[On Facebook,] Once a week in the game Vatican Wars, an impassioned struggle begins anew to choose a virtual pontiff who could change or reaffirm some of the Roman Catholic Church’s longest established — and most controversial — teachings.
The online papal electors are divided between the socially conservative "Templars" and the liberal "Crusaders." Separating them are five hot-button issues: abortion, artificial birth control, same-sex marriage, women’s ordination and married priests.
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Despite some instances during the game’s pilot run of players bullying their ideological opponents, Ehrlich insisted that Vatican Wars creates opportunities for mutually respectful dialogue, as well as a deeper knowledge of Catholicism.
All players start as priests and earn "stature points" by performing tasks that include prayer, celebrating Mass and counseling their flocks. Becoming a bishop requires, among other things, speaking out about clerical sex abuse.
Players buy virtual currency, which they spend on virtual goods including vestments, religious texts and relics such as the Shroud of Turin. They can also buy churches, which become sources of additional income.