Dear Members of the Council of Cardinals or Bishops or Whatever:
It is my understanding that your organization will very soon have an opening for the position of Pope. I herewith submit my application for that position. I believe I have numerous strengths that would prove valuable, invigorating, and profitable to your organization.
Here is why I would be very excited to lead your organization. As everyone knows, your organization has had considerable influence on world history, and has a nearly inestimable influence on over a billion people in the world today. Just think of what such an organization could accomplish with visionary leadership. My visionary ideas would be limited only by my imagination, and as anyone who knows me can testify, I have little constraint in the imagination department.
You all know, though you may hesitate to admit, that nearly all of your positive changes over the last millennium have resulted from outsiders or outside influences. It was the Protestant Reformation that spurred your organization to undertake its own reformation, such that many of the evils against which Martin Luther railed no longer exist within your organization. It was science that convinced you to, at long last (in 1992), admit that you were wrong about Galileo. But, you must admit, your organization has benefited immensely from embracing these changes. Instead of viewing outside criticism as an enemy, why not bring in an outsider to lead you into the changes that you know are coming? I am the person to do this. Just electing one cardinal after another has resulted only in the perpetuation of the old institutional momentum. I mean no offense by this. But you cardinals got where you are by being bureaucrats, not visionaries. The very fact that I am almost wholly ignorant of your bureaucracy and theology is not a disadvantage but an essential strength of my candidacy.
Two of my main strengths are that I know science and I know the Bible. First, science. I have devoted much study to evolution, an idea that most of your scholars now accept. In particular, I have studied altruism. Altruism is, in effect, doing well by doing good. That is, the genes of an individual are passed on more effectively, in many cases, if the individual is nice and works with others than if he or she is selfish and antagonistic. Altruism has been a stunning success in the animal kingdom (and, according to a recent article published by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, in plants also, but we will skip that point). I believe you should make full use of this winning formula in your organization. Your profitability has taken a blow recently. I believe I could return your organization to profitability by emphasizing the good things it does and clearing away the things that tarnish its image. As a result, you will make your members more proud of their organization—their organization, not yours—and even attract new members. I am the altruist to do this.
Second, the Bible. I have carefully read the Bible twice, asking questions from a fresh outside viewpoint, rather than accepting the answers handed down to me by superiors. I believe my understanding of and enthusiasm for the Bible was immeasurably enhanced by this process. As a result, I believe I know what Jesus and the prophets actually wanted to accomplish. They did not want a secretive organization puffing smoke out of chimneys, but an open-to-sunlight open-to-science open-to-reason organization, which promotes real action to defend the poor and the downtrodden and the beautiful Earth on which we live.
Your organization is in great need of a fresh, outside viewpoint in order to begin turning a prophet. I mean profit. Actually, I am making an important point here. A prophet is a visionary woman or man who sees, and feels passionately about, the fundamental ideas of a society or organization, and wants to clear away the bureaucracy that hinders the actualization of that idea. Your organization is not known to the outside world for producing prophets, although everyone has heard of two of your prophets, St. Francis of Assisi and Mother Teresa. These prophets were, exactly like the Old Testament prophets, opposed and ground into irrelevance by the organization bureaucracy, and they became famous and revered only later: after Francis was dead and after Teresa was very old. Your organization did its best to make the world forget about other prophets such as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Daniel Berrigan. Under my leadership, these prophetic voices would receive serious consideration—this means we would solicit outside opinions about them, as well as those of the organization hierarchy. You cannot make your organization profitable just by making all of your historical buildings into gift shops that sell devotional candles, as you have done with your eighteenth-century California missions. As a result of the fresh viewpoint I could bring, I believe, even outsiders would feel good about investing in your organization. Let’s hear the slogan: prophets mean profits!
I understand that the changes I envision would meet with considerable resistance. For example, I make the common-sense claim that it is time for your organization to make full use of the talents of the female half of the human race and maybe to even admit that two X chromosomes may be better than one. I also claim that it is time to stop your unreasonable proscription against birth control and clergy marriage. I further claim that it is time to focus on big issues, such as poverty and oppression and the stewardship of the Earth, rather than to spend so much of your time bolstering the quickly-fading concept of male domination. I am also open to considering such innovations as online masses including the use of 3-D printers for the dispensation of the elements of the Eucharist. Computers can now even generate the scent of incense—something to which we should give serious attention. Should your organization become profitable under my leadership, you could even invest in a satellite dedicated to creating virtual communities of faith.
I realize that you are under considerable time pressure to choose a Pope. For this and other reasons, I realize that a snowball is more likely to be selected for the position than I. But by ignoring my candidacy your organization would be passing up a great opportunity to begin turning a profit.
Should you select me as the next Pope, I would be able to begin work about June 1. I am a devoted educator and wish to finish this semester of teaching before taking another position.
Thank you for considering this application.
(I have posted a video of this letter on my YouTube channel.)