Doffing his mitre for the last time today, the Pontiff Formerly Known as Pope Benedict XVI leaves behind a church more embroiled in controversy now than ever before. Following his slippered heels as they vacate the papal suite that has housed him for 8 years, claims have arisen that the Church’s central figure, a mysterious man named God with no known occupation and one alleged illegitimate son, is not actually a real entity.
“Boy, is our face red,” said Vatican spokesperson Father Federico Lombardi in response to “Vatileaks” documents smuggled out to reporters by the departing pope’s former butler, Paolo Gabriele. The classified files reveal that not only have certain church authorities known that God was made up, but have actively tried to hide this information from the Catholic public.
“We never considered that the reason there is so much animosity and disagreement between various sects and faiths over what God expects of us, is that everyone has just been making it up as they go along,” said Lombardi.
Cardinals Roger M. Mahony, Sean Brady, and Godfried Danneels, of the US, Ireland, and Belgium respectively, issued a joint statement indicating that their voting on a new pope starting this Friday, is ‘cheapened’ by the revelation that the pontiff to come will be the mouthpiece of a nonentity. The three cardinals agreed they would not have devoted all that effort shuffling around priests accused of child abuse had they been protecting the reputation of an institution based on say, Huck Finn, or Sherlock Holmes.
“These latest revelations really make a mockery of our work,” said the trinity of aiders and abetters.
The Catholic Church is no stranger to controversy, and in addition to God’s nonexistence and the child abuse accusations that have been emerging since the 1990’s, Pope Benedict XVI’s career has been plagued by scandal. After offending the world’s Muslims by having major media outlets quote him out of context, he later remitted the excommunication of the bishops of the Pius X society, an organization that includes the restoration of the monarchy, the Vichy regime, and holocaust denial as ‘likes’ on their Facebook page.
The Vatileaks documents stolen from the former office of the pope emeritus have also revealed corruption amongst prelates, bribes accepted for papal audiences, and a cabal of homosexual ecclesiastics blackmailed by jilted lovers amongst the laity.
The summation of these revelations, presumably to be accompanied by damage control proposals, was commissioned by Benedict and produced by three cardinals. It’s completion prompted the declaration of resignation made by the pope on December 17th, and will greet his replacement, scheduled to take office by March 24th, Palm Sunday.
He gave his final public address on Wednesday, and after greeting cardinals in Rome before they elect his successor, Benedict XVI boarded a helicopter bound for his papal retreat. Professional lip readers are unanimous in their assessment that the words he shouted underneath the roar of the rotary aircraft were indeed, “So long, suckers!” It has yet to be determined however, if the comment was directed at the ecclesiastical authorities he was leaving behind, or to Catholics in general.
While the former pope has many detractors, few could disagree on one thing : It is extraordinary that his membership to the Hitler Youth ended up being the least controversial thing about him.
The next pope has a difficult task ahead of him. Not only will he have to contend with a church rife with internal divisions and intrigue, but also one hounded by criticism from without over it’s beliefs and practices. It doesn’t help that declining numbers of faithful in developed nations, have forced the church to turn to places such as Africa, where it insists on instructing followers to not use condoms, even if that means dying from AIDS.
“Jesus always went bareback,” said Pope John Paul II in 2003.
The Vatican’s secretary of state, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, summed up the coming challenge.
“The next pope will have to separate the wheat from the chaff and punish the wicked so that the rest of us can wash our hands of all these iniquities,” he said, referencing a famous bible verse where one of the characters washed their hands, “That way, we can get back doing the work God put the Church on Earth for, such as laundering money for the mafia.”