February 11, 2013
Pope Benedict
Yes we Vatican! (Getty photo)

The pope has announced his resignation! In Latin! Benedict XVI will be stepping down from his post on the 28th!

This is leading the category of “Big Headlines From 1415.”

In fact, it literally has not happened since 1415, a year when people were routinely burned at the stake, exorcism appeared to be a valid medical treatment and Europe was blissfully unaware of America’s existence. On Twitter, people were making tasteless, ill-timed jokes about the Battle of Agincourt.

On the bright side, the job market for 85-year-old men with strong opinions about condom use just improved dramatically. For now, the only elderly man lecturing my friend Marie about the dangers of homosexuality is her grandfather.

I can’t wait until they release the smoke monster from the Vatican to select the next pope.

They need to pick someone unexpected, like Prince, Hugh Hefner or a woman.

Frankly, I don’t understand why you would ever leave a job where you got to criticize other people’s sex lives, in Latin, while wearing a distinctive hat. This is a dream job. This job should not exist in the world of 2013. This is one of those positions that is supposed to be wrested from your cold, lifeless hands — like a seat on the Supreme Court or the Kingship of Pop.

I cannot have it, because I cannot pull off hats. I don’t have enough forehead. Or maybe I have too much forehead. Besides, I am a woman, and my insistence that Nothing Has Changed Since 1415 would not land, because who listens to a woman?

The news of the pope’s impending departure does bring to mind one ongoing crisis: the marked decline in the number of professions with distinctive hats. (Yes, Antonin Scalia wears distinctive hats, but he would do that no matter his profession.) In general, if an 85-year-old man approaches you and announces that God has given him some oddly specific relationship advice for you, and also that he thinks you should eat more fish, you are within your rights to ignore him. But mitre makes right. It’s all in the accessories!

The pope is many things to many people — a father, a spiritual leader, an example to classics majors that it is possible to find a day job where you speak Latin. There are many miracles in this situation — not least of which is the fact that millions of people, worldwide, are listening respectfully to someone who could have chosen any of a wide array of names for himself, including “Celestine,” and went with Benedict.

I don’t know what retired popes do, primarily because there have not been any since 1415, and the only recreation available then was to collect varieties of smallpox. Quit releasing puffs of white or grey smoke and start to exorcise? Quit exorcising and start to smoke? Really, the world is your oyster — something you are allowed to enjoy on Fridays.

I hear he’s hoping to retire to monastic seclusion, but maybe he ought to look into becoming a chef, the only other profession I am aware of that gives you a large hat and the authority to dictate what people do with their eggs.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.