Mr. Cope's Cave: I Ain't No Pope, Buuuut... 

Are you a pope fan, Mr. Cope?

A Pope fan? You mean a fan of this particular pope? Or am I a fan of popes in general?

Uh, I meant are you a Francis fan. But now that you've brought it up, are you a fan of Popes in general?

Gee, Junior, I've never given it a lot of thought. But now that you've brought it up, I guess I'd have to say that... in general... no, I'm not a fan of popes. At their best, popes are as useless as the queen of England and Fruit Loops. At their worst, they can screw up more people than a boatload of bad drugs. With that said, I can't help but like this new pope. By all accounts, he seems to be an authentically godly man.

I thought you didn't believe in God, Mr. Cope.

You don't have to believe in God to believe in godly people, Lulu. They're rare, that's for damn sure. But there's enough around for me to believe in them.

But how do you know a godly man when you see him? I mean, there are a lot of people who claim to be godly. So how do you spot the ones who really are?

Jeez, I don't know. Why are you asking me this stuff, anyway? I'm probably not the guy to give tutorials on how to spot godly people. It's not like I spend any time looking for them. Or thinking about them. Or... or anything.

Well you brought it up, Mr. Cope

I did?

Yes you did. You said it seemed that Pope Francis is an authentically godly man. So you must have some criteria for telling the real ones from the fake ones.

OK, OK... since you brought it up... then I suppose if I had to describe my idea of a truly godly man... or woman... I'd have to start with humility. There's no such thing as a godly braggart, that's for sure. And I'd say an extraordinary empathy for others, that's important. Trust me, you'll never find a godly person in an Ayn Rand book club. And I'd definitely be looking for a low level of hypocrisy.

A "low level of hypocrisy?" Not a total absence of hypocrisy?

Petunia, there is no such thing as a total absence of hypocrisy in a mature human being. That's just too much to ask. Life is too complex and unpredictable to get through it without slipping on your own words now and then. But while some religious leaders profess sympathy for the poor and down-trodden and all that, then buy themselves Mercedes and private jets out of the donation plate, this Francis guy is actually putting his morality where his mouth is. I respect that.

So do you think it's his place to talk about climate change? He's not exactly an expert on that sort of thing. In fact, there's a representative who boycotted Francis' address to Congress because he doesn't think global warming is something a pope should be talking about.

Let the asshole boycott, who cares. It only gives what Francis has to say more heft, to have some shithead lightweights like these Republican dopes make a spectacle of themselves over it. Besides, it's not like the deniers are listening to the real experts on climate change, is it?

But there are so many moral issues he could be talking about.

Listen, along with being a geopolitical issue, an environmental issue and an economic issue, global warming is first and foremost a morality issue. Perhaps the most pressing moral issue of this or any other day. So... since you brought it up... any pope who doesn't address global warming would be one shitty pope, if you ask me. Popes are the most visible, universally-listened-to, international figures in the world, and if it's not a pope's job to respond to existential crises, then what the hell do we need popes for, anyway?

Mr. Cope, I have a feeling if he was a conservative pope, responding to issues like a conservative would, you wouldn't be saying that.

Tinkerbell, if he were a conservative pope, I just wouldn't be listening to him, just like I haven't been listening to the last five popes. And let me tell you something... neither would the great majority of American Catholics. It's obvious to me they've pretty much had their fill of conservative popes.

Why do you say that?

Because Francis is the most liberal pope in my lifetime, and probably a lot longer. And look what's happening. Jack Catholics are actually going back to church because of him. Non-Catholics are attracted to him like he's a chocolate puppy. Atheists and Muslims admire him. I'm telling ya', Betty, this guy could change the face of Christianity.

Well, um... since you brought it up... do you suppose he could to change the face of Christianity enough to get you to start going to church?

Hah! Not bloody likely, Eliza. Not unless someone starts a church that pays me to go.

So, Mr. Cope, I'm guessing being a godly man isn't a big thing on your bucket list.

Uh... since you brought it up... I honestly do try for a low level of hypocrisy. You may not be able to tell it, but I do. And in spite of my obvious talents, I strive to be humble. But frankly, Francine, I'm having trouble with that other thing.

What other thing? That empathy thing, you mean?

Yes. That empathy thing. It's a struggle for me, that empathy thing.

A struggle?

Yeah, a struggle. It's because when it comes to other people's feelings, I just don't give a shit.

Wow, Mr. Cope. If that's true, for you to be nice and compassionate and kind to people would elevate your hypocrisy levels.

Exactly! You got it. See, I can't pretend to be empathetic without being a hypocrite. The way I look at it, virtues are like one of those great, super-stocked salad bars. You can have a lot, but you can't have it all.

Maybe that's how they pick Popes, you suppose? Like... he's the guy with the most veggies on his virtue plate.

Uh-huh. Maybe so, maybe so.
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