Rights & Tolerance | April 10, 2005
Posting in "GordonTalk"
I, Doug Drenkow, your humble guest-blogger, am a practicing (but
very liberal-minded) Catholic, I thought it only fair to share
with you on the outside looking in what is going on during this
most crucial turning point for the Church ... and judging by the
incredible interest and turnout for the funeral of John Paul II
(May he rest in peace), a historic time for the world.
me first give you a crash course in how
the Church chooses a Pope (It's more than just smoke and
according to Church tradition, the first selection of a Pope was
made by none other than Jesus Himself:
I tell you [Simon], you are [now called] Peter [a name meaning
rock], and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers
of death shall not prevail against it." -- Matthew 16:17-18
all-around hard act to follow.
a couple things there. Once a Pope is chosen, he takes a new
name. And although the Catholics translated the name
"Peter" to mean "rock", a lot of Protestants
would later claim the name just means "stone"; and
since stones are smaller than rocks, Protestants apparently
don't consider Peter anything more than just another one of the
twelve Apostles (which isn't too bad, of course, but doesn't get
you the choicest accommodations at the Vatican).
the inter-faith conflicts aside (Haven't enough millions died
already?), let's consider more contemporary selections of The
Pope: Bishop of Rome, Patriarch of the West (Maybe that's why
the Chinese sent no delegation to the funeral), Vicar of Christ,
Servant of the Servants of God.
about your high-pressure jobs! Seriously, John Paul's friends
said it was painful watching him pray: His face would become
literally grotesquely contorted, as he took upon himself and
offered up to God all the problems of the world -- a sense of
compassion not lost upon the millions and billions of Catholics
and others who mourned his loss, an exemplary quality for any
world leader to possess and display.
how well candidate Clinton connected with the voters by saying,
"I feel your pain," when the first President Bush was
seen as out of touch with the suffering of the common people in
recession. Responding to that sense of compassion, half the Born
Agains voted for Clinton the first time around, firm in the
belief that in the Last Judgment, the King will say,
"Whatsoever you did to the least of my brothers, that you
did unto me."
enough of worldly politics; back to Papal (non-)politics ...
to popular belief, the Pope is not necessarily selected from
among the cardinals who elect him. In fact, the only requirement is
that he (No, not a she; give it a century or two) must simply be
a member in good standing of the Church (Heretics and
Schismatics need not apply).
I wouldn't bet heavily against the College of Cardinals, you
still can't rule out the possibility of Pope Doug the First
(although they'd first have to ordain me as a bishop ... and a
certain place would have to freeze over).
College of Cardinals is solely responsible for electing the
Pope, and only those cardinals under the age of 80 may vote.
-- and here's the real kicker -- "campaigning" is
forbidden and "debate" is discouraged.
a presidential race run under those rules. What would've Bush
and Kerry done? Just discussed each of their philosophies and
not thrown mud? That sounds downright un-American to me!
the cardinals "are to rely on the guidance of the Holy
Spirit" as they are sequestered like a jury: During the
daytime they meet, as a "conclave", in the Sistine
Chapel (I hear the interior designer had a nice sense of style);
during the evening they retire to nearby guest accommodations.
what exactly goes on inside the "jury room"? Well, all
we know for sure is that there are a number of secret ballots
cast each day -- in accordance with quite specific rituals and
traditions, of course -- but beyond that, not much more is
known: Communication with the outside world is strictly
forbidden; and anyone who ever breaks his vow of secrecy is
subject to "grave penalties according to the judgment of
the future pope," including the possibility of
to the world of church and state. Although I love my Church -- particularly for its teaching that "God is love"
realize it is fundamentally a monarchy, not a democracy; and I
fear the Red State folks would gladly take our nation right down
that path, preaching liberty every step of the way.
is, of course, an element of democracy, as in a jury room: The
cardinals do cast ballots. And here's where a new twist has been
introduced, by Pope John Paul II, which at first seems like
simply a procedural matter but upon further reflection poses
very significant ramifications for the more than billion
Catholic souls in the world and all the rest of you folks who
put up with us.
a Pope can be elected only with a two-thirds majority of the
ballots cast; however, John Paul modified the rule so that now
if a Pope has not been chosen after 30 ballots, about a week or
so I believe, then he can be elected by a simple majority.
strategy here was sophisticated in its simplicity (not unlike
the Pope himself): Although John Paul, the third longest serving
Pope in Church history, has "packed" the College with
cardinals generally as conservative as himself, there is still
the significant chance that with his no longer presiding over
them, some of the cardinals will favor more moderate candidates
over more conservative ones -- thus making it more difficult for
a conservative candidate to assemble a two-thirds majority, in
early balloting, but still prevailing by a simple majority, in
short, the sooner we see the white smoke, the more moderate the
next Pope probably will be; the later the smoke, the more
conservative the Pope.
who are the leading candidates and where do they stand?
certain cardinals have been mentioned more often than others,
allow me to "play the game" and dispense with the
naming of names -- after all, this really isn't about the
elevation of an individual (and who could have the same charisma
as John Paul?) -- and consider the bigger picture.
hosts the longest-standing population of Catholics in the world
(although the Italians seem to be divided in their affinities).
hosts the fastest-growing population of Catholics in the world,
although another consequence of the "no condom" policy
of the Church is the deaths of millions of Africans from AIDS. [At odds with almost every scientific study and public health recommendation in the world, the Church argues that distribution of condoms actually backfires, by encouraging risky behavior; they liken this alleged outcome to the increase in skin cancers with the increased use of sunscreens, in certain studies.]
America hosts the largest population of Catholics in the world.
And non-Catholic evangelical Christians are making great inroads
if I were to be foolish enough to predict the next Pope, I would
have to choose oft-mentioned Cardinal Claudio Hummes of Brazil.
the Latin Americans would say, we finally have an American Pope!
(And don't hope, or fear, for a U.S. Pope: neither this nation --
the most formidable worldly power on Earth -- nor the Holy
See -- the arguably most formidable spiritual power on Earth -- wishes to be seen as beholden to the other)
I am not so foolish as to predict what kind of Pope Cardinal
Hummes (pronounced "HOO-mez") might be (answerable
only to God, Popes often defy expectations), he has earned
respect in Brazil "as
a conservative on doctrine and a progressive on social
that, my dear friends, is Catholicism in a nutshell: The more
things change, the more they stay the same.
in general is resistant to change. Reason in general is
conducive to change.
lesson worth remembering when living in a country of Red States
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