By Morton Silverstein
The Catholic Science Monitor
Just weeks after taking office as the 266th pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio — now Pope Francis — has established his reputation as the “party pope.” He’s traded his red Prada shoes for red high-top Converse, evidence that this is a church on the move.
Some say he’s brought some of that South American spirit to his new job as CEO of world’s Catholics. Others say he’s just more in tune with the modern world than his predecessors. Still others cynically accuse him of doing it all as a public relations gesture.
Or maybe he just likes to have a good time.
Regardless of what pundits may speculate about, the pontiff receives his instructions directly from God, and apparently last week God told him to play a concert with the Wicked Sisters of Mercy, an all-nun rock band that was secretly formed during the first weeks of Pope Benedict’s papacy.
The Wicked Sisters remained underground for seven years, practicing their instruments secretly, pretending to be going to choir practice, and sometimes rehearsing in a forgotten catacomb amidst the bones of saints. They played their first open concert this weekend at the Europa Multiclub, the world-famous spa and sauna located on Holy See property just a few blocks from St. Peters.
The concert was reviewed favorably in the Italian press. “Pope Francis blends his classical training as a liturgical singer with the best of New Wave and Europop,” according to the review in Romana Gioco, one of the premier Italian entertainment magazines.
Amidst a crowd of onlookers, paparazzi and the faithful, Pope Francis then washed the feet of the nuns, applied moisturizer and even gave one a full pedicure.
“It’s a lot more relaxed around here these days,” said Giovanni Bonanno, a Vatican butler who has served under three popes. “It’s not so stuffy like it was. I think that God is telling him what to do for a better Vatican and a better Roman Catholic Church,” he added.
In a radical departure from tradition, at Easter mass today, Pope Francis offered a benediction for divorced women, and instructed all local parishes to host an open house for them each Monday night.
Additionally, all divorces dating back to 1013 AD — a thousand years — will be commuted to annulments, and instead of the usual $1500 fee, divorced women will receive a $500 rebate as incentive to come back to the fold.
The new pope has reportedly beatified Elizabeth Taylor as the presumptive future patron saint of divorced women. She joins a very short list of beatified Americans.
Pope Francis will also conduct the first-ever gay marriages in St. Peter’s Basilica next month. “We know which way this whole Supreme Court thing is going,” he said privately to his staff. “Let’s get ahead of the curve on this one. Everyone will be surprised, and thousands of gays and lesbians will be showing up for mass and bingo.”
In another unexpected beatification, Andy Warhol has taken a step toward being the patron saint of homosexuals.
Relaxed Social Atmosphere — and Sex Education
Among Francis’ first acts as pope were initiating priest-nun mixers on Saturday nights, which have proven to be extremely popular. Once a month, they will be tango mixers — the pope was an avid tango dancer back in Argentina.
He’s also ordered the removal of Net Nanny Pro on the Vatican’s Internet connection, which will enable Vatican staff and residents to surf freely.
They’re even hiring sex educators to teach the Team Holy See a few things. Among them is Betty Dodson, who last weekend offered her time-honored Bodysex masturbation workshop to 20 female employees, including several nuns. Dodson, 83, has taught her famous pleasure-centered self-awareness groups since 1972.
“It was a great honor to teach my workshop here,” Dodson said. “These girls knew exactly what to do. They’re not as naive as everyone likes to believe. It’s always been my fantasy to masturbate with a group of nuns, and it was fabulous.”
While staying on Holy See property, Dodson was treated as an honored guest. “They even let me into the erotic art collection in the Vatican’s library. They had books I’ve been trying to find for 35 years. I got lost down there. They had the originals of Bosch’s ‘Twenty Scenes of an Orgy’. Dodson said she was issued Vatican library card and was told she’s welcome back to do more research any time. The curator also purchased one of Dodson’s pencil portraits of the Egyptian selflove goddess.
“Pope Francis believes that masturbation is natural,” said Vatican historian Carlos Genovese, “just like Pope John Paul II taught that nudity is natural and not a sin. God make-a de sex,” he joked, adding, “We have a lot of pressure around here that we need to blow off. It was getting to be too much, you know?”
Accordingly, the new pope issued the Amore Nostri Doctrina, which in effect under canonical law legalizes masturbation for all Catholic clergy, nuns, friars and monks. It’s also believed that Vatican leadership will take a “look the other way” approach to the use of condoms.
Confession has been replaced by rap sessions, facilitated by the group process specialists from the Gestalt Therapy Center of Munich.
As is well known, Pope Francis has refused to live in the palace that popes traditionally occupy, and instead has made his residence in one of the guest apartments. This has left the papal suite available for parties. Preparations are now underway for the first Amant Homines bash, which will be the first Saturday of every month, open only to men.
“I think the whole celibacy thing is going the way of persecuting astronomers,” said one Vatican secretary, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Carol Queen, the San Francisco-based sex educator, will be teaching safer sex practices to all Holy See employees who sign up for her half-day class. All employees will be required to take a sensitivity training class.
Meanwhile, the Europa Multiclub is turning out to be one of the Vatican’s best investments in years. Since Pope Francis took office, attendance to the club has tripled, inspiring the club’s owners to triple their rent as a tithing to the Vatican, their landlord. “The money will go to LGBT education programs in Africa,” said Lance Columbo, the general manager of the famous gay spa, which is located on an apartment block that the church purchased recently for $30 million.
As for what to do with the thousands of priests who have been accused of pedophilia, Pope Francis has come up with an innovative solution — they will take care of animals. The program is known as, “Si vos tatam adulescentia, vos shovel cacas,” Latin for, “If you mess with kids, you shovel shit.”
Pope to Pagans: Sorry!
In yet another surprise move, Pope Francis apologized on behalf of the church for giving Pagans such a hard time over the years. “We really made their lives hell,” he said. “We will be returning a number of their sacred spots across Europe.”
It’s believed that Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris will be the first among them, which will be restored to its former grandeur as a temple to the god Jupiter. Sketches of the temple were found in the Vatican’s extensive library of images of Pagan sites that it subsumed. The entire collection will be made available to the public.
The director of Vatican Media Services said in a statement last week that its radio and TV stations will now be hosting interfaith panels, including discussions among imams, rabbis and priests. And there will also be the East-West Hour, which is a comparative religion program that contrasts Christian mysticism with Buddhism and Taoism.
The Vatican will also construct a Shrine to the Astrologers and Astronomers, which will include an observatory dedicated to Galileo.
For many, the big question is, will priests be allowed to get married? “That may take some time,” according to one well-placed source, “but next week most of them will be getting what are known in Germany as housekeepers.”
“Do they really need to be married?” asked one city-dweller. “This is Rome after all.”