The Roamin' Correspondent of the IC, Regina Hiney, creates a timely and handy guide as a Christmas gift to Vatican-bound travelers.
In light of recent unfortunate events of a topless feminist stealing the baby Jesus from the Vatican City Crèche this Christmas tide, I have done a bit of research and lo and behold, Vatican City (given its small population) actually holds the record for the highest crime rate in the world. Now, not everyone gets exiled. But enough folks have gotten banished, that it is abundantly evident that a Handy Dandy Hiney guide is sorely needed.
1. Let us begin with the most recent faux pas. If you are visiting Vatican City and you want to see the official Vatican City Nativity Scene, please remember to keep your shirt on and try not to take the baby Jesus as a souvenir. This is considered very bad form and you will be exiled. Having said that, let us take a exiled look through history:
2. Don’t be an idiot Visigoth. Idiot Visigoths may ransack Rome but Saint Jerome or someone of his grandeur will take time out of their day to excoriate you with their words. Jerome defended his dear friend, 85 year old Saint Marcella who was murdered by the idiot Visigoths. Who won? Well, all parties are dead . . . But there are no more idiot Visigoths, 1.2 Billion Christians (and not a few idiots in their own right) and 2000 years later we still have both the Latin Vulgate of Doctor Saint Jerome and know of the heroic virtue of Saint Marcella. Idiot Saints beat Idiot Pagans every day of the week and twice on Sundays. If you want to remain in Vatican City, don’t ransack Rome and tick off our doctor-saints.
3. Don’t be possessed by a demon. Pope Francis exorcises the Vatican frequently. The Saint Michael prayer is said daily. Don’t want an exile? Reject Satan. And all his works. And all his empty promises. If a legion sneaks in, chances are, the exorcists will find you and they will expel you. Don’t mess with the diabolical. Seriously. Even if you don’t plan on going to Italy. Throw away the Ouija board.
4. Don’t be Pope during the reign of a jerky anti-pope. An antipope is a person claiming to be Pope who was not duly elected or proclaimed while a duly elected Pope was still in office. Now there have been quite a few antipopes in the 2,000 year history of the Catholic Church. Currently, there is a dude named Michael, living in Kansas with his mom, who claims to be the legitimate pope. Pope Michael of Kansas is not the legitimate Pope. Pope Michael might be legitimately crazy. But he is mostly harmless, albeit schismatic. Now, here is the very salient point, neither Pope Michael, nor his mom can exile Pope Francis. This is NOT to say however, that there have been times when powerful crazy schismatics (and their moms) have not been so harmless. If you don’t want to get banished from the Vatican, you want to avoid being pope when power crazy schismatics (and their moms) try to seize the chair. Saint Silverius and Pope Vigilius (and Emperor Theodora) learned this the hard way. So did Sultan Boabdil of Granada and his mother Aixa of the Nasrid Dynasty.
5. If you ever find yourself writing the greatest piece of Italian poetry of all time, don’t place the reigning pope in the “Inferno” portion of your “Divine Comedy.” Placing the reigning pope head first in a flaming baptismal font whilst his feet are being licked with scorching flames of burning embers is also considered bad form. Folks have written things they regret. Be it the politics of the Black and White Guelfs of Dante’s day or racial issues of modern America, don’t get sucked in. And once a person gets defriended or exiled, they can’t take it back. Dante wrote the greatest poem of Western Civilization. He died banished and he may very well still be in his own Purgatorio.
6. Don’t start your own church.
- If you got a beef with the bishop of Rome and you would STILL like to visit the Vatican Museum, think before you post your 95 thesis on the cathedral door. And then, even if you post on the cathedral door and you “accidentally” get excommunicated over the small misunderstanding, should the pope summon you to appear at the Diet of Worms, show up. They say that showing up is 80% of life. But I say, showing up and communicating is always key to ending a Vatican Exile. What you DON’T want to do, is call the letter of Saint James in Holy Writ an epistle of straw, call the Pope the antichrist, get involved in a peasants war, hide out in Wartburg Castle and marry a former nun. Name calling, canoodling, and hiding rarely ingratiates yourself with the curia and it won’t get you an invite to the papal apartments come Christmas.
- If you may have had a legitimate annulment claim according to Levitical law, but it was nullified by “interfering” Holy Sees, Spanish in-laws, and the lack of discretion by German princes, but you really should like to see that new statue everyone is yammering about over there at the Sistine Chapel, then sometimes, you have to suck stuff up, buttercup. Festering leg wounds may never heal, but a fickle heart clearly will indeed.
7. Incidentally, the Baby Jesus stealing friendly feminist was actually NOT the first woman interred in the Vatican jail and then banished from Vatican City. Interestingly, when the little Vatican jail (whose one cell overlooks the Vatican gardens) opened in 1929, the first inmate was a Swedish woman who assaulted a member of the clergy. She was given psychiatric tests and sent back to Sweden. The best way to enjoy the Vatican gardens is by WALKING through them via a guided tour, or from the top of Saint Peters. But if you have an axe to grind and are on a limited budget, the jail does offer a nice few, for a low price, for a limited time. But chances are, it will be a once in a life time opportunity.
8. Don’t steal alms from the poor. After WWII, an Italian man broke into a alms box in Saint Peter’s. He was held in the Vatican jail. He was not allowed to return to Vatican City.
9. Avoid assassinating popes. Sure, this may SEEM obvious. But not for the reasons you may think.
- If the Pope dies, chances are, you just made him a martyr. He goes straight to heaven and Catholics all over the world have a powerful intercessory saint at their disposal. And he’s going to be praying an Assassin’s Creed (HA!) for your sorry soul.
- If the Pope does NOT die. He will look for you. He will find you. And he will forgive you. Then you will have an awkward conversation in your jail cell. Avoid an awkward conversation in your jail cell; don’t try to assassinate the pope. Plus, the Swiss Guard won’t give you a “bye” on your banishment from Vatican City if you ever get out of jail.
10. Finally, if you get hired as a butler for the Pope, don’t steal his personal papers. And if you “accidentally” pick up his personal papers because you “accidentally” put your Sudoku game book on top of the Pope’s first draft of Deus Caritas Est. Don’t “accidentally” give them to an Italian journalist. You will find yourself banned from Vatican City. Especially if the original title of the encyclical was tentatively; “What’s love got to do with it?”
--Regina Hiney, Roamin' IC Correspondent