So we have a new pope. Well, it’s about bleedin’ time, if you ask me. There should be no such thing as a job for life – not in this day and age, anyway. Either you’re up for the task, or you’re not. There’s no in between. Joey Ratz did the right thing in my books. “I’m too old for this shit,” he said. “Let someone younger handle the pressure for a change.” Fair play to you, Joey; you went up in my estimation when you made your historic pronouncement. Oh sure, conspiracy theorists alike will say you were pushed out because you were a liability, a criminal, a sexist misogynist dinosaur: a relic of the Cold War…sorry, that was Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond…I digress. Again.
So who do we get after Joey? Jorge. An Argentine who is now more popular on Google than Lionel Messi or Diego Maradona. He’s the new spiritual leader of the much-maligned Catholic Church, an institution that’s had about as much bad press as Justin Bieber’s recent concert tour in the UK. He is the new guard, but he’s been getting some good reviews for taking the name of Francis. If I could have taken a new name every time I changed my job, I’d need a passport the size of the Gutenberg Bible.
But hold on. I’m a Catholic, right? At least I am by right of birth. But does being a Catholic mean much to me? Not at the moment, it pains me to say. I am one of the many lapsed Catholics that only see the inside of a church for weddings, funerals, christenings, when on holiday with my friend Dennis, and when on the run from the police. But there was a time when it was all so different. I looked to the altar for solace, for life’s meaning, for truth. Now I look and think What the fuck?
So why the change of attitude? Did the church come down hard on me for reasons I won’t go into? No. In fact, when I was in my teens, I found a sense of community within a church group. The fact that we used it as an excuse to get shitfaced once a week doesn’t come into it.
Okay, it does. But you get what I’m saying. The church had and maybe still does have its uses. I have some close family members and friends whose faith inspires me, though not to the extent that I want to believe in the God that they profess. Do I believe in God? It depends on what day it is, and how I’m feeling. But to me, most times, it doesn’t matter whether I do or not. I don’t think we’ll ever know. Though science professes that such an omnipotent being cannot exist, people of faith say that it’s not possible for God not to exist. I’m somewhere in the middle: he either exists or he doesn’t. It’s a comfortable fence I sit on; I have plenty of company. But your beliefs are your own business. I will respect them, and I will defend your right to them.
Now where was I? So we have a new pope. Good. Whatever your feelings on the matter, give the new guy a chance. If indeed he manages some reform in his papacy, then fair play to the man. If, however, he’s unable or – worse – disinclined to bring the Catholic Church kicking and screaming into the 21st century, then it is incumbent on ourselves to vote with our feet: to get out of their churches and stay out. Institutions like these, if they can’t or won’t reform, deserve neither our time nor our faith, whatever that faith may be.
Good luck, Francis. You might need it. I’d pray for you…if I believed it would work.