Ahh, spring. The time when a young man's thoughts turn to what he would do if he were Christ's vicar on earth. Well, at least that's what this young man's thoughts are turning to. But that may also be attributable to the fact that all sorts of streets are being closed because the Pope is in New York and I'm not 100% sure how I'm going to get to work this morning.
From time to time I like to think about what my actions as Pope would be. Admittedly, it's a pretty outside shot that I'll ever become Pope. At the very least I think I would probably have to become Catholic. But assuming that the rules change pretty dramatically sometime soon, here's are the three things I would do if the papacy was handed to me.
1) Ditch the big hat and robes. Given that the Pope is supposed to be representing Jesus and Jesus wasn't big on all that kind of ceremonial sumptuousness, I think I'd chuck it in favor of some more simple clothing. I get that it's all supposed to convey the grandeur of the position, but it ends up looking a little silly and I think distracts from what the central message of Christianity should be.
2) Respect the life that is already living. I get that Catholics think that life begins even before conception and that birth control (like condoms) isn't respecting life. But given the rate of AIDS, especially in Africa, I can't help but feel that this "respect for life" isn't actually all that respectful to those who are living. I would loosen up the rules on that a little bit. That way we can truly respect the living, not just the potentially living.
3) Draw the line against extremism of any stripe. Now, the current Pope has beaten me to the punch on this one a little bit with his attacks on religion divorced from reason. I would keep hammering away at this point. As the world becomes more and more interconnected economically and culturally, it seems less likely that we're going to have the kind of bi-polar nuclear standoff that existed during the Cold War. We're becoming more and more of a true global community. The threat today rests not with major superpowers at odds with each other, but with small fanatical groups with chips on their shoulders. I'm thinking of radical Islam here, but also any other small, fanatical group that arises. That's where the threat lies in the new century. It will take all the political, economic, and military powers we've got to keep that threat in check. It will also take strong moral leadership, which is what the Pope is capable of giving. I would work to create a climate in which extremism of any stripe is considered intolerable.
I know I'll never get to be Pope. Alas, it will be a thwarted life ambition. But still, it's fun to imagine.