There’s this joke I picked up in junior high school that goes a little something like this.
The first time the pope came to America – this is John Paul II we’re talking about, the travelling man – this huge limousine pulled up for him at the airport. He was from a Communist country and had never seen such an amazing vehicle before. He asked the driver, (slip into your best Polish accent, here) “Hey, this is an amazing American automobile that I have only dreamed of in my country of communism, poverty, and despair. Please, may I drive? I would like to try the vehicle myself!”
The driver won’t say no to the pope, naturally. He hops in back. The pope gets in front, and puts his pope hat beside him. The pope hits the road.
Of course, when Jesus really is your co-pilot, you hit that accelerator hard. I mean, come, the pope is from Europe. In Europe, speed limits signs are more ornamental than practical. They look really nice, but no one really follows them.
Covering that much ground, that quickly, he was bound to encounter a cop that pulled him over.
The pope complied. He rolled down the window and smiled as the cop came up to him.
The cop was taken aback to discover that the Pope was driving the limousine.
“Oh, hey, you’re the pope!”
“Yes. Is there a problem?”
“No… No, no problem. Just wanted to make sure you’re all right. You know, you were going pretty quick there. Just wanted to make sure you’re okay.”
“Oh, yes. Thank you,officer. Everything is fine. How are you doing?”
“Great, yeah, just great, yeah. Yeah. Wow, you’re the pope. Okay, so, yeah…”
So, the pope blesses the cop, and takes off again, zooming into the horizon like a bat out of heaven.
The cop goes back to the car, a little dazed. His partner says “Dude, that guy was breaking 120. We should have arrested him. Who was in that limo?”
“I don’t know who it was, but the Pope was his driver.”
I have mixed feelings about the new pope. I think it’s great that he’s from South America, truly. I also think there’s this weird sort of clash of religious expectations between the third and first world. In lots of places, homosexuality is still a shameful, sinful thing, and lots of those places are the third world. In the first world, we openly embrace our friends and neighbors and family-members, and an overwhelming majority of us – including us Catholics – favor gay marriage as a natural, normal thing for people to have.
The morals of the first world do not line up with the morals of the first. The Catholic Church is supposed to be this beacon of hope, spreading Christ-like love across the whole of humanity. Sometimes, it doesn’t look like love, at all. Sometimes, it just looks like medievalism that won’t let go.
Oh, well. See you in service on Sunday, Mr. Pope Frances. I hope you surprise everyone by permitting women to be full members of the priesthood, and permitting priests to lead a married life in some fashion. I mean, Vatican II was a shock coming as it did from a staunch, old, conservative Italian man, near the end of his life. He just came out of nowhere to change everything. Sweeping change is a good thing. Clear out the old pre-Medieval garbage. Christ, in life, was as open and democratic with women as he was with men. It’s just remembered differently than the evidence present in the text because it is colored by cultures that did not see women as fully human in quite the same way as men. Interpretation, I guess.
This is probably related to how I’m not a pope.