As the era of Benedict the Hapless comes to an end and the time to elect a new Pope approaches, the Holy Church finds itself in some dire circumstances. Some of these are the result of the vast, impersonal Spenglerian forces that are currently sweeping over the descendant West, and others are of its own making. An article at the Washington Post sums up some of the problems pretty well. Yes, the WashPo is an establishment liberal newspaper that hates Catholicism (along with all things religious and traditional), but that doesn’t mean that everything they’ve got to say is wrong, and much of the article has the ring of truth to it. Specifically: that the Vatican is run by an out-of-touch gerontocracy that has no idea how bad a shape the church is in vis-à-vis the world, how far discipline has lapsed inside it, how strong and strident the forces that oppose it are, how those forces operate, or what might be done about all of this. They continue with a bizarre obsession with Italian politics at the expense of their global reach, they can’t come to grips with the mistakes they’ve made, and they are either unwilling, or, more likely, unable to restore order.
In short, the Vatican desperately needs new leadership – one that’s unafraid to clamp down on sex scandals, corruption, and serious ideological deviation equally. This bunch of leaders seems to be one dogged by weakness and unseriousness. It’s not just one thing, it’s everything – they just seem unwilling and unable to crack down on anybody over anything. When that’s the case, and people know it, things get out of hand. Which they have.
Thus, as much as I hate to make a somewhat banal comparison in all of this, the next Pope must be something of a Tywin Lannister. Those who have read the books know that Tywin’s father was so weak that his holdings went to chaos. Scandals and corruption broke out, order broke down, and nothing got done. Lord Tywin cleaned house and put things in order, though it took him twenty years in order to do it, and he came away hated and feared in his own lands as well as across Westeros.
We need a man like that in the Vatican. We need a man who knows that the church cannot make its enemies love it with appeasement nor even civility. We need a man willing to excommunicate those who believe that they can call themselves Catholic while standing against everything the Church stands for. The next Pope is going to have to be fearless, cagey, realistic, and a man with an iron backbone who is utterly unafraid of being reviled by the prevailing culture and power structure – both inside and outside the Church – and hated by many more. It will take a man willing to make powerful enemies, and to accept, at least temporarily, a smaller, better church.
So I say: Tywin Lannister for Pope – or, absent him, whoever we can find who’s most like him. The next Holy Father must be such a man, for it will take nothing less to put the Church back in order.