February 12th, 2013

mene mene tekel upharsin, religion

When I'm elected Pope

After I posted a link to yesterday's post about Pope Benedict XVI to Facebook, my friend Lisa suggested Pope John Heaton I as a good name for the new pontiff. Catchy! But as I've not converted in the few hours since I posted yesterday's entry, I think it rather unlikely that I will be elected Pope when the Papal conclave meets in March.

Although, I don't think the Pope is required to be Roman Catholic. If Wikipedia is to be believed, Canon law anticipates the possibility that someone who is not already a bishop might be elected: "if a layman or non-bishop is elected, he receives episcopal consecration from the Dean of the College of Cardinals before assuming the Pontificate." I've already been ordained as an Elder and as a Deacon by the Presbyterian Church (USA), so I can't imagine why the Dean would have any particular reason to no so consecrate me. Except, of course, my being in heresy by not believing in, among other things, the authority of the Pope.

But just for fun, I started thinking about what I would choose as my regnal name is elected Pope. Lisa's suggestion is not a bad one; there's no requirement that a new Pope take a new name; in fact, the first 55 Popes just used (the Latin equivalent of) their given names. (Pope John II was the first to take a new name; his given name was Mercùrio, and he didn't think it was appropriate for the leader of the Christian Church to be named after a Roman god.) It wasn't until the 10th century that new Popes regularly adopted new names, but the practice didn't die out entirely until the 16th century. (Adrian VI, born Adriaan Floriszoon Boeyens, was the last Pope to keep his given name.) But if Benedict XVI can revive the practice of not dying in office, I could certainly revive the practice of being known as my real name. That would make me Pope John XXIV, or Papa IOANNES Vicesimus Quartus, as they like to say.

Another part of me likes the idea of being a jerk about it. There's a tradition that new Popes not take the name Peter, but my general feeling toward tradition is, nuts to it. Pope Peter II sounds good to me! Also good: Pope Luther I. Or maybe Martin would be better, to maintain plausible deniability as to why I chose the name. That would make me, according to the Annuario Pontificio, Martin VI, but since I would only be the fourth Pope called Martin — poor record keeping led to the Popes now known as Marinus I and Marinus II to be recorded on the official list of Popes as Martin II and Martin III, so the would-be Martin II became known as Martin IV — I would insist on being called Martin IV II.

Come to think of it, Marinus III would be a good name too, because it would let me point to the papal coat of arms and say, "Behold, the Keys of Marinus!" Doctor Who fans would flock to me!

But I have an actual good idea for a regnal name: Justus. Consider the follow passage from the Book of Acts, chapter 1, verses 23-26:

So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they all prayed, "O Lord, you know every heart. Show us which of these men you have chosen 25 as an apostle to replace Judas in this ministry, for he has deserted us and gone where he belongs." Then they cast lots, and Matthias was selected to become an apostle with the other eleven.

Joseph called Barsabbas a.k.a. Justus is never mentioned before this passage, not after. Nor is Matthias, for that matter, but Matthias is an official saint of the Roman Catholic church. But J.c.B.a.k.a.J. isn't, even though the Apostles though highly enough of him to consider elevating him to a position of leadership in the formative days of the Church. He's just forgotten. Which is why it's a good name for a Pope! One of the official titles of the Pope is "servant of the servants of God." By naming myself Justus, that would remind me of my duty to all the servants of God, even those who are unknown to me. Plus, it sounds like "justice," arguably the most important of the cardinal virtues. So that'll be my name when I'm elected Pope.

But hey, I'm not selfish. Future Popes reading this should feel free to adopt it as their own. I'm just that generous.