Getting on the board
Let them explain.
A couple of years ago, Kate Childs Graham’s mother bought her this crazy board game, with tiny little cardinals and a Monopoly-like interface. The game is called “Vatican: Unlock the Secrets of How Men Become Pope.”
“She knew I was such a Catholic nerd,” Graham says. So she got this game, only she never had a good reason to play it.
When Benedict became the first pope to resign in 600 years, it seemed like a good reason.
There are no men playing on this night, so the newly elected pope is going to be a woman. Specifically, it is going to be a 20- or 30-something woman from a super-progressive movement, such as Call to Action or the Women’s Ordination Conference — an organization working for gender equality in the Catholic Church — both of which are represented here. Specifically, a Jewish rabbi would have a better chance of becoming pope than anyone at Graham’s house, but no matter, the chili is excellent, and there’s wine.
“Four Katherines in one room,” says Erin Hanna, after the introductions have been made. Four Katherines, two Erins and a Margaret. “Only at a pope party!”
It’s been a really busy week for Hanna and her co-worker Kate Conmy, also here at the party. “We’ve been figuring out,” Hanna says, “how to get pink smoke to Rome.”
Hanna is the executive director of the Women’s Ordination Conference. The pink smoke is meant to parallel the black smoke and white smoke piped out by the Vatican during the papal election process — and to remind the world that women cannot be priests, much less popes. However, pink smoke bombs cannot be FedExed to Italy, because they are flammable.
“It turns out you have to go to this special dangerous-goods FedEx,” Hanna explains. “The whole place is practically bubble-wrapped.”
It was going to take weeks and cost hundreds of dollars to get the pink smoke across the ocean, so now they just might have to do without.
Catholic and gay
“I was driving to work when I first heard the pope had resigned, and I literally swerved my car.” Before the pope party, Graham — short hair, glasses, 28 — talks a little about her faith.
She loves being Catholic. She was raised Catholic. She went to Catholic University. She and her partner, Ariana, were married by an ex-nun, and their toddler, Asher, was baptized in a Catholic church.
Still, it’s a struggle and a cognitive disconnect to love something so deeply that sometimes seems not to love her back. She was devastated when the bishops of Maryland — her adopted home state — banded together last fall to oppose same-sex marriage.