Friday, April 22, 2005

James Ensor: The Entry of Christ into Brussels (1888)

James Ensor: The Entry of Christ into Brussels (1888) Posted by Hello

From time to time, I intend to post, and occasionally discuss in some detail, some of my favourite works of art, given an interest in art history that goes back many years, kindled by an inspirational teacher in Grade 4 in Beaconsfield, Quebec. My first such post continues the religious theme that has been the focus of my blog since the recent death of Pope John Paul II.

Ensor's "Entry of Christ" is one of the masterworks of late-19th century expressionism. Aesthetically, I will let it speak for itself. However, I find it to be of particular relevance at the present time and in the context of the recent papal election. Cardinal Ratzinger assumed the name Benedict, largely in memory of Saint Benedict (c.480-547), the founder of the Benedictine Order and, as such, very much the force behind Christianity's successful conversion of Europe in the early Middle Ages. Ratzinger may have chosen the name Benedict for any number of reasons and to send any number of implicit messages, but the most obvious (and likely) one is that he intends to focus at least some of his attention on Europe's slide into secularism, a trend that he clearly sees as one of the most significant crises facing the Church. At a recent talk at Subiaco, where Saint Benedict founded his monastery (at Monte Cassino), then-Cardinal Ratzinger said that "Europe constitutes the most radical contradiction, not only of Christianity but also of the religious and moral traditions of all humanity". Then, just hours before the start of the conclave, at a special mass held at St. Peter's, he declared that "[w]e are moving" towards "a dictatorship of relativism... that recognizes nothing definite and leaves only one's own ego and one's own desires as the final measure." As E.J. Dionne put it in The Washington Post: "Those are fighting words." Whether Ratzinger was right or wrong, and to what degree he may have been both right and wrong, is another matter for another time. Suffice it to say here that prior to his election he took some unflinching shots at modernity -- or, perhaps more accurately, at post-Nietzschean late-modernity (now generally known as postmodernism). Although he (as Pope Benedict XVI) has since moderated his speech and reached out as a less combative conciliator, his entrenched opposition to the forces of modernity sweeping through Europe (and well beyond) is well-established. It may even come to define his papacy.

Think of that when you look at Ensor's painting. There's a connection to be made.

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International men of mystery

Pope Benedict XVI and his electors. Posted by Hello

Just a couple of weeks ago, these men were largely unknown outside of the circles of ardent Vaticanistas. Most of them were certainly unknown to me. But now some of them have the most recognizable names in the world, and, for better and for worse, they have just chosen one of the most powerful men in the world. Pope Benedict may be the new head of the Roman Catholic Church, but, as Richard Cohen put it in his most recent column in The Washington Post: "We -- that's all of us -- have a new pope."

More on Cardinal Ratzinger -- Pope Benedict XVI to follow.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Good riddance: Bolton for the exit?

A play on words. I do apologize. It was too easy.

I have spent much of the past week thinking and writing about the papal election, but allow me a brief diversion tonight. In the coming days, I intend to write (and post) a fairly lengthy piece on Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI -- a man I admire, despite serious concerns about what he brings to the papacy and about the direction he will take the Church in the immediate future. He was not my pick, but I think he deserves our respect and, above all, our patience. But, as expected, there has already been a rush to judge him, especially in the American press, often along the familiar left-versus-right bipolarity that I loathe with as much passion, if not quite as much humour, as Jon Stewart (who famously condemned CNN's Crossfire to the very faces of its hosts) does -- the right trying to make him one of its own, the left objecting to him as if he were the new face of Republican orthodoxy. He is neither, of course, but such is the limited vocabulary of American political "discourse". Regardless, I cannot do him justice at the moment. I'm not only too tired, but I have a new DVD player to hook up -- yes, that's true, but, above all, I want to take a pause to think and read and listen, lest I too rush to comment prematurely. Such a world-historical moment, as I put it in my last post, needs to sink in. The problem with the blogosphere, however, and with instantaneous media generally, is that there isn't nearly enough time, and with the power of this medium at our disposal, where anyone with a computer and even the most basic internet access can get out there and "pontificate" in virtually real time, there isn't nearly enough contemplation. Pardon me for being old-fashioned, but I'll think before I write.

So I'll hold off until I think I'm ready to post my thoughts on Pope Benedict XVI. I invite you all to keep checking back. I'll likely have something by Thursday or Friday.

