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That band of Italian gays calling for a woman
pope
should consider choosing Hillary Clinton as their candidate.

In my book, any woman who can glide through an appearance on “Late
Night with David Letterman” unscathed is definitely pope material. This
was on a Wednesday night, and two days later, by Friday, Letterman was
in the hospital, so Hillary Rodham Clinton definitely has her powers.
Reverse Healing, the Hillary Rodham Clinton alternative!
Shockingly enough, Dave’s emergency quintuple bypass surgery reveals –
surprise! — the Titan of Taunts does indeed have a heart!
(Nobody asked me, but I think Letterman’s doctors confused the Avatar of
Acerbicism’s 680 cholesterol level with his SAT scores.)

Hillary and the Vatican go together like … well, Cappuccino and
Capuchins!! Besides, if she moved into the Vatican, finally she’d have
enough space. A girl has to spread out! The thought of her squeezing
all her earthly goods into those puny two vanloads recently unloaded at
her new Chappaqua domicile depresses me. She’s MADE for the Vatican. So
she’s not a Catholic? Details, details. What’s the big deal? She could
convert. Look, didn’t she convert a puny thousand-dollar investment into
$100,000? Heck, she wasn’t a New Yorker either, and now she knows the
state bird! And she eats pastrami blintzes with schmaltz! And she uses
kugel for bookmarks! Anything is possible. And then, think of all
Hillary’s decorating possibilities at the Vatican. That groovy marble,
those murals, those friezes, those statues, those crypts, plus, sconces
to die for!

She’d be perfetto for pope: imperious, didactic, yet
ineluctably feminine. She has a legalistic mind drawing on precedent,
much the same way religion works, so think of all the fun she could have
issuing edicts and encyclicals and decrees.

Gives new depth to the term, “papal bull.”

Moreover, Hillary knows well the wise adage, “When in Rome, do as the
Romans do.” Look at how she, uh, mastered Washington.

Besides, consider this: There may already have been a female Pope
way back in the Dark Ages who dressed in drag — Pope
Joan
— the controversial,
putative ninth-century pontiff whose reign is disputed yet certainly
possible. To be sure, the details sound suspiciously like a plot
summary for that Barbra Streisand movie, “Yentl,” but circa 853-855
A.D., a young Englishwoman named Joan but often referred to as Agnes or
Gilberta distinguished herself as a scribe and a notary then disguised
herself as a man to follow her beloved to Athens, where she trained, was
elected pope, and reigned as John VIII for perhaps two years.

Until, as Larousse’s “Dictionary of World Folklore” puts it, “her
male disguise was exploded by labor pains.” Meaning, her imposture was
discovered when she either died giving birth to a child during a public
papal processional, or afterward, was taken out of the city and stoned
to death.

While official papal records of this dramatic gender-bending event
either were never kept, conveniently no longer exist or have been
deliberately expunged, German historian Frederick Spanheim cites 500
ancient manuscripts — including those by Petrarch and Boccaccio –
containing credible accounts of Joan’s papacy during the Dark Ages

Whether it’s a
legend, a myth,
or merely an entertaining rumor from a quirky era well before the
National Enquirer, it makes for a compelling story. Further, Pope Joan,
it is said, even gave birth to her stillborn infant on Via Sacra
(“sacred street”), now the Via S. Giovanni, a street subsequently
shunned as the shortest, most direct path to the Vatican.

It’s a shoo-in that Hillary, with all her political machinations and
media manipulations, will definitely be able to relate to Pope
Joan
if not as a model then
definitely as a spiritual foremother.

Centuries later, celebration of Pope Joan became, in our time, a kind
of ecclesiastical cottage industry, spawning books, plays, movies, board
games, card games, a
limerick, a Tarot card in the
traditional Ryder-Waite deck, and, briefly, an online boutique.

And here’s an eye-opening piece of evidence on the prior existence of
a female pope, from the author’s
notes by Donna
Woolfolk Cross about her fact-based historical novel, “Pope Joan”:
“There is also circumstantial evidence difficult to explain if there was
never a female Pope. One example is the so-called ‘Chair Exam,’ part of
the medieval papal consecration ceremony for almost 600 years. Each
newly elected Pope after Joan sat on the sella stercoraria
literally, ‘dung seat’ — pierced in the middle like a toilet, where his
genitals were examined to give proof of his manhood. Afterward the
examiner solemnly informed the gathered people, ‘Mas nobis nominus est’
– ‘our nominee is a man.’ Only then was the Pope handed the keys of St.
Peter. This ceremony continued until the 16th century. ”

How about a woman pope? I e-mailed a cross-section of opinionated
individuals from mostly Catholic family backgrounds. Clearly, it’s an
almost hallucinogenic topic. Here’s what they replied:

  • From Anna, an ex-nun in Baton Rouge who’s now a
    film-script agent
    : “She’d change the face of the earth.”

