Sunday, April 17, 2005

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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  • The reaction of the world to the death of Pope John Paul II has been extraordinary. Many non-Roman Catholic Christians seem now to consider the papacy as the de facto head of Christianity. I have read that the late Pope did much to foster Christian unity. However, let us not forget that in 2000 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the approval of John Paul, pointed out to Roman Catholic Bishops that the use of the term "sister churches" to refer to Orthodox, Anglican, or Protestant "churches" was to be avoided. This is because there is only one Church in the proper sense of the word. Other churches are merely "ecclesial communities". The author of this helpful clarification: a certain Cardinal Ratzinger...

    Perhaps the Panzer-Kardinal, were he to be elected the next Pope, won't be remembered for his contribution to Christian unity?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:45 AM  

  • Perhaps not. Either way, it will be extremely difficult for the next pope -- especially if it's Ratzinger -- to emerge from John Paul's shadow. I have no doubt that Ratzinger is an impressive man with impressive credentials (how else could he have risen to #1 cardinal), but it seems that his main task was to do John Paul's dirty work (so to speak) in terms of the enforcement of doctrinal consistency and centralization.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 2:03 PM  

  • Interesting point, James...

    Pope John Paul stated the importance of Christian unity in the vision he set out in the 1995 encyclical Ut Unim Sint (That They May Be One).

    The 1986 Assisi Prayer for Peace had the pontiff welcoming leaders of other faiths.

    In 1999, The Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation led to agreement that their views on how to win salvation were complementary and not contradictory.

    The Vatican document, "Dominus Iesus" (Lord Jesus), in 2000, that stated the Catholic Church was the one true church and others were "not churches in the proper sense." which offended Protestant churches.

    Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger compounded the problem by rejecting Lutheran objections to "Dominus Iesus" as "absurd."

    In a 2003 encyclical, the Pope reminded Catholics not to share communion with Protestants because of theological differences.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:51 PM  

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