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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  • I look to Cardinal Turcotte with much in interest. Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte of Montreal is a liberal on social issues, appointed by Pope John Paul II.

    Turcotte is a self-described man of the people, a priest comfortable on his native streets of working class neighbourhoods in the east-end of Montreal.
    "I am not a scholar, I'm a simple priest," Turcotte, 68, stated in an interview. "I was a priest because I wanted to work among the poor, among workers, not to wear fancy clothers."

    Turcotte has worked with numerous organizations dedicated to low- cost housing and worker's rights.
    While he is said to be against same-sex marrige, Turcotte has suggested homosexuals should have all the same rights as married couples.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:50 PM  

  • Turcotte would be a wonderful choice, for all the reasons you mention. Highly unlikely, however.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 4:32 PM  

  • Hmmm... My Top Ten list would read something like this:

    1 Ratzinger
    2 Castrillon Hoyos
    3 Arinze
    4 Ruini
    5 Scola
    6 Bergoglio
    7 Lopez Trujillo
    8 Ouellet
    9 Dias
    10 Errazuriz Ossa

    Since Cardinal Scola is the only one who makes your liberal-reformist list and my conservative-traditionalist list, maybe he is the potential compromise candidate who will emerge at the end of the day.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:42 PM  

  • Scola would have been a good compromise candidate. At least you got your #1 pick!

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 1:41 AM  

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