Bless me Father Fourth Estate for I have sinned in having arrived lacking in punctuality to the papal punditry of recent weeks, but I hope my confession will give me leeway to still offer my spiritually inspired advice to that crowd of fellas with the funny looking hats now deciding which leader will continue to keep a dwindling population of practising Catholics stuck forever in the 1950s.
But just where, pray tell, to begin this homily? Well, first of all, I thought it a shame that Pope Benedict didn’t get an offer to sit in the Canadian Senate, now that he so properly fits the bill for that institution, being feeble in mind and body, as he himself has implied, and now at a proper age, an octogenarian, to join the men and women of sober second thought occupying that senior citizens home in Ottawa.
I do know that Stephen Harper would have given some serious thought to such an appointment; yes, Benedict is partial to red colours (even his shoes are the colour of a drunk’s nose), the shade favoured by those despicable Canadian Liberals, but the prime minister would be willing to overlook that minor sin.
After all, Harper, for a fact, responded, just after Benedict’s curious decision to vacate the papal pulpit, with a four-star appraisal, thanking the pontiff for fast-tracking to the saints’ lineup a couple of Canadians (Canucks are so easily satisfied) who apparently produced miracles of some sort (we could have used a beatific character or two down here to perform at least half of that loaves and fishes routine).
And, of course, there’s been plenty of scandal of late in the Senate, what with the Friar Tuck-resembling Mike Duffy managing to live and eat in P.E.I. and Ottawa at the same time and Pamela Wallin accumulating the kind of air miles you’d associate with the entire Toronto Blue Jays team. (It was so satisfying, I thought, to witness two former journalists — who spent years keeping an eye on useless and questionable government spending before taking a dishonourable dive into the patronage trough — now being pursued by some of their former colleagues. What goes around, comes around.)
Benedict, of course, can relate to scandal; even several of his cardinals (and I’m not talking about Stan Musiel or Bob Gibson), those pious men who will vote for God’s spokesman on Earth — His PR man, His communications director, His mouthpiece — are facing allegations of sexual assault or covering up the egregious acts of pedophilia priests.
But it’s all academic, as they say, too late for a Senate appointment for Benedict; he’ll just have to scurry off to a nice bed and breakfast in Rome and try and ignore the round-collar crime and associated controversies that have plagued his church. (Comedian David Letterman said the other night that Benedict’s health problems included a bad neck from looking the other way for many years.)
On another papal front, it struck me in recent days that the cardinals could do worse than choose a Newfoundlander as the next pope.
And I might have just the right bucko to suggest for the job.
A little context: if you’ve had the misfortune to be smothered in Catholic catechism, you’ll remember the term ex cathedra, which means, basically, that the pope is infallible when speaking on matters of faith and morals. If he says a woman giving birth to 18 children in 20 years will still go to Hell if she starts to practise birth control, well then, you can take that as a direct communiqué from the man above.
And I was thinking that we once had our own perfect leader here for a decade or so in Danny Williams, whose disciples felt he could do no wrong, that he could make no mistakes, that he was, well, he was infallible.
Pope Daniel the First. Has a ring to it.
Think of the local angles for the media. (In my newsroom days, we joked that if a person of fame or infamy had simply been conceived in a 747 bathroom above Gander, anything he or she did of note could be turned into a Newfoundland story.)
• • •
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Daniel the First, a Newfoundlander, said today that he believes Planned Parenthood is a satanic cult.
Any organization that doesn’t accept the notion of sexual abstinence outside marriage has the devil in its midst, said Newfoundlander Daniel.
• • •
ROME (AP) — Pope Daniel the First, a Newfoundlander, issued a papal proclamation today stressing that hell will freeze over before women will be permitted to become priests or that priests will be permitted to marry.
• • •
Now I’m not sure whether the real Williams, the former premier, not the pope of my twisted imagination, was speaking ex cathedra, or whether Tom Marshall and Jerome Kennedy and company, for that matter, were speaking ex cathedra when they made decisions that have now put us decidedly in the red (or so the government claims).
Ex cathedra does refer to matters of faith and morals, after all. Then again, governments ask us to have faith in their decision-making, and we do hope they have the moral fibre to make the right calls.
But something went astray. Whether it was fallibility or electioneering expedience or a pre-occupation with legacy, the politicians who controlled the purse strings messed up, badly, hopelessly. They ignored, failed to take into account, deliberately or stupidly, factors that could cause a massive deficit within a couple of years.
Political ex cathedra? No way.
Oh my, saints deliver us.
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.