Pope Goes The Weasel? 

White smoke gets in your eyes?

Today, I had every intention of addressing the matter of that worthless wad from Texas-(I mean DeLay this time, not the other worthless wad from Texas)-but with all this Pope stuff going on, which I can't seem to get away from no matter how frantically I switch channels, certain questions have arisen in my mind I simply can't allow to go unasked. For instance: Yo, Catholics! What do you suppose those Cardinal fellers don't want you to know, huh?

Now listen, before my Church of Rome neighbors jump to the conclusion I'm embarking on a Catholic bash herein, let me remind you that a mere two weeks ago, I deferred the subject of the mourning frenzy following John Paul's death to my substitute columnist Badger Bob, simply because I didn't want to say anything that might offend or further upset Catholics in their time of loss. I assure you, I have nothing against the Catholic Church that I don't have against all the others, too, and in fact, if someone just has to fill a stadium up now and then with incurious and obedient believers, I would much prefer it to be filled with Catholics rather than those evangelical pests. You folks aren't nearly as noisy, you don't do that limp arm waving thing that immediately brings to mind Night of the Living Dead and its many sequels and, from what I see, you don't go in so much for that awful Christian rock music crud. I also have to commend you on your collective sense of architecture. No kidding, if those big ugly Baptist barns looked more like your magnificent cathedrals and quaint Spanish chapels, they wouldn't be so ... er ... ugly.

So as you can see, I am not picking on Catholics. By far, my favorite character from The Exorcist was Father Karras and generally speaking, I'd rather hang out with Catholics than anyone who's trying to get me all borned up again. Besides, I don't even consider the questions I intend to raise here as particularly theological in nature. As far as I'm concerned, every question I have about how you run-of-the-mill Catholics chose your new spiritual leader ... er, excuse me ... how you run-of-the-mill Catholics had nothing whatsoever to do with choosing your new spiritual leader ... falls under the heading of politics.

Here goes: So how do you know the new His Holy Eminence hasn't been surreptitiously running the papal show for all those years that poor old John Paul was too feeble to pant, let alone do much poping? After all, Ratzinger was widely acknowledged to be the Karl Rove in the Vatican inner circle, so who really made the decision to let Cardinal Bernard Law off the hook for that little pedophile shuffle he was running in Boston? And who really made the decision to declare pro-choice political candidates unworthy of Communion? And what could sickly John Paul have done about it if he didn't like what was happening? Stand up and make a long speech?

See what I mean? These are political considerations, not religious. And I only ask them because, obviously, the news media isn't going to. Moreover, I have a feeling your friendly neighborhood priests and padres aren't going to, either-not unless they relish the thought of being assigned permanently to a parish in Upper Iceland.

Beyond that, though, now that various religious leaders are involving themselves so freely in American politics, I say politically minded citizens should feel just as free to get up close and critical with those religious entities. We all know that Democracy relies on a reasonable level of transparency for its health and well-being, so why should any sect, cult or denomination that seeks to influence our national policies be allowed to carry on with no regard to basic democratic values? Jerry Falwell, for example ... who elected him moral hot shot? Or that Dobson dunce who is currently trying to bully the country's judiciary ... does anyone remember voting for his smarmy ass?

This much can be said for Pope Benedict the Whateverth: he was voted into office. Only ... not by you. I mean, I can understand a few dozen Cardinals thinking they and only they should be allowed to pick the spiritual leader for about a billion Earthlings, give or take. But my dear run-of-the-mill Catholics, so many of you have dedicated your lives and fortunes to that outfit, would it have killed 'em to ask you what you thought?

To be fair, we believers in secular governance don't always get a say in picking our political movers and shakers, either. That's sort of how we ended up with Tom DeLay's oily fingers so tightly entwined in the short hairs of Congress, isn't it?-a bunch of elitists choosing from among themselves who should swing the greatest influence.

Yet, at least, when Congress picks a pit boss, it's somewhat open to public scrutiny, and returning to my original question: what's with all the secrecy down at Cardinal election center? What are they hiding? Who voted for and who voted against? And just who is counting the votes, anyway? Ultimately, it's you who pays the papal bills, yes? So shouldn't you, as faithful servants and spiritual stockholders, be allowed to know why they chose Ratzinger? Was he the absolute holiest, or does he have some compromising photos of the runner-ups tucked away in a Swiss safety deposit box? Is he truly God's infallible preference, or did he make so many papal pork-barrel promises it would make a Louisiana governor running for re-election blush?

Get what I mean? What those Cardinals called a "Conclave," we here in Idaho call a "closed caucus" and if you ask me, it's no more appropriate in Rome than it is in Boise. Think about it: these fellas-(not so much as a nun among 'em)-are not only choosing your spiritual ramrod, they are also defining the cultural and social direction your beloved church will take for the foreseeable future. And you have no say in the matter?

C'mon, confess. Doesn't that make you feel like ... well, like an altar boy?

There. I'm done. Again, I apologize if I've bruised any Catholic sensibilities. But frankly, I couldn't let this opportunity pass without conducting my own little inquisition. Who knows how long it will be before this solemn spectacle repeats itself. True, Benedict/Ratzinger is 78 years old, but that's like middle age in Pope standard time, and he may well be around until the next generation of sexual abusees come forward.

Oh! One last question. Did they do an autopsy on John Paul? And if they didn't, who told them not to? Just wondering, that's all.

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