Why I Should Be Pope


Dear Cardinals:


Eminences, I know you’ve got a tough job coming up in the conclave. You have to do the impossible: elect a guy who is super holy, wicked smart, speaks about a dozen languages and can run an international conglomerate. And, if I can be a little blunt, chances are you may not know everyone in the room that day. Especially if you’ve just gotten that red hat you might be sitting in the Sistine Chapel listening to someone talking in French about aggornamiento and ressourcement and be too embarrassed to say to the guy on your left, “Who’s the heck is that?” Besides, everyone sort of looks the same: gray hair, red hat, glasses. It’s hard to keep them straight, no matter how many of those handy “Who’s Who” charts you might have studied.

So to make things easier, I’d like to suggest a candidate who you might not have thought about but upon a few seconds of reflection you’ll know is your man: Me.

Here are twelve (pretty good) reasons why you should elect me pope, which I’m calling:

Twelve (Pretty Good) Reasons Why You Should Elect Me Pope.

1. I’m a man. That’s half the battle, right?

2. I’m baptized. And I’ve got the papers to prove it. No birther controversy here.

3. I speak several languages. Not well but, you know, who does really? I speak English, as you can see from this little essay. And guess what: Bonjour! That’s right: French! I started studying français when I was in seventh grade. (Notice I used the little thingy under the “c.”) That means I can talk to pretty much all of West Africa and France: that’s a lot of Catholics. Unfortunately, if I have to use the subjunctive or the pluperfect we’re out of luck, but all I have to do is avoid saying, “If I were” in any of my encyclicals and we’re golden. But there’s more: Hola! That’s right: I speak Spanish. More or less. Or, “Mas o menos,” as we say in the biz. Now, in this case, I can’t really handle the past or future tenses, but that’s okay, because that means I’ll be speaking all about the present—which will make me sound forceful and confident. You know, “Now is the time!” Or “Ahora es la…well, ora, I guess.” Anyway, there are lots and lots of Spanish-speaking Catholics and once they hear my rendition of “De Colores,” they’ll be sold on the Servant of the Servants of God muy rapido.

4. I’m half Italian. I almost forgot: Ciao! I’m half Italian. On my mom’s side. So once I’m the Bishop of Rome I’ll easily be able to deal with any problems in the curia, because all the Italian curial officials will instantly recognize me as a paesan. Scandals? Finito! Mismanagement? Basta! (That’s Italian for “done” and “over,” in case yours is rustissimo.) My election will also satisfy anyone looking for an Italian pope: i.e., all the Italian cardinals, who you definitely want on your side. The other half of me, by the way, is Irish, which goes a long way in the States, believe you me.

5. I worked in Africa. I almost forgot my other language. Jambo! That’s right! I speak Swahili. Or Kiswahili. (That’s Swahili for Swahili.) Well, at least I used to. I worked in Kenya for two years. So for all those people who want a pope from the developing world, well, I’m not exactly from there, but there are three babies who were named after me while I was working in Kenya. (They’re not mine, if that’s a worry). That’s got to count for something.

Now that you know that I speak English and Spanish and French and Swahili, you’re probably thinking, “Gee, why not Jim as the Pontifex Maximus?” Why not share that thought with the guy in red sitting next to you?

6. Books. You probably want a pope who is literate but maybe not someone who spends so much time writing books, what with all the stuff he has to deal with. I know that this was sometimes a criticism of Pope Benedict XVI—not that I’m casting any stones! But I’ve already written my books, so when I’m in the Vatican I’ll be 100% on the job. 9 to 5. Weekends too, if things ever get really busy. Sundays of course I’ll be available for Masses.

7. Business Experience! Speaking of jobs—guess what?--I’ve got a degree from the Wharton School. That’s one of the big business schools here in the States. Plus I worked at General Electric for six years. So here’s some good news: say arrivederci to any managerial problems in the curia. Ever heard of Management by Objectives? The marginal propensity to consume? The “Four Ps” of marketing? You will after I’m Supreme Pontiff. That place will run like a top. A top that makes money, too.

