John Goodman is one of my favorite actors. He has played rôles hard to forget (“Argo”, “The Monuments Men”, “Blues Brothers 2000”). Twenty-six years ago he starred in a David S. Ward comedy, “King Ralph” (1991), which inspired the following reflection.
Ralph Jones is a failed Las Vegas musician who is discovered to be the only living candidate for the throne of England, after the liquidation of all the royals in a freak electrical accident at Buckingham Palace. When researcher Duncan (Richard Griffiths) tells Private Secretary Sir Cedric (Peter O’Toole) that Mr Jones “has his strengths and his weaknesses. He is American”, Sir Cedric says : “Quickly, Duncan. What are his strengths ?” The caricature of the ultimate Redneck becomes King Ralph – with predictable and unpredictable, uproarious consequences. One cannot, in 2017, help thinking of the present President of the United States, Donald Trump, the greatest misfit in the history of that former British colony.
The movie made me think of the election of another unlikely, improbable candidate, not for the office of King or President, but for that of Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis 1.
Clearly, the election of the Argentinian cardinal was a much happier, if not providential, choice. So far, since assuming the title of Vicar of Christ on Earth in 2013, Pope Francis has proved to be a credible, popular, refreshingly original successor to St Peter. He has both disappointed some church-members and worried some of the prelates in the Roman Curia, respectively for his conservatism and for his liberalism. He has made no secret of the fact that he does not expect to be Pope much longer. What sort of a Church will he leave to his successor ? What sort of Pope will replace him ? What future is in store for the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church ?
My guess is that there is little danger – or hope ! – that the job will be given to anyone resembling “The Young Pope”, star of the recent fictional TV series. Nor can we expect a revolutionary, ultra-liberal Pope prepared to put Catholic beliefs and practice into question. It will be business as usual in the area of morality, including abortion, and disappointing conservatism in the area of obligatory clerical celibacy. The Church in Western countries will include more and more dissidents, more and more Believers on the Brink, but will thrive in Africa and South America. “Delenda Religio” will remain a pipe-dream. “Ridenda Religio” will continue to be the mantra of this Blog, for as long as its author remains capable and lucid enough to pen his provocative posts.
People are stuck with Kings and Popes unless they abdicate or die, and with Presidents unless they resign, die or are impeached and convicted. One day, one of my posts will be my last. Some of the world’s leaders are not fit for their task. I just hope this Blog remains fit for ridiculing Religion.