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A modest proposal for the pope

Dear Pontiff,

I donít want to intrude on what must be a very busy schedule, but I read in the New York Times (July 6, 2002) that the Vatican is, for the first time in nine years, facing a deficit in contributions and investment earnings. I can imagine that even for an organization as large as the Roman Catholic Church, an unexpected $3,062,000 hit is hard to take. (And, as I am sure your " money people " have pointed out to you, next yearís donations may take an even harder hit if those people in the pews willfully withhold money in a petty reaction to the so-called sexual-abuse crisis.) It is surely a sad sign of our times when the sale of sports teams like the Texas Rangers can turn a better profit than the word of God.

Now, while I am not at the moment a practicing Catholic ó although, as I am sure you know, 13 years of Catholic education does leave its mark ó I want to express sympathy, having been involved with a number of gay-and-lesbian nonprofits that have experienced similar financial troubles. So it is in the spirit of cooperation and fellowship ó as one alternative nonprofit to another ó that I venture to make what might be a helpful fundraising suggestion.

I think we can all agree that bake sales and weekly Wednesday-night bingo are a little preĖVatican II for the current financial crisis. However, I would like to point out that while the Vatican may be short on cash, it is extraordinarily wealthy in art and culture (as well as grace, providence, and piety, of course). I know it may look a bit, well, cheap or common, but I believe that you could easily make up that $3 mil shortfall by auctioning off some of the more popular Vatican treasures on eBay.

Having participated in eBay a few times myself ó basically dumping the duplicates in my already-too-large gay-porn and pulp collection ó I can assure you that with shrewd and careful packaging, you can easily entice a wide range of bidders to ensure the highest possible final price for your goods. So I hope you wonít find it presumptuous of me to share a few tips I've discovered.

Say you decide to place Berniniís Ecstasy of Saint Teresa on eBay. Itís a lovely piece with a sturdy reputation and should do well. You want to list it under " Religious Products and Supplies, " of course (itís amazing how quickly even cheap, mass-produced, " simulated-wood " pieces go in this category), but it would also be worth your while to cast your net even wider. Letís face it, the Bernini piece is a little large for a home (although it does look lovely in St. Peterís), so you may also want to list it under " Lawn and Garden " (giving those bathtub Virgins a run for their money) or even in " Antiques and Art " ó although quite frankly, it may get lost in this category, which is increasingly becoming a junk dustbin.

Now, I am sure you donít want to part with it, but the Sistine Chapel ceiling would fetch a very nice price (and donít forget, the buyer pays the shipping costs of all eBay items). I know itís been at the Vatican for a long time, but I feel certain that if you listed Michelangeloís work under " Culture and Religion " (donít forget most of the imagery here is from the Hebrew Bible, what you in Rome call the " Old Testament " ), you may find many of the Jewish faith who would be interested. Also, the " Decorative and Home " category might prove fertile ground for a quick sale. And, given the plethora of mostly nude men in that vast expanse of ceiling, I do think that adding **extreme gay interest** to your information header would attract even more bidders.

Now, there is also a category for " Uniforms " on eBay, and while I am sure that the Vatican does not want to create even the appearance of fostering sexual fetishism (which, alas, does seem to be the province of the " Uniforms " category), I do think that listing a few Swiss Guard outfits and even some vintage, historically interesting copes, surplices, albs, or miters, advertised with some enthralling detail ó " only worn once during the installment of Pope Julius II in 1503 " ó would make an aggressive statement of " show me the money. " I understand that the sexual overtones of the " Uniform " category might be avoided by listing these items only under " Vintage Clothing, " but the point here is to keep the Vatican out of the red and competitive in the marketplace of salvation.

I have other suggestions ó such as your making an appearance on PBSís Antiques Roadshow to advertise some of the Vaticanís lesser-known art ( " What a lovely Cellini, and from an early period. Have you owned it for long? " ) ó but I am sure that your time is precious. If I can be of any more help, please let me know.

Yours in Christ and profitable management,

Michael Bronski

Issue Date: July 18 - 25, 2002
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