In the meantime, I will continue to post daily and begin to shift back to other and more diverse topics. And, now, the topic is Bolton, John Bolton, President Bush's nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Just hours after Pope Benedict appeared on the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square yesterday afternoon, there was good news from Washington for those of us who worry about the convergence during the Bush presidency of American exceptionalism, unilateralism, and idealism in the form of an arrogant, tongue-wagging foreign policy. Okay, so Powell, the voice of reason among the unreasonable, is gone, and Rice was moved up to Secretary of State, and Rumsfeld is still running the Pentagon, Goss is turning the CIA into a vehicle for pro-Bush unintelligence, and Cheney is still pulling the strings from some underground bunker...

But the nomination of Bolton -- by reputable accounts a reprehensible man who has intimidated and harassed subordinates at the State Department (where he is still -- God help us -- Cheney's minion (and formerly Powell's nemesis) as undersecretary of state for arms control... something he doesn't even believe in!), who childishly lashes out in red-faced rage at any and all disagreement from his staff, who seems to lack anything in the way of humility, who rejects the legitimacy of international law, who doesn't seem to grasp the complexity of international relations and the nuanced shades of international diplomacy, who amorally evaded the question of Rwandan genocide during his recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings, and who has repeatedly attacked the United Nations, even saying publicly that "if the U.N. Secretariat Building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference" -- yes, the nomination of Bolton, supported by a knee-jerk defence of Bolton mounted in recent days by the White House and neoconservative outposts like The Weekly Standard, is perhaps the most grotesque personnel move yet.

Well, all seemed to be going well for Bolton. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was poised yesterday to vote to send his nomination to the floor of the full Senate. With 10 Republicans and 8 Democrats on the committee, and with even the moderate Republicans -- Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska -- set to vote along party lines, Democratic opposition to this awful nomination was about to fall short. Until George Voinovich of Ohio, a Republican committee member who hadn't even attended any of the hearings, suddenly came forward and expressed reservations about Bolton. At last, an act of decency, moderation, and common sense from a party that has, of late, eschewed decency, moderation, and common sense. And that was it. The vote was put off and committee chairman Richard Lugar of Indiana, along with ranking Democrat Joseph Biden of Delaware, agreed to bipartisan investigation into the various allegations of intimidation and harassment that have been made against Bolton. The vote has thus been put off, and, indeed, Bolton's nomination may never see the floor. If so, good riddance. I hope he goes on to rot in obscurity, if not more likely in some noxious right-wing think-tank, where he'll be free to spew his madness with reckless abandon and irresponsible bravado... as befits the president he serves.

Bolton would be bad for the U.S., bad for the U.N., and bad for the world. He is no Daniel Moynihan or Jeanne Kirkpatrick, as some have claimed, both former U.S. ambassadors to the U.N. who took on that bloated and beleaguered institution. No, at a time when the world needs America to engage the international community, to pursue multilateral solutions to emerging crises in places like Iran and North Korea, to take a stand against atrocities in places like Darfur, and to bolster the flagging reputation of the U.N. in the wake of the oil-for-food scandal, what is most needed is the very opposite of John Bolton. Given Bush's track record, we won't get the opposite, but at least we might get someone with some decency, moderation, and common sense.

Note: I have benefitted immensely from the brilliant deconstruction of Bolton and his nomination by Fred Kaplan in Slate. Kaplan's writings on foreign and military policy are always a must-read, but check out his recent pieces on Bolton: here, here, here, and here.

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A world-historical moment, a fleeting glimpse of the eternal

The faithful gather in St. Peter's Square. Posted by Hello

Jon Stewart, on Ratzinger's first public appearance as pope, standing before the adoring crowd gathered beneath him: "This is how Bono must feel." Hilarious. So, too, his comments on the sheer stupidity of the media coverage, not to mention of all the hosts and guests who really had no idea what was going on. An easy target, but a truly worthy one. Many in the media were in it for the story, as was the case with Terri Schiavo, and I have no doubt that many onlookers, including detached television viewers around the world, were simply caught up in the wall-to-wall media coverage, or otherwise "mediated". However, I similarly have no doubt that many others, and not just the faithful or otherwise spiritual, truly understood the magnitude of what was happening and experienced some sort of connection, however individuated and refracted through personal belief and experience, to the divine, or at least to what resembles the divine. It was not just about a world-historical moment, the election of Cardinal Ratzinger, however political that may have been; it was about a fuller, richer, and more expansive understanding of a human condition that is not permanently grounded in the temporal abyss of the here and now. In short, it was a glimpse, however fleeting, of the eternal.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Conclave: Day Two

