assuming any accountability for their failure. Nor was it typical for the Holy Father, who supposedly spoke from God, to admit mistakes or fallacies.
But, here was Benedict XVI, about to blow that tradition, sounding more like Barack Obama in publicly accepting the Church’s responsibility for the costly and painful abuse scandals, while meeting face-to-face with a sample of its American victims. George just couldn’t comprehend this sudden push for ‘change,’ even in light of such inconvenient truths.
As the President reflected on the requirements of being a Pope, the accountability that went with the job began to weigh on him. George gave a quick assessment of how much scrub brush there still was to cut back on his ranch in Crawford, and figured he’d settle for red cowboy boots instead.
Loretta Redd’s column appears every Tuesday in the Daily Sound. E-mail her at loretta@santabarbarafree.com

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