Sunday, November 3, 2019

Senatus Populusque Martialis

The Pope-of-Mars-elect (or should that be the Pope-elect-of-Mars?) has graciously vouchsafed to inform me as his unworthy servant and private secretary that, once his reign begins after touch-down, he will be assisted in his temporal duties by several officials and institutions sensibly based upon those used in the Eternal City down through the ages. After all, the Papal States on Earth were known for their good governance, weren’t they? 

Oh dear… anyway, the Empire worked well, till it declined and fell, and the same is true of the Republic before that, not to mention the present Italian Republic and former Italian Kingdoms and petty states too, as exemplified by many famous political theorists and statesmen such as Berlusconi, Mussolini and Machiavelli. Hmmm… But in any case, Mars will certainly be run better – it won’t be very difficult to surpass the current low level of governance on Earth!

Sancte Michaël Archangele, defende nos in prœlio!

By the way, another proposed decision of His future Holiness ought be mentioned, prior to its official promulgation: idle googling having revealed the embarrassing fact that the planet Mars is associated by some bad folk with Azazel (to whom the scapegoat was driven off into the desert), all such nasty nonsense is going to be quashed and replaced with St Michael Archangel as Patron and Guardian of Mars.

Phobos eclipsing Deimos in real time

But to return to what is the topic of this update: to advise His Holiness in matters political, and in honour of the two moons of the Red Planet, two Consuls, the Deimotic and the Phobic, will be appointed each year; suffect Consuls will be appointed as replacements as needed, taking the place of one or the other. Likewise, in the New City, or Fourth Rome (the first three* having been on the Third Planet, naturally the fourth must be on the Fourth), there will be established a Martian Senate of six hundred, the lists of its members to be wisely chosen and regularly revised by the diligence of the Holy Father, though all such need not attend sessions – it being understood that Senators, as in Old Rome during the Empire, should attend the House only when they have agreed to vote placet (“yes”), just as is expected in Roman synods today.

There’s always one who won’t vote how they’re expected to...

[* For the moment, let us not worry about including in this count either the multifarious localities named Rome in sixteen of the United States of America, or the Paris Métro station of the same name.]

In addition to this, it will now be clear why St Paul VI in a pathetic yet ultimately prophetic gesture all but abandoned the Papal Nobility, as that has left open a void (quod Natura abhorret) for the soon-to-be-elected Supreme Pontiff of Mars to fill by creating many new Princes and Princesses, Dukes and Duchesses, Marquises and Marquises, Counts and Countesses, and Barons and Baronesses of the Holy Martian Church – some titles to be hereditary, some to be granted ad personam (depending on the merits displayed and/or level of financial contribution provided). Similarly, various equestrian orders will be established (for knighthoods, only modest talents or fees will suffice).

A Martian in native dress

It goes without saying that all of these serried ranks will be merely nominal dignities and sinecures of the sort beloved by those Catholic laity most likely to seek a one-way ticket to Mars. Of course, all actual and meaningful power of governance, temporal as well as spiritual, will remain in the Martian Sovereign Pontiff: after all, the Church has long recognised that the only sure, safe and certain guarantee of orthodoxy and the tranquillity of order is to ensure that the First See is judged by none, no matter what. What could possibly go wrong?

For utterly the same reason, the right of electing the Sovereign Pontiff (so frivolously and so foolishly exercised on Earth, as history sadly teaches) will be taken away from the Cardinals, and each Pope of Mars will simply name his own successor in his last will and testament, to be read out to the Cardinals in Conclave assembled after the Pope’s demise, but kept meanwhile in pectore, so as to preserve the traditional surprise of the announcement Habemus Papam by the Dean of the College of Cardinals. Prior to this, the incineration of the late Pope’s will will supply the necessary very small puff of smoke, oxygen being at a premium on Mars.

A Prince-Bishop (of Andorra, not Mars)

Finally, as settlements spread across Mars, the principle of subsidiarity dictates that local forms of government be introduced: and for this reason, in due season ecclesiastical principalities large and small will be established under the rule of Prince-Archbishops, Prince-Bishops, Prince-Abbots and Princess-Abbesses.

Speaking of Princess-Abbesses, it is good to see that consecrated women will assert their lawful authority on one planet at least; indeed, what on Earth has for many centuries past been granted only to Carthusian nuns will be extended on Mars to all women in solemn vows and Papal enclosure – they will all be consecrated as deaconesses. Amazonis Planitia is one of the youngest and smoothest of the great northern plains of Mars, after all.

No comments: