Friday, 22 February 2013

The Crucifix and the Crux

Stating the Obvious: 

It all began with a throw-away line by Fr. Robert Sirico. Now we can expect to hear the repeated mutterings of media sources desperate to fill their pages or minutes with reports that AUSTRALIAN CARDINAL GEORGE PELL IS AN OUTSIDE SHOT AT THE PAPACY! 

Pell is an outside shot at the papacy in the same way that Muffin the Mule is an outside shot at the Melbourne Cup. In a field of 209 cardinals, Pell would not even make the top 50; even the least rigorous news source cannot claim otherwise. Every interview conducted to date has agreed – even interviews with the cardinal himself, who has said he will “be coming home” (a euphemism for not remaining in Rome as the pope) instead of taking on the role he described five years ago as having "too much spiritual responsibility". 

There seems to be an eternal paranoia in the Australian media that this nation might be an irrelevant outpost on the fringe of the world unless we are vitally involved in everything of international importance. Any Danish news story with a vague link to the royal family makes headlines because we can reuse stock footage of “Australia's Princess Mary”. The Australian 2011 floods being reported in the US was a news story as big as the floods themselves. I for one would rather watch foreign teams participate in the more obscure Olympic sports than the repeats of repeats of highlights of people swimming back and forth to which we are subjected every four years because they wear the Australian uniform. Unsurprisingly, although every interview has failed to elicit even the slightest hint of an Australian pope, the question continues to be asked. In the mean time, Australians are assured, Pell's vote will be “enormously influential”. And by "enormously influential" they mean just under half of 1% of the total vote count. This is not the Labor Caucus, where one person brings a whole faction with them. Cardinal Pell's choice (which will probably remain secret anyway) is not going to spearhead a cluster of allied Cardinals along with it.

The fact is that we will be an irrelevant outpost on the fringe of the world if we continue to judge ourselves by our million-to-one chances in events where other nations clearly have the advantage. Australia has been the home to many great innovators and achievers, but instead of celebrating David Unaipon or Elizabeth Blackburn – and encouraging generations of their successors our media tries to uncomfortably crowbar the first name to come to mind into any international news story. Such is life in a land where Shane Warne is considered a hero.

Here is my rule of thumb: If The Times says Australia is in with a chance, we are in with a chance. If Al Jazeera reports us as leading something, we are leaders. If the Ballarat Courier says Australia will do well, why are you even reading the Ballarat Courier?

I'm sure I don't need to tell any of my hypothetical readers that the next Pope will not be George Pell. This, instead, has been half a lament at the state of the media in Australia and half an appeal to journalists like Bruce McDougall to stop pushing this junk.

Now, to business...

God Only Knows: 
There are two schools of thought on predicting conclaves. The first is that God will reveal his intentions to the voting cardinals – or at least the cardinals will act on what they believe to be God's will – making prediction impossible. The second opinion is that politics is politics, whatever robes you dress in.

Given that some conclaves drag on and on, it would appear that God does not just send out a mass memo and cc in all the cardinals. Different cardinals come to different opinions as to whom God wills to be the next pope. I think it would be likely that liberal cardinals this year will believe God wills a pope who will unite the church and do what can be done to repair the reputation of the Catholic faith, while conservatives will understand God to desire a hard-line following of rules regarding such topics as female ordination and contraception. Given this, the papacy is perfectly open to prediction (although being accountable only to God and voting in secret, the cardinals are not influenced by what is popular or maintaining any allegiances, which makes our job harder and our results more tentative).

Technically there are only two requirements to be a pope. Firstly you need to be a baptised Catholic (for the obvious reason) and secondly you need to be male (for the sake of outdated ideas on the role of women in society). This means the conclave could just troll Benedict at this point and re-name him pope, but then he'd probably decline. There is debate as to whether he would still be Benedict XVI or become Benedict XVII (or even change his papal name to something like Boniface X*, because why let the ridiculous get in the way of the theoretical?)