8. I’m ordained. I almost forgot: I’m already an ordained priest. That means that, since I meet all the other requirements, the only thing that left is for me to be willing to be ordained a bishop. And guess what: I’m willing. Now let me anticipate a minor objection. I’ll bet that you know that I took a vow as a Jesuit not to “strive for or ambition” any high office in the church, but I’ve got a nice, easy, canonically doable way around that roadblock. Once you elect me pope, I’ll be my own superior! After I put on those white robes, I can just call up the Jesuit superior general and say, “Hey, how about letting me accept that ordination as bishop and my election as pope?” And I figure he’ll have to say yes because he takes orders from me. Problem solved. Besides I’m not striving or ambitioning anyway. I’m campaigning.

9. Educated. The Jesuit training process is really, really, really long. I can’t even remember how many years I was in studies. That means that I studied philosophy (good to know), theology (really good to know) and a whole lot of other stuff like church history, which I think would be pretty helpful as pope. And guess what? I know Ancient Greek, too. That really impresses the scholarly types in the church. E.g., when scholars ask me, “What translation of the New Testament are you using?,” I’ll say, “My translation.” They love that kind of thing. Plus, that appeals to the Ancient-Greek-speaking demographic that the church may have given up on.

10) Willing to travel. Okay, I admit it. I’m not all crazy about air travel, what with all the delays and having to take your shoes off and sitting next to someone who keeps coughing up a lung, but it just dawned on me that this won’t be a problem at all. The Pontiff has his own airplane: Shepherd One. So once you install free movies in my gold-and-white plane I’m golden. I’ll go wherever you want me to go. To the ends of the earth, if need be. As long as I get an extra bag of peanuts.

11) Humility. I can already predict what your last objection is: my campaigning for pope may make me seem a tad less humble than you might hope for. But isn’t the fact that I’m willing to campaign a sign of my humility? A less humble guy would assume that everyone already knows that he’d be a good candidate and so wouldn’t say anything out of his pride. Kind of counterintuitive, huh? Ergo: Since I’m campaigning, I’m tops when it comes to humility.

12) Cool Name. Everyone knows that the first big decision the pope makes is his choice of name. Plus, I know everyone’s always worried about continuity. With that in mind (I like to think ahead, which is a good trait) I’ve already picked my name. As you know, Pope Paul VI’s successor chose the name “John Paul I,” to show his continuity with Pope John XXIII and Paul VI. Everyone was pretty impressed with that. Next you had John Paul II. More continuity. And of course next we had (or have, depending on when you’re reading this) Benedict XVI. If you elect me, and I hope you will, after I say “Accepto” (see I speak a little Latin too) I would choose my name: John Paul Benedict I. That takes care of everyone from John XXIII to Benedict. Continuity plus. Of course saying “JPB1” might take some getting used to but Catholics are pretty flexible, and I'll bet before long there will be lots of babies baptized John Paul Benedict.

Anyway, I hope that helps you make a tough decision easier, Your Eminences. Did I leave anything out? Well, I’m a fast typist, I can draw pretty well and I tell some really funny jokes. For example, here’ s a good one: “What did the Jesuit say when he was elected pope.”

