The white smoke has spoken, and the Roman Catholic Church has announced that Argentinian archbishop Jorge Bergoglio as the new pontiff. Taking the name Francis, the new pope inherits a church that has been rocked by child molestation scandals and been flat-footed in its doctrine in a religious world increasingly okay with traditionally taboo subjects like marriage equality, abortion and contraception.
The pope sets the tone for the teachings and direction of the billion-strong church, immediately becoming one of the most powerful men in the world—as well as the proud recipient of some of the goofiest clothes that presumably command respect (seriously, guys, the hats have to go.)
Pope Francis is fresh in a lot of ways: he’s the first South American pope, the first Jesuit pope, and the first pope with only one lung since Pope Hilarius lost his right lung and an eye in a bear fight.
Unfortunately, Pope Francis is also vociferously homophobic and anti-choice and—let’s face it—just another old white guy who’ll issue orders in Latin that most Catholics will ignore. In a world where eyeballs mean everything, the papacy needs someone who can add a little spice to the office.
With that in mind, we’ve come up with a few ideas for replacement popes that could really win eye:
5. Sister Aloysius Beauvier – Doubt
The determined star of John Patrick Shanley’s stage play/film is just the kind of self-examining holy person the Catholic church needs right now. She adores the Catholic Church, but isn’t willing to put up with the possible abuse being perpetrated by the charismatic new Priest at her New York church. The systematic abuse and subsequent cover-up by the Catholic Church has been rumored to be behind the reason Pope Benedict stepped down, so having someone with a mostly unflinching dedication to the truth would be a real improvement. Additionally, Sister Aloysius is portrayed as being so stuck in the past that she won’t even use a ballpoint pen, so there’s little danger of her making waves with her doctrinal decrees. Sorry, Africa, no condoms for you!
Chance of being elected pope: She’s a woman, so she’s automatically disqualified. Sorry, ladies, those robes aren’t unisex!
4. Cardinal Ignatius Glick – Dogma
Catholicism has an image problem. Decades of systematic sexism, racism and child abuse have turned priesthood from a noble endeavor into a lazy punchline. The new pope should be one who can roll with the punches and make a few jokes of his own. That’s why I’m nominating George Carlin’s profane Cardinal Glick. He’s not afraid to be edgy (Buddy Christ was an idea ahead of its time), but he’s also willing to play by the rules enough to rise to the rank of Cardinal.
Chance of being elected pope: He’s already a powerful, corrupt insider. That white smoke spells “Glick!”
3. Friar Tuck – Robin Hood
Friar Tuck has existed in books, films, television, radio dramas and more, so it’s safe to say his character has varied somewhat across media. But there’s one thing that can always be counted on: Friar Tuck is one merry son of a bitch. His speciality is most assuredly not the doctrine of the Catholic Church (he’s a drunkard who cavorts with a band of violent criminals), but after eight years of Pope Palpatine running things the Vatican needs a rosy, cherubic, camera-friendly face. The Vatican needs Pope Tuck.
2. Monsignor Timothy Howard (American Horror Story: Asylum)
At the beginning of season two of Asylum it seems as though Monsignor Howard is a progressive priest who will reform the brutal, sadistic practices taking place at the titular mental institution. Throughout the course of the show, however, it becomes clear that the Monsignor’s chief concern is rank: making it very clear that he’s willing to do whatever is necessary to make it to The Vatican. He doesn’t actually make life better for the people he’s ostensibly charged with helping, but he does throw some of them under the bus in order to make himself look more saintly.
Chance of being elected pope: Monsignor Howard’s monstrous ambition and naked self-interest is a necessary characteristic to achieve one of the most powerful roles in the world. He’s the kind of guy who will cut seedy back-room deals in order to win votes. He has a real shot.
1. God (Monty Python & the Holy Grail, Bruce Almighty, other works
It could be argued that God isn’t technically a Catholic; He’s never been baptized and generally remains silent when it comes to His support of the particular sects that worship Him. But regardless of that, I would implore the conclave of Cardinals to make an exception. The Pope is considered God’s mouthpiece on earth, but he’s still just a middleman between God and his people. Obviously that position gives popes an incredible amount of power and influence, even though as humans they’re fallible creatures. By cutting out the middleman and using His perfect wisdom to guide the Catholic Church through this tumultuous time, God would undoubtedly affect positive change in both His church and in His world. Plus He would know better than to wear those stupid fucking hats.
Chance of being elected pope: As He doesn’t have a corporeal form; it would be difficult for the Cardinals to confirm that God is indeed a man, and not a genderless universal being made up of truth, purity and love. Without proof of that Y-chromosome, God is right out.
SO Note: What are your thoughts on the new Pope? Let us know @Serial_Optimist and send Micah your thoughts at email@example.com.