Posted by : BC Bass Wednesday, March 13, 2013

SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- Plumes of white smoke billowed from the Sistine Chapel chimney Wednesday, signifying the election of a new pope. Appearing on the iconic balcony of St. Peter's Basilica shortly after the conclave appointed a new bishop of Rome, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina greeted adoring Catholics to shouts of "habemus papam," and then led a prayer for his predecessor, Benedict XVI. Some Vatican watchers expressed excitement at the uniqueness of the new pontiff and the conclave's unprecedented decision to break with two thousand years of tradition. Bergoglio is neither Italian nor European, has no ties to the Roman government and invented his own papal name instead of selecting an established title, as is customary. But this newness has rankled dyed-in-the-wool Catholics and conservative lawmakers in the United States, particularly in Arizona, who say Bergoglio's installment as pope is a setback for immigration reform and the terrifying result of ignoring warnings that "Mexicans are coming to take our jobs."

Bergoglio, hereafter called Pope Francis I, told crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square that "the duty of the conclave was to appoint a bishop of Rome, and it seems to me that my brother cardinals went to fetch him at the end of the world. But here I am."

At 76, Bergoglio remains a mystery to many Catholics who admit they know very little about him, except that he is not European and has degrees in chemistry and psychology. This academic background, they worry, could eventually destroy Catholicism if Bergoglio moves the Church toward embracing scientific reality. In such cases, Catholics could find themselves confronted with pictures of a dark-skinned and brown-eyed Jesus, the biological nature of homosexuality, horrible deaths despite wearing strange wooden blocks across their scapular bones, acknowledging that sex -- not a calendar -- leads to pregnancy, and having to call demonic possession by its less popular medical name, schizophrenia.

Still, within the papacy's long history, Bergoglio emerges as a true pioneer for the Church in many regards. To begin with, he is the first Jesuit pope.

"It's a genius move," said Marco Politi, a papal biographer. "It's an opening to the Third World, a moderate. By taking the name Francis, it means a completely new beginning."

But Arizona lawmakers, who have championed some of the nation's toughest anti-immigration bills, cried foul at Bergoglio's appointment.

"Third World is right," snapped Arizona legislator John Shillelagh-McPaddy. "This country wasn't built on the backs of Catholic immigrants, it was born from American Christians. According to the stories, Bergoglio traveled exclusively by bus and cooked for himself. That doesn't sound like a pope. That sounds like poverty. Even his namesake, Francis, evokes symbols of poverty. How is being poor, want of material possessions, a Christian ideal? And a penniless cook schlepping around on public transport sounds like the undocumented workers we find skulking around the kitchens in dirty Chinese restaurants -- the ones bussed in over the border each dawn. Seriously, what is the papal selection process now? The Popemobile pulls into a Home Depot parking lot and the hungriest Latin American cardinal jumps in the back? If he sets foot in our state, wearing his big pointy hat or a sombrero, he'd better have his papers."

Shillelagh-McPaddy and like-minded xenophobes have spent decades raising the alarm against low wage, job-stealing immigrants from south of the border.

"In Arizona, the unemployment rates for American-born produce pickers, toilet scrubbers and dishwashers have skyrocketed," Shillelagh-McPaddy continued. "They can't compete. And these migrants are destroying the economy. They don't pay taxes. They're pricing naturalized workers out of jobs. And as the demand for these positions grows, we keep seeing greater influxes of the filthy, sturdy, unkillable brown infants of these very poor, sponging off the system. Then today, the role of leading two billion Catholics, one of the most powerful positions in Christendom, has been given to a poor Argentine. That's like pulling a Mexican out of the Rio Grande and naming him CEO of Ford."

He pointed out that as an immigrant pope, Bergoglio will also avoid paying taxes or otherwise contributing to the Italian economy, which is suffering along with other E.U. nations.

Shillelagh-McPaddy admits he is an "old school Christian" and therefore has trouble subscribing to the strange belief system of Catholics, but believes Pope Benedict XVI was the right man for the job.

"Benedict took over for that uber liberal John Paul, bringing the Church structure, discipline and conservative principles that were sorely needed," Shillelagh-McPaddy said. "Benedict had an Old World style of efficiency and governance. It makes sense; he was involved with a Christian youth group back in Germany during the 30s. He knew all about what the Jews did to Christ, how to create social programs to spread the message, how to launch aggressive missions overseas to convert people to a purer race of faithful, how to use symbols and icons, how to create camps concentrated on the group's important work, and how to make the trains run on time."

Shillelagh-McPaddy's only hope is that Bergoglio may have had some exposure to similar ideals, given the German population explosion in Argentina after the 1940s.

"But to be realistic, I think we need to get used to thinking of border-crossings as 'mass baptisms' and seeing those incense thuribles in Mass replaced by leaf blowers," Shillelagh-McPaddy added.

2013. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License. See disclaimers.

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