The Manila Times, March 15, 2013
A stupid question? Not at all. In fact, the question goes deep into the nature of the Roman Catholic Church.
It is a question that has even haunted, as it were, the nightmares of the Catholic Church. Thus the intriguing reports through the centuries – dismissed though merely as legend by church historians – of a female “Pope Joan” in the 11th century who disguised herself as a male, to be exposed, and killed, only when she gave birth in a pontifical procession. The legend’s fascination even in the modern era is evident in that two movies have been made on Pope Joan, first in 1972 (and then more recently, a European one in 2009.
The persistence of the legend through the centuries is also evidenced by the fact that she is depicted in the Tarot as “La Papessa” (the Popess) or, obviously in order not to hurt Catholic sensibilities, merely as the “High Priestess.”
It is the deep fear of a female Pope that explains the rumors that the last step in the confirmation of a new Pope – portrayed in the hit TV series The Borgias — is for the pope-elect to sit without his underwear in the sedes stercoraria, a chair with a huge hole in the seat, so a bishop by groping can confirm if he has balls, literally.