“He’s a religious fanatic, hell-bent on spreading his fundamentalist beliefs around the globe, branding anyone who disagrees with him as a heretic,” warns top theologian and conspiracy theorist Tommy Dodd, who claims to have evidence that Pope Benedict XVI is planning a global campaign of religious conversion by armed force. “Not only does he have hundreds of thousands of fanatical followers at his beck and call on every continent, but for the past few years he has been secretly re-arming the supposedly neutral and non-militarised Vatican City!” Dodd claims that the former Hitler Youth member has already expanded the Vatican’s Swiss Guard from 130 members to over 30,000, complete with heavy artillery and an armoured division, and is currently in the process of establishing an air force. “Obviously, it’s all been done in secret, as such a military expansion would be in direct contravention of the 1648 Peace of Westphalia which ended the Thirty Years War,” says Dodd. “Under the treaty the Catholic church was forbidden from having a standing army, just a security force instead, or navy. In return, the Protestants agreed to become a bunch of preachy hand-wringing liberals, committed to spreading their creed through non-violent, and totally ineffective, moral campaigns.” In addition to its regular military forces, Dodd claims that the Vatican has been training hundreds of covert forces, intended to work as insurgents in non-Catholic countries. “I have photographic evidence of nuns undergoing instruction in sabotage and hand-to-hand combat in secret training camps in the Lake District,” he insists. “Along with the Jesuit commandos, they’ll infiltrate target countries in the guise of missionaries, undermining local belief systems and paving the way for full-fledged military intervention!” However, top Vatican officials have been quick to deny Dodd’s allegations. “Whilst it is true that there have been some changes to His Holiness’ security arrangements, these have merely been in response to the increased threat levels which have resulted from the ‘War on Terror’,” explains the Vatican’s Defence Minister, Cardinal Franco Leggover. “As for this so-called ’air force’, it is merely a defence force, intended to protect the Pontiff from airborne terror attacks conducted by al Qaeda suicide hang-gliders.” Dodd is unimpressed by such explanations, questioning why an air defence force would require so many former strategic bombers and strike aircraft. “It’s clear to me that Pope Benedict is planning to make armed ‘spiritual interventions’ in global hot spots where the Lord’s teachings seem to be under threat – I’m convinced African nations distributing condoms to try and stop the spread of AIDS will be first, followed by the Muslim states. It’s only a matter of time before he turns his attentions to the protestant nations.” Nonetheless, the Vatican continues to protest its innocence. “Look, we’re not the ones who started this ecclesiastical arms race – what about the protestants and their bloody Salvation Army, eh?” responds an exasperated Cardinal Leggover. “Besides, our planes, tanks and artillery are not in contravention of the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, which makes no mention of such things.”

Leggover argues that it is the increased militancy of the supposedly peaceful Salvation Army which has forced the Vatican to take defensive measures. “I know they like to project a nice cosy public image of tambourines and temperance, but the reality is that they are a highly trained military organisation,” he contends. “If they are simply out to run soup kitchens and help the homeless, then why the uniforms and the military ranks, eh?” Indeed, the Cardinal claims that he has evidence that the Salvation Army’s highly secretive special forces wing has already seen extensive action in the Middle East, having been involved in the rescue of several protestant hostages. “Only last month they parachuted a Salvation Army brass band into Afghanistan – clad in balaclavas and wearing bandoliers containing temperance leaflets – to storm a Taliban stronghold and rescue several missionaries held hostage there,” he asserts. “I have eye-witness testimony that they subdued the kidnappers with rousing renditions of ‘Abide With Me’ and ‘Come All Ye Faithful’, made a collection on behalf of the homeless and were out of there with the hostages within the hour. Obviously, we find the existence of such a ruthlessly efficient military machine – at the behest of the Archbishop of Canterbury – highly threatening!” Leggover is also convinced that the Salvation army has a cadre of highly trained secret agents, poised to infiltrate Catholic missions worldwide and convert them to Anglicanism. “I’ve seen the pictures on the internet – the pens which squirt holy water and bibles with communion wafers hidden in the spine – these men are fully equipped for covert conversions of good Catholics,” he insists. “They even sport their crucifixes in quick-draw shoulder holsters. At the first sign of Catholicism they can whip them out and shout ‘Get thee behind me, Satan!'”

Despite the support of such senior Vatican figures as Cardinal Leggover, Dodd believes that other clerics, alarmed at the Pontiff’s expansionist foreign policy, are already secretly plotting to oust Pope Benedict in a palace coup. “They’re looking for someone more conciliatory, less aggressive and, well, less Nazi,” he confides. “Ideally, they want someone who will promote policies more in line with the normally accepted principles of Christianity, rather than neo-Nazism.” Whilst their candidate would, ideally, be part of the existing hierarchy of the established Roman Catholic Church, Dodd has revealed that the plotters are seriously considering a far more radical solution. One group of dissenters is believed to have made the heretical suggestion that a frozen egg taken from Mother Theresa be artificially inseminated with the Pope’s semen and implanted into a surrogate Mother Superior to create a test-tube Pontiff. “The idea is that the sheer goodness carried by Mother Theresa’s genes will counteract Benedict’s Nazi heritage to produce a perfect Pontiff,” says Dodd. “Once the child was born, it would be subjected to a process of accelerated growth, using a hormone treatment developed in secret Vatican labs – it would be a full grown adult within six months!” Whilst Dodd understands that the plotters already have a plentiful supply of Mother Theresa’s frozen eggs – taken from her during an earlier attempt to produce a perfect Pope – he believes that other obstacles are currently preventing this plan from coming to fruition. “Of course, the main problem would lie in obtaining a sperm sample from the Pope,” he notes. “Apparently the last time they tried to create a new line of Popes this way using Pope John Paul I’s sperm, the poor old bugger couldn’t get it up until they brought in three topless nuns. Unfortunately that proved too much for his heart and he keeled over and died”. Even stranger plans could be afoot. The exhumation of Pope John XXIII’s perfectly preserved body a few years ago has led Tommy Dodd to speculate that the Vatican is planning to revive his corpse and install it as Pope. “It makes sense”, he claims. “He was an incredibly popular Pope, and an undead Pontiff would be the perfect instrument with which to forcibly remove Pope Benedict from office.” However, Dodd believes this necromancy could ultimately lead to disaster: “Before you know it, he’ll be crashing out of his glass sarcophagus shouting ‘Destroy all Protestants’ and rampaging out of control around Rome!” Dodd also fears that under these circumstances the Russians might be encouraged to revive Lenin’s preserved corpse: “The whole of Europe could be laid waste as these two undead symbols of Catholicism and Communism battle for supremacy”.