In practice, however, long-standing traditions are more restrictive. The last pope who was not picked from the college of cardinals was Pope Urban VI in 1378. More than that, the next pope will probably be one of the cardinal electors – the cardinals' “under 80s” division – as no pope has ever been elected over this age. The youngest is Cardinal Baselios Thottunkal of Trivandrum, aged 54, and the ideal papal age seems to be in the early sixties.

There is a saying in the Vatican that a fat pope should be followed by a skinny one. Conservatives typically follow liberals, populists follow recluses and hard-liners follow more controversial, out-there popes. Although many popes end up appointing the very men who will elect their successors – Benedict added 67 electors in just eight years – these successors are rarely a continuation of the status quo. This is more than a common pattern; it is taken quite seriously by many who will be voting. The logic, as far as I can see, is that you elect each pope to repair or otherwise attend to the shortcomings of the previous one. Pope John-Paul II was a popular, engaging extrovert when in good health and did much to bring new converts into the fold – especially in South America, Asia and Africa (this will be an important point later) – and improved relations with other Christian denominations, with Judaism and with Islam. Benedict XVI was not as good with crowds, preferring the quietude of his library, and 'restored' the church with teachings more firmly in line with traditional views. This led to reversing several of J-P II's changes, for example by reinstating the tridentine mass which includes a prayer for the conversion of Jews. He also caused offence among certain Muslim and other religious groups.

I would expect the next pope to cover the areas Benedict XVI neglected. The ideal candidate would be well placed to deal with Jews and Muslims in particular, placing cooperation above conversion, and actively respond to the main concerns of the cardinals – poverty, war, corruption and healthcare in third-world countries and the reputation of the church, especially regarding the child abuse scandal, in the first-world.

Out of Africa:

The media has been pushing the story that this conclave might elect the first pope born outside of Europe. Their reasoning is that the majority of Catholics no longer live in Europe. Perhaps the most dramatic way to demonstrate this is through Cartograms.

First, here is a map of Earth. (This is where you live.)

This map uses some sort of cylindrical, equal-area display projection, probably the Gall orthogonal projection. I personally prefer the Hammer projection, but the next couple of maps were nightmares to do by hand, so I did them all through the convenient tools of MAPresso, which utilises this algorithm and the above projection.

As an equal-area display, this map is accurate in terms of area rather than shape, and thus landmasses towards the margins may be a little skewed from what you are used to in “normal” Mercator projections. But if you find this map a little strange in appearance, just you wait.

Here is a second map of Earth.*** (This is also where you live, in a more geopolitical and less geographic sense.)

This map is modified according to the algorithm linked above so that the area of a landmass reflects the number of Catholics living there, rather than actual ground space. You will notice that Asia has been more or less sucked into oblivion, since the Eastern Orthodox Churches are the dominant Christian denominations in the area. South America has swollen, on the other hand, by virtue of being the continent home to the most Catholics in the world. Australia has been squashed like an empty juice box and Africa is smaller, but it is also the most rapidly-growing area for the Catholic Church.

Because many Catholics live outside of Europe, the media suggests, a non-European pope is probably an appealing option to the cardinals. African candidates are most commonly touted as the Obama of the Vatican, but several Latin American cardinals have also featured in the conversation.
However, if we look at the world this way, (yes, you live here too,)

We can see a very different picture. This is also distorted based on where Catholics live, but in this case we are only factoring in 117 Catholics – the Cardinal Electors. The bulk of Catholics may be outside of the EU, but the cardinals certainly aren't. That bulge at the centre of the Cardinals' world is, of course, Italy with 28 cardinals under the age of 80.

All that South America gained last map, it has lost here – and more besides. This raises several points. Firstly, if the church actually considered nationality as a factor for pope, why don't they do the same for cardinals? If the rise of Catholicism in Africa is reason enough to name an African as pope, why aren't there more Cardinals from that continent?

Secondly, if the media was implying that the African or South American faithful might put pressure on their cardinals to 'vote local', it is important to realise how little say the non-Europeans have in the conclave. From memory, Italy alone outnumbers both continents combined.

Thirdly, these maps suggest that the Vatican doesn't seem to change as quickly as the wider world. It's a shock, I know, but it seems that the Catholic Church might not be the radical, progressive institution we all thought it was. This suggests it could take a long time for changes to occur. Changes like electing a non-European pope, for example.

Fourthly, remember how I wrote that J-P II was one of the forces behind this out-of-Europe expansion? Well, he wasn't the only factor, and the trend has been going this way for centuries. Last conclave had more or less the same reasons to elect an African or a Latin-American pope. Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria was a strong contender, but the cardinals still voted for ol' Joey Ratzinger. I see it as a similar situation this year (and Arinze's still in the running this time around). A lot of media speculation leading, ultimately, to no real change.

In fact given the Vatican's internal concerns with “Vati-leaks” and other administrative issues, a far greater concern is electing a pope who can get the Vatican officials – the curia – back in order, and the feeling is that that will take an Italian. 

Short List: 

The following list is taken from various news stories and other, more speculative sources. I do not personally believe many of these stand a chance, but they are almost certainly better bets than the rest of the papabili (literally the popeables, those that are considered to have some chance and/or what it takes to be the pope).

We will start with the non-European cardinals, because that's where the media trail starts: 

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio

Age: 76 
Nationality: Argentinean (of Italian ancestry) 
Position: Conservative 
Pros: Nationality. If the church is going to look to Latin America for the next pope, one with Italian parents is a good bet. Seen as a balanced conservative, Cardinal Bergoglio supports various social-equality programmes and challenges free-market economic policies. He also openly opposes same-sex marriage but emphasises the importance of respecting people who identify as homosexual. 
Cons: Accused of conspiring with military dictators to kidnap two Jesuit priests in 1976. No evidence was presented to support this claim. 
Assessment: Still carries the cloud of the kidnapping accusations which will probably rule him out of serious contention. 
Suggested Papal Name: Pope Innocent (until proven guilty) XIV 

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri

Age: 69 
Nationality: Argentinean (of Italian ancestry) 
Position: ??? 
Pros: Nationality. In this respect Cardinal Leonardo Sandri gets a mention as a younger Jorge Bergoglio, but lacks much of the reputation the older Cardinal has accumulated with his seniority. He supports dialogues with Judaism, which will probably be a key asset to those viewed capable of engaging with the public after Benedict's private, cloistered reign. Cardinal Sandri argues that Christians were safer under Saddam Hussein than during the war in Iraq. While not necessarily in his favour, it does suggest a preference for diplomacy over war when dealing with other faiths. 
Cons: Viewed more as an administrator than a theologian. 
Assessment: His main advantage over other Latin American candidates is his Italian background, which will appeal to those who believe an Italian may be best placed to bring the Roman Curia back into line after various controversies. Of course, if they want an Italian, they probably won't vote for an Argentinian. His nominal disadvantage of appearing to be an administrator may strengthen his cause in back-room discussions but will more likely see him relegated to a prominent position in Vatican politics away from the religious obligations of the papacy itself. 
Suggested Papal Name: Pope Vigilius II 

Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga

Age: 70 
Nationality: Honduran 
Position: Moderate 
Pros: A good bet for a more moderate Latin American pope, Maradiaga has campaigned for human rights and the poor, supported aid programmes in developing countries and brokered peace deals with armed, violent rebel groups: a cardinal of action and most likely of all listed candidates to wear a cape and underwear outside his trousers. Balances this with some less-liberal ideas, opposing surrogacy and supporting excommunication for pro-choice politicians. Agreed with the controversial statement that contraception has no impact on the spread of AIDS. 
Cons: Not the best choice for conducting inter-faith dialogues or dealing with the cases of child abuse; he famously blamed the Jews for the impact of the latter on the church. 
Assessment: To the majority of cardinals, Maradiaga will probably represent all the dangers of a relatively liberal candidate (there are no hard liberal cardinals on the list, only moderates and conservatives) without the main draw-card of uniting believers and non-believers, and thus expanding the church. Not, in other words, appealing. 
Suggested Papal Name: (Is it a pope? Is it a man? No, it's...) Papal-Man 

Cardinal Odilo Scherer

Age: 63 
Nationality: Brazilian 
Position: Moderate 
Pros: Age. As the equal-youngest cardinal on this list, Cardinal Odilo Scherer has a good run left in him. This may be ideal for electors looking for stability after Benedict's short reign and sudden resignation. Balances liberal views on social injustice and poverty with anti-marxist attitudes and a strong preference for tradition over more modern approaches to spreading the gospel. (compare with Cardinal Ravasi below). 
Cons: Minor player in Vatican politics. 
Assessment: It is widely accepted that early sixties is a good age to become pope, and that candidates over 75 are always long-shots. Given this is the candidates main advantage, however, I doubt he will be likely to gather much support. Although he has no major factors to count against him, his opinions are somewhat bland and unpolarising. This candidate will most probably be overlooked from the start. 
Suggested Papal Name: Pope Urbane 

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith

Age: 65 
Nationality: Sri Lankan 
Position: ??? 
Pros: The best Asian candidate for pope. Cardinal Ranjith is fluent in ten languages (Latin, Italian, English, Hebrew, Greek, German, French, Spanish, Sinhala and Tamil). Campaigning is not allowed for papal elections, but discussions are held and early groups of supporters tend to divide along linguistic lines. With a large pool of languages, Ranjith can theoretically tap into a wide base of supporters. Well placed on the issue of interfaith dialogues, yet firmly opposes adopting any styles of worship from other religions. 
Cons: Minor player in Vatican politics. Open opposition to lay-preachers and to changes from tradition may limit the support gained for his inter-religious interaction, which is most desirable to those looking for an open, all-embracing church. 
Assessment: Cardinal Ranjith seems to have been proposed in Asia the same way Pell was in Australia, or Dolan (below) in the US. Effectively no chance, named solely to energise Catholics in the Asia-Pacific region and sell news media. The Asian Pope factor lacks the support the has flocked to arguments in favour of a Pope from South America or Africa. 
Suggested Papal Name: Pope Leo XIV 

Cardinal Francis Arinze

Age: 80 
Nationality: Nigerian 
Position: Conservative 
Pros: A strict hard-liner and good communicator. Good standing in the church. Following the death of J-P II, Arinze was for some time considered the favourite to succeed him. 
Cons: Age. The fat pope, thin pope thing works against him here – having already elected an elderly and dogmatic theologian, the cardinals are more likely to vote for someone else. Also, given Benedict's resignation, a younger, fitter pope will probably be preferred. 
Assessment: Although touted as a high-probability candidate early on, Cardinal Arinze is probably too old for serious contention. Those backing an African Pope - still considered a stronger bet than a Latin American Pope - are more likely to vote for Cardinal Peter Turkson below. 
Suggested Papal Name: Pope Benedict XVII. No real change, business and usual. 

Cardinal Peter Turkson

Age: 65 
Nationality: Ghanan 
Position: Moderate 
Pros: A wide-ranging intellect. Nationality. With Catholicism growing fastest in Africa, where it is in competition with Islam and other Christian branches (e.g. the Pentecostal Church) an African Pope would show dedication to the region and be a major draw-card for the faith. Or at least that's what many people think the cardinals think. Turkson is certainly popular enough to be pope, and a good personable option after the reclusiveness of Benedict. Cardinal Turkson makes regular television appearances and is generally seen as a solid bet for dialogue with other religions (especially Judaism) and promoting unity with Orthodox and Protestant Christians. Speaks six languages which, as mentioned above, gives him a decent pool of supporters he can talk to without relying on the formality of Latin which everyone will be using. Most other moderates hold a mix of liberal and conservative views, where Turkson prefers a middle-of-the-road approach. Admits there is a place for contraceptives in preventing the spread of HIV, but warns that this may lead to over-confidence and advocates abstinence, fidelity and avoiding pre-marital sex as better options, with money for contraceptives better spent of retro-viral drugs. Opposes homosexuality, but admits some African nations have overreacted in their responses. Has personally proposed revolutions to the global financial system. 
Cons: Despite being seen as a good bet for fostering interfaith relationships, Cardinal Turkson has already put some Muslims off-side due to alarmist statements made in the past. 
Assessment: The best bet for an African pope, and a safer bet than any Latin American, Cardinal Turkson has been the firm favourite for some time now. I personally believe this is bolstered mostly by media speculation, since a black pope is more newsworthy than the European candidates. 
Suggested Papal Name: Anything but Peter. (The last Pope to use their real name was Marcellus II in 1555. Also, the Prophecy of Malachy has been twisted to fit with the last few popes and claims the next one, called Peter, will be the last before (and possibly the cause of) the destruction of the church. While electing Cardinal Peter Turkson will give plenty of fuel to this fire, I doubt any Pope will offer them any more coincidences than needed.) 

Cardinal Marc Ouellet

Age: 68 
Nationality: Canadian 
Position: Conservative 
Pros: Close to the pope and a good politician, Canada's Cardinal Marc Ouellet starts out from a high-profile position as an obvious choice. Nationality may work in Ouellet's favour if the Vatican wants to look outside of Europe while still selecting a first-world, white, the-devil-you-know type of pope. Ouellet carries a lot of the advantages of the Latin American candidates in terms of outreach without radically breaking with a European-style pope (whatever that means), due to missionary work in Colombia and his role as president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. He also matches Cardinal Turkson's pool of six languages, and is seen as a balanced conservative after following J-P II's lead and penning a letter to Quebec apologising for the church's errors of "anti-Semitism, racism, indifference to First Nations and discrimination against women and homosexuals." 
Cons: Cardinal Ouellet once described the office of pope as "a nightmare" and the responsibilities as "crushing". Whether this will affect the number of cardinals willing to risk their vote on him is hard to say, but there is a chance this candidate may decline the role. Ouellet is also a supporter of the mission of the church over dialogue, meaning that he values conversion over conversation with other religions. This is probably not an attitude considered desirable after Benedict's reign, where electors are probably looking for a more all-embracing, less hostile approach to non-Catholics. 
Assessment: Probably the best bet for a non-European pope but, as I mentioned previously, the Vatican is probably looking for a European - ideally Italian - administrator after the last couple of years. 
Suggested Papal Name: Pope John-Paul III 

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Age: 63 
Nationality: USA 
Position: Conservative 
Pros: Age. Cardinal Dolan is the equal-youngest candidate, the conservative counterpart to the moderate Cardinal Scherer. Dolan is a rare combination of the charismatic and the outspoken. In his Manhattan Declaration he is a firm supporter of conscience rights, calling on followers of all branches of Christianity to refuse to comply with laws permitting abortion, same-sex marriage and other matters he deems sinful. 
Cons: Nationality. Electing a pope from a superpower like America is undesirable for many reasons. It could be seen as hitching the religious might of the papacy to the military might of the US: a terrifying prospect for many nations, especially in the Islamic world. Also, any Western, First-World pope - European, North American or Australian - is going to come directly into the scandals around child abuse, an issue some may hope to sweep under the carpet if a Third-World pope can make poverty and corruption the top priorities. Dolan's stance on this issue is complex. Superficially he appears to be well placed, having carried out thorough investigations, met with victims and even been accused of carrying out a witch-hunt by those in the church who would rather the whole thing had been dealt with quietly. There are claims, however, that this was all done out of concern for the image of the Catholic church and saving face. There are reports Dolan offered large amounts of money to implicated priests to leave the clergy. 
Assessment: Realistically there will not be an American Pope. Cardinal Raymond Burke (65) and Cardinal William Levada (77) are two other postulated US Popes. All are conservative, and all seem to have been named out of the same nationalistic fervour that saw Pell named in Australia. Negligible chances. 
Suggested Papal Name: Pope Washington-Adams-Jefferson-Madison-Munroe 

