Pope John was in the middle of a sleepless night, the meeting he had planed last week, was now a matter of a few hours away. By 3am, he gave up, called for a cup of coffee, and like many other sleepless nights, he picked up his bible and settled back to read, and wait for his coffee. The meeting was due to start at 10am, it would include the Roman Catholic hierarchy and their aids, and a special guest, there was only one person who knew who would be there and the subject matter, and that was the Pope himself.
Five minutes after the due start time of the meeting, in walked his holiness, he had planned to arrive late, he hated that point where most people were there, but you are just waiting for the last of the stragglers, the eternal question of if you should start without them and catch them up later, talk amongst yourselves until they show, sat there doodling, fiddling with pencils or stand and looking out the window, to be fair, the view from this room was stunning. Everyone stood when he entered the room, and waited for him to sit first, various aids scampered around their bosses with tea and coffee requests. The pope was now ready to kick the meeting off and he tapped his pencil on his water glass, and the room fell silent,
“Right, come to order, I would like to welcome Tony Esposito, for those of you who don’t know him, he is the godfathers, godfather, thank your for coming Tony. He is central to this meeting. Now I have been thinking for some time we are missing out on something. If you were to insult Allah with in a few hours you would have a Fatwa taken out on you, even for the slightest of misdemeanours” a nod of agreement and a little mumbling circled the table,
“So, this is where big Tony comes in to it, think of how many times we have had to put up with jokes about catholic priests, god, Jesus and the Virgin Mary, its never ending. How do you play safe chess? Put a condom on the bishop, or, whats the difference between Jesus Christ and an oil painting? You only need one nail for an oil painting. Enough is enough, I think we need to instil the fear back in to the sinners and heretics out there, we need to bring back the fear of the Spanish Inquisition” a half cheer went around the room, and big Tony snipped the end off of his cigar and lit it.
“So, my idea is to take out people who ridicule us, and who is in a better position to help us than the big boss of the mafia. If we could come to an agreement with Tony, on price, availability and coverage to make sure we can reach anywhere, and a few other bits and pieces. So can I start to get your feedback on this idea guys”, he gesticulated wildly as he spoke every key word hardened to the ear with sharp hand movements, once finished he sat back down and took a dainty sip of his coffee, realising just in time that it was still too hot ‘lucky break there, coffee is so hard to get out of a cassock, and these prick are all looking for my frailty to walk the mile in my slippers’ he thought to himself as he carefully returned the bone china cup to its saucer. Then Cardinal Bello rose to speak, ‘this will be dull’ Pope John thought to himself as his eye caught the movement. The Cardinal was known for his liberal attitudes, pro condoms, pro GLBT, pro divorce and gave woefully low penance for sinners in his confessional.
“Holly Father, I must say I am a little offended by the idea we should indulge in cold blooded murder, its horrific, what next? Suicide bombers in Tehran? Hijacked plains in Palestine? I also am most disgusted to have to share a table with such a disgusting example of human life, a known killer, I’m just horr……..” the Pope nodded in the direction of Tony, and Tony immediately stood, reached in to the left hand side of his beautifully cut Italian suit, pull from it the biggest and shiniest gun the pope had ever seen ‘mmmm, mid morning lazy lob’ he thought to himself at the stirring in his loins, and before anyone around the table could react, a monumental ‘BANG’ filled the room deafening all around the table. Cardinal Bello collapsed like a rag doll as the .50 caliber bullet turned his brain in to a smoothie, the Pope and Tony Removed the ear plugs they had put in just before the gun was animated.
The meeting stopped, no one could comprehend what had just happened, they sat around the table, the thirty most important member of the catholic faith, now twenty nine, wide eyed and mouths agape. The Pope then sent a text on his mobile phone and within seconds four burly men in black suits, also beautifully cut, you would not have known there was a large caliber automatic under their arms, only a glimpse of them when the jackets bowed out as the men bent down to carry the body out, silently they picked him up and effortlessly carried him from the room. The Pope rose to speak again, he hoped the ringing in the ears had lessened so they could all hear him,
“How are the ears?” He began, loudly, there were thumbs up from most of them,
“Look at you all, sitting round like fish at feeding time, I will start again. Who here believes that my idea to assassinate heretics and sinners is the way to go, why should we be out done by Islam? Why should we be the butt of every joke? Time to put a bit of steel back in to the church, I am even thinking of arming every member of the church for a little instant retribution, just for those moments when a little shock tactic is needed, also on the list, bomb making classes, use of assault rifles, and monthly fitness weekends, so who is up for rebuilding the fear in the Catholic Church, getting bums on pews?” The Pope said to the gathering in a very Churchill-esque stirring speech. This time the cardinal rose to applaud this idea, they had all seen what happens now if you don’t agree with his holiness, Tony remained seated chugging on his cigar.
“So, Tony, how we going to work this, will we keep you on retainer, pay as you go?” The Pope asks, opening his note pad to make notes on the terms. Then, without standing Tony began to speak for the first time today,
“Well your holiness, the organisations I represent have roots in the Catholic Church, we have all been through conformation, we have married under a catholic god, we have buried loved ones on catholic grounds, and we attend our parish churches every Sunday and perform confession” all in the room nodded throughout like a nodding dog on the parcel shelf of a car, Tony stopped to drink his coffee and trim the ash on the end of his cigar, take a big drag and hiding himself in a smoke screen on the exhale, check the embers, and another long draw, smoke screen and sip of his coffee,
“So, how about blanket forgiveness, we will be doing the lords work, its a bit off if we are then sent to hell as sinners, we need the freedom to murder indiscriminately and be instantly forgiven, maybe some sort of app for the phone for a hotline to a priest, or maybe like tinder, it shows the nearest catholic priest so we can confess immediately, just in case we die before we can confess and the last murder is still an unforgiving sin” he continued breaking for another drag and sip of coffee,
“Does not matter how much money I have, it does not get me in to heaven, you know camels through eyes of needles and rich men, all that jazz. Forgiveness is priceless, and for my boys as well, I will draw up a list of everyone I need covered” Tony finished, then, all of a sudden up jumped Cardinal Fisher,
“ITS NOT FUCKING FULLY COMP CAR INSURANCE YOU PRICK, ITS SAVING YOUR SOUL, ITS FUCKING RELIGION!” He bellowed, spraying angry spittle over those in close proximity, his face flushed beetroot red, followed by another colossal ‘BOOM’ and Cardinal Fisher also collapsed like a rag doll in a mist of scarlet red.
