Nov 102010

by Anura Guruge

Papal election dynamics — the unsaid and even subliminal factors, Nov. 1, 2010 post (updated Nov. 9).

Dec. 11, 2008 post stating that the next pope is unlikely to be from the USA.
December 2008 papabili list prepared for ‘The Next Popebook.
Oct. 25, 2010 papabili list by a U.S. Knights of Columbus member.

Ever since I started trying to predict papabili in 2008, I have been consistently adamant that it is extremely unlikely that the next pope will be from the U.S.A.
This has nothing to do personally with any of the US prelates, in particular the cardinals — with possible exceptions, however, in the case of Cardinal O’Malley with his beard and Cardinal Law who tried to skirt the law. [I have written separately about the issue with Cardinal O’Malley’s beard, given it has now been 300 years since we have had a pope with a beard.] Ironically, it is not even the far-reaching, yet simmering US clergy scandal that is the real impediment when it comes to talking  about potential papabili from the US.
It has all to do with the US being the world’s only superpower. PERIOD.
Having a pope from America is seen as been tantamount to having a ‘White House in Rome’. And that does not sit well with many Europeans, let alone the rest.

Extract from Page 6 of 'The Next Pope' by Anura Guruge

From Page 6 of 'The Next Pope' by Anura Guruge. Click to ENLARGE.

Post 9-11, the US has, justifiably, been super-cop to the world. Suffice to say that during this period there has been more than once instance when there were disagreements and contretemps with one of more of the major European nations. Just try to imagine how those scenarios would have worked if the pope had been American. Most gently put, there would have been an inescapable added layer of tension. There would have been suspicion and skepticism in any and all scenarios. There would be trepidation among leaders of the nations with large Catholic populations. Catholics themselves would feel unsure. Even if he was the most pious of souls, a pope from America would never be able to avoid doubts as to his impartiality. Most simply put, it is a fear of a conflict of interest — with the US’ sphere of influence been so pervasive and powerful.

Now, you also need to factor in the laws of papal elections and the ‘hidden’ dynamics of them that I point out in this post. Basically, the electors have total anonymity, and one-third of the electorate (41 if there is a full-house of 120 electors at the conclave), voting in absolute secrecy, can always, without exception, preclude a candidate from being elected — irrespective of how long it drags out. It is also an one-elector, one-vote ‘popular vote’ election with no bloc votes, formulas or vote allocations.

[John Paul II (#265) in his 1996 Apostolic Constitution, Universi Dominici Gregis, enabled a absolute majority to be used to elect the pope following 33 or 34 inconclusive rounds of balloting. 25 months into his papacy Benedict XVI (#266), in June 2007, changed the absolute majority back to the two-thirds majority.]

The ability of ‘one-third+1’ of the electorate to block any candidate, at all times, is what makes it virtually impossible for the next pope to be from the US.

In my experience, it is only Americans (and even then, Americans who have not had much experience overseas), that put forward American prelates at papabili. They somehow do not seem to appreciate the difficulty in getting a two-third majority win (which is even greater than what is required to get a 60-40 filibuster-proof motion through the US Senate). In 1984, Ronald Regan became president by a ‘landslide.’ But, in terms of the popular vote he only got 59% of the votes cast around the country. On that margin he could not have become pope. You need a 67% of the votes cast by the cardinal electors to become pope — and that is the problem with trying to get an American elected pope. The bar is high. Barack Obama is also considered to have prevailed over his nemesis John McCain by a healthy, even heady, margin. But in terms of the popular vote he only got 53%.

Now we can start counting votes. But, we need keep in mind the ebb-and-tide of global politics, the Middle East, the 3rd-world debt, global warming, immigration policies, trade wars and even slights such as jokes about the resoluteness of the French and attempts to call ‘French Fries,’ ‘Freedom Fries.’ Why? Because after the November 20, 2010 consistory, France will have 5 electors, Germany 6, Italy 25, Spain 5 and Portugal 2. So these five European countries alone have 43 votes. Lets us say that only half of these European cardinals decide to vote against a US pope. That, rounded down, is 21 votes. But, as I will explain shortly, saying only half will vote against an American candidate is a fallacy.
You now only need another 20 to block a US candidate. Venezuela has one vote, as does Cuba. So we are down to 18. Africa has 12 votes. Asia 10. Again, let us say, only half vote against a US candidate. That is 11. Only 7 more required. Mexico has 4, Brazil has 5, Poland has 3, Ukraine has 1, Latvia has one.

