“The next pope won’t impact my faith — the people I surround myself with impact my faith,” Graham says. “But he will impact my life.”
Whoever the new pope is, he will have been selected by an electorate that is 100 percent male and 100 percent wrinkled. If it seems sacrilegious to reduce the selection of the new head of the Catholic Church to a game that appears to be entirely out of stock on Amazon.com — well, keep in mind that Graham’s living room is the only conclave to which the players have been invited. This night is about disenfranchisement, faith and board games.
Politicking for points
“Vatican: Unlock the Secrets of How Men Become Pope” was designed in 2006 by a man named Stephen Haliczer, a emeritus professor of religion at Northern Illinois University. He seems to have a sense of humor: At one point in the game, a cardinal is kidnapped by a group of Muslim extremists; however, he manages to convert the kidnapper to Christianity and is awarded 30 points.
But for the most part, the game is all politicking. Players get extra points for being from the right corner of the world or for toeing the correct Catholic lines. Someone lands on a square that gives her 10 points for opposing gay marriage. “I will take the points,” she frowns. “But I am not happy about it.”
Another player loses points when she suggests that papal teachings should be open to discussion; a third loses points when she speaks up for the Virgin Mary’s inclusion as co-redeemer.
“Anything that wins support of liberals loses points,” one of the Katherines complains.
“Have you noticed that we’ve heard nothing about the poor in this game?” someone else says. “Nothing about economic justice?”
“Nothing about war and peace?”
After two hours, representing a six-day conclave, a new pope is selected. The new pope will be Anice Chenault, 36, a program manager for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. She immediately declares that she will go by Pope Dorothy, after Dorothy Day, the social activist and anti-poverty champion who founded the Catholic Worker movement.
“I think I’ll be a pants-wearing pope,” she declares thoughtfully, as she’s not a big fan of dresses. Pro stem-cell research. Happy to welcome gay priests or female priests or any kind of priests who feel called to the priesthood. Her first order of business will be to deconstruct the Vatican. “And scatter the hierarchy,” she adds.
“Viva Pope Dorothy.” The women in the room lift their glasses and applaud. “Viva Pope Dorothy.”