Saturday, April 16, 2005

Notes on the papabili

Alas, I'm not yet prepared to post my prediction for the papacy, nor even to list my own favourites (though I have a few in mind, mostly decentralizers and reformers). There are less than three days to go before the start of the conclave, which begins on Monday, and -- stay tuned -- I'll post a substantial piece sometime over the weekend.

Despite all the "expert" opinion out there, no one really knows anything, of course, not least because the unpredictable Holy Spirit may have something to do with it. But Ratzinger does seem to be the favourite, and I'm not sure if I can disagree at this point. A good case can be made for any of 15-20 of the cardinals, including the two leading Canadians, but Ratzinger seems to have the most going for him: advanced age (in case the cardinals choose to go with a transitional figure whose papacy won't last too long); conservative, John-Pauline credentials (in case the cardinals choose to stay the course set by John Paul II); towering stature as head of the all-important Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (in case the Cardinals choose to go with continued centralization, doctrinal rigidity, and enforced conformity); and a strong public performance at John Paul II's funeral (in case the Cardinals choose to go with a prominent and visible figure to follow the most prominent and visible pope in history). Plus, for what it's worth, he already seems to have locked up a number of votes. The National Catholic Reporter reviews Ratzinger's chances here.

But who knows? If you want good, short bios of the leading papabili, or if you just want to put faces to names, here is another valuable NCR piece.

I've resisted linking to this site, but I find it quite irresistible: Paddy Power, a leading Irish online betting site. If you want the odds, here you go. Ratzinger continues to lead, but the rest is unclear. A personal note: I'm something of an agnostic, but I'm not sure that betting on the papacy is a good idea. Think Pascal's wager. If there is no God, fine, you might win some money, but more likely not. But if there is a God, you might be in big, big trouble (and, what's more, for all eternity). Take your pick. I'll make some predictions, but that's about all my risk-aversion will allow!

One final note: It is being reported that John Paul II mentioned three cardinals as his possible successor: Ivan Dias (India), Angelo Scola (Italy), and Claudio Hummes (Brazil). Is this rumour or fact? Who knows? Hummes is likely a top-5 candidate, Scola is a distinct possibility, and Dias, to me, is a legitimate dark horse. If the race (sorry to put it that way, but I do think of this as fundamentally political, even at the risk of being in big, big trouble for all eternity) is close, and if even just a few voting cardinals take this rumoured fact seriously, we might just end up with Hummes. What's interesting, though, is that these three aren't nearly as conservative as some of the other leading papabili, and Hummes, relatively speaking, is even something of a moderate.

More on this soon...

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