From Cardinal Ratzinger to Pope Benedict XVI. Posted by Hello

My work colleagues and I sat transfixed in front of the TV. Like so many people around the world, we had been waiting for this moment for days. The smoke seemed to be white, or possibly grey. There were no bells to be heard. Vatican Radio reported that the smoke was black, but then backtracked and admitted uncertainty. The hosts and guest commentators on CBC and CNN were falling all over themselves trying to explain what was going on, trying to fill the prolonged empty spaces with the pretense of educated and informed content. But the smoke was white. Was it not? Waves of anticipation and pent-up excitement swept through the throng of thousands packing St. Peter's Square, waiting to erupt in jubilant celebration at the announcement of Pope John Paul II's successor. And then the bells began to toll. This was it. The long wait was finally over. The crowd swelled, awaiting the first glimpse of the new pope. And for what seemed like hours we all stared at the curtained doors that lead out onto the balcony high above the Square. Then, at long last, we were introduced to Pope Benedict XVI. Much to our amazement, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany had won. We were witness to history.

There are moments in life that transcend the ordinary, moments that are truly historical, what the assassination of JFK and the first moon landing were to our parents' generation. Two such moments for me: I remember sitting in a classroom -- actually, in a course on race, culture, and politics in the United States -- listening on the radio to the O.J. Simpson verdict. And, of course, I remember 9/11. My mother called that morning and woke me up. I only heard her message, something about horrible images from New York. I got out of bed, turned on the TV, and, stunned, watched as the two towers collapsed, one not long after the other. I spent the rest of day alternating between sadness and disbelief, between feeling too much and feeling nothing at all. I wondered if it wasn't a waking dream from which I would eventually emerge. If only. They were two very different events. The O.J. verdict -- really, the entire case -- represented a cultural nadir in American life, whereas 9/11 was a world-historical tragedy that continues to shape our world. One "not-guilty" man, thousands dead, two transcendent events.

I'm still not sure what the papal election has meant to me. Obsession with another world-historical event, I suppose, but also something more personally meaningful. It seems to have little to do with the man who was actually elected pope -- whom I will address in a forthcoming post -- and more to do with the significance -- the essence -- of the event itself. Of course, there is the obvious: Papal elections don't happen very often, popes are important even beyond the Church, it was a huge media story, etc. That's all true. But, as much as I tried to restrict my attention to the temporal reality of it all -- from the last days of John Paul II to the gruesome death-watch, to the funeral and the days of mourning and back-room politicking, to the gossip, rumours, and idle speculation, to the vain prognostication, the odds, and the self-important guesswork, to the beautiful anachronisms of the conclave and the final announcement to the faithful at St. Peter's and the world beyond -- I could not help but be swept away by the mystery of ancient rites, formal rituals, and, less concretely, the connection to the divine, or to some sense of the divine that has often eluded me. I am, after all, a determined agnostic, if not a committed atheist. I acknowledge the possibility of the divine -- or, to use a more current term, the spiritual -- but I live in the here and now and resist the temptation to admit of anything beyond the temporal. In a sense, the papal election, politics aside, was my own personal "limit situation" that compelled me to confront my mortality and to think about what it is that makes us truly human. Existentialists mean by this an absence of the divine, that is, an acknowledgement of one's mortality within the abyss of the human condition. What I mean is the transcendent of the merely human and the possibility of the divine beyond the human. This may be too much, personal drama upon religious drama, and I do mean to suggest that the papal election -- not to mention the Church and organized religion generally -- was not what it seemed to be on the surface, that is, a fundamentally political event. But I cannot deny, against my own secular predisposition and skeptical presuppositions, that there was more going on.

Hardened secularists and cynics of all stripes deny any such non-political component to this and all human events. For them, there is nothing but the concept of the political, where there are only friends and enemies and where there is only conflict and the struggle for power. To them, this was all about competing elements within the Church vying for power, about Ratzinger vs. Martini vs. Tettamanzi vs. Arinze vs. Hummes vs. Danneels, etc. To an extent, I played along, analyzing the likely papabili and concerning myself with what was at stake and, ultimately, with who would win. Having predicted Tettamanzi, I even found myself quietly rooting for him, if only to justify my own self-importance, or perhaps for Danneels, my personal favourite of all the papabili. I was surprised when Ratzinger's name was announced, but, once it was, all those prior concerns seemed to slide away, leaving only a sense of the magnitude of what was happening and some inexplicable sense of communion with the faithful of a faith that is not my own and with something mysterious beyond myself. Ratzinger may only have been my #2 prediction, but he was the new pope, and that was all that seemed to matter. It was not the culmination of a transformational moment in my life, some epiphany that would redirect the course of my life, but there was something solemnly spiritual about the experience.

The simpletons who live confined to and by the political lack a comprehensive conception of the human, however much they may believe that they have lowered the bar far enough to admit of complete understanding. What they don't seem to realize is that there may be more on heaven and earth, dear Horatio, than is dreamt of in their reductionist philosophy of power. Indeed, what they truly don't realize is that true knowledge means knowing that the only thing that you know is that you know nothing. I have no idea what may lie beyond the realm of the senses, let alone what may lie beyond the temporal generally, but this papal election reminded me that I know very little, if anything at all. While our contemporary sophists keep pushing that rock up their personal hills, contentedly self-delusional and corrupted by know-it-all, eyes-wide-shut claims of absolute understanding, there remains the possibility of living a truly human life by reflecting upon the complexities of human nature and the human condition and by remaining open to the mysteries that may lie just beyond our grasp.

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Monday, April 18, 2005

The Conclave: Day One

Chimney-watch: Black = no pope. Posted by Hello

"Pope-Secret," says the caption next to Jon Stewart. This is all so serious, it's nice to have the funniest man on TV to turn to for perspective every night.

As expected, not much to report today. A few Ratzinger supporters may have hoped that he would prevail on the first ballot, but it seems more likely that the conclave will go at least two or three days. Ratzinger may have solid support among John Paul loyalists, but he is too controversial to win so quickly. I continue to stand behind Tettamanzi as my pick, perhaps by as early as Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning. But see the replies to yesterday's posts (click here) for some interesting arguments against his candidacy. Scola begins to look like a possibility. And Paddy Power now has Arinze solidly atop the standings at 3-1. I doubt he'll win, but deadlock could lead anywhere.

What was truly amazing was the sheer gravitas of it all. The cardinals silently entering the Sistine Chapel, surrounded by Michelangelo, taking a solemn oath, then the doors shutting them in, an ancient tradition underway, out of sight of prying eyes, yet with much of the world waiting anxiously for the outcome. Truly an astonishing event, not least when compared to the accelerating diminution of gravitas that has reduced our own democratic legislatures to childish shout-fests. Not that I would ever turn against our democracy, and not that I don't know that democracy can be ugly, but it's nice to witness such elegant ritual every now and then.

But how about that chimney-watch? I was able to flip to CBC Newsworld and CNN throughout the day, and there it was in the corner of the screen. That's good TV!

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Cardinal Danneels

Cardinal Danneels would be my pick. Posted by Hello

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Cardinal Tettamanzi

Cardinal Tettamanzi will be the next pope. Posted by Hello

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Sunday, April 17, 2005

Smoke, mirrors, and bells: The Conclave begins

Time to cut to the chase: Right now, just hours before the start of the papal conclave, it's all about Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany. According to a report in NCR, "a dominant faction of John Paul loyalists has emerged in the College of Cardinals and picked Ratzinger as their front-runner". And the problem -- if, in fact, a Ratzinger papacy would be a problem -- is that "[r]eform-minded moderates... have failed to unite behind a single candidate". Much of the opposition to Ratzinger is coming from fellow German Cardinal Walter Kaspar, a long-shot candidate who has long opposed Ratzinger's anti-reform conservatism, such as his claim of Roman Catholicism's superiority over other Christian denominations, not to mention over other religions. On Ratzinger's anti-ecumenism, if I may put it so bluntly, see the replies to my previous blog, including one by my brother (whose own religiosity and knowledge of religious matters puts me to secularist shame) -- click here. In a recent sermon delivered at Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome, Kaspar said that "[j]ust as it is forbidden to clone others, it is not possible to clone pope John Paul II. Every pope ministers in his own way, according to the demands of his era. No one was ever simply a copy of his predecessor."

Does this mean that Ratzinger's candidacy is certain to fail? No. But it remains unclear if he'll be able to secure the two-thirds super-majority needed to be elected. There is a provision, introduced by John Paul in 1996, to reduce the threshold for victory to a simple (50%+1) majority after a specified number of ballots, but it seems unlikely that the cardinals would want to string this election out past a few days -- during the last century, the longest conclave went five days and 14 ballots, in 1922, ending with the election of Pius XI. And that means that a compromise candidate will need to be found. Who will that be?

