Cheerful, Smiling New Pope Francis I Angers Hardliners in Rome


As Argentinians celebrated, overjoyed that one of their own had been elected Pope, other voices were privately less enthralled with the election of Francis I. One inside Vatican source worried that people would connect empathetically to the one-lunged, gentle-featured Jesuit, detracting from the church's carefully protected reputation as a monolithic, faceless, oppressive force.

The cardinal, who cast his vote as part of the Conclave, would like to have seen to see a more "undead-looking, Benedict-esque" pontiff. The unnamed source cited the intense appearance of then-deceased pope Formosus, who in 897 was exhumed and put on trial. "While he was not actually pope at this point, his decrepit, rotting corpse was an inspiring figure. The Church went on to convene three more synods on the matter — truly, this was an exciting time for Catholicism!"

"[Francis'] somewhat healthy glow and lack of deathly stares are major embarrassments," continued the cardinal. "I'm concerned that his image will affect his ability to do his job." While Francis' supporters have been quick to note that Cardinal Bergoglio's history demonstrates the same level of leadership as past popes, the traditionalist wing of the church remained cautious. "His kind outward appearance means most of our greatest goals are still long-shots," added the source (a return to geocentrism, global recriminalization of heresy, and celebration of mass in Aramaic are all unlikely under the friendly-faced Francis). "We'll just have to keep trying," the cardinal opined.

While the hardliners seem nonplussed, reformers sought to maintain hope. One of the more liberal members of the Conclave, speaking on behalf of a small group of reformers, hoped for modest progress, like allowing women to speak in churches, or advising those in managerial positions to adhere to local laws regarding the reporting of sexual predators.

"We're not hoping for another limbo revision, which was a landmark shift in Catholic thinking. We're being realistic." This Cardinal, who wished to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, went on to note that the election of an Argentinian "New Worlder" would have been unthinkable mere centuries ago. "Poland's Pope John Paul II broke a streak of 455 years of Italian papal succession ... the election of [Jorge] Bergoglio really reflects our widening cultural base," the source added.

The newly minted pope will have a lot to deal with, including the continuing personnel reassignment process, and the ongoing Church conflict with homosexuality, on which Francis has several nice things to say. While the unterrifying Francis is by no means as imposing as his predecessor, his plate is no less full.