Win or lose the Presidential election, George W. Bush will not be out of work having struck a deal to take over as Pope.
Vatican insiders are staying tight-lipped over the much-rumoured deal but journalists on the Holy See's newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, have hinted that it is very much a possibility if Bush is ousted from the White House.
The plans for the President to step into the ‘Shoes of the Fisherman' were laid out during his visit to Rome in early June.
It is accepted that it would create a massive uproar for the Papacy to be handed over to a married, American non-Catholic, completely by-passing the usual election process. However, Bush is no stranger to major electoral manipulation, having lost the 2000 US Presidential race yet still succeeding in managing to take office.
Support may well have already been granted from the Church's powerhouse, the College of Cardinals.
In a contra-deal, Bush, in one of his last acts as President, would grant a pardon to all Catholic clergy convicted, or being investigated, for child abuse. This would halt the compensation claims currently being pursued against the Church, saving millions of dollars in pay-outs.
The death penalty would also be introduced for anyone making such allegations against members of the Catholic clergy, either diocesan or religious.
Should the President/Pontiff switch take place, it would, of course, allow the failing Pope John Paul II a dignified retirement - again setting a precedent as Pope has become recognised as a ‘job for life'.
This employment security may well be an influencing factor for the 42nd President whose prospects, should he lose the 2004 election, do not look encouraging. Of course Bush may well have been influenced by ally Tony Blair after the UK's Prime Minister announced moves to make his political party the official religion of England(Higher calling).
Sources close to the President, were as tight-lipped as the Vatican but one did reveal that Bush was very impressed with ‘the whole set-up' when he visited the Vatican.
"He said he particularly liked ‘Mike Angelo's drawings in the Cistern Chapel and that he would like to add a few of his own to the walls if there was time," he added.
"The President was also impressed with all the costumes these guys had - he's always been keen on dressing up."