  • From Anne-Adele, an anthropologist/technical editor/poet in
    Pennsylvania
    : “About time! It would take a while, though — the
    ordination of women would have to pass muster first. Then an uphill
    battle through the ranks — monsignor, bishop, archbishop, whatever –
    so we’ll be lucky to see a woman pope before the year 3000. Every
    institution has its glass ceiling.”

  • From Linda, a Philadelphia playwright who runs a theatre
    company
    : “What do I think? About as much as I think of a pope in
    the first place — unneeded. But then I threw my Catholic education out
    the window long ago. Anyway, you could get overwhelming feedback that
    it would be a great idea; but with a religion that doesn’t even want to
    make women priests, it’s a pretty moot point.”

  • From Sandy, a Philadelphia writer/performer, wife, and
    mother
    : “Female pope? That’s a tough one. Not because I’m not in
    favor of a female doing whatever she pleases, but because for someone to
    make it to pope they have to have bought the Catholic program wholesale
    and it is the program, the Catholic hierarchy and bureaucracy, that is
    the problem, not the simple fact that men get to be the popes. And all
    the infighting, favor-doing and wheeling and dealing a potential pope
    has to do to get elected would have a bad effect on a girl — it’s not
    like you get to be pope on spirituality alone. (Look what that did for
    Joan of Arc.) Let’s start with female priests, they can start things
    changing, then we can get to a girl pope.

“For some Catholic history,” Sandy continues, “Christ’s
followers included men and women — the women were written out in about
the third century or so. And priests used to be able to be married,
until Rome found out they could keep everything the priests accrued
during their lives if the priests didn’t have family. And there used to
be an inter-gender monastery in Ireland. Male and female priests, male
and female religious. It was shut down when Rome found out about it.
And there are rumors of a girl pope in the early Middle Ages — she
played it in drag (wasn’t hard, considering what the pope wears). And
there is a suspicious hole in the written pope lineage at about the time
she was supposed to exist.”

  • From Anita in California, astrologer to the stars:
    “Chicks in the papacy? I’d like a woman Pope just fine, but the church
    has fought having women even as local parish priests. It would take
    centuries AFTER the inception of women priests for a woman to make it to
    the top of the heap. Think of American politics. Women make it to Senator
    spots but there’s no chance a woman president could happen, THIS
    century.”

  • From Meg, a Mount Airy psychotherapist-AIDS activist: “Not
    much!!! Catholicism needs to undergo some radical changes before it is
    acceptable to any woman!!! IMHO!!!! Of course I’m not a Catholic. And
    I feel the same way about other religions, e.g., Orthodox Jews and
    women, Islam etc.”

  • From the intrepid CaptnTrash, L.A. gonzo motorcycle
    journalist/philosopher
    : “What would I think of a woman pope? Same as
    I think of a man pope: they both look silly as soap on a rope. … Hmmm,
    but really, a woman pope? Awwww, it’s all bullbleep anyway, organized
    religion. Dehydrated enlightenment for the masses. Just add the water of
    surrender, and bingo, you’ve got instant after-life insurance.

  • From Slackeaux, a Louisiana mental health worker with clerical
    ties
    : “Woman pope? Sure, why not. Couldn’t be any worse than what
    they’ve had before. Better yet, how about a Jewish woman Pope? One who
    has knelt before a head of state? Hint, hint.”

Heck, worst comes to worst, why not transplant the complete
Clinton-Giulani New York state Senate race to the Vatican and have a
papal run-off? In a pinch, the authoritarian Rudy (“I am the body
bags and the blood
“) is definitely pope material. And remember that
time he dressed up as a woman to camp around? Well, they could carry it
full-tilt and have a Transvestite Pope all over again, only in reverse.

Leave it to Rudy. Arresting children caught playing hooky and holding
them in detention centers until their parents show up to claim them is
just one idea he proposed in his sixth State of the City speech –
according to the eloquent Manhattan street artist and Giulani critic
Robert Lederman — as well as turning over public schools to
corporations; a massive tax reduction for business interests; seizing
and selling at auction cars of drivers charged with misdemeanor traffic
infractions; and taking DNA samples from every person arrested in the
City including those detained on trivial non-criminal charges.

Sounds like he could be in training for the papacy, too.

New York is a festival, ain’t it?

Say this to yourself, softly, until you get used to the sounds of the
words: “Pope Hillary, a hip, with-it, happening pope for a happening
century!”

It could, literally, be in the cards. The Pope Joan is card number
two, the High Priestess, who in the Ryder-Waite Tarot deck is
represented with arcana as well as Christian artifacts, says Boston
Phoenix serial novelist and Net-astrologeuse
Sally from St. Louis, who knows about these things. “She represents
future mysteries, and Waite says if the querant is female, the card
represents wisdom and science, as well as silence. Very sexist, but
figure it’s a stand-in for Athena/Artemis imagery. Both are chaste
females representing wisdom and the moon, respectively, and neither
shied from a fight.”

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