As we have already seen, it could be anyone -- there are likely at least 20 viable candidates, if not more. But here's my pick:

Dionigi Tettamanzi (Italy)

As I argued in my previous post, there are a number of good reasons why the cardinals will stay away, this time, from Latin America, and I don't see them looking to Africa or South/East Asia. That rules out a number of the top papabili. This means that the next pope will likely be a European. Obviously, Ratzinger is the leading European candidate, but let's look at the other non-Italian Europeans: Kaspar is likely too liberal. Jean-Marie Lustiger (France) is a possibility, but, as a Jewish convert, he may carry too much baggage (he'd look like a snub to Judaism, reversing the Church's outreach to Judaism under John Paul) -- on the other hand, he's around Ratzinger's advanced age and could therefore be picked as a transitional pope. Godfried Danneels (Belgium) is, like Kaspar, too liberal. Christoph von Schoenborn (Austria) is too young (and perhaps too intellectual). Keith O'Brien (Scotland) is perhaps too much of an outsider. Which leaves Jose Policarpo (Portugal), whom I mentioned, favourably, in my recent post as a "bridge" pope (a literal earthly pontiff, that is) between Europe and Latin America, although he, too, may be too liberal.

This brings us back to Italy, where there are almost too many papabili to count, among them Ennio Antonelli, Carlo Maria Martini, Giovanni Battista Re, Camillo Ruini, Angelo Scola, Angelo Sodano, and Tettamanzi. Antonelli may be too liberal. Martini is likely too old and too liberal. Re is an administrator and powerful insider (for the past 11 years, he was John Paul's sostituto, or day-to-day manager of internal affairs), but he seems to lack pastoral appeal and experience. Ruini is seen as a pope-maker, not a possible pope himself. Scola is rumoured to have been John Paul's personal choice as successor, but he may be too young and too theologically eccentric. Sodano is a Vatican bureaucrat and may be too old.

And, yes, this brings us back to Tettamanzi as a "third way" between Ratzinger on one side and the myriad moderates and reformers on the other. He is the right age (71), he is Italian (and the Italians, over-represented in the conclave, likely want the papacy back after the interregnum of a Pole), he is backed by the powerful Opus Dei (although this might work against him), he is doctrinally conservative but economically progressive (he once said that "a single African child sick with AIDS counts more than the entire universe"), and, from what I can tell, he is extremely likeable. Before Ratzinger's recent ascent up to odds-on favourite, Tettamanzi was the favourite. There is a saying that "he who goes into the conclave a pope comes out a cardinal". But, of course, he is no longer the favourite, and that, strangely enough, might just make him the favourite. Unless Ratzinger, backed by a surge of conservative support, wins a quick election, and unless the moderates and reformers can find a candidate behind whom to unite, Tettamanzi will be the next pope.

So here, in order, is my prediction:

1) Dionigi Tettamanzi (Italy)
2) Joseph Ratzinger (Germany)
3) Claudio Hummes (Brazil)
4) Jose Policarpo (Portugal)
5) Angelo Scola (Italy)

And a few outsiders to watch for:

Ivan Dias (India)
Wilfrid Fox Napier (South Africa)
Marc Ouellet (Canada)

A big question mark, however, remains Francis Arinze (Nigeria).

Whom would I pick? Who is my favourite? If I may be so bold, after much research and contemplation, filtered through my admittedly liberal and reform-minded biases, in order:

1) Godfried Danneels (Belgium)
2) Ennio Antonelli (Italy)
3) Claudio Hummes (Brazil)
4) Angelo Scola (Italy)
5) Jose Policarpo (Portugal)
6) Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga (Honduras)
7) Walter Kaspar (Germany)
8) Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Argentina)
9) Dionigi Tettamanzi (Italy)

and, of course:
10) Jean-Claude Turcotte (Canada) -- honestly, though, he's probably my #1 choice if I allow my pro-Canadian (and pro-Montreal) bias to intrude upon my disinterestedness.

I've already directed you to the papabili review at NCR, but here's a brief overview of the leading contenders at BBC News.

So. It starts tomorrow. Click here for a step-by-step guide to the conclave. The first ballot will be Monday afternoon in the Sistine Chapel. Twice a day, in late-morning and early-evening, smoke will be emitted from the conclave. Black smoke will indicate that a pope has not yet been elected. White smoke will indicate that a pope has been elected. To avoid confusion, bells will be rung to accompany the white smoke.

Pay attention. This is history in the making.

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Cardinals in the home stretch...

