The ritual of selecting a new pope is, in theory, a very rigorous and democratic procedure, but only a mere handful of men (and no women) have firsthand knowledge of what goes on behind the closed doors of the conclave. In honor of the election of Pope Francis I, here are five pop-culture theories about how things really go down in the Sistine Chapel.
Angels and Demons
Who Chooses the Pope: The Illuminati
According to fictional “symbolist” Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), the secret society has been influential in the Vatican since the seventeenth century, because “infiltration is the Illuminati specialty.” In the Da Vinci Code sequel, a Vatican enemy rigs the election by killing each of the top candidates for pope, leaving their bodies in locations significant to the Illuminati. The murderer is eventually revealed to be a cardinal with a grudge, though we never find out what Jay-Z had to do with it.
Who Chooses the Pope: American Teenagers
This 2004 teen comedy showed us that it’s possible to stage the election of a new pope without all that fussy conclave business. Ohio teenagers Scotty and Cooper break off from a Vatican tour to have a look around, in the process ringing a bell (signaling the current pontiff’s death), lighting a pope hat on fire (resulting in white smoke), and exiting the building via St. Peter’s Balcony.
Who Chooses the Pope: The Hare Club for Men
The long-hidden connection between the pope and the Easter bunny was exposed in South Park’s “Fantastic Easter Special,” which explains that the tall hat was intended to hide rabbit ears. In the 2007 episode, Stan is inducted into a secret society called the Hare Club for Men, which protects the rightful heir to the papacy: a bunny named Snowball, directly descended from St. Peter (also a bunny). Why did Jesus commission a rabbit to lead the church? “Men can be intolerant,” it is explained. “Rabbits are pure.”
The Pope Must Die(t)
Who Chooses the Pope: The Mafia + the Hard of Hearing
In this controversial British comedy from 1991, the deciding vote for pope is dictated (via crucifix cell phone) by the mob boss Vittorio Corelli. The method proves to be less than foolproof, however, when a hearing-impaired cardinal appoints a bumbling priest named Albinizi (Robbie Coltrane) instead of the Mafia-selected impostor Cardinal Albini. Italian names: They all sound alike!
The Godfather Part III
Who Chooses the Pope: The Mafia + Share Holders
The Godfather III’s financial-conspiracy plot is, at times, more confusing than Sofia Coppola’s acting choices. The ultimate point is that the Vatican and the Mafia have very similar financial interests — and when the pope sides with the wrong investor, he will have to be replaced. Note to Pope Francis: Don’t drink any tea you didn’t make yourself.