"Give 'em enough pope"

Well, that's it. I'm outta here. Done. Finito. Gone in 60 seconds. Fare thee well, my friends and foes, 'cause it's blue skies ahead and hard times in the rear-view. Much as I love this job, I've always said I'd vacate it in a crack fiend's heartbeat if the right offer came along. After this weekend, a job opening has presented itself that I'd have to be a bloomin' onion of an idiot to pass up.

I'm going to be the next pope.

Yep, you heard it here first. Responding to a sudden vacuum in our world's moral leadership – and emboldened by fresh evidence blowing around this office that anybody can run for anything nowadays (see Page 7) – I'm mounting a campaign of my own. With characteristic bravery, and thanks to the benefits of some of the finest high-strength prescription medication, I'm shooting for the tippy-top, the upper stratus, the Cats of elective offices: the papacy.

I know it's going to be far from a cakewalk. I'm not even Catholic, for one thing. Though I don't practice any organized religion, I am technically a follower of the Presbyterian faith – or as the College of Cardinals would term it, "Santeria." This shortcoming should be easy to rectify: I'll just convert. One denomination's not much different from the next, when you get right down to it. And with Lent already over, being Catholic shouldn't put too much of a crimp in my style. I won't have to give up any bad habits until next year – and by then, I'll already be the pope, and nobody will be able to make me quit jack shit. What's going to take some doing is convincing the 117 cardinals who get a vote that I'm the man for the job – the theological Mystery Date that God and their consciences are pointing them toward.

So, to make that decision easier for everybody, I'm hereby asking all the other candidates to withdraw from the race, politely and quietly. Times like these are already fraught with spiritual and procedural uncertainty; the last thing we need to do is make matters worse by adding a whole unpleasant element of so-called free will into the equation. Honestly, I don't anticipate too much resistance from the runners-up. They're smart guys. They can all find other things to do. Cardinal Lubomyr Husar of the Ukraine can start an HerbaLife franchise. Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria can go out on tour blowing sax for The Commodores. They'll be fine.

As for the rest of you, be assured that I have plenty of ideas of how to make your world brighter as soon as I take my place behind the wheel of the bulletproof-glass SUV of infallibility. Here are some instant improvements you can expect from my reign.

Making up for the tragic oversight committed the last time we got a new pope, I will heed the currents of destiny and take the name George Ringo I. Think about it.

I will extend drinking hours at all Vatican City bars until 3 a.m. But no more selling Jesus juice to Michael Jackson, at least not on Sundays.

Vatican City is crying out for a downtown performing-arts center, and under my watch it'll finally get one. I'll provide the populace with a state-of-the-art headquarters for performances by the Vatican City Ballet, the Vatican City Opera and the Vatican City Philharmonic. But not the Vatican City-UCF Shakespeare Festival; they're fine right where they are.

My predecessor won widespread acclaim by extending an olive branch to the Jews, declaring for all time that they were not to blame for the murder of Christ. I will build upon his example by publicly absolving the Sons of David for other crimes of which they have been falsely accused, like writing The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and giving the world Fran Drescher. Furthermore, I will issue an official edict that will praise the Jews as an industrious, education-oriented people who are passionate about social justice and always seem to know where to score great Chinese.

Like the dearly departed John Paul II, I will be a tireless champion of human rights. I will fill my papal calendar with awareness-building visits to sociopolitical crisis zones – morally backward banana republics where the oppressed underclasses perform slave labor for pittance wages and under shockingly inhumane conditions, all without the benefit of duly elected representation. Should time permit, I will also travel outside the United States.

I will grant immediate sainthood to all three deceased members of the Ramones. I may even rename the Roman Catholic Church the Ramone Catholic Church, as soon as I can decide if it's Tommy or Marky who gets to be on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Breaking with Vatican tradition but reflecting the beliefs of the majority of Catholics, I will take a firm stand in favor of reproductive rights. I will tell the world that, in the eyes of God, a woman is free to do anything she wants to with her own body. And that the Lord would like her to involve me in it whenever possible.

Sounds divine, doesn't it? Now all I have to do is gather the 800 signatures that'll put me on the ballot and pay the meager $25 entry fee. It'll probably help if I can show proof that I've performed a couple of miracles, so I'm thinking of telling the cardinal who processes my form that I coached the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. What's a little white lie among friends? HailMaryfullofgraceOurLordiswithyoublessedareyouamongwomenandblessedisthefruitofyourWombJesusHolyMarymotherofGodprayforus sinnersnowandatthehourofourdeath. Amen. There. All taken care of.

Oh, and one other thing: Some time in the next month or so, you may hear a news report or two erroneously claiming that someone else has gotten the gig. Don't believe a word of it. That guy is a stooge, an impostor, a simple stand-in conscripted to fill time while the church's top brass figures out a way to sell the public on the idea of a pope who once told dick jokes for a living. As soon as they have it nailed, that stopgap pontiff will expire of a fatal "illness," ceding the stage to yours truly. (They're screening Godfather III right now at the Apostolic Palace to figure out how to make this happen.)

So don't be afraid to put in a good word for my candidacy the next time you visit your nearest house of worship, polling place or neighborhood yogurt hut. Keep the faith, keep hope alive, and keep repeating my official campaign slogan: "It takes a pointy head to fill a pointy hat."