The Pope sent another text, in walked the burly men and carried a second body from the room, now there were twenty eight. He waited for the ringing to die down a bit in his Cardinals ears, scribbling in his pad and drinking coffee, he signalled for a refill, and began to speak,
“As you may, or may not know, the world only knows the testaments we decide they can see, to keep the belief in the church, there are a number of hidden testaments in the Vatican vaults, which I have access to, I have read almost all of them, one comes to mind from a Roman General, written in the weeks of the crucifixion. He saw the death of Jesus and witnessed the resurrection, he was instantly converted. He saw the weakness of any religious faith to be a lack of a armed force to protect it, he would build an army to protect the fledgling faith. He did indeed build his army, the Protectorate, the inquisition was a splinter from that army. They were, for their good works, guaranteed a place in heaven regardless of the blood on their hands, blanket forgiveness” He sipped cautiously at his coffee, judging its heat as he went, he wiped his mouth and continued,
“So, I will make up some bullshit about finding it hidden away in the vaults as I was exploring, yada-yada-yada, I will form a new Protectorate, which big Tony will be the head off, and we will contact him with the details when we need a job done, the more heretics you kill the better your afterlife will be, sound fair?” He finished, slurping at his coffee, and looking towards Tony, he had been joined by his huge henchman, Leonardo, who leaned in close to his boss as they spoke in whispers, and then listening when Leonardo replied, there was an awkward silence as they chatted, the Cardinals sat in silence so as not to offend big Tony and his Platinum plated Desert Eagle, they all sat virtually motionless. After about five minutes Tony turned back to the table and his henchman returned to his place just to the side of Tonys left shoulder,
“So, I give you a list of names to be inducted in to the Protectorate, and no matter what they do, they will be forgiven and be awarded with a place in heaven?” Tony asked still a bit sceptical on the forgiveness bit, the Pope nodded,
“Blanket forgiveness, no need for constant confessions, although we would still like to see you confess about impure thoughts, adultery and anything legal, the murder and mayhem will be washed away before the victims body knows its dead, how does that sound?” The Pope replied in his most cheerful tone this morning,
“Well then, how about members? Is their a limit or, is it as many as I want?” Tony asked just to be clear,
“As many as you want, I will have some nice dress uniforms made for various events, there will be a medal to show membership, and a enamel badge, that I will bless, to be worn at all times, just touch the badge and ask, and you will be forgiven, now there’s a plan” the Pope replied, really getting in to this idea. When he first thought of the idea he believe it would cost big money, he never thought that simple forgiveness would seal the deal, not that money was an issue, the church was loaded, but at least its fortune was still safe.
“Ok, that sounds good, I will provide measurements with the names for the uniforms within the week” Tony said reaching his big right hand to the Pope to seal the deal,
“Don’t worry about the measurements I will send the design to a tailor I know, he will measure your boys up when they go in to order the uniform, I will send you his details this week” the Pope said, as his hand was engulfed by the mafia bosses dinner plate sized palm.
And the deal was done. The Pope informed every news outlet that he had found a hidden testament, and decided to reform the Protectorate. A video hit every online video player, news show and religious channel, the launch of the Protectorate was unavoidable, leaving many confused, some stunned and others just ambivalent. There was out cry from the population, some just blasphemed to test the water, and ended up on the coroners slab. Like the human race does, there were underground blasphemers, graffitiing any blank walls with jokes, slogans and other creative writings in objection to the Catholic Church. The police in almost every country were confused how to deal with the members of the Protectorate, were they breaking the law for doing Gods work? Should they just let them go about their business untouched?, should the law be change to accommodate the new religious group? It was all a bit of a mess. The Pope had also armed the parish priests, deacons and bishops, who in turn took out members of their parishes who they felt had fallen short on the word of God. There was bloodshed on every corner, it was also the go to defence of every murderer going through the legal systems around the world.
Within months every member of the Protectorate had a shinny new enamel badge, some had got their special event uniforms, and more medals could be earned like experience points on a gaming devise. They were in full swing by the new year, targets were everywhere, if there was no evidence it was created. Individuals with the right contacts, and for the right price, could get a uniform and badge and then kill whom ever they so wished, with impunity, corruption began to seep in to the fibres of the designer dress uniforms. It turned the world in to a free for all, if you had the money or the right connections.
By march of that year four stand up comics had been gunned down on stage in small comedy clubs, a director from Hollywood had been killed in a drive by shooting on location, filming a spoof about God, and a well know actor of the time was killed in a house fire after a tweet about the need for religion in the new millennium. Wether it was laziness or genuinely put down to the Protectorate, it was filed as solved and mothballed. The world was slowly descending in to chaos, all religious sects now had their own militia to kill those who broke the rules of their deity. It was now impossible to do or say anything without ending up on one hit list or another. The only safe place to be was inside the vatican where the pope sat on his throne, rather pleased with what he had created as he surveyed this new kingdom.