There’s only one way to find out.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
John Barbieri
5 years 11 months ago
Hi, Father Jim, Perhaps for number eleven you could say:"When it comes to humility, I'm tops!" Thanks for the laugh and a smile!
John McGrath
5 years 11 months ago
"An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, "Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.'”– Luke 9:46-48 (NIV) I'd prefer a nun. They're always last in the church.
J Gilligan
5 years 11 months ago
Hey, I'd vote for you. ...Oh, wait.
elizabeth brady
5 years 11 months ago
Fr. Jim, I would vote for you too! If I could.
Edward Burton
5 years 11 months ago
Such modesty ... but I object ... I volunteered also. Now I'm the real new broom as it were ... for leadership I made SSG in 9 mos and got a direct commission after that (not that others being shot is necessarily relevant) ... I speak three languages, English, German, and Nimipuutímt and a little smattering of Wabanakiôdwawôgan .... I have a Master of Pastoral Studies degree, too. And I'd be a clean broom for abuse questions and for Bishops who think no priest can do anything wrong as in evil. I'd go for real psychological testing of candidates for the priesthood and presently serving clergy being considered for promotion to Msgr or Bp or Abp or such. And I'd commission a study of the status of women in the Middle East, Grecian East, and Rome from 1 AD to 400 AD -- and invite the College and the Bps and the faithful to comment, with faithfulness not being determined on the basis of the opinion rendered. And that's why I don't expect to be voted on.
Laura Schultz
5 years 11 months ago
May I respectfully suggest a small rearrangement of names to Paul Benedict John. Then you could be Pope PBJ I, and who wouldn't like that?
Katherine Lawrence
5 years 10 months ago
PBJ1 - that's perfect! and i'd vote for him in a heart beat! xoxo,k
James Smith
5 years 11 months ago
Would #13 please be Stephen Colbert head of Communications Department? If so, you've got my vote and a few other young adults.
Bruce Snowden
5 years 11 months ago
FUNNY! FUNNY! FUNNY! Three more reasons why you should be Pope John Paul Benedict I. What about Pope James Martin I? No matter what or how, you have my vote, Your Reverence, I mean, your Eminence!
David Pasinski
5 years 11 months ago
Sounds like you have the gifts for this position, but how do you look in ruby red loafers?
Dian Brutocao
5 years 11 months ago
Translate into Latin and I think you have a chance. Thanks for the laugh!
Bob Sadur
5 years 11 months ago
Fr Martin is far and away the best candidate. 1 Jesuit is smarter than 12 Italian Cardinals. I also would like to see him have a talk show after 11PM EDT. Hasn't been a good one since Carson or Steve Allan. Opening monologue..." funny thing happened on the way to the Sistine Chapel, today..."
William Ditewig
5 years 11 months ago
Dear Fr. Jim, Well, you have my vote! I was rather hoping that there might be a return to the ancient tradition of electing the next Bishop of Rome from the order of deacons, but you make a stronger case. But let me know if you need any help! God bless, Bill
Shannon O'Donnell
5 years 11 months ago
Ditch the white costume. It's left over from the Dominican who got elected pope a few hundred years ago.
elizabeth brady
5 years 11 months ago
ditch the crazy red shoes too. Unless you like them.
Vicky Santoso
5 years 11 months ago
It would be awesome if you choose Pope Paul Bennedict John I, instead...
Mary Meixell
5 years 11 months ago
Why does it have to be a man? When will the church ever get up to speed with the 21st century ?. We are so far behind the times...sad state of affairs the church is in. A church dominated by men with man made dogmas and decrees - get away from the social issues and really do the work of God. He's not going to ask you when you meet him how often to went to church, how many times you preached abstinence till marriage Etc? But how well you loved- gay , straight, poor , rich using birth control or not but simply how well you loved....
Marie Rehbein
5 years 11 months ago
I don't know how they could choose otherwise. Given your history with popular culture, how about considering Pope John Paul George Ringo I ?
Michael Rogers
5 years 11 months ago
Fr. Jim, If you need a spin doctor, I'm glad to help!
Melissa Gecolea
5 years 11 months ago
Love this! You'd have my vote if I could vote!
David Pasinski
5 years 10 months ago
Marie has it the best! Can you imagine coming down the aisle to "He Loves You, Yeah, yeah,yeah" perfect for us boomers - a la "Sister Act" -- come to think of it, what, maybe Whoopi's available...!
5 years 10 months ago
Fr. Martin, I have forwarded your article to our candidates and catechumens so that they might see firsthand the ineffable process by which the Holy Spirit moves in our church to select a pope. And for the skeptics out there, I would like to point out that Fr. Martin stands firmly in the biblical tradition of Isaiah 6:8: " 'Here I am,' I said, 'Send me!' "
Jim McCrea
5 years 10 months ago
It's about time that there is a proud and openly gay man in the Vatican, rather than all of those self-hating lurkers that seem to be coming out (pun intended) of the woodwork these days. And better job than #1? I volunteer. And I don't have a wife.
5 years 10 months ago
maybe u 2 should have a show on the comedy channel & i agree the name should be Paul Benedict John may the farce be w/u
Kevin Murphy
5 years 10 months ago
I guess I'm in the minority. I found this predictable and heavy-handed.
M. Gretchen Fenninger
5 years 10 months ago
Father, three thoughts about your campaign: 1. You need to get John Allen to write an article about your Pros and Cons in NCR's "Papabile of the Day: The Men Who Could Be Pope." 2. You do not list Italian as a language in which you are facile. I personally find this as a Pro, however others might see it as a Con. How is your Latin? 3. "Be careful what you wish for!"
Edward Thiery
5 years 10 months ago
Hell, I'd vote for you if I were Catholic and a cardinal. You are cool and inspiring. Be honest, and don't worry about all that modesty nonsense. Many people, including certain religious, are proud of their humility. AMDG.


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