For years now, alternate realities have been all the rage. Why do you think every movie takes place in a multiverse? Whether it’s the fake pandemic, the flat Earth, the stolen election or schools that supposedly “teach transgender” and put out litterboxes for students who identify as furries, there’s no shortage of grand delusions to which you can devote your waking life.
And, because most of these conspiracy theories focus on authority — who’s really in control? — it was always certain that some would come to doubt the legitimacy of one of the world’s most influential leaders: the pope. Specifically, the current head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, who since assuming the throne of the Vatican in 2013 has often drawn praise for nominally progressive opinions. The truth is, he’s only liberal by the standards of his repressive, dogmatic religion — most of his “groundbreaking” ideas amount to lip service — but that’s been enough to set anti-reform hardliners against him in the last decade. More recently, it has avowed Catholics claiming he’s not the true pope in any sense of the holy title. This is hardly the first time such doubts have arisen; the Church was famously in schism, with rival popes, from the late 14th century and into the 15th. Theological angst is, however, a hell of a lot funnier online.
There you have Dasha Nekrasova, co-host of the podcast Red Scare, lamenting Francis’ frustration at his clergy’s obstructionism. In a 2020 interview, she said she had “returned” to the faith at a difficult moment in her life, attending mass and praying (though without taking communion), and praised both the “aesthetic” and “literary” elements of Catholicism. What other qualifications does one need to call the sitting pope — who is, according to doctrine, the literal and infallible voice of god — a “layperson”?
Nekrasova is partly trolling, as her personal brand dictates, yet she’s offering a view increasingly prevalent among right-wing American Catholics, one mimicking the claims that Joe Biden isn’t president and COVID-19 isn’t a real disease. The idea got a noticeable bump this week when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, denied communion at her church for supporting abortion rights, went straight to Rome to receive it from Francis.
Wonderful stuff. Sorry to break it to this crew: Not only have you subscribed to a belief system where the top guy isn’t replaced at regular intervals, you’ve never had a say in who governs. The pope is picked at a super-secret conclave of cardinals where they probably all trade hand jobs until one of them is elected King Nut, then signal the completion of the ritual by blowing massive bong rips up through a special chimney. Nobody said you had to like it. Indeed, you have every reason to break free of this superstitious hierarchy — so what are you waiting for? Interesting, also, that you’re upset at Francis’ quasi-tolerance for LGBTQ people and light critiques of capitalism and not, say, his miserable responses to rampant institutional sex abuse.
Exactly what Jesus would tweet. Well done, stay mad and keep banging your head against a wall that has existed for 2,000 years. Doubt any of you have what it takes to be the next Martin Luther, but I’m ready to be proven wrong! Not as if I’m a huge fan of the dude. Just gonna kick back and wait for you all to decide that nobody with power at this moment has ever deserved it or used it justly. Then we might start getting somewhere.