You know, odd as it may seem, especially to myself, I'm almost as excited -- in the sense of heightened anticipation -- about this upcoming papal election as I was about the U.S. presidential election back in November. Well, no -- that meant a great deal more to me, not least because I had passionately taken a side (Kerry) and because the chief resident of the White House affects my life much more than the wearer of the fisherman's shoes. Still, there is much anticipation, and the fact that it's all happening, literally, behind closed doors, and that the process itself is so opaque, only adds to the suspense. And who doesn't love a good religious drama?

For those of you who, like me, can't get enough, the latest odds at Paddy Power:

Ratzinger: 3-1
Lustiger: 9-2 (I've heard this is based on a single large bet.)
Martini: 5-1
Tettamanzi: 5-1
Arinze: 8-1
Hummes: 8-1

An interesting choice might be Policarpo (Portugal), who has moved up to 12-1. A friend of mine recently suggested a Spanish pope who could bridge the gap between Old Europe, where the Church is in decline, and the New World (especially Latin America), where the Church is on the rise. This seems to make some sense. There are, after all, a number of prominent Latin American papabili -- such as Hummes (Brazil), Maradiaga (Honduras), Bergoglio (Argentina), Hoyos (Colombia), Lopez Rodriguez (Dominican Republic), Ortega y Alamino (Cuba), and Carrera (Mexico). Despite the buzz, however, I can think of at least three good reasons why a Latin American won't win:

1) Latin America will be heavily underrepresented in the conclave. Although the cardinals may not vote along national or regional lines, one wonders if this won't be a factor in a tight, unpredictable race like this one. This could hurt leading non-European papabili, such as the Latin Americans mentioned above, Arinze (Nigeria), Dias (India), and Napier (South Africa), not to mention the two leading Canadians, Ouellet (Quebec City) and Turcotte (Montreal). Contrarily, Italy will be, as always, heavily overrepresented. This could help the leading Italian papabili, of course, not least because the Italian cardinals may want to return the papacy to their homeland at least one more time before turning elsewhere at the next conclave.

2) There may be too many viable Latin American papabili, and they may all just cancel each other out. I mean, who do you want? Hummes? Maradiaga? Bergoglio? Does it really matter? Similarly, there may also be too many viable Italian papabili. Once more, who do you want? Tettamanzi? Scola? Antonelli? Does it really matter? At least Ratzinger and Arinze stand out.

3) Traditionalists may want to keep the papacy in Europe, preferably back in Western Europe, more preferably back in Italy. It was one thing to have an Eastern European pope, back when Communism was still a problem, but now? There is little doubt that there will eventually be a Latin American pope, as well as an African one, as well as an East Asian one. Given the rising secularism of the West, that's where the future of the Church really is, which explains all the buzz surrounding, say, Arinze. But there may be some resistance to going there now, and such a move might be too radical even for an institution that somehow manages to marry social conservatism and economic progressivism?

So why not a Spaniard? Well, that would likely mean Vallejo, but no one seems to be paying him much attention (although it's not like I've scanned the Spanish press!). So why not remain on the Iberian peninsula and go for a Portuguese pope? Makes sense, not least because of Portugal's natural affiliation with Brazil, the largest Catholic country in the world (which is to say, the country with the most Catholics). Hummes is still a likelier choice, perhaps, but it wouldn't surprise me if Policarpo snuck through.

Another interesting point: Ouellet has moved up from 80-1, where he'd been from the beginning, to 50-1. Needless to say, this appeals to my Canadian nationalism (even if he is a conservative Quebecois and I was born and raised in liberal Montreal and now live in Toronto!)

(And the cardinal with my favourite name, Polycarp Pengo (Tanzania), remains stranded at 125-1. Poor Polycarp!)

An interesting article in the National Catholic Reporter on what a Ratzinger papacy would look like. Click here. It begins:

"Despite the non-stop speculation surrounding the conclave that opens April 18, the press seems to have at least one thing right: in the early stages, the balloting will likely shape up as a 'yes' or 'no' to the candidacy of German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the so-called 'Panzer-Kardinal' who for 24 years was John Paul's top doctrinal czar.

Given the strong, polarizing stands Ratzinger has taken, it's not clear that there are really 77 votes for him among the 115 voting cardinals, the number it would take to achieve a two-thirds majority. On the other hand, Ratzinger's strong base of support means one has to take his prospects seriously."

In brief, the NCR article suggests, he'd be an arch-conservative on doctrinal matters, but not necessarily a clone of John Paul II. But isn't the term "Panzer-Kardinal" truly scary?

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