Some antipope seekers riding around and getting it
Between the third and 15th centuries, it was sort of common for a guy with a lot of followers (IRL religious ones... they didn't have Twitter yet) and a strong dislike for his pope to declare himself an “antipope.” According to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, an individual can be considered an antipope when he positions himself as a “false claimant of the Holy See in opposition to a pontiff [who is] canonically elected.” Seems like a pretty rad concept, huh? Rock on and rebel, you crazy papal renegades! Well, unfortunately, there hasn’t been an antipope since 1449. The last one was a dude named Felix V, and there’s literally no interesting information about him available on the entire internet. At least Antipope Paschal was a basilica-raiding gold thief. Why has it taken so long for someone new to step into the mutinous slippers of the antipope? What’s so terrifying about an old man in a white robe whose reign has been contested by no one for nearly 600 years?
Clearly the golden age of antipopes is over. And yesterday afternoon we—as in the human beings alive to witness what's like the trillionth pope election—saw the annointing of a new pope, an Argentine named Jorge Bergoglio, who's going to go by Pope Francis from now on. Unsurprisingly, the world has already made fun of him. The Onion said, "99% of Human Beings Would Prefer Big, Slobbery Hound Dog Pope." A Twitter account that has been inactive since June 2011, @popefrancis, with a Harry Potter avatar and such wittily unpapal tweets like “wadup guys” bubbled to the surface. And there were a host of jokes about the white smoke that announced the new pope’s election, like the one about how the conclave was actually just hotboxing the shit out of the chapel.
Jokes aside, who is Pope Francis? Well, according to the Guardian, he and the Argentinian Catholic Church at large are complicit in mass murders and “dark deeds” through their support of an “unspeakably brutal western-supported military dictatorship.” Cool guy. He'll be taking over an institution most known for covering up the sexual abuse of children, and could have to deal with the "VatiLeaks" scandal—in case you missed it, the there may be a secret homosexual network at the highest reachest of the Vatican, and outsiders might be blackmailing gay church officials. If it's not time for an antipope now, when will it be time?
Though it gets chattered about as if its Justin Bieber or Lindsay Lohan, the Catholic Church is a massive and morally bankrupt institution, and that’s been a cliché for a very long time. It's taken for granted that the Church is infested with antiwoman, antigay, propederast, and antireform attitudes that have seeped into every crack of the organization. I grew up in Catholic school, and while that doesn’t make me an expert on the Church, I know the stories, and I’ve lived through the rituals. I even wanted to be an altar boy at one point because I supposed it would be a nice break from the passive boredom of sitting in a wooden pew, but my parents said no, I guess because they didn’t want me to get raped. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!)
Personal rape-aversion tactics aside, 2013 would be a great time for an antipope to rise. Benedict broke the six-centuries-long streak of popes dying on the job, so why shouldn’t someone else break the anti-antipope streak? Wouldn't it be great for a dissident Catholic to say, “Hey guys, I think women are great, condoms are sweet, and we shouldn’t be protecting the priests who rape little boys. So why doesn’t everyone just follow me, and we can figure this out? Oh and, don’t get too tripped up by the ‘antipope’ name. I’m just like everyone else! Except more papal.”
That would be a much more interesting and impactful event than a creepy pope who used to be a member of the Hitler Youth stepping down and being replaced by another old man who has ties to a brutal dictatorship. Institutions that are stuck in their ways need to be shook up in order to progress, and maybe an antipope could actually help the Catholic Church out by giving them some competition. And the antipope doesn't need to be high in the Church hierarchy either—as we all know, the great Antipope Constantine II wasn't even a priest.
Whatever impact an antipope would have, I think we can all agree it would be a hell of a lot more entertaining than an ordinary changing of the popes. And religion is basically just entertainment, right?
Follow Patrick on Twitter: @patrickmcguire
More papal content from VICE: