Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Habem Papam?

Copyediting-L has a "pope" thread going, and one listmember noted that the majority of Catholics live in the southern hemisphere, leading some to think the next pope should be from a developing country. I responded, pontificating on a subject on which I know only what I've read:

It'll be close. Most cardinals want a Third World pope, but we don't know whether enough of them can get behind the same man. The leading Third World cardinals differ a lot; that might open the door for a European compromise candidate, somebody whose doctrine and politics are acceptable to two-thirds while being a safe "fall-back" or default geographically.

It's very unlikely that they'll pick anyone far "inside" the Vatican heirarchy, such as Ratzinger or Battista Re, even though the latter is moderate and very well connected around the world. Europeans mentioned include Schoenborn of Vienna (too young) and Tettamanzi of Milan, both conservatives.

The most talked about Third World candidates are Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras and Arinze of Nigeria. Frankly, Rodriguez is the guy the majority wants (and would be my personal choice if I were still Catholic)—fighter for the poor, great public speaker, experienced diplomat/administrator; he's the only cardinal who could be called more charismatic than John Paul. The conservatives might accept his "social justice" agenda because he's theologically right and they like his personality. But he's just too young and probably too wild (think "Bono to head the World Bank"). Expect the conclave to pick someone around the age of 70; they don't want to ever again wind up with a 20+ year papacy.

Arinze is old enough, adept with Islam, credentialed in the Vatican bureaucracy, and conservative. The conservatives—cardinals who want to maintain John Paul's doctrinal hard line, a position that's more acceptable in the Third World than in the First—are strong enough to prevent a quick 2/3 win by a progressive but not enough to push a real conservative past the post right away. So they have to appease the progressives somehow: someone who will differ enough from John Paul, or a geographic pick.

Unfortunately for the conservatives, all their other candidates who are old enough are objectionable in some way: Hoyos of Columbia is farther to the right than Arinze; Dias of India is too much of a bureaucrat; Bergoglio of Argentina is a Jesuit; Husar of Ukraine is an American citizen and we just did the Eastern European thing; Lustiger of France's mother was Jewish.

Hummes of Brazil would be Rodriguez-light: he's old enough and slightly less liberal, but he lacks administrative credentials and the necessary "worldliness" (such as speaking multiple languages and giving good interviews). Ortega y Alamino of Cuba and Daneels of Belgium are too liberal.

If doctrine wins and geography doesn't matter, Tettamanzi looks good. But Arinze gives the conservatives everything Tettamanzi would plus the Third World factor. I think Arinze has to be the front-runner right now, but getting him elected would take a few days and several trade-offs. I think his election could be framed as maintaining John Paul's doctrine but moving the church's approach and focus into the language and needs of the South.


At Tuesday, 19 April, 2005, Blogger mdl said...

one listmember noted that the majority of Catholics live in the southern hemisphere

Did that go unchallenged? I don't have exact numbers, but surely that can't be literally correct.

Yes, the largest share of the world's Catholics now is in Latin America, but almost half of Latin America is north of the Equator, as is most of Africa.

Mexico is in the Northern Hemisphere. Honduras is in the Northern Hemisphere. Colombia is in the Northern Hemisphere. India is in the Northern Hemisphere. Nigeria is in the Northern Hemisphere.

At Tuesday, 19 April, 2005, Blogger the RaptorMage said...

Good catch--but as it turns out, the error was mine. The original was "Most of the Catholic Church is NOT Asian; the majority is African, European, South/Central American." and subsequent comments concentrated on Latin America and Africa. I think I typed "in the South" or "in the Third World", and although I realized those weren't precise enough I was sloppy in switching to "southern hemisphere".


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