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran

Age: 70 
Nationality: French 
Position: ??? 
Pros: Has conducted productive dialogues with Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists through the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Like Cardinal Sandri, Cardinal Tauran views the war in Iraq as a crime against peace and a violation of international law that threatened Christians in the area, which further emphasises his role as a public diplomat to play the skinny pope to Benedict's fat one. 
Cons: A minor player in Vatican politics, he is the only cardinal on this list not recognised as a papabili by wikipedia. 
Assessment: Now we are at last dealing with some European (read: plausible) candidates. Plausible does not equate to probable however, and Cardinal Tauran is likely to languish in obscurity throughout the conclave. 
Suggested Papal Name: Pope John-Doe I 

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn

Age: 68 
Nationality: Austrian 
Position: Conservative 
Pros: Schönborn took an early, hard line against priests involved in child abuse. If the church indicates a continued focus on Europe and the West by electing a first-world pope they will need this kind of firm, outspoken opinion. He is also seen as a solid proponent of dialogues with Islam and Orthodox Christianity. 
Cons: As a conservative, it is no surprise he is strict on doctrine and tradition. He is, however, also a proponent of Intelligent Design which many see as a backwards step in church teachings. (It is still a surprise to many that Evolution is now a core teaching of the Catholic Church, and that Schönborn faced heavy opposition on this issue, since Intelligent Design is seen to promote the idea of God as a dictator rather than a father-figure.) 
Assessment: An aristocrat by birth, Cardinal Schönborn could be a real powerhouse of a pope. As a hard-line conservative theologian, however, Schönborn would be a clone-like successor to Benedict XVI. This along with what many consider counter-progressive views on science and the church make him an unlikely choice, however he is the best bet for a non-Italian pope. 
Suggested Papal Name: Pope Pius XIII 

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi

Age: 70 
Nationality: Italian 
Position: Moderate 
Pros: Italian, smart, open-minded and in touch with the public: Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi is all of these. He is certainly personable enough to be the next pope in the wake of the reclusive Pope Benedict XVI. He makes regular appearances on TV, is a blogger, a twitterer and a Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi strongly advocates breaking away from relying on long conventional masses as the only form of communication, and is a major advocate of ensuring the church remains relevant. He has ample experience holding talks not only with other faiths but with atheistic audiences as well. In contrast to Cardinal Schönborn above, he is a strong proponent of the compatibility of Evolution and the Bible. 
Cons: Probably the most liberal on this list, Gianfranco Ravasi is likely to face harsh opposition from the conservative majority. 
Assessment: While everyone likes a progressive, blogging, archaeologist-by-training, Cardinal Ravasi is not likely to get very far in the voting. 
Suggested Papal Name: Pope Indiana-Jones 

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco

Age: 70 
Nationality: Italian 
Position: Conservative 
Pros: Italian. Typical conservative. Supports greater transparency in politics and believes worker flexibility should be reduced. 
Cons: Bland and uninspiring. 
Assessment: The Italian voting bloc is undoubtedly a strong force in the Vatican, but I do not think they will unite behind this particular candidate. Still, an Italian is an Italian, and with no major cons, this candidate is probably my second-bet. 
Suggested Papal Name: Pope Suburban I 

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone

Age: 78 
Nationality: Italian 
Position: Conservative 
Pros: Italian. Fluent in Italian, French, Spanish, German and Portuguese. He has some knowledge of English and can read Polish, Latin, Greek and Hebrew. 
Cons: Not well placed on the child-abuse scandal. Openly blamed these abuses on homosexuality in the church, despite a specific investigation into the matter finding no such correlation. Also believes bishops should not be obliged to pass information on to the police regarding priests involved in such abuses. 
Assessment: Clearly not the ideal Italian candidate. 
Suggested Papal Name: Pope Inclement 

