As the cardinals prepare for the conclave to elect the next pope this week, I would like to recommend a candidate they may have overlooked. Someone I think would be the perfect pope successor. Father Duty.
Father Duty is a seasoned Roman Catholic priest who just happens to be my uncle. When I was three, I crowned him Uncle Duty and the name, well, stuck.
So why do I think Father Duty would be a Dope Pope?
Well, besides his more than 40 years in the priesthood, he's incredibly progressive, fun and would shake things up royally at the Vatican. (And, Lord knows, that's just what the church needs.)
Now don't get me wrong. Pope Benedict Emeritus is a brilliant scholar and extremely well-read, but Father Duty is also incredibly smart and way more relatable.
I spoke to him recently about what he'd bring to the pontiff position. At first, he laughed and then shot off a whole slew of ideas on how to make improvements. Think of it as Extreme Makeover: Vatican Edition.
1. Holy Smoke!
To announce his election, Pope Duty is substituting the traditional white smoke for a more interesting color: fuchsia. In fact, he's going to treat it like the Empire State Building and change it up every night to celebrate all kinds of events. Pink for Easter. Orange for Halloween. Rainbow for Pride Day.
2. The Lights in the Piazza
To spruce things up, Pope Duty is going to install LEDs around the Vatican windows where he delivers his blessing. He thinks the current windows look pretty drab from the Piazza, and he ought to know, he's got a PhD in the study of Light in Art and Architecture. Besides, why should the Eiffel Tower be the only place with thousands of strobes?
3. A Papal Puppet Show
For his first appearance at the window, Pope Duty is going to have the Vatican staff open with a puppet show. Why? Because Pope Duty loves puppets. No surprise. He's been making rabbit ears out of dinner napkins at family holidays for decades.
4. He Speaks the Same Language
Sure Pope Benedict Emeritus speaks an impressive nine languages, but Pope Duty speaks French, a little bit of Italian and does a dead-on impression of E.T. and Mr. Hankey. Put that in your papal pope and smoke it!
5. Party on the Piazza
As a modern dancer, Pope Duty can move, so expect weekly Zumba classes out on the Piazza. And don't be surprised if you find him leading a flash mob to Beyonce's "All the Single Ladies" for all the nuns in the Vatican.
6. Mass Appeal
Over the years, Pope Duty has developed quite a following because his masses are way more than religious experiences. They're practically Broadway productions. The guy has some serious pipes, and not only does he play the organ, he also plays guitar. He makes going to church fun, and when you're trying to recruit more members, you can't go wrong with Duty-free entertainment.
7. Vatican Very Casual Fridays
The Vatican has always had a strict dress code for visitors to St. Peter's Basilica. No bare shoulders, no German men wearing short shorts, no service. Pope Duty will continue this tradition, but with a twist. Every Friday the public will be invited to "Dress Like Your Favorite Roman Sculpture." You could be Venus, The David, take your pick. Sure it might be a little racy, but so what, there are naked figures all over the Sistine Chapel.
8. No Glass Ceiling for Women
When it comes to the ordination of women, Pope Duty says, "Hey, if they wanna work, come on!" After all, when Jesus died, the Apostles ran away and Mary Magdalene was at the foot of the cross. She was also the first one he saw when he was risen from the dead. "You can't ask for better credentials," says Pope Duty. And we all know, without women, nothing would get done, and the churches would be pretty empty.
9. His Cooking is Second to Nun
With Pope Duty at the helm, the nuns would never have to cook for him. That's right, sisters, you've got your very own Top Chef. The guy makes a mean homemade pasta, and his coq au vin is to die for. Plus, he caters to dietary preferences. On Easter, he's been known to put matzo meal stuffing in a turkey just to accommodate my family's Passover observance. And he does this all while preparing for and conducting Holy Week, so, sisters, enjoy your week off from kitchen duties.
10. Pope My Ride
Since he'll be taking up permanent residence in Italy, Pope Duty has asked to be driven around the Piazza in a Maserati at top speed. If the Vatican shoots that down, he'll settle for the Popemobile, but it must be a hybrid. (He currently drives a Prius.) He also won't budge on his driver. As a former Wienermobile driver, I will be driving Pope Duty around in the Popemobile. We'll just slap a plastic Jesus on the dashboard and hit the Heavenly Highway.
So cardinals, while you're reviewing candidates for the conclave, save yourselves some time, ask yourselves, "WWDD?" and consider Pope Duty. It would be the first time in history we'd have Pope Duty I... or maybe we should name him Pope Duty X because, as he puts it, "There's a lot of duty out there already."
Amen, Duty. Amen.