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Quick and Dirty

Higher Calling

By Gadi Dechter | Posted 4/13/2005

A lawyer-cum-jeweler from New Orleans has declared his write-in candidacy for the recently vacated bishopric of Rome. “I saw there was an opening,” Rob Clemenz, 45, tells City Paper by phone. “And after talking it over with some of my spiritual advisers, I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring.

He won’t need that hat if elected to the papacy; the Holy Office comes with its own headgear. “Yeah, I’m not too crazy about it,” Clemenz says with a sigh. “But if I win, I will wear the beanie.”

When not out campaigning, Clemenz runs, a web site that sells hand-painted versions of saint medals imported from Italy. “We’re trying to breathe some color and life into these age-old saints,” says the former consumer lawyer, who embarked on his second career in 1997.

The successor to John Paul II, who died last week, will be selected at a gathering of Catholic cardinals, called a conclave, to be held April 18 in the Vatican Sistine Chapel.

Clemenz, who describes himself as a “practicing Catholic who bends the rules a little,” has never held formal office in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and acknowledges he needs more name recognition if he is to sway the College of Cardinals.

“I’m not too familiar with the cardinals, except for the two that have a nest in my backward,” Clemenz says. “But that’s why I’m hoping the good people of Baltimore will help me out, considering they’re so close to the Orioles, the Ravens, the Bayhawks and the Blue Jays.” He adds, “Birds of a feather flock together, you know.”

Baltimore occupies a special place in Clemenz’s heart. After sustaining severe throat injuries in a car crash in Cumberland when he was 21, Clemenz underwent a laryngeal nerve innervation at Johns Hopkins Hospital, a procedure he credits with saving his voice.

If elected to the Pontificate, the former consumer lawyer will use that voice to embark on a reformist agenda. “One of the first things I’m going to do is represent the gays and make Apostle Paul, Gaypostle Paul,” Clemenz says, explaining that Paul of Tarsus is the rightful patron of homosexuals because of the disciple’s “lifelong lover’s spat with Peter” and his “complaints about the length of Jesus’ hair.”

Also high on Clemenz’s to-decree list, he says, is a proscription against priests with “altarboyfriends.”

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