All those cardinals in a confined space. Think about that — 115 geriatric old codgers gathered together without proper sanitary facilities and no possibility of a shower. I’d say after a day or two it gets fairly ripe in the Sistine Chapel as all those overweight, unshaven old guys in heavy robes begin to turn sour. Christ Almighty! Who’d want to be trapped in that nest of sweaty vipers as they shaft each other in the most Christian way?
Think about the psychology of it: the last man standing walks away with the big job, but he’s going to know who voted for him and who didn’t, who spoke in his favour and who stayed quiet, so this is the ultimate poker game, especially for the guys who are regarded as papabile. They’re the real players, eyeing each other up, watching through slitty eyes as the sweat runs down their faces and they wait until the music stops before going for their guns.
Now, here’s what I want to know. How do they get along with each other, trapped inside the chapel? When they’re not praying, or chanting, or backstabbing, how do they pass the long, long hours? Do they break up into different factions? The bodybuilding cardinals over there in that corner, comparing pecs and tats, looking mean and waving nasty little sharpened crucifixes at the other inmates? The nerdy cardinals wearing Slayer t-shirts, huddled in a corner, reciting the Creed in Klingon and asking each other hard questions about World of Popecraft. The sporty cardinals with their long-running game of Fantasy Pontiff.
They have no TV, no internet and no phones, but have they any drink? Is there anything in the rules about getting shitfaced while locked into the Sistine Chapel? It seems perfectly reasonable to me, if you were locked into a room with 114 other sweaty, unshaven old men, that you’d at least be allowed to swig from a hip flask, and here’s the thing: supposing they couldn’t actually bring alcohol into the room? What then? Well, these guys are extremely high-powered priests. Turbo-prelates. It would be a simple matter for them to wave their hands at a bottle of wine and turn it into the body and blood of Jesus.
Is some officious Swiss Guard going to stop them? You can’t bring alcohol in here.
It’s not alcohol. I changed it into a deity.
Argue with that, if you can, Mr Swiss Guard. Hmm!
How do they pass the time? Do they play cards, and if so, is it for money or what? I’ll see your holy communion class and raise you an altar-boy. Do they listen to music? What music? The angels want to wear my red shoes?
Where do they sleep? Did someone lay out 115 camp beds, and do they all go to sleep at the same time? Do they take their cassocks off? Do they change their socks? Do they all promise not to fart?
Normally, when you put a crowd of guys together in a room, they stay awake most of the night calling each other names and telling dirty jokes, but do the Cardinals do this, and if so, are all the jokes in Latin?
Civile, si ergo
Fortibus in ero.
Gnoses Annni, thebe trux
Vatis is inem? Causan dux.
You might think it’s trivial, but I want some sort of feeling for what these old guys get up to during the night, and I want to know this. If they’re sequestered away from the world, unable to contact anyone, how do they get their food? Who gives it to them? Is it pushed under a door on the end of a long stick? Do they order pizzas?
Now. What about the voting? There’s no official list of candidates, so they each get a slip of paper where they have to write the name of their preferred pope, and that’s because the whole thing is guided by the Holy Spirit, which of course is why a sweaty old man, elected by 114 other sweaty old men, is really the leader chosen by God. However, given that the entire thing takes place in private and in secrecy, wouldn’t you think it would be much simpler to put a list of the cardinals up on the wall and simply get the Holy Spirit to fire a bolt of lightning at the right name? Wouldn’t that short-circuit things and leave no doubt, not to mention suspicion that some of the cardinals were nobbled, intimidated, senile or downright corrupt?
For that matter, why do they all need to be together, physically, in the sweaty, fetid, fart-poisoned atmosphere of the Sistine Chapel? Why not just set up a secure Vatinet and let them vote electronically? Clearly, this network would be impossible to hack, since the Holy Spirit is guiding the whole thing anyway. Bob’s your uncle.
The question is, who’s your pope?