I was surprised and delighted to discover on the BBC website a couple of hours ago that I am fully eligible to be elected Pope next month. It seems that there are no boring requirements about having to be an ordained priest, or a Bishop, or a Cardinal, and you don't even have to attend Mass every week (which is just as well, because I haven't been to church since the Easter Vigil last year). Being a baptised male Catholic is quite sufficient - which, frighteningly, makes me a more important Catholic than Cristina Odone.
Well, clearly this is the type of exciting opportunity that I simply can't afford to pass up. Not only would I become leader of the world's biggest religion, I would also be a Head of State, an absolute monarch, and I would get to see my head on stamps and coins and so on. So for any members of the College of Cardinals who may be passing by (hello Keith), here is my hastily-assembled mini-manifesto for my forthcoming tenure as Supreme Pontiff.
1) Immediately upon being elected, I will renounce my papal infallibility. This will head off the risk of any further embarrassing additions to Catholic dogma along the lines of Pius XII's bizarre insistence that the Virgin Mary was bodily lifted up into heaven at the end of her life.
2) I will authorise the ordination of both female and married priests. Let's face it guys, it's going to happen one day anyway, so instead of being dragged into it kicking and screaming in 700 years' time, let's just get it over with and have a sandwich.
3) Cardinals will no longer be appointed, but instead elected by Catholic congregations. If Cardinals get to elect Popes, it's only fair that we little people get to elect the Cardinals. This would also of course end the destructive feedback loop of conservative Popes appointing conservative Cardinals, who then go on to elect yet another conservative Pope. Now, I'm guessing that the objection to this idea will be that the feedback loop constitutes "the will of God", but just hang on a cotton-pickin' minute here. When Catholics receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, they have the wisdom and understanding of the Holy Spirit bestowed upon them. So it's high time that we trusted the Holy Spirit to do his job, and allowed him to guide the electoral choices of rank-and-file Catholics. It may well turn out after the first batch of elections that the Holy Spirit has rather more liberal views than we previously suspected, but so be it.
4) Elections for Cardinals will naturally be conducted by Single Transferable Vote.
5) The ban on contraception will be lifted, thus extending the life expectancy of millions in the developing world, and putting an end to one of the most ludicrous pieces of Catholic doctrine. As things stand, if you make the human decision to use contraception, you are thwarting God's will that a new life should commence, but if you make the equally human decision not to have sex in the first place, you are apparently embodying God's will that a new life should not commence. There are intelligent badgers in Drumnadrochit who can see the slight flaw in that logic.
6) Masturbation and 'impure thoughts' will no longer be a sin, making life considerably less confusing and miserable for hundreds of millions of teenagers.
7) Divorce and gay marriage will both be authorised.
8) More young people will somehow be persuaded to go to church. I freely admit that I have no idea how I will actually achieve this, and a judge-led inquiry may be needed to come up with suggestions. However, I solemnly pledge that whatever approach is taken, it will be more sophisticated than the traditional one of "let's have more guitars".
9) The Vatican City will enter the Eurovision Song Contest.
Now, obviously this manifesto has the shortcoming of having been dreamt up over the last ten minutes (for some reason I'd never previously considered what I would do if elected Pope), so if anyone has any constructive suggestions, I'd be very happy to tweak it.