Now, for the absolute kicker. That John Paul II was against communism goes without saying. That he was a committed conservative is well known. What many may not have appreciated was that he was also passionately against ‘consumerism’ [i.e., reckless consumption by the ‘rich’ at the expense of the poor]. His own life experience in Poland may have had a lasting influence on his views on this. When it came to anti-consumerism, the pope say the U.S.A., the richest nation in the world, as the worst culprit. It is claimed that he said: “America’s poor compared to the rest of the world lives very rich.” Folks like Andrew Greeley, the pseudo-priest who has spent 30 years watching the popes, now believe that when it came to creating cardinals, John Paul II looked for those who were conservative (naturally) AND shared his anti-USA feelings based on consumerism. Once Cardinal Pujats turns 80 on Nov. 14, 2010, 35 of the European cardinal electors would still be the creations of John Paul II. Per Greeley, most of these, deep down at least, harbor anti-USA sentiment! The bottom line is that it is not hard to work out how there will be at least 41 votes against any American hopeful.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet sketched for The Next Pope book by Matt Kirkland

Cardinal Marc Ouellet sketched for The Next Pope book by Matt Kirkland

Marc Ouellet of Canada, #3 in my 2008 papabili list, is the one that benefits the most from the probable in-electability of an American candidate. As a Canadian he enjoys the best of all worlds when it comes to global politics. He can be a token-American by proximity without actually being American. But, we should also not forget that Marc Ouellet had quite a lot more going for him — even prior to his recent, high profile posting as the Prefect for the Congregation for Bishops. Ouellet, who has worked with the current pope for over 20 years, is like John Paul II and Benedict XVI an unashamed conservative. But that is also true of at least 65% of the cardinal electors. So that, though unappealing to many a Catholic, will not be an impediment come the next conclave. Hence, his #1 spot in the latest papabili list posted on this blog, i.e., October 25.

It is also possible that the next pope could be from Latin America.

Thus, the bottom line here is that the next pope definitely could be from the Americas, but not from America.

Thank you. Peace.

  5 Responses to “Next Pope Is Exremely Unlikely To Be American, But Hopefully Could (Even Should) Be From The Americas”

  1. First time posting. I have question about retired cardinals from Time journal:,8599,1866786,00.html

    Articles says:

    “Earlier this month Arinze, 76, retired from his top Vatican post, which for all intents and purposes ended any likelihood that he will ever be pontiff.

    Once a “Prince of the Church” gives up his day-to-day assignments, he is typically thought to be out of the running for the top job.”

    My question: is this true? I know cardinals retire at 75 unless Pope wants them to retain position but only stop being in election candidate at 80.

    Do you have list of retired cardinals still under 80. Are they all unlikely to have chance to be pope?

  2. I am working on this for you. The number is 31 … and yes, I created a list.
    But, I know what the next question will be. Who are the cardinal electors over 75 who are not as yet retired. Just making that list … but need to take my daughter to school. A ritual.
    So I will be back on this TODAY. Promise.
    Need to put up some shelves for my wife too.
    Thank YOU. This was a GREAT comment.

  3. My friend,
    You have not one but two lists. Happy?
    Let me know.
    Arinze, irrespective of age, is not papabile! SORRY.
    He went into the 2005 conclave as a papabile and didn’t get any votes — to speak of.
    The next pope will NOT be from Africa. Color of skin still matters. SORRY. But, I can say that because I am very, very tanned.
    Thank YOU. All the best. Cheers.

  4. Dear Anura and everyone,

    I would like to share the following thoughts with you on the next Pope, after Benedict XVI. This is entirely speculation:

    * Following the precedence of America electing the 1st Black President, the College of Cardinals may lean towards a non-European Pope.
    * In the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis which affected the USA and EU, the world’s economic powerhouse is now shifted to Emerging Markets like India, China and Brazil. Mirroring this trend, secularism is on the rise in the West but Catholicism is spreading rapidly in the South and East.
    * Rumours that Latin American cardinals did get some votes at the 2005 Conclave: Bergoglio got 40 at one ballot, Maradiaga at 2. Electing Latin American Popes is a possibility.
    * In the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis, many countries facing economic problems and banks failing, the Cardinals may want to elect someone who knows a bit about Finance or Economics, or Social Justice and Poverty, or Development, to turn people from materialism to the Church
    * After a Fat Pope, a Lean Pope. The saying is true of successors being different to their predecessors when it comes to Papal Elections. Benedict was old, JPII young, so after Benedict, maybe someone young, in the mid-60s to early 70s.

    In so saying, I think you are right in mentioning the next Pope may have to be a People’s Person. He could be Latin American. Many people have this fascination, especially the world’s media, that there may be a non-European Pope, just as many were fascinated with the idea of a black American President.

    My top choice of candidate is Cardinal Maradiaga, as he is the Vatican’s spokesperson with the IMF and World Bank on Third World Debt. He is also moderate and relatively young, and will be 70 by the end of 2012. He is also media-savvy. However, any Latin American Cardinal with European roots (ie a German-Brazilian, like Cardinal Scherer, or Italian-Argentine, like Cardinal Bergoglio) is also on my own papabili list.

  5. Thank YOU. Wow. Even before I got to your last sentence, I was thinking Cardinal Scherer who WAS my #1 pick in 2008. In my mind at least, he is no longer #1. I am beginning to prefer Sandri. Bergoglio now has two strikes against him. He is approaching 75 AND he already had a crack … and came up short. 40 votes out of 115, 35%, wasn’t great in 2005. Yes, he had stiff competition. But there were 4 ballots in 2005. Round 1 doesn’t count. It is a ceremonial, felicitation vote. Bergoglio, supposedly, got his ~40 in round 2. Then dropped off.
    This is very good. Much appreciated. Please put together a full list of 10 if you can.
    Thank you. Cheers.

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