Cardinal Angelo Scola

Age: 71 
Nationality: Italian 
Position: Conservative 
Pros: Italian. Conservative on Social and Family issues but seen as compassionate towards poverty, in part a result of his own working-class upbringing. Scola is popular, having a good public persona and wide-ranging interests from philosophy to bio-medical ethics to economics to anthropology. 
Cons: Has not openly responded to the administrative issues of the Vatican, to "Vati-leaks" or the child abuse scandal. 
Assessment: Good candidate for Pope and my personal tip. The electors will no doubt be more aware of Cardinal Scola's opinions on the challenges ahead for the Vatican. The clear front-runner of all the Italians and the ideal candidate given the assessment that these issues will demand the well-trained hand of an Italian to get the papal house in order. Also a preferable choice after two consecutive non-Italian popes (the only non-Italian popes since Adrian VI died in 1523, by the way). 
Suggested Papal Name: Pope Victor IV 


The most likely next pope, in my opinion, at this stage, contrary to the current betting odds on Cardinal Peter Turkson, is Angelo Scola. I would name Angelo Bagnasco as the second most likely, Christoph Schönborn as the most probable non-Italian, and Marc Ouellet and Turkson as the top non-Europeans. Gianfranco Ravasi is the outside chance that I would dearly like to see win – but is probably about as likely than those two non-Europeans.

In the interests of thoroughness, there has only been one non-cardinal that I have found to be named as the next possible pope (excluding the regular nut-jobs and the sedevacantist antipopes). Athanasius Schneider is a conservative whose main campaign point – if campaigning were allowed – would be ensuring that kneeling during communion continued to be required by doctrine. This is an issue widely supported by other candidates, and thus hardly enough to make him in any way outstanding enough for consideration. To give some indication of his chances, when I last looked George Pell was given odds of 80 to 1 by Paddy Power, who seem to be the go-to bookmakers for papal betting. [Edit: Since posting, Pell has shortened to 50:1. This is most likely based on Australian speculation.] Richard Dawkins was at 666 to 1. Bono had odds of 1000 to 1, the same as the fictional Father Dougal Macguire. Athanasius Schneider, by contrast, was not listed. People are more likely to place money on a guy that struggles to grasp the difference between “small” and “far away” than on Bishop Schneider, which is not to say his chances are worse than a fictional character but does indicate that he is, simply, not a part of the conversation.

Incidentally, papal betting dates back at least to the early 1400s when it was banned in the Republic of Venice. Initially part of volatile business ventures, these bets were made in the form of life insurance, so that if the pope died and your bribed, corrupt international contacts got shafted in the usual bribery and corruption of that age, you could claim the money back from your bribed, corrupt insurance company.

Betting on the result or length of papal elections became an offence for Catholics in 1591 with the punishment of excommunication, meaning that you could be excluded from the church, denied absolution and would go to Hell - go directly to Hell, do not collect 200 pounds. Historically this has been considered worse than the death sentence since it applies to the immortal soul, not the transient body, yet such is the nature of Vatican politics that this failed to have any impact. The offence is still a cause for excommunication today, yet there are reports that Catholic priests were betting on the 2005 conclave in, among other places, America, where it is also illegal under the US Federal Wire Act.
Even if you don't belong to the Catholic church and are beyond the jurisdiction of US law, I'd still advise against betting on the papal elections. Or if you must, just don't mistake this blog for sound betting advice.

* If I were the next pope** I would totally be Boniface X, and pronounce it “Boney-Face Ex”.
** Of the two legal requirements I fail to meet one and have had the other questioned, so on the whole the odds aren't great.
*** Data for Catholic populations from and 
Taiwan's 303000 Catholics were incorporated into China for this map. Palestine's 83000 Catholics were divided between the Gaza Strip (41500) and the West Bank (41500) . The Caroline Islands' 77733 Catholics were divided between Micronesia (38866) and Palau (38867) .

1 comment:

  1. Huh. Turns out it was Bergoglio. (except at where it was Jose Francisco Robles Ortega)

    I really thought that alleged kidnap thing would work against him.