Pope v Pope in a battle for the world’s soul symbol

 April Fool’s Story

His name runs through the darkest corners of North Carolina, but Art Pope’s name may go global. The multi-millionaire known for his lavish spending on the Republican Party recently turned to a new kind of election.

Amidst rumor and several VatiLeaks reports, Pope was fingered as the architect of a long-running campaign to elect Pope Francis. Funneled money from wildly successful North Carolina campaigns ended up in the hands of Super PACs who smeared European papal candidates.

At play behind all of this was the highly controversial decision of Pope Benedict that allowed corporations to raise unlimited funding for papal candidates. Dubbed “Corporations United,” Benedict allowed his possible successors to deal with a series of advertisements directed toward those cardinals modern and unimpoverished enough to warrant themselves television and cable.

Particularly harsh ads on French Cardinal André Vingt- Trois showed him holding hands in a romantic manner with fellow candidate Angelo Scola, an Italian Cardinal. A voiceover dubbed Vingt-Trois “soft on gay marriage… or is it hard on gay marriage,” before calling him “André Menage-Trios.”

Those in the Vingt-Trois camp were aghast at the idea that any Cardinal would be soft on gay marriage given the sacrosanct nature of the church, but Pope’s Super PAC “Americans for Pope-sperity” continued the smearing. Billboards floated around busy French streets calling for “ a return to the Catholic Church we knew back in the 1650s,” and asking if Vingt-Trois was “a man who needed to be closer to God,” with a burning church in the background.

Equally harsh, Civitas Action, another Art Pope-funded Super PAC, described Cardinal Scola as a man without principles. Television ads showing Scola leaning over and kissing the forehead of a man in pink tights with an upside down cross on his forehead played throughout Serie A futbol matches leading up to the Papal Conclave.

Nothing compared to the billboard of Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn holding an African child’s hand and leading him into an adult dance club.

“It’s fearmongering. No one in the papal conclave should think that European papal candidates are for the destruction of the church’s ideals. But the ads kept coming,” said Guiseppe Sodano, a papal expert. “Italy has never seen such an onslaught of dirty campaigning, even in the age of Berlusconi.”

Art Pope’s motives for putting so much money and effort into a Catholic election remain unclear, but many believe he wanted an American Pope — North or South — to seek personal gain.

“Cardinal or even Bishop Art Pope would sound great, he was overheard joking at a fundraiser for Civitas Action.

“Maybe I can wrangle a Popemobile out of this deal. Pope my ride, you know?” Whatever the purpose, his connection to Pope Francis heralds a new age in papal politics. If Catholic elections are to be bought and sold, churches may be pressured into new ways of promoting future candidates.

Jean-Luc Hoode, founder of the French Jesuit think tank L’Retorique, seems to think Pope’s involvement is all a big fuss. “Art Pope’s influence is overblown. He is only seeking to make sure the right people lead the Catholic Church into the future.”

He blasted Pope critics, “rudimentary understanding of the reality of papal-policy philanthropy in Europe.”

Of course, L’Retorique’s funding comes from The Art Pope Foundation, of which Pope runs the board of directors.

Though Pope refused an interview, he released a statement regarding the election results: “I am careful to comply with the law,” Pope said. “And I keep my personal activities separate from my philanthropic, papal-policy, grassroots, and independent overseas expenditure efforts.”

Among those close to Pope Francis, silence reigns. The Pope has issued no statements about his campaign, nor has he been reported to seek forgiveness. As he begins his tenure, he is now beholden to two gods: the almighty and Art pope’s almighty dollar. The world awaits the Pope’s decision on which God he seeks to worship more.