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Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Current Affairs ... Religion ...

Looks like the new Pope contest begins today, Tuesday! Anything could happen, but my prediction, for what little it’s worth, is that an old Italian will get it, someone around 78. Perhaps Cardinal Bertone, despite some rumors of his incompetence as Vatican Secretary of State, and his tie-ins with all the bad stuff going on in that little fiefdom. Or 79-year old Cardinal Re (not mentioned as a front-runner, admittedly, but who was taken seriously in the 2005 papal conclave).

In my opinion, the cardinals should want to play for time. They know that a “southern hemisphere” pope is inevitable, but may want to give the leading candidates a few more years to mature. So they will — or should, anyway — elect an interim, so as to buy maybe 5 or 6 years. The new/old Pope could profitably spend that time mopping up the Curial mess that is being left behind by Benedict, then imitate his predecessor by quitting while he’s ahead (if he hasn’t conveniently died by then).

When that day comes, I’d say that the top 3 in the race would be Turkson from Ghana, Tagle from the Phillipines and the German fellow from Brazil, Cardinal Scherer. I’d venture that Tagle is the true “Holy Spirit” candidate, but it depends more on Church politics than Divine inspiration. Otto Scherer supposedly has real support this time around, as he is the favorite of the embattled Curia insiders. It’s probably a way for the disgraced old school to seem progressive, while in return, their “New World Man” would give them a break. A nice little dirty deal.

Right now the betting odds favor Milan Cardinal Scola, a 71-year old Italian conservative. One report calls him Benedict with a bit more likability, something like JP2. Scola could hang around for 10 years or more, and the Church would remain stuck in the JP2/Ratzinger mud for the next decade. If the cardinals go with Scola, I’d say that the Church is on the road to spiritual sclerosis (to play on words a bit . . .). But then again, in some quarters, Scola is looked at as a potential reformer, given that he was never part of the ‘old boy’ network behind the recent Vatican corruption scandals. I.e., he would make the Church institution run better and thus do its dirty work even more efficiently, e.g. with the social justice-minded American nuns. To Scola’s credit: he has made some good noises about Christian-Islamic dialog.

Supposedly, Canadian Cardinal Oullet has a shot if there is a deadlock between two powerful factions (e.g. Vatican insiders versus outsiders). The 61-year old prelate seems like a plain vanilla modern conservative. Again, more status quo, but possibly for two decades. And a Canadian Pope still wouldn’t get many Americans back to the local parishes on Sunday.

Actually, my prediction here is mostly wishful thinking; just some dreams of a Catholic Church hearing the call of the Spirit once again, as it perhaps did half a century ago, when I was a child. But politics are politics, so there’s probably not much to speculate on other than what name Scola, Oullet or (outside shot) Scherer will take on as Pontiff, sometime this week.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:15 am      

  1. Jim, I am leaning toward thinking that the Church is going to go the route of the Orthodox. In 1054 the Orthodox decided that nothing would change–and sure enough here we are in 2013, and the Orthodox still follow the early 11th century rules. I can see the Vatican doing about the same–if another guy like JP2 or B16 gets in, staying the same as it was in the “good old days” of the 1940s and 1950s or even some time before that.

    Another thing that makes me wonder: Today (at least on one TV station) they pre-empted programs for I don’t know how long to watch each and every Cardinal take his oath before the start of the Conclave and then watch as they “threw everybody out” (“extra omnis”) except the Cardinals so they could begin voting for a new Pope.

    I find myself wondering: Is the Vatican all *that* important that everything must stop while we watch this process? In the end, after the new Pope has been elected, how many people are really going to care what he has to say? I noted the reporters commenting had statistics that said that even in South America (supposedly a bastion of Roman Catholicism) a surprisingly small percentage of people attend Mass.

    I’m beginning to think that TV just likes things that have a lot of pomp and circumstance associated with them–somewhat like the Oscars or any red carpet event. Of course, there are juicy scandals that plague the Church that TV also likes a lot. Otherwise, I find myself asking: How many people really care about who is elected, outside of the novelty of the whole thing? MCS

    [MARY — if it’s on TV a lot, paid for by high-price advertisers . . . then a lot of people care.]

    Comment by Mary S. — March 12, 2013 @ 1:27 pm

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