Seven Dark Horse Candidates for Pope

By Harry Cheadle

Tomorrow, a bunch of men in robes will lock themselves in the Vatican, cease all forms of communication with the outside world, and cast ballots until two-thirds of them agree on who should take over as spiritual leader to a billion people. Catholics, church watchers, and fans of big hats have been discussing, via slideshows, who the most-likely candidates for the popehood are ever since Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation a month ago. Everyone agrees that the next pope, like pretty much every pope in history, will be an old guy who is already a high-ranking member of the Church, but it doesn’t have to be. The new head of the Catholic Church technically doesn’t have to be a cardinal or a bishop or even an ordained member of the clergy. So, there’s a chance, however small, that those old men in robes will decide that in order to restore the reputation of a centuries-old institution that has weathered some pretty dire crises in recent years, they’ll need to think outside of the box. Here are some of the unlikely, but still possible, candidates for pope:

Photo illustrations by Christian Storm

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN

Pros: The Boss was born and raised Catholic and continues to identify himself as affiliated with the Church. No one can deny the powerful Catholic themes of sin and redemption present in many of his songs, and he is already used to traveling the world offering benedictions to hundreds of millions of followers.

Cons: Already has a better job than being pope.

Odds: 27–2

LENA DUNHAM

Pros: What better way to reach out to a younger generation who’s lost touch with Catholicism than to elect one of the Millennnials’ most beloved icons? Lena Dunham has touched millions, if not billions of lives for the better and taught a generation how to laugh, how to love, and how to live through mistakes. Her image graces dorm rooms, billboards, and magazine covers all over America—in many places, she is already better known and more venerated than the Virgin Mary. Everyone under 30 idolizes her and follows her every utterance as if it were law. If the cardinals had the courage to make her pope, Catholicism would have swarms of new converts who would thrill at the chance to follow Lena on her next adventure of self-discovery.

Cons: May have had a bunch of abortions.

Odds: 50–1

A PEPPERONI PIZZA

Pros: The only thing kids love more than Lena Dunham is pizza, right?

Cons: Pepperoni pizza has written very little on matters of theology and is seen as an intellectual lightweight by many cardinals who hold votes. There’s no question that he is a capable administrator and a pizza of integrity, but some say that another pizza—mushrooms and peppers, or even supreme—would be more popular in Africa and South America, where the Church is growing rapidly.

Odds: 745–80

THE DOG FROM AIR BUD

Pros: Ain’t no rule says a dog can’t be pope.

Cons: None.

Odds: 10–4

YOGI BEAR

Pros: No doubt Yogi had a troubled youth, stealing "pic-a-nic" baskets and clashing with authorities before converting to Catholicism while in prison. But his story of redemption only makes him a more powerful symbol, and his rapid rise to archbishop of Jellystone Park speaks to both his charisma and his ability to navigate the tricky waters of church politics. And his nuanced views of everything from the Second Vatican Council to limbo indicate he is clearly smarter than the "av-er-age" bear.

Cons: Rumors regarding Yogi’s relationship with Boo Boo have circulated for years, and while there’s never been any hard evidence of impropriety—and both bears have denied all allegations—the cardinals may want to select a pope who is unburdened by the scandals of the past.

Odds: 73–89–100

A PILE OF FIREWORKS

Pros: Dude, you have fireworks? Aw man, your dad drove you over to the Indian rez? Siiiiick. What you gonna do with them? You gonna—you gonna shoot ‘em all off tonight? Oh, SHIT, is that a Roman candle? Dude, you gotta tell me when you're gonna light that off. We can go to the park tonight, do the big ones—dude—DUDE this is gonna be so sick. My mom never lets me have ANY of these. Man.

Cons: Dude, we gonna—what? Oh, shit, you serious dude? You left ‘em in the basement? And it rained? Are they all—ah man! You serious? They’re all wet? ALL of them? DUDE THAT’S WACK. Can we try ‘em anyway? Your dad threw ‘em out? What? Sparklers? That’s all you got left? Aw, man, sparklers are the fuckin’ lamest. So weak, dude.

Odds: 95.7235–30

AN OLD ITALIAN GUY YOU’VE PROBABLY NEVER HEARD OF

Pros: Will actually be the pope.

Cons: Will actually be the pope.

Odds: 17

@HCheadle

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